Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Bestfriend & His Fight Against Suicide.

First of all, let me just say that I am so proud of my roommate Zach Parks for sharing his story BOLDLY and BRAVELY so that other people may find comfort in their struggles. I can truly say that ever since 3rd grade when He and I played little league baseball together, he has been a best friend. Throughout the past 3 years I've had the blessing of rooming with him, and getting to be there for him in the hardest of times. It's been amazing to see how the Lord has been his rock the past 3 years as he has really embraced this battle. I'm so proud of him for being courageous enough to share his story. 

This is the story of the fight one of my roommates has undertaken the past few years. I pray and hope that this helps somebody who is struggling with the same issues. Please share this with anyone and everyone who thinks they are alone in the fight against depression, anxiety, and suicide.
 Please read his story with an open mind and respectful heart. He is a brave soul for baring his heart.

My Battle with Suicide
This past year many of us have had to deal with a suicide of someone we knew. The irreversible pain that it causes is simply devastating. I have decided to open up and tell my story dealing with depression/anxiety and nearly suicide. This story embarrasses me greatly, but I have decided to face it and tell the truth. I assume that this story will surprise most of you because I have hidden it very well. Most assume that I am a happy guy the majority of the time. My hope is that this story will bring a level of understanding to all of you and just maybe this could prevent another suicide. Many of you will disagree with me, but I hope that you will at least show respect.
The last 5 years I have battled anxiety and depression, with the last 3 years being incredibly difficult. I have on two occasions come close to ending my life and had it not been for the incredible support from family and friends, I would have. Now, here is the difficult part for me to understand. I have a good life and there is nothing in my past that would lead you to believe that I am depressed. I grew up in a very loving, middle class family; I have some of the best friends around; never have I had a substance abuse problem; and I never had trouble being social-Lord knows that. This, however, shouldn’t shock you. I guarantee all of you have a friend that is hiding depression/anxiety. It could be caused by a number of things, but it’s there.
My first year of college was the first time that my anxiety became difficult to conceal. There were days that I didn’t go to school because I was freaking out. That September, I became terrified to go to bed. I knew that there was a good chance that I would wake up in the middle of the night panicking. Most of those nights I would wake up sweating, nauseous, anxious, my heartbeat was a million beats per minute and I was convinced I was crazy. I felt so weak and for the first time in years I couldn’t help but cry.
I want you to notice something here, the anxiety hit before I attached a meaning to it. It wasn’t like I started worrying and than began to freak out over it; rather I freaked out and then found something to be worried about. I constantly worried about things that, honestly, were pretty ridiculous. I worried about my family and friends dying, I became convinced that I was going to die in a car accident (still am), I worried that nobody cared, and would even over analyze everything people said just to make sure that I wasn’t missing something. There were two fears that I had about exposing my panic attacks, 1) People would think that I was weak or 2) People would think that I was crazy.
This went on for months before I finally broke. Going on little rest and high stress wore me down quickly. I finally told my parents, but I refused to go to the doctor. I didn’t want to be thought of as crazy and I sure as hell didn’t need somebody to talk about my problems. What would I tell him, “Well my family is great, school is good, friends are good, and yeah still not using any drugs?” Seemed to me like it was an absolute waste of time. My parents soon forced me to see a counselor, one that was not very sympathetic. He basically said, “Yeah it’s probably a little anxiety, but that’s to be expected at college.” Now that is not what I needed to hear; I was already worried about being seen as weak and here was a professional telling me to suck it up.
After a few more months of struggling, I finally went to the doctor and got put on some medicine. The medicine stopped the panic attacks, but it still didn’t bring me back to normal. Though the anxiety persisted, I always found a way to hide it and keep pushing foreword.
It wasn’t until this year that I finally broke down again. Same anxiety attacks, but this time I felt an incredible depression. It was unbearable and I can’t even describe to you how painful it was. I was a prisoner in my own body and yet again felt like I was loosing my mind. Honestly, if I could have traded it for physical pain I would have. It got so bad that I lost all hope of ever being “normal.” The depression and anxiety never went away, but sometimes faded to the background. I was floored again and unable to be productive. One night, out of the blue I decided the only way out was death. It wasn’t that I wanted to hurt the people around me, but I just wanted the pain to stop. At this point I will lose most of you reading. You will think how selfish Zach must be, after all didn’t he know how much he would hurt his friends and family? The answer to that question is a yes and no. At that moment, I didn’t think of anything but stopping the pain. I was in sort of a haze, which is hard to describe. I don’t really remember the night very well, but I remember moving my car into the garage and deciding the next morning I was going to wait until everybody left and then start the engine. The next morning when I came to, my friends and family were there. Apparently, I had called my uncle and he had warned everybody. They took me to the doctor and I decided to get some serious help. I started seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist, who worked on the medication and different coping methods.
Today, I am still fighting depression and anxiety. It has gotten much better though and I can go weeks without attacks from either. Then some weeks I get hit hard again and have to keep fighting. I still worry about what people think about me and I still sometimes think that I am crazy. Fight those thoughts though and get help.
Things I want you to take away
1)  Getting help is not weak, it’s responsible. I still wrestle with this problem, but remember if you need help then get it.
2)  Finding a counselor can be tough, but don’t stop looking until you find one that works.
3)  It will get better and never lose hope
4)  Lean on family and friends that you trust for a while.
5)  Depression and anxiety are usually a physical problem and so remember to get the medication you need. It’s no different than getting help for a broken leg.
6)  You are valuable and make sure that you just fight like crazy for that day.
7)  If your not suffering, make sure you are paying attention to your friends and making sure that they know you care.
I am not a counselor and I am not a psychologist. Nor, do I intend on taking their place. I will be here though if you ever need to talk. I will help you fight this because I know how tough it is. I also know that most people will not understand.
Let us create a community that overcomes the stigma of mental illness and suicide, so that we might be able to stop it before it occurs.
My email is zparks@unm.edu. Please don’t hesitate to write.

Monday, May 6, 2013

People of God.

Lately, it seems like I have had ZERO time to sit down and actually write about what I have been learning and what has been happening in my life. I wanna write just a short little something about what I've been learning, and there will definitely be more to come soon!

Have you ever thought about the change that Christ has truly made in your life.  Recently I have been noticing and thinking about the changes Christ has brought to be in my everyday walk. This includes everything from the way I talk, to the way I look at people, to the way I approach conversations, to the movies I watch and the music I listen to. It's so evident to me that when Christ changes the heart, the actions also change. Now don't get me wrong, I still have my own sin. I'm still tempted, I've said curse words, I have looked at images I shouldn't have, and have talked to people in ways that weren't loving. The amazing thing about Christ is that He still uses those things for His good. When we screw up He provides us ways to bring the glory back to Himself, whether that's through forgiveness of others, repentance, learning, or love.

As followers of Christ we are changed people, we are redeemed people, we are imperfect people made righteous through the blood of Christ. I came across this scripture recently and it really summed this all up for me. It says:

Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.- Song of Solomon 2:4

 Let me first state that I know Song of Solomon is a book in which the writer is talking about intimate encounters of a husband and a wife, but it is also a love letter from God to His people. The overall theme of the book is nothing less than the perfect and unfailing love of Christ on His people. The God of love has put a banner over my entire life that is LOVE! Incredible.

I will start to write again now that school is out and that I'll hopefully have some more free time, but until then I want to challenge you to realize the incredible ways Christ has changed your heart and your daily life. They may be simple and seemingly unimportant things, but they are truly nothing short of a miracle.

Be blessed this week.
Til' next time,