Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Importance of Hope © Megan Snider 2012

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to turn this blog into a religious blog. When I do see correlations between religion and what I am going through as far as my illnesses are concerned, I do write about them. I am in no way trying to convert anyone o to say that I am a better human being because I am a believer. I struggle with my faith because of my illnesses. I simply wanted to share with my readers where some of my hope comes from in this blog despite the fact that those of us whom are ill suffer so gravely. That is my only intention.

As you may or may not know, hope is something that does not come easily for me. I am prone to think the worst about situations and catastrophize. This is much easier to do than to be upbeat and positive. In fact, everyone is familiar with that old joke that exclaims sarcastically, “It takes more muscles to smile than to frown.” I am not necessarily sure if this is true and even if it is, that doesn’t give it the right to be the guiding maxim of your life.

I will say that fear and happiness do not go hand in hand. Neither does pain and happiness. Some people are graciously able to accept, or rather, feign acceptance of their situations. Others buck and kick against it, hoping to destroy it with their sheer wills. Unfortunately, will itself is not enough to break through any illness. Otherwise, I would have broken through my illness years ago. I have been so mad and frustrated by it as a child and an adult, that I have gone to great lengths to battle it—only to end up losing.

So, why and how can you learn to hope? I don’t mind admitting that hope is something I have to learn. I don’t think hope comes naturally to many human beings. The Bible urges people to hope. In the New King James Version of the Bible, Hebrew 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” There is a strong correlation between faith and hope. If you have faith, you should have hope, right?

Here’s the tricky part. It all boils down to what you hope for. Some of us hope for worldly changes and physical and mental changes in ourselves or others. Some hopefully look forward to the day when ascension to heaven will be reached and the world will be renewed.

I believe God wants us to have hope for our lives, even though they are “but vapor” as is states in Ecclesiastes. We were created from the most delicate substance of all: dust. Dust is easily separated and can be totally blown away by gusts. Sometimes gale storms and torrential downpours scatter our cognizance far and wide and cause them to congeal and form into cakes of filthy mud. It makes sense that we would be uncertain of many things because our own genetic makeup is absolutely unsure and hinged on chance. In his epic poem “The Wasteland”, T.S. Eliot wrote the following line: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” I have always taken this to relate back to humanity’s fear of its own mortality and fear of its own great imposing frailty. That has been among some of the top literary quotes ever made in my own opinion.   

Hope is a funny thing. You don’t necessarily have to hope for anything. It can just be an abiding feeling. You don’t need to say to yourself, “Okay, I will set a goal and then hope for it.” If you have been keeping up with my blogs and writings, you will notice that hoping for something specific may lead to folly because you may or may not just get it someday. And, furthermore, who can really say that they hope for one thing continuously. As I have aged, I have found that some of my hopes are mainstays while some have simply fallen by the wayside. So, to pick one thing and to hope it will make you happy is not really the point of hope.

The point of hope is to give us strength to continue through life. When everything else in completely gone, we still have hope. Hope is still readily available at no cost to the broken hearted or the broken souled.  One of the verses that I used to mock when I was against God and when His hand was against me was Jeremiah 29:11. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” At this time I believed I did not have a future. If you ask me now, I might reply in the same tone. I’m not really expecting much anymore. That does not mean I have given up hope. It means I have not given in to irrational hopes as I had done before as I was younger. See, Jereiah 29:11 does not state that God will give you everything you desire. I’ve pointed this out many times. If you believe in God, yes; He has a plan for you. However, His plan and your plan may be two different things.

As a human, I feel that I have little control over the things that go on in my own life. Even when I am at my deepest and darkest moments, even though I imagine ending things outright, I know that I can’t do that. I don’t think that suicide is a coward’s way out. I know it gravely and deeply wounds families but I know that the people whom commit suicide know that they will be hurting the ones they love. I do not believe they kill themselves to hurt people deliberately in a wide majority of cases. I just think there is a point where pain can no longer be endured nor managed and they only see one obvious exit sign marked in big red letters.

As a Christian, I have an abiding hope. I do not know why and I suppose I must attribute it to God. My life is terrifying. I wake up terrified. I have episodes of panic and DP and DR every day. I am also Agoraphobic. None of these are classified as serious illnesses but they still chip away at the prospects of my life. So, if you think I’m a person with blessed life standing on a soapbox and preaching at you, then you are wrong. I live with conditions that cannot be cured and erode away at the very core of my life like battery acid.

This hope keeps me from pulling the trigger or crafting the noose. I just can’t do it. I suppose in my heart I know that even if these illness never go away that there will be things in life I will enjoy. Sure, maybe I’ll never be married. Maybe none of my heart’s desires will come to pass in God’s will. You must remember my reaction to Matthew 19 a few days ago. The reason I won’t simply allow myself to die is because I don’t know what’s around the corner. And, also, small things make me happy. For example, instead of dying, I could just have a chocolate malt and watch television or write something. That sounds horribly silly, but that is the kind of low key activities that I look forward to. Everyone has something to look forward to.

Listen carefully, hope does not mean to sit there and hope that your life will turn out that certain way that YOU want it to. Hope is just the simple abiding feeling of continuing on the journey of life for no particular reason. Even if your life has been darkened by the great arm of illness and sorrow which spreads its long shadow over everything you have known or ever will know, you can still hope. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is the Lord’s response to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Here in this gospel, Paul has prayed three times for a thorn in his flesh to be removed. We do not know the nature of the “thorn in his side.” We simply know it was there and he prayed repetitively for it to be gone. I certainly know that feeling. Finally, regarding his thorn, Paul finally wrote about the Lord’s answer to him. Paul wrote, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Take great notice of that verse. Paul was never healed. This does not mean God is unjust or unable. You must remember that miracles are called “miracles” for a reason. They are called “miracles” because they do not happen every day. If they happened everyday they would be called “commonplace”, wouldn’t they? 

It is a comfort to me to know that I am at least useful to the Lord if to no one else in my crippled state and my blackened disposition. The phrase “My strength is made perfect in weakness” means that in weakness we easily succumb to things—this includes God’s will for us. We have withered and I believe it is God’s delight to surprise up and cause us to spring back up even at the zero hour. Paul also says that he would “rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” People who do not live with degenerating illnesses can find hope and faith a bit easier than those of us that struggle with mental and physical illnesses. I am not saying that “normal” people don’t have problems. Everyone has problems.

However, there is something to be said about enduring constant and repetitive suffering. It bends you and bows you and you crave hope all the more. Just as a starving man will scramble for a piece of bread crust thrown into the dirt so do we too scramble for a dislodged piece of hope originating from the heavens.

Even while being crucified on the cross, one of the thieves being crucified alongside Jesus found peace in His presence. Now, get that through your head. These men were dying slow agonizing deaths and being gawked at by the curious masses. One of the theieves recognizes Jesus and his power and asks for forgiveness. While the three of these men were on the cross, nailed to planks of wood by their hands and feet, with strong metal nails bolted through the fragile line of their tendons, they still had presence of mind. And, in an odd way, two of them still had hope. The two that still had hope were Jesus and the thief who asked for redemption. After asking to be saved, Jesus replied to the thief in Luke23:43 by saying, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Notice that Jesus was not concerned with the darkness he was in. He was wrapped in the blackest darkness of all—being face to face with death. Yet all that was reflected in the eyes of that thief and Jesus was a pure picture of paradise.

I know that many of us asked why we are not cured. But we must remember that Paul was not cured by the Lord and he was very close to the Lord. We also must not remember the failings of Peter and how those failing broke his heart for he loved Jesus dearly. And, most of all, we must remember that although He had the ability to do so with one movement of his pinky finger, Jesus Christ did not save Himself from his own suffering. We all have crosses to bear. I have written that before and it is true. The only person able to help you shoulder that cross is Jesus Himself because he was the original bearer of the cross. No other human being can transport himself or herself into your mind or body and help you shoulder the pain.

Here is where hope comes in. You should always have hope. Remember that Jesus said that all was required of us was to have hope the size of a mustard seed and that would move mountains. If I recall correctly, a mustard seed is very miniscule. Now, you may not move the mountain or obstacle of your choice out of your way, but you may remove other obstacles with faith and hope in the Lord. So, before you throw in the towel, give just a tiny bit of hope a chance.

© Megan Snider 2012

(c) Megan Allyce Snider 2012
Copr. M. Allyce Snider 2012
Copyright Megan Snider MMXII

Psychosis versus Dissociation © Megan Snider 2012

The confusion among unskilled doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists about the differences between psychotic disorders and dissociative disorders is absolutely horrendous. As I have shared on here before, I was originally diagnosed as psychotic and as having Schizophrenia. My “psychiatrist” was simply not smart enough to know the difference between literally symptoms and abstract symptoms. For example, check out the subtle differences between these two sets of symptoms:
 Example Number One: I say I don’t “feel” like I’m real. (This is dissociation because reality testing is intact. You don’t “feel” real, yet you know you are.)
Example Number Two: The world is not real between the hours of nine and five. Everything stops existing because the CIA has the world programmed to run on a huge computer system. (I know that sounded a little cliché—especially with the CIA reference—however, this would be an adequate runner up for a psychotic disorder.)   
Please notice that in example number two there is no I “feel” connection. Rather, everything is stated as fact. This is where the idea of reality testing comes in. According to “The Free Dictionary by Farlex”, reality testing is an ego function that enables one to differentiate between external reality and an inner imaginative world and to behave in a manner that exhibits an awareness of accepted norms and customs. Impairment of reality testing is indicative of a disturbance in ego functioning that may lead to psychosis.”
Alright, so let’s boil this idea down in digestible bits. When you have reality testing, you can differentiate between your own internal and external reality. That means you may fantasize that you are the president, but you know that you are an English teacher. Also, over the course of derealization and depersonalization, you know that you and the world are really truly real, however you are in an altered state of consciousness where it simply doesn’t feel that way.
In contrast, people suffering from psychosis have no reality testing. Therefore, they are grossly unable to distinguish their own fantasies or internal thoughts from their external realities. Simply put, if they have a thought that they are being stalking by the FBI or something similar, this though can easily grow into a true belief.
As I learned in Abnormal Psychiatry in college, reality testing also have another component to it. It also is the ability to conjure up concrete facts. For example, I know my hair is blonde, my eyes are blue, I know when my birthday is and what state I am currently residing in. If you ask a psychotic person who he or she thinks he or she is, he or she may possibly respond that they believe they are “Jesus Chist” or “Napoleon”. Again, I am sorry to use such cliché examples, but they are the ones which seem to be best understood. Let’s look at how the “DSM V” labels psychosis and dissociation.
“DSM V” Psychotic Disorders
Attenuated Psychosis Syndrom (Proposed for Section III of the “DSM-5)
B 00 Schizotypal Personality Disorder
B 01 Delusional Disorder
B 02 Brief Psychotic Disorder
B 03 Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder
B 04 Psychotic Disorder Associated with Another Medical Condition
B 05 Catatonic Disorder Associated with Another Medical Condition
B 06 Schizophreniform Disorder
B 07 Schizoaffective Disorder
B 09 Psychotic Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified
B 10 Catatonic Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified

“DSM V” Dissociative Disorders
H 01 Dissociative Amnesia
H 02 Dissociative Identity Disorder
H 03 Dissociative Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified

Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder
Reality Testing is NOT intact
Reality Testing IS intact
No delusions
Total infamous lack of insight
Temporary altered state of consciousness
Merging of internal and external worlds
External and internal worlds are kept separate

For further information, I suggest reading the DSM definitions of these disorders, including the DSM V which is a new and updated version coming out next year.
I also highly recommend scholarly psychiatric papers and Mayo Clinic articles realting to these disorders. Remember, knowledge is power. Just two days ago I saw someone on a forum describing Depreaonzalisation-Derelization Disorder. Another member on the group, who happened to be the first poster, was representing himself as an advocate for the ill. He said that that original poster was psychotic and needed to be put on antipsychotics immediately. Whenever I become involved in online forums, it is a disaster—I don’t think I need to tell you that. So, I shy away from them. However, I couldn’t let one person’s ignorance ruin another person’s life as my own “psychiatrist” had done to me. So I registered as part of the group and left a detailed explanation of my own symptoms and a link to the DSM V’s classification of dissociative disorders. We must stop misinformation. I’m not sure which is worse—stigma or ignorance. I believe in most cases that they are one and the same.
I apologize for the brevity of the post. I know there are a number of infinite details I could write about on this subject. I can sit and ponder it forever. However, writing about an illness you have yourself can only serve as a great trigger because you are reminding yourself of the fact that you have it altogether again. This would be like sending a combat veteran with PTSD back into the jungles of Vietnam. It is difficult for me to write about Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder. Yet, if I help one person come to terms with it, accept it, and be able to combat it better, then I will definitely keep writing.
© Megan Snider 2012
(c) Megan Allyce Snider 2012
Copr. M. Allyce Snider 2012
Copyright Megan Snider MMXII