Monday, July 9, 2018

G L O R Y | D A Y S

Going by my past journey, I am not certain where life will take me, what turns and twists will happen; nobody knows where they will end up. As life changes direction, I'll flow with it. 

Katrina Kaif


I just wanted to write a happy post…



                Photo courtesy of my mom :)

I was good.  I was really good.  Being a goalkeeper in soccer was something that came naturally to me.  I was MVP at the East vs. West game my senior year in high school.  I was MVP at the University of Kentucky soccer camp.  While I was there, I was asked to participate in a demo where professional players tried scoring on me… they never did. They tried putting shots over me, to the side of me, in the corners, and not one shot passed me.  One professional said he was taking me back to his country with him.  It never happened, but I’d like to think he was sincere at the time.   I earned several awards including first-team all region in my area.  It’s funny and a little embarrassing, but my parents still have all of the newspaper clippings.  My last year of high school, I averaged 20- 25 saves per game; during one I had over 50 saves (we weren’t very good that year).  I was asked to play in Mexico and Germany, which I turned down ultimately because I was terrified to leave Abby.  I already had it in my heart and head that we were going to eventually marry, so I stayed. To this day, whenever I mention that Abby and I dated in high school, and then wed, people can’t believe it.  Probably because it isn’t heard of in these times.  

Sometimes, I look back on that time of my life and wish I would have gone. I imagine myself playing on a field of perfectly cut green grass within a beautiful stadium, a captain’s armband around my upper arm, helping guide all of my teammates around the field.  I guess everyone has things they wish they would have pursued.  However, everything has worked out for the best. I wouldn’t change anything in my life.  Perhaps the most important thing soccer gave me was an outlet to focus my energy on something other than overthink everything.  



Tuesday, June 19, 2018

G R O W T H | R E L A T I O N S H I P S


“And when her lips met mine, I knew that I could live to be a hundred and visit every country in the world, but nothing would ever compare to that single moment when I first kissed the girl of my dreams and knew that my love would last forever.” 

Nicholas Sparks - Dear John


“I do.”

Two words that will change a persons life for better and for worse.  Abby and I know a lot about both…

The first time I saw Abby walking through the hallways of our high school, I knew she would be the one I’d marry.  She wore a black shirt with boot cut blue jeans that flared slightly at the ankle.  She carried herself with such confidence, which is one thing that drew me towards her (probably because I had very little).  It was not only impossible not to notice her, but to me, she appeared to rival the angels I read about (no joke, she’s always been the most interesting, beautiful woman I’ve ever met), which is why I later nicknamed her “Angel-Abz.”  

She wasn’t allowed to date until she turned 16.  I remember “asking her out” via telephone on December 23rd at 12:03 pm. That’s the date she was born and I didn’t want to disturb anyone in her household during the morning hours - especially her dad because he owned an assortment of guns that he used for hunting and I didn’t want to find out what else he’d use them for.  So, I waited until the afternoon to call… nerd, right here.  

Anyway, she said yes, and we started dating.  I remember the first time we kissed.  It was the night of her birthday party in the middle of the street with all of her friends watching from the windows of her parents house.  It would have only been more romantically cliche if rain had been pouring down on us and we were standing in the middle of a field of flowers with a lake nearby.  I slowly handed her a N’Sync CD (yes, that was when CD’s still existed) and asked her to listen to song number five.  She later found that the track was God Must’ve Spent a Little More Time on You. <—— Corny as hell, but man, I thought I was SMOOTH!  I purchased roses by the dozen for her every other week; I’d even bring them to school with me and give them to her before class.  I gave her jewelry, stuffed animals, and poems on the regular.  We were THAT couple.  The couple that everyone looked at and either said, “I wish I had a relationship like that” or “they make me sick.”  However, our relationship wasn’t always Justin Timberlake lyrics or surprise gifts left in lockers.




I’m afraid to put the next part of this post “out there” because I feel that I’ll be judged and it’s embarrassing to me, but here goes…

My anxiety occasionally wreaked havoc in the form of jealousy and possessiveness in our relationship.  Mental illness, I’ve learned, is not only hereditary, but also formed through the experiences in ones life.  The details aren’t important, but things that occurred earlier in my life constantly made me believe that Abby would leave me without hesitation.  I also believed that most guys/men that looked or spoke to her had ulterior motives.  My jealousy was a product of low self-esteem and anxiety that had grown with me since I was a child.  It has taken YEARS to get to a point in our relationship where I trust Abby and have enough confidence in myself that I no longer feel threatened by other men.

I am certainly an eternity away from being perfect, and I’ve come to understand that all people make mistakes and deserve to be given grace in many different circumstances, especially those closest to you.  


I hope for this to be the first of many posts about mental illness and relationships…

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

G R O W T H | S P I R I T U A L I T Y

I was baptized into the Christian faith when I was 17 years old. I had been told that God was THE BEING, the Father, in charge of creating all good things (1 Timothy 4:4 NIV), I knew that Jesus was the Son that connected us to His Father through His death (1 Timothy 2 5-6 NIV), but I had never been informed of who the Spirit was.
_________________________________________________________________________________

I was 35 and had just been dragged through the deepest depths of depression. Paranoia had ripped my mind to shreds. I believed that EVERYONE around was gossiping behind my back and I thought devices were listening to my conversations. It was bad. Anxiety frequently crept through my body causing it to shake and jerk uncontrollably. I couldn’t sleep and I’d spend nights contemplating running a razor blade across my arm. I eventually had enough.

I attempted suicide by swallowing handfuls of my medication, alone in my home in the late summer. I was admitted three separate times over the period of two weeks to mental health hospitals, each stay longer than the one before. My life was filled with chaos and uncertainty. My relationship with God, as far as I was concerned, was over. He had turned His back and walked.

Eventually, after I was prescribed and began taking medication that helped lead me out of the chasm of depression I had fallen into, I started to realize that most of the people surrounding me during my darkest time (my psychiatrist, most of my doctors and nurses I worked with, my wife, the rest of my family) all had something in common. The Spirit, I’ve learned, is “the Helper Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby,” (John 14:26 AMP)... that’s exactly what all of those people were to me. They helped me, comforted me, brought me peace, helped strengthen me. Through the Spirit that flowed through them, I benefited.

“There was a period of time where I believed God had abandoned me. I was lost. When my brain began functioning properly, I started to ask why everything happened, why I was given this curse. Then, one day, it clicked... Just kidding. It never clicked. I still haven’t figured out why I was destined to struggle the rest of my life. But I did realize something - just because you can’t see, hear, or feel God doesn’t mean He isn’t working in your life. My wife stood by me through the ugliest time of our marriage. My psychiatrist, who is a believer (he’ll never tell you that unless you get to know him), worked his ass off trying to find a combination of medications that worked for me... and he did it! Our families helped watch the kids for Abby and they visited me in the hospital. Friends visited me while I was hospitalized and followed up with me when I got out. The countless doctors, nurses, and therapists that helped me get well had the Spirit flowing through them. Everyone in my life during that time, I finally see, was part of God’s plan to treat me and place me on the road to recovery. As for me, I now understand that God not only surrounds every part of me, He lives inside of me. I can’t fail because He won’t fail me.” 

Brandon Mullins 
FOUND

Sunday, June 10, 2018

G R O W T H | C O N F I D E N C E

You get to a point in your life, and this is after you’ve been in and out of severe depression for the past nineteen years, and after the latest group of medication you’re taking has finally made you more stable than you’ve ever been, you eventually begin questioning things. Like, “Why have I always tried to make people happy?” That’s a question I’ve been asking myself A LOT lately. And I have a very simple answer: I have, unbeknownst to myself, been groomed to be a people-pleaser. And this is different than being a people person, which I still am. Thing is, my anxiety and depression, as well as my upbringing, told me that in order to be liked, I must be a follower... of EVERYONE. I must agree with everyone or I will be judged. I can’t have a opinion of my own because someone might disagree with me. I can’t ask anyone to do anything for me because I am not important or worthy enough to ask someone a simple question. It’s all ridiculous! And it hurts and angers me to think I have lost so much time trying to get people to like me while I should have been finding out who I am. Being thirty-six years old with a wife, three kids, and a full-time job doesn’t exactly afford me the time to figure that out. 


Thankfully, I have an incredibly supportive wife who accepts me for not only who I am, but who I want to be. If there is one thing I could go back in time and tell the younger version of me, it is this: Don’t waste your time trying to be perfect, and don’t worry about fitting in.


Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

F O U N D

Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see it
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Jeremy Camp
Walk by Faith

My wife forced me to attend an Intensive Outpatient Program for 11 days after I was discharged. Our marriage was on the brink of divorce and the only way we were going to stay together is if I went. So, I did. My thoughts were severely disorganized because of paranoia. It ripped my mind to shreds leaving bits and pieces of memories floating around inside. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. My mind was so full of things that might be, but were far from the truth. I believed people were following me. I believed “they” could read every thought I had. I believed devices were recording every move I made. It’s an exhausting, frightening, stressful state of mind to be in, always thinking someone or something is out to get you. Still, I was able to realize if I didn’t have my wife, I would be living beneath a bridge or lying dead on a sidewalk. That’s not a joke either. I was messed up. The I.O.P. allowed me to continue the medication regimen the hospital had set for me upon my release, but it was obvious it wasn’t helping. It also provided classes that focused on helping patients improve their coping skills and to be more assertive instead of passive. I still struggle with my assertiveness because of the diehard people-pleaser I am. I couldn’t be helped at the time because I thought the doctors and instructors were committed to my demise.


The next few months were difficult. My psychiatrist made a change in my medication which resulted in a steep increase in price. One out of the three medications I now take was over $800 per month out of pocket. On top of that, bills from the hospital stays rolled in reaching several thousands of dollars. It took many months of personal therapy, marital therapy, and visits to my psychiatrist to become stable enough to venture confidently outside of my home and for my marriage to begin breathing again.

This past year has been the hardest of my life. It has taught me that, with the right medication and support, happiness is possible. It tested my faith as a follower of Christ. There was a period of time where I believed God had abandoned me. I was lost. When my brain began functioning properly, I started to ask why everything happened, why I was given this curse. Then, one day, it clicked... Just kidding. It never clicked. I still haven’t figured out why I was destined to struggle the rest of my life. But I did realize something - just because you can’t see, hear, or feel God doesn’t mean He isn’t working in your life. My wife stood by me through the ugliest time of our marriage. My psychiatrist, who is a believer (he’ll never tell you that unless you get to know him), worked his ass off trying to find a combination of medications that worked for me... and he did it! Our families helped watch the kids for Abby and they visited me in the hospital. Friends visited me while I was hospitalized and followed up with me when I got out. The countless doctors, nurses, and therapists that helped me get well had the Spirit flowing through them. Everyone in my life during that time, I finally see, was part of God’s plan to treat me and place me on the road to recovery. As for me, I now understand that God not only surrounds every part of me, He lives inside of me. I can’t fail because He won’t fail me.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

U N D O N E

“I toss and turn and yearn for her warmth and lie there most of the night, eyes open wide, watching the shadows dance across the ceiling like tumbleweeds rolling across the desert. I sleep two hours if I am lucky and still I wake before dawn. This makes no sense to me.”

Noah Calhoun
The Notebook

The receptionist at the desk recognized me from my admission two weeks prior. I didn’t feel embarrassed at the time, but my body was exhausted. My soul felt deflated. I was again taken to triage where I sat on a bed, scanning the tiny area, waiting for a doctor to see me. All I could think of was my wife and kids. Tears gathered in the corners of my eyes and rolled slowly down my cheeks. I didn’t want anyone at the hospital to see me crying, so I wiped the tears quickly from my face. I had never felt more alone. My wife had left me with my parents, my parents didn’t want their 35 year old son staying with them, and I felt I had no friends. All of my crazy actions and decisions had been caused by depression and anxiety, but it was impossible for others to see it that way. My body had become a shell fueled only by the illness that was not only killing me, but destroying every relationship I had. I didn’t know if my marriage was going to survive after everything that had happened. The attending doctor finally opened the curtain and walked in, conducted the assessment, and asked who my psychiatrist was. I gladly gave her the phone number. She left the area. My legs shook from the anxiety that racked my body. The doctor eventually came back after calling my psychiatrist and said, “It doesn’t look like there is anything wrong with you. If it was up to me, you’d be out of here. However, your doctor thinks you need to be admitted and I respect his decision. So, hang tight and we’ll get you upstairs soon.” Her response was one I had heard before - You look fine. Why are you here? You should be living your life. - Thing is, I felt I had no life to live.





I was wheeled through the hospital hallways until I reached the psychiatric floor. I checked in and was taken to my room. The window inside spanned from one wall to the other. The view was both wonderful and tormenting. Many stories below was a giant patch of green grass encircled by leafy trees. Over the many days I was there, I watched as a child and father kicked a ball back and forth, an owner tossed frisbee with his dog, and a family leisurely walked about. Just past the park was an old, beautiful church. Seeing it brought back many memories. I remembered a time when I loved talking to others about Jesus and what He had done in my life. I remembered when I had once believed God was good and had my back through everything. Not even He was there in that hospital with me. I felt nothing. I couldn’t remember what happiness was. I had become a walking disaster; a pill-popping lunatic whose future was slowly being erased by an illness that no one outside of a hospital or psychiatrist’s office could understand.

I didn’t sleep much while I was there. I couldn’t. My medications had been changed, there were blood draws every morning at 4:30, and I couldn’t stop thinking about my family. I missed my son’s first birthday. I cried often, both day and night. I read, a lot, attempting to pass the time. I was evaluated for 14 days before I was finally able to leave. Still, my mind was broken and needed more time to heal.

Monday, November 20, 2017

P S Y C H O S I S

"Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It can take from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who and what you truly are... I spent many years looking in the mirror and seeing a person I did not recognize or understand. Not only did bipolar rob me of my sanity, but it robbed me of my ability to see beyond the space it dictated me to look. I no longer could tell reality from fantasy, and I walked in a world no longer my own."

Alyssa Reyans







“Stay awake. Stay awake. Head up. Eyes open."

As I laid in the ambulance, the voices around sounded as though they were quickly being turned up, then down, like someone was twisting the volume knob on a radio back and forth. My head was pounding. I couldn’t open my eyes for more than a second without feeling nauseous. They were so sensitive to the light that it felt like the brightness was burning through them. I’m not sure how long the ride was to the hospital, but I knew we had arrived from the sudden drop and jerk of the gurney being lowered to the ground.

I was wheeled to triage where a curtain was immediately drawn. A nurse handed me a styrofoam cup with a straw. Inside was a dark, chalky looking mixture. “You need to drink this,” she said, extending her arm towards me. She also passed me a large, cylindrical, blue bag. I don’t remember the mixture having a smell, but it was thick. I opened my mouth and let the liquid crawl down my throat into my gut. It took only a couple minutes before I was throwing up into the bag.

The vomiting continued until my stomach had emptied. My wife was at my side the entire time before I was checked in to the behavioral health center and taken to my room. I was still nauseous and couldn’t raise my head up without feeling sick. I stripped down, got into the shower, turned the water to cold, and began throwing up more. Blood and bile covered the floor as water washed it down the drain. I crawled into bed that night not realizing the severity of what had happened.

Again, I don’t remember the details of my stay. I recall there were cameras in the corner of my room watching my every move, which increased the paranoia I was already feeling. I did push-ups and sit-ups during the day to pass the time and to attempt to prove, to myself and the staff, that I was mentally strong enough to leave. The psychiatrist there treated me like I was a criminal instead of someone who was mentally ill. He came into my room berating me for what I had done. I was released approximately 36 hours later with the intent to be taken to a different behavioral health center. However, as soon as I was out of the hospital, I refused to go anywhere else but home. My wife and I argued while sitting inside her car in the parking lot. I called my psychiatrist in hopes that he would side with me - he didn’t. He said I needed to be taken to a different hospital to be treated properly, not like someone who had done something wrong. Still, I was unwilling to change my mind. My wife did not want me coming home with her in the psychotic state I was in, so she took me to my parents house. There, I had a moment of clarity and realized I needed help. My mom drove me to the hospital and I admitted myself once again.