Swimming in the Sea of Pain

Depression isn’t as uncommon as I once thought it was, so many of you will probably be able to relate with how I’ve been feeling. Let me start at the beginning…

I’ve struggled with “emotional issues” my entire life. From overwhelming anxiety to all-encompassing depression; suicidal ideation; over-the-top excitement; mania… Some of you may know that those are hallmarks of manic-depressive illness, or bi-polar disorder.

I have been diagnosed with anxiety and intermittent explosive disorder. I went to anger management a few times. I stopped going eventually, though, because I was paying attention to the surface level symptoms and not to the underlying issues. I stopped the meds, too. I have not gone back to a psychiatrist in more than ten years, partly because I don’t know if I want to know what they have to tell me about me. And partly because I don’t want to have the diagnosis.

It may sound silly, but I don’t want to take medication. I want to trust in God and experience life as I was created to experience it. There is an argument about nature vs nurture there, I know, but I have my cross to bear just like everyone else and will bear it until such a time as I’m called Home or God sees fit to lift it from me.

So whether or not I have this illness, I just want to live. But for years I didn’t think that was the case. I wound up with the barrel of a handgun against my head, tears streaming down my face, my family in the next room, finger on the trigger. There is nothing as surreal as feeling the weight of a trigger when you know if you apply just a little more pressure you won’t ever feel anything again.

The thought of my wife hearing that shot and finding me there, of my kids seeing me like that, stopped me that night. Then I got angry (big surprise) and decided that nothing was going to stop me from living this life, not until God Himself decided to call me home.

I have come a very long way since then. I’m not that person anymore, but I do still experience the depression and the mania, usually roughly equal cycles which sometimes last for weeks, sometimes for months. Sometimes I’m fairly neutral between cycles for a few weeks.

I say all this to indicate that I am trying very hard to be as self-aware as possible because I don’t want to end up back where I was all those years ago, in that void.

I was doing good for a while. “Good” being relative, of course. But then I saw a six month old baby die in front of me. Medics did everything they could, but it was over long before they stopped working I think. Then I spiraled. The issue I had with alcohol at the time became worse.

By the grace of God and the encouragement and example of my lovely wife and some great friends I was able to find my way out of it.

Then, yesterday, a friend killed himself.

And I could feel it. I can feel it right now. I’m treading water but I’m exhausted and I don’t know how much longer my limbs will work in these freezing seas. I’m trying very hard to keep my head above water…

My one saving grace is the fact that I know my King walks atop the water.

As long as He holds onto me I will not sink into oblivion, and the abyss will not have me. I’m glad He promised to never let me go. The illness doesn’t matter. The trigger doesn’t matter. The cycles don’t matter. The yawning deep below doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is where I am in relation to Jesus. I don’t care about anything else in this moment.

The drink beckons, but it’s calls are hollow and echoing like my heart when I dwell on the man that ended his life yesterday morning. My eyes need to be on my God and nowhere else. That’s what I’m trying to do. That’s what I need to do.

It’s better to swim in this sea of pain than to drown in a bottle of bourbon. Even if it hurts forever, which it probably will, I have to keep my eyes on God. I cannot fall away into the deep because it may be the last time that I do. I apologize if this is a little darker than usual. I have to say these things. I have to express this so that it doesn’t swirl around within me, gaining speed and mass.

It’s Jesus. It’s always been Jesus. It will always be Jesus that is there gripping me tightly, refusing to let me drown. I don’t know what my friend was experiencing or where his heart was. I don’t understand what pain he felt so strongly that he had to end it with a bullet. I will never know. I just want him to be with Jesus.

God forgive us all…

Until next time,
JP

2 thoughts on “Swimming in the Sea of Pain

  1. Pingback: What I’m Reading, Listening to, And Concerned About | Mogadishu Matt

  2. Pingback: Five Lessons Learned from Two Months of Sobriety | Jon Parker Writes

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