The shame of feeling wrong (My mental illness makes me feel wrong so I will use that this whole post)
Being wrong is, wrong, it's so much better to be right. That sounds totally logical and so simplistic that it answers itself.
For some reason this blog post isn't for me, it is but it is. When something is wrong with us, that wrong thing is so much a part of us that we can't share it. It feels shameful. A part of the being that I am is wrong. We've seen people go on Dr. Oz or some other show to promote awareness about a problem. To get a dialogue going so people would talk about what is WRONG and get help for it and know there isn't any shame in it.
Let me tell you first that starting this blog was a way for me to start being Okay. Some of you have read my posts this past week and since this is the first you are hearing from me about this you are concerned about this crisis I'm going through. I've had a terrible week, yes. Compared to the whole picture this has been a hiccup, but one that has happened (as it will inevitably do) on my way back up. Understand, please keep praying about me and please keep rooting for me I have lots to do. but this blog has been about putting that stuff out where I can have a dialogue with myself that I know others will see. I used to write about my feelings but I kept them in a secret hidden place on my computer and no one knew about them. Since, no one ever saw it I allowed myself to say all of those nasty things that I was thinking about myself thinking I was getting it all out. I wasn't however analyzing things that I didn't like and looking for way to improve them if I could or deal with them if I couldn't change them. I whipped myself with my own words then hid the scars from anyone else. This blog is about keeping that journal but keeping myself honest because I know my friends would never stand for those awful things to be said about me, even by me. If this blog has been shocking I apologize, don't read further because the real truth is much more shocking.
Before I say the shocking part. I want you to know why I feel like I need to. What I did not realize when I started this blog and threw open to everybody was that I have done the unthinkable. Even though we seem to feel shame about being wrong I stood up and bared that wrongness to the world, albeit for my own issues and not because I wanted to bring any awareness about it. Truly I was thinking of myself when I started it. Since then I have had to open my eyes. Handfuls of people have contacted me in the past 2 days telling me that they were rooting for me but also revealing their own struggles with wrongness. I found out a close blood relation was medicated for a very long time for very similar problems to mine. Some people that I was unaware that they could EVER have had problems told me about their struggles. I won't say anymore because someone else's "Wrongness" is for them to share not me.
I can tell you about what I've been hiding. It goes much deeper than just the anxiety. When I closed the music studio last year I was very hurt. As anyone would be. You lose something important to you that you've invested so much time in it feels like someone died. because I was also so anxious and dealing with it was hard I blamed myself, partly, it was rightly so, we see our mistakes so we can fix them and move on. But I lost confidence in myself which allowed the anxiety the had always been more of an annoying eccentricity to take hold and grow into a monster.
Kind of like the bacteria that causes some forms of strep that already lives inside us and we exist symbiotically with but sometimes a situation can come that allows it to take hold and go into super growth and we get sick.
My quirks began to eat at me and I was too depressed to fight them off. Then we got a teenager, well he was already there but that thing which clicks in all teenagers that makes them do the exact opposite of what we tell them is good for them turned on and in addition to my other failure I began to feel like a failure as a parent too.
To extend the previous analogy. I had the flu, the strep seized that opportunity to grow and while I was fighting off the first two I got pneumonia too.
This was my chosen profession. Stay-at home dad was a choice my wife and I made together and I had up until this point reveled in it. I had up until this point even been good at it. Tina tries to tell me that I did things that she never could have or would have thought of to solve things. I don't buy that because she is also an amazing nurturer and would have done things her own way maybe better maybe not but we can't really know. Still with a grain of salt added to her words I felt that I didn't have to judge myself up against the super moms out there. I was DAD and I was doing it because I was good at it.
But suddenly nothing I did seemed right. That's when I kept the journal. I didn't talk to anyone. I didn't get help. I was angry all the time. I did get to sing with some friends and it was like taking one of those cough syrups with the pain medicine in. It helped me to cope. It did however only treat the symptoms not the root. Secretly I had an infection I was hiding deep inside of me and it was slowly poisoning me.
If that's the case though that infection has to come out or it will kill you from inside, and quite literally it almost did. If you've read up to here this is one more chance to turn around because this is the true part that I've been coming to. This is the part that I want you to hear so if you are struggling too you don't let it get this bad. That you get some help, friends, family doctors whatever.
Last April things got to their worst. One night I argued with my teenager about his grades, and his homework. when we finally separated it was very late at night, and we were both seething mad at each other. While his anger stayed directed at me like any normal true-blue american teenager mad at his parents rules, I began to turn it around at the failure dad. I hated myself. I did stop yelling but I was cooking up a scheme.I was so fevered with the infection I had let grow inside of me that I could not see clearly where it was anymore and I pulled out that journal and feverishly wrote the worst of the things. I cursed myself. I cussed at myself. I read all of the things I had been writing and it convinced me...I could see the infection now. It was me. You may still turn around, you can guess what happens next but I intend to continue.
I gathered my supplies. I locked myself away from my family, in my room. I came out once. Thinking that I would make sure everyone knew that there was an infection in my home and I was going to take care of it I copied those awful untrue things and posted them on Facebook. It was my goodbye. Then they would know why and everything would be OK because I had fixed it for them. Back in my room , I had three bottles in front of me. I intended to empty the contents of all of them. At this point I was completely unaware of anything else, of my house, my family, of my friends in choir who were depending on me to perform that night, the people who were coming to the concert because it was one of the rare ones being held up north near me. They were all forgotten. I emptied the first bottle in the manner I intended...
...A tender mercy...
If you aren't religious, if you don't believe in divine intervention you can scoff if you want and think me a fool. I tell you left to myself I would have emptied the others...I didn't, I felt someone helping me and holding me. I put them down. the fever itself broke, I was still sick but I could see clearly again. I began to cry softly. As I cleared up more I realized what I had done and that what I had done would still have done the job I had intended to do without action. I felt myself wail. (I was embarrassed by it. Sorry if this is a weird aside but even this tiny bit of momentary humor I felt was a tender mercy and it calmed me more and made me feel better about something from long before. I had heard that wail once before come from me. It happened at my son's funeral and I had the same embarrassed thought then too. It sounded like a fake sob like you see of paid mourners on TV. A real sad person didn't wail like that. But I finally learned that sometimes it's OK to wail) momentary embarrassment turned to action. I unlocked my bedroom door and ran into the arms of my wife. I didn't have time to send my kids away (my only true regret in the moment save what I had done) I told her everything. She panicked.
My amazing RN wife panicked and worried that having to deal with strangers about my mental health issues would cause me anxiety. She wanted me to purge. This is humorous, as a child I hated to vomit. I hated it so bad I taught myself not to. I prided myself in my self control. However I had learned how to control it so well that even if I needed to I couldn't. It was involuntary now. Ipecac syrup. Nope, super dad had seen that it had expired and thrown it out a few years back and couldn't replace it because the stores don't carry it anymore. Which also meant what was in my stomach was still potent. I agreed to try to gag myself, no luck. Failed. I even let my wife try. Still that helping hand was there and I had some reason left, I have to go to the hospital. I can only learn to deal with this and the consequences if I live to do so and I have to go. She knew I was right. Good friends already were watching for me. One contacted my brother.
"Have you seen what Tim posted?"
I didn't know about the conversations, my wife was driving me to the emergency room. I was realizing that I had to deal with my first consequence, the choir. I did it all by text. I couldn't have done it any other way at the time. I told two people. I let slip a little too much to one of them but I wasn't as worried about him as the other him. Our director. I didn't want to let him down. All I could say was that I was going to the ER and that it was something I ate. It wasn't really a lie and it was the most I could get out. By the time we pulled into the parking lot I was starting to feel a little groggy. Not too much but I was worried. From here on out the hand was there but the chemicals would make me less and less aware and it was up to me to fight to keep hold of it.
I have tried to spare some of the details and will skip ahead a little faster. The next 4 or 5 or 6 hours, I'm not really sure, were a blur of anxiety about slipping away, the taste of charcoal, and worrying about that poor security guard they called to the nurses station that they wouldn't seem to let go and they just kept making him wait. I kept thinking he must be bored.
"Why wouldn't the nurses acknowledge him?"
From my bed I could see the poor fellow had rushed to respond to their call only to be kept waiting.
I focused on him because when I looked away the room moved and I thought. "Maybe it was the room?Maybe it was something in the room... No it was the room" My jaw hurt, "It hurts because you can't close it. Better use all your muscle, Okay maybe you could close it, I hope I didn't break any fillings slamming my jaw closed so fast."
Eventually the scary stopped. I fought. I won. I began to be clear. I realized the room was moving only in the same way that it moved when you were dizzy (the memory of this made my recent turn with the youngest on the teacups at Lagoon not as pleasant as it should have been since this past year all those push-up have made me strong enough to spin it faster than I can handle). The movement in the room was just the movement of the clock. Finally I was clear enough to realize the poor security guard (he had to have been 21 at the oldest) was doing his urgent job the whole time. He was watching me. Keeping me safe from me. He didn't know that he was doing it in more ways than he could have understood. He was put there so he could see me, but in choosing to be where I could see him he helped to save me. My wife's touch beside me, the pain in my teeth as they slammed down, and my worry about the poor forgotten security guard pulled me through. The doctor confirmed that I had made it through the scary time with out the complications with my heart and breathing that they were watching for and I was out of the woods.
Stupid as it sounds I looked at the clock and thought, if I can deal with the inevitable mental health worker that's on his or her way in next, and get this darn IV out.....
"When did that get there?"
If I can deal with that I could still get home and get my tuxedo and make it just in time for the concert. I really wanted to be there. I hated this consequence too. In actuality my time estimates were pretty spot on but I realized by then that I needed to rest. Real rest, not fitful scary rest.
We talked. we came up with our plan. I promised not to keep secret ranting journals anymore. I repeatedly asked my children for forgiveness, especially the teenager who I knew would be blaming himself. I discussed with my family whether I should still go on tour with the choir and they told me I should. We planned. I could see the future again. Not a lot of it yet. But seeing a future was a huge leap forward. I learned my amazing friends and family and their conversations had succeeded in penetrating my secure Facebook account and removing the awful things I put there.
I reminded myself to hide my passwords from the teenager better since it was his help that allowed the merciful hack. Now I have to type a password in whenever the screensaver comes on. Consequence.
I learned that some of my fellow choir members had guessed most of what happened. One confided their own struggles in me and it was that person I leaned on for that tour. I hope I wasn't too much of a burden. they've become like a sibling to me. Consequence.
I started this because I thought I had to, because I was worried for some of you, my friends, who had your own struggles. I am realizing at this moment, that you are the security guard. I had to focus on you to get through this but I needed to say it. I am feeling a calmness that I haven't felt for such a long time. I realize in this very moment the biggest anxiety I've been holding on to. Someone finding out my secret. That somehow you would discern what I had done, and judge me for it because I hadn't been able to explain it to you. I know now you wouldn't. But I needed to have the journey in explaining.
Lastly. Now that I have said that, you can understand me when I say I've been meeting regularly with my Stake President. Consequence.
He asks me to tell him each time about a tender mercy that I've noticed. I'm not sure how I will describe this one. As a missionary we were counseled not to go into our own past transgressions. It can take you down a dark road. Some said it killed the spirit. But sometimes we were still compelled to share.
I've said lastly and I haven't gotten to that point yet have I?
I saw only one set of footprints in the sand that day, one thing I did know, they weren't mine. There were tender mercies strewn through out it all. My friends. The security guard. The pain in my teeth, the strong warm and still, gentle, touch of my eternal companion at my side. The presence that held me and guided me and made me put down the bottle and begin to fight for my life. That moment when I realized it had always been OK to wail if the situation truly called for it. If the emotion couldn't get out any other way.
If you want to call me a fool for believing, you may. For the first time in a very long time because I have been too afraid of talking to people to do so. I testify in the tender mercies of the atonement of Christ. I testify now to you that he is real and he loves us. No matter how many times you fall. The atonement is continuous. He doesn't just give it to you once. It's there. If you like the parable of the bicycle. Understand, He isn't taking you to the store to buy it. He owns all of the bikes. He has them ready for you. Whether you bring Him a penny or a thousand dollars or the sweat of your brow. I you think you lost the bike after obtaining it. It's still there.
He owns the atonement and it's there for us. Each of us. This is my testimony.