By Jason Miller
[Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published anonymously, but after prayer and careful consideration, the author gave us permission to put his name on it]
On behalf of those of us who have suffered from severe mental illness, or who have suffered immensely in other ways “normal” people haven’t experienced, infinite gratitude to you people of the light who have chosen, without the impetus of abject pain, not to emulate the perverse American archetype being displayed on the world stage under the appropriately Neanderthal-ish name, MAGA.
While our society and culture indoctrinate us to be hyper-completive, self-absorbed, materialistic, and dog-eat-dog, now openly and widely manifesting as a twisted “ideology/marketing scheme” dubbed MAGA, there are still many among us, God love those angels, who have overcome this socially imposed empathy-deficiency. Without having to suffer tremendously. Without having to be beaten into it.
To those wonderful people who are animated by love, compassion, and mercy, thank you from the very depths of my soul. Several such angels have intervened throughout the course of my life, relieving my suffering and even saving my life. If you recognize me, despite my chosen anonymity on this blog, then you know who you are. To you, I am eternally grateful. Actually, I am eternally grateful to all of the “angels among us.”
It matters not to me who or what another human being chooses as their Higher Power, but my long, painful, and circuitous spiritual path has led me to the foot of the Cross. I am a disciple (lower case d) of the Suffering Servant. The only God who assumed human form, came to Earth as a servant and teacher, lived without falling short of the mark of goodness (was sinless, if you will), and was tortured and crucified on our behalf. He was essentially a death row prisoner who had been wrongfully convicted, but was executed anyway. Yet he embodied love and forgiveness to the end. His radical, supernatural displays of love have become the source of my personal light.
Yet despite my chosen path, I respect Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, Pagans, and more. And all of their respective sources of light. Essentially everyone has my respect, excepting those who act with intentional malevolence without remorse for prolonged periods. We all have our own spiritual paths and ways of embodying, or running from, the light.
The people whom I love and admire the most, regardless of their chosen spiritual path, are the ones who truly embody the spirit that Jesus did: Love, compassion, and forgiveness. Attributes we are taught in our mean-spirited culture to suppress, minimize, and even mock, because they are “weaknesses.” This despite many of our most revered spiritual leaders, like Jesus, Gandhi, and MLK, espousing and demonstrating them.
While practicing these values does leave us vulnerable, vulnerability is far from a weakness. It is, in fact, a sign of courage to expose oneself to vulnerability.
Consider these words by Teddy Roosevelt, a key quote used by Brene’ Brown in her book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Thank you to all of you “normal” people who Dare Greatly by caring greatly. For defying social norms and living with love, compassion, and empathy for others. I am writing on behalf of the 20% of Americans who suffer from some form of mental illness, but there is so much pain in the world. In so many people. In so many forms. And too few who care. We are all indebted to you. You are the glue that holds humanity together. You are the backbone of our species.
And yet, I do have a confession to make. Before my Bipolar Disorder, Alcoholism, and Porn Addiction created a living Purgatory for those around me, and for me, I was one of the indoctrinated. Blinded by the John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, tough guy, get-them-before-they-get-you, dog-eat-dog, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, every man for himself, Horatio Alger, devil take the hindmost American myths premised on selfishness and cruelty, (before the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the light), hatred, fear, indifference, and anger riddled my brain and informed most of my actions.
But that was before….
That was before….
That was before mental illness and addiction relentlessly pounded me into submission, in a metaphorical yet deeply profound way. The immense guilt for the suffering that I inflicted on others and the personal pain that I experienced over three decades was more than any human being could bear alone.
Life tossed me about like a foolish man riding out a tempestuous ocean in a tiny dinghy. I held on for a nearly inhuman length of time, but towering, merciless waves finally crashed me into the jagged, craggy shore of the cruel realities that my horrific choices had created. Shattering my little vessel, and very nearly shattering me. Washed ashore on a deserted island, broken, isolated, stranded, and nearly lifeless, this derelict had received the gift of desperation. And it was a gift that drove him into the arms of the angels who had been waiting for him all along. And to embrace their way of life.
Severe insomnia, chronic depression, pre-anorexia, compulsive over-exercise, alcoholic drinking, destruction of a marriage by porn addiction, 3 stints in psychiatric facilities, a brief stint in the Marines cut short by mental illness, severe burns over 20% of the body from an industrial accident, 4 divorces, self-harming with cigarette burns, car surfing, kleptomania, couch surfing, a manic episode ending in semi-delusional involvement in extreme politics, an FBI investigation, arrest and probation, a 10 year estrangement from two sons, two bankruptcies, severe road rage incidents, two instances of suicidal ideation, many verbal and physical fights…. Three decades of an insane, torturous existence that stretched my physical, mental, and spiritual limits nearly beyond the human capacity…..
By the end, which was rock bottom for me, there seemingly little left of me. Utterly alone and defeated, I turned to AA, those in its Fellowship, and the rest of you “normal” angels who intervened to revive me spiritually and keep me alive physically. Thank you for bringing me back from my Wraith-like existence. My wanderings in the arid, bleak desert. My Dark Night of the Soul.
Thank you for your unconditional love and mercy. Truly undeserved grace. Thank you for breathing life into a suffocating spirit. Thank you for quenching the immense thirst of a dying soul. Thank you for gifting me with a better way to live.
Most of all, thank you for doing all of it with no expectation of repayment. As you taught me, our recompense comes from the warm glow we feel in our soul when we help a fellow human being who is suffering. And then again when they pay it forward, like we did.
And for those of you still living the MAGA American Nightmare, God love you. May you recognize that we are here to love, to teach, and to be of service rather than to compete, to accumulate, to hurt, to hate, to win.
Please see the light. And become a candle-bearer. Before life jars you from your slumber with hammer-like blows of suffering, whether it be mental illness, cancer, loss of a child, abject poverty, or any of the myriad afflictions we face while we are doing this thing called life. Or before you miss the best part of the human experience altogether.