Often, people who know me will ask, “How are you doing?”. My answer is always, “one day at a time!” It’s definitely not a new saying but for me but it is so true. I finally, after months of searching, have found a good therapist. I have opened up more to him in four recent sessions than I did in four months when I was at St. Luke Institute. Finding a good therapist is not easy. Finding someone you can be comfortable with is essential. Unfortunately, when I was at St. Luke I didn’t feel that. The atmosphere there was too intense for me and it caused me not to trust. But, this is not a new issue with me because my trust level in people has its limits over the years. Often I am wary of people. I believe this comes from years of being put down and made fun of behind my back. It’s one of those childhood things that has followed me into adulthood. Okay, I’m insecure on many levels. Perhaps this is related to one of my “daddy issues” (another story for another blog)!
It was one year ago on August 28th that I quietly left Portage and flew to Washington, D.C. to be then whisked off to Silver Spring, Maryland. It sits right off the border of D.C. I went there because I was no longer functioning because of my physical and mental condition. I had been dealing with chronic back pain for three years. I was always in pain. Unless you have endured pain over a long period of time, it would be hard for you to understand. In those three years I had back surgery which relieved me of my pain for a few months but then it returned. Being in chronic pain led to the festering of many other issues that had been suppressed deep inside me.
At the end of a very intense physiological and psychological testing I was recommended to this facility. My diagnosis was this: major depressive disorder, high anxiety, restrictive food intake disorder (anorexia), bereavement issues, chronic back pain and ADHD. Hearing the diagnosis explained a lot; intellectually I understood what was happening to me, but emotionally it was devastating. Surrendering to this six month program gave me even greater anxiety. The “worrier” in me thought about my animals, my aging mother, my parish, my hard working staff and so many other things. But in all of this I had to stop and ask the question: what about me? I was being given an opportunity to begin a healing process. Didn’t I deserve to take care of me for once? After all, my life to this point had been taking care of so many other lives over a 25 year period. But again, the “worrier” in me was feeding the fire of negative thoughts. St. Luke Institute sounds like a very good place but when you strip away the title it is actually a psychiatric mental hospital. Oh my God, I was a patient in a mental hospital! Coming to terms that I was suffering with mental illness was a hard pill to swallow. Even now it is hard for me, at times, to accept. In retrospect, many of these concerns have changed. I can honestly say I was ill. I needed help. I have a profound and new understanding of mental illness. Now that I am back in active ministry I have become even more empathetic to people who are in crisis which may be affecting their own mental health.
I suppose there may be some whisperings behind my back that say “Fr. Andrew went crazy”, or “he was in a looney bin”. Well, I’m at the point now where I can talk about my incarceration, er, uh, I mean, my time at St. Luke. But being real, I did go crazy. I was in a looney bin! The one thing I am ashamed of and have tremendous guilt over is that I hurt some people who were very close to me. Especially my loyal staff who were brutally scrutinized after my departure. Trying to imagine what they had to go through would be as difficult as them understanding what my experience was like. My number one hope is that we can change this and process both our experiences face-to-face, as adults, and begin a healing process. I love and miss them so very much. Before the storm we had so many good years of working and laughing together. Understand that this is not a simple issue. It is much more complex on many levels. Too many to explain in just one blog posting. Right now I’m not sure where I stand with them. It was implied that they did not wish to speak with me at this time. When I learned of this, it felt like a stab in my heart. Until that day comes, I will still remember that it truly is “one day at a time!”
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