Please Help Me! Humbly Reaching Out

Yeah, I know what follows is long-winded and maybe even boring, but I’m crying out for help! No, not money or material goods. I just need my friendly readers, many of whom have become friends, to listen and possible offer understanding, some guidance and direction, as well as emotional support and encouragement… Yes, I’m admitting it and crying out! I need your help and will deeply, deeply appreciate what you have to offer! Thank you, and now on to the matter at hand:

My housemate is fully schizophrenic, an adult schizophrenic. This is her diagnosis, and she frequently ~ well, everyday ~ presents multiple symptoms. (And, of course, I don’t blame her at all … not one bit. It’s not at all her fault, and she deserves love and compassionate, as well as tender loving care, probably necessary on a daily basis.) Yet even though I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist, still I’ve lived with her around two years now, with the last eight months in close quarters. And I’ve just about concluded she also has some sort of dissociative disorder.

Well, okay, I’ve looked it up in the DSM-5 and the APA Dictionary of Psychology, and I’ve researched some articles over the months, especially recently, and … no, of course I can’t say for sure. Still, some observations can be made, and I’d like to share these and then move to something more personal. Anyway, my friend and housemate self-reports having at least one other “spirit” resident in her body. In other words, someone else is co-habituating. This other person has a name, Leonard, and according to her, he was a Korean War veteran-turned-preacher.

Somehow, evidently, Leonard “lost” his body. I’m thinking he just died, but anyway… At some point after this, he “met” my friend, whom I’ll simply call Jane Doe, and decided to make a home in her body or, as she puts it, live in her body until he can find another one for himself. And yeah, it kind of, sort of sounds like possession, but she’s fully aware of his presence, and she always seems to be fully aware of herself at all times. Really I’ve concluded that the best way to describe Jane Doe’s situation is with the word “cohabitation.” Leonard and Jane are cohabitating in her body. More specifically, it seems to be a spiritual cohabitation in one physical body, stemming from an otherwise disembodied spirit’s temporary need of physical “housing,” or “residency,” as it were.

Jane Doe carries on full-fledged conversations with Leonard throughout the day (and night!), and frequently receives instructions from him. This cohabitating spirit has, by her own admission, claimed authority in her life. Furthermore, she fully believes Leonard has something like a direct line to heaven, to God. God, or the Lord, speaks directly to Leonard, who in turn speaks to her. And if she does not cooperate and/or obey Leonard, she has many times since I’ve known her ~ rather consistently, in fact ~ claimed that Leonard has, or would eventually, punish her somehow. These punishments can come in the form of, say, stomach ache, headache, painful ear infection, vomiting, etc.

There are other “individuals” in the scope of her “reality,” or unreality, though. For example, there is someone named “Nancy.” I cannot say for certain (believe it or not!) whether she actually converses with any of these other individuals. Jane Doe speaks about them. They are very much part of her “reality.” And this all leads to something even stranger, which is what Jane refers to as “doing” someone else. For example, she frequently talks about herself “doing” a little girl, or Nancy “doing” mother or wife, or Leonard “doing” one of her (Jane’s) three sons, who haven’t even been born yet. Jane has even taken to telling me that I’m going to “do” someone in her life … sometimes one of her little boys, for example.

Stemming from this very odd idea is also the thought/belief that she will live (somehow) for centuries to come. And I’d almost say this partly comes from some deep desire not to die, of course, but when she talks about different possible stages in an ongoing mutating “life” or existence, it doesn’t sound to me like Jane Doe is really grasping the concept of time. And it doesn’t seem to bother her, or even be particularly important to her. And I mean lengths of time don’t seem to be crucial. What’s happening, or is supposed to happen, is what’s crucial. And let me try to be as clear as possible in the picture I’m painting here: 

  • Another spirit, “Leonard,” is cohabitating with Jane Doe within her physical body
  • This spirit will be resident along with her in her body until he “finds” another body for himself; in the meantime, both spirits ~ Leonard and Jane Doe ~ reside in the one body more or less equally and are (seemingly at least) equally conscious at all times. (In other words, Jane Doe never apparently “checks out,” and neither does Leonard.)
  • Other “individuals” are also very much part of Jane’s unreality, and figure prominently into her ongoing view/perspective/grasp of “reality”
  • Jane and Leonard, along with x-number of these other “persons,” sometimes including me, will eventually live out another life together not currently being lived, and this other life will indeed be very different, i.e. essentially a different existence that will play out sometime in the future
  • Finally, many such “lifes,” or radically different existences, will unfold in the future, evidently one following another, with no end-point in sight

Now, some things have come to my mind, even if they’re a bit wacky, but I’ve been trying to make sense of it all. Of course, like I’ve already said, classic spiritual possession comes to mind, although in Jane’s case it doesn’t manifest like typical spiritual possession. There’s also the New Age concept of “walk-in spirits” that seems to fit the bill here, but I really don’t know much about this. Then living out different existences in the future has made me think of reincarnation, but … I’ve never heard of anyone knowing beforehand how and into who or what they’ll be reincarnated. I mean, supposing reincarnation is real ~ just a fact of life in this world ~ still, do folks typically know who and what they’re going to be over the next few centuries … along with all the situations and circumstances … including who and what several other “individuals” are going to be, specifically their identities and roles in life??? I don’t think so. At least, I’ve never heard of anything like this associated with the idea/belief in reincarnation.

Well, enough psychoanalysis from me. I’m at my wits end just continuing to live in and with this situation. I love this Jane Doe, as a friend, and care about her, but the constant almost-insane conversations with Leonard, or whoever, along with frequent maniacal laughter (which is rather disturbing in itself) has all left me drained … almost totally wiped out. Eight months living with her in close quarters, with very little interaction with others (mostly because we live out in the boonies), and being subjected to several such psychotic manifestations has really taken its toll on me. And I don’t know what to do. I’ve come to the conclusion, as I shared in another recent blog post, that I cannot provide Jane Doe total care. I cannot, as my friend and landlord likes to put it, “handle” her, much less actually cure, or heal, her. I’m just not able, but what frightens me more now is what’s quite evidently happening to me. I’m losing my grip, to put it mildly. I’m on the edge of just totally falling apart, and believe me I know what that’s like! Been there, done that already! And I don’t … I can’t go down that road again.

So what do I do? Well, I’m thinking it’s time for me to move, perhaps closer to town, and involve myself in good, healthy extracurricular activities with healthy, stable people. Also, since leaving the group home I’ve seriously intended to continue my education, and that’s something I can do online. I’ve planned on working on an MA in either liberal arts or community counselling. I’m seriously thinking I need to really pursue that goal now. No more time to waste! Somehow, though, I’ve got to move on and into some better, healthier situation in life … for my own good. But then, what about this Jane Doe? What happens to her? Well, of course I want her to be safe and secure. Certainly I want her to have a roof over her head, bed to sleep in, at least two square meals a day (if not three), the professional care she needs, etc. But is it realistic to think I can provide this? I don’t think so. In fact, ultimately I can’t even make sure she ends up in a good facility of some sort, like the group home where we originally met.

Ah, now I’ve gone on for so long! Well, if you can, please help me sort through all this! I need your good counsel/advice, as well as any encouragement you might graciously offer. And thanks!

 

Crazy Life: Doing What’s Best, Saying Farewell

For about 24 hours now the conversations with invisible others and the maniacal laughter has been almost incessant. My housemate seems to be going off the deep-end and there’s nothing I can do about it. Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea for her to leave the group home after all, something at least one mental health technician (MHT) told me at the time. How was I to know, though? She seemed so … well, okay.

Having lived with Mary in close quarters for 14 months in the Samson Group Home, I figured I knew her well enough. Yes, I knew she talked to her “boyfriend” every day. I even knew she believed he somehow lived inside her, but it never seemed to make that much difference. I mean, all in all, she was not only functional, but she became a good friend. So I guess I allowed myself to believe I could “handle” her “eccentricities.”

More recently, however, she has been talking to “people” about dark rings in the bathtub, someone being “blind as a bat,” ladybugs, whether to drink beer or Coke cola… She’s even been talking about me while I’m present, as if I’m no where around! And with all of this ongoing, convoluted conversation has been the constant, maniacal laughter … very loud, very insane, like something out of a dark movie.

Well, this has caused me to take a step back, and take a good hard look at Mary’s situation here, and I’ve had to conclude that it’s not been healthy for her for quite awhile now. Since leaving the group home, she’s devolved into basically sleeping irradicably, drinking mass quantities of coffee, and smoking up towards two pack of cigarettes a day. No real exercise, no reading, and the only good meals being the ones I prepare for her.

All in all, I simply am not able to provide the kind of stability and structure she evidently needs. I hate it, too, because I feel like a failure … and, in some sense, I feel like a traitor. I spoke with her this morning and encouraged her to please call her case worker to see if there was an opening at one of the four group homes in the area. I did my dead-level best to be kind and loving, to explain why … but, of course, she was hurt.

More than this, though, our landlord, who also happens to be a lifelong friend of mine, has really been strained by some troubling tendencies anyway, such as: Throwing hot ashes in the kitchen waste-can, urinating in the bed without cleaning the mattress (at least without being told), and not doing laundry on a regular basis, which leaves an odor in her part of the house. He is a kind soul, who wants what is best for her, but…

At any rate, my friend certainly agrees with me that dear Mary will, in all likelihood, be much better off in the more stable and secure environment of a group home. This still does nothing to alleviate my sadness. Hopefully one day, maybe sooner than later, she will be able to see that this was best. I pray so … but even if she never can, even if she never forgives me, this is for the best. Period.

Right now she’s out on the back porch holding a multi-person conversation, and frequently laughing maniacally. And this comes after being up all through the night last night… Now I believe I know better than ever why good, healthy group homes with dedicated MHTs, nurses, counsellors, psychiatrists, etc. are so very necessary. And just to think, we’ve been gutting mental health funding in this country for decades! (Perhaps another article for another time…) 

Phantasy of a Phantom Lover

It was something about having three kids instead of two, so-and-so having the ace of spades rather than the ace of clubs, hot-air balloons, and how very much “Jill” has always liked working on hot-air balloons. And then I heard my friend, “Jane Doe,” say to “John,” her boyfriend, that she really wanted to spend at least two years together before having a family and taking on more responsibilities.

All through this “conversation,” her boyfriend seemed to answer, or at least Jane was, at times, evidently responding to John. None of this really surprised me, because I’d lived with my friend in a group home for 14 months already and, thus, was quite used to her strange and  quirky “conversations,” and none of this is really unusual for schizophrenics. But Jane’s case is indicative of another condition, called “phantom-lover syndrome.”

Phantom-lover syndrome is “a type of erotic delusion elaborated around a person who in fact does not exist,”[1] yet for Jane her boyfriend (and fiancée, for that matter) is very real, indeed. In fact, he is said to be an older man, veteran of the Korean War, spiritual leader and Bible teacher, who is so close to the Lord that they communicate directly on a day-to-day basis. But this case of phantom love goes even further with Jane.

Asked where he lives, she usually answers, “up in Alaska.” Asked about how and when they communicate, (because no one has ever noticed her on the phone with John), she responds that they communicate “spiritually.” You see, John really lives inside of Jane, not in Alaska. She shared her secret with me, and explained that she doesn’t tell this to others because they would think she is crazy. (Well, that is, perhaps, quite understandable!)

And why does John live inside of Jane? Because, unfortunately, he currently has no body of his own. He will rectify this one day, finding a suitable body of his own to inhabit, and then John will come to fetch Jane away to be his wife, and the date for this is always December 31st of whatever year… Of course, many years have passed now and, obviously, John has never come to whisk her away, yet Jane continues to believe John, never suspecting that he might be lying to her or, better yet, that he might simply be an illusion.

Obviously, John inhabiting Jane’s body, (without kicking her out, mind you) sounds like some form of possession, although not malevolent, which in turn points toward some kind of dissociative disorder.[2] But possession may not be the best descriptive, as Jane experiences no apparent loss of control over herself, nor does she obviously enter into any kind of trance.[3] On the other hand, John exercises some control over her life, i.e. how she thinks and feels, what she wants and does not want, what she will and will not do, etc.

For example, although Jane presents herself as a staunchly conservative, evangelical Christian, she is apparently not allowed to attend church. As the reason for this prohibition, she claims that she and her boyfriend only like and/or appreciate “house churches.” When asked, in other words, she will simply say, “My boyfriend and I don’t go to regular churches. We don’t like organized religion. We only go to house churches.”

Of course, one could easily charge that Jane is merely using her “boyfriend” as an easy excuse for not attending church, which is something she would otherwise feel obligated to do, given her background and present beliefs. Perhaps, then, a better example would be her promise to an older friend that, after a year or so of marriage, she and her husband will bring her into their home and take care of her. Why? Because her boyfriend said so … but during their first year of marriage, of course, they have a lot of business to which they must attend.

Perhaps all of this is common with phantom lovers, I don’t know, but one fact is certain: There is no convincing Jane that her boyfriend is really illusory. I have not made the attempt, but know others who have, and Jane’s reaction is very predictable: She becomes upset, if not angry, and simply cuts off any relationship with that person. So … how would a counsellor/therapist address this problem? How can it be constructively addressed? Of course, she is on medication — she receives a shot once-a-month — but the medicine does nothing to alleviate her suffering … or so it seems to me.

Then again, maybe she’s not suffering? This is a distinct possibility, I suppose. After all, she appears to be happy, or at least content, most of the time. Maybe, then, John is more of a welcome addition to her life? I guess this is possible. Sometimes (oftentimes?) real reality can be like a living hell, which is why not a few people try somehow to escape as much as they can. And who among us has not built some fantastical world for ourselves? I know I have Point in fact, I still do, just without communicating with some phantasy lover/companion.

There is one downside in her relationship with John, (maybe more, of course), and that is that he frequently makes her itch all over. Why? She has never given a reason, but if unwanted itching is the only negative she has to put up with in her “relationship” with John, then Jane might be better off than a lot of folks with real lovers! Who knows? But at least she seems fairly happy with the arrangement… It might actually do her worse if a counsellor/therapist somehow managed to disrupt her para-reality. Best, then, to just leave it alone? Maybe so, and who knows? One day I might enjoy having a phantom lover myself!


[1] American Psychological Association, APA Dictionary of Psychology, 694

[2] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), 300.14, although no loss of personal agency or amnesia is evident, 292 – 294; perhaps, instead, 300.15, Other Specified Dissociative Disorder, which “includes identity disturbance associated with less-than-marked discontinuities in sense of self and agency, or alterations of identity or episodes of possession in an individual who reports no dissociative amnesia,” 306

[3] Jonathan Smith and William Scott Green, eds., The Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion, 850

Crazy Life: Homeward Bound

Crying tears into an everflowing river of fears,
We live at home wherever we are, not very far,
And we make our bed on what we’ve soulishly fed,
Clinging to dreams ere before they are dead

My best friend came to visit me one Saturday early in August not only to see and spend some time, but also to “rescue” me. Sadly, his mother had just died, following the death of his father a few years before, leaving their house empty. As an only child, he inherited the home, located next to his own, and he really was at a loss as to what he might do with the property … until he thought of me.

Steve graciously offered me the residence at an affordable (for me) monthly rent. From a strictly practical point of view, it was an offer I could not turn down, but from a psychological standpoint I was actually afraid. Just thinking about living in a “regular” home, especially by myself, frightened me and made me anxious. I wondered if I could do it … that is, if I would be able to make it.

My friend was far more confident. He point-blank said, “I know you can make it. I believe in you. You can do this, and a whole lot more… It’s time, Jonathan.” He continued with an apt analogy. “You’re like an eagle whose wing was injured. You needed time to heal, but now you’ve healed and, even though it might be kind of scary, it’s time for you to fly again.” Wow! I was dumbfounded.

Steve saw more in me than I saw in myself, and he imparted that assurance very poignantly and effectively, so much so that I began to believe in myself again. After his visit, I still had doubts and fears, but I also had real hope that I might actually transition out of the group home back into the big, wide world. Being cautious, though, I decided to try it for two weeks, during which the group home would hold my bed.

Well, the two week trial period went very well. I immediately fell in love with the home, and of course it was quite nice having my best friend and his wife next door. And I didn’t really feel alone, which rather surprised me. And, too, for the first time in over a year I had continuous access to the Internet, to private phone service (that I could use without asking), and I was able to prepare all of my meals, which was wonderful!

Too, the place was out in the country, much like the group home, where I was surrounded by goats, chickens, cows, dogs, birds and so much more. Needless to say, at the end of my two week trial period, I decided that I did, indeed, want to transition out of the Samson Group Home into an independent, private residency, specifically my friend’s parents’ home. And, thus far, this has proven to be a good decision.

On top of this, another group home resident ended up moving in with me, which provided at least two good results: 1) I have continuous, friendly company in someone I got to know very well, and 2) Steve actually receives enough rental income now to at least cover the expenses of bills and upkeep of the house and property, (with no actual financial gain, mind you … just enough.)

So as I bring this series to a close, I believe I will, from time to time, address different psychological/mental/emotional topics. Where my story of group home life is concerned, I’ve pretty much told all worth telling, (and maybe more!) If anything else of potential interest comes to mind, of course I will share it with you, my dear readers. Till next time, God bless you, keep you, and grant you peace.


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

Crazy Life: A Little Less Crazy? But Still Guilty

Crazy Life: Dreams and Dreams Again

Crazy Life: In Praise of MHTs

Crazy Life: Mind of the Prisoner

Crazy Life: Mind of the Prisoner

To make it sound fancy, I suppose, I would call it the mens de captivus, meaning “the mind of the prisoner.” This is something ~ one powerful trait ~ I noticed while in the Samson Group Home. To expand on this definition, mens de captivus means “the whole mentality (perspective, world view) of the individual (almost) completely cloistered within a relatively small, insular community.” 

Many of the fine people with whom I lived displayed a mens de captivus at least to some degree ~ that is, their whole world essentially consisted of the “cloister,” or group home. Within this there were certain activities and relationships that proved very important, which are not (perhaps) nearly so important on the “outside.” Buying and selling cigarettes, for example, while technically not allowed, was a daily occurrence.

The relationships with mental health technicians (MHTs), therapists, and the group home director proved in many ways to be more fundamental than their relationship(s) to family and friends. I suppose this was due to the immediacy and constancy of those relationships. Of course, their/our relationships with one another were very important, and this all became at least somewhat dominant in group home life.

Consequently, life apart from this local, confined community ended up seeming rather foreign and, perhaps, frightening. While many, if not most, of the groups sessions were on some basic life skill (BLS), you could look around the room and see that some consumers were quite obviously not paying any attention, while still others (however few) were even falling asleep! (Granted, these sessions could be boring, but still…)

One fellow resident hit the nail on the head when she said, “It’s really sad. It’s heartbreaking… These people look so defeated. It’ s like they’ve just given up, like they have no hope!” True, and the emptying of any hope for life beyond the group home community was filled with a mens de captivus, that is, an entire life-perspective and feeling grown from within the “cloister.”

And this is really where I believe the Church, and other religious institutions (i.e. temple, mosque, synagogue, etc.), can really make a palpable difference. If good church folk can not only come by to visit, but somehow make arrangements to help integrate group home residents (or “consumers,” as they are called) into the larger, outside community, it would make a world of difference.

Well, this would be an act of connection beyond the four walls of the group home. I believe that it would at least disrupt the mens de captivus, which would be fundamentally positive. The mens de captivus certainly needs to be disrupted! Resident/consumers are ultimately not helped by being confined so much of their time within a mentally/emotionally/psychologically disabled “cloister.”

I remember very well getting up in the morning just in time for breakfast, followed by an early morning shower, followed by morning meds and then day treatment. We ate lunch at day treatment, and afterwards I would feed the birds (and squirrels, racoons, and opossums) and the fish in our backyard pond. After this, I sometimes laid down for an half-hour nap, but then I almost always went ahead and did my chore.

Interspersed throughout my day were, of course, requests to buy or bum something. (This is just part of the local, cloistered, group home life.) And, too, we shared many items and even cut (and sometimes styled) each others hair. Living this more or less complete life, largely sectioned off from the rest of humanity, it became easy ~ too easy, really ~ to forget what it was like to live an “ordinary life” in society-at-large.

thGRVRKD0NPart of my own hope and dream now is to do something to alleviate this mens de captivus, opening the prison door, so to speak, gently leading individuals back out into the verdant fields of promising life in the wide world we inhabit. Yes, it can, and often is, frightening; then again, true freedom (authentic liberty) is scary if for no other reason than the fact that the immediate future always stands open to innumerable possibilities with very few guarantees. Is it worth it, though? Yes! Most assuredly!

For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

Crazy Life: A Little Less Crazy? But Still Guilty

Crazy Life: Dreams and Dreams Again

Crazy Life: In Praise of MHTs

Crazy Life: In Praise of MHTs

Mental health technicians, in my humble opinion, really form the backbone of group home and day treatment care of the mentally/emotionally/psychologically-challenged. Much like CNAs (certified nursing assistants), they are “down in the trenches,” so to speak, and fighting alongside the “consumers” (as we are, unfortunately, called) in our daily battles against our illnesses.

mental-health-technician-women-s-t-shirtI found this to be very much the case while living in the Samson (Alabama) Group Home, and marvelled at just how much patience and understanding was required of MHTs. Not that I have a clear and complete picture of MHTs across the state and country (and, I suppose, the world), but my limited experience gives me at least an informed appreciation for the work required in this profession.

At the group home, with which I am familiar, it falls to the MHTs to lead group sessions, to prepare (or help prepare) meals, to dispense medicine (except to “self-medicators”), to mediate disagreements among residents, supervise chores, and so very much more. Indeed, it takes a very special kind of person to be able to do this sort of work, all the while truly caring about the flesh-and-blood human beings they are serving.

Of course, this in no way implies that everything was hunky-dory while in the group home. MHTs are by no means perfect, and I brushed shoulders with some who, quite honestly, needed to find another type of employment. For example, I encountered one young girl ~ young enough to be my daughter ~ who treated us as if we were toddlers. At one time she actually threatened to put one resident in time out as a form of discipline!

Needless to say, MHTs are every bit as human as “consumers,” which means they have their own faults, failings, and shortcomings just like everyone else. There was another MHT that I clearly recall, who took it upon herself to openly, and rather brashly, criticize individuals who received disability benefits… She did this numerous times, dogmatically asserting they didn’t need this income; they ought to be out working, she complained.

Well, believe it or not, all in all she was (and is) an excellent MHT. No, she certainly should have kept her opinions to herself (on the matter of disability benefits, anyway), but being human is being human, and this means that we all sometimes spout off and say things we shouldn’t. Overall, this MHT really did do her work very well …. and residents, in turn, really did (and still do, I presume) respect her.

But I also think of one sweet, little girl ~ and by the way, there were no male MHTs where I was, for some unknown reason ~ who also could have been my daughter. She was very petite and quiet. At such a young age, and being so tender, I really felt as if she’d been thrown to the wolves, in a manner of speaking. Not that residents in the group home are wolves (exactly); she just didn’t have what it took to exercise authority.

And this is, of course, one of the greatest challenges an MHT faces, that is: To exercise at least some modicum of control over the environment and various situations with which they are confronted on a day-to-day basis. After all, if an MHT cannot establish and maintain leadership, then they are very unlikely to be able to accomplish any of their numerous responsibilities. Point in fact, they will get run over, and very quickly at that!

Overall, my experience with MHTs was good, and as time went by I learned to appreciate and respect them more and more deeply. Of course, when I finally decided that I wanted to enter into some form and fashion of counselling (eventually), it did occur to me that I’d have to be able to live up to their examples; after all, counselling entails at least as much pressure … perhaps even more, at least in some ways.


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

Crazy Life: A Little Less Crazy? But Still Guilty

Crazy Life: Dreams and Dreams Again

Crazy Life: Dreams and Dreams Again

Reams of dreams rolling through my mind
That bind me fast to my unpleasant past
Without recourse to complete forgiveness
In the business of living,
Giving no berceuse of peace for me to be
An healthy man for this old world to see
Instead of one daunted by haunted dreams
~ Jonathan David Noble

About half-way through my stay in the Samson (Alabama) Group Home, which is to say about seven to eight months, I began having very strange dreams ~ perhaps nightmares, truth be told ~ with one particular, recurring element: Alcohol, specifically trying to get alcoholic beverages, mostly in the form of ale. Again and again, I would hurry and scurry about, whether in some grocery or convenience store, attempting to purchase some ice-cold beer with the ever-present thought that I’d have to hide this from nearly everyone.

Well, for almost my entire adult life I’d used alcohol to self-medicate, along with benzos and pain-killers. By the time I’d been properly diagnosed and medicated, I’d already become an addict. In the final analysis, alcohol and drugs had ruined my life to an enormous extent. Certainly, it discolored and warped family relationships and friendships. Alcohol, primarily, had simply become part and parcel of who and what I was … tragically.

However, by this time in the group home, I’d been clean and sober for a couple of years, so I really didn’t understand the repeating theme of trying to drink in almost all of my dreams. (And, by the way, this was the first time in my life that I could actually remember most of my dreams. Before this, I could count on two hands the number of dreams I could recall.) Interestingly enough, my dream efforts to drink were always frustrated somehow, which was good, I suppose.

Restout.Jean-Bernard.1736-1796MorpheusorSleep.BRTo attempt interpretation of these dreams may prove to be folly. After all, “as one who catches at a shadow and pursues the wind, so is anyone who believes in dreams.”¹ Still being curious, though, especially since this them is ongoing, I investigated possible meanings online. One site suggested that I might be attempting to acquiesce “to some concept or circumstance,” or that I might be trying to cover up guilt and remorse.²

“Alternatively, the dream may be reflective of waking issues and problems of alcoholism. Recovering alcoholics often have dreams of drinking which results in feelings of guilt. Such dreams help to reinforce their sobriety,”³ which seems more likely to me. But why after so long being sober? Well, I suppose two years is not really that long. Besides, I also started infrequently dreaming, or experiencing flashbacks, of terrible mistakes I’d made … sins I’d committed.

I can truly say I was surprised by the suggestion that dreaming of past memories, especially mistakes and sins, indicates that I am ready “to rid (my)self of (my) old ways and undergo a transformation,” and/or that I am “ready for a new outlook in life.” If this is true, then at least these dreams are encouraging. Of course, if a memory dream included drinking, then if this interpretation is right, it would mean that I am finally ready to move on beyond past addictions. Wonderful! I believe this is true.

Now if I could only progress in a couple of other areas of my life, I might be the happiest man in the world. Still, I am very thankful that God has allowed and certainly aided me in making as much progress as I already have! And I pray you find yourself making strides forward, too! As always, peace and blessings to you!… 


¹ The Wisdom of ben Sirach 34.2 (NRSVCE)

² Possible interpretation(s) offered by www.dreamforth.com as accessed on 10/06/2018

³ Alternative interpretation provided by www.dreammoods.com as accessed on 10/06/2018

4 Ibid accessed on 10/06/2018


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

Crazy Life: A Little Less Crazy? But Still Guilty

‎­

We Kill What We Do Not Understand

And the call of the roads is upon me, a desire in my spirit has grown
To wander forth in the highways, ‘twixt earth and sky alone,
And seek for the lands no foot has trod and the seas no sail has known
~ C. S. Lewis, “The Roads,” in Spirits in Bondage

It’s called “agnostophobia,” and it simply means “fear of the unknown.” (The other related word, “xenophobia,” means quite specifically “pathological fear of strangers,” foreigners.[i]) This is what many people with mental illness face in society at large, and it can be very uncomfortable. Point in fact, it usually is, unless the one who suffers the illness has grown a thick hide, so to speak.

“People fear what they cannot understand,” said Andrew Smith, “and they hate what they cannot conquer.” Touché! And more specifically to the point of mental illness, Elyn R. Saks, associate professor at the University of Southern California and mental health expert and advocate, hit the proverbial nail on the head when she opined, “Stigma against mental illness is a scourge with many faces, and the medical community wears a number of those faces.”

Even in this 21st century, in the Western world, where we are supposed to be so advanced and so enlightened, we are still culturally very ignorant of mental illness (and mental health,) which is largely why there is an ongoing stigma revolving around those who are psychologically burdened and suffering.[ii] This is all the more amazing when we consider the fact that fully one out of every four adults will experience mental illness at some point in their lives, however short might be the duration.[iii]

fear_of_the_unknownMuch of the continuing misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental illness can, of course, be attributed to the world of popular entertainment. Consider for a moment so many popular psychopaths, such as: Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Sybil Dorsett, Annie Wilkes, Norman Bates, and many others. But then there are the real-life psychopaths that the media (in all forms) has consistently brought into our homes via television, radio, newspapers, the Internet … such as: Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, Amy Archer-Gilligan, etc.

But then there is the lesser, “minor” mental illnesses that people commonly misunderstand and, thus, stigmatize. For instance, depression and anxiety. With clinical depression those who suffer may very well be, and often are, told to just “get over it … put a smile on and face the day! No need to ‘wallow’ in depression!” Of course, the antagonist here simply does not understand that one doesn’t just “get over” depression. Likewise with anxiety. The sufferer hears someone say, “Just calm down, everything’s alright. No need to worry,” or the horrid question, “Why are you falling apart? Nothing is wrong!”

Whether it’s one of the “biggies,” like schizophrenia or oppositional defiant disorder or pyromania,[iv] or one of the “littler ones,” Patrick Corrigan and Amy Watson are right:

Many people with … mental illness are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.[v]

So what can those of us who suffer, or who have a close family member or friend who suffers, from mental illness do? Well, from my own personal experience I would suggest the following:

  1. Know Yourself: Come to know who you really are, constantly calling to mind that you are not defined by your illness. Grasp this truth. Celebrate it. Expand upon it as you look ever more deeply into yourself.
  2. You are not Jeffrey Dahmer, Jason Voorhees, or Sybil Dorsett… And even if you do happen to struggle with, shall we say, inclinations in that direction, there is still much help for you. Yes, you can lead an active, healthy, good and satisfying life. It’s there for you.
  3. Know your illness. Know as much as you possibly can about what afflicts you. After all, knowledge truly is powerful. Knowledge also gives you greater ability to confront, manage, and perhaps even improve your overall situation. Look, it’s happened before!
  4. Knowledge also gives you an advantage over the ignorance of other people, and, who knows, you might actually have an opportunity to educate someone.
  5. Know and remember that there are an untold number of “normal” individuals out there, who simply have not been diagnosed! They struggle each and every day with some mental illness … or, maybe, many. You are more likely to be able to spot those people. Have compassion on them; they need it, and lots of empathetic understanding, too. And don’t be surprised if, at some point, they trust you enough to open up and share with you their struggles, suffering and pain. If you can help them, then help. Just be sure not to lose yourself, or “drown,” in the process!

There are probably many other suggestions I could relate, such as referring folks to NAMI or NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) for more (and accurate) information on the various mental illnesses and how to best relate to someone who suffers one or more mental illness. Also, where you yourself are concerned, it’s always important to practice good mental health. Personally, I find physical exercise, meditation, and prayer, among other activities, to be good activities leading to good mental health.

What about you? What has been your experience with mental illness? Have you faced stigma? What about your mental health, whether you bear the burden of mental illness or not? Do you practice good mental health? If so, how? Share your answers and comments below. You don’t know who you might be helping in the process!


[i] American Psychological Association, APA Dictionary of Psychology, 1006

[ii] Judy Marshall, “Mental Illness: Stigma and Reality,” as accessed on 09/22/2018, at www.psychmaster.com

[iii] Pete Etchells, “Mental Illness Stigma Has Not Gone Away,” as accessed on 09/22/2018 at www.theguardian.com

[iv] Cf. David Kupfer, Darrel Regier, Dan G. Blazer, et al, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-5), 90 – 122, 462, and 476 respectively

[v] Corrigan and Watson, “Understanding the Impact of Stigma on People With Mental Illness,” as accessed on 09/22/2018 at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles

Crazy Life: A Little Less Crazy? But Still Guilty

I eventually came to embrace my diagnosis of bipolar with major depressive disorder. Yes, more than once in my past I’d experienced a hypomanic episode with feelings of grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, sensitivity, distractibility, etc. as well as marked feelings of depression, which brought opposite feelings of worthlessness, emptiness, hypersomnia, thoughts of death and/or suicide.¹ There is even more to it than this: I sometimes found myself almost completely dysfunctional.

carrie-fisher- princess-leia-11I say I finally embraced my diagnosis; however, this was not fun or easy. It did help some to know I was not alone, either in the group home or in the wider world. For example, “in 1997, (Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame) suffered from a psychotic break…” and says of her experience, “At times … being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of.”²

Strangely enough, after I embraced my diagnosis, it seemed to change. I realize I’m not qualified to state this emphatically. Then again, who knows me better than me? And I can read the DSM-5, and I’m intelligent enough, in my humble opinion, to comprehend the diagnosis… So, with that said, I felt like I “moved” from bipolar disorder to dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder, which was, again in my opinion, a better state of affairs largely because my depression was mild to moderate, not severe.³

Thankfully, I was allowed to decrease my medications and even stop taking two prescriptions altogether. As I’ve mentioned before, I had been taking 2000 mg of Depakote per day; this was lowered to 1500 mg, still quite high. I was also taking 600 mg of Seroquel per day, which was lowered to 400 mg. Finally, the psychiatrist lowered my intake of Prozac from 60 mg a day to 40 mg. So I was very pleased, because, after all, I don’t want to take more medicine that is absolutely necessary!

It was during this same period of time ~ perhaps six to eight months into my stay at the Samson Group Home ~ that I began really wrestling with my past. Horribly distasteful memories leapt to the fore of my mind, over and over again, and I felt deeply and strongly compelled to cry out (within my soul) to heaven, pleading, “Oh God! Please forgive me! I’m so, so sorry! Please forgive me!” And I couldn’t shake these awful memories. They flooded over me like tidal waves.

I h2908254-YZHLFGOH-8ad a really hard time believing I’d made so many foolish mistakes in life, that I had sinned so profusely, that I’d been so stupid so many times… And there was nothing I could do to undo my past. The load of guilt was crushing, but it was weight I had, throughout my life, placed upon myself. I could blame no one else; it was time for me to own up to my own gross shortcomings and follies … to embrace these just as I’d embraced my diagnosis.

I did. This did not make any of it go away, but it did mysteriously relieve some of the nearly unbearable pressure. I suppose in doing this “owning up,” I was consciously laying claim to part of my personal, soulish property, so to speak. I was looking upon my very Self in a clear mirror, seeing myself for who and what I was, coming to better grips with what kind of transformation had to take place and to what degree. None of this was easy, and it’s still anything but smooth sailing … but at least I am sailing, not drowning!

Thank God, the almighty, for forgiveness!


¹ Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), 123 – 139, 296.41 – 296.89 (F31.31 – F31.81); Note: I believe I specifically have Bipolar II, cf. Susan Krauss Whitbourne and Richard P. Haglin, Abnormal Psychology: Clinical Perspectives on Psychological Disorders, 169; or see the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Bipolar Disorder,” as accessed on 10/02/2018 at www.nimh.nih.gov 

² Whitbourne and Haglin, Ibid, 168 – 169 

³ Cf. DSM-5, 168 ff., 300.4 (F 34.1); Whitbourne and Haglin, Ibid, 166; or see NIMH, “Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymic Disorder), as accessed on 10/02/2018 at www.nimh.nih.gov


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

Crazy Life: Humiliating the Already-Humbled

After a few months in the group home, I actually felt more comfortable than I did in the outside world. Every outing seemed like an encounter with something foreign, something I’d known in a previous life but with which I no longer had much of any familiarity. Well, the truth is, I was around people who no longer had any masks to wear. They were simply who they were, no more, no less, and I liked it that way. Conversely, so many folks I encountered in the outside world seemed somewhat fraudulent. 

I know, I know. This seems harsh to say, but I’m only being honest about my feelings at the time. (And, really, I still feel this way. Going to day treatment in Dothan now feels like reuniting with family, whereas elsewhere with other people feels a bit alien.) At any rate, it eventually struck me that people on the outside pretty much felt the same way about us; they looked at us as if we were personis non grata foreigners. Well, no, perhaps I shouldn’t go quite this far. Most individuals were at least courteous.

However, I do remember very well the day we went to Wal-Mart in Enterprise (Alabama) and two (Caucasian) cops stopped three of our group home residents, who happened to be African-American, on their way into the store. They not only questioned them; they actually went so far as to patting them down … right there in the middle of the parking lot, in broad daylight, when those three young men were simply walking up toward the sidewalk! They hadn’t even been inside Wal-Mart yet, so why the frisking???

It was utterly humiliating, but do you know that those three men did not complain. I can’t say why. They had every right in the world to make a fuss over how they’d been treated, (and SpectraCare should have lodged a complaint on their behalf, but instead did absolutely nothing!) Maybe they were, unfortunately, used to be treated that way? I was told by someone ~ and I don’t know how they’d know this ~ that someone say our van pull up and called the police. Why? I haven’t the foggiest idea, except… 

There is a stigma that surrounds mental illness. When you add to this the fact of being an African-American (or member of any minority), then you’re pretty well f***ed up! Sorry to be so blunt, but this is an issue obviously close to my heart. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, courtesy, and respect … at least until they forfeit that privilege. These three young, African-American men had not in any way, shape, or form forfeited this right, though, and those two cops should have faced disciplinary measures.

This may have been the most egregious experience of being treated differently, and degradingly, that I witnessed, but it was not the only one. In fact, there was another episode that I was only told about (because I was at home on a weekend pass.) The group home went to a new restaurant in Samson, only to be treated horribly! The proprietor was arrogant, pushy, demanding, impatient… One of the MHTs (Mental Health Technician) told me it was obvious he didn’t want them there.

Do you remember Sally? This man complained that she was taking too long to order, even though no one else was in his place of business! (Except for the group home residents.) And to beat all, after everyone ordered, they had to wait anywhere from an half-hour to one hour to be served! Wow! But again, SpectraCare did nothing. I think I would have at least had someone in the SpectraCare hierarchy call this man and give him a good tongue-lashing… But that’s just me, I suppose.

To tell the truth, I have never lived with sweeter and more down-to-earth people in my life than my second family in the group home. No, they were not perfect. They had their bad habits and dispositions, but after all was said and done, with very few exceptions, I couldn’t have asked for better housemates. So to see or hear of them being treated so poorly really rips at my heart, and fuels my righteous indignation. And you know what else? They also impressed me as being safer to be around than many on the outside.

Yes, for the most part they were/are kinder, gentler, safer, and more unassuming than most “normal” people. Really it comes down to this: These dear souls have simply been diagnosed, whereas people on the outside have not been. Other than this ~ diagnosed as opposed to undiagnosed ~ there is precious little difference, unless you take into account so many of the prevalent, stinking attitudes that “normal” folks display and contrast that with the meek, humble, and friendly attitudes of the mentally ill!

Forgive me if I’ve offended, but I’m just calling like I see it … especially after months (and, really, years) of personal experience. Thank you for listening, and God bless!


For previous installments in the ‘Crazy Life’ series, see…

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God