Years ago, when I was having class instruction in Christian Science, our teacher asked one of my classmates if her Mind was God. I remember she hesitated to answer at first – maybe the idea of saying that her Mind was God seemed sort of pompous? And then she answered, “Yes?” Our teacher smiled and nodded in confirmation, and it came to my classmates and I that, of course, God is our Mind – God is the ONLY Mind, after all. Reasoning from that standpoint, it followed that God is also our Life – which meant our Life was unending; God is also our Love – which meant we were never outside of Love’s reach; God is also our Truth – which meant Truth isn’t something we have to acquire – we know, right now, everything Truth knows.
It was a revelation.
Lately, I’ve found myself contemplating more the Mind that is God. There are a couple of things that have brought me to this contemplation in recent years – my centenarian father was diagnosed with vascular dementia in the last years of his life; I have several friends who have loved ones who have been diagnosed with dementia; and one of my favorite celebrities has recently been diagnosed with dementia. And so I’ve found myself turning to the contemplation of our never-ending Mind.
Feel the presence of infinite Love, enfolding, protecting, all-powerful. Feel the presence of Life, filling all space, without end, all-present. Feel the presence of infinite Mind, guiding and governing, all-knowing.
God is the one Mind – eternal, infinite, never-ending, filling all space, always and forever. God is infinite intelligence – infinite Love, Truth, Life, Soul, Spirit, Principle, Mind. Mind is Love.
We are the expressions and manifestations of infinite Mind. We express intelligence, immortal memory, kindness, honesty, clarity. We are eternal because Mind is eternal. We are tied directly to our Father-Mother God – never separated from Mind. There is no spot where Mind is not. There is no time when Mind is not. There is no time or place, in or out, within or without, when Mind ceases or intelligence disappears. We ARE because God is.
The belief that we can ever be separated from Mind or lose our Mind or be without a Mind is a lie, for God is our Mind, always and forever. The belief that God’s children can ever suffer from dementia or insanity is a lie, for all we can be is what God made us to be, what God is Herself. Nothing has the power to usurp Mind’s government of Her own creation – for Mind is the only power and presence.
The truth is, we can’t ever lose our Mind – where would It go?
God, Mind, is all-in-all, eternally.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, having the nature of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” -Philippians 2:5-6
Mental Health Story #2 (for Mental Health Awareness Month):
So, a few years after I went through that massive life-changing depression, I had the opportunity to experience another bout of mental dis-ease. (My doctor diagnosed “severe anxiety.”) I think the first experience helped prepare me for the second experience, actually. I went into this one equipped with some tools.
This time the experience wasn’t from inside me – this one was caused by external stress that, I thought, I had no control over and that, I thought, I was powerless to change. I felt trapped and couldn’t see any way to make things better for myself.
Unlike my first experience with mental illnes, this time I did see a professional for help. When I called my health insurance hotline to get help, the woman on the other end of the line asked me a series of questions. One of the last questions she asked me was also one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer in my life: “Have you contemplated suicide in the last week?” I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I told her I had. She asked me if I’d contemplated a method. I told her I had.
She asked me why I hadn’t gone through with it, and I told her I hadn’t gone through with it because “I am a chicken shit, and I thought it might hurt.” She started laughing then – which is the best thing she could have done for me – and told me I’d given her a really healthy answer.
The woman on the other end of the phone found a counselor for me, but when I called the counselor’s office I learned this woman was a psychologist – and I told her office that I didn’t really need a psychologist – my problem wasn’t that serious – I just needed a counselor. The receptionist said she’d have the psychologist call me back. When the psychologist called me back, she assured me that she was, basically, just a counselor with a doctor’s degree and encouraged me to come in and see her. So I did.
My first session with her I just sat there and blubbered. My second session with her I blubbered some more and told her all the things I was expected to change in my current teaching position – things I had no control over – and I didn’t see how I could change “and…and…”
The psychologist asked me, “Do you plan to go back to that positiion?” I told her I didn’t see how I could. And then she asked me a question that completely changed the course of my life: “Then why do you need to fix these things?”
Whoah. It was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders in that moment. I saw that these things weren’t my problem anymore. I didn’t need to worry about them!
From that moment on our sessions together became all about creating a new life for myself. She helped me recognize the things in my life that were making me, literally, crazy, and that I needed to throw out; and she helped me recognize the things I needed to bring more into my life – creative things, artsy things, Soul-things. She helped me see there WERE options and I wasn’t trapped.
I ended up being led to apply for a new teaching position – working with students who were dealing with challenges and obstacles in their young lives that most of us have never had to experience. I found a healthy purpose in my professional life again, and a renewed love for teaching.
From this experience, I learned that we’re never trapped, and there’s always an answer – even if we can’t see it right away. As my wonderful friend, Laura Lavigne, says: “There are things we know we know. There are things we know we don’t know. And there are a whole lot of things we don’t know we don’t know – and THAT is where the magic is!”
This experience happened more than a decade ago. I’m retired now. I’m so glad I was able to retire from my career feeling good about teaching, and about myself. I got to give the keynote speech and sing a song at the graduation that year, and celebrate the beauty of education. And all of that happened because I found the courage to make that phone call, and find help for myself. Talking with a professional helped me unlock the mental bars and see the possibilities for my life.
“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.” – Mary Baker Eddy
At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it.
Eckhart Tolle tells us: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” He asks, “How do you know this is the experience you need? Because,” he says, “this is the experience you are having at this moment.” I really like how he puts that. My thought is that something is only a challenge to us when there’s a lesson to learn from it. Two people, in other words, might find themselves in identical situations – and one of those people might coast through the situation, and the other might stumble through it – depending on where each individual is in her spiritual progress.
I did a lot of stumbling during The Year of Insanity, and I learned a whole lot of lessons. It was, in essence, my last hurrah – my final experience with the lessons of “callow youth” and ego, before I could move on to the next stage in my development.
During The Year of Insanity it seemed I was confronted with temptation at every turn. I had to come face-to-face with ego, vanity, pride, insecurity, and addiction to praise. It was a really difficult time for me. It felt like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark pit, and I didn’t know how I was going to get out of there. I lost weight, couldn’t sleep, had a constant dialogue going on inside my head about the past and the future, had to keep moving – trying to get away from myself, I guess – and had an actual physical heartache from the sadness I felt. There were times when I just wanted to hide myself away from the world, and not have to deal with this stuff anymore. There were times when I was so full of guilt about the feelings I was having that I just wanted to kill myself, and be done with it. There was a constant battle going on inside me, and it was really wearing.
If somebody had tried to talk to me about mental illness before I’d had this experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were going on about. Mental illness was something that happened to “other” people. Mental illness was not something a madcap Christian Scientist would ever know anything about, right?
I might have chosen, with good reason, to seek professional help during this time. I might have chosen, again with good reason, to take anti-depressant medications. And after having been through this experience, I can tell you – without any hesitation – that I do not fault anyone, at all, for seeking professional help and using medication if they think it’ll help them get through the kind of thing I went through during that year. And I can also understand why it might be hard for people to cogitate why I didn’t do those things in an effort to help myself.
All I can tell you, really, is that there was some part of me that felt I needed this experience – that I needed to feel the full depth and breadth of it – and there was a part of me that believed if I could survive this, I would come out of it much wiser and stronger than before I went into it. I guess I calculated the costs and rewards and decided the rewards would be worth it. If I could survive.
I give credit to Christian Science, and to my Father-Mother God, for getting me through this time. I absolutely know I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the understanding of God, Good, I’d gained through my study of Christian Science.
I also need to give thanks to three authors whose writings meant a great deal to me while I was working my way through that year. I’ve already quoted one of them – Eckhart Tolle – a contemporary thinker who’s had his own experience with depression, and has generously shared his wisdom and insights about that in several recent best-sellers. The second of the three authors was a liberal Christian minister of the late 1800’s named Henry Drummond. His book, The Greatest Thing in the World, was chock full of wise and wonderful thoughts on love – “the greatest thing in the world.” The third author was a man named Edward A. Kimball, an inspiring and mentally-rousing Christian Science lecturer and teacher during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Regarding my desire to hide myself away from temptation, Henry Drummond had this to say to me: “Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is your practice. That is the practice which God appoints you, and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind, and courteous.” Drummond goes on to say: “Therefore keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men and among things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles… Talent develops itself in solitude – the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen; character grows in the stream of the world’s life. That chiefly is where men are to learn love.”
Drummond’s admonition to “keep in the midst of life” was really helpful to me. His words helped me look at the challenges I was facing as blessings and needed lessons in my path towards progress, rather than as proof of my weakness, or a reason to feel guilty.
Edward A. Kimball, too, was helpful to me in dealing with the feelings of guilt that seemed to be a symptom of the depression. In his book, Lectures and Articles on Christian Science, Kimball writes, “It won’t do you a particle of good to enter upon a career of self-condemnation. Remorse never got anybody into heaven. A sense of regret and all that sort of thing is not the process. The process is reform; it is change; it is correction…”
Kimball writes, “…a purely human giving up endeavor does not give up, but does involve the scientist in a sense of greater fear. Evil is never disposed of as though it were something. It cannot be given up as though it were something…Try to realize that through Christian Science, you are constantly gaining that which will do everything for you, and that you will succeed according to the gaining process.”
This thought helped bring me peace – the insight that trying to fight an addiction by turning it into A Big Obstacle and using human will to force myself to “give it up” wasn’t the way for me to be healed – but that I needed to fill up the holes and emptiness I felt in my life by gaining an understanding of what constitutes true happiness and filling my life up with that. As my friend, Sabra, pointed out to me, we don’t remember the last time we laid down our dollies and moved on to other joys – giving up my toys was not a Major Event or something I had to force upon myself – it was a natural step in my forward way. And it can be that way with every forward step we take – we aren’t so much “giving up” something, as we are gaining something.
Here’s some of what I gained during this time: a new understanding and appreciation of love; a greater sense of gratitude for the power of a moment, and of a good, deep breath; a greater appreciation for choice; renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; greater humility, empathy and compassion; and a greater commitment to my own spiritual journey. I’d entered The Year of Insanity an untested “youth” – gliding through life’s challenges on a kind of cavalier, simple joy, without really having to put much work or effort into my mental frame of mind. By the time I exited that year I had a much deeper understanding of God, and who I am, as God’s expression.
Notes to self: This will pass. You’ve lived long enough to know that. Ride on top of the wave and let it take you to the other side.
Think of all the sunsets and sunrises and new friends you haven’t met, yet, still ahead of you.
Breathe in. Respiration. Inspiration. Breathe out.
Recognize what is truly you. And recognize what is absolutely not. Let go of the false you. You don’t have to waste time tending to it or fretting about it or trying to fix it. Just unwrap yourself from it and throw it in the dumpster. It’s not part of you and never was.
Recognize you can be happy even when you’re sad.
You’re not here for you. You’re here for something greater than you. As long as you can love you have a reason to be here.
Nothing can ever separate you from Love. Nothing can separate you from your joy.
Today is full of magic. Look for it. Find it. Be grateful for it. Amen.
Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 4): At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much, but I sure learned a lot from that experience. I wrote about my journey through depression in The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book. The Middle Book has six ratings now – all five stars! Here’s an excerpt:
On New Year’s Eve, 2007, I was hit particularly hard by the belief of depression – caught up in weird and intense feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. I don’t know what led me to check out my book on Amazon that night, but when I clicked on Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist I found that just that day someone had added a new review for my book. The review read, in part: “Karen becomes your friend, someone you know and love and you know if she knew you, she would love you the way you want to be loved.” I read those words and was so touched by them I began to cry. This was exactly the message I needed at that moment. If I could love others, I had worth. If others could love me, there was hope. I’ve always felt that the man who wrote that review had been listening to the voice of Love that day. He’d been guided by Love’s direction to take the time to write a review for my book – and, because he did that for me, he helped to bring me out of a place of deep despair.
We all have access to an incredible power to bring good to other people’s lives. That day my book’s reviewer had tapped into that power. *** My eldest son, Andrew, understood that I desperately needed to get away from “myself” – needed to get away from the routine of my life – and volunteered to go with me to the Oregon coast during our Spring Break. His willingness to accompany me on a fourteen-hour drive (round trip) meant a great deal to me and, frankly, surprised me. What sixteen year-old young man do you know who would volunteer to go with his mom on a road trip? We had such a great time. We’re both kind of easy-going when it comes to traveling. Sometimes I would wander, accidentally or on purpose, off the beaten track, and it would take me awhile to find my way back to our route – but Andrew never panicked about any of this. He just let me take him wherever I ended up going, without worry or concern about it. I remember one time we pulled over at a “scenic viewpoint” to find ourselves looking down on a sawmill and pulp mill that was belching up great plumes of smoke. Without saying a word, Andrew and I looked at each other and started snickering – I knew what he was thinking – scenic viewpoint?!
On the way down, we stopped to visit with my beloved Aunt Junie. Here’s what I wrote in my journal about that visit: “Spent the night with Aunt Junie. She is so amazing. She’s like Yoda. I was all weepy, told her I’d made mistakes and had lost close friends who told me I was a bad friend and a bad person. Junie was appalled. She said I am a good person – all her intuition tells her that I am a good person and she has no doubts about that.” Junie believed in me, had faith in me, and trusted in me. And I really needed that at the moment. She told me that “there are no unrightable wrongs, no unforgiveable sins, no fatal mistakes, no fatal diseases, only the eternal now.” To be given hope and a fresh start is incredibly freeing.
Can’t reason with delusion; can’t reason with error Can’t reason with illusion; can’t reason with terror Just love, love, love We’ve all of us been there; we’ve ALL been insane This time it’s OUR turn to heal someone ELSE’s pain Just love, love, love The battle’s already won – that’s the deal No need to respond to a lie as if it’s real Just love, love, love Don’t respond with hate, or anger or fear Give nothing for the rage to bounce off of – ‘cept a cushy wall of kindness and cheer Just love, love, love – Karen Molenaar Terrell
13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now.
I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today. And recognizing that is what is going on is giving me some compassion for my world and its inhabitants. I understand what this feels like. I understand that shaming someone who is mentally ill is not going to make things better. Laying guilt on someone going through a massive clinical depression – as I went through – is not going to heal that individual, or the world. Hating someone who is not herself or himself or their self, and is already contemplating suicide, is not going to fix the problem.
Having personally experienced mental illness I know the one and only thing that can reach through the fog of insanity and heal mental illness is love.
We need to recognize that those individuals who are experiencing and exhibiting mental illness right now are not themselves. This isn’t THEM. Their real identity – OUR real identity – is secure and safe – “hid with Christ” in Love – where goodness and purity and intelligence and wisdom and kindness and honesty are eternally, indestructibly qualities of who we ALL really are.
13 years ago I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to today – I contemplated suicide daily. But look at all I would have missed if I’d given up on life then! – All the beautiful new friends I wouldn’t have met! The sunsets and sunrises I wouldn’t have seen! The lessons I wouldn’t have learned! The changes I wouldn’t have been able to make! The love and laughter I would have denied myself! When I was deep in the depression I couldn’t imagine a happy ending to my story. I couldn’t imagine I’d ever get out of it. Couldn’t imagine it ever ending.
But then one day the fog lifted and I awakened from the nightmare. I looked out on the world and I was connected again – connected to the joy and the beauty and a sense of well-being. I had myself back again. Now I’m really grateful for that year of learning – that year of shedding the chrysalis (and that feels like what the whole world is doing right now). I learned a new appreciation for the power of love; gained a new appreciation for the power of a moment and a good, deep breath; I came to appreciate the power of choice; and gained renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; I gained greater humility, empathy, and compassion for others; and a stronger commitment to my own spiritual journey.
I learned I can be happy even when I’m sad. – Karen Molenaar Terrell
“There’s nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” – Richard Buckminster Fuller
“The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.” – Mary Baker Eddy
My joy is not dependent on matter – not dependent on flattering chatter – my clothes can be in tatters, my ego-dreams all shattered, and possessions scattered – but I’m alive! I can love! I can learn! Joy is not something I have to earn – not something I need a reason or a special season to feel. – Karen Molenaar Terrell
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” – Habbakuk 3:17,18
“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” – Mary Baker Eddy
Twelve years ago I went through a massive depression. I’d never gone through anything like that before. It was life-changing for me. At the time it felt like it was the most challenging thing I’d ever experienced. I didn’t like it so much. But now, looking back, I’m so grateful for that time in the “wilderness” – I learned so much from it!
Here are some of the lessons I learned during the Year of Insanity (excerpted from The Middle Book):
“I still have moments of loneliness, and I still have moments when I’m scared. But now I know enough to know these moments will eventually pass. I don’t give much thought to them. I’ve discovered it’s possible to be happy even during these times.”
“…I have found that there’s no way I can predict what form help and ‘salvation’ will take for me. I have found that, if I just keep my thought open to all the good…every moment, I’ll find everything I need to get me off my mental ‘island.”
“Right here, where I might see fear and anger and hate – in this exact same place and space, there’s another universe filled with incredible good – and I have a choice of which one I want to live in, and which one I want to see as ‘real.'”
“I think if all of mankind were able to recognize the good in themselves and in each other – I think this, alone, would transform our world.”
“Think back on the last four years of your life, my friend – become aware of all the things you would have missed if you’d given up on life four years ago: the new friends you would never have known; the sunsets and sunrises you wouldn’t have seen; the lessons you wouldn’t have learned; the changes you wouldn’t have been able to make; the pictures never painted; the photos never taken; the songs never sung; all the love and laughter that you would have denied yourself.”
I wore my “rebirth” ring the other day. A barista ringing me up complimented me on it and asked me about it. I told her it was my “rebirth” ring – that I’d bought it after I’d come through a really challenging time. I pointed to the sapphire on one side – “I was born in September – and that’s the stone for September” – and the pearl in the middle – “pearls are created from struggle – something beautiful from something challenging” – and the sapphire on the other side – “I came through the challenge and was reborn.” She said that was really beautiful, and I thanked her and nodded, and remembered, again, my Year of Insanity…
Ten years ago I went through a massive depression – I’d never experienced anything like that before – I’d always been a kind of naturally happy person – but I went through a year that was, literally, a life and death struggle for me. I couldn’t eat, contemplated ending my life, had a constant dialogue going on in my head, seriously doubted if I would ever feel happy again. It is not an exaggeration to say I wasn’t sure I’d make it through.
It was during this time that I discovered I had a wealth of friendships and love and people who cared about me. It was during this time that I also discovered how strong I am. I gained a confidence that I hadn’t really had before. I came to appreciate what’s really important in life – not material stuff – but love and kindness and integrity and the ability to laugh at ourselves. I have never felt impoverished since going through this. I’ve come to see I’m wealthy beyond anything I’d imagined.
People sometimes talk cavalierly about “choosing joy.” During the Year of Insanity it didn’t feel like joy was a “choice” for me. But now that I have my choice back – yeah, I choose joy. I’ve come to realize that life really is a matter of perspective – of how we look at things.
People have told me that they want my life – or that they love my life. And I guess I should feel flattered by that maybe. But…the thing is… love your own life. Make something of that precious gift you’ve been given. By saying you want my life you discount my struggles, and you discount your own possibilities.
I’ve never wanted to be anyone else. Never. Not even when I was going through my Year of Insanity. I knew, even then, that EVERYone has challenges in their lives. I knew, even then, that most of the challenges in my life were ones I’d created for myself and that it was my job to learn from them.
You – yes, you – have the power to bring love and kindness to someone else – even when you’re going through your own times of insanity. You have a purpose, and a reason for being here. As long as you can love there’s a reason for you to live – I realized that during my challenging time – and it helped me get through it. Let me repeat that: AS LONG AS YOU CAN LOVE THERE’S A REASON FOR YOU TO LIVE. There are people who need you here. Please don’t give up on your life.