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Friday, October 22, 2010

when i get knocked down, i get up again

My greatest source of anxiety in life has always been that I feel like I have to be a certain person to so many different people; to the point where I am unsure of who I really am. The blessing of being able to adapt to so many types and backgrounds of people is that I feel I can have a better sense of empathy and compassion for them; especially in times of need. This is nothing new, I was like this growing up; I always had different sets of friends; I always wore clothing to coincide with whatever group I was hanging out with, I always talked the way they did, etc. and the groups never meshed so without these groups I failed to recognize myself.

I guess my point is that, like some people, I am still trying to pin down who I am, what I am, my purpose, my identity; outside of being a child and son of God. I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, so I know that my eternal identity is really all that matters, but in mortality we are here to flesh out the other wonderful parts of who we are; to be tested, learn and grow beyond our pre-mortal experience or lack of. I know if I want to truly grow and be grounded, my life here needs to be rooted in gospel living, but frankly, at this point, I have all but given up on trying to feel the spirit or communicate with God. I love feeling the spirit, I love stability, I love happiness, growth and knowledge, but after so many years of struggling with my issues of addiction, abandonment, abuse and anxiety, I have reached a point where I am simply gliding and it's no picnic; when the storms come, I get blown away or knocked down.

Nearly six years ago I chose to be excommunicated because I knew I was only doing myself more harm than good bringing condemnation upon myself as a priesthood holder and member of the Church. My resolve has been since I was diagnosed with HIV to learn more about who I am, allow myself some breathing room, make mistakes without church disciplinary action and unlock the puzzles within. The hope is that sooner than later, I will be at one with myself while allowing the Atonement to heal me in emotional, mental, physical and spiritual ways I never thought possible. Best case scenario is that I will be rebaptized and receive all the blessings of church membership, the priesthood and the temple in this lifetime. But if not, I am still a good person whom God loves and I will leave this life hopefully with a great understanding of who I am and be happy where I end up in the life to come, despite not receiving those blessings in this life. God is merciful, kind, compassionate, loving, almighty, magnificent and all-knowing. I know He has watched me struggle with my problems within my family, within the world and within myself. The world may not see how far I have come and what I have achieved despite my weaknesses, but God does and I pray that He will continue to have mercy on my soul.

I am not giving up or giving in, but rather stating the obvious, that my fight is far from being over.

I appreciate your prayers, love, support and concern as I continue to battle.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

near death experience

In my last post I wrote about what was happening to me in my life; simply put, my life seems to be on a downward slope. Some things I have control over and others I do not, but I have always been quite the anxious person. As a side note, I feel some people confuse anxiety with impatience. In my opinion, there is a vast difference between the two, but they share commonalities.

Anxiety is this overwhelming emotional, mental and physical sensation that surrounds much of what I feel I cannot control. It is about everything boiling simultaneously and creating this pressure that will inevitably explode, that I seemingly have absolutely no control over. I can not breathe properly, focus my attention, think clearly or make wise decisions when anxiety strikes. I am not saying that anxiety cannot be controlled, but rather that it seems to strike at random, on its own terms and is usually the result of deep-seeded, underlying issues that have little to do with the struggle at hand.

Patience, or the lack of it, seems to be about outward, day-to-day choices; being impatient, for me, is a fleeting moment and goes away in a short amount of time. I find that my patience level is related to my level of responsibility and accountability. If I am waiting behind a disabled senior citizen who is taking forever, I can choose any number of choices that each come with their own consequence. It is not the only time this has ever happened to me and usually the real issue is that I did not plan my time out properly to include possible situations like ones that would drive me up a wall.. Usually I just get annoyed, see if I can assist them in anyway or just tune the whole situation out, but in the end, the way I react has more to do with my choices. Procrastination leads me into darkness and opens the gate to impatience, which can only be followed by a lack of self-worth and anxiety. I used to have a sign on my door that read, Procrastination is a Dirty Word; I have this to be the truth.

The following is not something I really want to talk about, but I think it is something I need to talk about to help myself and possibly someone else.

Throughout my life I have entertained thoughts of suicide or physical harm to myself, but I have never taken it so seriously to even remotely get close to doing anything of that nature. This is not to say I have not turned to alcohol, sexual promiscuity, impulse shopping or any other number of outlets to get me through the moment. I have also turned to healthier outlets that include walking, running, massage, bubble baths, playing the piano, phoning a friend or writing in my journal. Today I am writing on my blog in an effort to get through the moment.

Last week I ran out of my anti-anxiety medication and could not get a refill from my doctor for a week. My HIV medication includes side effects like nightmares, vivid dreams, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Without my anti-anxiety medication in place, my emotional and mental state can go down the drain really fast. This last week without my medication has been a living hell for both me and my dear friend and roommate who has had to step in an protect me from myself.

On several occasions in the last week I pondered harming and/or killing myself to stop the pain of anxiety that had taken over. I do not know what actually stopped me each attempt, but I thank God I never went through with it and I thank my best friend for being there for me each time I threatened my life. At one of my lowest moments my sister answered my 2 am phone call; however; if you see me around anytime soon, you will notice I have no hair due to my final attempt to end my life later that morning. Thankfully, I got to the doctor yesterday and am back on medication to help me remain stable. I can only imagine how much pain one feels that actually goes through with a suicide; my heart and soul goes out to them because I have touched upon that moment of hopelessness and despair.

Recently, in the news, I have read and heard about the several suicides by teens and college students in response to bullying. The media and celebrities have made anti-bullying a buzz topic again, but they have failed to address the importance of mental health issues. Many of these people may have endured any range of anxiety and depression; yes, bullying is horrible and certainly adds to the problem, but let us remember to look at the whole picture.

I read this article recently addressing this topic about the way the media has addressed bullying-related suicides:

"By putting forth bullying as a "cause" of suicide and ignoring underlying mental-health issues that are present in 90 percent of people who die by suicide, the national media may be "normalizing" suicide as a rational response to bullying. For (people) already at risk, this could be a dangerous message."

On this note I am hoping to reach out to those effected by various mental health issues as I am. Suicide or physical harm to oneself or another is not a valid answer, even though in certain states of mind, it may feel that way. During this recent General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, several speakers addressed the topic of Satan's plan to make us, "miserable like unto himself."

"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself...I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; and not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom."
2 Nephi 2:27-29 

Our great Mediator has made it possible for all of us to make choices and live according to the results of those choices. However; we can not always control our environments, other people's choices and unforeseeable events that cause problems. Still, the Lord provides several outlets to deal will our problems and unfortunately, so does Satan. We have have to do our best to choose what is right for ourselves.

When it comes to mental health issues: feelings of deep sadness, depression, anxiety, hopelessness and despair, we have to find ways, whether though medication, therapy, friendship, prayer, meditation or other outlets, to deal with life. It is not easy and often there seems like there is no way out; it can be a sickening, gut-wrenching feeling. I have been there, friends have been there, members of my family have been there. I am encouraged to know that I am not alone in this life. Maybe not everyone has someone who lives with them, loves them or cares about them, but we are not alone for a reason. Once I sought relief from my problems and anguish with a stranger on the train and it made all the difference. Just telling someone else that I was hurting and was in need helped.

There are so many ways to get help and find ways to eventually overcome fears, doubts and bad days because Christ made it possible to overcome death, both spiritually and physically, which includes our mental and emotional lives. Nothing so important as our lives and mental health ever changes overnight so I know I have to find ways to take simple steps; ones I know I can take.

My hope is that anyone reading this or otherwise will never feel so alone, hopeless or in despair enough to do which can not be undone. I humbly seek to be non-judgmental of those who have gone through and acted upon these awful thoughts of suicide, how can I judge when I do not know all things. I do not know what becomes of that person, but I hope and pray that they will one day find the grace and peace of God's love and almighty hands. I reach out my hands and love to those struggling with these thoughts of loneliness, hopelessness and despair and pray that you will find ways to find peace and love through healthy outlets and people who can help in your moments of need and pain. I acknowledge that it was only through the love of God, family and friends that I am here today. I have the opportunity to still to do what I can with what I have. Please pray for those who struggle with mental health issues, face demons everyday and/or contemplate physical harm or suicide. Let us all shine a light on the darkness of hidden, underlying issues that many people deal with in their lives. Every life deserves hope including yours!

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

what's happening to me?

My health seems to have turned around, not for the better.

I was undetectable and healthy for a year and now I am back to being detectable with lowered T-Cells and an ongoing thyroid problem.

This seems to be the least of my worries, though I have had to change my HIV medication from the Viramune + Truvada cocktail to Atripla. Mentally, I have not had much control over my moods, emotions and ability to focus. This is a serious issue for a graduate student. I may be losing my job at school and pretty much having to drop out of my program or slow it down to a near halt.

My heart is halfway full of sadness and loneliness; my way of life is exhausting me. I find it so hard to live consistently within any borders or lines like those of the gospel plan or norms of society. I feel tossed and turned with every strong breeze or storm that comes my way. God's promise to those who don't root themselves in their covenants to Him that supplies protection and continual support is that they may find themselves lost and alone.

Have you ever lost something but everything kept telling you in your mind that you knew where it was? I refuse to calm down and ponder where my lost item is, but instead rummage through everything trying to find it, which usually results in rage, frustration and emotional breakdown.

I swear I know where my testimony of the gospel and my Savior Jesus Christ is, but I am having a hard time finding where I left it. I swear I know where I left my solid relationships of support, love and family, but I am having a hard time finding it. I swear I know where I left my soul, my heart and my spiritual hunger and thirst, but for some reason I am having trouble finding it.

I hear people talk about prayer, scripture studying and pondering and other wonderful things, but for me, it seems like there are always a few steps that come before I resolve to do those things. It's obvious, right? Faith. Hope. Charity. Humility. Repentance. Forgiveness. I am taking a guess that these steps aren't a one time deal.

My professor, incidentally my adviser and boss, is suggesting that I drop his course because I lack focus and am way behind. He told me that it is not that the material is intellectually over my head because I am pretty smart, but that it may be the load of work I have to do that is causing me problems and anxiety. This is very similar to my relationship to the gospel and this course called mortality that I am taking. Intellectually I know the material, I understand the concepts and overall I could probably write a book about all I think I know about it, but what I lack is the ability to do the work.

I am filled with fear of failure and disappointment; the anxiety becomes a bigger monster than the work itself. The problem I face is unlike the class at school which I can drop or take over again, what am I supposed to do about this life? I can't just drop it and take it over again, can I? Nope. So, inevitably I am filled with anxiety and extreme pressure to achieve what seems nearly impossible in a fixed amount of time.

My professor said another thing about the course work: he didn't expect me to do it alone; he doesn't expect anyone to do it alone because it's tough. Likewise, I truly feel that God doesn't expect that we go through this life alone. The work is tough, so He sent His Son Jesus Christ to help out. Jesus can only do so much; you can only lead a horse to water, right? Right now I am going back and forth on whether I want that water or not, but the truth is if I don't decide soon, I could die of thirst. That would be sad and quite a waste.

I know this has come out as a ramble rant, but I needed it; I'm scared.

You have been caught Jey Walking!