This chapter talks about chasing dreams, and my regression and subsequent recovery of my mental illness from 2018 to 2020.
One of my favorite country songs is “The River” by Garth Brooks. I like the message behind the song – about chasing dreams and that “if the Good Lord is the Captain of your vessel”, you can make it through all of your life dream’s obstacles.
When we, the dreamer, encounters “rapid waters” or “life storms” in our lives, to reach our God-given dream or purpose, we must successfully do two things: 1) be resilient enough to continue the battle no matter the size of the fight; and 2) make good decisions, to properly react and adjust to the circumstances and events of the trial or storm, in order to pass through the storm safely. Because God wants to teach us reliance upon Him, He often gives us trials greater than what we can handle in our own abilities and strength alone. We need the power and wisdom of God to guide and empower us.
In essence, we need the Lord to be the Captain of our ship that guides us through rapid waters as He leads us to our God-given dream. We must daily choose to follow Him wherever the Captain navigates our vessel and trust He will lead us safely through storms we experience along the journey. This requires both faith and surrender.
In the New Testament, Jesus was the Captain of the disciples’ boat. In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples faced a storm that terrified them. However, even though the disciples feared death, the Captain in the end quieted their squall and delivered them through the trial, even after they found Him asleep in the boat:
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
You probably experienced life experiences where God leads you toward a particular path in life, and you then face stormy winds and waters in the form of extreme adversity, and then become fearful as God seems nowhere in sight. During these times, God is testing and stretching your faith. Can you relate to the following?
The storms of life are fierce and high waves called problems are filling your personal boat (your life) with water. You are afraid your boat is going to sink! You cry to Jesus for help in the midst of your sufferings and it seems like He is asleep at the back of the boat. You begin to question God’s goodness and deliverance as you begin to increasingly perceive that God won’t answer your cries for help. The storm would, undoubtedly, you believe, sink your ship, as you feel there is no safe escape from the trial. You ask the Captain: “Teacher, don’t you care that I am going to drown?”. I experienced this around March of 2018.
“Teacher, don’t you care that I am going to drown?”
Around March of 2018, my mental health was suffering greatly. I was experiencing a myriad of issues. First, my bipolar disorder meds were severely not right, and I was wildly fluctuating between mania and depression. Secondly, I also experienced a lot of high anxiety and intense OCD, and my self-esteem was suffering. Even though I had no desire to kill myself, I had OCD fears that I was going to take my life. I had intrusive thoughts of cutting my testicles with razor blades, even though I didn’t want to do it. I feared I was going to hurt myself, because of my OCD, even though I didn’t desire to commit the act. Because I had thoughts of doing it, I feared I was going to impulsively do it. So, I was scared. Thirdly, I was experiencing some PTSD from my March 15 anniversary of “grabbing the teacher incident”, which took place when I was sixteen years old, in tenth grade, with Kelly Cook, the teacher. (During that anniversary of March 15, I would regularly experience a lot of anxiety and guilt over that issue, around March for many years. After the anniversary was over, I would resume to normal feelings again, until next year around March). Fourthly, I was feeling much guilt over masturbating, and my scrupulosity feared God would punish me severely for doing so. My unstable mind wasn’t thinking rationally back then, and my OCD and devil was telling me “I had to cut myself with a knife in order to receive atonement from God for my sins.” I don’t believe or think thoughts like that now, but back around March 2018, it was real signs that my mind was struggling to think and believe rationally.
In the middle of March of 2018, I spent two weeks hospitalized into a psychiatric hospital. The hospital psychiatrist took me off of the four or five different kinds of meds – I believe now the combination of many different medications were back then creating negative reactions in my mind – and prescribed for me to only take one pill, Risperdal, twice a day. (They also gave me Trazodone – a sleeping pill, at bedtime to take.) This was undoubtedly a brilliant decision, as I haven’t had a med-change since and I regularly feel normal. My mental illness has been under control, as I haven’t had any real noticeable bipolar symptoms in two years, and my OCD has also done lot better since, as my main symptoms are checking and reassurance obsessions, and some doubting of situations, worrying, and ruminating over unresolved issues. As you will see again later, my life has been mostly normal since March 2018.
From April 2018 to January 2020, I was participating in a mental health rehabilitation program at Segue. The goal was to work on mental health issues so I wouldn’t relapse and be hospitalized again. Susan, my therapist there, told me when I got discharged from Segue in January of 2020, “she was both shocked and impressed of how well I have progressed in my mental health well-being since the first day she met me, in April 2018.” Some of my major improvements include:
- My mental illness, well under control
- Regained peace over March 15 anniversary. One way, God helped in the process, was that I went to watch my high school basketball team play at an away game, and I saw the teacher, Kelly Cook, very unexpectedly, and I talked to her (not about the incident of March 15). She was very nice and very accepting to me. I realized that she had forgotten and forgiven me and thus, “I had no reason to be guilty anymore of what I did to her.” God put her in my path so I could have again peace and closure over the incident. I haven’t had any negative thinking over the issue in my mind since that night I talked to Cook.
- I accept my freely and greatly even more than before. I don’t need to be great anymore to feel good about myself. Knowing that God loves me immensely and unconditionally is more than all I need to feel good.
- I feel less condemnation after I sin, including my masturbation sins. I normally live under grace and not under the law.
- I strive much less in perfectionism in everything I do. I also have inner peace and contentment with my identity in Christ. I have made improvements in not trying to perform in order to win acceptance and love from God.
- I can handle much more pressure than I used to be able to endure.
- I am less fearful of people, making mistakes, and unknown situations. I have more confidence in myself because I rely upon and trust God more. I am more independent because my faith trusts more in the process of being dependent upon God. I have a much more positive perspective of life.
- I don’t have thoughts of harming myself anymore.
God, the Captain of my ship, was the main reason for my recovery successes. He led me to the hospital and gave the psychiatrist wisdom to regulate my medicine. God and the psychiatrist together healed me. God then brought me to Segue and also gave me a new friend Bill Chartier (outside of Segue) who has been a major friend, support, and reason for my recovery. I sought and still do seek wisdom and empowerment from God to do all things. God also kept me strong in spite of all of my fears, insecurities, and instabilities, throughout the storms and periods of recovery. God should definitely receive glory for the changes in my life, because without Him, it would not have happened. Praise God, who healed me.
“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all”. (Psalm 34:19)
“A dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows. And a dreamer is just a vessel that must follow where it goes. Trying to learn from what’s behind you, never knowing what’s in store, makes each day a constant battle to stay between the shores” (lyrics from “The River”). God guided this dreamer and my vessel, between the shores, amidst stormy waters and winds, safely and with precision. Even though Jesus seemed asleep in the boat during my times of duress, He was there to save me, and at the perfect moment, commanding the stormy winds and waves of my raging mental illness (bipolar and OCD) storm, in my mind, to cease, by crying out “Peace Be Still”. Since then, my peaceful mind has been healed for two years now and counting. And the same God is with you during your storms.
Sometimes God quiets the storm; other times He delivers you through in spite of the storm. But either way, God is faithful. The problem is not with God, it is often with our ability to trust in His deliverance. I know there will be times where I will doubt, because I am human and because God gives us all increasingly more difficult trials, to increase our faith. However, if we remember God’s past success stories of deliverance and focus upon the truths of God’s promises found in God’s Word, it can help us with our faith during times of doubt.
“There’s bound to be rough waters and I know I’ll take some falls – with the good Lord as my captain I can make it through them all.” Garth Brooks, “The River”
Walking on Water
According to James 1:2-4, “when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” This is a major reason why we must face “rapid waters” or trials in life.
God gives tests of faith to “fully develop our endurance, so it would be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (See James 1:2-4). When giving us tests of faith, God wants to make us convinced that “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Ephesian 3:20). If we trust He can do great things, He can then empower us to do great things. The “Peter walking on water” story is a prime example of the power of God and faith in action.
In Matthew 14:26-32, Peter got out of the boat and did the miracle of walking on water through the power of Jesus because he kept his eyes upon Jesus as he came toward the Messiah. He initially wasn’t fearful in spite of the winds because his faith was strong in Christ. However, when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and at the stormy winds, Peter began to sink as his faith started to shrink. Peter cried for help and as always Jesus saved His people. Jesus questioned Peter’s faith (“Oh ye little faith, why did you doubt?”, Jesus said.) They got into the boat, and the winds and the trial, both ceased.
During trials, there are times where we must get out of the boat we are in, step out of faith and risk the consequences of sinking in the water, and walk toward Jesus. In our tests of faith, if we have faith, miracles can happen in our lives; one example is, we can miraculously overcome sickness and or other great trials. “With man, this is impossible; but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
When our faith is lacking, we become weak in our ability to trust in God’s greatness and goodness. We become defeated in our efforts to face the trial when we fail to keep our eyes on Jesus.
Keep your eyes on Jesus during the trial, and not on the circumstances, and your faith in our Lord Captain will remain strong. We are strongest in the Lord, when we continually abide in Him. “Feed your mind on God’s truths in the Bible, free your mind from destructive thoughts, and focus your mind on the right things. Control your mind or it will control you.” (I got this from a Rick Warren sermon.)
I wish you the best in your journeys in trying to reach God’s dream for your life, as you undoubtedly will encounter troubles and trials. However, if you have faith in God, miracles and achieved dreams are possible. Keep your focus on the Lord always and rely upon Him for everything. If Jesus can quiet the storms of the disciples, and quiet my mind and heal me, and do all the great miracles He does for many other people in this world, He can also help you in your storms. Either He will quiet the stormy winds of the trial, or strengthen you so you can endure it properly – regardless of the route your Lord Captain decides to navigate your ship, God will remain always faithful. Let Him be faithful to you. Trust in Him. I know it is a learning process to have faith; but “anything is possible if a person believes.” (Mark 9:23)