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Mental Health

Tales from the Trenches: An Expert Speaks

Larry

Reprinted from "Concurrent Disorders" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (1), pp. 23-24

The journey has been a difficult one. I have been suffering from mental illness most of my adult life — it started as a teenager. I was hospitalized for a year in my early 20s, after a crime I committed when I went insane, and put on a lot of drugs that made me terribly tired. I’d had a vision when I was 20 years old after drug use on night, and a few days later I read about it in a book. And I thought I was going to be the world’s next greatest saint because of this vision, and I started having laughing and crying fits in my bed thinking that all my dreams would come true. I would laugh because I thought I had it made. I would cry because I thought I was a fool and just imagining things.

I saw my third eye open up one night in bed and I saw the seal of God written on my forehead. After I was in jail, I realized I was hearing voices and that I called ‘angels’. And I saw Jesus on the cross a number of times. When I was on the sick ward in prison, someone asked me if I was Saint Christopher, and he was supposed to put crosses under my bed. So I put crosses under my bed, and I looked over and saw a cross of light in his hand.

I was hospitalized for a year in a psych ward in Edmonton where I was heavily medicated. I used to lay in bed thinking I would swallow my tongue. After a year I got out, and I tried to work for a living. I held about six jobs in three years. I got born again as a Christian. I took Kung Fu for a year and a half. And I was baptized in the Pentecostal church and received the gift of tongues. When I was training Kung Fu and was supposed to quit, I experienced another body inside myself from the stress of the exercises I was doing . This happened twice.

After three years of trying to hold a job, and quitting about sox of them after six weeks, and staying in bed because of depression and tiredness, I said, “Lord, I can’t take it anymore. I’m letting myself down and my employer down.” I went to Vancouver and hit skid row. I lived on welfare and went to missions and volunteered in the missions for 10 years, making sandwiches and hauling food and clothing, mopping floors and volunteering in any way I could. I got more rewards out of doing volunteer work than working for the almighty dollar. That’s when I realized what the gospel really was — when I hit skid row with all the down and out people. I remember sitting in a mission one day and an old hobo asked me if I believed in the word of the Bible. And I hesitated and said, “Yes,” but I wasn’t too sure of myself. But now I can say, definitely “Yes” to this day.

I had a suicide attempt at one point when I tried to burn myself to death because I didn’t like my lifestyle. I was put into Riverview and given shock treatment one day and I couldn’t remember my own name, and I was never so scared in all my life. I got out of Riverview and spent some more time volunteering until I was hospitalized again after drug abuse. Then I left Riverview one day and committed another crime. I went insane again.

For the last 15 years I’ve been in and out of Forensic [Psychiatric Institute}. While I was volunteering on skid row, I used to stay in the Regent Hotel. One night I had a dream I was reaching out to grab a woman’s kerchief and I couldn’t grab it. I wanted to grab it with all my heart, and I couldn’t grab it. Then I saw an old rugged shroud and I touched the hem of the shroud and the Holy Spirit touched my heart and it was filled with bliss. And I heard a voice in my heart that said, “My son, hear the instructions of thy father and forsake not the law or thy mother” — that’s form Proverbs. My hart gilled with so much bliss that I had to say, “Mercy, mercy Lord, I can’t bear all Your love.” And another night I saw God’s hand on my back. I can still remember to this day. It was made of whit light and y0ou could even see the hairs on His holy hand. I spent my adult life crying my eyes out because I didn’t understand the vision and what God’s been trying to show me all these years.

I started going in to recovery two years ago, [after being] on and off drugs since the age of 17. I’m almost 50 years old now, and my life has been in and out of depression, and on and off drugs, and I’ve virtually slept my adult life away. Recovery means a lot to me because I’ve met some wonderful people and now I have a support system in place for the next time I get out of Forensic. I’ve been out in the past and had no one to talk to, and nothing to do and spent my days depressed and in tears. The last three years I’ve found a lot of peace, and spend my time reading scriptures and praying and meditating. I find the journey has been well worth it — although there’s been a lot of sadness and heartache. My faith has sustained me, and although I’m not Superman, I’m super-grateful.

It hasn’t been the drugs that caused me so much misery as much as the mental illness. The torment and mental anguish has been unbearable some times. I have a great love for people who’ve been on skid row and in mental hospitals and in prison. I feel a deep affiliation with them. Oswald Chambers once said, “If you can’t admit you’re worse than the worst criminal, you can’t be saint.” He also said, “Unless there’s something in your life you wish wasn’t there, you can’t be a saint. There’s always something in your life you wish wasn’t there.” I recently read that a saint has a past and a sinner has a future, and all the way to heaven is heaven.

My drug and alcohol counselling has thought me how to correct errors in my thinking, and cognitive strategies. I used to think “I don’t car” a lot, and that “nobody else cares,” but I’ve realized that I care a great deal sometimes, and that other people do too. Sometimes I think life is hell, especially at night when I suffer from insomnia. But in the morning things clear up, and these days my days are going without too many problems. Most of my illness is in remission. And the peace I feel is precious gift. I don’t suffer from mental anguish or depression, and I have a support system of people that are very precious and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve made my peace with the system. The bible says “if your ways please the Lord, you make even your enemies to be at peace with you.” This world can be a terrible, and frustrating place. There are all kinds of suffering people out there from starvation to perversion and the devil has deceived most of society these days. This could be the wickedest world there ever was, and if you believe the Book of Revelations, it will be destroyed by fire.

I think the greatest hope is whether there will be a rapture and resurrection, and that the multitudes in the Valley of Decision will make the right choice. Some believe that we can change society before the end comes and sometimes I’d like to believe that myself. But a lot of people may suffer before paradise returns to earth.

 
About the author
Reprinted with permission from Step Softly, Volume 1, Issue 2, November 2003. Step Softly is a publication on concurrent disorders published by the Tri-Cities Mental Health Centre

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