Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Patience (and Perseverance) of Job

  "O that I might have my request,
and that God would grant my desire;
that it would please God to crush me,
that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!
This would be my consolation;
I would even exult in pain unsparing;
for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.

Job Chapter 6 v 8-10

When I think back on the days of the past when I was in the throes of active addiction and suffering terribly from bipolar disorder I often felt tortured by the madness I endured. The mania I had was often short-lived and was accompanied by delusional thinking that resulted in grandiose messianic beliefs. The crash that followed was in many ways just as debilitating. Depression and hopelessness led to thoughts of suicide. There were occasions where I could not bear living this way, only wishing for a way out. Death seemed like the best option.

But despite all of the pain endured I never turned my back on my Higher Power. And God never turned God’s back on me. I’ve heard many stories of people who have either blamed God due to their unfortunate circumstances of being cursed with such afflictions and have thus denied God’s existence.

In the biblical Book of Job, the story is about someone who endures trial after trial, and was tested by God who allowed Satan to attack him. Through Job’s trials, all is lost including his health, his wife even tells him to curse God and commit suicide, but he remains strong and faithful, “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” (1:22).
I chose (and sill choose) to believe otherwise. In my darkest times I recall praying to have my suffering relieved. Now, this could have something to do with my religious upbringing. But I now believe that I needed prayer to alleviate my mental and emotional pain. Prayer was the starting point for me.

I recall the two times I was hospitalized at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. The conditions were very difficult to endure. The other patients suffered from a wide variety of severe mental disorders. I was uncertain what the future would hold for me. Would I remain in this institution for years like some of the others?

There was one particular young man who I recall was dealing with persistent psychosis. He would walk around the day room spelling his name. That’s it. I asked one of the aides what had happened to him and the aide responded that the patient had “taken too much acid.” This alarmed me, considering that I had dabbled in psychedelics myself in the past.

So when I was there I would pray. Hard. Some would call them “foxhole prayers,” but it was more than that. I sincerely wanted to be relieved from my condition.

I was eventually discharged and was, by the grace of God, able to return to school. But this was not the end of the line for my BP symptoms. I continued to abuse substances and had more hospitalizations at the Erie County Medical Center. It was a very confusing time for me. I struggled with my illness but I did not lose faith. And I did not blame God.

One of the primary characteristics of my journey to mental wellness has been patience and persistence. Mind you, like I said, I had times of doubt however I never gave up. I attribute this to a combination of belief in God, a viable support system, hard work, and being willing to step out of my comfort zone. Slowly but surely I began to see results.

When I eventually stopped using substances in 1988 my symptoms subsided considerably. I still had to endure two more hospitalizations (in 1989 and 1995) but I was able to achieve the life I had always prayed for. Since that last episode I have not had to endure any further significant mental health episodes.

In the end, I believe that our lives, whether they be intertwined with mental illness, addiction, or not, can be enhanced by our relationship with the God of our understanding. It is through this relationship that we are able to endure the pain and struggle life brings. This is what perseverance is all about.

Keep the faith!

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