Maybe today’s the day.
I keep trying to get this out properly, and I really haven’t come close yet. Maybe it doesn’t matter. But it’s throwing a tantrum in me today, so I’m going to try again.
My generalized anxiety disorder cripples me. But I can’t explain it properly, so I’m going to try and backtrack a bit. Maybe showing is bettter than telling.
I graduated from high school in 2007. I’d been depressed and suicidal for two years. It kind of came and went at that time, getting heaviest around Halloween, the end of Christmas and the beginning of spring. I couldn’t bring myself to explain it to anybody. It’s almost impossible even now. (But I have legitimate, working Backup lately. More on that later.)
High school had been a disaster for me. The people I grew up around weren’t equipped to deal with mental health problems, especially ones that sheer so close up against some of the stuff the chuch is so dead set against. So I bottled it up, mostly unaware of what I was doing, but always uncomfortable, never content. I told people I thought like an alien, because that was pretty much true. This mind conjures up images realer than life, with extraordinary emotion in tow.
I didn’t realize until I was 19 that I internalized conflict differently than most people. When friends got upset and raised their voices, I reacted violently inside. I felt every angry word physically, like knives were going in. I didn’t understand it, pushed it into the back of my mind, and pressed on, trying as hard as i could to exist as normally as I could. Drinking was fun, I found out. It relieved me of the constant worry for even a bit. Hangovers were almost better than being drunk, I sometimes bragged, not knowing that a body distracted by nausea didn’t have time to be anxious.
Then fall came, and suddenly going to work was impossible. I must be destined to write, I reasoned, since it was one of the only places left where I could be who I wanted to be. I lost my job in less than a month. Then, unemployment. I found a temporary job that declined to keep me after two months, went unemployed again until I found a sales job that lost me money.
I could go on and on about the jobs I’ve taken and lost. 14 in total, over about seven years. Most of them were fulltime, and everything I thought I wanted until the dysphoria came back, stronger every time it hit.
When I decided to marry my long-distance fiancee, I took a concrete job for a summer where I was belittled, mocked, scorned and abused. Most people would have survived that.
Almost a full year later, I found my next job, my fourth as a machinist. I’d taken up freelancing for a metalworking magazine while I was unemployed, but found myself unable even to respond to emails offering work after a few months. That summer was the first time I screamed myself to sleep.
In September of 2013, I was hired by Canada Post, and I found my dream job. The perfect balance of freedom over my schedule and instruction over what to do and how. I was in bliss, walking 20+ kilometres a day, outside, and content.
But then spring hit, and I fell to pieces. I took up smoking cigarettes at 25. If you’ve never worked in a unionized workplace, you haven’t seen malice like the entitled take out on each other. My workload doubled, just a few months after I found my rhythm, and I crumbled. I erupted on everybody at work one day and fled home.
Then followed a weekend for the books. Convinced that I was going to be fired, I booked an appointment with a general practitioner and hoped I could leverage it to keep my job.
The following Monday was a day of grace on the part of my manager, but then I got my diagnosis. Severe generalized anxiety disorder. I feel silly tacking the “severe” on there, but I’ve learned that there’s a huge difference in the intensity of these disorders and I am not one of the luckier ones, so I’ll just call it what it is.
Canada Post has a great disability program, though, so things were still looking hopeful until about three months later when my disability cheques suddenly stopped. My doctor or I had failed to send in a form, and the deadline was past. Suddenly, the transfer to Edmonton I’d applied for looked a little less forgone. My dream job was slipping away. So I gave up. I was getting married in just a few months. I cinched my belt a bit tighter and decided I’d gotten better, more or less. My therapist had given me a clean bill of health and I was on medication that was supposed to start working. So I stepped it up.
A week later, I had a job and an apartment in Edmonton. God had stepped in, I knew it even then. We had been dating for over six years and nothing had ever fallen in my lap until now. Things were going to be okay.
Then my prescription ran out, and my psychiatrist was in a different city. When I asked for help, they asked for money, which I didn’t have, before they could do anything.
So I spent one week without sleep, working in a steel fabrication shop, too terrified of getting fired to admit that I was in violent withdrawal from Ambien, Effexor and Lorazepam all at once. Things got really hazy. At some point, I’d found marijuana did way more to reduce my anxiiety than anything a doctor had ever given me. It was hard to believe, but I found sleep again when I gave in and smoked it every night. Maybe I could keep this job…
We got married in Mexico in November, and it was awesome.
But then spring hit. Stupid spring. I got laid off at the beginning of February, kickstarting the whole landslide a whopping month early, and I hit rock bottom, mouth open, chin first. A whole new kind of blindside.
Even my beloved wife, I realized, wasn’t able to take my suicide away. That sounds awful, but I was still refusing to acknowledge the immensity of my problem. And the pain that I was so desperate to ignore was suddenly too present, too in my face to ignore.
So I decided, better to leave quick and give my wife lots of time to find somebody else. I’d just jump from the balcony and call it a day. Anything would be better than this misery. Can’t even provide for my own family. Showering became the battle of my day. Food one room away might as well have been on Mars. I didn’t trust a single thought that went through my head.
But I keep saying God is good, and this is when I learned it. Just before I went out on the balcony, a voice spoke in my mind. But it wasn’t just a voice, it was a Voice; the kind that stops you physically and leaves you feeling like you just heard a song you used to love. And it didn’t only speak in words, but it said to me, “If you’re so set on dying, why not die for Me first? I promise it’s worth it.”
That might sound like a riddle to you, but it was so clear what He meant. This life, this pretending, how everything in my life screamed of pain, it was all because I was trying to hold everything together. Scrambling to get hold of a rosebush.
And things changed. Instantly. Like somebody snapped their fingers and the colour of lighting in the room changed. I realized I was all in. Completely committed. I’d grown up in church, gone to Christian school, listened to Christian music, prayed to God often, went to church every week, even if I was hungover, done lots of good things, but never once had I considered that maybe holding it all together was impossible for me. Maybe, the reason why everything hurt so bad was because I was working on something, but not submitting to the One who set this all up. I was trying to be good, but I had no good in me left to be. It all just hurt.
So I dove back into God, but this time I listened. I tried, I pushed for it, I started yearning to read my Bible, to find a Bible study, to worship. I had all this newfound gladness in me, and I just wanted to let it out.
A few months went by with me reading me Bible for hours every day, sometimes sitting over it for eight, even ten hours. And it was so good, but it is never good to hang onto something that’s changing. I learned the hard way last year that it’s possible to use even the Bible like a vice. And that reading truth for the sake of having read truth is just lying to yourself about who you are. God was speaking to me about all my sin and I was ignoring Him because I was convinced He had made me righteous.
Sound familiar? I think most Christians go through this. God is good, and He requires goodness, so I have to be good, right?
Well, if life was perfect, maybe that would be possible. And I’m really happy to be wrong about this, but I’ve fallen really hard again a few times since all this, and I know now that if life is about learning, and if life ends when we stop learning, then I ought to also accept that learning comes from making mistakes. I can’t think of a single life lesson I’ve taken in that didn’t come out of a mistake somebody–usually I–made.
Anyway, I wrote this all down both for me and for you. I have a hope in me now, but I’ve also never faced down anxiety as oppressive as what’s hit me this year. I do not exaggerate when I say I’ve beaten myself unconscious, but I’m also not exaggerating when I say that when God puts a lid on a part of my past, it’s as good as gone.
This isn’t easy; it got harder. I’m pretty sure I’m a worse-behaved person now than I used to be, and it kills me, but I also know that it’s going to be okay. I’m dead serious. There’s a hurricane of panic in me, but I have been seated in the eye, and I stay there as long as I have faith. That says more about God than the pointing out, measuring and naming of any existing star or fact.
So now I know only this: I am a sinner. What God expects from me, I cannot give. But He has given it, because He Himself sent His Son to live a perfect life and die for me (and you, specifically, by name) so that I could be in His presence despite who I am. This is what I want you to see in me. This is what I want my life to scream.
You can say you don’t believe in God and I won’t argue with you, but He believes in you anyway. I cannot change that, either for you or myself. Might as well tell the moon to quit pulling the tide. It just does.