At the Age of 51 I Went Insane

“Sometimes you have to lose your mind to come to your senses.”
– from The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

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?

Yeesh.

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.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book

Dear Lord and Father of us all,|
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

Breathe through the pulses of desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from us now the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
– John Greenleaf Whittier

Lake Padden Forest (Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book

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.



“You never know what the tide will bring in…”

One night during the depression, I got an encouraging call from my youngest brother, David, who had heard I was struggling. Near the end of our conversation, he said something that has stayed with me in the years since then. “Karen, did you ever see that movie with Tom Hanks where he gets stuck on the island?” Yes, I told him, I’d seen that movie. “For four years he was trying to get off that island,” my brother said, ”and then one day the tide brought in that piece of metal that he could use for a sail. He wasn’t expecting it. He couldn’t have known it was going to come in with the tide. But it saved him. You never know what the tide will bring in that will save you.”

And, man, ain’t that the truth? Just as 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 that God offers us, every moment, I’ll find everything I need to get me off my mental “island.”

(Excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)

The_Madcap_Christian_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

 

The Middle Book

Yeah, I think what we’ve got here is a case of “middle child syndrome.” My middle child of books, The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book, has been a little over-looked lately. So maybe it’s time to give her some attention. 🙂 Here are some excerpts…

But this is one of his clouded times and
He’ll out of ‘em enough to shake the tree
Of life itself and bring down fruit unheard of…

– Edwin Arlington Robinson

***

My son and I recently talked about my previous book, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist. I told him that book was true for the person I was then, and I’m glad I wrote it, but I couldn’t write the same book now. Andrew told me I should write another book then, for this time in my life. I told him that my recent life experience has been kind of dark. He said I should write about that then, and he started talking about trilogies – how almost every life story has three parts – the first book is usually happy and innocent, the second one is dark and challenging, and the last book is the triumph book. Andrew said it was time for me to write “the middle book.” He assures me the book about the golden years will come, but he says that book can’t come until the middle book gets written.

So what you see here is me sucking it up and writing The Middle Book…

***

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.

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?

Yeesh.

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.

The_Madcap_Christian_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Introduction for The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book

Introduction to The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book: Further Adventures in Christian Science

“But this is one of his clouded times and He’ll out of ‘em enough to shake the tree Of life itself and bring down fruit unheard of…” – Edwin Arlington Robinson

My son and I recently talked about my previous book, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist. I told him that book was true for the person I was then, and I’m glad I wrote it, but I couldn’t write the same book now. Andrew told me I should write another book then, for this time in my life. I told him that my recent life experience has been kind of dark. He said I should write about that then, and he started talking about trilogies – how almost every life story has three parts – the first book is usually happy and innocent, the second one is dark and challenging, and the last book is the triumph book. Andrew said it was time for me to write “the middle book.” He assures me the book about the golden years will come, but he says that book can’t come until the middle book gets written.

So what you see here is me sucking it up and writing The Middle Book.

I need to write The Middle Book quickly, though, because I already see the golden years glimmering just beyond each word I type, and I can see the dark rapidly being replaced by the dawn. I’m sitting here, shaking my head in faux exasperation. This is just so typical. I never seem to be able to hold off my happy endings for any great length of time. I can see now that, even if I was determined to stay in The Middle Book, Life wouldn’t let me. As Mary Baker Eddy says in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “… progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfill.”

My hope is that by sharing my own Middle Book story, those who are just now entering their Middle Book will be relieved to discover they’re not alone, and before long they’ll see the dawn begin to lift the darkness, too. We’re all in this together…

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

http://www.amazon.com/Madcap-Christian-Scientists-Middle-Book/dp/1477442456/ref=asap_B0044P90RQ_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415835816&sr=1-3

A Call for Book Excerpts

Okay, here’s a challenge for my fellow writers – find a sample paragraph from each of your books that you think best represents those  books, and share with us… 🙂

Here are mine:

From Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist:

“Let’s get one thing clear from the start: I am not the best example of a Christian Scientist. I’m not as disciplined as I could be. I have fears and worries and doubts. I’m a little neurotic. I am the Lucy Ricardo of Christian Scientists.”

From The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book:

“Four years ago I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to today. 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.”

From The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New:

“You know that old saying about quitters never succeeding? I am here to tell you that sometimes having the courage to quit the course you’re on and head off into a different direction is the absolutely best thing you can do for yourself.”

And from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book:

“I love Snow Days.  I love waking up to a world bedazzled in sparkling white. I love the laughter of rosy-cheeked children building snowmen, and the sound of the teapot whistling on the range. I relish the cozy contrast between the warmth of the dancing fire in our woodstove, and the cold of the snow falling softly outside our windows. I love school closures, and cancelled appointments, and the chance to slow down and take a break from the hurry and rush. I love the peace.”

Madcap collage for four books

Photos and photo cover designs by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

“I Will” – Singing in the Car with Alison Krauss

I just had a wonderful drive with Alison Krauss. Well, okay, Alison Krauss wasn’t actually in the car with me. But her voice was. And it was lovely.

I was driving home, after a visit with my parents, and just as I got to Seattle big, fluffy snowflakes started floating down around me. It was like being inside one of those glass bubbles that has “snow” trapped inside it.  It was dark, and the snow made it even more difficult to see, but I was suddenly filled with such a sense of peace and joy, that driving felt more like a celebration than a hazard. I’d put an Alison Krauss CD in my car’s CD-player, and, as the snow started falling, her delightful riff leading into the Beatles I Will filled my car with a playfulness and a joy that was almost tangible. I realized that the cars around me were moving in complete harmony with me and with the song – it was like we were all doing a happy dance together – perfectly-timed and choreographed.

“Who knows how long I’ve loved you? You know I love you still…”  I’d always thought those words and that song were romantic – it was a song I’d sung at least once at a wedding. But now I found those words and that song taking on a different meaning for me. My mom’s sweet, smiling face came into focus in my thoughts and I held her there for a moment – just completely filled with the joy of the love we share for each other. Then my dad came through my thoughts, and I mentally hugged him; then my husband, my sons, my co-workers, my bosses, my neighbors, my friends – even those with whom I’d had conflict – one-by-one passed through my thoughts.  And as each new face appeared I mentally wrapped love and joy around my thoughts of that person.  The playful, irrepressible joy of that song, and Krauss’s performance of it, simply could not be overthrown or trampled down. Anger and frustration had no choice but to melt away before the happy onslaught of banjos and love.

It was a transforming experience for me, and when the snow finally stopped falling and the song had ended, I felt like I’d just been privileged to be a part of something magical and wondrous. The feeling of joy still lingers.

Later I thought some more about the song and its words:

“Who knows how long I’ve loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime?
If you want me to, I will.
I love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we’re together
Love you when we’re apart.
And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do, endear you to me
Oh, you know I will, I will”

And it occurred to me that God, Love itself, could sing those words to you and me. How long has God loved us? Forever and ever and for always. She loves us when we’re near Her in our thoughts, and She loves us when we’re not. She loves us when we know Her, and She loves us when we don’t. And we are dear and precious to Her. “I will, I will,” are our Father-Mother God’s words and promise to us. Unconditional, unfailing love is ours to give, and ours to receive.

(Originally posted February, 2012 and now a part of *The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book*.)