The Costs and Blessings of Depression: Freedom Part IV

People diagnosed with depression are roughly three times more likely than the general population to commit violent crimes such as robbery, sexual offenses and assault.

The story continues of one such man who went to jail for committing crimes while seriously depressed and paranoid. His marriage of 33 years was essentially over. His wife announced she was going to leave him after seven months of an attempted reconciliation. He completes his story in his own words.

My paranoia took control at this moment. I overwhelmingly felt the urge to get them out of the house. It was either they leave or I would die. My walking stick was close and I opened the bedroom door with it in my hand. “O, look, he has a stick in his hand,” I heard one of them say jeeringly. Then they started taunting me and laughing at me again. I retreated to the bedroom, but with irresistible force, the paranoia pushed me to make them vacate the premises. If they did not respect me, I thought, nor my walking stick, maybe they would respect my shotgun.

It was totally and completely wrong, but I was driven to make them leave. My life was in danger, or so I thought. When I came out of the bedroom with the shotgun in hand they retreated, but not without taunting me more. Like a desperate man I followed them out the door (a felony) to make sure they left. All the way to the SUV they taunted me and laughed at me. As they drove away, or so I am told, I pointed my shotgun at them (another felony). I have no recollection of pointing the gun at them directly at any time, but there is a video that shows that I did.

I was too weak, too emotionally drained, too mentally spent, too sick to walk away. I broke one of my fundamental principles – do not fight over material things. Too tightly did I hang on to the loaves and fishes and missed the Christ passing by. It begs the question, did I own my possessions or did my possessions own me?

After they left I put away the shotgun and sat down on the front porch until the police arrived. Three police cars drove into the driveway and my estranged wife and our daughter were right behind them. I jumped off the porch, pointed my finger at the two of them, and shouted, “Get them off my property.” An officer grabbed my arm and twisting it shoved me back onto the porch. I told him he had no cause to manhandle me in that manner. Another officer joined him and asked me to sit down, which I did. I started telling him that they were violating the “status quo” order. He aggressively replied that he had been on the force for 14 years and had never heard of a “status quo” order. I said that he had better go down to the courthouse and educate himself. With a glaring eye and a stern voice he barked that if my estranged wife and daughter want to go in the house and take everything out he would make me stand aside and watch them. It seemed many of my fears were becoming reality with the blessing of the police.

I have only flashes of memory for the remainder of the incident. The police report says that I stood up from my chair and hit one of the officers in the face with my fist. It continues that during their attempt to take me down I had put both officers in headlocks, one under each arm. (Two more felonies.) An officer escaped my grip and tased me. It had the effect of having an ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatment. I regained consciousness.

After spending the night in jail I checked myself into the hospital. Besides the severe depression, I was diagnosed with an episode of dissociative amnesia, defined as “a precipitation emotional trauma charged with painful emotions and psychological conflict” (Synopsis of Psychiatry, pp. 676-678). “Depression and anxiety are common predisposing factors.” Localized amnesia is the most common type and lasts for a short time. In laymen’s terms, I had a blackout.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) some “people may lose control of their emotions or actions during a dissociative event and can do things that are otherwise quite uncharacteristic.” “Almost half of adults in the United States experience at least one depersonalization/derealization episode in their lives, with only two percent meeting the full criteria for chronic episodes.” (NAMI.org) “Disassociation arises as a self-defense against trauma.” “The symptoms of dissociative amnesia usually terminate abruptly, and recovery is generally complete, with few recurrences.”

My episode lasted only a few moments during which time I did a very terrible thing by which I am horrified and have profound regrets. Without the disassociation, the assault would never have happened. The last time I had lifted my fist to hit someone, I was 10 years old. Without the paranoia, my shotgun would have never left the closet. Never had I pulled a gun on another human being. My last visit to see my psychiatrist was just a few days before the above incident. I walked into the office in a severely depressed state. The receptionist looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you need to go to the hospital?” I told her I would be all right. The psychiatric nurse practitioner asked the same question. I gave the same reply. On my way out the appointment secretary called me by name and said, “Are you sure you don’t need to go to the hospital?” You would think a long time professional clinical counselor would get the hint, but I foolishly repeated my previous statements. I missed the warning and paid the price. I was charged with seven felonies and two misdemeanors.

About four days after being released from the hospital I went back to court. I asked my lawyer to plead me not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. He said that it was nearly impossible to prove in the state where I resided even if I was howling at the moon. The prosecution offered a plea deal that involved dropping all charges to misdemeanors and 360 days in county jail. Upon the advice of my lawyer I accepted the deal and started serving my time the same day. It was my first arrest and the first time to go to jail other than for a visit or to minister and/or teach.

Jail became my salvation. I used the time to be spiritually restored and grow in grace, and put behind me the demons of my past. For the first three weeks in jail I spent nearly every waking hour reading my Bible and repenting. I confessed materialism, sins of the flesh, pride, inconsistencies, wastefulness, anger, being a poor husband, being a poor father at times, tendencies to nurse my own views, resisting the good efforts of others, discourteousness, expecting too much of others, and a less than healthy relationship with God as my Creator, Savior, and Guide. At the end of those three weeks I sensed the forgiveness of God and a restoration to fellowship with Him.

Restitution was next. I wrote to the prosecutor, police officers associated with my case, and my boss asking forgiveness for my behavior and bringing a reproach on the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ. People from my church congregation came to see me; I wept and confessed my sorrow for tarnishing the name of their church. To family, friends, and whoever would listen I attempted to make things right. My oldest son came and I wept the longest and confessed the most with him. He was gentle and expressed concern for me, especially my spiritual condition.

Several days were spent forgiving people who I perceived had wronged me. In one particular writing I recorded 38 wrongs and wrote “forgiven” by each one. I was determined not to let any root of bitterness spring up in my heart. When wrongs came to mind I dismissed them with, “I forgive.” (This is a practice I continue to this day.) Someone gave an insight regarding Jesus charging Peter to forgive 70 times seven. He said it was not simply for the person who sought forgiveness, but also for the thoughts that try to take residence in our consciousness. As often as they come for forgiveness, as often as the wrong comes to mind, forgive! Lewis B. Smedes says it well, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

I began a devotional routine that included reading from the New Testament, the Psalms, and Proverbs daily. Devotional readings included, “Our Daily Bread,” hymns from a Presbyterian hymnal, and whatever Christian book I could find in the jail library. Quiet time was hard to come by so I began staying up after morning meds at 4:30am until breakfast at 7:00. Before I read I prayed that I may hear, understand, remember, and practice the Word of God.

After reading one particular book I began to pray in a systematic way. My prayer list included confession of my dependence upon God; submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ; that I may love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength; a longing to know God as much as I was capable and in the manner He has revealed Himself in the Word. I prayed for wisdom, for strength in trials and temptations, to grow in grace, for holiness, righteousness and purity, for humility, for my anger to be controlled, and for my depression to be stabilized.

Confession of sins, faults, and shortcomings was included. I prayed for reconciliation with my daughter and youngest son. (That prayer continues.) Prayer was made for others and thanksgiving to God was given. Time was spent praising God for His character and attributes, and His works of creation and redemption through Christ Jesus.

Chapel was available every Sunday and there was a Wednesday Bible study. Rarely did I miss. The “Walk to Emmaus” organization lead us on a four day spiritual journey.

In jail I found peace with God and myself. When I emerged from jail I was healthier spiritually than I had ever been. I continue to cultivate the spiritual practices I learned in jail. To God be the glory! His grace is amazing.

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