Honest questions to God in the midst of trials

(Reflections on the book of Job, part 1 of 3)

Job was the man whose 10 children and vast wealth were all taken away by Satan in a single day (ch. 1). At the end of that ordeal, Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (1:21-22). Then Satan attacked Job again, targeting his health (ch. 2). Sores covered his skin from head to toe. Still, he did not curse God (2:9-10).

Satan thought that Job would curse God because of his afflictions, but God knew that Job wouldn’t do that. God himself described Job as “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (1:8).

What does it mean to be blameless and upright (that is, righteous) in the Old Testament? Psalm 32 describes the “righteous” and “upright in heart” as “one who trusts in the LORD” (Ps. 32:10-11). Even though this person commits sin, his “transgression is forgiven” (Ps. 32:1). This is someone like Job. Although he was wealthy, he did not put his trust in his wealth (Job 31:24-28). That was why he could let it go. His trust was in God. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

Even in the Old Testament, righteousness was never attained simply by offering sacrifices or participating in other religious ceremonial traditions. In Genesis, Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). It was always faith and trust in the Lord that mattered — the attitude of one’s heart, not one’s actions. Sacrificial offerings that came from men with proud, unrepentant hearts were not pleasing to God (Ps. 51:16-17, Hosea 6:6).

(Where is your trust? Is it in your career? What if you were unfairly fired tomorrow? What if, because of some sort of power struggle, a rumour spread that made you unemployable in your field? Would you then curse God or still trust Him?)

It is an encouragement to us that even though Job deeply trusted God, he was not immune to despondency. He was human and imperfect like us, and he had just lost all 10 of his children. His suffering led him to wonder whether God was punishing him for something. He prayed: “Let me know why you contend against me” (Job 10:2). “Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?” (13:24). Job felt like he was experiencing something that only wicked men, enemies of God, deserved. And then Job observed the opposite scenario: “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (21:7). Much of ch. 21 and ch. 24 involve this question of why the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. But before Job got into all that, he said, “When I think about this, I am terrified; trembling seizes my body” (21:6). His suffering was making him afraid that the world was losing or had lost its sense of order and justice.

In the midst of his confusion and feeling afraid, Job kept praying. He asked God many questions. And sometimes people (in the present age) point to all those questions and say that Job was complaining too much or grumbling. We do know from elsewhere in the Bible that God does not like grumbling (Num. 14:27, Phil. 2:14). But we’re not forbidden from calling out to our Father when we’re confused and afraid. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry (Ps. 34:15). Someone who’s asking God for comfort (see Matt. 11:28) or for help to understand a difficult situation (see James 1:5) is different from someone who’s cursing, distrusting, grumbling against God. The attitudes of those hearts are different.  Continue reading “Honest questions to God in the midst of trials”

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Tell them how much the Lord has done for you

There’s a sharp contrast between who I was before Christ and who I am now. Sometimes I want to describe the difference in great detail, to show how powerfully and how graciously God has saved me. Maybe one day I’ll write it all down. In the meantime, allow me to ramble about how I used to live in darkness. #TBT (haha)

There’s one chapter in the Bible that mirrors the kind of darkness that used to permeate my existence: Judges 19. The evil in my life was horrifying, and in some way I recognized the horror even then, but I just couldn’t find my way out of it. No amount of effort was enough to climb out of that hellish pit.

I used to scoff at people who echoed sentiments like, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” (Robert Frost). I believed that anyone who described the dark, deep woods as lovely had never faced the monsters that lived in those woods. I believed that anyone who romanticized pain had never suffered persistent, pervasive torment. I felt tortured enough that I wanted to die (I thought that death was followed by oblivion, and surely the void was preferable to the suffering I was going through). I was evil enough that I wanted to kill (and not even for any conceivably defensible reason; I just wanted to inflict pain).

Do you want to know which parts of the Bible reflect the state of my heart now? I often relate to David’s praise and Paul’s joy. I also feel like the man in Mark 5:1-20. Jesus delivered that man from his demons; Jesus also delivered me from mine (though I’m not saying I was “possessed” or anything to the effect of denying responsibility; I was in fact fully culpable for all my actions). Mark’s account ends this way: As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed (vv. 18-20).

I can easily spend a whole day just reading the Bible, studying the Bible (those are different things) and praying. Sometimes, those are all I want to do. But we’re not meant to live like hermits. The greatest commandments (footnote 1) and Christ’s commission (footnote 2) are not compatible with the practice of hermeticism. Followers of Christ should point other people to Him, for He came to save the lost. Pointing people to Christ largely involves living visibly as His follower, even bearing burdens with His grace.

In other words, even if I don’t really want to be working 10 or 11 hours a day, I ought to be a good ambassador for Christ to my co-workers by being diligent and gracious despite my exhausting workdays. Hahaha I was not expecting this blog post to end this way. (I could’ve talked about how I’m still adjusting to the light that now surrounds me and shines into my heart, but I suppose I’ll have to leave that for another time. I need to sleep now because, y’know, 10- or 11-hour workday tomorrow.)

(1) “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39)

(2) “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

I know what abuse is. This is not abuse.

A British Baptist minister, Steve Chalke, refers to Christ’s death on the cross as “cosmic child abuse” because the Father allegedly violently forced His Son to atone for sins that the Son didn’t commit. There’s much to say about this, but I just want to point out one thing: Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). God didn’t sacrifice someone else, He sacrificed Himself (cf. Philippians 2:5-8).

Why sacrifice anyone at all? Because God is holy and does not abide sin, and He is also just, so sins must have consequences. Pastor Steven Cole put it this way: “God must maintain His absolute justice by punishing all sin. An unjust ‘God’ would not be God at all. There’s the rub: If God must punish all sin to maintain His absolute justice, then how can He forgive sinners? If a human judge started ‘showing love’ by pardoning murderers and terrorists and rapists, we’d say, ‘Wait a minute! This is horrible! He’s not upholding justice.'”

So, sins must be punished. Consequences must be borne. It is out of love for us that God bore the consequences of our sins Himself.

I know what mental illness is. This is not mental illness.

I wrote this in response to something written by a friend of a friend. He’s a nurse. He was comparing mental illness with faith. Despite his doubts, he wrote that he still believes in God.

***

I agree that people shouldn’t be unwilling to express doubts in long-held beliefs. Blind, unchallenged loyalty to a set of ideals or beliefs is indeed foolish, but not all loyalty is blind or unchallenged.

It’s interesting to me that you’re equating faith with mental illness. I used to hear voices, legitimately debilitating auditory hallucinations. I spent time in a psych ward, and I took anti-psychotic and other meds for seven years. One day I went to church, and the voices just vanished. I know how this sounds, but I kid you not. It’s possible that you’ll write this off as a manifestation of some other form of mental illness on my part, but I know that it isn’t. I’m sure you know that high-functioning mentally ill people are remarkably self-aware. This is necessary for survival, for day-to-day living. And even before I became ill, I had always subscribed to Socrates’ idea that the unexamined life is not worth living. I’m pretty sure I can distinguish between my sanity and my insanity, but if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe my doctors — I’m off all meds now.

Of course I wondered if this was all just placebo effect. And I had plenty of other questions, some of which I’m sure you’ve also considered (you mentioned Darwin etc.). You hit the nail on the head when you wrote this: “Today, if a homeless person spoke of such things and claimed to be a prophet, would his words be believed by millions the same way John the apostle’s were? How would any person from the Bible be treated today, would they be revered and worshipped or placed under a long term involuntary admission into La Casa Psychiatric Health Center?” That is precisely the choice that we all have to make. Either you decide that Jesus (not John; John was human) had no credibility and was insane for claiming that he was the Son of God, or you believe what he said about being “the way, the truth and the life.” The thing is: Jesus rose from the dead. No other religious icon or spiritual teacher has demonstrated such a feat. For more on this subject, I recommend the following books: The Case for Christ, written by a formerly atheist investigative journalist named Lee Strobel; and God’s Not Dead, by Rice Broocks. (The latter discusses Darwin.) Jesus’ resurrection is the singular event upon which Christianity hinges. It’s also one of the most well-attested events in history. Here are two more names: Simon Greenleaf and Lionel Luckhoo. Greenleaf, a co-founder of Harvard Law School and the author of A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, was challenged to examine the evidence for the resurrection. He emerged from that exercise no longer atheist. Luckhoo is identified by Guinness World Records as the most successful lawyer. He also investigated the resurrection and emerged a Christian. I encourage you to keep asking “what is the truth” as you are doing. It seems to me that you’re unsure. There are some things of which it’s arrogant to be certain, but I think it’s possible to be a bit more sure than you currently are about the difference between faith and mental illness.

Unfortunately, it’s true that many self-professed Christians do not actually live according to Jesus’ teachings. And I agree with the point in one of the comments about people using God as an excuse to renounce personal responsibility. But these aren’t how real Christians should be living. That is to our shame, but, well, we’re human. Ultimately, I hope you’d look not at us but at God.

***

He replied to me. Just “thank you” and a few kind words.

 

Why I’m writing about God

I. To praise Him

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
     I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
     I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
     
from the great assembly.
(Psalm 40:9-10)

II. To point others to Him

“If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that ‘Well, it’s not really worth telling them this, because it would make it socially awkward.’ … How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, that that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I’d tackle you. And this is more important than that.” — Penn Jillette, atheist

III. To draw closer to Him

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre–
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

— from Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot

God, Schrodinger and Kant

I. God’s sovereignty, man’s free will

Three Sundays ago, we studied the miracle of Jesus’ walking on water. According to Mark, Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed (6:48-51).

Mark wrote that Jesus “was about to pass by” his disciples, which seems to imply that Jesus did not intend to get into the boat with them — that he only did it in response to their fear. I wondered if the disciples’ terrified outcry really made Jesus change his plans. I wondered if people could change God’s mind.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
     but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
(Proverbs 19:21)

“I make known the end from the beginning,
     from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
     and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
     from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
     what I have planned, that I will do.”
(Isaiah 46:10-11)

It appears that the answer is no, we can’t change God’s mind. From the beginning of time, God has known that His divine purpose would stand to the end and would ultimately be fulfilled. His purpose is unchangeable (Hebrews 6:17). He Himself is unchangeable (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). He does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29). So what do we make of Biblical accounts that seem to show people changing God’s mind (e.g., Jonah 3:10)? Some would explain that whatever comes to pass, that is exactly what God had intended to pass, even though it may appear to us that something we did has changed His mind.

One follow-up question to that is: If God’s plan prevails regardless of what we do or say, then what is the point of supplication? The standard reply is that we submit our requests to God to acknowledge that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). We also lay our plans at His feet to see if they are in accordance with His plans — to check if we are in Him and His words are in us (15:7).

Another follow-up question is: If God’s plan prevails regardless of what we do or say, then what room is there for man’s free will? Indeed, isn’t free will a key point of doctrine? Didn’t God create man with the will to either obey or disobey Him? Don’t we see, all over the Bible and in our world today, people exercising their free will to disobey God even though God urges us to obey Him (Isaiah 48:18)?

I used to think that whatever comes to pass, that is exactly what God had intended to pass. I don’t quite think this any more. Surely it can’t be God’s will for us to disobey Him, right? But we do disobey occasionally, even as His children. So how do I make sense of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will at the same time? Granted, His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

I’m sure that other people have their own ways of making sense of this, but what helped me sort it out in my head was a concept in physics called quantum superposition. In quantum physics, the math works out such that everything exists in two states. The physicist Erwin Schrodinger illustrated this concept by describing a hypothetical cat which, according to the math, is simultaneously alive and dead. The problem is that when you look at the cat, it is obviously either alive or dead, not both at once. Schrodinger’s cat illustrates a paradox; nothing can be both alive and dead. It doesn’t matter what the math says; we just can’t look at something and see it in two opposing states at once. But, I think, when God looks at us, He sees us both obeying and disobeying Him at every juncture. And from the beginning of time, He has known that even with all the ways our lives could go, His purpose would be fulfilled. He knows when and how to intervene so that in the end, our lives will have served His purpose. All of our possible choices are subsumed under His plans.  Continue reading “God, Schrodinger and Kant”

He will wipe every tear from your eyes

“How do you know you’re suicidal?” a doctor asked me in 2009.

“Because,” I replied, “if someone were to come in here right now and point a gun to my head, I’d feel relieved. I’d welcome that.”

“It sounds like you want someone to end your suffering for you. It sounds like you want someone to save you.”

For the next four years, I was in therapy, where I was basically taught that no one would save me. I learned to save myself (which, more or less, meant coping with this). In 2013 I wrote, “I need to know that people can get through this alone.” It was difficult. Every day felt like going to battle for mere survival. Despair permeated my existence. Several times I did try to kill myself. 

By 2016 I had already done everything in my power to make my life better, or even just bearable, but nothing was working well enough. And I had become so utterly exhausted. I told a couple of good friends that I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go on living the way I did. One of those friends, K, suggested that I go to church. I told her that I’d already tried that. She urged me to try again, to look for a good church near me. I live in Vancouver, and she lives in Manila. A friend of hers in Singapore put her in touch with someone in Toronto, who then put her in touch with a pastor in my area. Pastor B and his wife invited me to their Dec. 18 worship service.

I was hesitant to attend, because I had doubts about Christianity and religion in general. I had plenty of questions. Even though I desperately wanted to be saved out of my situation somehow, I thought it was selfish and therefore wrong to turn to Jesus while I still had those questions. K and I went to the same Catholic school in Manila (though I was a nominal Catholic who later settled into agnosticism), so we were both exposed to the same church songs from the 1990s. There’s one that goes, “Cast your burdens upon me, those who are heavily laden. … Come to me, and I will give you rest.” I told K, “Don’t you know how tempting it is to take Him up on that offer? But it would be selfish. It would be wrong.” She explained to me that just as doctors heal those who need healing, Jesus saves those who need saving.

I went to the service. On that beautiful snow-covered day of Dec. 18, 2016, the voices in my head were absent. Completely. The silence, the new-found peace, felt like mercy. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In the two months following my first encounter with Christ, I went on a couple of out-of-town trips, so I missed a few Sunday worship services and Wednesday discipleship group meetings. I still had many questions. Of course, I asked myself whether I was experiencing a placebo effect, etc. Unfortunately, the voices soon began to creep back into my head. They intermittently inhabited it again (though they were more manageable than they could have been). In early February, I was wrestling with a particularly bothersome and emotionally charged question involving Christian doctrine. I didn’t know what to think. My mind was beginning to feel the way it had always felt — chaotic, beleaguered. On the evening of Feb. 7, I figured that my “church experiment” had failed, just like all my other life-improvement attempts had failed. I shrugged and thought, “Oh well, what’s new.” I was well aware of what was coming, what sort of life I’d return to. True enough, the next day was terrible and annoyingly familiar. It felt like one of my bad days from 2014 (a horrendous year for me). That night, on Feb. 8, I cried out to God for mercy. I swore I’d do anything to receive His peace again. I said I didn’t want to go back to the life I had been living for the past eight or nine years; that kind of life was not worth living. I asked Jesus to tell me what to do. I asked Him to be not only my Saviour but also the Lord of my life.

My head was quiet on Feb. 9, and for that I was grateful. K recommended a book that might answer my troubling question. It was written by an American pastor’s wife. I immediately bought the e-book and started reading. It didn’t actually answer my question, but God used it to teach me this: Obedience comes before understanding. I embraced the lesson. I let my question go. I reaffirmed what I professed the previous night — that Jesus is my Lord now. I committed to obeying Him, even before or without understanding.

That was six months ago. Since then, I haven’t heard any voices in my head at all. And as a bonus, God answered my bothersome question in April. I honestly thought it would take years to get that issue straightened out for me. Then in May, He answered my other paradigm-shifting question, which I also thought would take years and years to settle. It’s true, what He said: “Seek and you will find.” With my heart and my mind unencumbered, I was happy to be baptized on June 10.

I don’t mean that my theology is perfectly sorted, not at all. I’m only at the beginning. I’m not even done reading the Old Testament yet. But at this point, I no longer have any make-or-break objections. I’m just looking forward to getting to know God more. I hope that you’d get to know Him, too. Approximately two millennia ago, someone who knew Him wrote these words:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Come home to Him. He wants you to rest.

Ghosts of Christmas

Christmas eve in 2014 was a Wednesday. The stock exchanges closed three hours early, so I was off work by noon. I took the elevator down from our 15th floor office and stepped out onto the bustling downtown streets. Quite a few people were getting their last-minute shopping done. The sun was out, so it was a nice day despite freezing air temperatures. There was hardly any snowfall that winter except in the mountains. On that particular Wednesday, the city’s sidewalks were frosted and glinting in the sunshine.

I bought takeaway pasta for lunch, and takeaway roast chicken for dinner later that evening. Then I returned to my motel room. I was staying at a motel because I’d had to leave my apartment rather suddenly. It took me five weeks to find a new one. The motel was decent, with cable TV, Wi-Fi, daily turndown service, and complimentary coffee and tea in every room. It sat at the base of a mountain and catered primarily to snowboarders and skiers.

I ate the pasta in bed. I alternated eating with fussing on my laptop, mainly hanging around sci-fi and Sherlockian community websites. I chatted with some folks about sci-fi TV shows, Sherlock Holmes, and other things besides. For instance we laughed over the episode of the BBC radio sitcom Cabin Pressure in which one of the characters sings the Christmas carol called God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen but his lyrics are “Get dressed, you merry gentlemen.” We chatted about the 1955 episode of Guild Films’ Sherlock Holmes in which the violinist Holmes says, “Let me play you a carol, Watson,” and the comedic sidekick responds with a facepalm. I exchanged warm messages with some people who were also on their own for the holidays. We chatted about the 1984 episode of Granada Television’s Sherlock Holmes in which Holmes and Watson share a festive Christmas meal after solving a case involving a blue gemstone. I exchanged warm messages with a few transgender folks and a few disabled folks. Some of them felt they were stuck in torturous celebrations with relatives who wished they were someone else. We chatted about the 2014 episode of the BBC’s Sherlock in which Holmes shouts, “Merry Christmas!” before shooting a villain dead. Eventually it was time for me to eat my roast chicken. Then eventually it was time to sleep.

The following day I watched the special Christmas episode of the BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who. But that wasn’t till the evening. I had a whole day to get through before then. I slept in, and I stayed off certain websites to avoid spoilers. (The episode aired in Canada seven hours after it aired in the UK.) I ordered Chinese food online. I listened to some radio plays online. I watched a TV episode or two on Netflix. I had a nap. Soon it was time to watch Doctor Who, then a few hours later, Christmas was over.

Friday was Boxing Day, another holiday. Around midday I walked to a Denny’s nearby and got myself enough greasy, delicious takeaway food for the whole day. I went back to my motel room, making sure that the Do Not Disturb sign still hung on the doorknob. After eating lunch, I stared at the room’s plain beige wallpaper and breathed. The king-sized bed felt way too large. Empty, even with myself in it. It occurred to me that I almost went through the whole of Christmas day without speaking. All I said was a “thank you” to the Chinese food delivery girl. I gave her a sizable tip.

Mid-afternoon. I closed my eyes. Outside my door, a family of holidaymakers walked cheerfully past. The sound of the children’s excitement and the parents’ laughter floated around my room, echoing long after the family had left. By late afternoon, the sound waves had coalesced into a solid, shiny, sharp object, which then flung itself towards me. It stabbed me in the gut. And the only thing wrong with this scenario, I thought, was that the knife wasn’t real.

Early evening. Judging by how the past few years had gone, I figured it would’ve made no real difference to anyone whether I was alive or dead. I tossed and turned in bed, feeling like I was bleeding from my phantom incision. The blankets wrapped themselves tightly around me, soaking up my invisible blood and making it difficult for me to move or breathe. Slowly but unrelentingly the blankets twisted, wringing my trapped body. My head turned beyond the range that my neck allowed. I started tasting acid, rising up from my belly. The acid must have been so strong that it tore at my throat, because the next thing I tasted was metal. I was dizzy. I felt pins and needles all over my skin. I knew what was about to happen. I’d been here many times before.

My skin took on a life of its own. It was attached to me, but it wasn’t a real part of me. Somehow, long ago, it simply forced itself upon me, enveloping me, intruding into my space. It closed around me, like a prison cell. I couldn’t escape it. It declared itself my constant companion. And now it was speaking; I didn’t know how. It suggested that I stop existing. It pointed out that the world wouldn’t miss me if I were gone. I agreed. Then it swore it would never leave me.

Emerging from amid the blankets, I lifted my head and watched the room turn dark and smoky. Cobwebs materialized. Insects crawled forth from every corner. The palpable murk surrounded me, cradled me. Then it merged with my estranged skin. Bugs crept beneath my epidermis. I wanted to slash my infested, alien skin over and over. It was driving me mad. I wanted it off of me. I was in a recurring nightmare from which I couldn’t wake. I wanted to escape it. I wanted to stab myself for real and die.

The room spun. I wobbled from the bed to the table. The plastic serrated knife from Denny’s did little more than draw dotted lines on my arms. Nothing else in the room was sharp enough to do damage; my psychiatrist would have been relieved. I fished for my pill bottles in my purse and swallowed a tablet of lorazepam. Minutes later, the fog in the room began to clear. My body started to right itself and relax. The new-found peace was glorious. I wanted more of it. So I took another tablet. And another. I swallowed all eight. I yearned for long-term peace. Or, failing that, permanent oblivion. I knew I didn’t have enough pills to die, but I consumed all the contents of the second bottle anyway. I was willing to settle for short-term unconsciousness. Anything but the waking nightmares. The second bottle had five weeks worth of bupropion. I passed out before long.

When I woke up, it was Sunday evening. I ordered pizza for dinner. The next morning I was back at work, writing financial news briefs like normal.