Fear and Loathing

“For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”

1 Thess. 5:5

A year before I received Christ as my Savior, I was hospitalized in a U.S. Army psychiatric ward.  My uniform was replaced with the distinctive attire of a mental patient.  Ironically, I’d been attached to the same hospital as a medic on the pediatric floor.  And to make things only slightly more surreal was that one of my nurses on the psych ward was someone I bought drugs from!

Previous to this hospitalization, I had dropped two hits of LSD and found myself in an awful mess.  It was night and I was prowling outside my barracks.  I was hallucinating heavily and had lost control of my thoughts.  I had pretty much flipped out  and it entered my drug saturated brain that the darkness would kill me that very night!

Utterly convinced of my impending fate, my mind seized upon the street lights.  If I could stay in that illuminated circle I could escape death!  The light would save me.  I stood under that light for a few hours.  As I stood I could see very clearly the boundary between the light and the dark.  I knew I was safe as long as I didn’t wander.

Despite that traumatic experience, the drugs and the mental instability continued to develop.  I began to mainline cocaine, crossing my “no needle line”.  I also became quite the heavy drinker, with Jack Daniels for breakfast.  I had one basic rule though.  As a medic who worked in maternal/child health, I had the best assignment in the Army.  Many people coveted it, and I was not going to endanger it by drugs or alcohol.  I never went on duty loaded.  It was my rule. I would be the best medic they had.

Shortly after my psych ward discharge, I was reassigned to Labor & Delivery on the night shift.  I was pulled from my duty and I went on an ambulance run as the medic in charge.  We were called to officer’s housing were an older man had died in bed which got me thinking.  Back at the hospital I returned to L&D.  On the way back I took a shortcut through a ward on another floor.  That’s when I found it!

On a waiting room table was a small book called, “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell.  I picked it up, reading it right on duty because there were no mothers waiting for the delivery room.  By the end of my shift I was well on my way to becoming a Christian.  It was a book solidly speaking of the light, and of the dark.  And I knew beyond a doubt that I couldn’t remain in the dark anymore.

I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in June of 1982.  I became a born again believer on July 4, 1982.  I was in Bible College that October.  Life has become radically different, and I became a missionary and a pastor.  All I can tell you is that Jesus is real, he is alive and the Bible is true.  I have translated from the dark to the light, and I am not afraid anymore.  Jesus is my light.

“The people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light.
And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow,
    a light has shined.”

Matthew 4:16

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Links:

Alaska Bible Institute, http://alaskabible.org/

“More Than a Carpenter”, by Josh McDowell http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Carpenter-Josh-McDowell/dp/0842345523

Amazon.com Review

Since its release, More Than a Carpenter has been challenging readers to ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” Author and renowned speaker Josh McDowell acknowledges that while the topic of God is widely accepted, the name of Jesus often causes irritation. “Why don’t the names of Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius offend people? The reason is that these others didn’t claim to be God, but Jesus did.” By addressing questions about scientific and historical evidence, the validity of the Bible, and proofs of the resurrection, McDowell helps the reader come to an informed and intelligent decision about whether Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. This short, 128-page gem does not employ fancy theological words, forsaking the layman, but reads more like an intimate research document laying out the facts with veracious accuracy, from reliable sources ranging from secular scientists to conservative seminarians. A skeptic himself for many years, McDowell always believed that Christians were “out of their minds” but now insists that “never has an individual been called upon to commit intellectual suicide in trusting Christ as Savior and Lord.” McDowell adeptly articulates fundamental answers to poignant questions that cause the skeptic to consider whether Jesus was a liar causing countless martyrs to die in his wake, a lunatic deserving death, or actually the Lord of the universe. –Jill Heatherly

Different Ways to Fall Out of a Tree

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Imagine climbing up to the top of a very tall tree. You work your way up to the highest point– you can go no further. The view is completely glorious, it’s more than you hoped for. You want to post it on Facebook, so you dig into your pocket to get your camera-phone. You suddenly slip, and because your arms are occupied getting your camera, you fall. And you fall fast.

As you plummet, you realize that you’re hitting every branch on the way down. The smaller ones break, and the bigger ones, well– you just bounce off. The trip down is very fast, and perhaps even a bit illuminating.

  1. First, you think of death.
  2. Then you think about the pain each branch causes, and wonder about your imminent arrival on terra firma.
  3. Perhaps you consider how stupid you are, and how you are going to explain it.
  4. Lastly, I suppose, you wonder if you have clean underwear on, like your mother always told you to wear.

This is how my life has gone, the last 20 years. This metaphor is a good way for me to process things, and to find some understanding. I now believe that some of us go through life sideways, or horizontal. We careen off of every branch on the way down, and it seems we are hitting branches that we didn’t even know were there. Tree limbs are snapping, as we are dropping.

Others who are wiser (or maybe more experienced,) try to fall more vertically. As they fall, they use their hands to try to slow their descent. (This does work!) They will take their fair share of jolts, no doubt. But their journey to the forest floor is way less traumatic. They may end up in the hospital– but not in emergency surgery like the first guy.

It sometimes seems like every trouble I have faced I have gone into it sideways. I have broken a lot of branches on my way down. I suppose I’ve entertained some who have watched me plummet, and seen me careen and spiral my way to the bottom. These have been some painful times, I have inflicted considerable amount of bruises on myself.

People who go through life sideways will invariably suffer. They seem to hit every obstacle and trial that could be in their flight path. The existence of pain in this life cannot be disputed.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, NLT

Jesus understands. Especially if you are one of those people who are “trial magnets” going through life horizontal. (You just seem to collect them.) My hope for you that as you break your branches on the way down (for maybe the 100th time). You will try to plummet vertically. Not that it is any easier, life will hurt. But perhaps it won’t be as agonizing. And I suppose that would be a good thing.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,”

Jude 24

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kyrie elesion.

Delusions of the First Person Variety

When I first watched the “Matrix,” I completely flipped out. It explained too much. It took me a month to recover.
I need to briefly share what delusions are like.  I’m going to flip the switch and flood the room with light, and watch the “critters” scuttle to find a hiding place.  I’m doing this to help heal myself, and for you to understand this awful state of mind.

First of all– definitions

Delusion n.
A false belief held despite strong evidence against it; self-deception. Delusions are common in some forms of psychosis. Example.  Because of his delusions, the literary character Don Quixote attacks a windmill, thinking it is a giant (that’s the dictionary workin’ it for you.)

Delusion de·lu·sion n.
A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness.

Typically, my delusions have a common core of pride or self-centered thinking. For instance, I have experienced all of these:

  1. A woman loves me and she is secretly trying to be with me. This is very flattering and egocentric.  This  one can really mess with your thought-life. (Ego.)
  2. I’m the center of the universe, people really do not exist, except when they come into my life or influence.  [This one is a bit metaphysical.] See #7.
  3. I have special powers that ‘know” a person’s motives, plans and heart.  I am hyper-discerning.  The opposite can be true at times, where I become exposed to people, which necessitates me never leaving my room. I feel “naked” and of course, very uncomfortable.
  4. I get paranoid, thinking people are plotting with each other behind my back, working to destroy me.  Chat rooms, and Facebook are focal points for me with this one, but not always.  With this one I get really verbal, and I start zapping people.  I guess because it’s the internet I can do this with impunity.
  5. Clocks are always at the top of the hour, like- 7:00 am.  Or they are at the bottom of the hour, like 11:30 pm.  I call this “chronosynchronism.” I believe this is evidence that my life is orchestrated, purposeful, and this is evidence I am very significant.  This is my latest.  And it really isn’t super disruptive.
  6. I can read secret messages in books meant for me.  I also line up spaces in what I’m reading to form an unbroken line.  I compulsively do this.
  7. The big one is this, I am in my form of “The Truman Show”.  The universe is just a set and I am the only living thing out there.  Everything is focused on me (of course).
  8. I hear voices sometimes, but mostly a radio or sometimes the “dot-dash-dot” of a telegraph.  I think its trying to warn me in some code.  It can be persistent. And it can be disruptive. Paranoid that my giftedness is cause for the NSA to control me.
  9. My wife intends to poison me.
  10. Personal hygiene issues. Afraid of being murdered in the shower creates a super-phobia. I once went 6 weeks without showering. (I made my own eyes ‘water’, lol).

I guess all of these have things in common.  They are self-centered.  They are unreasonable and illogical.  They are compulsive. And yes, meds do work.  And the above list?  The delusions are only mild-to-moderate issues of delusional paranoia.  There are so many Christians and non-Christians who have worse. I once met a man who seriously believed he was Jesus. (And no, I didn’t worship him).

As a believer working out his discipleship, I’ve discovered that humility and openness is always the way of keeping one tethered to reality.  However, I have a fear that I will break loose and never come out again.  I MUST live in “brokenness”.  (So in a strange way, following Jesus Christ is easier.)

Also, I must be open to things that will invalidate my delusion.  Even if I’m 99% convinced, that 1% will cause me to consider thinking through a scenario.  Truth is your best friend when you are challenging a delusional paranoid.  But it has to be gently applied. Life doesn’t have be lived this way. Also, delusions will often ‘morph’ and change and take on modified characteristics. This seems to be part of the mental illness, but can also indicate demonic oppression (or both even).

A psychiatrist should be informed in most cases. Very often meds will be necessary to get your loved one through this time, but not always.

Praying for delusional behavior

People have prayed for me, more then I have prayed for myself.  Your intercession bridges a gap over this illness.  When you pray, you power up the energy cells and get instructions.  It may mean wait, or proceed.  Every person and situation is different. Prayer is always the best approach.

(So many delusions and so little time.) They will vary from person-to-person. An active prayer may help, “Lord, may it be the real me who touches the real You.” Remember, Jesus stands at the right hand of his Father praying for you [which can’t be all bad].

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

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A Day in the Life of a Mental Hospital Patient

6:30 am. “Rise and shine,” but this is debatable– you simply just breathe and walk, in this kind of a desperate mental fog,  (Simply put, ‘there will be no sunshine for you today.’) But, this only just seems to really matter to us, who have no hope.  You exchange brief greetings with your roommate, which only just seems proper, even at this level.  We are given “ratty” old surgical scrubs to wear through out the day.

We head down ‘en mass’ to the cafeteria.  I see the servers on the line, I notice that they avert their eyes from us as we form a hungry queue.  Sometimes, they will give us choices: “bacon or sausage?”  To a mental patient, this can be a Gordian Knot of complexity.  So the line moves slowly, as we try to sort out this conundrum.

There is no coffee for us, as patients.  It has been two weeks for me, and I dream of a cup of hot coffee, with cream.  Some of the attendants drink Pepsi, although it is done hiddenly, but we all know it.  We resent their liberty, especially when we have none.  There is a question of equity, with us, which has been violated.

8:40 am.  We are all race to be the first in line for our morning meds.  It almost seems we are afraid they are suddenly going to run out.  I get my Seroquil, my lithium, my Zoloft.  Additionally, because I am ‘post-op’ brain tumor, I am given a mild stimulant called Provigil to help me think clearly.  I have no idea if it works, or not. (I rather have a cup of coffee.)

We then gather into a day room full of clunky and ugly furniture.  It is big, and the chairs encircle a grimy tile floor to make a large open space.  This is not an orderly place, as people are wandering about, some stare at the wall or at a fake plant in the corner.  It is noisy, some even shout.  Others just “rock” back and forth to a song that only they can hear.  A few of us lie in “fetal position” of hiddenness, just wanting to disappear.

The thought occurred to me one day, of a ‘giant aquarium.’  It was constantly moving, swirling about.  If you stopped moving, it meant that you were dead.  Everyone was moving, and oblivious to the others who were also moving.  This seems to explain much.  (You will need to accept the ‘aquarium’ idea if you really want to process the moment.)

On one of my stays, weeks went by before I realized that this particular meeting actually existed, but I was very confused and seriously beyond any correction.  I was really struggling with clinical depression, so meals and meds was all I could manage.  When I finally figured this out, I quickly joined the fish bowl.  It was both good and bad.  But mostly good. Finally as bleak as it was, I started accepting reality.

11:00 am.  One thing you do notice is a lot of disjointed conversations.  You would speak to someone and 10 minutes later they would answer.  And for the most part, conversations would be muted, whispered to people.  As if there was a conspiracy involved, and a certain appropriateness must be taken. We were a paranoid bunch.

Sometimes an attendant would turn on the TV.  I can remember watching cartoons and just maybe I would think that they were communicating to me in code.  We did have a VCR for movies, but because one guy urinated into the machine, it shorted it out.  So, alas, no more movies.

During one stay (and there were several) I was suicidal.  The staff watched me like a hawk, sitting at my door out in the hallway. But I was desperate to cut my wrists, so I stood up in a chair.  I took down a clock and wrapped it in a blanket, to muffle the sound of breaking glass.  I managed to slash my wrists deeply and often, before the nurse came in my room.  For a moment, I brought an excitement to the staff.  And perhaps a certain meaning to me.

When you’re in a psych ward your days are beyond tedious.  One day is like the next.  The psychiatrist comes to see you for 10 minutes, and it is a high point of your day.  You discover that any new explanations, or treatment plans are done solely by the doctor.  That is one of the first cardinal rules on the ward.  Ask a nurse or an aide, and they invariably dodge.  But the psychiatrist “rules the roost.” Everyone follows his decision. This is useful to know.

1:00 pm.   Suddenly a young teen girl with schizophrenia, screaming and pounding her head against the wall has now becomes the focus.  Every couple of days this happens, and in a twisted way punctuates the drabness of the day.  She is artfully restrained by the staff and taken to “the padded cell.”  We are all told it is for her own protection,  but we as patients, we all rally behind her fight.  When she makes a break from the nurses we all cheer her effort and want her to escape.

The second cardinal rule of the floor is that you don’t “stick out” in any way. Creating an issue is never tolerated, whatsoever.  Demanding more TV time, or coffee, or a newspaper will hardly ever go over well.  Just before Thanksgiving, 2003, I timed my meeting with the pdoc to raise an issue of a fresh cup of coffee.  There was a nurse present at our meeting, and she had to respond to the doctor’s order that I was to be given coffee on Thanksgiving morning.  The next morning the coffee was delivered, but the nurse insisted that she would set in a chair next to me until I finished.  Nevertheless, it was a glorious moment.

3:00 pm.  I soon developed auditory hallucinations.  First, I kept hearing a CB radio, squawking constantly.  A few days later, I started to hear a telegraph, “dit-dot-dash.”  They both were very loud and insisting that I pay attention.  Also, I would have 3 or 4 moments of seeing black and hairy spiders climbing at me.  They were so real, and even volitionally know they were not real, I still panicked.

4:30 pm.  They’re other issues as well.  I basically hated phone calls from family.  When they did come they always seemed intrusive and seemed to work against the thinking on the ward.  When a few friends did visit, I would be abrasive and rude.  Wishing they hadn’t made the effort.  I imagined their hearts processing me and my need to be there, and it disturbed me.  Since I lived about 300 miles from the hospital, it took effort on their part to try to see me.  Looking back though, I wish I had been nicer.

8:48  pm.  Getting ready for bed.  It seems that is what I have waited for this all day.  These are moments I have started to live for.  Sleep = oblivion.  I fade to black, and life is paused.  There isn’t any issues for me to figure out.  For eight hours, I find peace,  Sleep is a deep mercy, a gift given to us from the Father.  Those of us, who struggle hard against the dark, understand the “gift” of grace in the form of sleep.  Depressives very often crave sleep. We often want to hide into it, as if doing so would solve our problems and issues. For me, sleep was the only time I was free from the ward.

I want to sleep, to close my eyes and to be gone.  I suppose that is true, for all of us who want to “commit suicide by sleep.”  We seek oblivion, and long for the moment when we can “check out.”  We want to be forgotten and overlooked. We deeply want to be erased, and move directly into forgottenness.

When we have been committed to the ward as patients, we will probably be shaken to our core.  Our insertion into a diverse floor of mental illness, will always introduce us to deep desperation. We are jolted that there is a darkness that is pursing us far beyond what seems is right.  We must call out to Him who can save us.

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

 

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