Tag Archives: Mental illness and faith

Why do we leave the greatest tool locked in the toolbox?

This article is part 5 of a 5 part series.

For part 1, click here.

For series summary, click here.

We’ve been asking a lot of questions about the mental health care system in this series. Nothing wrong with that. Questioning can lead to answers and solutions.

Digging a little deeper into what happens that someone ends up in the system in the first place, realizing that those who are there are certainly not lost causes but real people with real stories, and evaluating the reality of the mental health care system versus how we wish it would be has hopefully brought the picture into a little bit clearer focus.

Or at least helped us to ask more questions.

Being honest about things I learned about myself while there certainly exposes me a little (or a lot), but I believe if I want to make a difference in the world, I have to start with me. I can’t really expect people to be willing to be more honest than I am willing to be.

Neither can you. Continue reading Why do we leave the greatest tool locked in the toolbox?

How does God have time for me?

Last Monday Ann and I made our well-familiar trip to Salt Lake for our appointment with my psychiatrist. We knew that one of the medications I was on was making me crazy, literally, and we were looking to get it stopped.

We accomplished that, and so much more.

It was probably within an hour of the appointment that I found myself on one side of a locked door, and Ann on the other.

What was happening? How had things deteriorated to this point?

Within the first five minutes they had taken my shoes with laces and belt, stripped me down and checked all areas of my skin for indications of self-harm, and given me a pill.

hospital bed

I began to pace back and forth in the sparse, harm-free room. Four steps to the plastic covered window and back to the door that doesn’t lock.

As I paced I did what I instinctively do when things seem out of control for me: I began to pray.

And I kept praying.

I will admit, that first night I really wondered how I had ended up in Hell.

The staff was kind but detached; tired and very busy. They hadn’t been prepared for my arrival, as I seemed to get there before many of the orders for my care had. I could tell that I was adding work to an already over-burdened team trying to keep control of a ward of people who didn’t seem to be able to do it for themselves.

The patients covered the spectrum of imagination: some were in street clothes and smiled; others were in hospital gowns and mumbling, while wearing blankets over their shoulders to find some sense of security.

All were scared.

At first when I was taken to the dining area for dinner, I watched closely those around me and felt like I had absolutely nothing in common with these people. They were nuts; I wasn’t. I was just a bit wound up.

Okay, I had been fighting suicidal tendencies for a while now, but I knew that I would never actually do it.

Right?

But as I listened to the others talking about their symptoms and feelings and pain, I all-too-soon realized that I understood EXACTLY what they were saying.

I realized that to someone else looking in, I was no different than the rest.

Confused. Tired. Scared.

My prayers continued.

“Dear Father, I am frightened. This is more than I can understand right now. This isn’t real. I really just want to go home. I really just NEED to go home.”

But even as I tried to panic about the situation, a calming peace came and just wouldn’t leave, no matter how hard I may have tried to chase it away through doubt and fear.

I knew this wasn’t a mistake. I knew our doctor had done the right thing. I knew this was where I needed to be right now.

I had no idea why, but I knew this was right.

And so I trusted and accepted.

Over the next three days I continued to pray constantly. Instead of pacing in my room I took to walking the halls briskly, returning to my room for pushups, planks, and curls using the chair in my room, and then back into the hall again for a quick walk.

It gave me a lot of time to think.

And a lot of time to look.

I watched the staff work so hard to help people who weren’t sure how to receive help. I realized that they had to find ways to hold on to their own sanity while working month after month in a pretty tough place. I quickly picked out the ones who seemed to understand me, and I them. I marveled that there was a complete variety there that could provide that ‘someone to connect with’ for everyone.

I watched the patients deal with both perceived and real abandonment from home and family. As the security lines from the outside seemed so thin and frail, I witnessed them grow strong and safe with each other, even though they were total strangers hours ago. I was taken aback by the incredible kindness they showed each other, and to me, when they were obviously in such a painful place in their lives.

And I wondered, “How on earth could that be?”

But it really wasn’t from an earthly or mortal source, was it.

The presence of God was very much alive and permeating each moment in that place that, on first experience, was full of pain, sadness, and even madness.

I don’t know how He is able to have all the time in the world for me, but I know that He does.

What is even more amazing and humbling is that He does it for every single one of us.

May we feel God’s love and help and strength today. I know it’s there, if we just ask and then look for it.

sunrise

 

Faith – Hope – Love

My bipolar collided with my OCD and caused the psychosis to take flight. It’s been a rough few days.

I had set myself the deadline to always post on Monday and Thursday. Because of who I am, (or is it better to say what I am?), I don’t ever miss deadlines.

Since I am never sure what each day will bring, I have tried to write a few blogs ahead and have them ready for the appointed day to publish. But last week we had a doctor appointment in Salt Lake, a family visit, another trip to Provo, and my self-imposed list of work around the house to validate my existence.

I worked ahead and was ready for Thursday. Whew, made it. All is well.

 

Now to get ready for Monday.

Nothing.

I crashed.

Continue reading Faith – Hope – Love

Hiding the monster within: Who turns on the night light?

Today is one of those days when I am just trying to get through.

I feel like I should be able to take a deep breath and get going and get the things done on my list for the day. But the harder I try, the more I have to hold back the tears.

No, not tears.

Sobbing.

I feel like I am on the edge and it’s a pretty long fall. For some reason, hitting my head hard comes up as the most logical solution to the problem.

But of course, it doesn’t really help much. It just adds guilt that I’m not in better control.

Control. It’s all about control.

I can’t think clearly. My thoughts are like a water color painting that has liquid spilled on it – everything softly runs together and I can’t really tell one thought from another. This is unusual for me; I can usually run with many, many thoughts at the same time and I understand each one.

Or, at least I clearly distinguish each one.

But not now. Now they are far away. They are someone else’s thoughts. I find that faintly interesting.

My head is going to explode and I can’t really keep pushing, so I lie down on the bed and stare up at the light fixture.

I know the mental exercises to go through. What am I feeling right now? Are they real feelings or imagined? Listen to the real Greg to differentiate. Separate fact from fiction and hold on to reality.

I close my eyes and start the analysis.

I realize that I’m really not afraid anymore. I’ve gone through that list so many times and internalized the solutions in place for potential problems that I find it hard to listen to the fear message when it gets sent.

Even though the emotion for sadness is there, I don’t feel sad. No, it’s almost more of a slightly amused detachment. I’m on the outside looking in. It almost seems silly that this person would just be lying on the bed in the middle of the day when there is so much to do.

My usual friend, anxiety, isn’t there either. I don’t feel anxious about not getting the things done that I need to. That’s a bit unusual. I must be making progress. It is good not to be worried about something. Well, about anything really.

And there it is.

I realize that I just don’t care if I ever get up off the bed again. Everything is far away. I am far away. But I don’t know where, because my thoughts have now been hit with a burst of rain and all the muted colors are becoming one; yet separating into millions more at the same time.

Just close my eyes, and slip away. Sleep. I don’t even care if I ever wake up.

Should there be alarm bells going off at this point?

If you ask me, not really. What could be so wrong?

And that may be the reason that after bad things happen and mental illness is discovered, we so often hear: “I didn’t see any warning signs. They seemed to be doing all right to me.”

You see, mental illness has been such a part of us for so long that we stop being surprised by it, or scared by it, or even able to keep feeling as we work our way through it.

And if no one is really watching…

Then there is another tragedy to report on the evening news.

But I am determined that I will never be one of those stories. In my case, someone is watching. In fact, there are several someones.

I don’t really enjoy it, but each night when Ann comes home she gets out a little calendar book and we talk about how I felt during the day.

And she keeps track.

So when I hit the euphoric points when EVERYTHING is AMAZING and I can’t really remember things being tough, we know that, in fact, just yesterday things were actually hard for me.

And when, in my mind, I don’t see the point of the medication, especially because I don’t like the way that it feels and I ache to just be “me” again, Ann quietly opens the book and I can see for myself.

And I close my eyes and I work again at separating the fact from the fiction, and I hold on to reality.

Isn’t that what we all need? An anchor to secure our line to so that when we each begin to drift a little, we don’t get lost in the tide and find ourselves somewhere completely different than where we set out to be?

What are your anchors?

Just as important, what are the anchors your family and close friends are using? Do you know they have them? Do they?

Part of what keeps me focusing so hard on reality and working to keep feeling is my understanding that my anchors need anchors. And I have the great privilege of being one.

So I open my eyes and focus on the light fixture. I analyze if the best course is a short nap to refresh my body or if I need to get up now and fight a little harder. I roll myself off the bed and hit the floor on all fours and begin my prayer of gratitude for all I have and all I am a part of.

I stand up.

I make the bed and I move on.

I’m ready when Ann comes home to have our conversation about how my day went. Because, you see, we will also talk about how her day went.

And she knows that I’m watching her right back.

Everyone needs an anchor; and everyone needs to be an anchor. Together we stay secure through the storms.

Confident Humility: An oxymoron or the recipe for strength?

I received a wonderful and kind message from someone I haven’t heard from or known anything about for 25 years. I find it inconceivable to be able to say that I am old enough to have not seen someone for that long. Aren’t I still about 25? Well, maybe 30 at most.

John was the force of energy and enthusiasm behind a performing group I had the chance to be a part of in college. It was electrifying for me. I had always wanted to sing and dance and perform, but was too shy and afraid. For the first time in my life I was stepping forward and working with others who knew so much more than I did and doing something that I loved. It scared me to death and for the first few weeks I was physically sick before going in to the early, early morning rehearsals.

But everyone kind of took me in and taught me what they knew and soon we were learning together. I felt like we would be more than friends, we would be family all our lives. They had had such a significant impact on me and my vision of myself.

Of course, things change. People graduate, get married, go to post graduate studies, and move on with their lives. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way for any of them. They deserve every opportunity and possibility that life has to offer.

I noticed though, that not only had my situation changed, but I had changed. I now had the courage to do difficult things in front of other people. This was an important part of my college education because it went with me into my career. I could now travel to different parts of the country and learn, teach, train, and create.

While doing this I crossed paths with some pretty incredible people. Again, I thought that we would be more than friends, we would be family all our lives. My vision of myself continued to take shape and I dared to dream.

But as the dream got bigger, my ability to keep the symptoms of mental illness in check diminished. The confident Greg who learned that he could do scary things and make big decisions was there some days; others, however, the young and inexperienced Greg seemed to come back. Things were scary again.

The dream, of necessity, had to get smaller.

And smaller.

And smaller.

This journey through mental illness has changed me, changed who I used to be. For a while I thought that it was robbing me of who I was meant to be. You see, I felt I was headed to be quite a mover and a shaker, someone who was doing big things for a big salary.

I was going to make a difference.

It was a pretty hard blow to accept when Ann and I made the decision that it was time to leave the workforce before I did something pretty terrible and got fired, or hurt someone, or just gave up and ended it all.

I think it was safe to say that the Greg who could get up on stage and sing and dance and perform and absolutely love the thrill of it all wasn’t there anymore.

The confidence was gone.

Being the question asker that I am, I wondered, where does confidence come from?

Had I based it in a series of accolades and positive reinforcement from others? I think those things always help build someone up and lets them know that they indeed can do something hard.

But if you can’t do those things anymore, then what?

As we approach the Easter season, our minds are drawn to the One who lived a life of complete success. He never failed at anything. If anyone deserves to be raised up on a pedestal and revered, it is He.

To have that kind of confidence, that surety of direction, that ability to conquer fear would make one powerful beyond description. Certainly, we have witnessed many who have attempted to duplicate that kind of record of never getting it wrong.

But in the process, haven’t they ended up getting the things that matter the most, terribly, terribly wrong?

Maybe the secret isn’t in being bigger and bigger and better and better. Those who are larger than life don’t really have any advantage over the one who quietly supports and makes sure that things are cleaned up and taken care of after the lights are turned off.

“I have come to do the will of the Father.”

“Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done.”

Even the person who only attends a worship service on a yearly basis knows these verses.

We know the verses, but do we know what they mean?

I think they mean that the secret isn’t really a secret.

Yes, my life is completely different than it was planned to be. I would bet that yours is too. It happens to most of us.

And in the end, aren’t we grateful that it is?

Some days it is still too hard to dare to dream. I’m learning how to get through those.

But some days, I begin again. I feel like that young college student driving through the cold early mornings to rehearsal , a little sick, a little afraid, but heading toward it nonetheless.

Because this time through, I get to take all my learned experiences and memories with me. Who I am is a wonderful mosaic made of countless interactions, inspirations, successes and failures.

hold-my-hand

And knowing that I failed and succeeded and will most likely fail again, I reach out and take the offered Hand, the Hand that was always there but I somehow missed before in my excitement and enthusiasm.

We have become more than friends, I know that we will be family all our lives. My vision of myself is clearer now than it has ever been.

This is who I am meant to be. I want my will to match His. I want to do the things that He would have me do.

Now I am quietly confident in the new and better dream, and I am humbly grateful for it.