Saved by Gracie: Overcoming Anxiety
May 18th, 3:00-4:30 pm
Free (donation suggested)
The Blessing House, 8705 Church Lake Blvd, Victoria MN
Author Jan Dunlap was suffering from increasing anxiety when her daughter convinced her to adopt a rescued dog. Saved by Gracie is a story of how that dog not only help Jan overcome her own fear of dogs, but also helped her recover her faith in God while learning to manage her anxiety. Join Jan for a discussion of how cutting-edge research into nature therapy is documenting physical evidence of the life-affirming connections between body, spirit, and pets that Jan experienced first-hand at the paw of her dog. Copies of Saved by Gracie will be available to purchase for $10 and be signed after the class.
Calling on the Wisdom of Women
By Jan Dunlap
One of the most life-giving experiences I’ve ever had was returning to college to pursue my master’s degree in theology. I was forty-five years old at the time, my fifth (and last) child had entered kindergarten, and I decided it was my turn to do something for myself.
For many years, I’d toyed with the idea of getting some kind of advanced degree since I was, at heart, a scholar; as a volunteer faith formation instructor for my church community, learning more about spirituality and religious development intrigued me. So it felt like a very natural fit for me to enroll in a part-time, four-year program at St. Catherine University in nearby St. Paul. I expected a lot of heavy reading and intense self-reflection.
What I didn’t bargain for was the way it opened my horizons and changed my life – not so much because of the subject matter (though that certainly contributed to my store of knowledge), but because of the process itself: engaging with other motivated (and similarly mature) learners of varied perspectives, and being welcomed as an essential member of an intellectual, spiritual, community.
Quite a change from playing Candy Land and drawing on the driveway with chalk, let me assure you.
The most important thing I took away from that experience, however, was the need for women to share their earned wisdom about life in general and their personal journeys of spirituality. Let’s be honest – women may have come a long way in the last 40 years in career development or legal status, but the truth is that there are areas in which we remain mostly silent.
With the publication of my spiritual memoir “Saved by Gracie: How a rough-and-tumble rescue dog dragged me back to health, happiness, and God,” I’ve become very aware of one of those areas: anxiety. My memoir narrates my own experience with a growing anxiety disorder, and the unexpected relief from it that I found in our adopted dog. I wrote the book to share my good news with others suffering from similar mental health issues, in hopes I can help others find the healing I’ve experienced.
Judging from the conversations I’ve had with other women in the past month at book events, anxiety has been nipping at our heels and isolating us for far too long. I can’t begin to tell you how many women I’ve met who say they think they were losing their minds because of anxiety attacks that hit them with no warning – driving to work, walking into a store, or just sitting in front of the television.
“I know!” I say. “It happened to me all the time, and I kept thinking there was something radically wrong with me, since I never heard anyone talking about it.”
Admitting you have unexplained bouts of paralyzing fear isn’t exactly the first thing you bring up when you meet someone.
“Hi, I’m Jan, and I think I’m going to have a heart attack when I drive to the mall.”
It doesn’t help our fears when we read books that tell us we can beat our anxiety with faith, either. In my case, those books just made me feel even worse. Not only was I failing at being happy, but I was failing God as well! It wasn’t until I read about research in perimenopause and anxiety disorders, along with books about the human-animal bond and ecotheology, that I considered that what I was experiencing might actually be normal and even a part of God’s design.
So now I’m talking about it and writing about it, and not just because I think I might have the experience to make your journey easier. I’m talking and writing about anxiety because I believe we all have wisdom to share, and it’s time we opened this discussion wide to serve each other. What do you think?
Join us on May 18th at the Blessing House to continue the discussion!