by Mike Friesen
Mike is a frequent guest blogger. He’s a good friend of mine who writes and thinks with clarity, a raw edge, and depth. This post below was especially helpful for me, as I look to understand my own seasons of anxiety and depression. Hopefully it helps you as well.
A few years ago I had what many would call a life crisis. For weeks, I was enduring a great deal of anxiety and I couldn’t articulate why I was feeling it. I felt panicked by every social interaction. I felt nervous every moment that I was alone. I wasn’t sleeping at night. I had gnawing pains in my stomach. I had a rush to my head most of the day.
After these weeks were up, I fell into a full-fledged depression. This fall into darkness seemed to last forever. I would try to live my day-to-day life and it seemed unbearable. I would wake up in the night from nightmares. My body was exhausted all of the time. Life seemed more and more empty every moment that passed. I was caught in a mode of being that felt broken, powerless, and meaningless. The joy had left my life.
In the midst of this I began to go to counseling. The depression and anxiety that I was experiencing, I now know, what the unconscious part of myself trying to deal with something. When I began experiencing this at 22, I was running away from some broken childhood experiences. One of which was witnessing a murder the spring of my fourth grade year.
It was at this point of my life when I felt like I was going insane. But, now that I am a little older, hopefully a little wiser, and I am able to reflect on the experience, I don’t think I was. In fact, I feel like for most people, the feeling of going insane, might actually mean that we are going (in)sane. Meaning, we might actually be experiencing sanity for the first time.
I have experienced in(sanity) a few times since then (never at the same intensity, however). I have experienced it when:
I withhold myself from relationships to avoid conflict. The years of pent up frustrations, limitations, let downs, failures, and lack of communication, has caused me to experience and painful isolation within the relationship.
I have been doing some type of work, behavior, or pattern of living and that stops working for me. And, when I continue to push forward in it because of the security it offers me, the gnawing frustration or pain continues until I change.
I am overly invested in something. When I get obsessive about something and I try to find worth, value, love, or meaning in it, the pursuit of it actually deteriorates it. When I am done with the obsession, I come back to my friends, family, and God, and vulnerably open myself up to them and allow them to speak into the void I was trying to fill.
Most of us, I believe, avoid the painful moments of life because we don’t want to feel the pain. Unfortunately, I don’t think life will give us the breakthroughs that we need unless we have the breakdowns which accompany it.
Or, as Richard Rohr has wonderfully stated,
“Before the truth sets you free, it’s going to make you miserable first.”
And, this is the path that we Christians have chosen to follow in Christ, a path that leads us to crucifixion so we may lead into resurrection. We die to behaviors, patterns of living, and structures of thinking and feeling, so that we can be invited into a rebirth.