Little Boys

I have been offline for about the last six months.  To put it bluntly I have been terrible.  I hope this post explains a few things.  I apologize for being offline for so long. 

 

Little Boys

More than a decade ago, when I was in high school, I was a counselor at an Evangelical Christian Children’s Camp.  At that camp I counseled a little boy who was about eight years old.  On the first day he pulled me aside and told me he was having visions.  He saw the Virgin Mary in a mirror as if Mary was his reflection.  Soon fire would appear and the devil would gobble up Mary and stare back at him as if it was his own reflection.  He was scared and thought the devil lived inside of him. 

I remember praying with him that Jesus would come into his heart and the visions would cease.  I then chalked one up for team God that another soul was saved.  Except no one was saved.  The next day he told me he could hear Satan talking to him, telling him to hurt himself, to hurt his mom, that his life was worthless.  I prayed with him again that Jesus would take those thoughts away and replace them with comfort and peace. 

But to him they were not thoughts.  They were audible voices and they did not cease.  He grew more desperate and said he could see Satan staring at him whenever he closed his eyes.  This time I grabbed the director of the camp and we prayed with him that Jesus would protect his soul and the voices would stop and he would be a peaceful eight year old boy.  It didn’t take.

That night something broke and he threw himself into a frenzy.  He had never been violent before.  He ran through the bunkhouse pushing kids down and ran out the back.  He ran and fell off a concrete embankment onto his face.  That stopped him.  When asked if he was okay he said he couldn’t feel his toes.  Someone said we shouldn’t move him but call the nurse.  He was taken by helicopter to the hospital.  I still don’t know what exactly happened to the boy.  The director implied he might have been demon possessed.

I don’t believe he was demon possessed.  I think he was a sick, scared little boy who panicked.  For the last six months I have felt like that little boy.  Seeing, hearing, and smelling things that don’t exist but are terrifying.  I am afraid to go to sleep because I fear what I might dream.  The simple act of brushing my teeth is an ordeal.  I don’t find comfort or fun in activities I used to enjoy. 

I doubt God’s existence or subsequent goodness.  It seems that God is as powerless to help me as I was to help that eight-year-old boy.  To borrow a line from the movie Constantine, “God is just a kid with an Ant Farm.” 

I even doubt the First Questions I ask myself or my “a priori” knowledge.  How do I know what I see, hear, touch, smell, taste, feel, think is real?  Do I even exist?  Do I have a soul?  I pondered Descartes’ famous phrase, “cogito ergo sum,” or “I think therefore I am” and came up wanting.  I cannot prove my existence by thinking that is a cop out.  If I abandon all preconceptions all experience I have no framework to think in.  Either I exist or I don’t exist and I need to take the first steps by faith.  I have to believe before I can think.  Thinking can change what I believe but belief has to come before reason in order for reason to have the foundation to build upon.  That is why philosophy is so diverse.  It is because people believe differently they arrive at different logical conclusions based on what their beliefs are.

So I have to choose what to believe and then reason my way back from there.  It is the opposite of science because you have to be biased in order to think philosophically.  But there is the eventuality that you reason yourself into a corner where there is no way to philosophically justify something.  That is when you get to the big issues of WHY?.  Science is great at telling people how something happens.  But it can’t tell why something happens.  Science can tell you how to take a human life.  Science has proven to be very creative when it comes to destruction.  But science cannot give you the control to say when to use a weapon and when not to. 

That is where ethics or moral belief comes into play.  You can reason why a certain ethic is more harmonious or more chaotic than another.  Order and Chaos are very scientific things.  It can tell you what ethic is more likely to extend your life or further our dominance as a species.  But it can not tell you what is bad or good.  It cannot tell you if something is wrong or if it is right. 

It cannot give me the absolute truths that my soul yearns for.  Science cannot satisfy me.  I want to understand the principles and/or personalities that govern so much of my experience.  So I come back on my knees to God and pray.  I don’t know if it is because God comforts me or if it is some conditioned response because or my upbringing but I feel better when I pray.  I don’t panic when I pray.  But with prayer comes an emotional response I do not want, anger.

I am angry with God, disappointed, heartbroken, Jesus said that following in his footsteps would be hard.  But really…this fucking hard. 

I am like the eight-year-old kid praying, asking for help, trying to live each moment in the presence of God but I am failing.  Not only am I failing in my spiritual life I am failing at life altogether.  My medicine isn’t working, I isolate, I have grown lazy, I have low-self esteem which is a fancy way of saying I don’t value my own life.  I am a mess God.  A mess and I don’t know what to do.  Help… 

Nothing happens.  Then I get into the phase of I have to do more I have to contribute some how.  This summer I taught children five days a week about the Bible and how God loves them and wants them to succeed.  At the same time I was dying inside, at times suicidal.  It got so bad that I would have panic attacks before and while I was teaching.  Panic attacks so bad it felt like a heart attack.  I would sweat and force myself through it, day after day after day.  I felt like a liar, a cheat.  But I know a lot about the Bible.  The first book I personally owned was a Bible.  I read it everyday until I was nineteen.  I have led Bible studies including reading the entire Bible in ninety days which I did once on my own and in about half a year with a group.  I knew the words to say to these children I taught I just didn’t believe them.  Perhaps that is why I had no right to teach them.

But I stuck with it.  The kids responded well to what I taught them and even though I was drenched in sweat the kids responded well to me.  Which means that something I taught struck a chord with them or kids are gullible, maybe both.

I have done all I can to reach out to God.  But I am left alone.  I’m not perfect, I am sure their is another I to dot or T to cross.  But why this hard God?  Why am I so broken and have to stay that way?  Aren’t you supposed to bind up the broken hearted.  To make the lame to walk and blind to see. 

I don’t want to live afraid.  God.  I don’t want to be motivated by fear.  I don’t want to sleep with the lights on because I am afraid of the dark.  I don’t want to fear my dreams or the images I see whenever I close my eyes.  I don’t want to be the eight-year-old boy face down on the ground wondering if he will ever stand again.

Bitterness

I have begun to realize that I have some residual bitterness towards the Church.  I was sexually abused in an evangelical church, I have been told I am demon possessed by evangelical Christians.  I often feel aloof and unable to relate to most sermon's I hear and I often I see worship time as more of a contemporary Christian rock show than a worship service.

I have become a Christian Cynic and while have every right to be one, it doesn't stop my cynicism from being wrong.  Because to a Christian Cynic Churches can't do anything right.  I can point out the mistakes, the pitfalls, the pride, all the while ignore my own selfish pride.  I make myself out to be the Christian realist, the one who knows what suffering is and my wisdom should be sought after.  Yet sometimes being a Christian realist is just a code word for being calloused and unable to feel anymore. 

So I ask forgiveness for myself, and ask for prayer that I would be able to see the Church as Christ sees it.  A beautiful group of people who are doing their utmost to follow his example.  And while I am a contrarion punk and will likely never see eye to eye with any one I will ever meet I can still remember that the Church is Christ's bride and she is beautiful.

When the going gets tough

I have been battling depression for several weeks now.  I have been trying to stay active and fulfill my commitments.  But I feel sapped of energy.  My automatic outlook is negative.  Often I feel like crying.  I want to isolate but that is the exact opposite of what I should be doing.  So I don't isolate I force myself to interact with people and I hate it.  I don't hate people but I hate being around them and yet, the reason I haven't slipped into disabling depression is being around people and staying out in the world. 

This doesn't mean I have to like it.  I find that I am angry, not necessarily with God but with Christian Culture.  Is there any church that doesn't teach health and wealth if you only have enough faith?  Is there any end to the endless Christian music made up of bumper sticker doctrine that extols God's virtues with no sense of reality?  I am tired of being a Christian that can't find a church because I won't tote the party line.  Yet I am an evangelical fundamentalist Christian who happens to be a realist.  I can't find a church without being overwhelmed by a culture of pro-guns, pro-life, anti-homosexual, loves Jesus but hates what he said, Republican, anti-social justice, and ultra-conservatism.  I visited a large number of Christian churches and the sermons I have heard range from excellent to the insane and often from the same mouth.  One pastor said that Christian Values are basis of the free market economy.  Another pastor rented a scissor lift so he could illustrate God's umbrella of protection by shooting with a super-soaker down on people under an umbrella and saying with God you are protected from the troubles  of life because they bounce off God's protection like water off and umbrella. 

In other words I am depressed and angry about what has happened to our churches.  They have become sanctuaries from reality.  Leave your troubles at the door because it is better to appear more spiritual than the next guy rather than growing closer to the Lord.

Gratitude

“Be glad always,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16. I once heard that it is impossible for sin to take hold in a heart filled with Gratitude. The last decade has been a difficult one for me. Events have taken place that have changed my life forever. Many of these events have left deep scars on my soul. I still struggle with depression and self-worth. I am disabled. What do I have to be thankful for when my hopes and dreams have been scattered and I still mourn their passing.

I do have a reason to be glad. Lots of reasons. New hopes and dreams have risen to take the place of the old ones. I have discovered writing, something I never had any experience with in high school or the University of Arizona. I have a family who loves me and while they are not perfect they are a great support when my cycle of hallucinations and depression sets in. I am dating a beautiful intelligent woman who is compassionate and funny. I attend a college that lets me take classes at my own pace. I do not have money problems. I have wonderful friends who accept me for who I am. I indeed have a lot to be thankful for.

While I have a lot to be thankful for Gratitude is not necessarily connected to events but rather one’s state of mind. I must admit that I am somewhat a hypocrite when saying this, since I do not always follow my own advice. It is hard to remember to be grateful when hard events take place. I have a chronic serious mental illness and in the depths of despair it is difficult to be grateful, but it is not impossible. Even in despair I have my list of things to be thankful for but even if all that was taken away I could still live a life of Gratitude to God.

My spirituality is an inextricable part of my life and even when I am at my darkest I can take comfort in the nature of God and his loving kindness.

The Gem and Mineral Show

Today, after a bit of a dry spell, aka not leaving the house much mostly reading, writing, watching television, and playing video games, I left with my family to visit the Gem and Mineral Show that comes to Tucson every February. I saw lots of trilobites and fish fossils.  My sister bought fossilized dinosaur poop that supposed to be 200,000 years old or something ridiculous like that.  I dared her to lick it but she refused.  We are 27 and 25, some things never change. 

I saw the fossilized remains of a cave bear from the ice age that stood over ten feet tall.  I also saw a replica of the fossils of a giant sea turtle that shell was literally seven feet across. 

I also saw crystals that emit mystical frequencies that cure arthritis, back pain, and other aches and pains.  It is basically the bengay of the mineral world.  I probably should have asked if I could get a crystal headband so I would only think happy thoughts. 

Afterwards, my family ate street tacos and visited a our local Mexican bakery.  Basically I had a good time out with my family and they enjoyed having me with them. 

When I got home I found it was easier to do the homework I had been putting off and that I was in a generally happier mood.  Thought the depression hasn't left and is still lingering in the back of my mind it is more manageable, all because I chose not to isolate but to have a good time with my family.

Lonely

I am lonely, the special kind of lonely that mixes well with depression.  Perhaps they are interconnected.  It's the kind of lonely that having others around doesn't fix.  An isolating kind of lonely.  I hate the way it feels.  Though they try my parents don't help, neither my sister, nor my friends, I am simply unreachable.  I simply exist.  Exist is a funny word.  A word to describe something perceive to be there.  Some would argue there is no existence merely perception without cause.  So we make up existence to explain why we perceive

Never-the-less I perceive loneliness and I cannot think of a solution.  Perhaps none exists.  This is where perception with no existence fails because we usually perceive in a orderly way.  Thus we assume cause.  But some things are complex or have no discernible cause.

So despite the mental somersaults I still feel depressed and lonely.

A Repost for my Writing Class Friends

God of the Schizophrenic

By: David Weiss

I used my cane to hit the handicapped door opener. My hands shook and shadows danced on the wall. In the back of my mind I saw train tracks. My head lay on the rail. A whistle blew and I closed my eyes. It blew again and again. My eyes were shut tight. I was anxious and scared. Do suicides go to heaven?

I signed my name on a white paper. No one could read it, but they knew my face. “David Weiss…”

“Yes,” I stammered.

“Doctor Stanley will be with you shortly.”

I sat in a comfortable leather chair. I thought of the life I could have lived. The life I lost.

A small, balding man in penny loafers came to greet me. He wore a Harris Tweed jacket with no tie. A failed attempt to set his patients at ease.

“Hello, David. Would you please come back?”

I slowly followed him down the expensive carpet to a large room. His office was themed after the African Savanna, complete with giraffe sculptures and exotic plants. In the corner sat a large hardwood desk. The lights were low. I sat in an Italian recliner and waited.

“Well, David, how do you feel?”

It took me a moment to collect my thoughts. “I still see shadows everywhere. They seem to watch me. Whenever I close my eyes I see myself without a head. Sometimes it feels like invisible knives are swirling around me. The medicine is making it hard for me to walk, and often I feel like I am falling when I am just standing still. The suicidal thoughts are getting better. Just ideas but no actual plans.”

Doctor Stanley nodded his head and scribbled something on my chart.

“I see. I think you are doing better than last time we met. How are you spending your time?”

“I sleep most of the time. When I’m awake I play my Xbox. Sometimes I read and listen to music.”

“Do you get out of the house much?”

“No.”

“Maybe you could go for a walk?”

“I can’t stand.”

“Still, you should go outside and enjoy the sun. Research shows that exercise and spending time outdoors can improve mood.”

He scribbled something else in his notes and flipped through the pages of my chart.

“Doctor, it has been three years. Will I ever get better?”

He paused for a moment and stared at his notes.

“David, you need to think about what level of better you can live with.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just that you need to accept that you will always be this way.”

I left and never went back.

A year and a half later, I found myself in another waiting room.

Instead of leather seats these were vinyl. Everything smelled of bleach. I held a book in my hand. Don Quixote. Why can’t I be like him? A few windmill giants, a bar room princess, a wonderful life?

There are no happy crazies.

I looked at my father and he smiled. “How do you feel?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I muttered.

The news played on a television bolted to the wall. Somebody died somewhere and people were angry. They blamed the government, the government blamed big business, and big business blamed someone else. Nobody blamed themselves.

“Weiss, David,” a voice called. I approached a white desk. A young man in a collared shirt sat behind his computer.

“Good morning,” he said.

I was silent, but my father chimed in. I don’t remember what they said. I didn’t care. This place was different from other places I had visited. Nothing expensive except the medical equipment. No comfortable chairs or expensive clothes.

A nurse led me back. I remember white tiles and beige walls. The rest is difficult to remember, but I do remember this: I laid on a gurney in only a gown. Later I learned I could still wear underwear. The first time was the hardest. I didn’t know that then.

This procedure was something new. Something that broke the monotony. Almost an adventure, better than sitting at home watching a movie or pushing buttons on a controller and wishing I were someone with more serotonin and less norepinephrine. Or is it the other way around?

A little knowledge can be a frightening thing. I soon realized, for instance, that psychiatrists often go to school for 24 years so they can prescribe drugs that, according to some research, are only marginally better than a placebo. Almost all anti-depressants increase the recipient’s risk for suicide. Why did I trust these people? Why did I pay 160 dollars an hour to see them?

But there were a few noble exceptions—in the clinic, at the hospital, at the university. They cared when a patient experienced horror; something broke the professional distance they so carefully maintained.

I can’t blame those like Doctor Stanley fault the ordinary approach. Mental illness is a war with many casualties, claiming patients and doctors alike. But a heroic few strive to save lives, ease suffering, and thrust light into dark places, bringing into the open afflictions once locked away in asylums and sanitariums. Their empathy bears witness to the counsel of the greatest physician of all: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Two specialists stood over me, flanked by two nurses and a medication technician. One, dressed in plain clothes, held two silver rods wrapped in black plastic. The other wore medical pajamas. Spread out before them were several dozen plastic vials.

The nurses attached electrodes to my arms, legs, chest, and head.

They wrapped a tourniquet around my leg.

“Are you ready, David?” the woman with the vials asked.

Before I could answer, caffeine flushed my veins. My heart leapt in my chest. I could literally feel where the muscle ended and the artery began. Oxygen rushed to my head, and I couldn’t control my breathing.

My thoughts turned primal. I grasped a nurse’s hand and ground my teeth.

“You may feel a burning sensation.”

A small fire entered my arm and began to spread. The pain raced through my veins and inflamed the surrounding tissue. It passed through my shoulder and to my chest. Sleep.

There were no dreams when I was asleep; nor did I dream during the 23 other sessions. I don’t know if you dream during a seizure.

Light. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t feel. My chest raced up and down. I couldn’t control it. Wires. Surprised faces. My fear became rage. My eyes darted all around. People came to hold me down.

No thought. No mind. Just animal. My arm broke free. Someone fell back. Big men clouded my vision. Someone fiddled with my IV. My veins burned and vision failed. I couldn’t scream.

Light. My body ached. My nurse stood over me.

“Dude, I have never seen anything like that. You came out of anesthesia swinging.”

“I did?”

“Yeah, they sent a call out to all available men.” He paused for a moment to adjust my blood oxygen monitor. “Man, I heard the doctors saying they are going to be sure to bring you out slowly next time. It took seven of us to hold you down.”

My dad drove me home and bought me McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. I lived off those for two months. At home I silently ate my meal in bed. Then I slept for twelve hours. I moved from the bed to the bathroom to a recliner and back to bed. Two days later, I was back for round two. I couldn’t think or concentrate. Once I forgot my mother’s name. After each treatment, before I went to bed, I would mark a star on a card next to my bed. Normally people have eight to 12 treatments. I had 24.

My doctors classified me as resistant to both medication and electro-convulsive therapy. Each session required more power to generate a therapeutic seizure.

Toward the end they were maxing out their machine. After 24 treatments I couldn’t remember anything from before they started. I am still regaining memories. Finally I said, “Enough.” I refused to leave the house, and the treatments ended.

I have been asked many times, “Was it worth it?” I always wonder what people mean by that question.

The treatments cost $300,000. My parents paid almost $90,000. Insurance covered about $100,000, and the government paid for the rest. The hospital didn’t eat a penny.

But more than the money, I have been asked whether it was worth the pain and the stigma. I don’t know.

My mom survived cancer twice and spent time in reverse isolation because a simple cold could have killed her. She told me she has never seen pain more intense than my two months of treatments. She spent many mornings shouting at God. Nevertheless, she always supported me. She would rub my head when the headaches were unbearable, offering scant physical relief but much emotional consolation. My father was angry when I first became ill but quickly adapted. He was ever-present during my darkest times. He just sat and waited with me. I didn’t like being alone.

I talk about my family, because I learned that those around me often saw more clearly then I did. In the midst of my suffering, nothing made sense. Reason and logic gave way to instinct and fatalism. Pain is a powerful drug. It altered my perception and was an indelible part of my reality.

I am reminded of ancient Greece, when mental illness was ascribed to demon possession. Doctors would hang the demon-possessed over pits filled with poisonous snakes. The goal was to make the infirm believe they were going to die. They tried to scare the demon out of them. Sometimes it worked. According to ancient sources, many were restored to a semi-normal life. Of course, only the educated prescribed their treatments and wrote their histories.

I have always enjoyed a certain section of the Hippocratic Oath: “I will prescribe regimens and medicine for the good of my patients in accordance with my skill and reason, and at least do no harm.” There is a certain absurdity to that statement, since the Greek word for “medicine” is pharmakon, which can also mean “poison.”

A year before after my treatments, I went to see the best psychiatrist I have ever known. He was a professor who oversaw the resident students at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine. He always told me the truth and did his best. He was one of the select few who make a real difference. He was a Catholic. I know because he wore a saint around his neck.

I talked about how I felt and the slow but steady progress I had made toward the illusion of normalcy. I mentioned that I found it easier to pray.

“You believe in God?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

He sat forward, this tall Mexican man. He didn’t meet my eyes but asked, “Why?”

I didn’t have an answer then. I still don’t. Perhaps I can’t cope with the prospect of meaningless absurdity. Perhaps I am a coward. I am certainly not brave. Perhaps I am just wishing for a better existence.

I have a group of three friends. We call ourselves the “Bipolar Buddies.” We all went to the same church, and we were the nerds. The kids with straight As and college scholarships. I was the underachiever with a 3.8 GPA. Within a couple years, we were all diagnosed with serious mental illnesses. We lost our scholarships and our dreams. We each also had a crisis of faith.

While some were supportive of us, It is was amazing how many in a conservative church responds to a few questioning youths: “Are you secretly gay?” “Do you have some unconfessed sin?” “Are you possessed by a demon?” “How dare you question God?” The range of suspicions was staggering.

My parents deflected the ugliest overtures. Since When my mom had cancer a number of her friends tried to explain her cancer away by giving it a spiritual cause. while attending a conservative church, She knew when honest people shared harmful advice she knew what to look for. But the questions and interventions persisted. More than once I went to a prayer meeting where people laid hands on me and asked God to heal me—but also to increase my faith, make me more like Christ, and so on.

My faith in God has always been an important part of my life. I am not a saint. I have prejudices and flaws. But as a Christian, I wish fellow churchgoers would refrain from passing judgment and recommending a fix after two minutes of conversation. Of course, I am ready and able to fix everyone but myself. I am a hypocrite, and in my self-righteousness I have hurt many people. Sadly, I didn’t realize my sin until I was the recipient.

As the years dragged on, I stopped crying. I stopped feeling. I just did what I had to do. I found a modicum of solace in the suffering. I learned to dream. I created detailed daydreams that became more real than the world outside.

For example, for two weeks I dreamed about living aboard a make-believe space station for two weeks. During this time, I didn’t talk or bathe, I hardly ate, and I barely slept. Instead, I braved meteor showers, saved the station from a solar flare, defeated a burly Russian ultra-nationalist, learned how to travel faster than the speed of light, and weathered the death of my commander—all while sweeping a lovely French doctor off her feet. As the dream ended, we were holding each other, watching a nuclear fire destroy the world below, just as I had watched the uncontrollable fire of Schizophrenia consume my own life.

Back in the real world, where all the accomplishments of my early days had turned to ash, I started over. I learned to fight—not always skill fully, often poorly—against faulty ideas and destructive behaviors.

In addition, no longer did I suffer alone, but amidst a great brotherhood of pain-stricken fellows who mistakenly believed, as I once had, that no one else understands our plight. People who hurt are everywhere. It is a consequence of living in a sinful world. I have met people who have experienced divorce, cancer, attempted suicide, murder, and other horrific things. In a way those who suffer are not so different from each other. Pain has invaded our lives. This pain is more powerful than ourselves and we have no chance of prevailing without help. Each looks inward to try and understand what has transpired. There is nothing wrong with self-examination, but the danger is we may never look outward again.

It is easy to become selfish in the midst of suffering, to mistakenly believe that the world revolves around our pain.

Many are familiar with the Myth of Narcissus. The young man who was so beautiful that when he looked at his reflection in pond he could not take his eyes off himself. He loved himself so much that he fell into the pond and drowned.

I have never met such a beautiful person but I have met many obsessed with their reflection- there was I time I was one of those people.

Here is another Myth, but it is my own. There once was a young man named David. He suffered greatly. One day in the forest he found a pond with a surface so smooth it seemed like a mirror. David looked at his reflection in the pond and saw his anguish. His anguish was great- so great that he imagined that no one else in the world suffered as much as him. Self pity over took him as stared into mirror. He forgot the good that was still left in his life and he could not take his eyes of his reflection. He fell into the pond, paralyzed by pity, and drowned.

My family often bore the brunt of my selfishness- sometimes it still does. It is easy for me to sleep, eat, and pretend I am someone else. What intelligent person wants to live imprisoned by a disease that exists primarily in his mind? Unfortunately, that kind of thinking destroys gratitude. I often need to remind myself how fortunate I am to have a loving family that supports me, gifted doctors that understand mental illness. medicine that manages my disease, and a God who never gave up on me.

At least in this lifetime, the question “Why?” will never be answered. Who knows why God allows pain? Who knows why God sometimes seems to leave us alone? People have asked these questions since they first puzzled over the causes of lightning and rain. Bad things just happen, we say, and it isn’t anybody’s fault. There’s no rhyme or reason. But even when we can’t grasp the sources of our misfortunes, we can strive to learn the right lessons.

The most important lesson I learned from my pain was about compassion. I was once one of the Bible bangers who knew everything and needed nothing. Not anymore. If God isn’t up there in heaven watching and waiting for me to screw up—if he weeps when I weep and celebrates when I take just one step toward a new and better life—then who am I to play God and judge others casually to behave pharisaically?

When my psychiatrist asked me why I still believed in God, I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t. I still don’t know if the treatment was worth the pain. I have a multitude of problems, not all of them related to mental illness. I am not a prophet who has received great enlightenment. But I do have some hard-fought wisdom to impart.

Through my illness, I finally met the God I had heard about but never truly experienced. A God who heals. A God who loves. A God I cannot logically explain to my psychiatrist. A God whose genius is displayed by taking the evil in our lives and repurposing it for good. Someone unlike me. Someone unlike the well-meaning inquisitors who judged me and sought to spiritually cure me. Someone I never would have truly discovered sane.

A God who called himself Immanuel—God with us.

Faith like Job

I was raised in the church.  I attended Christian school from the nursery and preschool while my mom taught "A Christian view on Science" to middle-schoolers at the same school.  I attended Christian School until high school.  When I finally made the transition from private to public education I was suddenly thrust into the world of f-bombs, drug experimentation, and locker room violence.  At fist I struggled to gain my footing, but quickly I adapted.  At Church I became a leader in my youth group and lead my peers in evangelism.  At school I became an honor student and eventually earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Arizona. 

It was during my first year at the University that my carefully cultivated life fell apart.  I heard God audibly tell me to kill myself.  I saw, heard, and smelled flying razors vivisect me, I even believed the razors where real.  I saw myself commit suicide, from the third person perspective, I lost my scholarship, my dreams, and almost my faith; left only to hide under the covers of my bed shaking uncontrollably left to the whims of a broken mind.

Only through the fires of severe schizophrenia did I meet God, a real God for the first time.  Only when I was rendered helpless did I discover what true faith was.

In the Bible there is the book of Job.  Job is often used, quoted, and taught to try to explain the problem of pain in our world.  Job is seen as a giant of faith.  Job must have been strong indeed to bear such misfortune and still refuse to curse God.  I see Job a little differently.  I see Job as a kindred spirit who refused to leave the God of his youth.  Me wanted to leave God but couldn't, faith went deep within him.  It was an irrevocable part of Job's life like trying to breathe without lungs.

My faith is like Job's, faith goes deep within me and even when I have tried to leave God and give up on life there remains this faith.  A faith I can never shake off or disavow.  Faith like Job.

The Legend of the Blind Pannier

There once was a blind man who roamed the wastes of Nevada and Utah.  He walked to no destination, barefoot across burning sands and rocky crags.  The man’s arms and back were laden with many bags, woven of plants found in the wasteland.  Occasionally, he would stop and stoop down to lift an item from the wastes.  In a single motion he sanctimoniously placed the object in one of his bags.  This man was called the Blind Pannier.

One day, the Blind Pannier found himself beset by a thief.  “Open your bags, Old One, or I will spill your blood into the wastes.”

“Of course,” the Pannier replied, “I have wandered these wastes many years and have acquired several things for you.” 

“How could you have known I would beset you?” the thief replied.

“I may be blind but I listen.  If you would but listen you may become wiser than I.”

The Pannier lifted a bag woven of Aloe Vera pulp from his back.  The bag was soft and cooling to the touch.  The Pannier removed a large sandstone and held it in his hand.  The stone was smooth on all sides and shaped as a perfect sphere.  The Thief greedily snatched the stone, but it dissolved at his touch and returned to the state it was created in.  “The Soul Stone can only be held by one whose soul is destined for eternity,” the Pannier said.  “Look to your soul or it will return to the earth; just as the stone returned, so will those who never look for salvation.”

“What trick is this,” the thief replied, “I have little patience.”

“So God will have little patience with you,” the Pannier retorted.  The Pannier lifted a bag woven of cactus needles from his arm.  He handed the bag to the thief but the thief would not hold it.  “Why do you not take the bag?” the Pannier asked.

“It is made of needles,” the thief declared, “no man can hold it.”

“So it is with God, no man may hold Him.”  The Pannier let the bag fall to the ground.  He lifted a shimmering bag that glittered like gold.

The thief rubbed his hands together with excitement and asked, “Is that Gold?”

“That depends on you,” the pannier replied.  “Are you a fool?”

The thief took a knife from his boot, “I will spill your blood onto that golden husk.”

“Without perceiving the contents of this husk?” the Pannier replied.  “That would be the action of a fool for the contents are more valuable than the bag.”  The Pannier opened the bag and a spring of fresh water shot into the air. 

The thief’s eyes widened, “It cannot be.”

“What is more valuable in the wasteland we live in?” the Pannier replied.  “Gold or Water?  One might buy you all the pleasures of Sodom but water is the key to life in the wastes, without it you will die.”

The Pannier shut the golden bag and let it fall to the ground.  He reached inside his cloak and removed a small velvet bag.  The Pannier gently handed it to the thief.  The thief wretched the bag open, tearing it in two, to reveal nothing.  The thief examined the two empty strips of velvet and anger seethed within him. 

“You have cheated me for the last time,” the thief declared and he lunged towards the Pannier with his knife, but his blade missed the Pannier.  The thief lunged again and again, yet each time the Thief’s blade remained dry.  Finally, the thief fell to the ground exhausted.  The Blind Pannier knelt to the ground beside the thief.

“You are a sad thief.” the Pannier said.  “The bag you tore asunder was meant to make you wise.  Just as the bag held nothing so was this world created from nothing.  One day it will return to nothing as well.  Will you not understand that is was not you who beset me but I who beset you.  I mean to save you from all that you covet with your eyes.  Because once I was a thief, mighty and cruel, I took many lives but invested in none. 

One night, as I searched for a victim’s camp fire, a sandstorm over came me that blotted out the sky.  The stars faded as sand surged at me from every side, but I kept my eyes open to find shelter of some kind.  I was lost and hoped only to die.  It was there that I offered my first prayer.  “Help.”  I fell asleep.

But I awoke in a stranger’s bed.  I could not see.  A strong voice said, “Be still once mighty thief the sand has taken your sight but I have saved your life.”

“Who are you?” I asked. 

“I am an Anchorite,” the voice replied.  “I live on this mount and wait for the wasteland.  It shows me those in need.  I travel to the needy and aid them.”

“Why save me, since you know I am a thief?”

“Even dusty and blind you are one of God’s children,” replied the Anchorite.  “For I am also blind but I listened to the wastes and a whisper from heaven guided me to your prayer.”

I stayed with the Anchorite who taught me not only to listen but to trust the whisper that every person can hear if they only would listen in a wasteland of prayers.

 

A Letter from Two Years ago

This is a copy of a letter I wrote two years ago.  I have received dozens of letters asking for help.  I am not a doctor but I have a few words that might help those who suffer from a mental illness.

Hi,

I am happy to correspond with you.  I will be less busy through the end of the year. I am happy to correspond anytime; it just might take a few days for me to respond. 

I do take medication.  It took five years for me to get on medication that provides measurable relief from my symptoms.  I was officially labeled medication resistant- but over time I believe medication has helped me greatly.  I know that taking medication can feel like not trusting God with my mental illness.  I do not believe this to be the case.  I know that God has given me psychiatrists and medical professionals that have helped me greatly.  The medication aspect of mental illness seems very hit or miss and many people become fed up when they cannot see decided improvement.  But the truth is that medication helps many people.  I would encourage you to take an active part in finding a medication or medications that work for you. Research what kind of medications there are and maybe take a class from the National Alliance for Mental Illness abbreviated NAMI.  They are not a Christian Organization but they do have a lot of good information if you take it with a grain of salt.

About Schizophrenia specifically, I have seen and heard hallucinations for seven years and despite prayer, medication, and group therapy they have never completely vanished.  When I first became ill I thought that the hallucinations were the Holy Spirit talking to me.  But when the Holy Spirit told me to do things that were against the Bible's teaching I realized that something was wrong.  There are three major aspects that help me when the hallucinations become particularly troubling.

1) Pray and read the Bible.  Having a time set aside for God will keep you grounded.  I once spoke with Francis Chan before he became famous and I asked him, “What is the one most important action I could do to grow in my relationship with God.”  He told me, “Read the Bible and pray every day- especially at the start.”  I have not always been faithful in this but I try, and I believe it to be of the utmost importance.

2) Find someone who you trust and know to be wise to tell you what is real and what isn't.  For this aspect you must find someone you trust implicitly to tell you when you are losing touch with reality and who won't abuse the power you give to them.  My parents are who I trust with this.  When they see that I am beginning to isolate myself from others and begin to become fearful of the voices and images inside my head.  I see horrible acts of violence and sexual perversion in my mind's eye.  I have a few fleeting hallucinations each day that I quickly identify and dismiss but sometimes the hallucinations become a barrage I cannot deal with.  I become afraid, angry, and unable to perform simple tasks.  When this happens I depend on my parents to remind me that the hallucinations are not real and they will distract me.  They will accompany me to a movie or some activity for me to just get out of my house. 

3)  Find a support group.  It is important to find a group of people who struggle with similar mental illnesses that you can listen to, offer advice to, and who can offer aid to you as well.   This often helps me see my problems in the proper context as well remain in dialogue with people with similar problems.

I hope this letter is some help to you.  Again, I am always happy to correspond but please so me some grace if it takes me a little while to respond.  Things really get busy for me in the new year but please still write.

Merry Christmas,

David Weiss

Trust and Obey

In the opening chapter to Anne Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Anne describes the death of a frog. She walked along Tinker Creek and found a healthy frog peeking its head out of the water. Anne stooped down and studied this frog, as she often did wood and water creatures. Suddenly, the frog’s eyes went blank and slowly sank into its head, the frog’s skin became floppy, like the rubber of a balloon when it deflates. Finally, the frog’s skin hung around its bones. This experience left Anne both horrified and amazed and she hurried home to research the death of this frog. It turned out that a Giant Water Bug ate the frog. Anne discovered that these giant bugs wait under water for their prey (the frog) to pass by, then one sticks their long needle like nose into the frog and inject juices that digest the frog from the inside out. Finally it drinks the frog’s insides like a Slurpee.

I read this story eight years ago when I first entered college. The reason Anne Dillard’s story resonates with me still is that I identify with the frog. Eight years ago I had my education and life planned out. I would spend four years at the University of Arizona and graduate with a Bachelors in English Education. Then continue on to Dallas Theological Seminary to complete both a Master’s of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry.

It is hard to say how much I wanted a Doctorate. Both of my Grandfathers earned terminal degrees and I wanted to continue that tradition. But more than tradition motivated me. I wanted to become one of the spiritual elite of Protestant Christianity. I always had a gift for understanding scripture. I planned to write books and donate most of the money to charity. I would only keep enough for a comfortable home for my family and live somewhere with a view for my study. I would be intelligent, magnanimous and holy. I didn’t realize that my plan left little room for God.

Just after I started college, hallucinations plagued me in the form of waking visions. Each time, my mind pulled me from reality for only a few seconds. All that remained was an image of myself as I committed suicide in the third person. The visions began gradually, but soon became a torrent, with hundreds of small hallucinations happening each day. My mind was under siege.

In reaction, I isolated myself in my room in my parents’ house and refused to leave. I rarely left my room except to eat and or go to the restroom. I laid on my bed and shook, sometimes so violently that my bed danced around the room. After a long and often inaccurate medical diagnostic process my physicians decided that I was severely mentally ill and possessed both Schizophrenia, severe depression and anxiety disorders.

Now that I have struggled with mental illness for eight years and often I feel like Anne’s frog. For the last few months I have struggled with my illness like I haven’t in five years. It feels like a monster has shoved a giant needle into my belly and is sucking the joy, gratitude, laughter, and, at times, my life from my soul.

I recently spent a couple days at a Benedictine Monastery. It gave me a chance to evaluate my own life. I attended Mass and Prayers several times a day and watched the monks and parishioners around me repeat the same words over and over. One older man in particular caught my attention. He participated in mass with hands raised above his head and tremendous feeling was etched across his face; as if at any moment he would burst into tears. I decided to meet him. We talked for a while and he told me he had been Catholic all his life. His wife died many years before and he didn’t remarry. Every day but Sunday he worked at the monastery. He lived about a mile away and was the ultimate handyman. He kept the water wells pumping and made sure the septic tanks did not explode in a place that would literally fall apart with out him. He told me that he feels alone in this world and though he never told me directly I could see in his face an emotion I am all too familiar with. Longing.

When I was a child at Sunday School we often sang a poem called “Trust and Obey.”

To Trust and Obey

There is no other way

To be happy in Jesus

Than to Trust and Obey

My friend at the monastery has and is living his life in trust and obedience to God. It isn’t an intellectual exercise but something he does with his rough hands. He lifts them to God in worship and trust during Mass and Prayers. Then he lowers those hands in service to others. He never takes a dime for the service he performs every day.

While my friend is not a morose person, I cannot call him happy. He is Joyful because he understands and enjoys the peace that exists between himself and God, but he has lost much in life and knows how transitory this life is. I am sure he misses his wife and he told me that he hates to stay in his empty house. He hoped to move into a single-wide manufactured home at the monastery, once he cleared the land for it.

Often people mistake Christianity as a religion that promises happiness. The truth is Christ never promised happiness but hardship. Remember Christ’s words on the Gospel dividing families and the command to “Take up your cross and follow me.” To truly follow Christ requires the dedication of my friend at the monastery. He is a humble giant in the Christian faith and I wish the modern church exalted my friend’s life of service as an example to follow.

When my friend dies he will be given an inexpensive funeral with little fanfare. Yet he will not care because Christ will greet him with open arms and he will hear the words all followers of Christ should aspire to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant, come and enter into your Master’s happiness.”

I wish Christians understood that Christ never taught that happiness is the measure of success in this world. Certainly torture and crucifixion are not anyone’s idea of a good time. Instead Christians should examine what Christ taught and not what the latest Pop-Christian Craze is. That we live in a world perfectly created but corrupted by the selfishness of sin. That the perfection of creation is fading before our eyes and our hope is not in the temporal blessings God has given us on earth.

Let us remember that” loving God” is not a phrase that rolls placidly off the tongue. To Love God is to Trust and Obey God like my friend at the monastery. In my life I have only met a few spiritual champions like him and it is my desire to follow Christ as he does.

Sermon on the Mount

I once attended a church where the pastor decided to go through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse, sometimes half verse by half verse.  Thankfully we made frequent dalliances into other topics but we always came back to the Sermon on the Mount.  As far as I know he never finished. This pastor is one I respect deeply.

                I read the Sermon on the Mount again today.  Its words familiar and humbling.  I have been an active Christian for a long time and I am still far from where I should be.  But spiritual maturity cannot be forced.  Instead it is a day by day, step by step, climb up a slippery mountain with no summit until Christ calls us home.  And while I may not be able to tell you what spiritual maturity is I tell can you what Francis Chan once told me. 

                I was in high school and I desperately wanted to follow God, I made a lot of mistakes in those years but my heart was pure.  At this point Francis Chan was well known but not famous.  He made a habit of being available during breakfast at a Christian Youth Conference I was attending.  So I decided to ask him a question. 

                “What must I do to become spiritually mature?” I asked.

                “Have a daily quiet time,” he responded. 

                “Well I already do that,” I replied.

                Our conversation was that short.  I feel like I he should have responded “Really Grasshopper?” or something like that. 

                To the best of my ability I have had a time of prayer and Bible study every day since then.  There are times when I let it slide; sometimes I have been too angry with God because of my Schizophrenia.  I am not as pure of heart or as prideful as I was in high school. 

                But there is something in the beatitudes about the pure of heart just as there is something to be said about the meek.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” and “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  But there is a third beatitude that is sandwiched right in the middle. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”

                There was a point in high school when I was full of zeal, when my heart was focused completely God.  With my disease came my test.  I had to learn about myself, but I never forgot God.  I was angry with God but he would never leave me alone.  I tried to leave God but I couldn’t.  Let me reemphasize this, I called God every horrific name I could think of and declared I was no longer a Christian only to be guided, crawling back the next day asking for forgiveness. Then I would denounce Christ again with full intent to leave, only to be so lonely, guilty, and miserable to stay away.  My soul needed Jesus no matter the cost.

                It is hard to be brought to your knees in anguish and still think you have everything figured out.  Pain has a way showing what is truly inside someone.  I found that I like to think I am superior to everyone else.  I like to think I know more and am therefore more worthwhile than others.  This is a malicious fallacy.  Once I figured this out I found I held an unhealthy pride somewhere else as well.  I thought because I had suffered more than others I was stronger and therefore better.  But the truth is I am not that strong nor am I all that intelligent.  I can’t even outwit foolish pride.

                Every person wants to be fulfilled and it is how we are fulfilled that defines us.  What do we do to get that need to be filled?  I have tried to fill my life with idols that satisfy for a time then pass.  I have tried to fill my life with good Christian looking idols like books, music, writing, people’s praise, even videogames; all these things are fine until they are the reason you continue living.  And they didn’t satisfy me anyways.   

                What satisfies me is my relationship with God that is found through four disciplines prayer, scripture, giving, and the community of other Christians.  I still have time to read, listen to music, write, and dare I say video games.  But they aren’t God.  Which reminds me of another verse in the Sermon on the Mount “You cannot serve both God and Money.”  Or in David’s English Version, “You cannot serve God and the things you want.”

What gives?

It surprises me how little of the Bible is devoted to Jesus’ birth.  Jesus’ birth takes place through two chapters in Matthew, nothing in Mark, two chapters in Luke, and maybe half a chapter of metaphor in John.  The manger scene is only detailed in Luke with only shepherds in attendance, no Magi they visit later.  The manger scene lasts for one sentence and then it is over.  It seems a little anti-climatic.  All the Gospels tell of Jesus’ death in detail, why skimp on his birth? 

This is the King of all Kings we are talking about, coming to earth in the frailty of a baby couldn’t the Gospel writers gush a little and give some detail.  But the Gospel’s seem obsessed with Jesus’ baptism instead.  All four Gospels include it.  Mark begins with it.  It doesn’t seem to make sense to me. 

Maybe it is because the manger scene was so private.  Jesus came into the world in a barn rather than a palace.  And he perhaps he was meant to be born so humble.  I know of no Biblical Prophecies to support this.  Perhaps his birth was so low profile to not to attract the ire of Jerusalem but Christ’s birth also to reminds us of the humility of Christmas itself.  True there was an Angel Choir singing God’s praises but they only appear to a group of shepherds.  The shepherds found Jesus and praised God.  But no angels visited Jesus on his birthday just Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and shepherds.  Why didn’t Gabriel show up or better Michel with an army of angels at his command, that would be quite the sendoff.  But God chose not to use impressive supernatural wonders.

You see God has a strange preoccupation with people.  He wants people to be involved in what He is doing.  Perhaps that is why talk about the shepherds response to Jesus more than meeting Jesus himself.  Maybe that is why Mary treasured all these little gifts in her heart.  Maybe the time was not God’s time until Jesus strode out into the Jordan with his cousin and was baptized.  Then God himself made an appearance that no one could explain away.  The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove and God spoke, “This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”

How can Stale Bread become Moist again?

Christmas is a difficult holiday for me.  Most holidays are.  I don’t feel what I am supposed to feel.  But with Thanksgiving and Christmas it is especially difficult.  I am supposed to feel merry, cheerful, and, even more, grateful for the birth of my savior who would die to forgive my sins.  But I don’t feel merry or cheerful and I can live with that.  What alarms me is I don’t feel grateful to God when I should.  Immense gratitude should fill me if I truly believed that Jesus was God’s son given for me.  So do I believe?  My immediate and emphatic answer is yes, I most definitely believe.  But then why does my heart betray me?  C.S. Lewis once said is the most important thing preachers do is that they “remind” believers of the truth about God. 

What I need is a reminder.  A reminder for both my heart and my head.  So I prayed for as long as my attention span would let me, then I prayed again. I decided to read all four Gospels over my winter break and I will write about them here.  A little series is on the way.  Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to myself and to others.  Then I may feel grateful for the greatest gift ever given.

Solitude

One of the benefits and curses of being seriously mentally ill is having a lot of time on my hands.  Today I decided to spend entire day in solitude.  No movies, music, video games, day dreams, naps, idle conversations, or sweets.  I never realized how much I relied on these small comforts to get me through each day.  Instead I decided to pray, read the Bible, and simply be still and know that God is God.  So far I have struggled to stay on topic and made three mistakes by eleven o’clock.  Habits are hard to change.

It is strange how I have become so dependent on minor luxuries.  They seem small but I have structured a large part of my life around these small idols.  I did not realize the hold they had on me until I tried to do without.

I should say that there is nothing intrinsically evil about chocolate chip cookies or watching a “guy” movie with my dad.  What is evil is my dependence on material pleasures to the point that I don’t have the discipline to spend an entire day with my Savior.

When I realized that I had turned my television into an idol my first reaction was not repentance but an excuse.  I figured that since I struggled with disturbing hallucinations and severe depression that I needed to escape from life to maintain my sanity.  I will be honest and say there have been days that I slept through so I would not have to deal with my broken mind. 

One of my favorite short stories is “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber.  Walter Mitty is a retired man who daydreams.  Every once in a while he is pulled from his daydreams, usually by his nagging wife, to deal with reality, but as soon as the business is finished his is back to commanding Navy Hydroplanes or performing astonishing medical surgeries or courageously facing down a firing squad.  Have I become James Thurber’s “Walter Mitty?”  Is life so excruciating and humdrum that I need to escape the majority of it?  The answer is I hope not.  Perhaps I will spend more days in Solitude.

Down Syndrome Giant

I once met a high school boy with Down Syndrome.  I was in my early twenties at the time.   It was apparent to me that I was more intelligent than him, more capable than him, definitely older than him.  I talked to him for a little while, I was feeling a little hobnobish that day, and mostly talked to him out of boredom instead of compassion.  It only took me a few minutes to realize that this high school, handicapped kid was, in fact, my spiritual superior.  At first I was incensed, he loved everybody, gave hugs to people he didn’t know.  He listened to people and although he often didn’t understand them he definitely listened to them and, if pressed, could relay his version of what they said.  He offered to help people without being asked.  If someone needed help moving sandwiches or a birthday cake he always offered to help.  He might drop something on accident but that didn’t stop him from being willing.  He was kind, I never heard him backtalk to anyone in authority.

Not only was Kevin virtuous he was authentic.  What you saw in Kevin was what you got. 

 He was Jesus with Down Syndrome.  Looking back I am still amazed by him.  He was as loving as a person could be and at eighteen was a spiritual giant in this world.

God could care less if he dropped a donut or spilt his milk.  It didn’t matter that his speech was sometimes unintelligible, or that he couldn’t read very well, it didn’t stop him from offering to read in Bible study.  But Kevin wasn’t stupid.  He could tell if he was being made fun of, but he didn’t get mad at the kids that made fun of him even though he had every right to be angry.  He walked away and talked to someone else and after talking to him for ten minutes you might not have understood half of what Kevin said but you definitely liked him.  Why?  Because he loved you just the way you were. 

Kevin did not struggle with authenticity.  He was truly a man of his word.  He didn’t lie or put on aires, something that I have been know to do. 

One of the clearest examples of this was when Kevin prayed.  He told God exactly what he felt.  He told God “I scared I won’t do good school.”  “Help Stephanie, she sick.” “I love you God.”  How different were my prayers?  I knew all the Christian phrases.  How many prayers have I prayed that were superfluous.  “My Father God, I am grateful for your many blessings.  Help us to glorify you in this place as we share this time with our brothers and sisters in you.  And blah blah blah.  It is amazing how I could string together phrases that sounded good but meant that I was stuck up suburban Christian who would rather watch a kid get run over than let people see the real me.  You know why?  Because despite my many years of faith, I was a dwarf looking at that Spiritual Giant with Down Syndrome.

He wasn’t critical of you or talking smack behind your back.  He loved you, he would help you with anything and would try even though he didn’t have a clue about how to help he tried. 

Here I am with a “genius” level IQ in verbal reasoning, I can weld steel, create art, drive a car, write a book, and all sorts of other feats.  But Spirituality, something that I have invested thousand s of hours developing, I was shown up by a kid that was barely eighteen.

God doesn’t look at the frivolous stuff, he doesn’t care how we look, or how much money we make.  He cares if we are like Kevin, who will never make a lot of money, will probably die young due to heart trouble, and will show the world what it is like to follow Christ.  Kevin made following Christ look natural, not easy, but attainable.  He really did have the heart of Christ.

 

Trying not to Feel

There are times when the shadows of depression darken a person’s life and seem to stretch to the horizon and beyond.  When the figurative light at the end of the tunnel has left for greener pastures.  Hope fades and nothing the sufferer does lifts the burden- the lapse or, in my case, relapse into depression. 

Today is one of those days for me.  I cannot see the sun beyond the horizon.  I want to cry but can’t, my emotions remain bottled inside with few avenues to express my burden, other than my written words. 

I have a relapse prevention plan.  I need to go out and just be around people, instead I have isolated myself, the exact wrong thing to do.  Though I try I cannot set my foot beyond the door.  I pray to God that He would lift this malaise but inside I know this depression is the serious kind.  Like an elderly man who knows a storm his coming because his arthritic joints ache. 

I try to numb myself by thinking of anything but reality.  I make up stories and pretend that I am someone else – anyone else.  I pretend that my illness actually gives me clairvoyance, the ability to empathize and show compassion to those who suffer as well.

But just as most of the previous sentences in this article begin with the word “I”, my disease is a selfish one.  Few people are able to overcome the pain and loss brought on by mental illness, but to those who do gain a new lease on life.  Not that their disease disappears, because it doesn’t, instead they can see beyond the immediate.  Just as the darkness cannot exist without light; anger cannot exist without peace, despair without hope, loss without contentment, and fear without faith.

I have come to realize that my disease is a liar.  It is clever and consuming and cannot be trusted.  One of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes is “To thine own self be true.”  Unfortunately, for me, this is not the case.  Depression and deception are so intertwined with my own soul that I cannot tell one from the other.  I doubt I will divine the difference this side of heaven. 

I pray that one day I will be able to see beyond the immediate.  That I will see the worst of life as a fleeting dip in the road to something better. While I know the answer to this puzzle learning to believe and live the answer it is the most difficult battle of my life.