Mary

It’s hard to imagine the heart failing of someone who loved me so well. 

Maybe she was finally convinced we’d be okay without her. Maybe her body was just finished; certainly not her mind. Maybe it was just time. 59775954_646730895794525_4785438645509160960_n

I think I’ve learned you can prepare to make an end of living, but not death, for the moment or moments between life and life. The middle space that grief takes up. You can plan logistics of funerals and finances and forgiveness, but you can’t take a pulse of grief and parcel out emotional energy or therapy sessions to navigate the middle piece of what loss will leave in its wake. Because of this we ritualize. We have ceremonies, and sift through possessions and pictures, some of us hoping the deceased will visit us.

And after the rituals we return to life and vocation hoping the deceased will visit us. And then we form more community, hopefully enlarge our families and churches, hoping the deceased will visit us. But Jesus doesn’t want the deceased to visit us because Jesus doesn’t want death. He wants living and living abundantly, and Jesus wants the living to gather and in time the formerly dead to be seen in light of the resurrection with a glorious newness. It’s my only real consolation.

Any other emotional appeasement is not a hope I’m interested in. Merely being at rest or ending suffering is not enough. Life gained in full in the glory of Christ as a Christian has become the bare minimum of my desire, but it is also the ultimate.  It’s what I wait for and allows me to mourn as one not without hope. Because that hope also has the power to end or comfort me in my mourning.

Now I turn to Mary, my grandmother:

You didn’t leave me, you stayed with me for a season.

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It’s hard to accept your gone when you remembered our visits and held me to my words. You kept track of the time like you knew it was short but looked forward in time like you’d live forever. It wasn’t a lie; it was you weaving the story I think you knew I wanted.

I was as proud as you were while wrapping your bingo nickels

I’ll cherish the smirk you gave me the last time I “stole” your cookie.

And even though your hand won’t hold back I’ll try to hold your heart. Lord Have mercy

You were too busy living, enjoying simplicity to worry about dying. Christ have mercy

You were showing me, I believe, that death is not something to worry about. Like Jesus, it is something we can be angry about and mourn, but it mustn’t be something that hinders living or the hope of resurrection. Death might be inevitable, but death is defeated, and I’m currently becoming okay with the fact that it was your turn to pass through it, into glory. Lord have mercy.

When I spoke with Gabe in February or March, of my visit to you in January, he felt I spoke of you like one should speak of their spouse. I wanted to you to meet her (I mean, I’d like to meet her, but I wanted you to meet her), not that I needed your approval, just so I could share you with her and her with you. I mourn that. I own that. I’m sorry for that. I’m not sure anything changes because of this, but my imagination placed you there at the celebration. If you have time, please come with the Lord. Invite friends. Christ have mercy

Thanks for all you’ve given me, it would be impossible to repay you or even out the scale of love. I think you would want it that way. You win gram, but we are probably close to even in Pokeno. Lord have mercy.

I thought you might live forever, and now you will. To Christ be the glory.

Mood Disorder-ly Conduct

Mood disorders color our decisions but also color our consequences. We must take ownership of our actions even when temptation takes us out of our own mind. They might blind individuals to consequences who give in to impulsivity, or it might accentuate a consequence allowing it to loom much larger than the consequence may in fact be.

This is the danger within the lie, but also the double edge sword. Some people can bounce back from minor mistakes and extend grace to themselves. Some people with certain kinds of mood disorders lose the proper balance. They might extend massive amounts of apparent grace towards people when it is unrequited and have great difficulty in accepting or extending this grace to themselves.

This out of balance endeavor typically leads to worsening matters through bad decisions that continue in an unhelpful pattern. A person with a mood disorder who has been wronged might be desperate to try to right the wrong, that they commit additional wrongs to themselves with good intentions. They try to extend what could be kindness, but it ends up being unnecessarily costly.

So much time has been spent in recent years within some circles trying to explore the why behind conduct. Sometimes trying to place a reason why we do things is helpful, but I have often found it exhausting.

While I do believe much conduct to be symptomatic of the mood/mentality one is in, it is absolutely, necessary to take responsibility for conduct which can often be helped by either medication or a cognitive therapeutic plan that is in place when/if the wave of despair arrives.

A Short Story

Too many holiday’s growing up were colored by my mother’s mental illness. So many of my good memories from 8-18 are lost to traumatic moments where I would leave her home crying while my brother remained the steady voice of reason. One holiday, either Christmas or her birthday we visited and tried to celebrate.

My grandmother who was in her late 80’s had soiled herself on the couch and my mom over-exaggerated. There was frustration, and then sadness, and in her anxiety, she kept muttering, “Another Mother’s Day, another Mother’s Day,” likely because something had happened on Mother’s Day where I had left in tears while my mother was distraught. And I probably started to weep because I never could just contain my feelings. I always wanted her to just keep from being anxious or not say something that would make me sad, but I could never just control myself in those moments, control my emotions and actions of uncontrollable sobbing.

I have spent so much of adult life trying to manage feelings, some time going to therapy to recognize feelings and not giving in to them and staying composed in hard situations. I cry far less (maybe more so than I’m comfortable with in the past few months but still less for now).

But I actually cannot seem to cry with patients in the hospital. It’s not that I don’t find their stories sad or that I don’t want to cry, I just can’t physically bring myself to. For pain to be real to me it has to last longer than a few moments I spend with strangers. I have to feel like I’m not being counted on. But it’s also a result of the way I view my own tears. I believe probably a lie that no one needs my tears, because I no longer find them helpful for someone else, or I find them to be the currency I have stored up to figure out and forgive myself.

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Either way my mood, my emotion can never be an excuse for a lack of self-control; either we control our emotions and mood through medication or cognitive therapy or we do neither, but that makes me culpable. Either way the only one responsible for our self-control is us as the individual.

The order to our conduct comes through a will submitted to God’s and acting honorably, obediently, in sincerity. There is help available to walk this out. There is help available now. God is our ever-present help in our time of need.

Darkness Falls: Layers in Mental Illness

Most of you probably don’t see in the dark. Some do and to varying degrees.

The next 4-5 posts seek to share candidly about 3 generations of mood disorders and how to find hope, cope or get help. I’m not seeking a comparison about how deep the dark can go. These will be an honest look at my experience, a sub-reality of a diagnosis that I don’t often revisit or own, perhaps to my detriment. Maybe it will provide me or you with help.

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I should also be honest about how and why I am writing. An hour prior to me writing this, I had a meltdown lasting about an hour on the phone with my mom. These have been far too frequent over the last 5 1/2 years but were less frequent for a period of 8 months prior to my move.

I could describe in detail the circumstances that I believe are potential sources of my moods, but I have gradually accepted more and more that my disorderly moods are not always the result of circumstance. Perhaps correlated, likely not caused and I can usually know this by comparison. People who endure much worse react much better when they are sober-minded.

In other words, some people cope better.

I’m likely not one of those people.

Short History

                My maternal grandfather was a postman, who worked a second job because money was tight while married to my grandmother, together raising two kids. He died when my mother was 17 of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Before marrying my grandmother, he received shock treatment for manic-depressive disorder. He received the treatment because he was found wandering New York City unaware of who he was in a depressed stupor. Later in life, it manifested on the manic side in access spending. He told his family not to tell my grandmother under any circumstance when they met of his mental illness for fear that she would not marry him.

I harbor a similar fear. I was prescribed medication one time from one diagnosis after one meeting with a psychiatrist and several meetings with a psychologist for a major depressive episode I had in 2013 during an exceptionally shitty season after a break-up. If I told you this was my only struggle with depression, all you would have to do is look at my various journals from the 5 years prior to 2013 to doubt that it was a one-time deal.

The two snapshots above have a slight tinge of a fear of/potential for heartbreak. And while my heart was broken, the greater concern for me was how I coped. Plenty of people suffer heartbreak, this I must remind myself. I am not the only one to suffer this, even though I feel I level-up by enduring in this arena with more frequency than I desire.

My problem is not the circumstance of heartbreak as much as the moment or series of moments that affect the chemistry within my body particularly my mind.

I understand heartbreak.

I don’t understand what usually follows.

The spiral, the way the world gets colored, the greyness of moving on, the process of not being able to decide what to buy at the grocery store and having to leave the grocery store so people won’t see you cry, going to the gym and enduring a similar cycle, coming home from work to immediately nap, eat fast food for comfort and so you have one less decision to make, getting angry at God for why you’re wired the way you are rather than enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit, the increased difficulty of seemingly everything, going to pro wrestling training begrudgingly because you paid to do it and owe it to your past self even though all joy is sucked out of it in the present.

The loss of self, the wandering around in New York City wishing you knew who you were or never wanting to go back to NYC for the fear of running into one person in a city of 8 million.

That was my life during my major depressive episode in 2013, it was not because of a break-up, it may have been correlated, but the disordered mood was nothing new, just a deeper layer.

If you or someone you know struggles with mental illness or would like more information regarding support or getting help click here (National Alliance for Mental Illness)