In the fourth grade I developed a fear of the rapture. I was scared of crickets, granddaddy long legs, and the second coming of the Lord. This was no small fear. This was a lay in bed and worry how, if we were called to heaven, my body will make it through the light blue canopy of my bed fear. I don’t have memories of being told the story of Noah and Moses, although I know I was taught them. What I remember was the Children’s Church leaders who gasped when I asked questions about sin and God. I remember one of them saying, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” The problem was that I was a sinner; I had bad thoughts and could never be Christ- like enough to make my way to Heaven. I lay in my bed with the blue canopy, and begged Jesus not to come back. I begged for him to not come back until I could be better. As a child I don’t remember God’s love in a way that was comforting; it was not about a relationship with Jesus, it was about rules and fear for me.
When I asked about sin and forgiveness, “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven,” was quoted to me and I literally believed that I could only sin 490 times before God would stop forgiving me. At that point I started a notepad full of my presumed sins each little tally mark bringing me closer to the magic number. I did not understand parables and nuance. The Bible said this and therefore it was true as it was stated. They talked endlessly about the rapture and God calling home his children. My fear of the rapture and hell grew as I did. They helped to set in motion a lifelong fear.
Sleep is both my best friend and my greatest enemy. A couch nap is one of the best things ever and I wake up rested with contact lenses adhered to my corneas. However, when my real bedtime rolls around I know that anxiety and panic attacks will creep their way in. After I was divorced in my mid-twenties, I had what we will call an “episode.” Lack of sleep and worry, endless worry, brought back my fear of the rapture. This was how a normal evening went: Tuck the kids in and climb into bed. Fall into a light sleep. Hear the sound of the upstairs neighbor walking and assume it was the horns calling us home. Go to the kids’ room and make sure they were still there. Touch each of their soft little bellies and climb back into bed. Repeat four or five more times. This was every night. It sounds funny to read it now, but at the time I felt like I was losing myself in a toilet of despair. I also had compulsions and they were just as random as the rapture fear. I would be in public and have a consuming desire to touch a wall on the opposite side of whatever room I was in. There was something about the coolness of the wall that I found soothing. It was time to seek professional help.
The doctor and then therapist I started to see diagnosed me with a multitude of mental illnesses. At first I was a manic depressive. Then it was major depressive disorder. Next they tried obsessive compulsive disorder. We finally landed at a personality disorder. In hindsight I am not sure if I really had any of the above-mentioned disorders but I took the medicine and attended therapy. We talked about my childhood and if I drank. The answers were normal and I had some sort of peach drink at a friend’s house. These were not the answers of someone who had a deep dark secret. Nope, these answers were much worse, because they say, “crazy can happen to anyone.” I believe in generational curses. I believe that families are often stuck in a cycle of questionable brain chemistry. Depression and anxiety can pass, one by one, down a line of family members much like alcoholism and dependence. My family has a history of depression and each of us has chosen a different way to deal with it. Some pray and others take medication. My way, of course, is to make fun of it.
The all-time best crazy compulsion I ever developed was when I decided that my answering machine could save lives. This is how it worked: If I believed your life was in danger for any reason and you left a voice mail on the answering machine then you would be saved. An example would be if Trey called and left a message. “Uh, yeah, so call me back.” I would save that message so that he could not die in a freak snow sledding accident. If a bill collector called, “Mrs. Warren, this is an attempt to collect a debt.” I could immediately delete the message because them dying in a lake of alligators was of no real interest to me. I am crazy but also a pragmatist which seems to be the best combination. So every day that Trey’s voice stayed on my machine and he didn’t die in a snow sledding accident reinforced the belief that the answering machine worked. Saved on the answering machine were Mom, Trey, Kara, Lisa, and Neil Diamond (please notice that all but one of these people are still with us).
My compulsions have shifted and changed, but the desire to control the uncontrollable has remained. On September 11, 2001, I walked out of my apartment without my jewelry on. In the hustle to get two elementary school aged children out the door and me to work by eight, I did not grab the assortment of rings and bracelets that I wore every day. A short time later the first plane hit the first WorldTradeCenter. I told my best friend that night that my rings and bracelets may have been the cause. The event was too large and scary to understand and I needed a way to control it and make it my burden to bear. After a friend suffered a devastating loss I decided that not moving the items thumbtacked to my cubicle wall would sustain her next pregnancy. I was hyper vigilant in checking the items every day. She gave birth and all was well. While I logically understand my thumbtacked items had nothing to do with it, I still believe that my thumbtacks had everything to do with it.
So now I wonder all these years later how much of my crazy is related to brain chemistry and how much is related to an inadequacy that I feel as a Christian? Is my inability to be Christ-like enough in direct relation to the desire I have to control the uncontrollable? In my mind I weigh the consequences of my actions. If I choose to masturbate, I must acknowledge that my sink will back up. If I buy the tee shirt I want, I have to accept that my car battery will be dead the next morning.
Brain chemistry is a bitch, isn’t it?