Panic, Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder and Hunger for God
I've been studying Spiritual Canticle by St. John of the Cross as part of my OCDS Secular Carmelite formation program.
Every Friday afternoon, I spend an hour in the Adoration Chapel at church. Today, I had the idea to practice lectio divina with the stanzas. I was surprised by some of the reflections I had. For some reason, I was pulled to the topic of mental illness, specifically anxiety disorder, panic attacks and borderline personality disorder.
The first twelve stanzas struck me as "angsty" and full of longing and distress. Anxiety permeates the entire section. The "bride" has seen God, who is "the bridegroom," only for an instant, and then He was gone. If she had not seen Him or known He was there, she could not feel the pain of loss, and because he caused the sense of loss, only He could heal her.
The phrases of the Canticle are intense and dramatic,such as, "If you shall see Him Whom I love the most, Tell Him I anguish, suffer, and die," and, "all wound me more and more, and something leaves me dying, I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking."
Anyone who has suffered from anxiety disorder or panic attacks knows that feeling- the fear that you will die. When we are infants, we cannot be abandoned, or we will certainly die. People suffering from borderline personality disorder have an intense fear that others will abandon them, often because one of their primary caregivers did as a child, so this type of anxiety is common. Threats like, "Don't leave or I will die," or "Come back or I will kill myself," are based on the same primal terror.