Note – This post discusses a dream 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 first week back to work after Labor Day reminded me of the first day of school. I hadn’t seen my friends and colleagues for months, and I was excited to be in the office. My boss made a sign for me and placed it on my desk.
The good feelings wore off after the first week, however. I didn’t want to be there. A nagging feeling in my gut told me I wasn’t supposed to be there. Depression quickly returned. The stomach pains, heart pains, and terrible thoughts reared again like the bulls I had watched when seeing live Professional Bull Riding events in Texas.
An older demon returned to terrify me each time I walked into my kitchen. Since the knife accident, I became scared of all things sharp. Some voices continuously reminded me of the threat. Other voices told me to cut myself, specifically my neck. Or they told me to hurt others. They told me to eliminate the pain by transferring it to others. I had read enough during the summer to think I understood what was going on, but the thoughts weren’t any less terrifying.
For months, out of fear of facing the thoughts directly, I avoided one technique. Many books recommended writing unwanted thoughts onto sticky notes and placing them in a place where I could see them throughout the day. I eventually tried this, and sticky notes filled my refrigerator doors. Like many other techniques, this lessened the grip and power the thoughts had over me. The notes showed how silly the thoughts were and that I wouldn’t do anything the voices told me to do. Nonetheless, the attacks withered me. My defenses were under constant siege, and I wanted it to end.
I thought about leaving Caterpillar and writing full-time. Perhaps I could sign with an agent. Signing a contract with a traditional publisher was a reasonable goal to pursue before I left work. Fortunately, as depression came over me again, more help arrived.
The acupuncturist asked me if I’d be ok with meeting her friend. I met the life coach at a coffee shop, and the first quality I noticed about her was her enthusiasm and positive energy. She was studying to be a life coach and could offer pro bono work as part of her degree. I jumped at the opportunity. Over the next six months, we met in person or talked over the phone, and she helped me envision the life of an author. She boosted my spirits and increased my confidence.
A week after meeting the life coach, I attended a Catholic charismatic retreat. The Vincentian priest who hosted the retreat was a gifted speaker and an open channel that allowed the Holy Spirit to flow through him. Before the priest read from Scripture and gave short homilies, we prayed the Rosary and sang a hymn.
The most healing and powerful part of the retreat happened during the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Friday night, the priest removed the consecrated host and placed it inside a large vessel. The lights went off, and the priest put a lamp behind the host to illuminate it. For the next two hours, the room was mostly silent unless interrupted by a Scripture reading or a prayer intention. As I focused on God, believing His body, blood, soul, and divinity were truly present in the Eucharist, each emotion bubbled to the surface—bitterness, resentment, anger, rage, pride, lust, greed, insecurities, and all my fears.
The priest asked us to let go, to let go of past wounds, and to let go of current worries. He asked us to give the wounds to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I closed my eyes. When the priest asked us to remember our childhoods, I heard sniffles. Like a yawn, the sniffles became contagious. The priest asked us to forgive our fathers for whatever they did or didn’t do. One woman started to cry. Then another, and another. Then a man cried.
That feeling of something rising within you, welling up to tears brimming in your eyes, happened to me. I opened my eyes and observed the room. The crying came from mostly older people. Then the priest asked us to forgive our mothers for whatever they did or didn’t do. The snowballs of tears avalanched. Soon, most in the room were crying, then wailing. The priest asked us to then forgive our spouses, our friends, and so on.
I left my seat and walked closer to the Eucharist. I laid my head on the floor and begged to be liberated from all demonic thoughts attacking me. Soon after asking, tremendous peace washed over me.
About nine or ten, the night of the retreat was over, and I drove home. I was emotionally exhausted. I hadn’t cried much as an adult—I cried when saying farewell to my dying grandma over the phone, I cried during the suicidal night, and I cried when cursing God and asking why I had homicidal thoughts towards children. For most of my life, I was stiff in expressing emotions and was mostly calm under pressure. These intense emotions of rage, guilt, and shame overwhelmed me, and it seemed crying was a great relief valve to let the emotional dam burst.
I slept well that night.
I had similar experiences on Saturday, but none to the level of surrender I had on Friday night. On Sunday afternoon, I attended an event the tai chi group organized. It was a pineal gland meditation coupled with a life workshop. When reviewing our goals, I asked myself why I was still at Caterpillar. Maybe I should write full-time, I thought. It was clear I needed to leave, but I didn’t know when I should leave.
After meditating for an hour, I became still. Yet, internally, I vibrated at a higher energy level. A peace welcomed me in a columnated beam of white light. It wasn’t the same level of warmth or love I had experienced on Friday night, but it was tranquil. This peace offered protection and encouraged me to come home.
That night I fell asleep quickly. However, three hours later, I woke up—not with fever or chills, but with peace and joy. Beyond the clouds, I sat on a mountain top. Bands of angels were marching up both sides of the mountain rejoicing, singing, and blowing trumpets. The feeling that overshadowed me was a peace that surpassed all understanding. The dream confirmed my decision to leave Caterpillar and write the Cornerstone novels full-time.
I went to a charismatic prayer meeting the following Wednesday. The group laid hands over me and asked God to defeat the evil thoughts. After the prayer, an older man told me he envisioned two angels standing beside me. One angel gave me his sword, and the other handed me his shield.
As I’m writing this, I don’t know why some of this happened. I didn’t know what was coming days later when I had another nightmare. I woke up sweating as I tossed about on a ship during a storm. The next night, as I entered my bedroom, a force punched me in the gut, then sliced my stomach with a knife. It felt like I had been severed into two. The pain increased throughout October, and I’ll share those stories in next week’s post.