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

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

A few months after arriving at the Samson (Alabama) Group Home, I asked for a private one-on-one session with the director of the day treatment program, who also happened to be my therapist … thankfully. Her name was Joy, and it certainly fit her very well. She was, indeed, a joy to be around and, consequently, an extremely comfortable counsellor with whom to talk. I needed this, because I desperately needed to open up about something I’d only shared with two, maybe three, individuals in my entire life.

As always before, Joy welcomed me into her office with open arms and a smile. She listened quite attentively as I “spilled my guts,” shared with her one of my deepest, darkest secrets, (nothing at all criminal or unethical, mind you … but extremely difficult, nonetheless.) Point in fact, I was unloading ~ or trying to, anyway ~ an awfully heavy burden I’d carried since adolescence. It was not as if she could help me shoulder this burden ~ not exactly ~ but what she did do was enough.

I mean to say, I received from Joy all that I could expect from an upstanding, conscientious counsellor: Focused attention, non-judgmental reception, calm and sober-minded evaluation, and compassionate understanding. No, she could not solve my conundrum, one with which I have lived for decades now, but she did offer an altruistic, tender-hearted consideration and sensitivity. I was very thankful, of course, and naturally I felt somewhat better for having “unloaded.”

We visited about this issue two or three more times, but I also went to the pastor of the church I was then-currently attending. We met one time and never again. We were supposed to meet again, but it never happened. I suppose, that was as much my fault as hers, but it did hurt somewhat that she seemingly just forgot about it all. And it was not as if she had a large congregation to attend to ~ about forty to fifty members ~ and the very personal issue I’d raised was, indeed, quite important. Not to complain, though… 

After my experience with Joy, however, I decided I wanted to help people like she helps people. I decided I want to be a counsellor in whatever capacity. This is also when I came to the conclusion that the age of pastors (ministers, priests, rabbis, etc.) may very well be coming to an end … at least the traditional role(s) clergy play. I believe members of the clergy are increasingly being squeezed out of usefulness in society, so that to continue to minister they will need to “retool” in order to expand their resumes, so to speak.

By no means am I saying all clergy are bad; no, not at all! And I am not suggesting that members of the clergy are, in and of themselves, somehow worthless. God forbid! And if I am coming across this way, please forgive me! I am only suggesting that the typical pastoral minister will need to add to his/her repertoire of skills and abilities in order to effectively continue on into the 21st century. But this is, perhaps, a subject best left for another day.

the_psychological_corporation_72891So far as the field of counselling is concerned, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…”¹ And I deeply desire to be one of those laborers, eventually. Along with this desire comes somewhat of a radical conviction, that is: Here is the new face of the Church. Here is the new spiritual hospital for holistic care, including mind and soul care. Here is where ministry now effectively takes place. Yes, there are still the typical, local churches, and they will be for the foreseeable future, but the action is elsewhere.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this, as I believe, but I think it is practically undeniable that the landscape is changing … shifting. If you don’t believe me, believe the numbers as presented by Kelley Shattuck on April 10th of this year:

(Olson’s) findings reveal that the actual rate of church attendance from head counts is less than half of the 40 percent the pollsters report. Numbers from actual counts of people in Orthodox Christian churches (Catholic, mainline and evangelical) show that in 2004, 17.7 percent of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend… 

Another study published in 2005 in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion by sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler—known for their scholarly research on the church—backs up his findings. Their report reveals that the actual number of people worshiping each week is closer to Olson’s 17.7 percent figure—52 million people instead of the pollster-reported 132 million (40 percent)

This contrasts to “nearly half of American households,” who “have had someone seek mental health treatment” in 2004. More than this, fully nine out of ten people polled “said they would likely consult or recommend a mental health professional if they or a family member were experiencing a problem.”³ Indeed, this field is “ripe unto harvest,” and the harvest is the very lives of flesh-and-blood human beings … many of those lives quite literally hanging in the balance. I know when I sat down with Joy on that very important day to open my heart and share my decades-old burden, I sure felt like my life was hanging in the balance!

¹ The Gospel of St. Matthew 9.37 (NRSVCE); also on prospective job growth, see the Bureau of Labor (BLS) stats on psychology, for example, or rehabilitation counselling
or especially marriage and family therapists, which shows an extremely high prospective growth rate over the next eight to 10 years, all of which far outpace the expected growth of eight percent in the area of clergy.  Note from BLS: “Clergy conduct religious worship and perform other spiritual functions associated with beliefs and practices of religious faith or denomination. Provide spiritual and moral guidance and assistance to members … 2016 employment: 243,900… Projected employment change, 2016–26: Number of new jobs: 19,900 Growth rate: 8 percent (as fast as average)”

² Kelley Shattuck, “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America,” as accessed on 09/29/2018 at

³ As reported by the American Psychological Association, “Survey Says More Americans are Seeking Mental Health Treatment,” as accessed online on 09/29/2018 at

For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.
~ Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ

Playing on the words of the Messiah, I could very well say to clergymen/women and laity alike, “I was sick and committed, and you did not visit or minister to me… We were mentally and emotionally ailing … and hurting, suffering, yet you do not seem to care, or even give us a second thought. What must we do to deserve the ministry of the Church?” And yet again, Jesus weeps.

Amy Simpson hit the proverbial nail on the head when she surmised that “in general, the church tends to handle mental illness in one of three ways: ignore it, treat it exclusively as a spiritual problem, or refer (the suffering) to professionals and wash (their collective) hands of (the) trouble.”¹ Except instead of “ignoring it” she could have/should have been more pointed and said, “ignoring them.

StetzerAnd it is all-too-easy for superficially spiritual, religious individuals to ignore those with mental illness, unless of course they are disturbed and maladjusted right smack-dab in the middle of their communities, be that the neighborhood or the local church or wherever else. It’s almost like a toddler’s game: If they put their hands over their ears and shut their eyes, then the mentally ill have gone away … vanished … no longer exist.

As for her second point, Ed Stetzer certainly agrees. Recalling challenges with mental illness early in his ministry, he honestly confesses, “I was 25 years old, and all I had heard about dealing with mental illness was that Christians just ‘prayed it away,’ or it was an attack of the enemy, or so I’d been told, and the necessary response was expulsion — just cast it out.”² (The “enemy” being Satan, the devil, or demons.)

The third response listed by Simpson is, perhaps, the easiest: Just confine “them” to an institution, group home, and/or day treatment program and … forget about them. After all, “they” are being helped by professionals, right? So why would I want or feel the need to get involved? I haven’t been trained to be involved. I wouldn’t know what to do or say, and it can’t be as easy as simply loving, spending time, and encouraging … can it?

Of course, it helps to be as prepared as one can because, obviously, the different mental illnesses can be difficult to deal with, not to mention quite disconcerting (in many cases.) Yet from my own personal experience, which most certainly counts for something, most group home residents, and even individuals in the psychiatric wing of hospitals, would just be grateful and happy to have someone from the “outside” visiting them. Yes, there are extreme cases in which it is effectively impossible to visit, but really, in most instances, the mentally ailing are fully able to communicate!

And there is that famous, and popular, question many Christians like to ask: What would Jesus do? They even have WWJD stickers, ball caps, shirts, arm bands, etc. Oh, it’s quite “the thing” in many religious circles … but one is justified in wondering how often the “believer” actually answers the question … still more, how often s/he puts that answer into practice, especially where the mentally suffering are concerned.

And just what would Jesus do? I think he would at least visit, and it’s no good to simply assume one is not allowed. I know for a fact that, at least from my own experience, practically anyone could have dropped by the Samson Group Home to visit on the front porch … especially members of the clergy. There are no laws or restrictions against visiting group homes here, anyway, at least not pastors, priest, rabbis, imams, etc.

No … It’s just a matter of doing it! And even if the ostensibly spiritual-religious individual cannot visit a group home or hospital psych wing, the very least we/they can do is embrace the mentally anguished within our/their own faith communities, and, very importantly, do so in a dignified manner, (after all, many mentally ill individuals have practically been stripped of their personal dignity already!) Indeed, what would Jesus do? I really think he’s already answered that question… 

¹ A. Simpson, “Mental Illness: What is the Church’s Role?” as accessed on 09/25/2018 at 

² Ed Stetzer, “A New Approach to Mental Illness in the Church,” as accessed on 09/25/2018 at

For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

He simply cannot say “no” to anyone. This was especially evident when everyday several different people would ask him for cigarettes. Like all smokers in the group home, he received his daily ration of one pack, and he was a pack-a-day smoker, so he would end up short of smokes by the end of the day. If he had some spare change, which he usually did, he would then buy somewhere around five to six smokes from those individuals who both better conserved their supply and could do without a couple. 

By no means am I advocating smoking, especially one pack a day, but this just happens to nicely illustrate the point. This “John Doe,” who was so meek and mild, simply could not say “no” or set any kind of personal boundaries. My take on this, at least after a few months getting to know him, was that this was part of his overall psychological troubles. Clinical psychologist Bruce Kugler might agree:

There is no psychological disorder per se about the inability to say no, but it may be viewed as one of many symptoms of various disorders expressed as an inability to say no and set limits with others.

He continues:

Low self regard, having felt beaten down and undeserving of having one’s feelings and needs go along with being overly compliant and not able to set limits with what others want of us

David Kronemyer of the University of California, Los Angeles, goes so far as to say that this condition refers to “dependant personality disorder, defined by the DSM-5 as ‘a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation.'”² However, I’m somewhat skeptical of this diagnosis, as this John Doe meets only, perhaps, three out eight diagnostic criteria for dependant personality disorder. Nevertheless, it was/is certainly disruptive in his life.

John was always very quiet, very unassuming, and compatible with everyone. But several individuals used him like a vending machine: They wanted it, he gave it (if he had it to give.) Of course, this was not his only struggle … perhaps the least of his struggles. He also frequently heard voices and, point in fact, ask me more than once if I was hearing anyone speaking in our room at night. I never did, but he quite evidently did and, naturally, it was disturbing.

I don’t know how exactly his lack of personal hygiene fit in with his schizophrenia, but the mental health technicians (MHTs) were constantly having to point-blank tell him to take a shower, brush his teeth, change his clothes, etc. Maybe, after all, he was/is dependant on others. Well, during my 14 month residency in the group home I came to know his habits and daily routine, but I never really got to know him personally. It was as if there was very little there to really, truly know.

This sounds sad, perhaps even somewhat derogatory, but I don’t mean for it to come off this way. It’s just that “John” went through his simple schedule and daily patterns and no more. He slept, ate, drank, smoked … attended day treatment, went to group sessions, and … that was pretty much it. Well, of course, he showered and changed clothes when he was told. Beyond this there was very little. He had family, and his mother, who was in terrible physical health, came to visit twice while I was there, but no one else.

Truth be told, I don’t know that he expected any more than this. He’d been in several group homes before moving to Samson. By the time I met him, this just seemed to be his way of life. So far as I know, “John” had no expectation of leaving the group home system. So far as I could tell, he had no real aspirations, which was tragic. And he is still there, of course. In fact, I saw him yesterday, and he did manage a friendly smile and barely audible “hello.” Such is seemingly the extent of his communicative abilities.

Surely I will go back to the Samson Group Home to visit. I’ve made this commitment, anyway, and I fully intend to keep it. After all, some residents there, including my “John Doe” roommate, may never leave… A few will only leave if they are transferred to another facility because they have no where else to go, and they simply cannot take care of themselves without significant help. This is the sad truth in group homes and like facilities across our country, though… All the more reason to get involved as we can!

¹ Bruce Kugler, “What is the Psychological Disorder of the Inability to Say No?” as accessed on 09/27/2018 at 

² DSM-5, 301.6 (F 60.7), “Dependant Personality Disorder,” 675; See this interesting article based on the DSM-5, and/or this article as well

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

My oldest sister says she thought she’d lost me forever. To tell the truth, I’m kind of surprised she hadn’t, what with the audible and visual hallucinations coupled with what my dear Angela described as “talking backwards.” No, my sister, Ann, couldn’t even begin to understand me while I was going through what I now a bit lamely call “The Ordeal.”

The Ordeal began a little over one year ago … well, about one year and four months ago, to my best recollection. To this day I cannot say exactly what caused this agonizing nightmare, but I believe that at least part of it had to do with the medications I was taking at the time for bi-polar, depression and anxiety. Perhaps this was the total cause of my slip into an awful unreality, but I do think there was more to it than the pills.

Looking back on the Ordeal, and considering where I was at the time — mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually — I have come to seriously believe the “hand of God” was involved in my demise. Oh, I know this is an unpopular, unpalatable, and certainly controversial statement to make, yet I believe that, somewhat like Nebuchadnezzar of ancient lore, I was “struck down,” ultimately for my own good.

During that time I was in and out of the South Alabama Medical Center emergency room (ER) and Behavioral Medical Unit (BMU), finally landing in the New Day BMU in Ozark, Alabama. After a two-week stay at New Day, it was decided by my sister, my psychiatrist, and a local therapist that I would do well to move into one of the SpectraCare (the regional mental health agency) group homes. I agreed.

I can still recall the fear that I felt, and just how absolutely overwhelming the world around me felt. I needed some kind of safe haven, some place stable and secure, some home “fenced off” from everything else. So the group home was an obvious necessity, but it was still a difficult transition, and my fears did not immediately go away. There were times during the first couple of months that I felt like I was coming unravelled.

Really and truly, I wondered if I was going to make it, or if I would end up being confined to some psychiatric hospital for the remainder of my life. I was terrorized by this possibility, and literally fought (emotionally and psychologically) to stay in the group home rather than being transferred to another, more restrictive, more “serious” facility. I was already at the low point of my life… I did not want to devolve any further.

But what did God have to do with this? Despite the pretense of humility — and I truly believed I was humble — nevertheless I was proud … arrogant, at least in my own estimation of myself. No, it perhaps did not show outwardly, not glaringly so, anyway; however, I was haughty. I was also quite contentious … opinionated … religious without really being spiritual. And so through degradation, God remoulded me, making me new.

“When my sanity returned, my honor, my majesty, and the glory of my kingdom were given back to me… And now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, honor, and glorify the King of Heaven. Everything he does is right and just, and he can humble anyone who acts proudly.”

~ Daniel 4. 36a, 37 (GNT)

Of course, I did not come out perfect, but I did come out changed for the better … truly thankful for stability in life, mental and emotional health, grateful for the seemingly small and ordinary things of the world, more staid and gentle, seriously and simply spiritual rather than religious, and far more empathetic with those who suffer, especially the mentally ill — that is, those like me.

This is, admittedly, a very brief overview of my life experience over the last couple of years, but this is enough for the time being. (It has been quite difficult to write this much.) But I would like to return to this from time to time, as I believe that it’s good (and healthy) to openly, honestly share… This, then, will be like an open journal. One more note, though: My recent Ordeal has led me in the direction of counseling. Very simply, I want to give back some of the good I’ve received from so many caring people, and to this I genuinely believe God is calling me.

Criticizing What You Do Not Understand

You make some grand, offhand remarks about what you don’t understand
About people with troubles that bubble to the surface in surplus sickness
With altogether wordless complexity, laden with a great variety of anxiety
That separates them from society in insobriety,
While you continue with complete impropriety,
Never imagining that you might very well find yourself in the same bind
With the same kind of ailment for having maligned these innocent victims
Among humankind, but you sealed you own fate when you took the bait
Of pride and arrogance in an easy stride with thoughts that brought you
To the conclusion that you’re above confusion — oh, but now you will fall,
You are so small a man, who will only fan the flames of his own insanity
While others look on in the same contempt you showed while you attempt
To regain your footing in sense and sensibility with all you innate ability,
Looking for tranquility as your maniacal laughter haunts and taunts you,
All because you vaunted yourself above what you did not understand —
Ah, yes! Surely an unearthly reprimand for all your decadent arrogance!

Monday Update

Thankfully I was able to sleep through most of the night, though I woke up earlier than I wanted or intended. The morning has been very rough, yet not as much as other mornings. I have put in a call to my psychiatrist concerning the akathisia from which I currently suffer. Hopefully, I pray, he will call me back. Of course, I will call again if he does not call me this morning … and I will keep calling until I get ahold of him.

Holding onto hope by faith is very difficult at times, but I keep trying to tell myself that “this, too, shall pass.” It is, as I’ve said before, an extremely tough row to hoe. The effects of akathisia (at its worst) practically paralyze me on the inside, but God has been very gracious and good. Generally speaking, the days and nights are getting better and, like now, I am able to write and read without feeling like I’m coming completely unglued.

Of course, there must be an answer – in other words, cure – for my plight or, at least, I keep telling myself. And naturally I keep praying for some cure and return to normalcy. This leads me to once again thank my family, friends, readers and fellow-bloggers for your thoughts, encouragement and continuing prayers for me. Words to adequately express my deep gratitude allude me. I can only offer my sincere, heartfelt thankfulness.

More later…

An Unexpected Departure

Many days washed away during an unexpected stay
In a place secluded from the pace of ordinary ways
For the repair of mind to find fresh peace and solace
And a newer lease on life and serenity unfurled
In this world of painful woes and watery wishes
And now to see what may yet be in store for me
With hope … always anticipation in an emancipation
From baseless fear with God so near and angels dear
Yes, with this I have made the return
With hope that burns right brightly!
After days washed away during an unexpected stay

Have You Ever?

Have you ever seen your life reflected in someone’s eyes?
Have you ever felt your unseen self floating in the skies?
Have you ever heard your unsung song sung in a stream?
Have you ever met your mirror image in a vivid dream?
Have you ever known there is more to you than you see?
Have you ever shown yourself what your self could be?
Have you ever been drawn beyond the dawn of being . . .?
Have you ever?

What Do We Do With Our Days?

From morning to night our plight remains the same:
We hurry up to worry and scurry to fight and to bite
Over seemingly significant insignificants of this life 
We have been given to live instead of giving our self
To selfless ways in the rather few days we do exist,
But we persist in insisting on small details in retail,
Social media, movies and video games; it’s the same
And what a shame in living such a sham life
When the world is rife with pain and no gain
For so many of our brothers and sisters upon earth,
Place of our common birth, and what is it all worth?
Endless snickering and bickering over no-nothings?
. . .
And the rain falls as painful tears of God are shed
As we remain so much the same until we are dead,
Always encouraging the better way of life instead