My Illness & My Faith- Part III
I’ve been manic for what seems like forever. June 13th is the visit with my therapist when she noticed something was significantly wrong because of a page in my art journal. I am SO thankful that I have someone that pays that kind of attention. I was “manic-y (my doctor’s term),” but not full-blown manic… until a few days later. So, my mind has been going nonstop, circling over and over, reeking havoc without a need to stop for a rest for around 21 days now- if anyone wanted to get down to the nitty gritty. The past 4-5 days I’ve been going HIGH and then LOW. We now have to watch for cycling.
I am currently sitting on my couch with the TV tuned to one of my favorite shows, but I’m not watching it… Well, that isn’t totally true. I will look up at it and watch the screen, but I’m not listening. No. Really. I can’t hear it; and the sound is on. I am sitting here with my headphones on listening to For King and Country radio (for those that don’t know, they’re a Christian singing pair) on iHeart. The firecrackers people are setting off and the fireworks the next city over are MISERABLE. On a daily basis, right now, I have to have my headphones in with my music playing to get through simply being outside to prevent a complete and utter break in my universe. Without them, everything going on visually and audibly is beyond overwhelming. Fun, isn’t it? Now time for some math: add loud noises from the colorful displays, parties, and the dogs barking when the booms happen. Not a pretty sum is it?
Why am I telling you this? I have a reason. I promise.
I haven’t been going to church during these past weeks of combined service. Way too many people; and the having to find coping mechanisms to go was one of the triggers to a major bout with anxiety. Church is the one place you shouldn’t need those. While not attending I’ve been listening to the podcasts of the sermons when they’re posted.
Now that you know that…
Last Wednesday I couldn’t take anymore. I needed some sort of relief. Our church office is open Monday through Thursday. After service, I always feel renewed; so, on Wednesday last week I went to church to sit in the sanctuary. I was hoping for some sort of minor reprieve. What is the definition of a sanctuary? A sanctuary is a place of refuge and protection. Our associate pastor walked into the sanctuary with me and prayed before leaving me for as long as I needed. I wasn’t there long before my mind began to calm. I sat, randomly talking to God, for around an hour or so. It was the first time my mind had been completely quiet in weeks. The relief from myself, my own head, is something that can’t be understood. Can’t be imagined unless you’ve been there. I don’t mean to doubt anyone’s compassion with that statement.
After leaving the sanctuary, I asked our associate pastor if I could speak with him. I told him what was going on right now as well as the reason I left church. We talked about the issues I was having about attending the combined services and the anxiety that attempting to find coping mechanisms caused. God put me there that day for a reason. The associate pastor has a background in psychology! He understands mental health and the things that go with it… like ROUTINE and STRUCTURE. He suggested two things: I make coming there for a bit one day during the week part of my routine while off of work since it helps and would give me another source of structure; and the second was about Sundays- his suggestion was to come at my normal time. People would be there practicing the songs for service. I could sit in the sanctuary, listen to them, and if I felt I could stay for service it is played in the foyer and I could sit in one of the chairs and listen to it away from the mass of people.
The mind didn’t stay quiet. The next few days were bad to put it mildly. That didn’t stop me from attempting his suggestion for Sundays. I craved being there. It worked! I am so happy I will be able to attend the rest of the Sundays until our services go back to normal. Once again God put me there for a reason. I spoke with a woman I have known, from church, from childhood before service started and she said she had something she wanted to send me. Her daughter actually babysat for my sisters and me when we were little before she went to college. A song was playing at the beginning of service when she came out to the foyer and over to me. She said she felt the need to pray with me. She did; and it felt absolutely amazing. This mania has been lonely. That’s scary. I have an unbelievably awesome friend that checks in on me almost every single day and won’t hesitate to go to my therapy appointment when necessary, my amazing therapist that has been “holding down the fort” until my doctor gets back this coming Wednesday, and… well, that’s been about it. I live with my dad, but he tends to ignore it; and he thinks it’s the same as treating his high blood pressure, so whenever I bring up feeling miserable he begins going on about how long I’m going to give my doctor before going to someone else. My sisters I try to not let in on how bad things are because they tend to offer advice and opinions where they aren’t wanted. I don’t tell my grandma when things are bad because she worries enough about me and this illness. Okay… Moving on before I start dwelling… I was happy that I had a pastor that understood mental illness, thrilled that I had at least one place of solace and refuge from my own mind, but… She was so sincere in her prayer. It was the first time in the past month that I felt that someone other than my core support system (my mental health team and my friend Diana) truly cared.
I get her email Sunday evening. She sent me a devotional that she hoped would help me find some peace right now. So, I usually take a walk as the sun is setting. That’s when I do my praying. My talking with God. It’s peaceful and when I’m looking up to the sky and talking to Him people won’t think I’m crazy (not that that should matter then). I went to start my walk and the noises and wind and the cars and… I had to come home, put my headphones in, relax, and and take something to sleep. Tonight, I tried to start just a little later. It was rough because of the firecrackers and fireworks starting, but I made it through and I had my prayer/conversation with Him after reading the devotional. As I was coming to the end of the conversation, two things struck me that I added:
The guest pastor speaking yesterday spoke about how God gives you a platform. NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) has recently started a program called FaithNet. It’s still gaining footage here in Cleveland, but it is a program I would love to be involved in; and maybe talk to our pastor about when he returns from sabbatical about our church being a place for it.
When she prayed on Sunday… she was so confident. So sure in her praying. I lost that a long time ago. I realized how desperately I want to find it again.
I’m going to a prayer time that my church holds on the first Wednesday of every month. A stepping stone through this roaring river that has been drowning me. In my prayer tonight, I asked not that He ends this episode immediately, even as miserable as it is because I know it has to run it’s course and I know He gave me an amazing doctor. I asked that He shows Diana and my therapist that they are not as helpless as they feel during this. Like my time in the sanctuary, my therapist’s office and Diana’s phone calls, texts, and decisions to not listen to me when I need it have been places of safety and refuge.