‘Someday, someway Johnnie you will see the gift in this.’ Periodically, those words would echo throughout my mind as I lay in the fetal position on the floor, with a pain in the pit of my stomach that was immobilizing, an obsession with suicide that was inescapable, all the while sobbing like a baby and not one small sign of hope. That was my life for two years.
I had no idea what had happened. One day my world was perfect, I owned a successful business, I had a new car, I lived in a nice condo and I had just recently met the one. I was about fourteen years clean and sober and well respected and loved in those meetings.
Then boom, out of nowhere I was blindsided, driving down the road going to my business partner’s house and a panic attack took over my mind. I began to cry uncontrollably and what was the most frightening, I had no idea why I was crying and I could not stop it. The first time it happened I just tried to write it off as some mishap. But then it happened again in a just few days.
Within just a few weeks the attacks had become almost a daily event, then they became a way of life. I was constantly in a state of fear and I could not function. I walked away from the business, manipulated the fiancé into letting me move in, and started to be paranoid about everything and everyone. I was terrified that someone was going to find out about my fear and how it was consuming me.
Then the fear and terror became so obvious I had to share about what was going on in my head. I could no longer go to a Twelve Step meeting and not cry on the spot. No conversation with anyone could be about anything other than my anguish.
After a few months of this, after the business was gone and my ability to function ripped away, the fiancée stated, “I have come to realize that you can no longer work. Can you please just help around the house then?” Of course, I said, “Yes.” And for a moment felt relief. But once she left the house the inability to make a decision would hit me. I simply could not decide if the dishwasher or the dryer needed to be taken care of first. Then the agonizing realization of hopelessness, helplessness and the absolute terror of my mind being gone to the point that I would never get it back. I have never known a more debilitating fear than that of having just enough of my mine left to know my mind was gone.
I went to a psychiatrist, and started the confusing merry-go-around of trying to find the right ‘cocktail’ of medications. After, a little more than a year of not finding the right cocktail. The fiancé for her own sanity had to ask me to leave. I went to move in with a dear friend and as soon as I got there and she saw the state I was in, she simply said, “Johnnie, I cannot do this. I am afraid to leave you here and go to the store. I am taking you to the hospital.”
Off to the hospital we went. I was there I believe for a little over seven weeks. I spent my days crying profusely, pacing the floors, laying in my bed hugging myself and basically chanting, “I am here to get better, I am going to get better.”
The Doctor in charge of my care said, “Mr. Calloway, you have been on all the medications I could possibly prescribe for you. I only know one other option. That is ECTs, Electro Convulsive Therapy! My mental state was not in a place where I could make that decision, my two closest friends made that decision for me and out of their own sense of hopelessness they decided for the treatments. I therefore, did seven of those treatments, one every other day until they were done. To this day I cannot tell you if they helped or not.
While in the hospital, the only thing that kept me going was those vital words, “Someday, someway Johnnie you will see the gift in this.”
After the hospital, I ended up in a homeless shelter for almost three months. Even after all of that the darkness and the fear consumed me for almost a year.
I had learned some very important tools in that process one of the most important tools was to write a letter to myself from the God of my understanding. I had no idea the power that carried with it. I wrote those letters to myself daily for over five years, sometimes two or three times a day. Sometimes, I included a letter from me to the God of my understanding. Without realizing it, the letters were changing my internal dialogue and that was changing the way I viewed the world and life.
There were times that I could not physically see any evidence to prove that what I was doing was really working. I chose to believe in it anyway. I absolutely committed myself to not allowing my diagnosis of bipolar define me or be the determiner of my life.
I had already been a student of the Twelve Steps and A Course in Miracles for almost thirty years. They had already given me the knowledge I needed to navigate the darkness I had found myself in. Still, the desperation of being so suicidal for so long drove me to go deeper and do more to make sure I was applying that knowledge to my daily life.
Answers I had sought all my life were being answered in those letters, even though I wasn’t asking those questions. I became very determined to see life through a new set of eyes. During the two years of hell I had just gone through I was uncertain that I would ever recover my mind and be able to be a fully functioning man is our society.
I began to trust in the higher power that I had previously believed in. With my commitment, I got to see many miracles happing both to and for me. My faith was growing.
I came out of the homeless shelter in January of 2008, with a boatload of fear still with me. I continued to believe in a world and a life I could not see. There were many times I thought that to continue to believe was more insane than giving up. I really myself, do not understand why or how I managed to stay true to my beliefs. But I did and it has paid off in a very personal and deep way.
What I do know, I lived with the uncertainty of life and sanity for a very long time, while somehow managing to hold on to a often very dim light of hope.
Since the crash, I have become a Certified Thought Coach, I have written three books, I host a podcast, I am a speaker wherever someone will listen and I own an Air-Conditioning company. I think of myself as a fully functioning man living with bipolar disorder, PTSD, a survivor of child abuse, Clinical Depression, Anxiety Disorder.
It has now been over eight years since I have thought about self-harm or had a true bout with depression. The gift of going through those uncertain times; I am now my own friend. There was a time when even the thought of being alone for any extended amount of time was terrifying, I was my own worst enemy.
My path out of that darkness has been through a deep level of self-observation and a willingness to see the truth of myself and a deep desire to change what was not serving me to what would.