Note – This post discusses the summer of 2019 as part of my mental health story from 2018 to 2020 and may trigger unwanted thoughts or emotions in those that have suffered traumas. This post is part of a story told chronologically.
The baptisms reinvigorated my desire for Christian healings. As a result, I found a Catholic charismatic group in Raleigh. I met a priest who clarified and named things from my past. Next, I went to Confession several times and asked forgiveness for my pride, lust, bitterness, resentment, anger, and idols. Lastly, I scheduled a visit to a retreat center in Michigan to be with my friend and spiritual director.
I looked forward to the three-day summer retreat over Independence Day weekend. Since the knife accident, I hadn’t slept through the night without a sedative. During the retreat, however, the thought of sleeping in a bed wasn’t terrifying. I slept through the night without drugs. It was heaven. And the day after was serene without incessant hellish thoughts.
I had tried nearly everything to stop the thoughts tormenting my mind. I bought several pillows, a new bed, and a weighted blanket. None worked. I considered moving and spoke with a real estate agent, but agitation filled me. I couldn’t handle additional stress, decisions, or chaos so I stayed in my current house.
Deep prayer and hanging out with a friend relaxed my mind. No evil thoughts attempted to enter. It was miraculous. My mind didn’t ping pong between worrying about my thoughts to worrying about my heart. For nine months, I had terrible thoughts throughout the day, and they stuck rather than quickly slipping away into the junk pile. When I had a bad thought, I focused on it. Suddenly, my body reacted to this anxiety, and my mind promptly worried about my heart. My heartbeat accelerated. It’s nothing, voices said, a minor panic attack. It would go away after ten minutes. Ten minutes! my mind screamed.
I reasoned my body’s defenses were on such high alert for so long that no virus dared to stay. Though my blood pressure and cholesterol levels rose, I didn’t have cold-like symptoms—ever—during the two years of madness.
This seesawing of worries between my mind and heart continued relentlessly throughout the day unless I was completely present in something. Thankfully, I avoided alcohol, drugs, and sex to help me escape. I considered those options in addition to admitting myself to a mental hospital, but I resisted, mostly due to pride and cost. I’d fight through it, I said.
I probably wouldn’t have been as worried about my heart if it wasn’t for the sharp, burning, and shooting pain that bonged loudly near my left armpit. After a flare shot, the pain rattled on my chest, and I worried about my heart until the pain subsided. I reasoned it wasn’t my heart, but these horrible thoughts came and went throughout the day.
Years prior without cause or warning, I woke up one morning with a sharp pain in my left armpit area. I didn’t see anything, but days later, bumps appeared. I researched and discovered it was most likely shingles. I had shingles, I complained—a young man who hadn’t slept well for two weeks, and as a result, I got shingles? After medication, the shingles disappeared, but its ghosts haunted me during those two years of tremendous stress.
After the retreat, I returned to Raleigh and to the Cornerstone book project. I learned how to build a website using WordPress through much trial and error. I asked a friend to take professional photos of me for the website, and we traveled to various locations across Raleigh and Durham for the photoshoots. I visited Courtney to brainstorm how to market the book. During an open mic night at my friend’s coffee shop, I read a chapter from Cornerstone. I became more confident and began to see that leaving Caterpillar to write full-time could work. Enough friends, family, colleagues, and friends of friends had read the book and given feedback that assured me I could write as a job.
For the rest of the summer, I stayed busy with many activities. I helped to build a deck and yurt near Lake Lure, North Carolina. Throughout construction, bad thoughts attacked, but I wasn’t nearly as depressed as I had been. I laughed off a bird crapping on my shoulder when sitting at a park on a beautiful day. I considered adopting a dog from a golden retriever rescue organization. I said farewell to my roommate who needed to move. Lastly, I visited family in Connecticut and New York City over Labor Day weekend. While there, a photographer shot more professional photos of me.
I was ready to return to work. However, the ghosts that had stayed mostly dormant during summer awoke from hibernation. They came with many friends in September and October. Before that happened, I believe God gave me guidance in a dream. I’ll share those stories in next week’s post.