How I ended up in therapy.

I thought I was “okay,” for years, for decades…until I realized that I wasn’t. And that had to be okay.

My grandfather had a nervous breakdown in 1962 from exposure to polishes and solvents he was working with and from badly-handled grief from losing his 18-year-old son in 1944. I was born in 1963, and I never got to know the man who raised my mother and aunt. He spent time in the state hospital and underwent electroshock therapy. Afterwards he was on drugs to manage his mental state for the rest of his life. He spent some time years later in a psych ward. I was 9 or 10, I think. Then he had to go back in for a while a few years later.

The idea I got from seeing those places was that I never wanted to end up there, and along with that, I thought that psychiatrists (I didn’t know about psychologists then) were the people who put you there. That there might be a reason for it was something that I didn’t spend a lot of time considering. As a result, my thoughts on therapy, for most of my life, were “HARD PASS.” I thought that I’d say the wrong thing and end up somewhere, and not be able to get out. So I developed the idea that I was in good shape mentally and didn’t need counseling.

Enter 1983 and Christianity, and an episode of the 700 Club (I watched this I kind of stuff early on) where Pat Robertson had some “expert” on who said that psychologists, by profession, were serving evil, and Pat threw in a 2¢ summary that a Christian psychologist was the same as a Christian witch-doctor. I now felt justified in my aversion to therapy. And that stayed with me for the rest of my time in the church.

As a Christian when I would struggle with something, people would verse-vomit and tell me to rely on dubious, and very badly explained things like the “Mind of Christ” and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. I never trusted that because I did not understand how it was supposed to work.

Being laid off from a job I had held for over 17 years placed me in some rather uncertain work situations, then selling my house and moving compounded the stress that I was dealing with. After a few episodes of rage at pretty manageable things, a friend pointed out that my problem had to do with stress and not the things in front me. So late in 2017 I found a therapist. There’s a lot to unpack, and losing my dad in June of 2018 only added more.

Your brain is an organ. It processes information. And when too much bad information overwhelms it, there are effects that you may not notice or be able to simply bounce off of like they’re of no regard. Recognizing that and seeking help for it is not a sign of weakness.

Pretending nothing is wrong is the weak move.

Advertisements

No. I am not okay.

My father has been in the hospital for over a month, with a week in the middle, in a nursing facility for rehab. Most of the time he has been bedridden. It really doesn’t look good, and I have no idea how long he has.

Every time I post an update somewhere, people ask if I’m okay. I appreciate the concern but I don’t like being asked that because I don’t have a simple answer. I don’t like that question because I feel like I can’t answer honestly in an off-the-cuff fashion like the way people say “fine.”

It’s complicated. And most people who ask you how you’re doing in social settings are looking for a one or two word answer. They’re not expecting a full buffer-dump of details about all of the crap you’re dealing with.

Right now I am extremely tired. I’m stressed out more than I have been in my entire life. I’m trying to maintain a job, make sure there’s food in the house, get my mom to her appointments when she has them, check on my dad, and make some very unpleasant and difficult decisions on his behalf. I’m also trying to take care of myself, pay my bills, and get out and spend time with friends and in nature, and get as much rest as I can. I am probably dealing with a certain amount of depression and anxiety. I’m seeing someone monthly to talk that out. But none of this will begin to resolve itself until my dad is better.

I know everyone has their hearts in the right place when they ask, but when I see the question “Are you okay?” my first reaction is to roll my eyes.

I’ll be okay, just not right now.

If there’s a ‘Hell’ I’ll probably be there, and that’s okay

Physically, as in a geometric location prepositionally oriented to the Earth (below), or a co-planar alter dimension of roasty torments, probably not. But in the hearts and minds of some of the people I’ll leave behind, I’ll be ‘down there,’ wailing and gnashing my teeth because I chose to no longer believe.

The trouble with the afterlife is that we have to die to find out what it is. We talk about it as if we’ve sent NASA battlebot rovers through the tunnel and into the light and we’ve been watching the live feed on the agency’s website. The truth is, we don’t know. We have no reproducible evidence of what, if anything, is over there, or if there is in fact an ‘over there.’ There is a lot of speculation and supposition among people, and most of it is very fervently held.

We live on in the hearts and minds of the people whose lives we’ve touched. That’s the only ‘afterlife’ that’s verifiable. It’s the only afterlife that we do know. That’s why forgiveness is so important, not because of a threat that God won’t forgive you if you refuse. It’s so that you’re not carrying around the burden of encounter after encounter, and situation after situation for years afterwards, and possibly to your grave.

When people die and someone sees them in Hell because they chose to not believe in Christ, or at least to not believe in the ‘Christ’ that was being preached at them, it means that they have a place in their heart for the purpose of burning and torturing people, and they’ve placed that person, their memories of that person, there. And if they have a particularly sick pathology, they take delight in the fact, and count it a blessing to one day observe it. That idea goes back to at least the 13th century, to St. Thomas Aquinas.

I personally know a few people who shine the outsides of their mental furnaces, and whenever I go, if they’re still here, they’ll likely toss me in with the others.

The thing is, eternity, the other side, whatever that is…whatever experience, if any that I’ll have when my time ends here, that’s between me and the creator. That’s between me and the universe. It’s not anyone else’s business. And it certainly has nothing to do with whatever movie is playing in someone else’s head, now or after I leave this experience.

Ransom demand

hell gun

As I think back on those early days 35 years ago, I was a freshman in college and had my first full-blown encounters with proselytizers. At the back of every discussion, encounter, or argument was Hell. It was an idea ever-waiting to be dropped into the conversation at the slightest hint of any refusal to accept. And what I didn’t realize until recently is that Hell was always a gun held to my mind by a god who offers to remove it if I’d only believe.