(Finding a Balance Between Jesus Christ and King of the Hill)
I was initially hesitant to post too soon after my last entry, but after really evaluating, I decided to try to catch my audience before they disperse.
I’m not even sure where to begin. My last two posts were about people we lost too soon to tragic circumstances, though my perspective in each instant contrasted starkly. One was written 5 days before my most recent suicide attempt. The last post was written a month and a half after that attempt. My thoughts seem transparently similar, but there’s a mystery smeared between those two posts, like something spilled on the few pages of a book that contain the climax. The pages are stuck together, and everything between “before” and “after” is almost inconsequential; or at least, that’s how it seems.
Let me plead that this is not so. I realize the posts are eerily similar, both addressing people I only knew at a distance, after their lives were lost in tragic circumstances. Both even pose my conflict about why some lost the battle, and others like myself, have a chance at survival.
It seems as though, since my post about Amy Winehouse, her parents have suggested that she lost her life from complications attributed to alcohol withdrawal. In my opinion, these circumstances make the story that much more tragic. She was making an effort, but the addiction consumed her in the end. I was almost astonished at how long it took most media outlets to come out with these details. When I got out of the hospital, I googled the story and found this explanation, and yet it was 2 or 3 weeks later before the media spoke about it.
Friday, my sister and I discussed the multi-faceted nature of mental illness, and the mystery that is our brains. We talked for a moment about how various mental issues seem to have similar characteristics. Though it may stir controversy, I’ll give an example. My dad recently saw the HBO film “Temple Grandin” about a woman born in 1947 with autism. It was very enlightening. I didn’t realize that autism was even acknowledged back then, but it also irked me to realize how much more misunderstood it was. I thought it was bad now, but it was far more misunderstood then. The doctor’s initially blamed Temple’s mother for her condition, but she refused to accept the accusation. With diligent attention from her mother and aunt, Temple excelled in life, and even more so in academics.
My dad was moved by the film, and sent a copy to my sister and myself. As I watched it, I identified things about Temple that I related to myself, and that I had observed in others. For instance, as is an issue with autism, Temple was overwhelmed and anxious in situations that offered an excess of audio, visual, and tactile stimulation. I completely understand this. I was recently started on a medication for ADHD because I had been withdrawing, and increasingly irritable in social situations for the very same reason. I ended my day on Saturday with a grocery store panic attack due to this issue. So many people, noises, products, and the agitation of my shirt shifting, and my purse strap rubbing against my neck.
Similarly, one of my former boyfriends was diagnosed with schizophrenia toward the end of our relationship. The illness didn’t present itself blatantly as hallucinations and paranoia, like most assume. It started progressing in his speech, which was disorganized, and indirect. It got the point where I just couldn’t understand him. Also, he started to become hyperaware of details. If in a room full of people, he would notice the way a dust bunny in the corner of the room was dancing atop the hardwood floor. When sitting with his mom in a diner one day, he started talking about a rabbit, as if his mom should know exactly what he was referring to. It wasn’t until she turned around and saw the painting of a farm with a rabbit in it, that she understood the origin of his thoughts. Temple was similarly observant, noticing and understanding things that no one else really had the awareness to note, or the ability to care about.
The brain certainly is a mysterious thing. Being as such, I am often frightened by what the brain can do.
Alzheimer’s is another example. It has been arising in the news more and more. I told my sister that I couldn’t cope with losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s, because it would be so similar to how I lost my ex to schizophrenia. I cannot stand the feeling of having lost someone who is still physically right in front of you. I do realize that they are making many great strides with Alzheimer’s… I just wish they’d do the same with mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
There is so much we have yet to understand about our brains. The brain is simply powerful, and being as such, it can either serve as a powerful motivator or a powerful hinderance.
When I look at my post on July 25th and compare it to my post from September 16th, it would seem as though the same person wrote it. And yes, in literal terms the same body sat at the same computer to bang her fingertips against the keys and make words. Perhaps even the same brain was behind what was thought and said. I suppose you could determine though, that the difference was completely spiritual.
I had gone down to Asheville with my parents for my cousin’s wedding. As I mentioned earlier, social situations are not my forté, though I manage surprisingly well most of the time. July 29th was not one of those days. I went to the rehearsal dinner at a local restaurant, greeting old friends and family members whom I have not seen in a while. The room was hot and crowded, and I had already been stuck in a car for 4 hours with my parents, which is quite a feat. The drinks that night were incredible! Freshly squeezed mojitos, margaritas, and sangria with fruit. I’m not sure how many I had, but I remember the food being equally as satisfying. There was so much commotion, that I don’t recall much else besides that and the heat. After eating, and feeling like was about to die through the sentimental slide show, I grabbed the car keys and split. I went to the car and sat with the air conditioning full blast until my parents left and we headed back to the hotel.
The next evening was my cousin’s wedding. We had been warned about the heat and mosquitos, so I had already decided that I couldn’t do it after my anxiety the night before. The situation seemed pretty simple to me, sometimes, social situations can just be too much. My sister gave me positive feedback for my boundary-setting, and the rest of the day is a blur. The only thing I remember from that day is getting car sick while my dad explored the wealthy neighborhoods of the city. Besides that, I recall that my dad took me out to a Mexican restaurant after they returned from the wedding.
I’m uncertain as to why everything else is a blur, but I remained in that state until Tuesday morning, when I woke up completely back to normal in a women’s psych unit.
Apparently, in the wee hours of July 31st I decided to end my life. I say apparently, because that’s how it appears. I do recall being somewhat melancholy, mainly about my future with regards to relationships and my chances of survival with mental illness. Other than that, it really wasn’t much out of the ordinary. A friend of mine was alarmed by what I had said to my ex, and my sister reflected that she should’ve been alarmed by the things I said to her. When I had a chance, I glanced back at those conversations, and if I had been them, I wouldn’t have been alarmed initially either. I’m typically a dark person, with an even darker sense of humor. Despite my recently blossoming spirituality, I have a significant past of depression and suicidal tendencies. It would appear to be a thin line with me.
The truth is, though, that I haven’t felt that way since March. I made a significant spiritual commitment to God in March, and dangerous depression hadn’t really been an issue since. I’m uncertain as to why, 4 months later, I would decide to end my life without much of a warning. In the past, the spiral downward for me has been lengthy and gradual. This was sudden.
My only medical explanation is that I had started a mood stabilizer a week and a half prior. Many psychiatric medications can have unintended counter-effects; so that is a possibility. I had taken the medication in the past, but only in the context of a complete medication cocktail. I had not been on any psychiatric medications since March.
As for spiritual explanations, I have a few. I’m not sure this is the time or the place to delve into that. If anyone has questions, I’ll be willing to answer them, and I’ll probably stick with basics for now.
So that Sunday around 3 am, without explanation, I overdosed on 100 dramamine and 40 ativan. My dad and several police officers found me the next morning. Everything until Tuesday morning is a blur, and most of what I know now is what has been told to me by people who were with me. I was taken to the ER in an ambulance, and stayed there until midday on Monday, August 1st, when I was transported via ambulance to another local hospital to be admitted into their psychiatric unit.
When I woke on Tuesday morning, and as the day wore on, I started to realize everything that I had been through. What started to really dawn on me, was the miracle of my survival. I spent the week that followed, bonding with women in similar situations and in prayer. I also spent a good amount of time reading the bible, and was diligent about attending morning devotions. It was unusual to be in the unit at that time, because when I woke up, I went back to being my “normal” self and otherwise basically “sane.” I recognized within a few days that I was good to go home, but it doesn’t really work like that in psych units. I was patient, and participated a lot. At one point, I started to feel so desperate to get out and do stuff, that I thought being there might make me crazier. This is a big contrast to the times I’ve gone in before. My previous experiences in such a setting left me fearful of returning to life, uncertain if I could handle life’s curveballs after being in such a controlled environment for a week or two. As eager as I was to get back to life, I made an effort to utilize and appreciate my time there. I developed friendships with some really incredible women, and learned some new things about myself.
Spiritually speaking, I will contribute this: prior to this experience, I made a commitment to God, but after doing so, carried on with life as usual. I suppose I expected things to unfold like I’ve heard people promise… “make that commitment, and all the baggage you’ve been carrying will dissolve.” I basically spent about a month and a half on my couch, watching “King of the Hill,” and waiting for my issues to go away.
It didn’t quite work like that.
I had gone to 6 am prayer at my church a few times in the 2 weeks before my suicide attempt, and spent the time praying, but also in meditation, focusing on developing my bond with God. I focused closely on the prayer that the people around me wouldn’t become distractions in my relationship with God.
See… basically, I’m a bit different from the majority at my church. I think outside of the box, and I’m far more liberal than most. No… like FARRRRR more liberal. As for politics, though, I really don’t see how that should affect spirituality and vice versa. My problem was that, I was capable of putting myself in that setting and being open enough to listen to what had to be said about God, but in casual conversation, I allowed minor opinions to affect how I felt about everything that I had grown to love. I also felt like I was often overlooked and invalidated because I am so liberal. The gist of it is: I could open my mind enough to go there, and they could open their minds enough to welcome me, but it stopped there. If they couldn’t otherwise accept my views, then that wasn’t really my problem, and it was just another opportunity for people to get between my relationship with God. I started to feel like the people around me wanted me to change my ways of thinking to look more like theirs. That’s when I bailed, and turn to “King of the Hill.”
I think a lot of people have that sort of reaction. Most of the people I know who cringe at the thought of “Christians,” do so because of people they’ve encountered who use their faith as a weapon of judgment and condemnation. I don’t blame them. Until recently, that had been my main experience of Christians too. I realize now that my experience of “Christians” really has nothing to do with my experience of God, and how I feel about Christ. Nope, those were two TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS.
My experience of survival after my suicide attempt, however, made me realize that my relationship with God was far more important than any judgment I had previously faced from people who claim Him, as well as any judgment I had previously put upon people who claim Him.
I realized a lot, actually. In the days after my literal reawakening, I had an increasing spiritual reawakening.
I had always heard the quotation that said “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) I came to understand that giving up on people because of the ways they judged me was hypocritical. If I expected them to not give up on me, I had to offer the same. My experience was sort of like God whispering in my ear to add, “people aren’t the point of spirituality anyway.” I do appreciate fellowship, but I also realize that I’m never going to fit into the mold of what people associate with followers of Christ. That’s fine by me. I had previously grasped onto all my bad habits, addictions, and toxic patterns because I assumed they held my identity. I didn’t want to lose my empathy, my creativity, and my quirkiness for the sake of dropping the negative. My experience made me realize that wasn’t an issue anyway. I realized that my past wasn’t haunting me anymore, and yet, I was still unique. I was focused and unmoved by things that used to break me, but just as determined to be an advocate for people with mental health issues and survivors of sexual violence.
I could pretend like it was “just” a suicide attempt, and nothing more, but it was more for me. When I got out of the hospital, I was surprised by people from my past who reached out to me for support. I also had a new outlook on life, and new thoughts on spirituality and mental health.
I used to think that suicide was a conscious and calculated decision. In my past experience, that was the case, but this was different. For whatever reason, I was in an altered state that went beyond not thinking rationally and became more dissociated. I realized that there are times in people’s lives when they will be in that state and take that drastic action without ever having made any decision at all, and without having much, if any, control over their actions.
For this very reason, I realized that I’m only in control of so much. I can take my meds, stay on schedule, respect my boundaries, and still fall short of taking care of what I need to survive. That’s when I realized that God is far more necessary than I had ever admitted. It is also when I realized that people are too insignificant for me to accept them as obstacles between God and myself. And on top of everything, I finally let go of the baggage I had lugged around for so long, because I knew that there are things that I can’t explain, things that are far bigger than myself. I had enough of a glimpse at the bigger picture to understand the purpose of my suffering for personal growth, and yet, the insignificance of it on a universal scale.
I would lie, and tell you that everything has been hunky dory since, if I thought compromising my integrity could serve some greater purpose. It won’t. It has been a struggle. I have faced speed bumps in my day-to-day life. I have argued with fellow church members. I’ve gotten in fights with my parents, and had moments when I felt helpless.
I see those moments as fleeting more than I ever have before, though.
I used to think that upheaval was a constant state of being. I used to feel resigned to my plight. These days, I’m more of a fighter. When conflict or turmoil arise, I reach out. I talk to loved ones and I pray constantly. When I’m being completely honest with myself, I see the obstacles as insignificant, and I’m overwhelmed by gratitude. When the past starts to creep back in to haunt me, I simply acknowledge that allowing it to haunt me will serve no greater purpose in this world, especially if I aspire to help those who have been through the struggles that I have been through.
I’m nowhere near perfect, which is fine. If we were perfect, humility would be difficult. I tried to keep that in mind when I felt the twinge of humiliation when reflecting upon being found naked in a hotel room, incoherent and surrounded by vomit. We all have our moments, and none of them look the same. It isn’t important to dwell, but it is important to acknowledge what we’ve faced and allow it to be an opportunity for learning and growth.
I feel more capable than ever. I don’t feel limited by my circumstances, because I realize that all things really are possible now. I’ve started pursuing new paths that I’ve known were in my future, but have consistently put off due to a nagging fear of failure.
Are there days when I’m fearful? Not really… but moments? Yes. I do sometimes fear that my past will creep up, like a gaining wave, and overpower me. Do I let that cripple me? No. Well, yes, but not for long. I’m human. I make mistakes and bad judgments, but I’m learning, not only about life, but about what I am capable of as a new person. I’m learning about myself in a spiritual context, and considering more and more who I am to God and who God is to me.
It is an odd thing to carry the possibility of hindrance in your brain, while everything else you feel is completely new. I suppose, in the end, it all comes down to being motivated by your newness, and always keeping your brain in check.
In closing, I want to share some important scripture with you. I focused on Psalm 91:11 while in the hospital, for the sake of reminding myself that God is watching over me. The only translation I had in the hospital was the King James Version, which isn’t my favorite. When I got out, I read each translation of it, and I settled on The Message’s version of the passage. It is awesome, and motivating. Whenever I have doubts, these words help me feel safe.
Psalm 91:1-14 (The Message)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence…
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon…
no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance…
Yes, because God is your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes
p.s. I also want to add that my month and a half with the Hill family of Arlen, Texas wasn’t completely useless. I did learn this:
Lucky: You took the wrong message from what that preacher was screaming at you. You can’t go throwing stones at others until you’ve thrown a bunch of stones at yourself.
Bobby Hill: I guess you’re right.
Lucky: Besides, saving souls is not your job. That position is taken, in Heaven by the Big Man, and on screen by Morgan Freeman.