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.


Monday, November 13, 2017

T H E | S | W O R D

The three day stint in the hospital taught me one thing: I could hide my illness exceptionally well.

Even though I admitted myself for thoughts of self-harm, I wore a mask that deceived everyone. The mania that had been slowly building, which I was unaware of at the time, was stirring. I smiled and laughed with the doctors and nurses when they entered my room during the day. I even remember calling each by name trying to show some sort of confidence. I interacted with other patients at meal time, joking with them and playing checkers and chess. I was truly out of my mind, but I was doing a damn good job of hiding it.

This photo was snapped in July 2016.  Pictures rarely tell the whole story.

On the third day, since there was nothing that appeared to be mentally wrong with me, my wife was called in to have a “family meeting.” While I was inpatient, I was assigned a psychiatrist, a nurse, and a therapist, whom all attended. They believed that the reason for my stay was due to marriage issues that needed to be addressed outside of the hospital.

I don’t remember exact details from my short stay, but I was able to make everyone believe, including myself, I didn’t need to be there. My manic mind had created an alter ego controlling every thought that sped through my brain while allowing my body to desperately hang on for the ride. The rollercoaster of emotions was running at full speed.

I left the hospital thinking I had everything under control...

About a week after my stay, I was laying in bed alone with tears running down my face. Looking back, my mind was the sickest it had ever been. Confusion and lies wrapped themselves around every thought that came. Depression had once again taken hold. In one hand, I held my phone frantically scrolling through websites trying to find out if Christians go to hell if they commit suicide while being mentally ill, the other had a bottle of pills.

Initially I swallowed one, then two, then a handful. Eventually, the entire bottle was empty. As I lay in bed, I texted my wife cryptic, incoherent messages alluding to the fact that I was attempting suicide. My mind was blurry. The room wouldn’t stop spinning. Then, I heard the doorbell ring. I didn’t want to get up. It rang again, then a knock. I pulled myself from the bed and moved slowly across the room. I walked into the hallway and peered down the stairs. I tried steadying myself on the banister and trudged down the steps. I made it to the bottom, looked out the window next to the door, and saw a police officer and an E.M.T. There is not a day that goes by I am not thankful for my family, especially my wife. I later learned that she had called 911 and had them sent to the house. Again, I was laying on a gurney inside of an ambulance not knowing my fate.

"My quest has taken me to the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional, and back. I have made... the most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I am only here tonight because of you, [Abby].
You are the only reason I am. You are all my reasons. Thank you."

John Nash
A Beautiful Mind

Sunday, November 12, 2017

P A R A C L E T E



Through the thicket I have been

All alone in search of Him

Where thorns and thistles pierced my skin

And demons tortured from within


The leaders said look to the sky

For there is where the Kingdom lies

So I peered between the twisted vines
To only see the birds in flight



The leaders said look to the sea

For it is there you will find Peace

So I swam beneath the water deep
But beyond the fish I could not reach



From the mouths of men will always flow

Words as generations come and go

Like that of water from a stream
Into the ocean to repeat



I grew weary of the world around

And finally slowed my pace to stare

Inside my heart the reflection of
He who was always there



Many people wonder, including myself, where God is in the middle of their depressive episodes or breakdowns. I thought God was a mere spectator in my life rather than an orchestrator. I finally realized that, even in the darkest of times when I hated Him, He was there. I may not have been able to see or feel Him, but He was always a part of me. He had been there since the beginning.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

D E M I S E | P A R T 2

“It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”

Jennifer Niven



I still hadn’t been taking my medications as prescribed. I hadn’t been working for months. Truthfully, I had quit my job to help take care of my still fragile daughter, but I was also haunted by her near death experiences. I remember, on many occasions, grimacing while shaking my head in disbelief, thinking of my daughters lifeless body laying in front of me. The memories still bother me (My daughter was born at 27 weeks and had many complications. She spent 5-1/2 months in the NICU at Children’s Hospital where roughly half of her small intestine was resected. She was hospitalized many times thereafter, none of which were very pleasant stays). I had also been attending school to become a minister, but the anxiety and depression became so great that I needed to quit. I began experiencing paranoia for the first time in my life. Insecurities filled my mind to the point where it became difficult to think. I felt as if I was wandering aimlessly through life without a purpose.

My wife couldn’t understand why I was behaving the way I was. We discussed divorce on numerous occasions. I hadn’t let anyone else know I was falling apart and had become great at disguising the severity of it. Even the stigma that mental illness carries was burned into my brain.

The urge to cut had returned. I held a razor blade to my arm, pushing it down, wanting to slide it across. In my experience, physical pain always helped mask any emotional pain I was feeling. I had no one in my life that I felt understood the absolute hell I was going through. So, I walked.

One day, in late July of 2016, my wife and I were in the middle of an argument when I walked out of our house. It was extremely hot out. My shirt began sticking to my skin. I hadn’t thought of where I was going. I walked a mile through our neighborhood and another five on the side of the highway. The entire time I kept thinking, “No one needs me. My wife will be fine without me. My kids won’t care. I don’t need to be here.”

I came to an intersection, exhausted, sweat dripping off of me. As I peered through the glare of the sun, I saw my wife sitting in a parking lot. She motioned me over to the car and I reluctantly walked over, annoyed that she’d been able to find me. I got in, sat down and pulled the sweaty clothes away from my skin as she drove home.

When we arrived at our house, I told her I needed to leave and get away from everything. I knew I wasn’t living up to what I should as a husband and father, and I felt that everyone deserved better than what I was providing - especially in the mental state I was in . My mind was not processing things clearly. Reality was mixed with obsessive thoughts that I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried.

I told her I wanted to start over. She kept telling me that I needed help and running away wasn’t going to fix anything. After another argument, I got in my car and left. I never told her where I was going. Around midnight that night, I called her from the mental health floor of a hospital across the city. I ended up driving to the emergency room and asked that I be admitted because I had the urge to harm myself.

Abby told me later that she was relieved. She knew I needed help, but didn’t know how to provide any. She had become increasingly worried that I was going to hurt myself. Neither of us realized just how sick my mind had become. Not even after I was released from the three day admission.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

D E M I S E | P A R T 1

Spring 2016

“Everything that I’ve ever done I can still relate to, and feel connected to it in a way. There’s no part of my life that I look at and go, ‘I don’t recognize that person at all.’”
― Ian Mckaye



I suddenly realized I had reached the Kentucky-Tennessee border while mindlessly driving south on the interstate. I left my house three hours prior attempting to rid myself of the responsibilities of being a husband and father. I was trying to escape reality. My life was unraveling as anxiety tore me apart. This happened many times. When life became too much, I ran from it.

I wasn’t taking my medications as prescribed and I was drinking alcohol regularly to cope with the anxiety, which negated it’s benefits and eventually led to the lowest and most terrifying point in my life. I remember Abby frequently waking me from my vegetative state during the day telling me that I was, unbeknownst to myself, talking to a wall or microwave or faucet while the water ran. My thoughts were spilling from my mind out my mouth. This occurred day and night. I didn’t sleep much. While lying in bed, my body would unexpectedly jerk, the anxiety dominating every minute of my life. I cried while whispering, “ Father, Father,” repeatedly, over and over hoping that He would somehow intervene. He didn’t. 

And, the worst was yet to come...