Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eating Crow?

I am ashamed.  I fear much of what I've written since August has been as much the result of mania as any spiritual inspiration, and I cannot separate the two out.  But after every mania comes a depression, and I have entered depression.  I plan to see my shrink tomorrow and have already started myself back on medications.

To admit this is frankly devastating.  I really did believe I was healed.  I really did believe all the stuff I wrote about battles with Satan and Christ's second coming.  It was all more real than real--real in the way, say, dreams are more real than reality at times.  But now I've lost the feeling, the connection, and I don't really know what to do with myself. 
Meanwhile I have some mementos of my journey.  I have the necessary papers to change my name to Craig Erickson but I don't have the heart to file them.  I have a totem pole that was carved for me with my three spirit guides: my animal spirit, the bear; my wise spirit, the frog; and my spirit guide, the raven.  It was carved out of redwood by a man I met on my journey to Oregon and now stands planted in my garden.  I like it there but it does remind me of how high I was.

In "Flowers for Algernon" a retarded man undergoes a clinical trial of a drug which increases his intelligence exponentially, only to have the drug fail and all his love of Mozart and philosophy and such taken out of his hands and his being left empty.  This book has haunted me since I was a child, and it mimics the manic-depressive experience: "Riding high in April, shot down in May."

So what can I say about everything I've written during this manic journey?  Surely there is truth in it, but truth mixed with error.  Signs that I was out of control include a rupture with my daughter, my wife leaving, and the loss of one of my best friends.  Thankfully the rupture was repaired, and my wife has returned, but I fear my friend is lost forever.  I guess I just scared him away.  It's a terrible loss, although the friendship always did have its difficulties.

When my tears started I at first thought they were grief, but now I find that diurnal urge to cry--in the late morning and late afternoon--which is typical of my depressive phases.  I suffer anhedonia--I take no pleasure in anything.  One thing is like another and getting through each day seems an impossible burden as I don't know what to do with myself.  When I was manic I was active, I always knew what to do next.  Heck, I had new business cards printed up as a doctor, a "Soul Healer," and set aside the extra bedroom in the house to see patients.  Now the prospect of practicing medicine seems frightful to me.  And my chronic back pain would limit my ability to practice in any case.  But I thought that was to be healed as well, along with my manic-depression and metabolic syndrome (a fancy word for being overweight or obese).  Thankfully I did lose fifty pounds in the course of my experience, something I thought a healing, and it is the only evidence I have that anything I experienced was lasting or real. 

Yet it felt so real--I cannot begin to describe to you the heightened certainty, the angelic surety of my convictions during this period.  I felt as if my body was slowly being resurrected, that I was growing younger, and that eternal life would spread like an infection through the human race and the millennium would arrive.  More importantly I thought that I participated in a direct battle with Satan which resulted in him being bound for 1000 years so that righteousness could reign on the earth.  All of this is evident in my postings, which I will not delete as an example to posterity.  But imagine my embarrassment at being reduced to a mere "Craig," just one more mental patient gone awry.

Those closest to me suspected this all along.  Some few friends and acquaintances believed in my journey.  I am grateful to them for their faith.  But now I am faced with the horror of depression, and typically, a post-manic depression is the worst and most untreatable kind because of the heights from which the bipolar patient has fallen.  There is nothing like the bliss and confidence I experienced while in that state; it was like an acid trip that went on for five months.  And what's really puzzling is that some miracles did occur, as witnessed by others: healings, casting out of demons, and two sightings of Viking boats lit up at night sailing off the coast of Mendocino which I and my friend actually saw.  Can two people share a hallucination?  These sorts of questions can drive one mad.

I don't know what to do with myself now.  I have no confidence and no direction.  I feel snake bit, sucker-punched by my own defective brain.  And the sorrow of descending from feeling like a god back to a mortal worm is indescribable.  Still it would be remiss of me not to salvage something from the experience, so let me still sign off with

Namaste,

Craig

9 comments:

  1. Craig, I was afraid of this having read of your sudden conversion and the attendant prophetic feelings. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you well. I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, and while we're not alike, I know enough to speak from my heart and to know that I recognize you are heartbroken. It happens, my friend, and will happen again. Let those who love you, love you. Stay alive.

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  2. Thanks, Steve, you are so kind to comment. I cannot describe to you the horror of daily existence now. I cannot decide to decide anything. If my wife had not returned, I don't know what would have happened. She is my life boat. Bless you for your compassion.

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  3. Anonymous12:14 AM PST

    Hi Craig,

    I hope you don't feel any shame at all. There should be no more shame in manic-depression than influenza. It's not the doing of your volition.

    What IS the doing of your volition is having the courage to write about it which I'm astounded by. I can't relate to your specific experience. Though I can relate to having neurotransmitters betray me during a struggle with severe and undiagnosed hypothyroidism. You're the doctor. You know our brain chemistry shapes our thoughts. Our minds are imperfect. It's our will and intention that is commentary on who we are. It is clear that your will and your intention is pristine.

    You have nothing to be ashamed of at all.

    I'm so sorry to hear of the pain you're suffering right now. But I hope you feel this: You mind may have misinformed you of some details while you were manic. But your courage may save peoples lives. You giving voice to your own struggle may save somebody's life. In your suffering, you may have done the greatest service a person can do. That may not sort out neurotransmitters. But it's something to be proud of.

    Be well and continue your courage.

    John Willis

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  4. Anonymous7:33 AM PST

    Dear C.E.,

    Another retrospective put it this way:

    "Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me bless his Holy Name.
    Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not
    all his benefits--
    who forgives all your sins and
    heals all your diseases,
    who redeems your life from the pit and
    crowns you with love and compassion,
    who satisfies your desires with good things so
    that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

    --ps 103: 1-3.

    As you have written, previously, the author, to
    whom these thoughts are attributed, suffered from mood swings and prolonged periods of depression. I wonder if this psalm was the rudder which enabled him to function effectively independent of his feelings

    In Rom 12:2 we are admonished:

    "...do not conform any longer to the pattern
    of this world, (the default position in our social programming, I take this to mean?)
    but be transformed (note the verb voice)by
    the renewing of your mind."

    C.E., as we've all said so many time when offering a critique on another's poem, "This
    is to take or leave, just another's point of view."

    1) Don't throw out the baby with the bath water!!
    Something DID happen to you.
    You described it in terms of how it made you feel. Feelings change. It doesn't follow, however, that therefore the change in feelings somehow invalidates the reality of the event(s)
    Faith is independent of the feelings attendant with our introduction to it, right? So, tho the feelings are excessive or even abberant in nature, they, being mere fleshly descriptors of a spiritual event, are incapable of changing the nature of the event in any way, right?
    Don't let doubt creep in because of *feeling*
    differently about it subsequently.
    2) You have been made a *new* creature in Christ Jesus. Yet you live in the same *old* body with everyone of its previous imperfections reminding you its having remained exactly the same. New in spirit, bodily the same sounds contradictive, but we are promised that one day these bodies will be perfected to match the perfection of the new spirit.

    In the mean time, the apostle Paul says we must
    allow ourselves to be transformed. How? He says by the renewing of our minds.

    How does one renew the mind?

    One useful way could be in verbally rehersing the benefits of the Father's grace provided to us by David the psalmist, as above....

    3) Function whether you feel like it or not

    This is the title of a sermon a friend of mine delivered many years ago. The title says it all.

    Enough for now.
    Keep the faith
    and until the day
    of his coming, know
    you are both a blessing
    and being blessed,

    HA

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  5. not sure if this makes sense or not, but when I have encountered a crashing, cheek reddening blow, the one thing that holds me together a little longer is to remind myself that the good parts of the experience (the one that led to the edge of the well and shoved me in) existed for me. I experienced it. There was joy, euphoria, a whole buncha stuff that cannot be taken away from me. The experience you had, even though it was your own brain sending out the fireworks, existed for you. It brought you joy, pleasure, all that.

    Edna Millay has a wonderful line, "Do not say it was not love, just because it ended".

    And, yeah, Steve is right, being outside of the experience, people could sort of see that this wasnt going to last. But you can't know that, being in the middle of it. Nothing to be embarrassed about, hon. Just hang on to the good parts. Yes they are there. Your amazing wife is one of the major parts and you recognize that.

    Take care.

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  6. I'm thinking of you and praying you'll find your way. You're a good man.

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  7. I like and am challenged by your "Details" in this month's issue of Quill and Parchment. Which one(s) of mine did you, do you, like most?

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  8. Geoff, thanks, have to go check yours out.

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  9. Thanks John, HA, Mittens, Steve, everyone...I grabbed the courage to actually look at my blog today. I can't tell you how much courage it takes. I am tearful as I write this because I am reminded of my loss of imagined self, my non-depressive self, a self that allowed me joy and hope, sadly now lost to the vagaries of this cyclic illness. Is it the death of a false self or the loss of an exalted self? Who's to know? How do I make sense of my now plebeian existence? Whence the courage to vacuum, dust, pay bills, walk the dog, contact friends? I wish I could hide forever but each breath I take exposes me again. Thanks again for all your encouragement. I am lost for the moment and don't know how to find myself. I must soldier on somehow.

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