The title says it all. I may be back, or I may not.
The title says it all. I may be back, or I may not.
The older I get the more I realize that even if things do get better, it’s always temporary. The good days feel like a tease and a cruel joke because when the bad comes, it’s like it laser. It targets all those things to make sure I feel the maximum amount of pain.
People always give laughable examples of what could be my thing to fight for, but what is and isn’t worth it are very personal things to a soul. I need something to cling to that makes ME feel like I have a purpose.
For the last several years I had several things. They meant everything to me. One by one they all were taken. I don’t have it in me to start over again. Every few years I cycle through this. Just because it might be good again a few years from now doesn’t make it worth the suffering now.
Each and every time it gets harder. Each and every time I am more alone in the fight. And with the direction the world is heading now, I see only darkness and hopelessness for us all. I am amazed that so many people can just keep going on like things are fine. -Brona Storm
I’m gonna take a holiday,
Be somewhere far away,
I won’t be back for a while,
For a long long time.
— Hanoi Rocks, “Oriental Beat”
Topaz has been doing better. Back in July, his supervisor (who is also his friend), challenged him to remember this single word: believe. Topaz made a poster with that single word for his office wall at work.
In autumn of this year, Topaz volunteered and was selected at his job for a very long business trip to the Middle East. He can’t be any more specific than this. This has shown that Topaz has been growing and overcoming his mental health issues (with the help of medication of course).
Topaz isn’t healed, nor has he “arrived.” He is simply trying harder and doing better than he has in years. He praises God for this. Through His help, Topaz has become more self-reliant and confident in his abilities.
Will this very long assignment halfway around the world change him more? Perhaps. We will just have to check in later and find out.
Today happens to be the third Sunday in Advent. Topaz was especially struck by this reading. It is Philippians 4:4-7:
Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Topaz has a long, exciting journey ahead of him. He will keep you updated (he doesn’t post very often though).
I don’t know if it’s from my Starbucks mocha that I’m still nursing, or if it’s from losing my temper with my two little boys this morning after my younger one’s basketball game.
But I’m suddenly having flashbacks of the mental ward and how I was kept in there against my will — a prisoner cut off from the real world.
I recall pushing my face against the barred window, straining to get a glimpse of some trees or grass.
The feeling of helplessness. Madness. Panic in being trapped.
Now here I am. I’m free. My body. I can go wherever I wish. I can sit here at a bookstore and read while the old, the young, the obese, the hot eye candy, the children pass by, consumed by their Saturday afternoon.
A staff member walks past me, unaware of my thoughts. My feelings. My darkness.
I can simply lash out at anyone — anything — in an instant and ruin lives. Ruin my own. Forever.
The thought scare me. They cut through the medicated complacency that I enjoy.
This book could help me. The entire religion section could. The self help section could. Even the half-nude women on the car mags, on the literary mags, on the _______ mags.
Oh well, just my thoughts. Don’t mind me.
Or should you?
Photo by Topaz
I should be happy with my life because I’ve found God and His Church, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I have two healthy, happy sons, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I have a wife who is honest and loves our family, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I have a full-time job, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I am healthy, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because my family and I aren’t homeless or starving, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I can just change my thinking and be positive, but I can’t.
I should be happy with my life because I can make changes and please my wife, but I can’t.
I shouldn’t be happy without my life because all my pain and suffering can end right here and now, but I am.
I found a new psychiatrist, and I was able to see him this past Friday. Initially I wasn’t going to write about the experience, but some of my readers have been asking how it went. (It’s great to know that people read this thing.)
If you’ve been following my blog, perhaps you remember my experiences with the first two doctors that I had after leaving the psych ward late last year. Both doctors were from the same part of the globe, and I felt like they didn’t relate to me very well. The first one threw a hissy fit when I came to see her after my second suicide attempt. She ended up kicking me out. Like, literally.
The second doctor would freak out and start massaging his temples whenever I responded to his greeting with anything other than “I’m great.” He essentially let me be my own doctor by letting me choose my medication and dosages. I stayed with him because I was tired of shrink searching. God knocked me out of my comfort zone, however, when that doctor suddenly informed me that he would no longer accept my insurance.
There are a lot of foreign-born doctors practicing in the U.S. Apparently not enough Americans are choosing/able to pursue the medical field, and I have no problem seeing a foreign-born doctor for an annual physical exam or to treat my flu symptoms. When it comes to my mental health, however, I need someone who is patient, understanding, and who can empathize with my illness and not be scared away when my condition fluctuates.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying foreign-born shrinks are all bad and that you should avoid them. It’s just that I’m seeing a negative pattern starting to form.
I went to my insurance website to get a list of psychiatrists within a ten-mile radius of where I live. The list was short because there were only two.
The first one was the psycho lady who kicked me out. The other one was Dr. Ariston Korhonen. Great.
I called the office to find out more information about the doctor. The conversation went something like this:
Receptionist: Good afternoon, Dr. Korhonen’s office. (Good. She pronounced the name for me.)
Me: Um… Hi. I’d like to see the doctor. (My verbal skills are not so eloquent.)
Receptionist: OK. How about tomorrow morning? (Dang. No wait? Is he that bad?)
Me: Uh, how about Friday?
Receptionist: Sure. Is 9:00 okay?
Me: Yeah. Um, can I ask you a question? (I’m sure she was used to weird questions. After all, she works for a shrink.) Is the doctor, uh, is the doctor… from here?
Receptionist: Yes. He’s a white guy with a funny name.
Me: I, uh, didn’t mean anything bad by that. It’s just that… well… I mean…
Receptionist: I understand. See you Friday.
She also told me to show up 30 minutes before my appointment to fill out paperwork. I was used to crowded waiting rooms, so, out of habit, I arrived 45 minutes early.
The waiting room was desolate. I half-expected to see tumbleweeds blowing past me.
The “paperwork” consisted of a one-page personal information sheet. It took me all of five minutes to complete and turn in. I was about to go back to my car and get my phone before the receptionist happily informed me that the doctor was ready.
As I passed by the lady’s desk, I saw a tall, lanky guy surfing the ‘net with his back to me. It looked like he was browsing through the celebrity news on Yahoo.
Without turning around, the guy said, “First door on the right. I’ll be right there.”
Okay. It looks like I’m second to Miley Cyrus. Wonderful.
The rest of the visit was pretty mundane. He asked me a whole bunch of questions, and, by the end, I had spilled my guts about everything related to my illness.
It was traumatic enough to relive everything. The doctor’s exclamations weren’t necessary, though. I mean, did the psychiatrist really have to blurt out “Oh my gosh!” after I mentioned each suicide attempt?!
At the end of our session, I commented on one of the three framed diplomas on the wall. “Oh, you did your residency at the same psych ward where I was. When was that?” It was an innocent enough question I thought.
“Umm, last year. SO, I will see you in about a month, okay?”
Stay positive. Stay positive…
“You’ve said that three times during this session. Did you realize that?”
Mel’s coal-black eyes bored into me. No, I hadn’t realized that. Why should I? Wasn’t this a therapy session?
We were knee-deep in clutter. This place resembled more of a storage closet than an office.
“No, I guess I didn’t.” I put my hand up to my mouth and waited to see what she would say next.
“Scott, you’re not mentally ill.” She let that hang in the air while she kept staring at me.
Then why in the world am I here? Why did I try to kill myself a year ago? Why do I get so deep into depression that I need medication just to stay afloat? All these questions flooded my mind as I held her eye contact.
I decided to play her game some more. “I’m not?”
“No. You are just a little bit off. All you need is some guidance to get back on track.”
“But several psychiatrists and therapists have told me that I suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.”
Mel raised her eyebrows. “They told you.”
What on earth was she insinuating? I started meeting with Mel because 1) she works for free; 2) she is qualified; and 3) she is a faithful Catholic and attends my parish. At this point, though, maybe I should go back to the Mormon Army guy who always yelled at me to have sex with my wife.
I’m the type of person who sometimes plays along just to see exactly where a conversation is going. I call it picking my battles; others refer to it as being a spineless wimp.
Screw the latter ones.
Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve been told that I get too angry and let my emotions get me into trouble. Or maybe I’m just unlucky and am destined to wander around through life, getting kicked and bumped until God says my time is up and I become worm food.
I was getting flustered. “So you don’t think I suffer from depression?” How could she say no to this one?
“No,” she said, leaning forward, her elbows resting on the round table between us. “You don’t suffer from depression. There’s nothing wrong with you. Stop thinking that.”
What the %#$& do you know about me? That’s what I wanted to say, but the timid part of myself won.
But there is something wrong with me. I’ve thought about suicide ever since high school. I need pills just to feel “normal.”
“Stop saying you are mentally ill. Stop saying you have depression. Better yet, stop thinking it. If you keep telling yourself something, you’ll eventually start to believe it. The mind is very powerful.”
I have to admit that my first thought was, Ah, crap. Now I’ll have to change the tagline of my blog. “Oh, wow. You’re right.”
Why did I say that? Oh, I know why: because I’m a wimp. Wait, no. Because I didn’t feel like getting into it. After all, she’s the one with LCSW and M.Psych. after her name.
It all made sense. Sure.
When my wife comes tromping up behind me, I’m supposed to think, I don’t have PTSD. When I walk into a room at work and everybody scatters like cockroaches, I’ll think, I’m not paranoid.
Suicidal thoughts. Nope. I’m normal. Driving on the highway, hands gripping the wheel so tightly because I’m freaking out. No anxiety here.
Maybe there is no such thing as the perfect therapist. Maybe the new shrink that I’m scheduled to see in a few weeks will turn out to be another psycho who boots me to the curb again.
I tried for years to be my own counselor and psychiatrist, and that didn’t work out too well. I realized that while I was riding in the back of a Sheriff’s cruiser as I was being transferred from one psych ward to another.
So now I’m having to ration my medication because I won’t see the new doctor for another week, and I only have a three-day supply remaining. You don’t need them, Scott. Remember?
Oh, yeah. Been there. Done that. Not pretty.
“How’s your prayer life?”
“Um, it could be better.”
Mel raised her eyebrows again and let out a sarcastic Hmm.
After the session, I trudged by the statue of Mary in the church garden and plopped down on the stone bench. “Please pray for me,” I said, gazing at the Mother of God. “I don’t know what to do.”
(photo by Topaz)