Barney Returns Part II

lifelessons

One of my blogger besties told me awhile back that there is something to be learned from a relapse or mental health crisis.  Be it a trigger that we were unaware of or a new coping mechanism to deal with the inevitable.  This last month or so I have been totally overwhelmed mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.  I should have seen it coming,  I was warned by the leaders in my recovery group, the reading material and even my therapist.  The magnitude of this latest depressive episode was something I hadn’t experienced in years. I was drowning in a sea of worthlessness, failure and despair.  And being a christian who suffers with depression at Christmas just made it that much worse. All of my “issues” just piled up on top of me and drove me down and down and down. Coming to terms with all of these, Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, a Highly Sensitive Person trait, a sexless marriage and a sex addiction (porn) was just too much.  Thankfully I have been out of work during this period of time.  Sounds weird right? I know, but it was truly for the best.  I was supposed to start a driving job more than a month ago but it kept getting put off for a whole slew of reasons but now I see my God’s hand in it.  Had I started when I was promised I very likely would have lost this job.  God is good!

I always knew I suffered from depression ever since my suicide attempt at age sixteen but I never seriously attempted to deal with it or even learn about it and now I am. It is not easy to admit to myself or others that I have a mental health disease or two or three.  The stigma that it carries is unpleasant at best and my particular cocktail of disorders and traits seem to exacerbate each other, they have a form of synergism that just seems to elevate the negative.  And yet I have to believe that God knew exactly what he was doing when he wired my brain the way he did.  I have always been highly sensitive and have had the ability to put myself in the shoes of another and at times to literally feel their pain, especially emotionally. This has only increased in these last few years.  Recently I discovered that I am a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). A trait that is found in approximately 15-20% of the population. You can find out more about HSP  and if you may have the trait by going here.

I have learned that being a HSP does have a positive side.  In my church I oversee the Audio/Media Ministry.  I have a passion for sound and in particular mixing Live sound.  I don’t play an instrument so the mixer is my instrument.  Taking all the inputs from the worship team (Contemporary) and creating something beautiful and pleasing to God is just magic.  But that is just a small part of what I do in the sound booth.  When I am seated behind the mixer I become sensitive to absolutely everything in the sanctuary. I have learned over time to deal with absolutely everything and anything that I perceive can be distracting to anyone attending the service.  The last thing I want to happen is for someone to be distracted when the Holy Spirit is attempting to minister to them or teach them.   Because of this I become aware of everything both sonically, visually and even aesthetically.

One other way it has benefited me was when I worked as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education Instructor and School Resource Officer at the Middle School level.  Middle School kids can be crazy.  They are all over the map emotionally, not knowing who they are , why they are or where they are going.  But I loved them. I found I could empathize with them at a very turbulent time in their lives and found myself to be very popular in the counselor’s office both among the students and the counselors.  My nine years in that one middle school will always be regarded as the high point of my career and something I will always be proud of.

During this time when I retreated into my shell I missed two events that to this day I regret.  My church Men’s group christmas dinner, which ironically was my idea and Christmas day and dinner in my own home.  In both instances I just couldn’t bear to be with people, even my own family and especially during a time when everyone was expected to be happy and Hunky-Dory.  I was anything but happy but the pressure to be happy and grateful during Christmas is almost unbearable.

lifelessons-2So about those life lessons, I am learning to be still and to listen for that wee small voice in the recesses of my mind.  I got up early listen this morning and went into the kitchen to get some juice while thinking about missing the men’s group dinner when He spoke to me.

“You should have gone.” He said.  “You have everything and everyone you need!”

And then I realized, I did. I should have gone, even in the funk I was in, and told them before dinner began what I was going through and asked for their love and prayers. That would have broken the back of the enemy who was conspiring to keep me down.

I do have everything I need, my blogger buddies, my men’s group and church family, the guys in my recovery group who uniquely know the shame and guilt that are part and parcel of any form of sex addiction, all of whom love me and support me unconditionally.  Finally there is my Father in Heaven and His son Jesus who died for our sin and to set us free.  He alone is the true source of the love that I so desperately need.

As Charles Dickens’ once wrote and gave voice to through Tiny Tim, “God Bless You Everyone!”  And I would like to add, “Thank You!” from the bottom of my heart.

Genesis…..my reawakening, part II

sad-alone-boy-wallpaper

I was numb, within days we were on a Pan-Am flight to a new life in South Portland, Maine, and a slew of relatives I had never met before. Thinking back now I don’t think I ever really started to grieve. In my fourteen year old head, super-sensitive head all I knew was that God took my dad away and it was my fault. If only I had been a better kid but that wasn’t possible because I couldn’t do anything right. That message still in my head on a constant loop. It tainted everything I tried to do. I was filled with a tornado of conflicting emotions, “I love you Dad! I’ll try harder Dad! Please don’t hit me with the belt!’ all the while filled with fear and even more confused when he bought me gifts, took me on submarines, kissed me on the cheek.  Even now as I type this my heart is crying for “Daddy!” Forty eight years later and it’s like I’m crying for the first time. I was empty inside but soon learned to always put on a good front partly because it kept people from asking all those questions.

I stuffed my feelings for two years. I buried my loneliness in a love for music. Mom got me several different instruments but without discipline that didn’t go well. I did talk her into letting me take the stereo into my new basement bedroom that my uncle built. The same stereo I was playing Led Zeppelin on when I thought I had reached the end. I took a handful of pills and laid down to die. Nothing happened, I waited and waited, I expected to go to sleep and slip away but nothing, then I got scared.  I left the house and made my way to a telephone booth at the corner pharmacy and called the Police.  After a trip to the ER and medication to make me heave everything up it was back home where my “episode” was quietly swept under the rug.  No one spoke of it, at least not to me. Nor were any psychologists or counselors called into play.

I can’t say exactly when I was introduced to porn but I can say this, it got my attention . Finally something that took my mind off all the pain I felt and brought some relief. I think it is safe to say I was addicted the first time I masturbated to it. I had found a form of medication to sooth my wounds, to dull the pain and the feelings of confusion. But it was a secret world I now lived in, seeking out porn at the newsstand and bookstores all the while keeping it away from family and friends.

When I turned eighteen, in fact in March of 1972 I took the oath for the U.S. Navy. Because of the suicide attempt they sent me to a psychiatrist who determined I was unfit for submarine duty which was devastating to me, despite my confusion about my relationship with my father I still had a desire to follow in his footsteps although to be honest I’m not sure I would have made it through Nuclear Power School. Plus they told me I was clautraphobic. News to me ! With a six month entry delay I went to Boot Camp in September and then To Pensacola for sixteen weeks of “Photographers Mate A School”.  My first set of orders, the Naval Station Photo Lab in Rota, Spain. What a job, after working in processing, printing and on the shooting crew I got a chance to specialize in aerial photography which had me flying in Helos almost weekly.  It was an amazing experience and I got to see a lot of Spain from a somewhat higher point of view.

One Sunday after attending a Mormon church service with a friend of mine, I had gone  with some missionaries who had invited me, I we spotted to two very attractive young ladies who had entered the Fellowship Hall and started donning choir robes for the protestant service. I was immediately taken with the petite redhead, with a big smile and a sprinkling of freckles across both cheeks and her button nose she was too cute!  She definitely got my attention! During a short conversation I learned that she, Bonnie, was visiting her parents for the summer and staying in the same off-base apartment building as I in Fuentabravia .  Needless to say we ended up dating all that summer, touring southern Spain in my MG on the weekends.  It blossomed into a summer love, my first real relationship and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I didn’t know it at the time but she was recently divorced, the result of a physically abusive relationship and was on the rebound.  Bonnie had a deep abiding faith in God and delighted in sharing with me.  I thought I had the porn under control but soon came under heavy conviction and despite all of her affection I soon felt this hole in my heart, an emptiness inside that I didn’t understand. Bonnie spoke to me of Jesus and salvation and how only He could fill the emptiness inside.  She convinced me to talk to the Chaplain, so that very night we drove together to his off-base residence where both of them prayed for me and with me as I asked God for the forgiveness of my sins and asked Jesus into my heart.  I wish I could say that it was all smooth sailing after that because it wasn’t, Bonnie returned to college on the West Coast not ready for a long-term commitment and I, now broken-hearted still had a problem with porn.

After several more tours, Iceland and Barbados I finally ended up on the east coast and made the decision to separate from the Navy at the end of my enlistment in 1978. It was a hard decision but I was tired of moving, always saying goodbye to friends and starting over, six years, four duty stations and two “A” schools, I was over it. The day before I was discharged I interviewed for a local police department but got cut at the final interview. I worked construction was already attending a church I liked and joined the singles group.  I remember the first time I saw her, big glasses, beautiful green eyes, even bigger hair with lots of curls and a smile framed by these luscious lips. I was smitten. I soon found out “M” cut hair and I needed a hair cut bad.  After the appointment I took her and her son on a date to see superman.  That was followed by a ski trip and nine months later we were married in the church.

Now I know everyone brings baggage into a marriage but she had no idea what I was dragging in. Low self-esteem, self-loathing , bitterness and anger, mostly towards myself and my father but it has a way of touching everyone.  And then there was the porn which just fed everything. It was a vicious circle, sneaking out, buying it, using it followed by overwhelming guilt and shame,and tears, always tears, then repentance, rinse and repeat. I always felt like I was circling the drain. Especially when she found it, tore it up and threw it in my face. I never wanted to hurt her, I just wanted the pain to go away. She had her own issues and together they created the perfect storm. Somehow  I managed to get hired by that same Police Department and despite my lack of confidence I came out second in my class. Only by the grace of God! Academy graduation was followed by the birth of our first son and five years later our daughter. Together with my stepson we now had a family of five.

Continue reading