I don't usually read Angela's posts before I make my own, but I found a certain resonance with her topic today. I was thinking about some of my own 'wounds' while I was driving home tonight. Since she was brave enough to open up about some of her's, I think I'll take tonight to talk about two of mine. This might be one of the most somber days of posting ever, incidentally.
Clinical depression runs in our family, and I suspect anxiety disorder, if some of what I've heard from my siblings is correct. I've been dealing with this practically since grade school and definitely since junior high. In the best of circumstances, this has meant that I'll worry about anything that could possibly go wrong in any given situation. In the worst, it means that not only do I convince myself that the worst is going to happen in any given situation, but that I'd also rather die than go through it. I've had days driving to certain jobs where I catch myself thinking "that tree" or "that telephone pole and it's done." I get physically ill when the slightest thing goes wrong because I'm sure somehow it's going to be the end of the world. But the worst are the combination depression and panic attacks.
If you've never had a panic attack, imagine a feeling of overwhelming fear and depression. Now imagine it times 1,000 and you might be close. It's oppressive, hard to breathe, you can't think. You're certain that something is wrong and it may not even be anything specific. At least when it's specific, you can focus in on that and worry about it. When it's not specific, you wander around lost convinced that something really, really, really bad has either happened or is going to happen and nothing anyone says is going to change your mind. The only thing that occupies your mind is how awful you feel and that you're quite likely never going to be okay. No one else feels this way, you're sure, and you have no idea how anyone could ever understand the magnitude of what is happening, nor do you think there is any relief. And this can last for hours or go on and off for days.
I thank God that I can say that I've started to heal from this wound, and that I did so without medication (which, ironically, caused me a great deal of anxiety worrying about the medication I might have to take). After some research, I discovered that there's a potential link between depression and high fructose corn syrup. I used to drink and eat a lot of things that had this in it. Sure enough, once I started cutting that out, I felt a lot better. I also learned that there was a correlation between depression and diet. When I started eating better, I started feeling better. I also began to take Tai Chi classes, which teaches you meditation in motion and how to relax (you need to be relaxed for Tai Chi to be effective as a martial art). Even with all of these changes, and despite how well I was doing, I would still suffer from depression and anxiety. There were still weeks when I'd be eying those trees on my way to work.
A few months ago, our parish had an exhibit with a number of relics. Amongst these was one of the largest remaining pieces of what is believed to be the cross Jesus was crucified on. I prayed for healing and I firmly believe that God is in the process of healing me of these things. About three days after that event, I remember driving to work and finally feeling the weight of oppression lifting off of me. I felt genuine joy in the knowledge that I don't have to worry anymore, because God is taking care of me. I still have some bad days, but they aren't close to the "tree" days. More than this, I can feel that part inside of me that used to be twisted up in anxiety and depression, and instead I'm finding myself being filled with actual joy and peace.
As I said earlier, I was thinking about these things on the drive home today and I realized that this year, I feel at peace in God for the first time. I've felt very content, but more than that I've been filled with true joy in a way I never knew before. Oddly enough, my greatest comfort comes from the crucifix and the story of the resurrection: Jesus was wounder and Jesus kept his wounds even after His resurrection. He showed them as proof of His divinity to His disciples when He appeared to them, and He keeps them as a reminder of the price paid for our salvation. I continue to pray for healing because this is a pretty messed up world, and I think we could all benefit from being healed from the wounds we receive here by God who seeks to heal and reconcile his creation. And don't worry, I pray for all of you too. He's big enough to heal the world.