Friday, February 25, 2005

Well Damn Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson killed himself. You may never have heard of this writer. Some of his books you may have heard of. He wrote “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You might have seen the film adaptation of it with Johnny Depp playing Hunter. You might know him from one of his magazine articles. When I saw the headlines I did not remember Hunter. The first account of his death made him and his writing sound so interesting I wanted to get some of his books. Then a couple of days later I read another story about him. It said that at the time he shot himself his son, daughter-in-law and 6 year old grandson was in the house. His wife was away at a health club it said. Well damn Hunter S. Thompson!!!!

He was a very selfish person. How do I know this when I had never heard of him before. Because suicide is a selfish act and to do it while your 6 year old grandson is visiting you takes the top prize.
I have lived most of my life not wanting to live. I have fought with suicidal thoughts while both extremely depressed and while riding the high of a manic episode. Having bipolar disorder means that if you are suicidal it can be when you are either up or down. For me it is safer when I am down. When I am depressed I don’t have the energy to kill myself. When I am manic I do have the energy. More than I need in fact. My last hospitalization was caused by me being manic and suicidal at the same time.

You can debate whether I have the right to kill myself or should I be stopped by the state or others, but you can’t debate that it is a selfish act. Philosophically I do believe a person has the right and I don’t agree the state should lock me up against my will to stop me. That being said. If I killed myself it would be selfish because people love me. So really I don’t think I have the right to kill myself. Which means I will continue to write these blogs.

Ed


If you don’t want to comment on here my email address can be found on my profile on this page at this site.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I AM STILL NOT WHOLE

We all seem to have the need to be rooted. To belong to something larger than ourselves. At times we do very destructive things in order to be part of the group. Can you imagine never feeling like you belonged? Never feeling like you were loved? It may surprise you, but there are lots of us that have or still do feel that way.
Sexual abuse at an early age damages the soul and mind. You do not feel worthy of belonging to anything. If the abuse goes on long enough, you may even begin to look forward to it because it seems like the only time you are important.

In a barn in eastern Kentucky, my grandfather made me his sex toy at the very young age of four. Sometimes he was physically violent with me and sometimes he was sweet as hell to me. I never knew which was coming. As time went on I began to look forward to our encounters. I was special then. My grandpa said I was. No other time or place did I seem as special as I was there. The abuse lasted from when I was four until I was almost twelve. It stopped because my parents became missionaries to Africa and he could no longer get to me.

You may think me the odd bird. That I am the only one who ever looked forward to the abuse. Well I am not. It destroys so much of you that you may never again feel whole. I am not whole even now. It started over fifty years ago and I am still not whole.

It has gotten better, but better is not whole. Better is not feeling like you belong. That is what makes faith communities so important. A place to belong even if I am still not whole.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

DO NOT HAVE TO STAND ALONE

I gave my first speech on the subject of faith and mental illness at the Spring Conference of the North Carolina Alliance for the Mentally Ill in April 1989. They did a special Friday evening event dedicated to the subject. I spoke along with John Baggett who at the time was Executive Director of NCAMI. During the regular sessions there where presentations on the subject by both of us and others including Dr. Thomas A Summers, then Director of the Academy for Pastoral Education at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and John F. Steinbruck, Pastor of Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC.
It was my first real experience getting up in front of a group of folks and speaking about my illness. To say the least it was not easy. Speaking for me has always been easy because I started preaching when I was a young kid. My parents where missionaries to Africa and I was preaching before I was in high school. Speaking was easy, but not about my illness. My illness had always been a subject of shame. My father wrote before his death that I had been an embarrassment to him before the other missionaries.
Speaking at a NAMI conference made it somewhat easier. Everyone there had had their lives touched and changed by a severe mental illness. However, they were mostly family members and I was a consumer. Consumer being the term for someone with the illness. A consumer of mental health services. Because I did not have a great relationship with my parents, I was not sure how a group of family members were going to receive me. They welcomed me with a warm embrace. It was a very special experience that I remember well to this day.
The embrace was warmer than I had been given by the church. Having grown up in the church I knew the mission it was suppose to have. I knew it should have been a community of people more than willing to welcome me, but that was not really the case.
Many people have worked hard before and since to bring the church on board as a welcoming place for those of us who have broken brains. I hope the efforts increase in all faith communities because the one thing I know for sure is that we need a community in which we can feel loved.
Mental illness takes courage to live with. It is not easy for those of us with it or those who love us. It helps to have a place to be. A home full of people who love you. A community to belong to. It takes less courage if you do not have to stand alone.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"When Even The Devil Deserts You"


(This poem first appeared in print in 1991.)


WHEN EVEN THE DEVIL DESERTS YOU
by ed cooper
I have a thousand faces,
And I am found in all races.
Sometimes rich,
Sometimes poor,
Sometimes young,
Sometimes old.
I am a person with the disabling pain,
of a broken brain.
You have names for my pain,
like schizophrenia,
bipolar disorder,
and major depression.
Some of you refer to me as crazy or insane.
The real fact is most of you don't refer to me at all.
You want me locked away out of sight,
But my only crime is my shattered mind.
I understand why you don't want to look into a darkened soul,
Because I cry when I am forced to make the journey.
Do you know the hurt I feel,
When I look into my family's faces and see their fear?
Fear of me and what I have become.
I try to tell them I will not hurt them
And to explain it is not their fault.
I try to reach out to them to ease their sorrow,
But I fail to be a comfort,
Because I cannot hide the agony of my soul.
I fight the demons of depression and despair.
I search for a solace for my soul.
I want my mind mended,
But you must understand that a broken brain,
Is more than mere mechanical failure.
It has many causes I am told.
It may be hereitary,
Biological,
Or environmental.
I don't know for sure what causes it,
But I know what it causes.
It causes the total destruction of your inner self.
It fragments you.
It makes you seek an end even if that means death.
You seek the end because you see not only what it has done to you,
But what it is doing to the ones you love.
The fear of death fades,
Because to a large degree you already feel dead.
You are not able to interact with others,
Nor are people willing to interact with you as they once did.
In fact,
It feels like you have fallen so low
Even the devil has deserted you.
I ask you,
Where do you turn When Even the Devil Deserts You?
To therapy?
It helps but only touches part of me.
To medications?
They too help but only partly.
Is there a path to a place,
That will touch all of me,
And not just mend my broken brain,
But touch the untouchable.
I once heard of such a path.
It was written about,
But my mind wanders so much I find it hard to read.
It has been spoken of,
But I hear so many voices I don't know which to follow.
If you know the path,
Would you please find me?
I may be in a hospital.
I may be on the streets.
I may be at home.
Please find me and take me into your arms.
Hold me there until we find the path,
That leads into the arms of the One,
Not afraid to touch the untouchable.
Please find my family too,
For their pain is as great as mine.
I may not be able to understand the written word,
Or even the words spoken to me.
I may not seem to know where I am,
But I will know the warmth I feel,
When you gently put your arms around me.
I will once again know I am loved.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Why Does a Mind Go Mad

Why does a mind go mad?

First, I suppose we need to say what mind is. In an earlier blog we defined soul as being our very core. Our inner selves. The part of us which can communicate with the reality beyond even the world we know. Our mind then is the meeting place of our brain and our soul.

Mind is more than mere brain. Today we are told by some that our minds are simply a product of brain function. They try to explain everything with chemical and electrical activity in the brain. That is not my view. I cannot prove it, but I think we all know we are more than just our physical brain that rests in our skull.

So then, why does a mind go mad. Mad can mean that a person has a mental illness. Today it is not politically correct to use the term mad when speaking of folks with mental illness, but since I have a mental illness (bipolar) I am taking the liberty. Let me be clear. Most people with mental illness does not have a mind filled with madness. So what am I speaking of when I refer to a mind going mad?

A mild form that most people have experienced is deep grief. When one is so sad that one loses touch with the reality around them. A severe form is psychosis which does occur at times with mental illness and some physical diseases. Madness to me is best defined as a major break with the reality around you. Being in a world all of your own making. Of your own making is key. There may be many realities other than our daily one that we know and hold in common with others here on earth. I am not speaking of those. I am speaking of being in a world created by you and not aware of any other world but it.

How do I know about such madness? Because I have been there. Not because I have a mental illness. My bipolar disorder (manic- depressive) has never caused me to be really mad. During manic episodes I have done some very stupid things, but I was not mad. Then what has caused me at times to experience madness? Violent childhood sexual abuse which fragmented my very soul into a million pieces.

The people I have met over the years who have been sexually abused as children have the most trouble dealing with reality. I am speaking of those of us who were abused both physically and sexually over years by a family member, close friend of the family, or a trusted leader in the community. Add to that a severe mental illness or substance abuse and you are in for some real fun.

I am not trying to put degrees on abuse so don't get angry. Sexual abuse is terrible any time by anyone to anyone. I am just saying what I have observed.

Our madness needs more than medication. It needs the embrace of a loving people in a loving place.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Caring Always Hurts

The truth is if you give a damn you will be hurt. Caring always hurts. I was watching the news last night and they were interviewing Mr. Microsoft. Bill Gates said people should travel more. He said going to Africa and seeing for ourselves would make us more compassionate. I think that is true and maybe he should send us all on a free trip to see the pain in Africa.

My parents were missionaries and they took our family to what was then Rhodesia now the country of Zimbabwe when I was 11 in 1960. We went on a ship from New York to Capetown, South Africa. It was a freighter so there were only 12 passengers. I was the only boy and I had a ball. It took almost a month because we went up the Congo river to unload some UN supplies. The country was at war. It has been in turmoil ever since. Just in the past decade millions have been killed by the constant tribal wars. In Africa one will see the pain of war, AIDS, and poverty everywhere. Mr. Microsoft is right. It is a place of terrible pain, but also of great beauty and progress. Africa is more than its problems.

You do not have to go to Africa to see pain. The streets of America is full of it. Why did Mr. Microsoft not suggest going and walking a street in our capitol and looking into the eyes of a homeless veteran or a lady pushing all her earthly goods around in a cart. Why not a mental hospital where folks are locked away with their pain medicated but their souls left raw to rot? Why not next door where kids are trying hard to be good so their parents will stop fighting and not get a divorce? My fellow sojourners. Pain is everywhere.

To have the ability to help others we need to find healing ourselves. All the compassion in the world does not matter if your soul is too weak to reach out to those around you. You do not have to go to a far off land. Just learn to live a life that reaches out to those around. That tries to sooth the soul next to you. You will need to be strong because Caring Always Hurts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

When I Speak of Soul

What do I mean when I use the word soul. It is used so broadly that it almost doesn't have a meaning. I heard the other day on the news that research had discovered that a broken heart could cause a heart attack. I am not sure we needed research to tell us that, but in this post-modern age nothing is truth without a scientific study. I mean more than heart when I speak of soul.

Soul is our inner most self. Deeper than brain. Deeper than mind. It goes beyond conscious mind. It is even beyond our night- time dream world. It is our core and it is very real. As real as our heart or brain or mind.

I think our minds are more than just the chemical and electrical functions of our brains. Our minds being made greater by our souls. If you believe in a world beyond our conscious experience, then it is your soul which would or does go there.

It is the conduit for the spiritual. The world beyond us. The conduit for communication with both the earth and the heavens. Our pathway to the universe.

Everyone is not connected to their souls in any real way, but all of us live with the results of having one. Our soul effects and affects our lives in ways we can't count or even know. Finding a way to heal our insides may be our most important task.

When I speak of soul I am speaking of our window into the unknown. We must learn how to heal it and to walk into that unknown with it well so we can soar.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I Am A Mistake

A shattered soul is more than simply being sad for a time. It is feeling like your insides have been crushed by the biggest rock on earth. A crisis in your life like losing a job, a divorce, or the death of a loved one can all make the rock fall on you. However, one of the most insidious and lasting demons that beset our souls is the feeling we are no good. Feeling like "I am a mistake." The feeling that we can never measure up can have a self fulfilling prophecy. It can keep us down for all our lives.

The feeling is usually given birth in the early years of one's life. It can come from something as devastating as childhood sexual abuse or from growing up in a home so critical that no one could live up to the standards set there. I am not sure there is a much difference as far as the long term results are concerned. I was violently sexually abused as a child by my grandpa and in our home I never felt I could satisfy my father. Both have left me with a very poor picture of myself.

My soul was shattered in a barn in eastern Kentucky by my being used as a sex toy. It was further scorched by the fires of criticism my father handed out. It always wasn't directed at me or maybe even seldom was, but I knew if he thought so little of people like the teachers at school or the minister at our church then I was nothing in his eyes.

I think I quit dreaming in the barn and have seldom dreamed since. When I have dreamed they have been failures leaving me more certain I am a mistake. Have you ever felt like you are a mistake?

Only by learning to dream again can one find solace for a shattered soul so deeply wounded that they feel like a mistake.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Learning To Dream Again #1

This posting has a very simple message. Anyone can learn to dream again. Without dreams our souls begin to die and tomorrow seems like a dark hole to be avoided rather than a bright light to walk towards. I am not speaking of the dreams we have at night. I am speaking of the dreams we hold in our hearts.

The truth is most adults seem to lose the ability to dream. All of us have had things happen in our lives to dull our dreams. We die inside a little with each painful experience in life if we do not find a way to renew our spirit when life slaps us across the face.

The point of these writings is not to give you the way to learn to dream again, but rather to walk a journey together. My promise to you is to always try to be honest, but understand that my reality may not be yours. I hope we both learn from this sojourn.