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

Advertisements

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.

Mysterium Dei

Deep, dark … Ocean mysterious abiding,
Keeping untold secrets forever in hiding;
In the soul of humanity ever confiding,
Yet inscrutable and past comprehending

Is there fear here where you are so near,
And part of us who are part of your heart?
Or overcome by your waves, drowning
Beneath your frowning vault of heaven

Living, deadly … Ocean forever existing,
Roiling and churning, forever insisting,
Enveloping the Cosmos, ever persisting,
While humanity floats, ever subsisting

Simulacrum: Shadows Passing Shadows

“But if that is the case,” he asked himself, “and I am taking leave of life with the awareness that I squandered all I was given and have no possibility of rectifying matters, what then?” He lay on his back and began to review his whole life in an entirely different light.

When, in the morning, he saw first the footman, then his wife, then his daughter, and then the doctor, their every gesture, their every word, confirmed the horrible truth revealed to him during the night. In them he saw himself, all he had lived by, saw clearly that all this was not the real thing but a dreadful, enormous deception that shut out both life and death.

— From “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy

Frosted windows open on snow-covered plains so barren and lonely, with the far horizon so thickly gray, with the assurance of more of the same, and all is as silent as death, so silent that even the voice of God cannot be heard. We need life. We need life.

Shadows passing shadows in the shades of shadow trees. Life is a vapor. Mostly ghostly and blithely ignorant, they know something is missing, these spectators of men. And again the church bell tolls for another someone who never lived but finally died. And the gray coffin is lowered into black earth as phantoms cast forth hollow eulogies beneath the dancing shades of the same shadow trees.

The sun rises on an empty beach on an empty Sunday, where the waves make no sound, and the preacher stands perched on the podium preaching redemption to reprobates who cannot hear. But they pad the pews and smile self-righteous smiles, while girls grunge with Jesus round their necks.

Boys and girls dance round the boy, poking and prodding, teasing and laughing — laughing and teasing, prodding and poking as the dance goes on and the tears freely flow. There is pain and suffering driving the victim insane, but does anybody care? He will take his own miserable life, but will any mourn his passing?

jollain_hyacintheAnd the lovely Hyacinthus, radiant reflection of Beauty, draws his last breath as Apollo weeps for love lost and the world buckles at the passing of the divinely desirable boy, even as his blood gives birth to the flowers that will forever bear his name.

Two hearts bleeding. Two souls suffering. Two minds reeling. Two bodies slowly losing feeling. Two lovers void of love, rolling one over the other, making lust in a haversack with hyacinth in their hair. This is the memorial they offer the boy, who now joins as one with Mother Gaia.

A firefly crawls across the concrete, dying in the heat, but no one hears the slowing heartbeat of another life worth less than three-pence, delivered to deconstruction in total destruction as the thrawn sun thrashes its body at dawn.

Blocks of brick are stacked on blocks of brick, as below asphalt streets burn in the glaring sun. Alleyways are filled with scattered litter blown in from shattered lives, and the moon is full at the witching hour.

Smoke rises from the smoldering city as ash rains down thicker than the citizens, who run to their own burial for cover without looking back to see poppies growing in war-scarred fields. Their translucent bodies back into the black of cavernous caves, where they bark against the darkness.

The emptiness of existence is heavy. The vacancy of persistence in existence tangible and terrible, but do they even know … these passing shadows? Do they even know the profundity of the gaping hole in their soul? Can they feel the absence, and if so, do they know what left the better part of their heart so damn cold … these passing shadows?

Women and men, soldiers and scholars, priests and pious hypocrites stand beneath a rugged Roman cross, and what do they see, but Life nailed to wood for the sake of life? But do they even know … these passing shadows? Do they even know they need a savior? Do we know…?

Beyond Abhilāaṣhā

Waking-life is the ruthless taskmaster, leading to disaster,
But what is at the heart of this center-part of our reality?
It is the heart itself, filled with wanton desire
That reaches higher and burns in blazing fire
Of the soul with gaping hole which naught can satisfy
In ten thousand years of fears, nor can riches rectify
With truth the Self that lives within to defy many lies
Of destitution and all spiritual pollution of this world
Of Soul circumvolution and execution of tranquility;
So now reject desire, lust, and anger and the dangers
Of this life, and learn the nomenclature of wisdom;
Indeed, wisdom from above, and secure divine love,
And so shall you be free upon bended knee to see
Far beyond the bondage of mere earthly knowledge
With no stoppage nor even shortage of pure wisdom,

So shall you overthrow the taskmaster and avert disaster

Note: Abhilāaṣhā means “lust” and/or “desire.” This poem was inspired by my friend and fellow writer, Kunal Thakore, particularly hisAnd from Scribbles is Born Art.