Have you ever watched “Patch Adams” starring Robin Williams? With the circumstances surrounding Robin’s death, the irony and pathos is off the charts and makes the film even more incredible. I saw this film for the first time while I was still perusing a chemistry degree and going premed (I’ve since changed my major – again) and it really touched my heart in a very special way; for now, I’m just going to focus mainly on the first 15-20 minutes of the film.
Patch is narrating as the movie begins and we see him sitting alone on a bus, looking out the window towards a cold, ashen sky with eyes just as overcast. He’s talking about the word home. He says how it means both where your story begins and ends, and how much the irony of that hits him. I can relate so well to both concepts since I moved so much as a child (I had three different schools my 2nd grade year) and the breath-taking aching and longing clutching my chest, my heart, with the hope of one day having a home, a family, of my own. A great lesson I’ve learned so far is this: just because you share DNA with someone doesn’t make them family and just because you don’t doesn’t mean they aren’t. And, for me, the family with whom you DONT share DNA is so much more precious than with those who do – because they/you chose to be each other’s family.
Ok. Back to the flick. After Patch’s reflections, we see him arriving at a psychiatric hospital where checks himself in due to major depression accompanied with serious suicidal thoughts (just like me!). Unfortunately, the patients, not the doctors and ‘specialists’, end up helping him more. How did this happen? Just like it did for me – his fellow patience actually listened to him and each other, expressed genuine concern and compassion, while the doctors and therapists kept their heads in their charts and orders, only listening for specific words and/or phrases. I’m sorry, ok not really, but healing a human being HEAL from major trauma takes time and investment from both parties; its seems as if our views, ideas, plans, and ultimately our progress in the field of mental health MUST be restructured upon new and different perspectives, stop throwing mind-numbing and especially heart-numbing medication at patience because it’s easier and quicker than actually listening to them and care.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe or thing all mental health professionals are like this, only that they are few and far between; the ones who do care are typically overworked and under paid or their fees are too high to pay out of pocket and don’t take your insurance. This struggle is real for me because I, too, have faced these challenges trying to battle and cope with deep depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and general anxiety disorder. So when I hear of stories such as Patch Adams and especially Robin’s, I pay more attention and take notice because learning how they were able to carry their heavy burdens may possibly help me carry mine. But, for some of us, those burdens become to heavy, a noose around our necks, an extra round in our pistols, one pill too many in the bottles.
Sadly, Robin’s burden became too heavy for him to bear in 2014 and he committed suicide; I still feel the coldness from the shadows left behind when his warm, blinding light went out. How I wish that light shown upon his own face and gave warmth to his large, generous heart. Crazy how you can miss someone you’ve never met and so much, ay? Part of me also wishes I couldn’t relate to this story, too, but I can and intimately so. I was just released from the Provo Canyon Behavioral Hospital for finally collapsing under the weight from 30+ years of burdens, most of which I carried in secret and alone; that was mostly my choice because I didn’t know any other way but I accept full responsibility for the consequences for making those choices. I was ready to snuff out my own light and go home, and honestly, part of me still feels that way; I’m tired, so tired – tired of fighting, surviving, being alone without any family, the pain, the scars, the truth. But I’m still here. I’m still breathing. At least for today and that’s all I need to worry about. For those of you who feel the way I do and see/feel your light getting dimmer, stay with me to the end of this post – because today, this moment is all you have to worry about, too.
Surprisingly, a week in the nut house did me more than I ever imagined. My first couple of days were rough, but by the time it came for my release, I had and felt something I hadn’t had in such a long time – hope. It may have barely been a spark, but flames can reach to lick the top of redwoods with a single spark. My very first day they allowed me to sleep, mostly because it was due to side effects of new medications, but also because of the collapse of finally sharing my burdens; but by the second day, I was required to go to groups, participate in discussions and therapy, and do my part. That can be a lot to ask someone who’s severely depressed because of how hard and painful it can be just to get out of the bed. Before being struck with such mind/soul crushing mental illness, I had no idea how physically debilitating depression can be. The struggle is real AND true; that’s one of the things I love about truth – it’s true whether you choose to believe it or not. The groups were especially hard for me since I’d been so use to enduring and dealing with the majority of life on my own; they were torture, really, but dammit, when I set my mind to something, only God Himself is able to stop me, and I’d decided if I wasn’t going to fade away as seemlessly as the chords of a melancholy melody I was going be happy and live.
Except the idea of being happy, living and enjoying the life I have is a daunting one on its own; add in a laundry list of mental illness and unresolved trauma and it almost seems impossible. But, remember as I am constantly trying to, take it one day at a time and, when needs be, one moment at a time. One of the main things I learned this past week is how incredibly strong, with almost super-human strength, the human mind is. Did you know the main purpose we dream, particularly the REM cycle, is for our minds to process all it’s taken in that day? Fascinating. But having to survive all that I’ve been through for the past 35-35 years I couldn’t, not wouldn’t (that’s where I’m at now), acknowledge those atrocities – even while I slept. So what did I do? I SHUT MY DREAMING DOWN – for over 30 years!! Do you have any idea how hard and mind blowing that is?! To be able to overpower your subconscious is huge and is a testament as to how strong I am, mentally anyway. Still, if the psychiatrist who treated me last week hadn’t been the one who told me this I prolly wouldn’t believe it myself. Perhaps my mom was right – I can do anything I set my mind to. . . .
About a year ago, outside the Provo Temple on a cool Sunday night during a snotty, crying, yet tender hearted and genuine prayer I not only laid my life at the Lord’s feet but my whole soul. I was literally handing back to Him what He created and said to Him, “Alright, do it with what You will.”, and a year later I can tell you what it’s all come down to – He wants me to LIVE this life, not merely survive. A true and real life filled with love, joy, family, contentment, peace, and happiness; non of which is even possible in survival mode. You can only be focused on what you will do with your next breath so you’re able to take another instead of suffocating to death. There is no middle ground in survival mode, not even one shade of gray. It’s an exhausting, soul crushing existence for this life in the world we live in. And I’m tired. So tired.
Not only am I a culmination of my ancestors who survived, not just ‘lived through’, heinous events but became stronger because of them; and with MY soul’s capabilities and gifts I am practically indestructible. Because the only thing that’s a greater toll than surviving on your mind, body, and soul to endure is to have to do a 180 degree turn and learn how to live. That change is BRUTAL and is the darkest hole, devoid of any light, besides the flames of the refiner’s fire as it licks your heels and face. Did you know you can actually die from the pain of a broken heart? So fascinating but I digress.
I am the last of my family; the Pendagraph name will die with me, whether by marriage or death. So it falls upon my shoulders to make this huge shift for my future generations. This isn’t just about me because somehow I know I will be married one day, have a family, and they deserve better. Which means just knowing how to live isn’t enough, I have to be able to teach it; and as a former chemistry mentor once told me, “You don’t know something until you’re able to teach it.” Bam! Listen to those words – they contain much wisdom and insight. It also means if I’m going to have to teach my children to live I first have to know how – and this thought makes every part of my mind and body want to scream.
I like to think of it as walking for 35 years on my feet with my legs and now I have to learn how to walk on my hands with my arms for the rest of my life. Everything inside of me is screaming this isn’t right and keeps trying to go back to walking on my feet. I firmly believe Peter had the same feelings and thoughts as he climbed out of the boat and took his first steps upon the water, and is why he looked down instead of keeping his eye on Christ; the same goes with Jonah just as he boarded to Tarshish and landed him inside the whale’s belly.
Only, this time trying to learn how to live, is my final choice to keep my eyes upon Christ and NOT get on the boat to Tarshish. Heavenly Father had boxed me, quite uncomfortably, into an extremely tight corner; my choices are stark and blantantly obvious – learn how to live and stop surviving, mainly by being open and completely honest (both with you and myself), sharing my story from the past and as I take this journey OR chicken out, keep trying to hide (both literally and figuratively), and allow my fear to rule out over my faith. All of this being an informed, conscious choice I would knowingly make. In the words of Joseph Smith, Jr., “I knew, I knew God knew it, and I could not deny it.”
Now, my faith is as a member of the Church of Jesus Chriat of Latter-Day Saints. My testimony regarding the truthfulness of its doctorine, its validity of its prophets and apostles, and it containing the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is ROCK SOLID so please don’t comment or say anything negative about my religion. I can promise you I will never slam your belief nor will I try to ever ‘convert’ you (I couldn’t even if I wanted to – the Holy Ghost has to do that). I’m sure you can tell (or at least you will) that I am not your average “Mormon” but don’t let that fool you – I fully support its teachings and leaders. An all-time favorite quote of mine is from Aristotle saying, “The mark of an educated man is having the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it.” The purpose of this blog is to share with you my journey through life and all that goes with it, sharing such incredibly personal things about myself. I’m just sharing stories, and I hope and pray maybe, just maybe something I’ve gone through and share will help someone, anyone who might be going through the same thing. Because if I can just ONE person not feel alone or like a freak or a weirdo then that’s enough for me and make all that I’ve endured worth it.
I have a ZERO model plan or even an idea of what this ‘sharing’ will look like or what to do, but I do know this: I promise to ALWAYS be 100% honest with you and myself because if I’m not this isn’t going to work. Plus, lying and telling myself ‘I’m ok’ had gotten me into some serious trouble the past few months and sabotaged some very precious relationships. I also hope to post on here 2-3 times per week to keep you updated (& myself accountable) on what’s going on. I warn you they may be short, rating and raving but I’ll at least let you know how I’m doing (no matter how bad it is). I hope you will join me in this journey and see where it goes. Yes, being one of my BFF’s is exhausting and excruciating so let’s just be pals, buddies through this. I’ll help dry your tears if you’ll just allow me to shed mine.
I wish I could say I’m doing better and everything is fine, but the truth is while I type this I’m sitting in an emergency room waiting to go back to the mental hospital and trying to pass a kidney stone. But I haven’t given up, almost but not yet, so stick it out with me, keep praying, keep believing because I barely do, and hopefully I’ll get through this, too. I hate Christmas this year, being alone without any family and having hurt those I care about the most (not knowing/remembering what happened makes it worse not better) and is the cherry on top of a very bitter, painful cake I want to stop eating. Having 30+ years of repressed memories of trauma and abuse is overwhelming and more than I can handle with daily life. We’ll see if I can make it. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see if tomorrow really is another day. Maybe I should find a big, red nose to wear; if it helped Patch, hopefully it can help me.