Mental Health

What Would You Do?

Come with me.  I'd like to take you somewhere.  It's a place that is dark and bottomless, a place that has no boundary and is yet terribly confining.  There is very little light and almost no hope and just when you think that you have reached the bottom, vast chasms open beneath you and downward you fall.

Imagine that you wake up one morning.  You don't have any real compunction to get out of bed.  As a matter of fact, you haven't felt much like getting out of bed for a few days now.  It's almost like there's some small voice in your head that's whispering, "What's the point?"  But out of bed you get and off into your day you go.  

As you go about your day, you notice odd things.  Things that once seemed oh so incredibly interesting seem rather blasè.  Goals that you once had seem kind of ridiculous, out of reach, or just not worth putting up the effort for.  There's not one thing you can point to, and you don't even really feel bad.  But the world is a little grey.

Each morning, when you wake up, it's a little harder to get out of bed.  Each day, the world seems less interesting, less vibrant.  The colors of the world literally seem to lose their shimmer.  The sky is less blue.  When you look at your spouse, or your children, that surge of love you have always felt is diminished.  Your favorite food is just kind of so-so.  Why read your favorite type of books?  Their not really holding your interest anyways.

You start to question, "What is happening to life itself?"  That voice in your head that was just a quiet whisper is now speaking louder, still asking, "What's the point?"  

Pretty soon, you're craving bed at night, that quiet oblivion that causes a break in your day, that time when you can turn off your mind and cease to exist for just a bit.  Sleep seems easier.

At some point, right about now, the pain starts.  This is not a physical pain, though sometimes it can manifest this way.  This is a psychic pain, a pain that is unlike physical pain.  You see, your body has limits to the amount of pain it can feel.  Your mind does not.

A new voice starts up, and all it can say is, "I really want this to stop."  It begins to sing a harmony to that other voice in your head that is constantly asking, "What's the point?"  And day upon day, moment upon moment, the pain mounts.

Life, now, is hard.  Just swinging your legs out of bed every morning is one of the hardest things you have ever done in your life.  Just putting one foot in front of the other is a Herculean effort.  Just making it from bed to bed becomes an agony.  And the pain.  The pain sings in your head.

Your friends and family start to notice.  You can't keep it hidden anymore.  They have seen!  They ask what's wrong, but you don't know!  Nothing is wrong.  Everything is wrong!  This is a landscape that is completely devoid of reason.  There is no right or wrong, no why or how, there is only the pain.  

And that pain fills your world.  It sings in agony all the day long.  "Oh God, this has to stop!" intertwined with "What is the point?!?!" screams from the pinnacle of your mind, from the depths of your soul, from the bottom of your heart, because only the bottom is left.  You are being consumed.

And there is no reason.  Reason has ceased to exist.  There is no why.  If there was a why, a reason, then you could fix it.  But instead, you are left with the singing of the pain, which has now eclipsed your very existence and has eradicated your will to live.

All you want is for it to stop.

The pain has become a prison.  The walls are completely grey.  There is no alteration in the atmosphere, no changing in the light.  The world outside these walls has ceased to exist.  There is only the pain.  The pain has become your world.

All you want is for it to stop.

How can I make it stop?

Oh God, if you love me, make it stop!!!!  Why are you doing this to me?!?!

And then, one day, you realize you can make it stop.

I ask you, my friends, what would you do?

I live in fear of this grey.  Days when I wake up and I don't feel like waking up, there's a part of me that cowers and asks, "Is today the day it starts?"

I have been blessed in that I have not suffered from this type of depression for years.  And yet, it still haunts me.  You suffer through a few of these, and you learn to fear them.  They leave an indelible mark upon your soul.  It is the thing I am the most afraid of in all of the world.  In a real way, my mind is my worst enemy.

I, too, suffer from mental illness.  It is no respecter of person and there is often absolutely no reason.  It can strike at any time.  It just is, like the wind, or the rain, or an earthquake to primitive man.  It just is.  

If you are beside someone that is suffering like this, then stand beside them.  You can't fix it, it's not your fault and there is really, truly, no reason.  But if you can get them to help, if you can stand by their side as they suffer while you shepherd them to the help they so desperately need, then you have done your part.

If you find yourself identifying with what I've written, if the grey has surrounded you and you can see no escape, seek help now.  There is an escape.  It is not a quick escape, but with the right medicines and with the right people to talk to, you can escape.  The sooner you talk to someone, the sooner you can be let out of this hellish prison.

(Dis) Connection (topia)

Bellows Air Force Station at sunrise, looking at the Moks.

I have recently been vacationing on the beautiful island of Oahu, a place in which I have rediscovered what it means to be disconnected.  I have to say, I did not enter that state lightly, or without trepidation.  So much so that I specifically went out and purchased new swim wear and iPhone protective gear before the trip such that I would not have to be disconnected.

Over the past few months, I've come to realize that I suffer from a phobia.  It's not overpowering, it's not all-consuming, but it's real and I deal with it almost constantly.  That phobia is being disconnected.

It exhibits itself in various ways.  Whenever I stand up to walk somewhere I immediately pat my right pocket to make sure my phone is there.  If I forget to do this and get half-way through the house, I will turn around if I've forgotten my phone.

If I find that somehow my Pebble has become disconnected from my phone, I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  "What if I missed something!?!?"

There is a feeling that I can compare it to.  When I was in college I used to strap a bunch of pads on along with a pair of roller blades and go jump off things while doing tricks.  I fell as much as I landed the tricks.  

On a few very rare occasions, I left the pads behind.  Every time I did this, I suffered some horrific skin disfigurement as I rubbed some joint along the asphalt at high speeds.  It was a feeling akin to nakedness whenever I ventured out this way.

So the same when I don't have my phone.  People depend on me, people laud me, people connect with me, all through my phone.  If I don't have my phone, I may miss any or all of this.  It is a horrible thing to think that I might go five minutes without this connection!

And yet...  Those times "critical" work emails come in during dinner and the joy I get from asking my children what the best part of their day was is washed away in a momentary fire-storm of frustration as I ponder the nature of self-sufficiency.  Or when I'm having a deep conversation with my wife and best friend and I'm torn away, ever so briefly, by the buzzing on my wrist and the moment of intimacy dissipates with my inattention.  

All of this connection is in a very real way an exceptionally self-absorbed thing.  It is the ultimate way in which I can make the whole world revolve around me.

As I've vacationed and left my phone yards or even miles from my person, I've realized that I should spend more time without a "connection".  There is so much to see and do that doesn't revolve around this artificial, digital world in which so many of us choose to make our homes.  It's not that the digital world can't travel into these places, it's more that it should be a passive observer and not a participant.  

It's incredible to capture that moment on my phone as my son conquers his fear and leaps off of a waterfall into a pool below, thus creating a moment in which I can point back to and call him courageous, a moment that is a memory he will likely have for the rest of his life, well after I (and my phone) are gone.  But I don't really need to know whether or not we've been upgraded to first class as he does that.  

This connection, this device, is not a diviner of the sacredness of moments, it can only tell everything at full volume.  Until these devices become such diviners it will become necessary for me, at least, to disconnect.  Much more often.