“Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.”
Psalm 69:14 KJV
When I was younger I frequently found myself in the grips of irrational fears. So many nights as a small boy I stayed awake late into the night, certain a burglar would come or a fire would consume the house. I eventually conquered it and found it quite silly, though surely not at the time. Later I was afraid of lots of other kids at school, or strangers or who knows what else was convenient then and there. Point is I had then and still possess a somewhat overactive imagination.
Then I started getting older. Many things which formerly intimidated or flat-out horrified me suddenly became more…. alluring. I became intensely excited by pushing my limits and boundaries farther than ever before. It was all so exhilarating and fascinating, for a time.
As I mentioned in an older post, mania can be addictive. I’m fully certain this was the common thread which united several years of flat out strangeness I lived through. Years of crazy adventures with crazier people. I truly believed I was on the verge of comprehending the very nature of human existence. Right before I crashed and burned, that is.
Thing is, had it not happened I would be in a number of places other than where I am now. I sigh deeply as I try to find the words to illustrate the murky depths of human reasoning which I allowed myself to descend to.
I could easily have ended up dead or incarcerated. A sobering thought, that. As it happens, these things have not come to pass. Hopefully only the latter will. I’ve been to the hospital a few times but never jail or prison. For this I am abundantly grateful.
Those years sometimes flashback in my head like an old movie. Certainly there were lots of psilocybin or lysergic flavored episodes. In retrospect they seem like such a waste. I know this may sound trite or stupid, but I do believe there are some things in this universe which human eyes are not meant to see.
Not because they’re “forbidden” or “secret”, mind you. Rather what I’m getting at is that the human brain, for all it’s potential is simply not ready to process some things. Many brains have been permanently cracked beyond repair in the unsuccessful pursuit of proving this wrong. It nearly happened to me.
So what did I do and see during this time that was so traumatizing? No single thing in particular. Just a buildup of everything. As a teenager I volunteered in an Emergency Room on the weekend. Three years of that and I thought I had a pretty rational grip on the world, human suffering and life in general. Then, everything started getting mixed up.
I got so hopelessly frustrated with what I am forcing myself to describe as something other than my social failures. I’ll just nicely dress that up as “interpersonal issues” so as to not look as I’m being down on myself. I quit high school and just started going crazy with hallucinogens and other things that turned out to be fairly detrimental to my psyche (i.e. occultism, horror films, alcohol ect.)
Somehow, I found a niche of sorts among other burned out misfits. At least sort of. Most of them turned out to be the kinds of people who’s burning heads I wouldn’t extinguish with my urine. Still though, a few gems were among the compost. Some of these folks I still have fond memories that I sometimes visit. I prefer to focus on decent things I remember about people from my older days. Some people I’ve known have been so consumed by darkness that praying for them is virtually incomprehensible to me. Still, I try.
Somewhere around my twenty-third year is when the first crash occurred. There were others that came a few years later. Now here I am coming up on thirty-two with the realization that mental illness basically ate my twenties. It’s kind of a bitter pill to swallow. Still, it could be much worse. The way I look at it, better to get things back on an even keel and start flying right this minute.
I found myself thinking a lot about this sort of stuff after finishing ‘The Orthodox Way’ by Bishop Kallistos Ware this morning. It dwells more on matters of personal spirituality than history and doctrine. Inner conflict is a recurring theme, as well as the development of spiritual discipline.
As the title of this post implies, keeping one’s head above is a life and death issue. It is non-negotiable and binding. To not do so will quickly cause one to expire. However, the broader context of the ‘head above water’ expression has a somewhat obscured meaning in today’s world.
Think about it- so many people in this world, living on borrowed time and money, with so many single things that could go wrong. The modern world is a precarious, savage and fragile place.
That is why discipline is so important. I have very little, to be sure. But hey, I used to have zero and simply constantly live in the moment. Trust me, it gets old. Just the small measure I’ve accrued has vastly enhanced my perspective as well as my capacity to love.
So yeah, I still have fears. Not of the same things as when I was a kid, though. I have exhaustively examined the inner recesses of my own consciousness. Some of the things I have found have astounded and/or horrified me. But at this point they’re a known quantity.
My big fear now is a simple one:
Losing myself and the peace I’ve found.
That’s why I keep clutching my Chotki and praying.