Crazy Life: Homeward Bound

Crying tears into an everflowing river of fears,
We live at home wherever we are, not very far,
And we make our bed on what we’ve soulishly fed,
Clinging to dreams ere before they are dead

My best friend came to visit me one Saturday early in August not only to see and spend some time, but also to “rescue” me. Sadly, his mother had just died, following the death of his father a few years before, leaving their house empty. As an only child, he inherited the home, located next to his own, and he really was at a loss as to what he might do with the property … until he thought of me.

Steve graciously offered me the residence at an affordable (for me) monthly rent. From a strictly practical point of view, it was an offer I could not turn down, but from a psychological standpoint I was actually afraid. Just thinking about living in a “regular” home, especially by myself, frightened me and made me anxious. I wondered if I could do it … that is, if I would be able to make it.

My friend was far more confident. He point-blank said, “I know you can make it. I believe in you. You can do this, and a whole lot more… It’s time, Jonathan.” He continued with an apt analogy. “You’re like an eagle whose wing was injured. You needed time to heal, but now you’ve healed and, even though it might be kind of scary, it’s time for you to fly again.” Wow! I was dumbfounded.

Steve saw more in me than I saw in myself, and he imparted that assurance very poignantly and effectively, so much so that I began to believe in myself again. After his visit, I still had doubts and fears, but I also had real hope that I might actually transition out of the group home back into the big, wide world. Being cautious, though, I decided to try it for two weeks, during which the group home would hold my bed.

Well, the two week trial period went very well. I immediately fell in love with the home, and of course it was quite nice having my best friend and his wife next door. And I didn’t really feel alone, which rather surprised me. And, too, for the first time in over a year I had continuous access to the Internet, to private phone service (that I could use without asking), and I was able to prepare all of my meals, which was wonderful!

Too, the place was out in the country, much like the group home, where I was surrounded by goats, chickens, cows, dogs, birds and so much more. Needless to say, at the end of my two week trial period, I decided that I did, indeed, want to transition out of the Samson Group Home into an independent, private residency, specifically my friend’s parents’ home. And, thus far, this has proven to be a good decision.

On top of this, another group home resident ended up moving in with me, which provided at least two good results: 1) I have continuous, friendly company in someone I got to know very well, and 2) Steve actually receives enough rental income now to at least cover the expenses of bills and upkeep of the house and property, (with no actual financial gain, mind you … just enough.)

So as I bring this series to a close, I believe I will, from time to time, address different psychological/mental/emotional topics. Where my story of group home life is concerned, I’ve pretty much told all worth telling, (and maybe more!) If anything else of potential interest comes to mind, of course I will share it with you, my dear readers. Till next time, God bless you, keep you, and grant you peace.


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

Crazy Life: A Little Less Crazy? But Still Guilty

Crazy Life: Dreams and Dreams Again

Crazy Life: In Praise of MHTs

Crazy Life: Mind of the Prisoner

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Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

The only visitors she had were the voices in her head… During my entire 14 months in the Samson Group Home, no one ever came to visit her ~ not family, not friends ~ and from what others told me, this “Sally Doe” had been there for many years. Of course, none of the therapists or mental health technicians could divulge to me her background or personal information, but from what I did end up knowing, I concluded that she had simply been dropped off and forgotten by her loved ones. Very sad, to say the least…

One time in a group session, Sally expressed her heartfelt desire to go home, wherever that may have been. That was when I realized that despite the severity of her schizophrenia, she remembered family, at least some of the time. But then it was hard to say anything about the reliability of the memories Sally had; after all, there were times she believed herself to be pregnant, or to be a movie star, or some great singer (and she did, in fact, have quite a bluesy, Janice Joplin-type voice.)

Still, she knew she had family. Presumably, her family still knew they had her. They just didn’t visit her. One might quickly conclude they no longer cared, if ever they did care. I know this is what I thought and, honestly, still think; however, it also eventually occurred to me that it might be too psychologically, emotionally difficult for them to visit Sally. This may seem like a lame excuse, but I knew nothing of her family. Who knows what difficulties they struggle with and how vicious those struggles might be?

Did you know that “there is a high heritability to schizophrenia … with heritability estimates ranging from 64 to 81 percent?”¹ This being the case, then, it’s possible that Sally is not the only one in her biological family to struggle with this, or some other, malady. The lesson here (for me, at least) is, “Do not pre-judge! Especially when you don’t know the whole story!” Nevertheless, it was sad to see her day in and day out, seemingly so alone in the world… Funny, though, Sally didn’t seem too upset by her situation.

Point in fact, Sally is mostly happy, although the voices that speak to her do upset her from time to time. She talks to them all through her waking hours, and every so often you might hear her burst out with, “Leave me alone!” or “Go to hell!” or some other virile reaction. Otherwise, Sally is an adorable, happy, 40-something year-old with one of the most beautiful smiles you can imagine. Couple this with the fact that in many ways she is so like an innocent, little girl, and you can’t help but fall in love with her.

Ah, but what about so many of the others with whom I lived? Sally Doe was not the only one who never received visits from family or friends. Tragically, out of anywhere from 14 to 18 residents (at any given time) around eight to ten never had friend or family visit … or even call or write! It’s like they’ve simply been abandoned. According to Natasha Tracy, writing in 2012, oftentimes someone…

… is just left because of the pain and stigma of dealing with a mental illness. Sometimes people just can’t last through the stress of illness and treatment. Sometimes people really are abandoned by those they thought loved them unconditionally

Well, this is one of the important reasons I’ve determined to go back to the group home from time to time just to visit. Perhaps my determination no to forget will make some positive difference. I certainly hope and pray so… Just out of curiosity, what about you? Would you feel comfortable visiting a group home for the mentally ill? If not, of course, that is understandable. If you’ve never experience any kind of mental illness or been hospitalized or lived in a group home, it can certainly be uncomfortable!

Ah … but there are so many in need of pure, genuine love and camaraderie. I think of my second family still residing in the Samson Group Home and my heart aches near breaking. By the way, this is where the Church (and, I suppose, mosque, synagogue, temple, etc.) has really “dropped the ball.” Do you know that during my entire 14 months at the group home, we never received one visit from any church (or other religious institution)? Yes, someone might come by to pick someone up for Sunday service, but…

More on this subject later. It’s an important topic, I think, and perhaps in openly, honestly addressing it we might encourage more interaction between Church and the mentally ill. 


¹ Susan K. Whitbourne and Richard P. Halgin, Abnormal Psychology: Clinical Perspectives on Psychological Disorders, Seventh Edition, 151; for an interesting, informative article on heritability, cf. Natasha Tracy and Harry Croft, MD, “Schizophrenia Genetics: Is Schizophrenia Hereditary?” as found at Healthy Place

² Tracy, “Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness,” as accessed on 09/24/2018 at Healthy Place


For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

It was almost like a Twilight Zone® experience, seeing Angela and my brother-in-law, Charles, for the first time in about three to four months. It was as if I’d been somehow severed from my past life. This was necessary, I believe, in order to begin healing and growing stronger mentally, emotionally, spiritually… Mind you, I was very glad to see my eldest sister and her husband; it’s just that it was like some tidal wave washing over me from my previous existence.

Sitting in the small chapel area of the Samson Group Home on that Saturday morning, I found it somewhat difficult finding anything to say. The ensuing conversation was a bit stilted, but happy nonetheless, and, to my surprise, my sister actually said I looked better … stronger, more relaxed, with good complexion. Her appraisal made me feel good and added to the sense of hope that had been growing inside me over the past weeks in my new residence. Evidently she could see something outwardly that I felt inwardly.

She hadn’t called or visited before in order to give me time to really settle in and begin my psychological recovery. I completely understood. I needed the time in that safe, secure, and structured environment apart from the outside world, and I needed this because, quite frankly, I couldn’t handle “life as usual.” I could no longer shoulder life as it had been — hours upon hours behind closed doors in self-imposed isolation, deep depression, fear, mania, frustration and anger, strained relationships… 

I had been living to write, which was my love and passion, but even this had become an unbearable strain. Consequently, I’d started to keep a journal shortly after I arrived at the group home, but quickly had to leave off on that simply because it caused to much anxiety … or, at least, it was one contributing factor. I’d also loved to read, but after moving into my new residence I found that I just could not bring myself to open a book. Even the very thought of reading felt burdensome … stressful. 

Yes, sitting there in the little chapel area, looking at my dear sister, carrying on an enjoyable (however stilted) conversation … it all felt so surreal. I wish I had words to explain just how detached from the past I’d become. I suppose it was as if I’d entered into some kind of cocoon, and maybe I had; after all, the cocoon is where the beautiful butterfly grows. And in a very real sense, I would eventually emerge from that cocoon, splendidly reborn … heartier, braver, sober-minded and far more tranquil.

Of course, my emergence from the cocoon would come much later. During that first visit with my sister and brother-in-law I couldn’t imagine ever leaving the group home. This is not to say I wanted to stay there for the rest of my life. No, I deeply desired to leave at some point in the future… I just couldn’t conceive of that actually happening. As I sat there looking at my sister’s radiant smile, listening to her encouraging words, it felt like I was looking and listening from across a great ravine … one without a bridge.

After about an hour, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Despite feeling somewhat detached, I was very grateful for the visit, and my spirit felt lifted. All in all, it was a very good (and important) experience. Really and truly, it came at just the right time. Looking back now, I can actually see God’s hand in that event. One might even say it was divinely orchestrated. At the very least, it was a taste of the outside world that I needed then, even if I didn’t consciously realize that at the time.

The next time Angela came, she came alone and took me on an outing, but before getting to that, I’d like to introduce you to some of the precious souls in what really became (in many ways) my new family. Until then, blessings to you and peace.


For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Here’s to the moments when you realize the simple things are wonderful and enough.
~ Jill Badonsky, The Awe-Manic: A Daily Dose of Wonder

It seemed as if I’d been stripped of all the complexities of life … eventually, I mean. After I calmed down and settled into the routine of group home life, all of what felt like monumental burdens — all of the “important” things of life — seemed to roll off my back. This is not to say that I suddenly found myself in perfect condition, but just that my focus was turned to smaller, more ordinary, daily matters.

There was a time to get up in the morning, and I had to get up at that time if I wanted to eat breakfast. We had to take our medicines at around 7 a.m., and then day treatment began at 9 a.m. and last till 1 p.m. We had two home group sessions in the afternoon, around 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Each of us had an assigned daily chore. We had outings two or three times each week. Those who wanted to went to church Sunday morning.

Life was regulated and, all-in-all, simplified. As I shared before, I had no contact with family and friends during my first few weeks in the Samson group home. I also stopped watching the news … or caring at all about what was happening in the world. As odd as it may seem, and even pathetic, nevertheless I simply could not shoulder the burden of war in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Trump and the Wall, the economy, etc.

My prayers became very short, meditative, and inaudible. I never cracked open the holy Scriptures, nor did I even peruse devotional literature, not even the spiritual classics. Again, all of this was simply too much for me to bear mentally and emotionally. Point in fact, I had been trying to read an inspirational book my eldest sister gave me, but, despite being well-written, I had to put it down. For some reason, it caused anxiety.

My overall situation, though, was not bleak. During these first few months I began to see the simple beauties and graces of life and the world around me: the birds, different varieties of trees, the squirrels and foxes, the pond out back of the home, the opossums and racoons… Even the blue sky looked bluer and more wondrous, and in a turnaround from my past dislikes, I even began to enjoy the rain.

“Simple things relieve the eyes,” says Mehmet Murat Ildan. “Simple things ease the mind; simple things simple things create meditation; simple things are simply miraculous!” And to this I add my hearty “amen!” Never before did I realize just how precious life really is as it is seen and experienced in what we all too often call the ordinary and mundane, and even consider boring.

What an absolute fool I’d been, chasing vain and empty dreams when the priceless, multifaceted, awe-filled dream of life was unfolding all around me, day after day, in all of its regal splendor! But I had been like Don Quixote, charging windmills all of my life … all of my existence, I should say, because I don’t know that I’d really ever actually lived before this point in time.

Laura Ingalls Wilder so wisely said, “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Touché! So very right and true, and I finally began living this way, living out this pristine, pure truth … thankfully. And living this way eventually led to a “sea change” for me. But first, I did finally receive a visit from my dear and eldest sister, Angela, and her husband… 


For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Continuing my reflections begun in Temporary Insanity,” I would like to share my memories from my first few days in a SpectraCare  group home, one of many located in the Wiregrass area of Southeast Alabama.

The day I first moved in I felt both relieved and anxious … actually, manic. I was relieved to be in a well-structured, safe and secure environment, which was located in the rural outskirts of the small town of Samson. Yet I also felt very high-strung, like I couldn’t settle down to save my life, and, indeed, I had serious problems even going to sleep at night, which fueled an unreasonable fear that I would never sleep again.

Point in fact, though I was thankful to be where I was, I didn’t know if I would be able to stay. I thought I might actually have to be moved into more intensive care … somewhere, though I didn’t know where that would be. To make matters worse, I was nearly frightened to death that if I were moved into more intensive care, I would never get out. Why this particular conclusion? I can’t really say, but that was my state of mind.Hypomania

Oftentimes I just felt like screaming, not because of where I was — I was grateful for my new locale — but because I deeply felt totally overwhelmed. My Ordeal followed me into the group home, but what else should I have expected? Naturally, it was not going to end simply because I’d moved somewhere new.

I can distinctly recall lying in bed as early as 7 to 8 p.m. wondering if I’d be able to rest … to fall asleep. Of course, the attention I gave to this question only aggravated the problem. Thinking about it made it worse.

As an answer to my difficulties in sleep, the staff psychiatrist upped my dosage of Seroquel to a whopping 600 mg just before bedtime. For my constant agitation and anxiety, he prescribed both Buspirone and Vistaril. The good doctor also increased my dosage of Depakote to 2000 mg per day … so I ended up quite drugged, to say the least. This bothered me, but not as much as feeling severely agitated all the time and not being able to sleep at night; consequently, I took all of my medication without hesitation.

Strangely enough, during these first days in the group home I really didn’t allow myself to wonder all that much about God and where God might be in my Ordeal. In fact, I really didn’t pray much. It was almost like I was spiritually stymied. Spiritually I felt numb … not able to engage my soul in … whatever. I did still believe in God; that was never a question. I was, or felt like I was, spiritually impotent. Did this bother me? At the time, no it did not, and this is what I mean by feeling numb.

The first rekindling of the flame of faith came in our Sunday morning attendance at a semi-Charismatic, racially-mixed church, and it came more through the praise-and-worship music than anything that was actually said… Well, at the time I really did not need, nor probably could have handled, any intellectual/theological engagement of my mind. It was my heart that needed nourishment and encouragement, and this is what that church provided, much to my gratitude.

After about four to six weeks I had calmed down and settled in to what felt more like an actual home. And it is probably well-worth noting that I received no visits, nor even phone calls from family and friends during this initial stage, which was ultimately good. To tell the truth, I really did not want to shoulder the burden of visiting or even talking on the phone. During my first days in the Samson Group Home, it would have been too much. I just couldn’t do it, but what I could do, was rest and recuperate … thankfully.

When finally I was able to receive my first visit from family — specifically my eldest sister and her husband — I was ready. But that’s another recollection for another time.

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

My oldest sister says she thought she’d lost me forever. To tell the truth, I’m kind of surprised she hadn’t, what with the audible and visual hallucinations coupled with what my dear Angela described as “talking backwards.” No, my sister, Ann, couldn’t even begin to understand me while I was going through what I now a bit lamely call “The Ordeal.”

The Ordeal began a little over one year ago … well, about one year and four months ago, to my best recollection. To this day I cannot say exactly what caused this agonizing nightmare, but I believe that at least part of it had to do with the medications I was taking at the time for bi-polar, depression and anxiety. Perhaps this was the total cause of my slip into an awful unreality, but I do think there was more to it than the pills.

Looking back on the Ordeal, and considering where I was at the time — mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually — I have come to seriously believe the “hand of God” was involved in my demise. Oh, I know this is an unpopular, unpalatable, and certainly controversial statement to make, yet I believe that, somewhat like Nebuchadnezzar of ancient lore, I was “struck down,” ultimately for my own good.

During that time I was in and out of the South Alabama Medical Center emergency room (ER) and Behavioral Medical Unit (BMU), finally landing in the New Day BMU in Ozark, Alabama. After a two-week stay at New Day, it was decided by my sister, my psychiatrist, and a local therapist that I would do well to move into one of the SpectraCare (the regional mental health agency) group homes. I agreed.

I can still recall the fear that I felt, and just how absolutely overwhelming the world around me felt. I needed some kind of safe haven, some place stable and secure, some home “fenced off” from everything else. So the group home was an obvious necessity, but it was still a difficult transition, and my fears did not immediately go away. There were times during the first couple of months that I felt like I was coming unravelled.

Really and truly, I wondered if I was going to make it, or if I would end up being confined to some psychiatric hospital for the remainder of my life. I was terrorized by this possibility, and literally fought (emotionally and psychologically) to stay in the group home rather than being transferred to another, more restrictive, more “serious” facility. I was already at the low point of my life… I did not want to devolve any further.

But what did God have to do with this? Despite the pretense of humility — and I truly believed I was humble — nevertheless I was proud … arrogant, at least in my own estimation of myself. No, it perhaps did not show outwardly, not glaringly so, anyway; however, I was haughty. I was also quite contentious … opinionated … religious without really being spiritual. And so through degradation, God remoulded me, making me new.

“When my sanity returned, my honor, my majesty, and the glory of my kingdom were given back to me… And now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, honor, and glorify the King of Heaven. Everything he does is right and just, and he can humble anyone who acts proudly.”

~ Daniel 4. 36a, 37 (GNT)

Of course, I did not come out perfect, but I did come out changed for the better … truly thankful for stability in life, mental and emotional health, grateful for the seemingly small and ordinary things of the world, more staid and gentle, seriously and simply spiritual rather than religious, and far more empathetic with those who suffer, especially the mentally ill — that is, those like me.

This is, admittedly, a very brief overview of my life experience over the last couple of years, but this is enough for the time being. (It has been quite difficult to write this much.) But I would like to return to this from time to time, as I believe that it’s good (and healthy) to openly, honestly share… This, then, will be like an open journal. One more note, though: My recent Ordeal has led me in the direction of counseling. Very simply, I want to give back some of the good I’ve received from so many caring people, and to this I genuinely believe God is calling me.

Schizophrenia

Hearing voices unheard, seeing people unseen — all reality absurd;
Thinking one thousand racing thoughts, bracing for the next fall
While chasing the insanity facing her, and she doesn’t even know
Just how the show goes, but she is front and center stage
At such a ripe, young age, turning the page and another
As an invisible audience applauds as she reads her lines so fine,
Yet no one around her is bound to understand the hand fate dealt
Nor the pain it causes her especially when she pauses in a moment
Of silent lucidity when for a moment there is no more absurdity —
Ah, but she is, perhaps, happier in hysterical laughter ever after
Some joke she shares only with herself than most people living
In banality of reality, taking the days and common ways of man