Asma Ahsan Asma Ahsan
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I had depression where I wanted to lie in bed all day and saw no point in crawling out of it but there were two little kids in the house who needed me so I had half a pill of nerve relaxant and spent my day in a bit of a daze. After two years I started meditating and stopped the medicine myself. I recite prayers for hours when I feel the depression coming on. My depression was caused by some problems in the family and my inability to make things better for my family. The meditations and prayers helped so much I snapped out of it, and slowly, my hard work paid off and I am in a totally new life now, and happy. :)

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Jim Miller Jim Miller
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Get Up and Walk


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She had a friend.

When I was young, I was a very successful high school student.  I reveal this only to contrast my early successes from my later troubled times.

Unlike many students, I loved going to school.  By the end of my senior year, I had piled up quite a string of accomplishments.  I had graduated valedictorian of my class, received the American Bar Association’s Citizenship Award, was granted a sizeable scholarship award to Wartburg College, was presented the John Philip Sousa award as the most outstanding band member, and received an award for outstanding vocalist.  (I won eight division I music awards in a single music contest.)  I was also recognized as being the outstanding male actor, and was the best wrestler in my weight class.


I went away to college, and my life quickly began to fall apart.  I became homesick, and then depressed.  As the depression worsened, it became more and more difficult to enjoy life, and to have the energy to cope with college.  Even things that I prided myself on, like academic excellence, became burdensome.


It is terribly difficult to focus and concentrate when suffering a clinical depression and it steals all the joy from life, and deadens all desire and pleasure.  (A clinical depression is one that has no precipitating factors; it just is.  Doctors believe that it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.)


Even when I did well and aced a test, there was little pleasure in it.  I got to the point where I could hardly function any more.  I could only get out of bed by a supreme act of will, and could only make myself go to classes with the same supreme act of will.  Everything that used to stir my soul no longer did.  I began to isolate.  It was a downhill spiral.  I had no desire to see or talk with anyone.  It was horrendous.
  
If you have never suffered a clinical depression, you will not understand what I am talking about.  The closest I can get to helping you understand is to just imagine the most saddening experience you have ever suffered (perhaps the death of a close loved one), and then imagine that you cannot pinpoint any reason for the sadness, and that you are sadder every day, perhaps for years.  That is what a clinical depression is like. 1 comment


I dropped out of college and moved back to live with my parents, for I felt that I could no longer cope with my depression and the strong feelings that were present.  Then I felt even more like a failure, and this fed my depression.  I didn’t like myself very well by now.


I worked eight months at a menial job at Sheffield Brick and Tile Company.  My depression was still active during this time.  I was seeking psychiatric treatment at the Mental Health Center of North Iowa, and when things got so bad that I was no longer coping, I would spend stints at Five East, the psychiatric unit at Mercy Hospital in Mason City, Iowa.


Then I started manifesting symptoms other than depression.  I would have escalations of mood in which I would feel very secure and be confident and happy.  These moods then became extreme.  I would morph from feeling secure to feeling invincible, from feeling able to feeling all powerful, from feeling confident to feeling infallible, and from feeling happy to being excessively grandiose.

I soon found out that this was diagnosed as being manic, and my overall diagnosis was schitzo-affective or bipolar 1, depending on which doctor was telling me what.  This can be looked at as two entirely different responses to the same stimulus---a depressive face and a manic face.


When in the manic state, I find it very difficult to sleep, sometimes going for weeks with only very sparing amounts of deep sleep.  I am usually able to attain only brief periods of rest.  This further augments thinking problems.
  
At this time, my mind is always active, but not in a normal way.  I will constantly flip from one thought to another with very little conscious control.  I have difficulty in keeping random images from occurring, hearing random sounds and words, accessing random memories, and mentally solving random problems and puzzles in my head.  If I am left untreated (I must take the correct medications as ordered) this develops into psychosis---hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

When I am very depressed, I will fight with suicidal tendencies; when I am manic I will engage in dangerous behaviors because I believe that there are no consequences for my behavior and that nothing negative will befall me.  For these reasons, my illness can be considered life threatening.


In the past, doctors tried many different kinds of medications with me, and many different combinations of those medications.  I was assigned to different counseling and group counseling sessions.  I was given books to read.  It was suggested I try occupational therapy, and I did.  I received two separate series of ECTs (electro-convulsive therapies, or shock treatments to the lay person).  Still I did not get completely well and stay that way.  My life had become warped and neither I nor the experts could straighten it out.


I again went home and threatened suicide there.  I ran off with my hunting rifle in tow, and hid myself in the haymow deep within a gap in the hay bales.  There I wrestled with whether or not to pull the trigger and end my life.  I did not do so thanks to my father’s intervention.  I decided to turn from that path, and keep on trying.


My first suicide attempt came while I was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward of Mercy Hospital.  I got off the closed ward by convincing the staff that I was improving.  On the open ward, I promptly went into the men’s bathroom, removed my belt, looped it around the stall and my neck, and then lowered myself from the toilet.  


For you Scribeslice participants, a fictionalized version of this can be found in my horror poem “The Closet”.  I was deep in psychosis at this time and was hallucinating.  I really did believe that I was only seven years old, and that this was all just a game.  Unfortunately, long after the episode ends, the memory remains, even the details of hallucinations and delusions.


What happened during my second suicide attempt is really what this account; entitled “Get Up and Walk” is all about.  I believe it is a point in my life where God reached out and intersected my life in a such way that I was really aware of it.  Others may see it as the hallucinations talking, or medications speaking, but I am not convinced.  I have suffered many hallucinations in my life, and experienced many medication side effects, but this event was different…more real and more special to me, and the timing impeccable.  What better time to be in need of God’s services.  But wait, I best not get ahead of myself.


I had determined to kill myself…again.  I shopped for sleeping pills.  I knew that over-the-counter pills were weaker than prescription pills, so I bought two of the largest bottles of over-the-counter pills that I could find.  I certainly wanted to get the job done right.

I went home and wrote a suicide note to my counselor.  I asked her not to share it with my parents.  I loved them, and didn’t want them to have to hurt any more than necessary.  I just needed to try and escape my pain, not increase theirs.  I filled two, quart canning jars with water.  (This was in the days before water bottles were common.) I assembled the tools that I envisioned I would need.  I secured a road map, and hid all of these things in my car.


My plan was to drive far away, somewhere in Missouri, I imagined, park my car in a secluded rural area, and use the tools to remove all traces of where the car had originated.  (License plates, VIN number, contents of the glove compartment, and so on.)  That way, I believed, authorities would not be able to trace the car back to my home, and my parents need not be bothered with the certain knowledge and pain of my death.  Then I planned to hike into an even more remote area, gulp down the sleeping pills with the water I had bought, and wait to die.


The next day I had an appointment with my counselor.  Instead of driving north to my appointment, I drove south to Missouri as I had planned.  I mailed my suicide note to my counselor on the way.  I felt numb mostly---just numb.  At one point I remember praying, “If You really don’t want me to do this, You’re going to have to stop me, ‘cause otherwise I’m going to do it.”


As I was driving along and contemplating my plans, I was very nervous and paranoid.  I was constantly fearful that someone would figure out my intentions and try to stop me.  By the time I got to Missouri it was dark.  Then it started to rain.  I felt the need to get more gas and drive farther into Missouri, but my fear of discovery kept me going until I was almost out of gas.


I got off of the interstate; the exit sign said Bethany.  I turned right and headed west, but soon found that I was headed for the lights of a large town.  I panicked.  This was not in my plans.  I wanted to find a rural area, not drive into a bustling town.


I stopped the car and backed into a field lane, intending to turn around and head back the way I had come and away from the town.  In my haste, and on the slippery clay of the lane, I skidded and got stuck.  I took the tools that I had brought along and began to remove the license plates.  But soon I saw the headlights of a vehicle coming my way.  Again, fearing discovery, I gave up on removing the plates and grabbed the water and sleeping pills instead.  I took off walking in the rain and the dark and through half seen and unfamiliar fields and woods.


In a wooded area adjacent to a cornfield and well away from any roads, I stopped and choked down the two large bottles of sleeping pills.  I then waited for death to come.  The cold rain kept on falling.  I was drenched.  But I did not care.  It would be a small price to pay for what was coming---my release from the pain of mental illness.  Then I began to shiver uncontrollably in the wet and cold.  It seemed to me that too much time was passing, and the pills were not taking effect as I believed they would.  I felt cheated---that maybe death was not going to come at all, and the pills were not going to do their work.


Then I saw the red, pulsating lights of squad car lights blinking in the treetops.  I head the squawks of police car radios, and the sounds of cops yelling at each other, “Yeah!  He’s out here!  We’re going to try and find him!  Fan out and search!”


“How had they found me?” I wondered.  I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t want my plans spoiled so I lay down on the cold, wet ground and kept very still.  I continued hearing the cops looking for me.  Sometimes I hardly heard them in the distance, and sometimes I could hear them very close to me, and I could see their flashlights sweeping through the woods.


Then I began to see and hear even more bizarre things than police searching for me in the woods at night.  I remember that something on the ground startled me.  I jumped up in fear, and felt a searing pain in my back.  In the half-light, I saw a large sword blade protruding from my chest.  I screamed and started to grab the blade with both of my hands, but the blade disappeared.  I whirled around to see who, or what was behind me.  I only saw the large dead branch of a tree.


Many more frightening things were happening to me.  It seemed that my mind was being deceived and was constantly playing tricks on me.  I would see, hear, feel, smell, and taste things in troubling and discordant ways.  I came to the conclusion that I was hallucinating because of the overdose of sleeping pills I had taken.  It didn’t really bother me much, I was just anxious for the pills to do their final job and put me to sleep permanently.


Gradually, the effects of the hallucinations dimmed, and I was beginning to get weak and tired.  I sat down on the wet earth, and propped myself up on the trunk of a large tree.  I began to wander in and out of consciousness.  I noticed during my periods of wakefulness, that it was becoming harder and harder to breathe; I was struggling to draw in deep breaths.  Reflexively, I threw my head backwards to try and get air into my lungs.  My head lolled too far, and it seemed that it would come off.  I no longer possessed the ability to pull my head forward.  “I am really dying!” I thought to myself.  I summoned all of my strength and will power, and pulled my head forward until it flopped against my chest.  I then slid off the tree trunk and slumped to the ground.


I began to pray again, “Oh, God, I sure hope that You can forgive me, for I know that I can’t forgive myself.  If I’m going to wake up in heaven or in hell I don’t know, but You do.   It's all up to You.  I guess I will find out where I am going in short order.”  And then everything receded into utter silence, and there was peace and quiet…for a short while.


When I “came to” I was somehow standing, and was confused and disoriented.  I did not know where I was, or what was happening, or what had happened.  It was as if my mind was more that of an animal’s mind, and not a human mind.  I was not processing information correctly or understanding things clearly.  I only perceived raw, jagged edges of immediate feelings and perceptions, and dim troubled meanderings of thoughts that were trying to connect to memories of what had happened and what had gotten me to this place.  I was trying to figure out where I was, why I was here, and how it was that I had gotten here.  It was all a mystery to me.


While I was standing there in utter confusion, my legs crumpled and I pitched forward and landed with my face in the mud; I was so weary that I could not even generate an attempt to catch myself.  I found that I was tired as I lay there in the cold, slimy mud…tired beyond belief.  I was so tired that I found the mud to be comfortable, and I only wanted to keep on lying there and letting myself and my weariness sink into it forever.


But then I heard a voice.  “Get up and walk!” it said.  At first I did not recognize the voice, but I knew that it was commanding me with great strength…and great love.  I was still so tired that I thought it impossible for me to obey.  I believed that I possessed neither the strength of body nor the strength of will to get up.  But for the sake of that voice, I made an attempt.  I struggled to stand, and I did.


Then the voice came to me again, “Get up and walk!”  And I realized that I had indeed gotten up but I hadn’t tried to walk.  I complained to the voice that it was impossible for me to walk in my present condition---that the voice was asking too much of me.  But I couldn’t keep on refusing.  For the sake of the voice I tried to take a step.  I again toppled to the ground and wallowed in the mud.  I only wanted to sleep, and to find some peace and quiet, and to be left alone.


But the voice would not leave me alone.  Over and over throughout the night the voice would command me with great love and encouragement, “Get up and walk!”  And over and over I would fall back into the mud and just want to quit and go back to sleep.  But for the sake of the voice, a voice unlike any other I have ever heard, I kept on trying to get up, and I kept on trying to walk.


At first I couldn’t take a step without falling.  Then I could take one step…and then a few steps.  Then I was actually walking more than I was falling. When I got to the point that I had the will to get up unaided, the voice left me.  At some point, I recall falling into a river, gulping down too much muddy water, and climbing out of it with great difficulty.
  
I was beginning to think and recall some things.  I remembered that I had done something terrible and that I was deserving of death---or so I thought.  Then I remembered that I had died, or at least believed that I was dying.  I believed that I must currently be in hell, because I felt so bad and this experience seemed so terrible.
  
Then I identified the voice as belonging to God, for no other voice could be so authoritative and so loving at the same time.  My mind continued to struggle and to make some sense of what was happening to me. "If this were hell, then why was God here and why was He working to encourage me"

A realization of my body came to me, and I found that it was so cold that I could no longer shiver.  I kept on thinking, "If this is hell, why am I so cold?  Shouldn’t there be fire and brimstone around me, and great heat and torture?"  Now I certainly believed that this present moment was torture, but I couldn’t figure out why I was so cold.  I just couldn’t reconcile being in hell with being cold.


I finally gave up trying to determine whether I was in heaven or hell, because nothing was making any sense to me, and it was just frustrating to me to try and figure it out.  Much later, I came to a third conclusion that was probably closer to the truth.  This was that I was actually alive on planet earth and God was by my side working with me to get me through the consequences of my own actions.


When it got to the point that I could begin to think like a person again, I noticed the obvious hallucinations returning to me and playing tricks on my mind.  Here is an example.  I was walking through a field, or perhaps fields, and I was seeing strange little plants with luscious looking cherries on them.  I was getting hungry by then, so I would pick a cherry and put it in my mouth.  Once in my mouth, I would notice that the cherry was really hard and scratchy and unpalatable.  I would spit it out of my mouth and into my hand and see that it was really the dried seed pod of a buttonweed plant (regional name, it is also referred to as velvetleaf plant around here).  Many times I was fooled by this same hallucination.


Another hallucination that plagued me was this.  I would think that there was a loaded grain wagon parked on the other side of the field.  I was raised on a farm, and I would believe that it was my responsibility to take the loaded grain wagon back to the farmstead.  I would trudge across the field through the mud, climb the fence, look up, and see that there was no grain wagon there.  Then I would hear devious laughter in my head, and would turn and look back across the field.  The loaded grain wagon would be sitting where I had just come from.  I would begin all over again to retrieve the grain wagon from across the field.  This was a peculiar torment to me, but it kept me walking.


Eventually I made it out of the woods and the fields and onto a secondary blacktop road.  Dawn was breaking and traffic was beginning to flow on the road.  I was wandering on the road, not having a clue as to what I was doing.  Sometimes I was walking in the ditches and sometimes on the shoulders and sometimes right down the middle of it.


A car very nearly hit me.  Unexpectedly, I had an out of body experience when this happened.  My viewpoint was from an elevated position to the right of the scene.  I saw the car bearing down on me, and saw myself jumping out of its path.  For some reason I was wearing a Boy Scout uniform when I witnessed this.  This was strange, for I had never had anything to do with Boy Scouts.


Immediately, I was back in my body, and I was on the shoulder of the road.  I stumbled over to the driver’s side of the now stopped car, and the man rolled his window down.  He was beginning to say something, but I interrupted him and said in slurred speech, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m doing.”  When he heard me and saw me, a startled look came over his face and he shut the window and drove swiftly away.  I continued to walk upon the road.


Soon a police car came up behind me and hailed me.  The officers wanted to know what was wrong with me.  I said, “Nothing.”  They pressed me and wanted to know what I was taking.


“Taking?  What do you mean?”


“Drugs.  What kind of drugs have you been taking?”


I said, “I don’t take drugs.  I never have.”


One of the officers flipped the side mirror up and said, “Look into your eyes.”
I did as he instructed, and was surprised to see what my own eyes looked like.  The pupils were so large and black that the irises were nearly nonexistent, the whites were very red and bloodshot, and the eyes themselves radiated a bright, maniacal, out of control energy.


I told the officers that I had taken a drug last night in an attempt to kill myself, but evidently it hadn’t worked.  They thought I was lying and was just a user making the story up.  They asked for my name and address, but I wouldn’t give it to them.  I reasoned that they would connect me to my parents, and I didn’t want my parents to know.  I was still trying to protect them from unnecessary pain.  The police asked me if the car down the road was mine.  I confessed that I had come in a car, but I didn’t know if the one they were referring to was mine or not.  They had me get in their police car and took me to it.  For some reason, I couldn’t identify the car as mine or not.


This made them even angrier.  They were harsher and demanded to know my name and address again.  I still refused to tell them.  They insisted that I must tell them or suffer the consequences.  They let me know that I had better have a good reason for withholding information from them.  I told them that I did not want my parents to know where I was or what had happened to me.


They said that if I wouldn’t cooperate, they could trace the car back to my parents without me.  I knew that this was true so I cooperated and told them what they wanted to know.  They still believed me to be a user who had “gotten high” and was now just “spinning a good yarn” to try and keep himself out of trouble.
  
“If you really did try to commit suicide by taking an overdose, can you take us to the spot?”


“I think so,” I replied, and started walking north in the very same direction I had gone the night before.  Everything was amazingly clear to me.  Even though I had walked to my previous location in the dark, across unfamiliar terrain, and even though the rain had erased all of my previous tracks, I knew exactly how to get there.  When I got to the woodland where I had taken the pills, I found that I knew each and every tree in the area.  My brain had stored a detailed “map” of the location.


I pointed the spot out to the officers.  “That’s where I took the pills.”


One of the officers walked over to the indicated location and searched the undergrowth.  There he found the jars that had contained the water and two large pill bottles.  “Just over-the-counter sleeping pills,” he stated.


When he looked back at me, I saw that he now believed my story.  “Did you take both of these?”

“Yes.”


And then that police officer turned preacher on me and started lecturing,  “Don’t you know that only God has the power to give life and only God has the right to take life?


I suddenly got very angry with him.  “What right has this man?”  He didn’t know what I had been suffering for so many years.  He didn’t know the agony of flipping in and out of depression and in and out of mania and in and out of too many different psychiatric hospitals.  He didn’t know the near constant emotional pain that plagued my existence.


He didn’t know what had just happened to me tonight.  He didn’t know how I had just spent this horrible, horrible, yet blessed night.  He didn’t know that despite my own weakness and stupidity, God had intersected with my life in a very close and special way---a way that I could understand.  The irony of it was that despite it being the worst of nights, it was also the best of nights.

And here was this police officer, this mere man attempting to preach to me in such a small and belittling way what God Himself had already demonstrated to me in a much more glorious and loving way.  I got so mad at that officer that I just wanted to hit him and scream at him that I already knew, and that he was just a stupid little pathetic man for saying it in such an insulting way.
  
Even in the wretched state that I was in, God gave me grace, and I just hung my head, bit my tongue, and said, “I know.”


Then the two officers drove me to the hospital and gave the two pill bottles to the doctors.  The hospital personnel put me in bed and attached pads with wires to different parts of my body.  The walls and ceiling looked to me as if they were rippling before my eyes.  A kindly, older doctor came into my room and began to ask me questions.


He held the two pill bottles out before me and asked, “Are these what you took?”

“Yes.”


“When did you take them?”


“Shortly after dark.”


“Did you throw up after you swallowed them?”


“I don’t remember throwing up.”


“Well, from the looks of things, and from what you have told me, it is already too late to pump your stomach.  The pills are already out of there and into your system.  Any damage that is already done, or will be done is unstoppable.”


He hesitated a moment and then continued, “If you are telling me the truth, you should already be dead.  At that dosage and with this particular medication, you should have gone to sleep and quit breathing.  With no one out there to find you or to help you, that should have been the end of you.  You are a lucky young man.”


I turned my face away from him.  I wanted to tell him that I had experienced much more than just luck----that I had experienced the grace of God Himself.  That it was more grace than luck.  Instead, I just ignored him and selfishly clutched the wonder and the glory and the terror to myself, where only I could be in awe of it.


But now, after all these years, I have attempted to put it down in words, so that others too might know the glory, grace and terror of that moment in my life when God told me to, “Get up and walk!”  And I have shed tears and felt His wonder once again as I have recalled this and written it down.  It is my sincere prayer that as you read this for the first time you will know the wonder of the power of God’s grace in my life…and in yours.


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