Mental Illness Happy Hour: Volume 4

4

Just watched A Beautiful Mind. It’s a really solid piece of art for sure. It struck a chord with me. People who know my life and what I’ve been through, know that I can relate to the sentiment crafted by director, Ron Howard; a story of mental health and struggle and hospitalization.

Some parts were difficult to watch; like heartbreakingly, gut-wrenchingly difficult. Scenes that depict being strapped to a bed with leather buckles are hard for me because I’ve lived those scenes. I’ve writhed in agony while hospital attendants mocked me and laughed at my humiliation.

I was made to feel subhuman during almost all of my hospital stays. I, like Russell Crowe’s character, have felt completely trapped and paranoid in hospital situations. I don’t really understand PTSD as well as I do my own disorder, but seeing those scenes triggered a deep seated revulsion.

Those are some gut reactions.

I’m also thinking a lot about Jennifer Connelly’s character, who plays Crowe’s wife. In the movie, she is tasked with loving a man who fabricates whole realities, has make-believe best-friends, can’t always be trusted around their daughter and is schizophrenic. She confesses that she wants to leave her husband during the rigors of him finding help. She cries out several times to God and breaks things in her house; clearly hating the hand that she has been dealt.

I have a lot of insecurities around my own relational ambitions. I have to wonder, at times, if my wife, one day, won’t feel similar to Connelly’s character. That dealing with my madness is an impossible task.

I give my insecurities so much power every day. I tell myself that I’m not good looking enough. That I’m not in shape enough. That I’m not Christian enough. That I’m not stable enough. That I’m too crazy to receive love from a woman. It’s messed me up pretty bad. I’ve sabotaged a lot of relationships because I don’t know how to love myself well.

But I believe there is redemption for me. The middle of A Beautiful Mind is gruelling, but in the end there is redemption. There’s god-damned-Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning-redemption. And more than that, there’s beautiful-loving-wife-right-by-his-side-redemption. That makes me believe that good is out there. I think we can stand anything in this life as long as there is a fair amount of redemption sprinkled in; when we can see a purpose to our struggle. That at some point, we are raised up out of our suffering.

I’ve taken a lot of losses on the score sheet the last 6 years, but I’ve gotten up out of my bed every day. Right now, that seems like a lot.

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Hold it in

 

Peace, for me, is this fleeting thing. Most of the time, it seems just out of my grasp, like a favorite something dangling right above where I can reach. There are times when I even hate the thought of it because it seems to mock me. I can see it on passerbys’ faces when they hold their significant others close and laugh about these universe secrets that I’ll never know about. ‘Why not me?’ I ask God or whoever is holding down the fort. He is usually pretty quiet and unassuming.

It’s funny though, because I seem to have caught a bit of it right now; peace that is. It feels so nice to wear peace like a christmas sweater – with all the dangling fuzzies rubbing up against my neck. It kind of tickles even. My whole body is missing this swirling, frantic feeling that I have normally – like I’m late to a very important appointment that will determine next year’s salary or something.

I don’t know how peace strikes you. My guess is that it is quite different for everybody. The way I experience it happens first in my chest. Normally, there is this big pretzel knot that squeezes and constricts my heart and other surrounding organs, but then peace comes like this massive set of hands and kneads the dough back to its original state – into a fine pasty, putty that could be molded into whatever I suppose.

That’s always the first step and right after, I can breathe better and more fully. Then peace does something to my eyes. There’s a cloudiness that covers my sight most of the time and after a while it grows thick and hazy – until I can hardly see anything at all. But peace comes and spritzes something like windex into them – only its organic, I think, because it only stings a little – and I can see farther and clearer. I can almost see the future and when you can see that far, you start to realize that, mostly, everything will be alright, and if it’s not going to be alright, then there’s something else in control that’s pulling the strings. Maybe that’s when I realize, whoever this stringpuller is, He or She or both, is more subtle than I thought and I kind of like the delicate nature of it all.

Lastly, Peace grabs a hold of my mind and massages it like when Bugs Bunny opened up Elmer Fudd’s head and played with his brain. Peace kind of rubs the creases and all this tension gets released.

Basically, once Peace has done what it wants, I realize the “big” worries in my life aren’t so big and there are only a few things that are important and I know their first names and get dinner with them a bunch. Oh, and my shoulders relax too, which is nice.

Mental Illness Happy Hour: Volume 3

3

All I want to be known for is: being honest. There are other things too, but that one seems to stick out a lot. I want people to look at me as say, “man, that guy is brutally honest.” I want that because it’s my way of living counter-culturally; against the grain.

How do I become more honest?

Well, for one, I think I’m well on my way. Honesty is something I seem to embody. It seems to come a little easier for me than some other folks, but I wasn’t always this way. When I was in middle school, I lied all the time. I lied to girls that I had a crush on, saying I was a guitarist in a touring band. I lied and said that I knew famous people. I lied that I had sex when I was in 7th grade.

I did all this because I didn’t think my actual life was interesting enough.

There was too much normal in my life when I was young and I wanted people to see “off the wall” and “exciting” and “dangerous.” I don’t lie like that anymore because, for one, my life became a little more interesting, filled with difficult challenges and funny stories and the like.

I struggle with self-confidence a ton, but I like to think the decrease in lies means I’m growing a bit in that regard. But, I want to grow more and become the most honest I can.

To be honest, you have to be transparent about how you feel.

You have to explain hard things that could hurt a loved one’s feelings or make a friend feel uncomfortable. Let’s take this moment to talk about some things that are uncomfortable for me, in the name of honesty.

  • I don’t like the way I look: I don’t want my weight to fluctuate so much. When I have to go to a mental hospital, I always gain a bunch of weight. I feel like I cannot attract the kind of girl I want because I look “too big” and honestly, it floods my brain all the time.
  • I am trying to wait until I’m married to have sex: The older I get, the tougher this decision seems. I feel like a loser who can’t get laid, even though I’m the one who makes that decision everyday to wait for my future wife. I have had to tell girls that I’ve been dating that “kissing is as far as I’ll go” and remove myself from situations that are getting too physical. I want to look my wife in the eyes and say, “It was hard, but I did this for you and for the safety of our relationship.”
  • My disorder is really hard: It’s like I get three disorders in one: Mania (which is a dangerous high), Depression (which I deal with everyday) and Anxiety (which is like a crushing sensation in your chest and feeling like everything is permanently stuck in a bad place)
  • I think about suicide: The depression I feel, compounded with the feelings of no self worth and feelings of being a loser who might become a 40 year old virgin because of a decision I make to honor God and my future wife, lead me to ruminate on suicide a lot. Sometimes, I want all the hard things to go away along with all the pain I feel daily and it seems like the only option at times. I will point out however, that I’m still here.
  • I’m not sure where I stand on faith issues: I’m angry at God a lot. I don’t understand why he wants to teach us things through so much pain. I want him to intercede a little more or something. In general, I don’t believe anyone can be certain of anything. I believe that everything is up for debate. I get kind of sick of people who walk around acting like they know everything for certain. There are a lot of “church people” like that.

Those are some things that weigh heavy on my chest. This was a little exercise for me in the attempt to become as honest as I can. Maybe you could try and write down some things you want to be honest about. Or maybe you could communicate with a loved about hard things that would make your relationship better. Follow my lead, if ya want to. Keep Pressing On!

Mental Illness Happy Hour: Volume 1

I feel alright for the first time in a couple months. There is an ease to my mind currently and the big things that bother me all the time, don’t feel so big right in this moment.

My mom is going through brain cancer treatments. It is hard to watch her on her bad days and in her growing weakness and uneasiness, because I don’t want her to hurt or feel depressed because of the loss of independence.

My aunt and uncle and my sister came to town last week and helped take my mom to her appointments and cook food for her and tend to the dogs and the house. It was a huge help for my mom and it was a huge help for me.

During the last week, I have had time to spend by myself and not feel guilty about doing so. I went to guitar shops and played open mics, it has been really nice.

I had a dream a few nights ago where I felt, what I believe to be, the presence of God. I felt close to God and like his spirit was wrapped around me. In the dream, I saw the kingdom of God – which was every kind of person together – and I got a sense of what each person’s significance is in the kingdom.

If you are like me, you want to be famous. You want to be known for that thing that you are good at. You want to be well received by everyone you meet. I think I want fame more than I realize sometimes.

Well, in the dream, I got this sense of being famous, but I also got the sense that everyone in God’s Kingdom shared that fame with me. It wasn’t so much like I was idolized for who I am or what I can do, but that I was well known by everyone around me and ultimately, well known by God.

I want to be important. I want to feel that my life has a great significance and matters a lot. In the dream, where I felt God close to me, I felt important and felt respected for who I was and I also felt a deep respect for everyone around me in the dream.

This all seems great, right?

But I always get worried when I start to “feel” the presence of God and my mood shifts dramatically. I struggle with mental illness and my disorder comes with periods of dangerous euphoria. I fear that period might be coming once again like it has so many times in the past 7 years.

I write all this to say, I really wish that feeling a sudden uptick in my mood wasn’t cause for alarm or concern. I will have to “ride the wave” and hopefully it will level out before it gets out of hand.

I also write this in case anyone reading deals with similar fears and unpredictable emotions. I can’t say much other than you are not alone and to lean on people that you trust and who build you up. Keep pressing on!