On Living With a Fragile Mind

For years now, I’ve tried to find a way to describe the experience of depression and anxiety. Since I’m currently in the process of fighting off a mild bout this week, I thought I would take the opportunity to try to set some of it to words.

Thanks to various mindfulness techniques, I am able to notice when it comes, now. It used to be as imperceptible as fog, growing and growing until finally, before I know it, I’m lost within myself.

As I’ve come to pay close attention to my inner river of life and experience, I’ve worked hard describe what it is exactly that goes wrong. It almost always occurs when I am over worked, or sleep deprived, or working on a particularly challenging mental puzzle. The last time it struck hard was when I was working to resolve the dissonance between my upbrining and my new found relationship with my partner. I know I’m smart – very smart, with an ability to scope out the finest details in a problem – but it also seems that my brain is a delicate machine, easily pushed to overheating.

When I “overheat”, its as if all the details of the problem, or the world around me, get jumbled, distorted. Wrong emotions get assigned to the wrong facts. It all grows grotesque. My internal puzzle warps into an incomprehensible Picasso painting, or into a Las Vegas perceived through the eyes of an LSD-ridden Hunter S. Thompson. Once this process starts, I get lost – I fall down the rabbit hole, into an inescapable inner dimension of grotesqueries and painful circles of reasoning.

Sometimes, this strange distorting of reaity seeps into the physical world around me. Two days ago, I found myself looking at one of my jade plants in my bedroom. They are very beautiful and strange looking, and I love them, but on this particular occasion, I felt nothing but pain at the sight of my jade plant. Through some incoherent inner logic, the sight of the jade overwhelmed me with a since of alienation and inexplicable anguish. I felt unmoored from reality, as if that image of my jade plant next to my window was completely detached from any reality where I felt safe or at home, as if it was floating somewhere in outerspace. I decided to put on my shoes and go for a long run.

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During the most intense episodes, every thought, feeling, movement and image sparks feelings of isolation, anguish, loneliness, or anxiety. There have been mornings when I woke up, and screamed and screamed into my pillow because everything caused pain. During one particularly awful episode, I remember looking up at the ceiling fan and being completely terrified of it, as if it were bestowed with a monstrous intelligence.

My current mental puzzle has to do with my faith, as I’ve recently been exploring on my blog. And not just faith, but the work of various authors in relation to my faith, like Sam Harris and other atheists. In the process of understanding this puzzle, though, I’ve struggled to maintain equilibrium.

I thank God for the tools that I’ve had to learn. I don’t know if my mind is simply by its nature fragile, or if the traumas I’ve endured have made it so. Either way, the greatest tool is this: total acceptance of the fragility of my mind. I’ve learned that my mind is something to work with and not against. The spectre of mental illness is a ghost I may never be relieved of. Accepting this finally gives me the tools to live life fully in light of the odd workings of my brain.

Following close behind are the arsenal of tools that I’ve developed over the years: mindfulness, exercise, medication, therapy, the 12 steps. I’ve spent the second half of my twenties learning to protect and fight for the sanctity of my own life, and my own right to happiness and contentment.

I can barely believe I turned 28 last month, and I am looking on the last 2 years of my 20’s. If I could define growing up as one thing, it would be this: learning to work with myself instead of against myself; discovering the futility of pretending to be anything other than what I am.

  1. Hello.

    This evening I was talking with a friend, and he harbors great resentment about God,on a (macro) scale. His faith has been shattered and doesn’t know what to do. We spoke for an hour, and came to no conclusion about answers, because I had no answer. An hour later I was sitting with him and I had a clear thought. And the thought was, if he has this (macro) resentment, and can’t find God in the (micro) I told him that maybe he needed to pull back his gaze, because on the (macro) level, we are powerless to change the state of the world, its religions, and faiths, which has caused him such (macro) resentments. So before I left him for the evening, I told him that maybe he needed to find God on a (micro) level, and trust his heart in that seeking.

    As for you, you’ve been on this journey, and you are reading, and talking to other men of faith and seeking answers from Book study, Theological study and Religious study. Dissonance is a funny thing. I’ve been down this road myself. I can seek all the answers i want from from others, and try to assimilate those answers into some kind of framework that jives with my sense of being and faith life.

    But I find that I read A LOT and I talk a lot to my friends and fellows, but at the end of the day, it is just me seeking answers for myself. You are seeking on the (macro) scale right now in others, maybe you need to spend a little bit more time seeking faith and God for yourself on the (micro) level. Because so many people have answers for faith and God, and many folks have attempted to explain the LGBT presence in the religious world recently, with all that information to assimilate, I have to take a step back and think for me, in my heart, and find what really resonates with me, what I want to take from the outside, and what I want to leave.

    Sitting in meetings on the (micro) scale gives me perspective on God and faith on a daily basis. Much of my faith in God comes from family, and my university education, and talking to men of faith who have their own perspectives, that I trust, and I seek those answers too. At the end of the day, again, my faith life is built on many fronts from many people, and my own belief structure that I have carefully built over the last fifteen years of my sobriety.

    Faith and God, should not be such a struggle, but you have had yours, I know. You are in the here and now, with your belief system that you are still building today. You have love in your life, and your life as a gay man is becoming who you want to be based on what you read, what you hear and what you see around you. Take all those pieces of your life and see where God and faith coexist in each, and find the middle way where you are walking and see what you can pull together and what resonates for you. Life is a one day at a time proposal. And sometimes that (macro) is too overwhelming to make use of, that is when I pull back my gaze and sit in the (micro) and see God in the little things.

    My life advisor is apt to tell me that, “if you don’t know where you are, or where you are going, then sit down, right where you are and observe your surroundings until you have a picture that works for you. Consult your life map, and when you are ready, get up and take a step forwards.” That has been wise counsel for me over the years.

    We need other voices to try and make sense of (macro) beliefs and practices. And you have done a lot of homework. Like I have suggested, maybe you need to turn in and take the time to find that resonant thread the runs in your life, there you will find God. Life doesn’t have to be a struggle, if we just let go. I know that letting Go is a tall order for some, in my reading of “the Spirituality of Imperfection” by Ernest Kuntz, letting go of old ideas and positions may be difficult, because if you let go of those things that are holding us back from seeking, what will we have left?

    You have collected an entire library of thoughts, reasons and advice from scholars and your peers.

    Let go the struggle and sink into the peace that God has your back and knows what He is doing in your life. You will find peace when you let go and let God. It may take some time, so I encourage you to hang on to those you trust in your life, as well as those you love and who love you back in life.

    Faith is built one brick at a time and one day at a time. Be gentle with yourself.

    Jeremy

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