Archive for the 'Life' Category

Tears for Fears: My Anxiety and Modern Life

“My Name is Mike; I’m An Anxiety Sufferer.”

I don’t know if there are Panic Anonymous meetings, but if there were that’s how I imagine I could introduce myself. I’ve alluded to this on the blog before; my close friends and even many of my acquaintances know about this aspect of my life…and now I’ve decided to let you, dear reader, in on a significant truth about my life: I suffer from panic. Anxiety. Phobias. Fear.

Apparently, I’m not alone. By my admittedly-sketchy statistical abilities, I estimate that a whopping 10% of the U.S. population suffers from some form of panic, phobia, PTSD, or generalized anxiety. (Crunch the numbers for yourself here) And we seem to be growing in numbers as our social, spiritual, and physical environment continues to complexify in the 21st century.

We all get scared, of course. Certain stimuli – whether interior or exterior – prompt our fight or flight response. A roller-coaster; seeing a snake in the yard; witnessing a bank robbery. Our brains and bodies are remarkably resilient; most of us confront and get over specific fears with amazing adaptability. But for some of us – for a host of reasons – this fight-or-flight (or heightened adrenal state) just stays with us, becoming aroused at increasingly non-life-threatening stimuli. For many of us, it begins to creep up at unexpected moments, or not go away for hours. For growing numbers of us, anxiety, panic, and phobia are a way of life.

This is certainly true for me.

It started years ago – innocently enough at first: I’d be driving with a buddy or a family member on a long, interstate road trip, when suddenly I’d feel overwhelmed. The open road, unpredictable hills and dips, lots of cars, hundreds of miles – it felt like the ocean was spilling into my bathtub – unstoppable. And I’d have to pull over, and let someone else drive. Gradually it became more intense, and more consistent: Soon I wasn’t driving on the Interstate beyond the perimeter of my city, then beyond the more suburban areas near my city. Whenever I tried, I’d become a liability to myself, my passengers, and other drivers; I felt like I was piloting an out-of-control roller coaster, and I couldn’t wait to hit the brakes or pull over. Finally, I wouldn’t drive on the highway at all. This has been my state for quite some time.

Rather simultaneously with this, I was becoming an increasingly troublesome passenger. First I had difficulty, occasionally, riding in the front seat with drivers; I’d writhe and squirm as though I was strapped to a rocket headed toward the moon – on the outside. It wasn’t that I was afraid of an accident per se – I’ve never been in a serious car accident. It wasn’t fear of sudden impact or death; the motion itself is its own source of dread. For awhile the backseat was my safe haven; no more, not necessarily. When this sense of sheer panic would come or go was unpredictable; I could go cross-country with no problem, or go around the corner with a friend and be crawling out of my skin. I began to avoid riding in the car with others besides my wife (who, ordinarily, does not provoke this response). I get out less nowadays.

This is your brain on fear..

For awhile, I considered all of this a simple matter of phobia. I couldn’t stand being in cars, but I was fine in airlines and in social situations. Once I got from Point A to Point B, I was perfectly normal. But then something comically absurd happened: I started trying a variety of therapies – cognitive-behavioral, hypnosis-based, and healing prayer-based – to overcome the vehicle-related phobia. Not only did therapies of various sorts not help, they made things worse: Specific phobias multiplied into new phobias as fast as I could think them up; phobia itself blossomed into full-bloomed generalized anxiety.

What happens when I’m feeling anxiety? Most often, things in my chest: A feeling of ‘heart racing,’ and ‘the willies’ – but super-strong and disorienting. Shaking and shivering. Other times, I’ll feel things in my head: Dizziness, headaches, racing thoughts, approaching ‘insanity.’ Shortness of breath. Chest and head tag-team together a good deal, squeezing me out of the game of life altogether.

This has been effecting me more and more, of late; I love to travel, and I love spending time with people. But lately, I’ve restricted both, significantly, as a panic attack can occur anywhere – at a restaurant, at church; surely on a cross-country or transatlantic flight. More significantly, anxiety (and my response to it) has cost me a move: We’re not going to Colorado Springs as originally planned. I’m still working with the awesome folks at The David Group and Presence, but we’re not able to move to that beautiful mountain country, namely because it’s high altitude made me feel even crazier than usual. Following the advice of two doctors, we’ve indefinitely postponed the move – “While most people adjust to the altitude in a few weeks to a few months, people with your condition sometimes never adjust,” they in effect told me. I just couldn’t imagine feeling as disoriented as I do in the mountains, 24/7. So I had to pass up a wonderful opportunity for myself and my family.

This is no fun at all.

So where do I go from here? I wish I could wrap this post up with a neat ending – “But I’ve finally had breakthrough – I got better!” – but alas, I can’t. I do hope to type these words some day – and some day soon, dammit! But in the meantime, I continue to learn. I’ve had some very illuminating brain scans; I’ll be following their leads on some blood tests next week; I’m trying some alternative therapies too bizarre to share with you just yet (though I certainly will if they yield results). I might have to bite the bullet and try a pharmaceutical approach, at least for a season, though I have to admit I’m biased against this. (I hear that many anxiety sufferers don’t take meds, because – get this – they’re afraid to! Ah, the vicious circle…) In all of this, I’ve become a student of the human psyche, in its cognitive, nutritional, fitness, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. I have way more empathy and camaraderie with those who suffer from mental illness of all sorts, especially anxiety and depression. We’re all in this together, y’know?

I tend to think that, in all of this, I’m a living embodiment of the zeitgeist – full of the promise and perils of this age. We’re living such intense lives now, sped up by technology, depthsof knowledge and empathy; its bound to take its psychological and physiological toll. Not all of us have adapted yet; not even (or especially not) those who are most keenly interested in, and dispositionally calibrated toward, these exciting and tumultuous changes happening in our cultural milieu. So we are God’s misfit children and evolution’s maladjusted innovators. God help us all. I only hope that my pain and eventual breakthrough can play some small part in the transfiguration of the world.

So…keep inviting me to get out of the house, and grab lunch or a drink. Tell me about your conference or retreat. But don’t be surprised if I don’t hop in a car with you. 🙂  Feel free to share your philosophies of anxiety and fear, or the crazy remedy that you hear worked for your cousin, though please understand that I’ll give far more weight to phobic people themselves weighing in and sharing stories. With open source collaboration and the discovery of Divine ubiquity amidst our mess, perhaps we’ll all learn something in the process!

Advertisements

‘All Will Be Well’ – Polyanna Platitude or Responsible Mystical Theodicy?

I tend not to blog about large-scale disasters. It isn’t that I don’t care, but rather that there’s usually an excess of ‘care’ in the blogosphere around such times (in the form of words, words, words), and really, what else is there to say? I had nothing to say about the earthquake in Haiti besides this…until now.
Shaun King is an intriguing cat. He started this multi-ethnic Courageous Church in Atlanta about a year ago; is a student at Candler Divinity School at Emory…right after the Haiti earthquake he blasted to his social network, essentially “Let’s go to Haiti! Right now! Don’t wait for someone else…go!”
I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this seems like sage advice:

How Not To Help With Haiti: Don’t go to Haiti. It’s close to the US, it’s a disaster area, and we all want to help. However, it’s dangerous right now and they don’t need “extra hands”. The people who are currently useful are people with training in medicine and emergency response. If all you can contribute is unskilled labor, stay home. There is no shortage of unskilled labor in Haiti, and Haitians will be a lot more committed than you are to the rebuilding process. If you are a nurse or physician, especially with experience in trauma, and you want to volunteer, email Partners in Health – volunteer@pih.org – and offer your services. Or submit your details to International Medical Corps. They’ll take you if they can use you. Do not go to Haiti on your own, even if you are doctor. You’ll just add to the confusion, and you’ll be a burden to whoever ends up taking responsibility for your safety.

On the other hand, someone whom Shaun encouraged to go did, and he Tweeted this:

Setting out my SoapBox. About to step on it for a few tweets. 1st my opinions then quotes from leaders on the ground in Haiti –

ALL OF THE EXPERTS ARE DEAD WRONG…When the earthquake 1st hit, thousands of you immediately wanted to go and help BE the solution, be the hands & feet of God… But you were told by the experts NOT TO COME. You were told to wait until some magical time when things were much better…
The experts were wrong. Some probably meant well because they didn’t want you to get hurt or be in the way, but let me tell you what is missing in Haiti -passionate, hard-working, unskilled, loving, non-experts. They are in SHORT SUPPLY. I mean RARE.

Consequently, the MAJORITY of supplies are sitting unused & the teams of unskilled non-experts I am advising are regularly…9 days later, regularly the first people to have ever visited orphanages and disaster sites. They ALL tell me that we should have IGNORED the experts.

Let me tell you a story that will kill you: The caretaker of the Notre Dame orphanage told @SpenceNix She heard dozens of dying babies trapped in the rubble scream & cry for 5 whole days before they all died. 55 babies died. Nobody ever came….

One more tweet from me then I want to type you a quote from our team on the ground…It is NOT TOO LATE. If you feel CALLED to go to Haiti GO. GO! GOOOO! It is tough work, but GO! I will help you. Next tweets are direct from our teams on the ground:

“The growing feeling here in Haiti is that the BIG ORGS & government don’t really care. It’s like they are here b/c the world is focused here. If they care, little passion is ever displayed. Seems like a job or obligation. Even my sponsoring organization [name of large Christian org] pretty much just set up a tent, gave us a vest and stickers and said go. No support. No passion. No questions. Large amounts of supplies are just sitting in boxes everywhere. I have seen them there for days while hurting people & doctors need them. This has opened my eyes wider to the wastefulness of large charities and benefit of small, nimble, passionate groups..”

“I have been in Haiti for 6 days and I still have not seen one large Red Cross presence. I honestly think social media has saved more lives since the earthquake than all but 3-4 great organizations here now. Passion. Relationships. Technology has changed the game. We saved so many lives today and it was just us doing it bro.” <<<End of quote.

Shaun King: Thanks for listening.

No doubt the debate can still go on – properly-trained specialists vs. American can-do. But if you’re like me, the debate ended, was wholly sidetracked, by the story of those dying babies. The horror – the insanity. The sense of helplessness. I imagine – no, I know – that those who work in ‘care’ vocations (nurses, prison reform advocates, friends to the homeless) know this far more than me.

One such friend of mine mused, wisely yet perhaps despairingly,

Fragility and morality huh? Isn’t that part of our daily experience?

Indeed. And sometimes, we give and give and give – like poured-out drink offerings – and the gaping maw of humanity displays its thirst anew, unquenchable in every moment. When will the suffering end? Am I deluded to think that there’s meaning here?

Lately I’ve been meditating on the words of Julian of Norwich, a 30-year-old woman who lived during a time of unparalleled plague and persecution. She is famous for her ‘Showings of Divine Love‘ and her mystical encounters with Jesus. This excerpt summarizes her central insight well:

HUMAN SUFFERING

For Julian, Christ is both the symbol of human suffering and the sign of divine triumph over suffering. The meaning Julian derives from her first visitation is not that humans are destined to suffer (though we are), but more important that we have been given a sign through the Passion of Christ that we will ultimately triumph over the frailties of the flesh:

For [God] does not despise what he has made, nor does he disdain to serve us in the simplest natural functions of our body, for love of the soul which he created in his own likeness. For as the body is clad in the cloth, and the flesh in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the trunk, so are we, soul and body, clad and enclosed in the goodness of God. Yes, and more closely, for all these vanish and waste away; the goodness of God is always complete, and closer to us, beyond any comparison. (186)

But the philosophical problem still remains. If, as Julian insists, God resides in us and is “present in all things” (197), how can this goodness share divine space with the presence of evil? Julian states the difficulty of the case with characteristic directness:

Our Lord God . . . is at the center of everything, and he does everything. And I was certain that he does no sin; and here I was certain that sin is no deed, for in all this sin was not shown to me . . . . For a man regards some deeds as well done and some as evil, and our Lord does not regard them so, for everything which exists in nature is of God’s creation, so that everything which is done has the property of being God’s doing. (197-198).

Julian seems to imply here the heterodox view that sin has no reality whatsoever, the acts we label “evil” being merely products of our faulty perception. But a still, small voice within Julian is troubled by this explanation, this act of abolishing sin by linguistic fiat. Inspired both by humility and by curiosity, she presents an argument for the reality of sin from the human perspective:

It seemed to me that if there had been no sin, we should all have been pure and as like our Lord as he created us. And so in my folly before this time I often wondered why, through the great prescient wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not prevented. For then it seemed to me that all would have been well. (224)

The answer she receives to this childlike query is enigmatic but reassuring: “Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well” (225).

Julian, however, is not quite ready to let go her persistent questioning. After contemplating this reassurance, she again asks “with very great fear: Ah, good Lord, how could all things be well, because of the great harm which has come through sin to your creatures?” (227) Again she receives a measure of condolence: “You will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well . . . . Accept it now in faith and trust, and in the very end you will see truly, in fullness of joy” (232).

There’s more in this analysis, but here’s what this means to me.  In the past few years I’ve  either been involved with or been close to those involved with human trafficking eradication, ‘people who live outside’ (as my friend Hugh more humanely refers to ‘the homeless’) and the global ‘persecuted church.’ Even more recently, I’ve focused my professional energies and graduate studies to the gargantuan hydra that is our contemporary system of growing, preparing, delivering and eating food. All the greed, systemic evil, seemingly random and senseless acts of barbarism and tragedy can be tough to deal with, to say the least. Stories like the 55 babies dying in Haiti within earshot of people just too busy to do anything about it can be enough to knock the winds out of the sails of Mother Teresa, never mind the rest of us. For those of us who engage this kind of stuff on a regular basis, it can be despairing. We’re supposed to be the healers, the encouragers; where do we go when we need healing or encouraging? To our peer networks – the NGOs or churches or intentional communities that we serve and live with? As most readers of my blog likely know first-hand, they can be some of the most messed-up people in existence…they’re as bad off as you, if not worse! To God? The same God who, it is rumored, stands idly by and allows all these things to happen? Sometimes its easier to be an atheist in aid and social work – that’s one less unsolvable dilemma on your plate (“Why does a good God allow so much misery and suffering?”).

But yet…in the midst of the composted messiness of God, our communities, and ourselves, I’m discovering a deeper equilibrium in the universe, a deep sanity and ‘okay-ness’ that dances on the edge of communicability and wordlessness. It’s not unlike Julian’s divine communication –

All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well. You will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well…Accept it now in faith and trust, and in the very end you will see truly, in fullness of joy.

It’s as though energy is neither created nor destroyed; nothing is ever truly lost – not a tear, not a laugh or bullet wound or orgasm…it’s all saved and cherished. It’s not that good and evil are illusions, but rather that they’re not the final word on what living is about – there is a deeper life that transcends and includes them both – tapping into this Life here and now (and not merely relegating it to the sweet by and by) is the key to our being healers today, what Burke and Taylor call ‘mystical responsibility.’ But – and this is crucial – the superstructure of the kosmos is Grace; heaven and earth to not rest squarely on our own backs and sweat equity. It all depends on us, yet none of it does. Everything is both at the doorposts of our hearts, and beyond our grasp like gripping a fistful of sand. We can relax – we have infinite momentum behind us. It is accomplished. All will be well.

Back On Facebook! (I Think)

Update 12/2: Some people are telling me that they can’t see my Profile link; that it’s saying ‘Page Not Found’ on Facebook. Please leave a comment below if you’re not seeing it. Trying to get to the bottom of this…

I’m back on Facebook – with new profiles. You can add me here or here – or, when in doubt, both. More on that in a moment.

So after all this time, hundreds of direct emails to Facebook from friends, and a Reactivate Mike Morrell’s Facebook Account! group on FB, I heard precisely nothing from the Powers that Be from America’s most popular social networking site. I tried creating a new profile with a different email address than the one associated with my disabled account, and my IP address was banned. I seemed to be backed into a corner with nowhere to go.

So I tried one more email to Marissa and company. It went like this:

Hi Marissa,

My apologies if some of my friends are getting agitated and venting their frustration. I know that you don’t make the rules – you only try to enforce them to the best of your ability. I’m wondering if you could get me in touch with someone who might have the ability to help me out. On November 14, my Facebook account (at http://facebook.com/zoecarnate) was disabled. It appears that some of my friends have written you to request its reinstatement. Many of them have received an email reply that included this:

“If you’re writing on behalf of a friend, please ask your friend to write to us directly, so that we can confirm their identity for account security purposes.”In the spirit of your request, I am writing you again to request that you please reinstate my Facebook profile as-is, or move the friends on my profile to my ‘fan’ Page (which has also been disabled, as I had no other administrator).Once again I’d like to appeal what triggered my deactivation. I know your time is very valuable, so I’ll be brief. On November 14, I messaged eight people I know. These eight people had been recommended by mutual friends of ours as people I should be friends with on Facebook. I could not add them directly, as for some reason my ability to add people has been disabled for nearly a year now. (My guess is because I was too close to the friend limit – I had around 4990 friends). Because I messaged these people ‘too quickly’ (I was saying essentially the same thing to all of them), I triggered your failsafe. Looking at the FAQ/appeal process however, I discovered that I engaged in none of the behavior that this failsafe is meant to prevent – I wasn’t spamming anyone, and I wasn’t sending unsolicited messages to strangers. I was contacting people I already know (in real life, actually) to invite them to connect. I had to do this with my own grandmother about a month previously. I would like my account reinstated because its how I keep in touch with thousands of people I care about. From my Facebook profile, friends and colleagues coordinate anti-human trafficking initiatives, plan sustainable food programmes, and discuss the news and books that are important to us. We would like our communication back. I’ve done nothing wrong; I haven’t violated the spirit of your guidelines.

If the larger issue is not this particular infraction, but your wariness of people having 5k friends, I understand your concern and would be willing to have these friends moved to my ‘fan’ Page, scaling my actual profile to more immediate friends and family. I will keep both updated frequently, so hopefully my existing Profile friends won’t feel they’re getting the short end of the stick.

I’m willing to do whatever it takes, and work with you in whatever way, to ensure that these misunderstandings won’t happen again. Please give me a call at (678) xxx-xxxx if you’d like to talk about this directly.

Thank you for your time,

Mike


Mike Morrell

http://twitter.com/zoecarnate

I wrote this several days ago, and have heard nothing from them about getting my original accounts back. And as I said, I couldn’t initiate any new accounts on my IP address. Thankfully, a friend who wishes to remain anonymous ‘jump-started’ a new account on my behalf and handed me the reins. This was a few days ago; I didn’t publicize my new account because part of me was wanting to wait and see if FB would disable it, too – but that’s probably just me over-personalizing what is in fact a very impersonal system. So, I’m back.

There are now two ways you can connect with me on Facebook:

My Page
My Profile

I’d like to make a request: You add me. Both times in the past when I’ve gotten in trouble with Facebook it’s when I’ve used legitimate Facebook features but did so ‘too fast.’ So while I probably could use their Friend Finder feature to re-connect with most of you in a matter of days, Facebook’s system interprets people adding at that volume as evil robot spammers. So if a thousand or so of you add me, I’m much less likely to trip up the system (and you won’t get in trouble for adding little ‘ol me). May I impose on your further? If you and I had a lot of friends and connections in common, would you post a link to my new Page/Profile (or better yet, this blog post) in your Feed so others I was connected with can know how to re-add me? And if you really have time to kill, please liberally use the Suggest a Friend feature that shows up when you add me, so that I can reconnect with the old gang. Whew! Digital connection is so arduous!

Another request, and I don’t even know how to ask this without sounding like a complete jerk: Since my Profile friends cue filled up so quickly the last time (I had 5k friends in about 18 months after joining Facebook), and I don’t want to even break 4,000 this time (because profiles just run a lot slower at that kind of volume, plus the FB system starts breathing down your neck), if its all the same to some of you, add me on my Page rather than my Profile. Pages can have twenty gazillion friends and, for whatever reason, they don’t slow down. I promise to update both Page & Profile with the same information, links, and zingers; hopefully, they’ll both have the same level of lively banter and conversation that you’ve come to expect. You will have equal access to me at both Page and Profile; it is only I who will have less access to you if we connect via my Page. (Maybe it’s best that I don’t see your drunken party pics anyway, eh?) And please know that if you add me on my Page, I won’t think of you as my ‘Fan’ – because that’s just silly. I hate, hate, hate that I even have to put this request out there – I really wish Facebook would allow for a united platform that allowed consenting adults to connect in any quantities, and in any way they wished, but alas – it’s just not that way right now. And please – when in doubt, just add me via my Profile. I don’t plan on turning anyone down as long as I’m under 4k friends. But really & truly, I’m going to be using my Page and Profile in the exact same way from now on.

One last request: If you don’t feel too cheesy doing it, add me via my Page even if you add me via my Profile. Because one huge advantage Pages have over Profiles is that I can message all of you in one fell swoop, in a way that won’t get my account disabled. I promise never to abuse this feature – if I message you once a month I’ll be surprised – but I’d like to be able to get in touch with you quickly if I find out about something really cool – like 12 free Christmas albums.

Wow. I feel ridiculously self-conscious talking about all of this. Hopefully this is the last time in a good lonnnnng time that you’ll hear me carrying on about my social networking activities. Because social networking, like 1950s children, are best seen (used) not not heard (about) – can I get an amen?

Okay – see you around Facebook, and elsewhere. Selah.

Show Me Where It Hurts

Show me where it hurts,
God said
And every cell in my body
burst into tears
Before His tender eyes.

Rabia of Barsa (c. 717-801 C.E.), as told in Love Poems from God, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?

“Recovering? Who said I was recovering?”

Want to read this post? It is now right here at the new MikeMorrell.org. Please update your subscriptions and RSS feeds accordingly – thanks!

Walter Brueggemann

My Technological Job Moment

This has just not been my week, technologically speaking. I would never compare my life to Job in the ‘real world;’ this past week, a five-year-old girl was killed in Raleigh, after being prostituted by her mother for an undetermined time – unbeknownst to her father. The economy is allegedly recovering while an analogous recovery in employment is apparently not necesarry. Chronic hunger – euphemistically deemed ‘food insecurity’ by those fluent in policyspeak, is on the rise. And that’s just in America – to say nothing of Palestine, or Darfur.

So no, if I were attempting to compare myself to Job in The World Outside, I’d be tragically unaware. But in cyberspace, at the intersection of Big Corporate Business and Big Tech, I feel like I’ve had a steady stream of little nanobot robot servants coming to me, rattling off some techno-calamity, breathlessly finishing “…and I alone have lived to tell you!” Allow me my lament:

Continue reading ‘My Technological Job Moment’

Why We Need Government-Run Universal Socialized Health Insurance

The best under-five-minute argument for ‘socialized medicine’ I’ve yet encountered.


Check Out This Free Book Club

Tweetlie-Dee

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Abolish Slavery – Join the Movement Today!

  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

    a

    Advertisements