The Good Inside

Over the past few weeks I asked about twenty fellow inmates the following question: 

What’s the best thing about being inside and/or this location specifically? 

I asked because I wanted to write a posting saying something like, “It’s Not All Bad Inside.”  I thought that by asking others I’d hear perspective and views differing from my own.  What surprised me was that all the responses fell into one of three categories, each garnering about one third of the total.

The first category is:

“There’s nothing good about being inside or at this location.” 

Even when I pressed them to be more thoughtful they couldn’t come up with any positives about being here, inside.  Perhaps this response isn’t surprising on its own however it came from some of the people I’d thought were most pragmatic about their incarceration.  Don’t misunderstand, I’d rather not be here either, yet I am and I try to make the most of it.  When I fall into this line of thinking it slows time down and makes this experience more burdensome.

The next category is:

“It’s relatively violence free here.” 

I’m at a low security institution and I’d have to agree with this assessment.  It’s not that I haven’t witnessed, or heard of, fights but you generally don’t have to be constantly looking over your shoulder to know who’s behind you.  You do have to be aware of your surroundings but as long as you keep your nose clean you’re relatively safe – it is still a prison and you’re still dealing with people who may have been violent in their past.  One person even described this location as, “A highly dysfunctional community college campus.”  I don’t think I can agree in total but it is highly dysfunctional here. 

These first two categories made me think of all the people in the world, maybe billions, who would gladly trade places with we inmates – the homeless, the hungry, those in war torn countries, and those without sanitation or safe drinking water.  Would they say there’s nothing good here inside?  And wouldn’t they appreciate the lack of violence?

The final category is:

“Time is the best thing wherever you’re imprisoned.” 

Time to reflect and be introspective.  Time to look at your own history and envision a new future.  Time in these ways is the school of thought I think is indeed the best thing about living in exile.

My040 The Good Inside
Photo by Murray Campbell on Unsplash

When I was on the outside I took time to think but I concentrated on worldly things like material belongings, money, success, and feeding my addiction.  It’s not that I didn’t ever think about the truly important things in life like family, faith, and health but it was out of balance.  I thought too much about the former and too little about the latter.

It took being stripped of all the good things in my life to show me where I should have been focusing my thoughts and introspective time.  Now I can say without hesitation that there’s nothing more important than my faith, family, and health.  Think on it a while and I’m sure you’ll find this to be true for you as well.  I know it seems obvious that these are the important things in life but if we’re honest with ourselves we’d admit that we let other less important items cloud our thinking and take our eyes off the truly critical facets of life.

Keep your eyes on the true prizes of life.  ~jdoe

Roots of Faith?

I know in my mind and have faith in my heart that Jesus was born, died, and rose in triumph over sin that I may have eternal salvation.  I also know in my mind and have faith in my heart that God is active in my life every moment of every day.

Yet, my active involvement in my faith has changed.  I can attach this change to my starting medication to address the hallucinations I have and the depression I battle.

This brings into mind a question: 

What, if any, link exists between psychometric drugs and faith?

My040 Roots of Faith.jpg
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

My first reaction was there is no connection between psychometric drugs and faith, after all my belief in Christ as Lord and Savior remains solidly planted in my heart and mind.  But that’s not what changed.  So I needed to look more closely at what I felt had changed, that is, my active involvement in my faith; those things that bring faith into practice as praise and worship.

I feel I still live as a Christian – loving God with all my heart, soul and mind and loving my neighbor as myself.  (Mark 12:30-31)

I’m still attending church and singing in the choir.  But… other things I used to do like praying the rosary, reading the bible, and privately praying three times daily have turned into occasional activities.  Also, participation in the choir has turned into work and no longer fulfills me. (I must add here that there are also other issues with choir that feed my ambivalence.)

To answer the question of linkage between my medication and active participation in my faith I had to look at the roots of that which drives participation beyond attending church.

I feel I can eliminate the antidepressant as the cause of change.  I was once on antidepressants while on the street (outside this prison) and experienced a positive impact on practicing my faith by becoming more involved, not less.

Yet, what of the anti-hallucinogen?

I’ve learned, through work with psychologists, that hallucinations can spring from the part of the brain associated with creativity.  Once I learned that, it became easier to deal with those hallucinations the medication had not driven away.  But the implication is clear:  If the anti-hallucinogen quiets the creative center of the brain then how I see and feel and participate in my faith is indeed connected to the creative center in my brain.

This brings a new question:

Do I see negative impacts on other creative activates undertaken?

Absolutely YES!

My writing for this blog has become challenging and for my short stories has ceased altogether.  Also, the journaling I did on a regular basis has stopped.  Next, my passion around music has waned to the point that I don’t care to sing anymore.  Finally, and most importantly, I’ve found that I can no longer envision a future for myself once released from prison; from exile.

In summary then, all the creative activities that were alive in me have withered or died just as my active participation in my faith has also all but ended.

So a third question now arises: 

What role does the creative center of the brain play in one’s faith?

I once took the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) survey and scored 100% for both schizophrenia and delusional disorder.  I recall a fair number of questions around belief in an omnipotent entity (God).

Apparently, I’m not the first person to see a direct link between one’s faith and the workings of the mind – the creative mind.  The implication of that survey is that your faith is something manufactured by your mind as opposed to a belief, a knowing really, in an all-encompassing deity.  And aren’t hallucinations and delusional beliefs manufactured by the mind?

This suggests then that the part of the brain that creates hallucinations and delusional beliefs also creates faith, or at least some portion thereof.

It’s a scary thought really – that my faith is no more real than a short story written for pleasure.

Where does this leave me? 

With more questions than answers.

What to do?  I’ve decided to adopt an attitude of “just do it’ and renew, even if by habit, my participation in praying the rosary, thrice daily prayer times, and reading the bible daily.  My hope is that by doing these things as tasks I will rekindle the part of me that carried these actions as an integral part of my faith practice.

I’m curious.  I’d like to know if any of you that are on psychometric medication have seen a change in how your creative self manifests.  Am I alone in seeing a direct link between the creative center of the mind and faith?

I look forward to hearing from you.  ~jdoe

Sketches, Reflections of Father’s Day

“Who needs fathers?  We all do.  We especially need our Father in heaven, who forgives our parenting inadequacies for Jesus’ sake and who enables us each day with a fresh start.  Just as the loving father in Luke’s gospel welcomed home his lost son, our Father will one day welcome us into heaven together with all others who love and trust in Jesus.” 

~ Dr. Rodney Rathmann

My040 Sketches Reflections of Father's Day

This is jdoe’s lil-sis.

I have been reflecting and sketching out memories, thoughts.   Sparked by father’s day and receiving the most recent blog written by my brother (to be posted next time).  The blog post talks about the impact jdoe’s illness and medication has had on him recently – and in it he talks about having lost his ability to see his future.

The quote that ended jdoe’s last post, and opens mine asks “Who needs fathers?” … We all need fathers.  Our earthly father that God blessed us with, and our Heavenly Father God.

We lost our father earlier this year, so the months that have followed have found us with twisted heart when we read a card or letter from our Mom, now only signed ‘love Mom.’  Or the fact that we didn’t have to shop and send a father’s day card.  Our father for many years prior to his passing was locked in a prison of his own;  one that left him unable to walk, remember, and eventually talk.  For several years Dad was ever there, but darkening – his sun was setting.  This relationship we had with our father is not unlike the relationship my brother now has with his children.  My brother is locked in exile, physically removed from day to day family life and restricted in communication.  Yet, there is a fundamental difference – he is still fully available, and has life to look forward to – a new dawn over the horizon.

I thought I’d write this week’s post, remind my brother jdoe of the vibrant future that lies in-front of him with a strong family that he helped to build.  Remind him of the person he is.

Do you remember these words, bro?  Below is from an excerpt from an email I sent my brother a couple years back – I’d like to focus on the “Father” in him…

I thought about you a lot today.  And I was thinking, I cannot even start to imagine what it feels like to walk in your shoes.  All the feelings and experiences that lay behind you.  Looking out over what looks like very rocky ground infront of you. 

Then I started thinking about the man standing in those shoes, You, jdoe. 

This is the man I see standing in your shoes…

A devoted son, brother, friend, and father.  You have a deep well of love for family, friends, even strangers. 

A man that has raised four great children that have turned into wonderful, loving, hard working, respectful, fun, adults. You instilled family, just look how your kids like to be around each other. 

Your love for jane is deep and strong, obvious to anyone who sees the two of you together.  What an amazing example the two of you have set for your children and others.

Someone whom I, and others, look to for sound advice. 

Someone whom I, and others, can trust. 

You know what to say, and how to say it. 

Intelligent, hardworking, and dedicated to anything you put your head and heart into.  Through your daily demonstration, your children now also live these characteristics out.

Someone who has learned from his mistakes, and grown better from them.  Who now shares his experiences in hopes to help others.

You have a contagious smile and laugh, spreading joy and light.  Fun and playful, wise and thoughtful.

You are a talented artist, with cars, music, stories, painting rooms (lol), re-upholstering, well just about everything you touch.  You are willing to share your knowledge with those willing to learn.

You are thoughtful, tender and compassionate, strong and firm. 

A gentleman, kind and respectful.

Spiritual, believer.

Love Thou jdoe ~lilsis

Be Selfish In Prayer

My life is sort of like “Groundhog Day,” so when I realized this weekend was Mother’s Day I also realized an opportunity lost in not writing a post for Mother’s Day.   When my sister reminded me what this weekend’s post was about, we realized that it was perfect.  Mothers, just like Jabez, need to be bold and selfish in prayer.   Happy Mothers Day.

My040 Be Selfish In Prayer

I’ve been thinking that my prayers are too selfish.  I’m always asking God for guidance and blessings, protection and strength to resist temptation; especially strength for as an addict it’s easy to let my mind wander where it shouldn’t and become weak.  I feel I do a really good job in my rejection of temptation but I also feel I’m able to do so due to God’s hand upon me.

Recently, I began to wonder about my method of prayer and whether or not there was a better way to ask for God’s blessings and support.  So I asked the Priest here at the prison and he replied, “Pray like Jabez.”  I asked him who Jabez was and he said to find Jabez in my Bible.  I searched by consulting my concordance and I found that Jabez is mentioned only one time, and it’s in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.

Have you read 1 Chronicles?  If not then you need to know that the first nine chapters trace the genealogy of man from Adam to Israel’s return from captivity; a time span of thousands of years.  1 Chronicles Chapters 1 through 9 is boring to read and many (most?) people skip these chapters, as I did, and miss the single person called out for his cry to God for a strong life.  Jabez, and only Jabez, is the focus of the author’s only record beyond the genealogical record.  One must ask, “Why?”

First we need to understand Jabez’s name.  Names in Biblical times often predicted the life’s achievements of individuals.  For example Soloman means peace, which is appropriate as Soloman was the first King of Israel to reign without war.  So what does Jabez mean?  It means ‘pain,’ or more literally, ‘he causes (or will cause) pain.  Jabez’s mother named him such saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.”  What a way to live life!  Can you imagine living in Biblical times with a name that predicts you’ll cause, or have already caused, pain?  Knowing this, one might wonder how Jabez won the only spotlight in the first name chapters of 1 Chronicles.

The answer is in the way Jabez prayed!

1 Chronicles 4:10 reads

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil so that I will be free from pain.”  And God granted his request.

Note that last word, “pain.”  To include his name’s meaning in his prayer underlines the importance of one’s name in Biblical times, and the belief that one’s name predicted their life’s outcome.

Jabez asked for four things:

That God bless him

That God enlarge his territory

That God would keep his hand upon him

That he be protected from evil

It all sounds like good things to pray for.  It’s when you look behind these four requests that Jabez’s wisdom becomes more evident.

First, he asks to be blessed ‘indeed.’  In these times, adding indeed to a prayer was like our adding exclamation points at the end of a sentence – a form of almost demanding to be blessed.  It also means that the request is honest and almost pleading; a pseudo command.  Jabez was not afraid of sounding selfish in his prayer for blessings – he was bold in his request!

Second, he asks for his territory to be enlarged.  At first look it sounds like he was asking for more land property – a literal translation in our culture today but not in the times of this writing.  Jabez was asking God to increase the size of his ministry.  Jabez was also asking God to provide all that was needed in order for Jabez to achieve the new, added, work God would ask of him.  In other words, Jabez was asking God to use in him a greater capacity than what He was using Jabez at the moment of this prayer – it could be translated to say, “Give me more to do for you O God.”  Again, not selfish but bold.

Next he asks for God’s hand to be with him through it all.  In this Jabez acknowledging that he could not achieve his new objectives without God’s help.  Jabez was saying, “Work through me to the glory of you, my God.”  Jabez was telling God that he wanted to be God’s instrument of glory.  Jabez did not want to become great, Jabez wanted God to become great through Jabez.  Again, not selfish but bold.

Finally, Jabez asks that God help him to maintain a blessed life by protecting him from evil.  Jabez knew there’s evil in the world and that those working to do God’s work would come under attack by that evil.  Again Jabez was acknowledging he couldn’t do it without God’s glorious help.  As bold as Jabez was in his first three requests he was equally humble in asking for God’s help and protection.  It could be translated, “I’ll do all I can, O God, help me with the rest.”

My learning from this is that maybe God wants us to be “selfish” in our payers by asking Him to use us for His greater glory.  Maybe I’m not being selfish after all.

There are people who believe that by praying this simple prayer daily that they will, and do, see God moving in their lives more obviously every day.

I’m willing to try, are you?  Please join me.  ~jdoe

Living Consumed

My wife recently sent an email with a quote she found on the internet (she always sends me great quotes and scripture!).  The quote reads:

“What consumes your mind controls your life” – unknown

My040 Living Consumed

I’ve been on a trip of life changes and so I took time to ponder how I measure myself against this quote.

On the surface it is easy to say that the wisdom within this quote is obvious, and perhaps it is.  It was when I was honest with myself that I found I wasn’t consuming my mind with the best things.

I’d allowed myself to let anxieties and fears over the future to replace much of my time in God’s Word.  I haven’t been keeping my promise to God to read his word every day.

I chose other compensatory behaviors:  Reading western novels (Hey don’t judge me Ha! Ha! Ha!) and ‘napping’ for hours.  Both allowed me escape the relatives of my exile.  Instead, I should have been losing myself in scripture to reinforce God’s love and protection.  If you’re going to distract yourself with something, be sure it’s a healthy something, right?

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t lead a balanced a life as possible.  I still read novels (I’ve now branched out into thrillers and mysteries!) and nap (for 20 to 30 minutes) but I find that bringing God’s Word back into my daily life brings a comfort I’d forgotten.

I’ve also begun to consider daily how I measure up against that quote and I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to become consumed with life’s little things.  For me, some of life’s little things here in prison can be daunting.  Things like guys spitting on the sidewalk instead of the grass and not holding doors open for the physically challenged and talking loudly in the library and and and… Things that in reality are annoyances that I can deal with by ignoring.   Those behaviors, after-all, they don’t directly impact me.

The most surprising thing to come of living by that quote is how much more pleasant and easy life is.  Eliminating the negative and replacing it with the positive is empowering.

Be empowered!  Join me in living consumed by the Spirit.

~jdoe

Raise Your Voice

My040 Raise Your Voice

I’m in the Catholic choir.  I love to sing and my praises to God.  I find singing to be the form of praise I best relate to.  I joined the choir about a month after arriving here.  We’re not professionals by any means but we do a pretty good job.

But I struggle with motivation when it comes to practice.  I go but I don’t want to.  It’s not that I’m so good that I don’t need the time to polish up the hymns either.

I feel almost petty when I talk about my reasons for wanting to skip practice.  Yet I feel there’s some validity in what I’m thinking and feeling.  It’s not just one thing either, it’s a list of issues that, when added up, push me to my limits of patience.  Practice becomes something I endure rather than something immersive I float within.

So what are a few of the issues?

We waste a lot of time.  In addition to the singing done every mass (Amen, Alleluia, Our Father, Agnus Dei, etc) there are only four songs to practice yet it takes three and a half hours to get through them.  Anyone who attends Catholic mass will tell you that there’s a limited number of songs to choose from so songs are constantly ‘recycled’.  This means we’re practicing songs we’ve sung dozens of times before.  The director will have us practice songs we’re not going to use – ever.  If I wanted to participate in a sing-a-long I’d join one of the prison bands.

There is a power struggle between the actual choir director and an individual who thinks he’s the choir director.  This leaves the singers caught between the two men when trying to follow directions given during practice.  We then wait while the two guys iron out what we are going to do.

The thing that bothers me most though is the inappropriate language and humor.  Just once I’d like to get through practice without sexual jokes or innuendos.  Just once I’d like to get through practice without the ‘F-bomb’ being dropped a dozen times.  After all, aren’t we a Christian choir?  Shouldn’t we respect God in His house?  Can’t we rise above these things for the time we’re together?

I could go on for another ten issues but I think you get the point.

“So, why don’t you quit?” may be what you’re thinking.

I feel like I’d be throwing away one of God’s gifts to me – an ability to sing.  I’ve thrown away so many of the other gifts He’s given me that I realize I can’t keep doing that – He gives us only so many, right?

I feel I’d also be turning away from the way in which my praise affects me the most – in song.  It’s said that when you sing praise it’s like you’ve prayed twice.  I like that.

Finally, practically speaking, there are only so many things to do in prison.  Finding ways to fill your time is not easy.  One can only read or write so much.

I wonder if I’m the only choir member to feel as I do.  I’ve not approached other members because I don’t want to cause issues.  On the surface, based upon others’ behaviors, I’d guess I am alone.

So I prayed and meditated and I was lead to two bits of scripture.

The first is the parable of “The Widow’s Offering” in Luke 21:1-4.  In this parable we learn of a poor old woman who gives her last two copper coins to the temple treasure as her gift.  She does this without regard for how she will live except in faith that God will provide.  I figure that if she can give everything she had then I can give my time and my voice and put up with the frustrations.  After all, I’m still better off than that poor widow.

The second is Romans 5:3-4 which tells us that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  I look at this as a lesson I have to learn.  Perseverance, character, and hope are all worth cultivating, right?

Beyond scripture, Lent is upon us.  During Lent we are to fast.  Fasting is sacrifice.  Most people associate fasting with giving up food or some other enjoyable thing or bad habit.  This year Pope Francis gave us other ideas – a list of eleven actually.  Two of these suggestions fit my situation perfectly.

The first is to fast from complaints and instead to contemplate simplicity.  How much simpler would my participation in choir be if I could put aside my complaints?  How much less emotional energy would I expend without concentrating on the negatives?

The second idea from Pope Francis is to fast from bitterness and instead to fill our hearts with joy.  This reminded me of my mantra – to find Joy In The Tribulation.

So I look for joy and I find it in the tears that well up in my eyes when I sing an especially moving hymn.  I also find joy in the choir’s combined voices while in mass.

So for me the message is clear:

Use Your Gifts

Give All You Can

Persevere and Have Hope

&

Fill Your Heart With Joy.

Won’t you join me?

~jdoe

Dad (Warning, He Cusses)

We apologize for our silence ~jdoe and sis

My-040 Dad

“My father died on March 7th.  His passing was peaceful having gone in his sleep.  My mother, his caregiver, was with him when he passed.

It is always hard losing a loved one, and doubly so when you’re locked away, living in exile as I am now.  There’s nowhere you can go to mourn in silence and solitude.

But this isn’t about me:

It’s about my father.

When I sat down to write this post I had every intention of writing a eulogy that would paint a picture of my father so all could see how much he meant to me.  I also wanted to write something that would make readers of this post wish they’d known him.

But how to summarize the life of a man whom I’ve love for over 50 years?

How do you do justice to the life of someone who was more than a father?  He was a guide and mentor, a parent and friend, a confidant and sounding board, a coach and cheerleader.  My Dad was a man like any other man with his strengths and faults, his positive and negative, his rights and wrongs, his good and bad, his ups and downs.

What made him unique in my eyes was his desire to teach me how to be a man holistically and later how to be a father.  He did these things at a time when society was weak in these things.  His sense of family and his dedication to being a father was in contrast to so many of my friend’s lives.  While my Dad was teaching, my friend’s fathers were busy with sports on TV; not that my Dad didn’t take his time to watch sports but while he was watching TV we were also talking life.

Talking life was something my Dad did often with me, usually late at night when I’d come home from a friend’s house or a date.  I can tell you that at the time all I wanted was to go to bed – now – I cherish those talks and will miss the opportunity to hold them with him ever again.

In some ways I don’t know how to feel.  Should I feel anger that dementia won?  Should I feel relief that he’s stepped away from suffering?  Should I feel joy that he’s crossed over to eternal salvation?  Should I feel sorrow, regret and remorse knowing my father died while I’m here in prison?  I wonder what his thoughts around me were.  I wonder how disappointed he was.  My father and I never had a chance to talk about my transgressions and the outcome there of.  And now the door is closed to that opportunity.

I was asked by the Priest here what  my favorite memory is and if I could say only one more thing to my father what would it be?

I actually have three favorite memories.

One is our time working together on my first car.  He was a huge help and he even worked on it when I went away to college – such was his commitment to me.

My second favorite memory is when we as a family went on a two week vacation.  I was five years old and he spent a lot of time with me that trip as we visited all the sights that tourists visit.  The whole time I felt like his buddy; I felt older than I was and I felt totally accepted.

Maybe my favorite memory, certainly the greatest piece of “advice” he ever gave me, came one of those late nights when I was talking to him about maybe dating someone other than Jane.  He said to me, “It’s always interesting to see your offspring fuck up.”  It’s not that I married Jane because of Dad, but it was his way of presenting a perspective that was really more objective than mine at the moment.  I cannot imagine a life without her really, and I thank Dad for keeping me honest within my own heart.

As for what I would say to him beyond, “I love you”? 

I’d say,

“Thank you.” 

I wish I’d said it before he passed.

Obviously, I won’t be attending his funeral.  My Mom won’t have me there to lean on.  By God’s grace she’ll have my wife and my sister, both of whom I feel are stronger than me anyway.

Genesis 3:19 says we are but dust and to dust we shall return.  There’s a comfort knowing that we will all one day be returned to the earth from which we were made.  I do feel relief in knowing this and Dad, you’re in God’s hands now – better off than any of us.

Dad – I love you – and – Thank You.

~jdoe

Reach

my040_reach

I’m blessed with people who reach out to me.

My wife helps in many ways like researching the medications I’m on.  She also drives 400 miles one way every month to spend two days visitation with me.  Three of my adult children have been in to visit  me.  Two of them are in the medical profession and help me with medication questions as well.  My sister has come a bit farther to visit twice and does the work for this blog.  My mother has also been in to visit and writes me weekly.  I also have family that send letters, email, and books and put money on my commissary account.

Beyond family, I have friends who send in letters and email.  One couple sends in unique yard sale book finds.  These same friends even banded together to get me two magazine subscriptions.  I also have a psychologist outside who is working with me by letter and charges me nothing.

As I said, I am blessed.  They all reach out to me while I reside in this physical prison.  They do so regardless of the situation they themselves live within.  And they also have one thing in common: They live Proverbs 3:27-28

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.  Do not say to your neighbor, “come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” – when you now have it with you.”  (NIV)

I do my best to have a continuing presence in their lives as well by reciprocating with letters, email, and the occasional phone call.  I send what advice and wisdom I can to my children.  I share in what decision I can where my wife’s responsibilities allow.

Yet I wanted to do more.  I wanted to be a true liver of Proverbs 3:27-28.  But how to reach out in prison – in exile?  And to whom?

I have to admit I had fears around reaching out: would I be rejected or taken advantage of?  Yet I kept thinking of those who were actively reaching out to me.  If they were brave enough to do it why shouldn’t I be?

I began to look around for ways to become more than a friend to a few fellow inmates.

I found out that there are classes that are inmate lead on a wide variety of topics; everything from the stock market to paranormal activities.  I thought, “I can teach a class,” and then asked myself, “What will I teach?”  My education and background are in engineering so I’m good in math and science but putting together a course in my field didn’t feel ‘right’.  So I turned to the friends I’ve made here for ideas and two suggested I teach public speaking.  My initial reaction was to brush off the idea but the longer I thought about it the more I liked the idea.  So with help from my sister in the form of a college level public speaking textbook I put together a class and am now teaching it.  And it’s going well.

Several other inmates suggested I tutor those pursuing their GED in math.  I liked the idea so I passed my name around to people enrolled in the GED program.  Within days I had two people to tutor.  And it’s going well.

Then I thought about the poor that Jesus asked us to help.  I looked around and saw how many indigent inmates there are and I knew I couldn’t help them all but I also knew I could help a few.  So each month I take the $17 I make at my ‘job’ here and buy hygiene products from commissary for two or three indigent inmates.  Seeing their appreciation in receiving soap, shampoo, and deodorant is so satisfying that it makes me wish I could do more.

Not surprisingly, I find that living Proverbs 3:27-28 is rewarding and reaffirming that I have something to give back.  It also helps me to see that I can atone for the sins that sent me here into exile.  It’s given me a new Joy In The Tribulation.

You too can find a Joy In The Tribulation regardless of your situation

All you have to do is reach out.

~jdoe

Better Living Through Chemistry

Words.

They’re only words.

Groupings of letters in a particular order that provide a visual representation of what we want to communicate.  So why can’t I find the words to put down on paper.  In the past, I would write 15 to 50 pages a day!  Now – I struggle to complete a paragraph.

I feel bottle up.  I feel stymied.  I have writer’s block.  Why?

I believe it’s the medication.  And yet the medication is doing good things too.

Have the medications helped or hindered?

my040_better_living_through_chemistry

On the plus side, I’m without hallucinations for the first time in over 48 years.  Also for the first time in over 38 years I don’t see suicide as a solution for my problems.  Yea medication!

Life without hallucinations is new for me really.  I used them to cope with the injuries of my past.  They were my unconscious’s representation of hurts I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, consciously deal with.  Without them I am forced to now deal with those hurts and develop healthy coping skills – and I am.

Life without suicidal thoughts is amazing.  I’m finding hope for the future and visualizing a future that goes beyond the end of the day.  My future goes on for years now.  It’s a strange, but good, feeling to want to see old age and all the adventures between today and the day I pass due to natural causes.

On the minus side, I feel like my creativity is stifled.  I’m having cognitive challenges that hinder my ability to write.  I find that the leveling of my emotions, that is the minimization of mood swings from high to low, has suffocated my motivation for not only writing but also such passions as reading and learning new things.

The emotion leveling has also impacted how I react in situations in which I should feel great joy or great sorrow.  I find I feel sorry to a greater degree than joy.  Maybe the antidepressant isn’t the right one for me or the wrong dosage.  Finding the right medications is a process and can be a lengthy effort.  But I feel it’s worth it.

Perhaps the down side issues will right themselves over time.  I’ve been on these medications now for about two months.  Maybe it will take a few more months to normalize my body’s chemistry and return to the writing whiz I was.  I miss my writing.  It’s a good, healthy, outlet for my mental stresses.  I find writing to also be a good place to work out emotional strains.  Consequently, I find myself easily upset over minor issues.  That’s not something I want in the ‘new’ me.

You might ask if I’d seek medications if I knew I’d find myself in this dry, arid, land of writing before taking the medications.  My answer is a definite yes.  I like being hallucination free.  I like not dwelling on suicide.  I like life for the first time in over four decades!  At times I feel young, clean, fresh and worthy of other people’s love and support.  What a wonderful set of emotions!

Would I recommend medication for others like me?  I’m no doctor but I would tell others to explore the possibilities with qualified professionals.  Life can be better for those living in their own personal prison of mental illness.  It was for me.

jdoe

Living In Exile – part 4

Gosh, that’s a lot so to summarize:

Settle down and be happy because it’s okay to do so; build houses of faith; plant seeds of faith and live life “faithful in all (God’s) my house.”  In these, and from these, the exiles – and we inmates – will find freedom within and after captivity and peace and happiness within captivity.

Some may ask, “Does this mean I have to become a zealot proclaiming God’s word on the compound?”

Absolutely not.

Faith comes in many forms: a smile, a bit of food for the indigent inmate, a sincere ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ an ear for the broken, returning love for hate, holding a door open – infinite ways but unless we sow these seeds we cannot eat the crop.  Imagine when that ‘hater’ says, “Excuse me,” when he bumps into you all because you’ve said it to him even when you weren’t at fault for the contact.  And the reward?  Eternal freedom in God’s house and if we continue to live in our house of faith after incarceration, physical freedom too and all the while planting seeds to keep God’s word eternal.

Suddenly being an exile – inmate – in captivity becomes bearable and in an odd way, a worthy effort for God and ourselves universally.

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~jdoe