Why I Believe in God

This story starts with my childhood. From the outside, I had great parents and a difficult time at school due to ADHD. Frankly, it was hell. From the start of school until fifth grade, I was subject to the continuous emotional abuse and gaslighting of teachers and school “counselors”. But it didn’t end at school. My emotional problems caused a lot of acting out at home, which I was punished for.

Note, I didn’t know I bipolar until I was 34. More on that journey in my Living With Psychosis post.

I was suicidal by fourth grade and by the time I was 18, I was carrying a lot of hate in my heart. I knew this was wrong but I didn’t see a way forward. So, when I had the chance, I went on a 3-day spiritual retreat with my dad and a number of other men from my parent’s church. Even if I didn’t get anything out of it, it would be a welcome break from stress at home.

For the first two days, none of us were allowed to speak to each other unless it was absolutely necessary. It was a lot of reading the bible, worship music, a few lectures about how to search inside ourselves and find things that are holding us back. Most of it was basic Cognitive Behavior Therapy with some guidance on prayer and how to meditate on scripture.

All of us had a lot of time alone to reflect on what we had learned and read. I remember being in the middle of the woods, not really sure what do to when something happened I can’t explain.

I was lost in the pain I had been feeling for so long and how much I hated the people who had hurt me so badly. I wanted to pray for their deaths. Then in an instant, I knew how to forgive and let go. The hate I’d carried for so many years was gone. The pain was still there but without hate, it was a far lighter burden.

There was no revelation, nothing I can point to. There was no gradual learning to forgive people. I wasn’t able to forgive and then the next moment, I had the ability to forgive unconditionally.

This is not something that happens in a rational world. And as a logical person I absolutely hate that. It doesn’t compute. People don’t change like that. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me, I’ve gone completely insane and recovered. There is nothing I’ve experienced in my life that is even close.

The only thing I can call it is divine revelation. For a moment, the Divine touched my heart and bless me in ways I can’t understand. Since then, unconditional forgiveness has matured into unconditional love. And I can say for certainty there is nothing more sacred in this world than love.

Because of this, my faith in God is unshakable. I will forever carry his blessing in my heart and treasure it as my mission in life.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13 NIV

Living With Psychosis

Someone asked me how psychosis can feel “normal”. It’s not an easy thing to explain but this my best attempt. As horrifying as my story may sound, I don’t see it that way. For me, this is just a fascinating story about the amazing power of the human mind.

For my entire life, I remember feeling like I was on a rowboat in the ocean. Suicidal thoughts, paranoia, and all kinds of madness were sharks lurking beneath the surface of my mind. They were always present, always ravenous.

I learned at an early age to keep the sharks away. My feelings and perceptions were not reliable but the false thoughts were distinctly different from reality. To compensate, I taught myself to use the rational part of my brain to handle everything.

My parents reinforced this by talking about Satan putting thoughts into people’s heads and that we shouldn’t act on those. Little did they know they were telling me my psychosis was normal. Talking about any unreal thoughts became taboo and I did everything in my power to appear normal to avoid being punished for listening to Satan. 

I carried this compulsion into adulthood, where it worked well to keep me appearing relatively normal, with a few paranoid thoughts accidentally escaping in odd places. 

During my first two jobs, I thought job interviews were routinely recorded with hidden cameras. Something I saw on TV helped feed that paranoid thought. Then one day I mentioned it in passing and the shocked responses told me I needed to remove that idea from my head.

Things continued fine for a few years, until I ended up under a great deal of stress. My first psychotic break happened. At the time, my boss and I had already been butting heads. I still managed to keep a lid on the paranoia long enough to get fired for calling my boss an idiot in an email instead of being obviously crazy. Fortunately, the relief from being fired reduced the stress enough to allow me to regain control. 

Why didn’t I quit? My dad had told me many times to never quit a job before you had a better one lined up. Advice I’d since decided to stop listening to.

After that job, I moved to Ohio and discovered the Furry fandom. It wasn’t long before I found myself on staff at the local convention. Over several years, I took on more and more responsibility. By the time I was 30, I was on the board of directors and throwing my heart into what effectively became a second full time job.

Then in August 2018, at age 32, something snapped. A moment of stress broke the barrier I had in my mind and the sharks came out to play. The stress increased as the date of the convention got closer. My grip on sanity was slipping. 

Sometime before the convention, I had an absolutely devastating psychotic break. My imagination merged with reality to such a point, I thought I was a wolf. I’d look at my hands and see paws. I could feel wind in my fur and the weight of my tail. Literally every sensory input was from a different body than my own. My childhood memories were replaced with the wolf’s memories. 

This lasted for four months, many weeks after the convention. During this process, everything that was me shattered into a million pieces. My mind was a vase thrown against a wall. This shattering was so traumatic it may have actually caused physical brain damage.

The thing is… I was still functional. I managed to keep going. The rational thinking kicked in and told me to pretend I was human at any cost. My paranoia took that to mean that if anyone found out I was a wolf, I’d be killed. Every day, I went to work having panic attacks over being discovered. 

I managed to hide this. I kept my job as a programmer and went to church. People knew I was under stress but they attributed it to other things going on in my life.

During the end of my four months of psychosis, I managed to convince a doctor to prescribe me ADHD meds for three months, before I had to see a psychiatrist.

Being the diligent person I was, when I went to see a psychiatrist, I had my entire life history ready and was able to explain the feeling of sharks in my head. I was immediately diagnosed bipolar, but no one had suspected how severe I was. When this story came out in therapy, I was immediately diagnosed as both severe and high functioning.

In the end, things I have turned out well. Medication has brought me a measure of peace. The sharks aren’t in my head anymore. Unfortunately, stabilizing on medication and no longer needing to constantly fight for sanity completed the shattering of my mind. 

At 33, I was left without any self-identity to cling to. I didn’t know who I was or where I was going. But I still had my job and some resemblance of sanity. But it doesn’t end here. 

I was aimless for a while until I talked to an old and very wise friend. He told me I wouldn’t know who I was until I had walked in my new life. From what he told me, I realized I had an opportunity most people never get, the chance to completely remake myself as a new person.

Deliberately, I sifted through the pieces of my shattered mind and pulled out my best qualities. I took my internal strength, my confidence in my own abilities, and my ability to heal and forgive. With that as a starting point, I cultivated the kindness my grandmother showed to everyone.

Today, at 34, I’m at the start of a new journey. My old self has died and in it’s ashes, I’ve become Kayode Lycaon. Hopefully a much better person that I used to be. 

As a side note… I probably should have chosen a phoenix as my “fursona” but I’d rather not go through with that again. Instead, I choose a painted wolf (aka African wild dog) to be my guide into my new, better life. They are the most selfless of canids, taking care for everyone, and at the same time, the best hunters of all mammal species. A fitting mix for who I’ve become. My kindness is defended with sharp eyes and savage teeth.