Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Da Vinci

Let’s talk about the Da Vinci Code. The movie proposes that there is a hidden secret so electrifying that it will change all of us. Jesus was man, and he married, and he left a son behind. It allows us to see Jesus as one of us, and more, it lets us think that any one of us could be his living descendant. That is the truth that so captivates us….. Could Jesus be walking the earth right now? Even more electrifying, could I be Jesus in the flesh? Could he be me? Could I love and lead like Jesus did?

The grail is not a cup, or a box of bones, or a treasure hunt, or a Masonic mystery, or a lineal descendant of Jesus. The grail is the knowledge that Jesus was man, flesh and blood. He, and all of the other prophets, are just like us, just as magical and compassionate and touched and loved as we all are. And that secret, the secret that we are Jesus, that each of us is God, has been cloistered for so long. It has been hidden from us and has eluded our grasp much like the grail in Da Vinci code. Those of us with small, fearful hearts and a lust for temporal power have kept the great news from us for millennia. They have been blind to what is right in front of us. Or maybe they do see the truth but prefer that we stumble in darkness and heartache and longing and strangled love. God, love, fate, my loved ones, my son, all unlocked the grail in me, so that you can now find it in yourself. To borrow some language from National Treasure, the grail lantern has been lit.

I often feel like I am Sophie Neveu, like I have been looking for the grail and have found it. Even that I am the grail secret itself, I am the hidden link, the lifeblood between God and us. I have the answer that will fell the Church and set us all free. That will grace us all with the most perfect and primeval knowledge there is. That we are all Gods, that every one of us is God. We are all the prophet, all the messiah, more than the messiah. Jesus was only God’s son. You are God incarnate. This exhilarating truth is both ancient and new. It brings us back to God, back where we started before religion started separating us from God, telling us he lived apart, above and beyond us. For we know in part as we are fully known.

I have this dream that I walk into a room and it’s filled with friends and family and they are contentedly joyous about my arrival. Mom and Dad take my hand, smiling, and say “we’ve been waiting for you.” Like at the Church in Da Vinci Code, except I know and recognize all the people and they are all celebrating, like it’s a party for me. They say, as if to Neo, “we’ve known all along you were the one and we’ve been waiting so long for you to figure it out and lead us out of the maze.” It’s like coming home. Have any of you had this dream? Welcome to my dream, our dream, your dream. It can be real, for all of us.

Yes, I have been touched, I have a different perspective, I have seen what is true and I think I can take us all to the truth….but, we are all just like me in our hunt for the divine. I have a mental illness, but I am otherwise no different from you and you know this. If I am a saviour, so are you. I guarantee you are God; I've seen the luminous light in your eye and your joyous, unexpected laugh, and the flicker of your eyelids when you hit upon truth. I've seen God in you and it's radiant. Still, it’s been a struggle for me. Balancing the human and divine in me has been hard. But it’s much easy now that I am writing about it. It will be easy and seamless for you too, once you believe it. Easier than you could ever have imagined.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Another glimpse of heaven on earth

So tell me more about Heaven….what’s it like?

It’s October 2003. I’m in the plane above the clouds on the way back from South Beach. I see the sunset, the golden sun, the rays of love, heaven’s view. Tupac’s view. A perfect, wonderful world. This is Heaven as I have seen it. When I am manic.

I am in Heaven on Earth for three days in October in Lexington, Virginia. I’m walking around in Heaven on Earth. Love is pouring out from all of us, from above, from all creation, in all directions. From eyes, mouths, fingertips, like golden sunlit waves of unstoppable love. The sun seems to be the source but it continually regenerates all over the place, peacefully pouring over everything. It’s warm but not hot. It’s vibrant but not blinding. It’s sunlight in motion dancing through trees, reverberating off lips, tumbling into dark and crowded places, illuminating all that has been dark. Filling every void, in everyone.

I’m not “trying” to love anymore than those around me are. It’s reflexive, as natural as breathing.

I smile all the time for 3 days. Without trying, my first instinct is to act with love towards others, and they love me just as much. I look others in the eye, in the heart. They recognize and smile back. There is such empathy for one another. I feel all that happens to them, all their joy, as if it were happening to me.

Things work. It’s a “green light”, all the time feeling. A joy to be alive, to interact with others.

I go to see the minister at Trinity Methodist church in Lexington. Stanley Pigue. I tell him I am bipolar, but also that I am in heaven. I’m partly scared and partly exuberant. He smiles. He loves me, as if he is prescient. He is touched and renewed. He tells me not to be afraid, that I have been given a gift, if only momentarily. He tells me to get healthy, but to recognize and hold onto my grace. He is good at what he does.

Life has been so happy and easy this week. I smile all the time. I am tickled, mesmerized by what I see around me. I talk to people, can’t wait to talk to people, share their lives. I am genuinely interested in them and they in me.

GODDAMN I love everyone so much! My heart is bursting with joy. Everyone I see is the soul mate to my soul. Everyone I see is an extension of God, which is love.

In this heaven there is no preface, no pretense, no fear. We are figuratively naked (pre-fall?) There was no fall. It was manufactured. A conjure.

Heaven on earth is 100,000% better than anything I had ever imagined it would be. Indescribable beauty, permeated with vibrant love and light, right here with everyday people in real time.


One analogy I can give you for what heaven feels like is from Indiana Jones. It’s about blind faith. When I am in heaven, I feel like Indy in the third movie, when he has to have blind faith to step off the cliff into a chasm. He has to believe he will be saved from death. He has to have blind, uncomprehending, superhuman faith. Now, for me, that faith is in love and it is in me. It is open eyed and understanding and knowing and flesh and blood. I have elevated from the vantage point of fear and pain and unrequited love, from fumbling in the dark, and can now see the footbridge before I take the step. Blind faith has become concrete knowledge of all of me, of the God in me. Of faith in others, who are also God.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I truly believe we are all God. Not his children or his flock or his disciples…we ARE ALL HIM. GOD IS LOVE. WE ARE ALL LOVE. Has nobody ever thought this before? Has nobody ever seen this before? Why not? Why shouldn’t we be God? Why have we convinced ourselves that we are not good enough to be God? Why do we always put ourselves last when we should be first?

Has no one ever coined the term autophilia or autotheism? Does this whole house of cards all come tumbling down when someone says “autotheism” is the same as manic religiousity? How can I say “I am God”, but let me finish the sentence before you jump down my throat and fit the straitjacket for me…”and you are too.” Welcome to my mind’s perception of reality. Welcome to the transparency dimension. Mental illness is not contagious, but illumination is.

Some other words for this belief that we are all perfect, pure, and infinite are superpolytheism, Hyperpolytheism. Billion-ism. Googletheism. Worship 6 billion people as God, plus all the plants and animals, all that has life. Even that which is man-made, that which is made from Love. The sun and the stars. All that’s every been created by Love, which is called “God” by Christians.

There are no absolutes. On the 360 degree circle that is theological variety, hyperpolytheism is right next to monotheism at the top. Yin and Yang. One God. All of us Gods. One Love. God’s love pouring through all of us. We become Him. He becomes us. It’s worship of Love, of Us, instead of something external to us like God or Allah or Buddha or Krishna as conceived in the preaching religions.

Atheism and Christianity can coexist, as can Islam and Judaism. They can exalt in their differences and in their striking similarities. You don’t have to be 100% one or the other. Stop painting yourself into that strident and suffocating box.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I have been all around the world with religion. I consider myself a student of all religions but a member of none. I believe the "prophecies they will fall away" and we will live soon in a post-religion world, but a world that ironically draws powerful truths from many mainline religions.

I went to church maybe once a year in college. The best religion I got was Religion 101 with Professor Marks at Washington and Lee. We studied the major world religions, but neglected the other belief systems, like Mayanism, Gnosticism, Taoism, Confucianism, Transcendentalism, Rastafarianism. Atheism. Communism.

Buddhism was one of my favorites.

In Buddhism, we are all leaves on the water, the current takes us where it will. The current buoys us, leads us, sustains us, and at times challenges and drowns us. In my faith, the Current = Love = God = Us. I tailor Buddishm a bit to suit me. I am not just a leaf in the water. I see it this way: I am sitting on the leaf, with a paddle in hand, in equal measure steering and floating. Master of my fate and disciple of fate at the same time. This view is incredibly empowering for me.

Another favorite of mine is Transcendentalism. It’s finding God in Nature. Nature calls out its Love song to us. It’s about breaking through the veil into the peace and fearlessness and familiarity of Nature. In Nature, we breathe in the sweet spirit of unity, of creation, of humanity, of design and destiny, all bound by love. Avatar evoked this spirituality. The Living spirit of Nature God, connecting all of us with a current, a network as complex and interconnected as the human brain. The epitome of science and spirit, working together. That’s God-love. That’s what’s coming for us all.

I love this quote by Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Live on, c’mon!

Transcendentalism is finding Love, finding your God in Nature. Nature as your sanctuary. Our heart’s home.

An embodiment of Nature’s love song for me is Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, which was read by my brother Jeff at my wedding.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Come join us in celebration, those who love sunshine on meadow
Who love shadow of the forest,
love the wind among the branches and the palacades of pine trees,
and the thunder in the mountains whose innumerable echoes flap like eagles in their eries.

Listen to this song of marriage. How, from another tribe and country came a young man, “give me as my wife this maiden, and our hands be clasped more closely, and our hearts be more united.”

Thus it is, our daughters leave us, those we love and those who love us. When a youth with flaunting feathers beckons to the fairest maiden.

From the sky the sun benignant looked upon them through the branches, Saying to them, “Oh, my children life is checkered shade and sunshine.”

The two figures man and woman Standing hand in hand together, with their hands so clasped together that they seem in one united. And the words thus represented are, “I see your heart within you.”

Sing them songs of love and longing
Now, let's feast and be more joyous.

This passage portrays the most sacred of spiritual ceremonies, a wedding, in the knaves and eaves and chapels of the pine trees. I find my heart, my husband, my love, when I experience God’s natural world.

Where do you find your heart? Yourself? Your best love? What glorifies you?

Transcendentalism as I experience it shows me that we need no Roman basilicas or St. Paul’s Cathedrals. Building your heart’s sanctuary requires no construction fund, no labor, no offerings, no tithing. Do other religions have tithing? I see now that tithing is a part of a business model manufactured by the Church to keep solvent that which could not survive economically on its own. To engage and ensure never ending profits by appealing to the abiding hope of its chief investors, the congregations, the elect. It’s the ultimate pyramid scheme.

An audience with God requires no admission fee. He’s right out your front door. He’s in the river and on the beach and over the mountains. He’s in your mirror. He’s you and me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rat race maze

The first image God showed me was this: Humanity lives in a rat race maze. This vision appeared to me as if I were above the scene, looking down on it. We are all rats running, frantic, fighting and killing for food and for money…lost, futile, worried, desperate, rushed, blind, hitting dead end after dead end. Our heads are down, our eyes are down. We won’t look each other in the eye, we just chase and chase, breathless, ravenous, exhausted. Afraid. We are four inches tall. The walls of the maze are five inches tall. From our “on all fours” perspective, we cannot see over the walls. If we could stand on our hind legs, we could look out over the walls of the maze.

If we knew how to stop and look over the walls, we would see:

Heaven, Eden, Infinite Peace, Abundant Joy, rapturous beauty and vibrant love, all we have ever dreamed of, right outside the walls of the maze. Contemporaneous with us, right next door. It’s so close that we can sometimes hear, smell, see and dream about glimpses of it from within the maze. There is no door, no lock keeping us in the maze. There is nothing keeping us from heaven on earth. It is right outside the maze and we could walk right out of the maze into Heaven if we just knew how to see. If we could just elevate, get an overhead perspective, we would see the simple solution as we looked at the maze from overhead and saw Heaven right next door. Heaven yields plentiful sun and food and safety and shelter and endless love. And no fear. No hate. No jealousy. No vengeance. No rage. No sadness. No frustration. And ironically, no need for hope. Hope is a wonderful thing when you are looking for better days ahead. But when all your fondest desires have been realized and your wildest dreams have come true, you don’t need hope anymore. You are bliss. Heaven on earth is all you have imagined, all you have longed for and so very much more. And it’s right here, in present day, RIGHT NEXT DOOR.

I’ve seen the maze from overhead, from a God’s eye view. I’ve seen how close heaven on earth is. I can see what is coming. I’ve been told how to get there. I know the way out. Would absolutely love for you to join me.

So what keeps us from heaven? Fear. Fear is the opposite of love. The walls of the maze are fear. The veil that has obscured heaven for so long is fear that we have been taught. Largely by Christianity, but also by other religions. Fear of death, fear of hell, fear of disappointing God, fear of God’s judgment, fear of sin, fear of nakedness, fear of our desires, fear of ego, fear of the unknown, fear of Armageddon, fear of judgment day. Fear of not being loved. On the other side of the veil, on the other side of fear, there is eternal happiness and supreme love.

But right now we are veiled. We live in darkness. We hurt each other all the time. Because we don’t yet love each other in the supreme love that God has put in front of us. We just don’t know how to. Heaven has not come to earth yet. When we stop fearing, the pain will go away and the love will overwhelm you. Our human foibles will become less and less. We will hurt each other less and less, and then, nevermore. Eventually, love will rule, we will have heaven on earth and the pain and misery will vanish.

How do we get there? How do we walk out of the maze into Heaven?

It involves seeing with new eyes. Lifting our eyes to light and love, using all the depths of our brain, casting aside some long-lived fears, and getting an overhead perspective so we can see that Heaven truly is right next door to the maze. It’s sort of like the Magic Eye 3D pictures from the 90’s. The image is there, buried in the picture all the time, but we can’t see it right now because the veil blinds us. You clear the fear from your mind, which unchains worry and frustration and disappointment and you can relax your eyes. You can focus. You can see clearly. Once you can see the 3D image, see this other dimension, it then becomes so easy. It’s impossible not to see it when you look again.
It looks as though the 3D image has been there all along, has been so obvious. As though we’ve always known it. (We have always known it!) Your brain’s connection to your vision works in a new way, a multi-dimensional way. You’re in the transparency dimension, the multi-color, vibrant, crystal clear heaven dimension. “Then through a glass darkly, now face to face.” 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 is our guide, it is truth. It tells us exactly what is coming. And that is coming from me, a skeptic of organized religion. I value certain parts of the bible as vital to my own personal faith. I recognize that our religions do point us in the direction of truth to some degree and we can summon that guidance at the same moment we break free of religion’s veil.

So it's about breaking free from the fear we have been taught since birth. The fear that our modern religions swaddle us in. I know how to do it. I see what's on the other side. We are all brave and strong and smart and good enough to break free.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The new view

I’d like to discuss my journey with you. I've learned things that seem like truth to me; I wonder if they feel like truth to any of you? Do they resonate with any of you? I finally feel like I am not alone, and like it's time to share and learn with all of you.

I respect all kinds of spirituality. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you love Mother earth or science, or Nirvana or Turiya, or find peace in your child's laughter or songs or movies or playing soccer….or whatever exalts you, I love it all. It is you trying to find truth in that which you believe, that which brings you health and happiness and contentment. Therefore, I find worth in some parts of all religions, all six billion different flavors. They are all expressions of your spirituality, your ethos, your core, your connection to your heart, what gets you through the day. I love that you all have faith: in something or someone, in everything or nothing. It's beautiful to me to see your minds conceiving your own personal spirituality. It is your brain providing comfort/solace to you. It is your brain trying to find love; it's your brain working on your heart, which to me is an astounding neurological feat. Frankly, both a biological miracle and necessity at once. I think evolved and evolving spirituality is crucial to our survival.

There are many diverse religions out there. We all have unique and complex spiritual needs, and we all have our own personalized belief systems to meet these needs (or I think we all should). Our own recipe, our own personal theology….as perfect and pure as we are. It’s why 6 major world religions cannot possibly suit us all. There is not one size fits all.

We all worship something, whether it is a God or a fruit fly or a vice. What’s so different about this book? I have never heard of a religion that gives you the license and freedom to worship yourself as God. Autophilia. Autotheism. You may stop reading right this second....I hope not. This new perspective sounds heretical and impossible because of millenia of being taught something different, but as I have learned, it is the beginning of the heaven epoch for all of us. Our world is disintegrating into polarizing politics and terrorism and natural disasters and an erosion of decency. We need a game changer, a wholesale renovation of our lessons about God, and I have found just that. We will explore this new view in this blog.

Why are there so many different religions but they all seem so similar? Because the prophet in all religions knew God, became God. He Rose. He had a direct line to God. He walked in love. He lived in Heaven. But like the tower of Babel, when the prophet tried to convey it to others, it got lost in translation, misinterpreted. Words alone could not convey the prophet’s rapture. His preaching was inadequate for the task, for the gift He had to give us. These prophets could not give people the feeling they had, the transparency to God. They could not bring heaven to earth. In that, they have all failed us. They could only talk about Heaven, describe it. The veiled of us tried to write about it, having never been there. They tried to teach it instead of instilling the actual feeling of Heaven. Instead of demonstrating what it felt like to walk in God-love.

Having dabbled in some variety of religions, I have found my own theology, which doesn't fit neatly into any one denominational box. I'm not wholly Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or Hindu or Transcendentalist or Rastafarian or Atheist, thought I find some truth in all of those faiths. I am just Hilary. I've pulled that which I think is true from a variety of faiths and traditions and pursuits and disciplines. I call on the Rastafari understanding of God as a living man. The Native American understanding of Love, of Mother Earth, of Nature. The Hindu understanding of the everlasting Soul. The Buddhist understanding of anti-materialism. The Catholic understanding of saints and of angels, of solemnity, and of a quiet closeness to God. My own theology, the refinement of my faith, necessarily raises questions and concerns about a variety of organized religions. I don't think any one organized religion is right. I'd like to learn much more about all of them to filter out what I think is right and what I think is wrong about each. I hope we can all be brave enough to carve our own spiritual niche.

I'll share what God sees when he looks at our world in the next post.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Arkadelphia happiness

Luckily for me, I had a groundswell of support in Nathan and his spectacular family. Also as luck would have it, I started seeing a miracle of a psychiatrist in Little Rock. She took me off Abilify and started me on Lamictal, as well as some other sleeping, depression, and anxiety medications. I now take seven medications a day.

Within two weeks, I felt a huge difference. The clouds parted, the sun shone, and I looked forward to each day instead of dreading waking up. I regained my mental acuity and re-engaged in social activities. Best of all, I felt a tremendous bond with my lovely son. I felt such a surge of affection and protection, as if I was making up for all the time lost to post-partum. Bless his heart, he did not hold a grudge, but instead he seemed delighted to see his mother enjoying health for the first time in his life.

As the weeks went on, I continued to feel better. I also gained some insights about my illness and what treatments worked for me. The great breakthrough came when I finally bought what Marie Wood was selling: that repression, or attempts at extermination, of my illness were utterly futile. I was born Bipolar and would always be Bipolar. I needed to give it time and space, or it would keep blowing up in my face in manic breaks. I needed to “thread it out” as Marie said….I needed to write about it.

What I wrote about, what poured out of me in unstoppable waves in 2007, was truly manic. But the core beliefs, the thesis and theology that are truly my own, have a place. They are real and valid and heart felt. They are truth to me, and have resonated with others as well. They are not crazy: the strong-armed suppression of my spirituality and of my gifts, and ignoring my transcension….that is what’s crazy.

How do I know that giving space and voice to my illness and its manifestations is the right thing for me? Because I have been happy this year. I am a part-time attorney at the Chaney family law firm, specializing in Social Security Disability appeals. I enjoy to the fullest being mother to River, and he is flourishing in many ways. I help Nathan behind the scenes in his various lines of business. I volunteer for two service organizations and play softball during the summers. I love to cook and entertain and thrive in the community of good people in this small town. My illness is now the backstory, not the boss.

Do I still worry? Sometimes. Do I get frustrated at times? Yes. Do I have manic moods? Yes, but infrequently. The difference now is that my baseline is happiness, which is a totally new experience. My faith, a faith not in God or the Church, but in the love that resides in me and those around me, a faith that grew from illness, brings me joy and hope. Living with my mental illness, meeting it face to face, and yes, loving it as a living breathing part of me have yielded unparalleled peace.

I have found a place in between mania and depression, in between heaven and hell. I am beginning to integrate the beautiful picture of heaven into my daily life. I am not risen, but rising. I feel hopeful, relieved, renewed, and like I finally have a forum for my experience.

I cannot convince anyone of what I have seen or felt. I know that. I cannot ask people to believe that which they don’t. What I can do, what my husband and friends and minister have urged me to do, is to report. I can share what I have seen and try to express how beautifully what I have seen has touched my life. I report, and I let you make up your own minds.

Of course, what I want more than anything is to give you all heaven on earth on a silver platter. I want to be able to show you, to touch you with the phenomenal tidal wave of love I have felt. I want you to see God as I have seen him, to recognize he is you and to walk through the gates to heaven on earth. Can I achieve that which I want? We’ll have to see. Believing that I can is what buoys me on a daily basis. So here’s the beautiful picture that’s behind the veil…..

Monday, November 22, 2010


My psychiatrist put me back on a low dose of Risperdal and I weathered the pregnancy as best I could. At some times I did actually feel happy and strong, and I started imagining what my son would look like and what it would feel like to hold him for the first time. I toyed with baby names and looked at nursery décor online. But sometimes I wondered if this was a big mistake. I wondered if my son would be mentally ill and what I would tell him when he figured out his mom was sick and that she would take pills every day of her life. I worried that the sleeplessness that awaits all new moms would send me over the edge, never to return. I was very scared.

My husband and I worried about me being on Risperdal during the pregnancy. It is apparently a class C drug which means the medical field doesn’t have enough data to know whether or not it is harmful to a fetus. What we did know was that the low dose allowed me to regain some mental stability and that the baby would only be as healthy as his mother. All of my doctors kept singing the same chorus: the mother has to be healthy first. That was our number one priority.

I delivered River Chaney on June 20, 2008. All was well, and he turned out to be the delight of my life. I didn’t figure that out until December 2009, because I suffered 18 long months of post-partum depression. My psychiatrist put me back on Lithium and Risperdal after I had the baby. It never quite worked like it was supposed to.

After I had the baby, I started seeing a neuropsychologist. She introduced me to a new method of therapy: neurofeedback. I can’t describe it clinically. I just know it had been used effectively in seizure patients and those with head trauma. It involved pasting receptors on certain parts of my head and wiring me up to a computer. I would then watch various simple games, much like Pac Man, and the computer would reward my brain for positive behavior. It was attempting to build up the healthy parts of my brain that would ease sleeplessness, anxiety, and mania. This procedure was quite effective for some time with managing sleeplessness. But there were two times during neurofeedback sessions when the stimulation of my brain was too penetrating: my emotions absolutely overwhelmed me. I burst into tears as childhood memories of my father surfaced fast and hot in my consciousness; my rapidly swinging emotions were dealing blow after blow to my psyche in quick succession. Wrenching feelings had never caused me physical pain before....this was new territory and it scared me. I cried out to stop the game. Neurofeedback was expensive and I wasn’t making enough headway to keep up the treatment, and after the two emotional breakdowns while in session, I wondered if this manipulation of my brain could actually do some harm in the long run. So I quit neurofeedback.

The worst time for me was January 2009, when I was often suicidal. I was panicked and anxious all the time and could not figure out how to get out of bed and brush my teeth in the morning. I cried constantly and could barely keep it together at work. I felt paralyzed by fear and am sure I had a panic attack at work when I could not breathe and wanted to crawl under my desk and hide. I was afraid of losing my job and losing my child and losing my life to a mental institution. I was afraid I had fallen off the ladder into the black abyss of mental torture.

Taking care of River was a blur. I don’t even remember taking care of him at all. I know I dropped him off at daycare and picked him up each day. I knew how to change a diaper and that’s about all I could do. Nathan carried us then.

My father and I have always had a deal that if I feel like I will commit suicide, I need to call him first. I was so upset in January 2009 that I could not even talk on the phone to my parents. I felt I would be swallowed by my grief if I even opened my mouth to them. Hearing their concern and hearing my own despair as I talked to them would just rip me apart. So for a period of 48 hours, in my most critical condition, I refused to talk to them. I just let their calls go to voicemail. I remember feeling a visceral tug at my heart when I listened to one of my dad’s messages. He sounded plaintive and scared for me. He tried to keep the worry out of his voice but he betrayed vulnerability, which is something I don’t think I have ever seen in my dad. He knew he could do little for me 1000 miles away. I wonder if he thought I had broken our deal.

When it got to be intolerable, I switched to Abilify based on the recommendation of my psychiatrist. After months of Abilify, I no longer felt suicidal, but I still felt tired and sad and frustrated. One bright spot during this difficult time was the entrance of Marie Wood into my life. She was a licensed counselor in Fayetteville who let me be exactly who I was with her, and she told me all that had been revealed to me was beautiful. She’s the one who urged me to keep writing, and she engendered real discussions about the possibility of writing a book. She soothed me and championed me, and though I only met with her a handful of times, she really opened the door to the next, and best, chapter in my life. She helped me understand that my illness was an organic part of me, and that I simply must stop trying to exterminate it. Marie finally gave me license to love all of me, even the sickest, saddest parts.

In spite of the brief buoyancy that these Marie-moments offered, in that first part of 2009 I was still miserable. I was withered and bitter, beyond despondent. Nathan and River hung in there as best they could, and Nathan was heroic in his dedication to making our marriage work in spite of how sick I was. My mother talked me through the most basic steps to get through every day, but nothing could ease my fears and frustrations. I was not even treading water at work, and I felt no connection to my son at all. I didn’t even feel any remorse about this. My mom would say, “Motherhood is the hardest job you’ll ever love.” How preposterous, because I hated every minute. I knew abstractly that I had a perfect, precious, brilliant little boy, but the tug of the heartstrings was nonexistent. I resigned myself to a long life of obligation.

Things got desperate. The job sucked, motherhood sucked, all of my relationships sucked and there was no relief in sight. I had to do something to change the game. I finally told my boss in Fayetteville that I was Bipolar. It was a great relief but my stressful work situation did not get any easier. I quit my job to salvage my health and we moved to Arkadelphia, Arkansas in June 2009 to be closer to Nathan’s parents.

I just needed a break. I needed a timeout from life for a minute, or a month.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pregnant and in the closet

In the August 2007 manic episode, I felt like recording and sharing what was happening was very important to God’s purpose. The words in the 43 page manic journal flew from my fingertips as epiphany after epiphany blossomed in my mind. I felt like a vessel and I wanted to get God’s message right.

I was in quite a state. I elected to stay home from work to rest, but also to go to Kinko’s to make ten copies of my manic journal. I felt I had to publish what I had written to those close to me, because it seemed like such an important dissertation. I mailed all 43 pages of my manic journal to my close family and friends.

They were shocked and saw the pure mania in those pages. It was my world-view and my understanding of organized religion. It was the coalescing of my adult faith, of my mature spirituality. But it was frantic and stream of consciousness and it revealed things very personal to me. Nathan thought it smacked of Kevin Spacey’s writings in the movie Seven. I realized it looked like Russell Crowe’s voluminous writing in A Beautiful Mind. While it represented clarity and truth to me, and seemed to be something I simply had to share with the world, to my family it represented a descent into a dark place.

In spite of this, many of the recipients of that package said there was truth in the writing. Nathan said he agreed with the majority of what I had written, but it was just the form of expression that troubled him. Priya and Sean said it hit the nail on the head in terms of organized religion. My dad said some of it resonated with him, and that he believed in heaven on earth too. Bless their hearts, in the midst of the shock and fear they were feeling, they were honest enough to validate some of what I thought.

I’ve kept that journal as a reminder of what mania looks like in print, but I also reread it in times of trouble and it strengthens my convictions. It brings me understanding of the world around me. Since then I have written over two hundred more pages, but never in the frantic scribble of those first 43 pages.

My therapists have told me that writing is good therapy, and can help me process and track my thoughts (thank you so very much, Marie Wood…you are a gift of a therapist). It is a great form of expression for me. The therapists told me to give my spirituality a voice on paper, when I am manic and when I am stable both. For a few years I only wrote when I was manic. In 2010, I started writing when I felt well too. I am learning how to write and not be scared of what is written. I am learning how to record emotion and analysis at the same time.


My time in Fayetteville was hard. I never could find the right legal job. Work was work, as it should be, and there was no place for mental weakness. There was no room for any shearing of intellect or for any departure from reality in the practice of law. Lawyers do not have disabilities. For those of you out there who are practicing law while suffering mental illness, I know the hell that is your every day. I was always terrified my bosses would find out I was Bipolar, but at the same time I was desperate to shout it from the rooftops and be done with it. I felt like I was “in the closet,” hiding a deep dark secret that revealed who I was at my core. I hope for a day when we can meet mental illness where it lies, because it does not discriminate by profession. If we deal with the fact that we all suffer from something and we accommodate our disabilities, we can all be more productive and save loads in health care costs. And save lives lost to alcoholism, addiction, and suicide.

I hope I am not the first attorney to “come out of the mental illness closet.” It’s 2010 and I should not be the first. If I am, I hope I can demonstrate that there is nothing to be ashamed of and there are ways to practice your art and stay healthy and feel fulfilled and accepted.

I did get pregnant in September 2007. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I lost all appetite and lost 13 pounds. I felt that dizzying head nausea that many pregnant women feel: a nausea that doesn’t start in your belly but seems to start in your sinuses and wend its way up through your eyes and ears and temples until you can’t open your eyes without feeling as though you will throw up. I remember with wistfulness that Nathan took me out to a romantic dinner to celebrate my pregnancy and I could not even look at the menu, let alone take a bite to eat. It was strange for me to eat nothing all day but Jolly Ranchers and Saltines. But that’s all I could handle.

All this was normal for early pregnancy. But then I started to deteriorate mentally. I felt certain I was killing the baby by losing so much weight. I battled with myself daily about whether I wanted the baby or whether I had made a mistake. As I watched the pounds drop from my body, I thought I was not equipped to have a baby and could not survive the pregnancy. Deep in a pre-partum depression, I hated the baby for causing this strife. I felt like the baby was an illness, a plague that I wanted to rip out of my stomach so I could get back to some form of health. How could I ever be a mother if I hated the life that grew inside me because of how it was tearing me apart? I knew I was in bad shape and called out to my mother to make an emergency trip to Fayetteville to help me survive. I clung to my mother and my husband in those early weeks, and my dear Priya assured me my baby was a fighter and would pull through this. I told only those three about my poisonous thoughts and they all assured me they were normal and would not do lasting harm to me or the baby. They turned out to be right, and their faith and consolations overwhelmed my doubt and despair.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

43 pages

Songs I heard called out to me. I remember hearing Stairway to Heaven, I Can See Clearly, Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up, Natalie Merchant’s Wonder, and Joan Osborne’s One of Us. Books, movies, songs and even billboards seemed to call out the same refrain: Love Rules, and Heaven is Here. We all knew the song, we all lived the lyrics. We saw the message in each other. To this day, whether manic or not, I still hear the familiar song of hope and see the lyrics of love in print many times a day. It’s like I cannot NOT hear the song now that I have heard it once.

Since these trips to heaven, I have wondered if perhaps this is really how everyone lives their daily lives. Are happy, hopeful, caring interactions the norm for lots of you out there? Am I somehow specially chosen to live this happiness or am I just the last one to the dance? Is this feeling just a day in the life for all of you out there? How presumptuous of me to assume you have not felt this too. I cannot know what you have experienced. All I know is that these special times of God-love are so different from the regular rat race…so sweet and magical. If any of you have gotten to experience this feeling, I think you are lucky and I am glad to have felt the same thing.

There’s no doubt that my trips to heaven are involuntary and are signals of mania. They are exciting and jubilant times, but I know they represent a detachment from reality. They are like a waking, walking dream…a trip to an inner dimension of my brain, a trip to the transparency dimension. I never know how long the trip will last, and I do like coming back to the real world. I don’t want to live there permanently until we all do. But my God, do I want to take you all there.

These visits to heaven give me such hope. When I come back to reality, I feel bestowed with a purpose. Each time I see more clearly what I will do while on this earth. I don’t ever know when or if I will go back to heaven. If it means mania for me, I would rather not go again at all. What has happened is this: I have gradually been able to integrate bits of heaven into my daily life. I am learning how to walk in a peaceful living heaven in present day, how to incorporate it without losing touch with my daily life. Finding this balance brings me great calm and understanding. I’ve answered a lot of the questions for me; I’ve found the user’s guide for my life, and it is such sweet relief.


After I came back from heaven in August 2007, I had a very active and agitated episode, marked by anger at my family and stress at work and frantic writing in my manic journal. It was a time when God revealed a great deal to me in a short amount of time. It was an exhausting time and a time fraught with emotion. I wrote 43 pages of what God was showing me, what God was teaching me. At that time I again felt like I was a prophet. Like I may be the Second Coming because God shared so much with me to pass on to the world. What I’ve realized is that there are two types of mania for me: the one like this agitated episode when I am learning from God fast and furious and feel like I am God’s gift, and then the walks in heaven when I feel just as joyous and special as everyone else, no more touched or gifted than anyone else. At those times, I see we are all the prophet. We are all chosen. Not just me.

When I am depressed, I am nearly debilitated and can hardly carry on in my daily life. My suicidal ideations make me dangerous. When manic though, I am quite capable and am no danger to myself or others. I can keep a stable front for those around me. I remember that my mom came to visit me during one of my manic episodes and saw that I was frenetic and super-active. She knew I was manic, but no one else would have suspected. She heard me calmly and competently take a business call in my most professional and reasonable voice. This is part of why so many Bipolars will not medicate. They are quite self-sufficient during their mania and actually feel better able to manage multiple tasks. We are called “high-functioning manics.”

I’ve casually read the reports of some great creative minds in our history being Bipolar. It makes perfect sense to me. Your brain elevates to a higher level of insight and the creative and expressive parts of your brain work in elegant harmony. You feel a keen kinship to all those who walk the earth with you, which makes your “piece de resistance,” whether it’s art or music or writing, so relatable, and so convincing to others. Those with mania feel things so very deeply; this “hyperempathy” rings out clearly in the artistic expression of our furied mind.

So maybe we should hear what these manics have to say…..Maybe we can understand that these reports from the front lines of mental illness are a window to new capabilities in the mind. There is no doubt that some Bipolars have literally set the world on fire with their manic creations, so maybe we ought not be so dismissive of the by-products of manic episodes. Perhaps these waking dreams deserve some attention and analysis.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Back to heaven

It was in September 2003 that Nathan and I went to South Beach, Miami for a long weekend. We partied like locals and hardly slept. I have almost no memories of that weekend.

What happened next was the second time I visited heaven. (The first being when I saw the beautiful happy tableau of the housing project in Norfolk). As I was on the plane above the clouds in the late afternoon on Sunday, I felt the warmth of the sun. The setting sun over the clouds seemed to bestow peace on my soul. I thought, “I am in the clouds in heaven….this is what it feels like…..restful and vibrant and warm and peaceful.” What I didn’t realize was that because of my lack of sleep that weekend I was tumbling into a manic episode.

When manic, I feel a close understanding of God. Of who he is and why he does what he does and what he wants for us and how we’re going to get there. My view of the world, of the meaning of life, and of how we get to heaven, did not hit me like a ton of bricks one day. It just developed in my mind over the course of my life. Like any of us, I developed a world-view, an understanding of the world around me. It took time. And it took mania.

So for three days in September 2003 in Lexington Virginia, I walked in heaven on Earth. I remember heightened awareness. Everything was more vibrant and clearer and more colorful. There was this current of sunshine, which was Love, pouring down from above in golden rays and filling us all up and pouring out of our mouths and eyes and fingertips. I saw God truly was Love, made real in the golden sunlight that was radiating throughout the world. My brain felt super aware and receptive, and the word “Love “ was glowing at the front of my brain. I was absolutely overcome with love for myself, and for those around me, and for everyone on earth. It did not feel like some strange psychadelic trip. It seemed like the most natural state I had ever been in. It was present day. I was still doing all the things I normally did, like going to class and having lunch with friends and spending time with Nathan. But every interaction was a true joy. Everyone was so happy, just beaming with joy. We all seemed delighted to be with one another. And so familiar with each other. We seemed to all recognize our connection to each other, to understand the love pouring through all of us and binding us all. I could not stop smiling.

I did sleep some in those days, because my doctor in Norfolk knew I was manic and told me to take more Trazadone and Risperdal. But I still felt this vibrant, sensory, glowing sensation of love. This pervasive peace. Joy, optimism, cooperation, caring….this all surged out of people.

I went to meet with Stanley Pigue, the minister at Trinity United Methodist Church in Lexington. I had been to church there a few times and felt pretty comfortable with him. I told him I was in Heaven. I wept.

He was gentle and thoughtful. He said I had a special perspective, one that obviously came about because of my mental illness. Nonetheless, it was a special closeness to God and his message. Not many others had felt what I did, he told me. He said I should get healthy again but should realize that I was gifted. To not dismiss it as sheer lunacy. He though God was trying to tell me something. Stan Pigue buoyed me. He gave me hope that I was not deranged. That my vision, my walk in Heaven, was not something blasphemous and evil….it was a lucky shift in dimension for me. I should not be ashamed of it. I should listen to what God wants me to do. He said he had read of others having had similar experiences but never met anyone who had walked in heaven.

With increased medication, I gradually arrested that manic episode and returned to the rat race. Within a few days, I no longer felt touched or special. There was no more golden glow, no warm currency of love. Just routine, run of the mill life.


My grades did gradually improve in law school and I got a good job as a law clerk at the U.S. District Court in Norfolk. In 2006, after I completed my term as law clerk, I moved to Arkansas to marry Nathan, and I bounced from one law job to another. I was always terrified of my bosses finding out I was Bipolar. That crippled me and cost me three jobs as an attorney.

Nathan and I wanted to get pregnant. In 2007, my psychiatrist in Fayetteville, Arkansas told me to come off all of my medications to get pregnant. I did.

Coming off all of my medications precipitated one more trip to heaven in present day. It was in Fayetteville in August 2007. I again felt the powerful currency of God’s love, pouring forth from all of us in golden rivulets. I remember walking into the Burger King on College Avenue in Fayetteville and being delighted to see all inside. I had a spontaneous conversation with a man in line about the Cardinals season. He told me he was 44 and had no teeth and had not watched the Cards as much as he would have liked. We laughed and felt close. The joy on my face seemed to engender familiar conversations from others; it seemed to break down walls.

Everything worked. Everything I did and saw fit together seamlessly. I call those times “Green Light Days,” because traffic seemed to part…..everything was on time and fluid. There were no roadblocks, no frustrations, no hangnails or paper cuts. When in heaven I even seemed to have a bit of foresight, in that I knew things would work, and could see the puzzle pieces fit together. This wasn’t just optimism or faith or the power of positive thinking….it was prescience, like I saw the answers before the questions were even asked. That’s not quite right….it’s more like I knew the questions would be answered before they were even asked, but would marvel at the answers. Anytime I saw a potential hitch in how things worked, something natural but miraculous would happen to unkink the potential snag. You know when you go to a super nice hotel and the concierge and staff take care of every detail so you don’t encounter a second of trouble? It was like that: we were all very well taken care of. But we weren’t passive at all; we were not guests. We were active owners of heaven, making little miracles every moment. Imagine if everyone you laid eyes on was an answer to your prayers, every single person you saw made your heart’s fondest wishes come true. They knew your pleasure just by looking in your eyes. You would be ecstatic to be with people. I could not wait to see the next smiling face, the next miracle worker. I was truly filled with delight and wonder at the beautiful things to behold, and at the lovely way we interacted with one another. It made me very proud to be human; I was proud of all of us and how we glorified one another. You’ve just got to see this heaven….you will be BLOWN AWAY.

I have learned that the opposite of love is fear, and there was absolutely no fear in heaven. Because fear was banished, there was no evil, no hate, no transgressing against one another. The automatic, involuntary action for all of us was love. It was as reflexive as breathing.

Heaven was a busy and happy and productive place. It was not quiet, somber, hallowed or holy. Everyone worked in concert and cooperation. We were all happy to help each other. It was full of life and love and freedom and fun.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And here comes the depression

In the next month I kicked my boyfriend out of my life and watched my mom beat a path from Norfolk to Richmond every weekend. I insisted I should keep working and stay in my apartment. She wanted me home under her watch, but I felt the need for independent recovery. Looking back I think that was a mistake. In the summer of 2000, I sank into a deep depression that lasted for months. In conjunction with my other medications, my doctor also prescribed Wellbutrin, but that did not suit me. The weeks went by in a slow blur; I gained weight and slept a lot and avoided friends. I am an action-oriented girl who likes challenges and variety and inspiration and change, so moving slowly with leaden feet through my days does not suit me. I don’t imagine it suits anyone.

In the fall of 2000, I made the decision to quit my job and move home, with the intention of going to law school. My therapist in Norfolk wondered whether that would be a good idea for a Bipolar. She thought it would lead to a stressful and difficult life. I insisted I was stable, and as is my way, I insisted I knew what was right.

As luck would have it, my graceful former home of Lexington, Virginia welcomed me back for law school. I would enter Washington and Lee School of Law as a first year law student in August 2001. I looked back over the year 2000 and saw one major manic break, one not-so-minor manic break, and one ongoing bout with depression. Would you take that as a sign to jump right into law school? Never mind, it’s just what I did.

I still took Lithium (1200 mg a day), and Risperdal (1 to 2 mg a day), and Trazadone as needed for sleep. I still struggled with the dead weight of depression, but I didn’t know anything different because depression comes on like a thief in the night and only after you rise from its darkness do you see how pervasive it was. When depressed, you are stuck in a cruel mental suspension: you don’t think things are that bad but you also don’t think they can get better. So you make no great effort to change the status quo. I just kept plodding through my life. Plodding is no way to make a mark in law school.

I got a 2.28 in my first semester at Washington and Lee. Not even a C+ average. Hard to swallow for a former A-student overachiever. A national merit scholar semi-finalist. Accepted at Duke, UVA and Princeton. A cum laude college graduate. A four year all-conference volleyball player at Washington and Lee University.

The next three years were difficult to say the least. Difficult, but very, very fun. I quickly tossed aside the admonition that medication and alcohol do not mix. Those were the three drunkest years of my life. And the three most expensive.

In law school I experienced side effects from Lithium and Risperdal. I felt like I was drugged….in a fog. I had hand tremors and coordination problems. The simplest mechanical tasks, like threading a needle or zipping a zipper, were difficult and made me feel incompetent and clumsy. My memory and concentration were poor and I had trouble with articulation and organization when writing briefs. I was also impatient when it came to work; it was hard for me to follow-through on a project or even sit through a 50 minute class to the end. Reading law is not easy, but it was particularly tough for me, so I often skipped the reading for class and embarrassed myself when I was called on by the professors. Let’s be quite honest though: I don’t think I can blame all my trouble on the medications. I’m sure I was just at that point in my twenties when fun was a priority, and in the beautiful town of Lexington, it was easy to keep real work in the real world at bay.

But there were treasures in that time too. At Washington and Lee, I met my brilliant and compassionate husband Nathan and my dear friends Priya and Mark. We all battled real and imagined demons in those three years but we hung together and enjoyed the tonic of true friendship.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reno mistake

My father called my boss at Capital One and told him I would be back to work within the month. By the end of March, I was back living in my apartment in Richmond with my boyfriend and going to work. My boss, Pat Jernigan, was remarkably understanding and accommodating. Looking back I would classify him as the patron saint of managing employees with disabilities. The folks at Capital One really seemed to want me to get back to normal. I was surprised that they were so willing to help me.

One of my perpetual mistakes with my illness is that I underestimate it. I always think I’ve been through the worst. No, I think that I’ve BEATEN the worst, and that only happy days lie ahead. It took me many years to realize that my illness is as organic as my body. As I combat it and learn to contain it, it grows stronger and finds alternate ways to chip away at me. It lives, and it wants to live on. It will destroy me if that means it can thrive. The illness will not be suffocated as long as I am breathing.

What I am trying to say is that in April 2000, I jumped back into my life full-throttle, unaware of the chronic, lifelong grip Bipolar has on its victims. I pretended nothing had happened, and I did not give my brain time to recover fully.

In April I took a trip to Reno with my boyfriend for four days. For some reason, maybe a very good one, traveling between multiple time zones is difficult for those with my insomnia issues. For those who have trouble “stopping the clock,” messing with the clock can prove pretty detrimental. It’s one reason spring and fall can be tough times for me, because of the daylight savings time change.

Anyway, here I was with fresh open brain injuries that no one could see but that were present nonetheless. I was not giving my brain the peace and quiet it needed to repair itself. My mom tried to talk me down from going to Reno, but I had to prove how healthy I was, or thought I was.

Within the first twenty-four hours in Reno, I knew I was in too deep. I started to feel electric again, and could not sleep. I remember crying to Andy that I was sick again and would never get better. He assured me that I would get better, and I lamented unfairly that no one would ever love someone as sick as me. He said quietly, “I love you.” I thought cruelly, “Not you, the real guy.” Even in my manic state, I knew we were not in this relationship for the long haul. Although Andy did well handling the crisis in February, I don’t think he had the stuff to partner with a Bipolar for a lifetime. While I had doubts someone of quality would want to marry someone with a mental illness, I need not have doubted. I would find my prince in due time.

From Reno I called my mom and spoke with my therapist too and said I had to get back to Virginia, and quick. They booked me an early flight and I stumbled frightened through airports in Reno and Chicago and DC. I told the flight attendants I was sick and was going home to meet my parents and they took good care of me. When I was in Chicago, I bought my parents a colorful coffee mug. In that action, I knew that buried under the bitch that was mental illness lived a loving, thoughtful Hilary.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Diagnosis Bipolar

Within a few days, the psychiatrist called my parents in and told them to be relieved. In so many words, I had the “good” mental illness. Boy, were we far gone….. Bipolar Disorder was considered the good diagnosis.

All I knew of Bipolar, or manic depression as they called it decades ago, was that the Bangles sang about Manic Mondays. I always thought that song was busy and upbeat. No wonder.

I would discover that I exhibited a typical manic symptom: religiousity. Bipolars often think they are God. Bipolar mania is marked by high emotion or feeling revved up. You feel things terribly deeply when manic. Whatever emotion you are feeling, you think you are the epitome of that emotion in all the world. So my empathy or concern for others, which is a good thing in moderate doses, turned into feeling like Christ or God and loving others so much it hurt. You see incredible things when you are manic, and Bipolars want more than anything else to share what they see with others. Come down the rabbit hole with me, says Alice.

I would spend years telling myself I was not Jesus, I was not God, I was not special. Others trained me to practice this refrain. My real healing began when I started to consider that although I may not be the Second Coming, I was special and there were big plans in store for me.

The hospital doctors started medicating me right away with Lithium and Risperdal and Trazodone and I began seeing Dr. Waldrop, who was a blessing to me and my family.

I spent about a week at Norfolk Psych, which was a dungeon compared to my next stop. I was moved to Virginia Beach Psychiatric. If Norfolk Psych was about stabilization and safety, VBP was about recuperation and community.

There were nice beds and bathrooms and ice cream at VBP. We had group therapy once a day and we met with a counselor and got to take time outside every day. I was on the “walking team” at VBP. Again, if you know anything about me you know I am competitive to a fault and thrive on a team. A handful of us walked laps around the yard every day, reveling in the sun and trees and telling ourselves that training our bodies would cleanse our minds.

I spent about two weeks at VBP, a nice vacation looking back. Good food, good sleep, good drugs, good company. A young black patient asked me for a date and for my phone number and I almost gave it to him. Remember, flattery gets you far with me. I still did not know the first thing about Bipolar, but I knew I was feeling better, more like the good old Hilary.

When I returned home to my parents’ house in Norfolk after about three weeks of hospitalization, I remember seeing crocuses sprouting in the side yard. That touched me so. I felt like I had died, or danced on the brink of death, and now I was reborn, just like the annual purple harbingers of new life. It was not a coincidence that this dark descent into a medical hell for me happened in the Lenten season. February and March always feel like a death and rebirth to me.

Notice that as I skidded into physical hell in February 2000, I also got my first brief glimpse of heaven. Heaven and hell are both part of our lives…they are not exclusive. There are no absolutes, there is no black and white. Life is not heaven or hell, at least not now. We are in suspension and can taste one while living in the other.

I took my time recovering. Mom and Dad were gentle with me. I remember my doctors told me that some Bipolars only have one episode in their lives, and I was sure I would be the very best Bipolar I could be, so my first manic break would be my last.

What the doctors never really knew for sure was among stress, insomnia, and mania, which came first. That is, did stress trigger insomnia which triggered a manic break, or did latent mania trigger insomnia? I knew that I had trouble sleeping off and on since I was very young. Post-diagnosis, I also knew Bipolar was something I was born with, and my mother and I gradually recognized that the illness sent forth some warning sallies during my adolescence.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Haldol shot and psychiatric ward

All four of us went to Norfolk Psychiatric. They waited with me for what seemed an eternity of intake processing. I was catatonic at that point. Half-dead and half-alive. I had never seen my mother so worried or fragile or raw.

After several hours, the nurses came to take me from my parents. My mother would not leave. They told her repeatedly that family could not go to the patients’ floor outside of visiting hours. The nurses said they would give me a shot of Haldol and I would fall asleep and everything would be much better in the morning. Mom WOULD NOT LEAVE ME. She insisted that she was not leaving my side until I fell asleep. I was not aware until later that she was so indefatigable. She would not be turned away. Mothers out there, you know how she felt. You would do the same. She would sit by my bed that night until I fell asleep.


But back to the night before I slept: I was so very weak, I could hardly walk. I made my way up to the second floor leaning on both my mother and a nurse. They kept assuring me that “all was well, that I would soon sleep for a long time, that a room was prepared for me, that I did not have to worry or struggle or fight any more.” When you think you are about to die and they tell you “your room has been prepared for you,” you get very panicky, trust me. All the language they used was meant to comfort me but instead resounded like the preamble to death, like the very same language the Bible uses to describe the end of life’s journey. I felt like I was slowly trudging toward death, and that they were assuring me it was a safe and comfortable place. I got to the threshold of my room and I looked at my mom. I could not step through the door, because I was sure I was walking to my death. I grabbed her and cried, totally terrified. She told me it was okay, to let go. The room was dark at first. I could not see anything in it. Then the nurse turned the light on and the room was suddenly very brightly lit. My eyes were so susceptible to light at that point that I could not see anything in the room, just a bright fluorescent glow. It looked and felt exactly like everyone has described crossing over death’s doorstep, or “going to the light.” I finally figured out that one way or another, I would enter the room. I clutched my mother and stepped through the door, expecting to meet God and feel death and see heaven if I was lucky.

Imagine my tortured surprise when I saw a woman asleep on the second bed in the room. Here I was entering death and someone already inhabited my space? It was frightening and I just collapsed into my mother’s arms, too spent to understand. They assured me the stranger was just my roommate. I was so confused, but the nurses and my mother helped me sit down on my bed. They lifted up my hospital gown and gave me a shot of Haldol. I don’t know how long I slept.

The next few days were marked by a lot of drugged sleep. My parents and brother Brad came to visit me on the second day. Brad was apparently floored by my catatonic state. My mouth hung open because I did not have the muscular discipline to shut it. My eyes were glazed over, which was a great improvement over the wide-eyed electric frenzy of the days leading up to my commitment.

On the third day in the hospital, a psychiatrist began interviewing me. I was desperate to understand what had ravaged me for a full week, and although I had never seen a psychiatrist before, I welcomed his expertise. I remember a host of questions, and I could not follow any thread that connected them, because I knew very little about mental illness at the time. I do remember two questions in particular that alarmed me: One was whether I had ever cut myself and the other was whether I had ever tried to commit suicide. The answer was no, of course not, to both, but it made me think I was keeping company with some pretty disturbed people if they even had to ask. I mean, those questions are for the insane right? Could I really be insane?

I recall a few things from those first few days. My roommate’s name was Diane, and she faded in and out of my Haldol daze without saying a word to me. She looked lost and lonely and heartbroken, and when my family came to visit me she asked my mom, “May I join you?” My mom politely declined, but it was clear Diane was desperate for a loving family like mine.

The other women in the ward took some interest in me. They called me “Lady.” I think this was because they viewed me as attractive and educated, a breath of fresh air in a hospital populated most often by the tired and poor and dirty. I seemed like an anomoly to those who called hospitals home. Misery does not discriminate and misery loves privileged and otherwise lucky company. I was of course flattered to be called “Lady.”

If you keep reading, you will find that even at my saddest and most hopeless, I recognize praise and respond to flattery.

There were two younger women who laughed all the time and told me stories about their children. They liked listening to the radio with me. It seemed very important to me that I call the radio station at 93.7 the Coast, because I had some very pressing requests. Some songs looped through my fractured brain and I thought they were THE songs for the moment. The staff would not let me call the Coast.

There was a very heavy black woman named Lulu, who had generous eyes and a hearty laugh. There was a large older white woman whose name I can’t recall, but I will never forget her because when I finally checked out of Norfolk Psychiatric, she offered me two pairs of her underwear as a parting gift. “You will need these out there,” she said, with what seemed like a knowing look but was more likely just an educated guess about what the outside world would require.

They let me call my parents after a few days. My mom tells me that I called them in those first few days and said “I’m better now…I’m ready to come home, NOW.” Mom tried to placate me so I hung up on her. Not typical behavior for me.

At Norfolk Psychiatric there was an East Asian nurse named Mary. She took special care of me. She helped me back to my room when I wandered around with no clothes on. She tried to explain to me that they were only putting me in the room with the padded walls for my own safety. I still do not know what they were protecting me from.

Given my “assumption of Christ” during the prior 48 hours, I found it meaningful that my nurse’s name was Mary. I told her that my mother’s name was Mary too, and I appreciated that they both were ministering especially to me.

Speaking of Christ, I had a close encounter with him when I was in the hospital. I would have this recurring dream that I was in outer space, in a Star Wars world. All I could see in the blackness was a ladder, stretching up above me. I could not see where the ladder led, but I certainly knew death waited below. I was clinging to the bottom two rungs with all my might, dangling dangerously over oblivion and certain to be swallowed by the nearest black hole if I fell off the ladder. I would try to climb up, and would gain traction for a minute, but then I would fall back to the bottom rung, feet swinging in panic. These dreams were both waking and sleeping dreams.

I remember tossing and turning one afternoon when I was by myself in my room. I turned toward the wall and tried to force dreamless sleep. As the same dream overwhelmed me, I heard someone come softly padding into the room. I knew it was Jesus. He sat down next to me as I lay facing the wall. He said nothing, but he put his hand on my back and patted me, gently rubbing my back. If he had spoken, he would have said “Do not worry, it will all be okay, you are safe.” I did not turn to look at him. There was so much more comfort and peace in knowing he was there without challenging God by making Jesus appear in the flesh to me. After a few comforting minutes, he got up and padded out of the room. To this day, if I am lying on my side and my husband pats my back, I feel subtle aftershocks from that moment.

I was not a church-goer at 24 years old. I grew up Methodist, but only reluctantly went to church. I enjoyed learning about other religions in Religion 101 at college, but I was your typical liberal arts educated cynic. After college, I tried a few different denominations, but still felt unfulfilled and unconvinced. It was strange thus to me that in my most trying hours, I had such a visceral bond with God and Jesus. I was shocked that he was sent to comfort me, a skeptic. As you read my story, you will see that Jesus came to comfort me, to instill faith, so that one day I would walk alone, without him. Strong, triumphant, joyous, peaceful, fulfilled, illuminated, and alone.

You might think this is just another born-again Christian story. On the contrary. As the underlying problems that plague Christianity and the other modern religions revealed themselves to me over the next ten years, I knew I was not a born-again Christian. I am just me, the author of my own faith.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Pay attention, I need you to see"

I remember a heightened awareness of living things that night. From the upstairs bedroom, I felt (not heard, but felt) that there was a bird trapped in the fireplace downstairs. I could literally feel this animal suffering and scared. I asked Andy if he heard anything and he said no. I told him there was a bird trapped in the fireplace and he wondered how I knew. We went downstairs and sure enough, there was a bird in the fireplace. Andy rescued him and released him into the night.

While I did not sleep that night, I did drift in and out of consciousness. I would look over at Andy who was trying to sleep and he would have disappeared into the covers. He was not there. I was alone. Alone in the dark, sleepless, but learning. My mind was always working and always learning. Insatiably. God was not speaking audibly to me…he was simply unveiling himself. My knowledge of God was coming into focus. It had always been there; it’s just that now I could see it. He was lifting the veil. He did not reveal everything all at once. It took many years to see the full picture. It was just that night that he seemed to tap me on the shoulder, and say “pay attention, I need you to see.”

Imagine in your darkest hour, tired and terrified, when you feel death is imminent …imagine then that you are told you have been sent to save the world and deliver all of us to heaven on earth. What a juxtaposition! My emotions? Disbelief, relief, wonder, sadness, joy, curiosity, confusion. But most of all I felt not alone. I felt a hand, a spirit, a teacher, what I knew as God, right there with me, pouring life and strength back into me.

As sick as I was from five nights and days of no sleep and no food, and in spite of my faith in God’s ability to heal me, I wondered if I might die. I thought perhaps no medical miracle could save me, even if I was destined to change the world. I had been sent the message, my mission was cast, I had seen the light… but getting through the immediate health emergency was critical and seemed improbable. Saving the world could wait; I needed to not die. I would survive to write this tale, but I would wait…I would begin the long gestation period.


I guess the sun rose that Saturday morning, February 19, 2000. My vision was so foggy. Light seemed blinding. I could not find a balance between eyes wide open and eyes screwed shut. As Johnny Cash sings, there was “no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.”

Andy moved me down to the couch in our den. I guess he may have offered me food but by now he knew that was pointless. From what I can recall, Andy continued to be as calm and as comforting as he could be to me. I knew I needed to see my parents, but was not sure even they could soothe my raw, brittle, agitated edges.

My parents arrived from the airport sometime late that morning. Though it was hard for me to see anything clearly, I knew my parents’ touch and voice. They tried to smile and soothe, but I could see the shock and confusion in their eyes. They had never seen me or anyone else in this state.

While I babbled incoherently, we all moved to the kitchen table. My mother tried to get me to eat some cereal. I remember throwing the bowl full of milk and cereal on the floor. Why, you might ask, did I do that? I felt that God was with me, in me, of me....I had become him and he had become me. I was sure I could perform miracles, or at least access God's miracles. But at the same time, I questioned God: “if you can save me and you think I can save the world, then show me a miracle by cleaning up my mundane mess on the kitchen floor.” It was the true skeptic in me coming through. Within hours of God tapping me on the shoulder and commissioning me for the greatest assignment known to man, I was asking him to make a miracle. “Clean up my cereal if you want me to do your bidding” was the ridiculous reply I had to God’s gift to me. It was exemplary of the extreme range of emotions I would feel over the next decade once charged with my special knowledge. As you might imagine, I would love and hate the message revealed to me over the next ten years. It would seem both a burden and a gift, both a release and a responsibility, both a new knowledge and an ancient truth…both a blessing and a curse. In the beginning, I would be at times both conflicted and resolute. As I learned more about my purpose in this life, I felt more resolute and less conflicted.

Appropriately, my mother cleaned up my cereal. Well, there’s your miracle.

Mom is great in crisis. So is Dad. It took both of them huddling to figure out what to do with me. Mom called a family friend who was a physician. Over the phone, he told her I needed to get to a psychiatric facility as quickly as I could. They called Norfolk Psychiatric Hospital and found an available bed. My parents turned to me and asked if I would voluntarily commit myself, because for some reason it would all go a lot smoother and quicker if I did it voluntarily. I said of course, I would welcome some medical treatment. Just don’t let me die.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Picture perfect projects

The next 48 hours are blurry and the chronology is inexact for me. I know on Friday afternoon we packed up my Jeep and Andy drove me from Richmond down to my hometown of Norfolk. We thought about checking me into Norfolk General Hospital, and I tried to direct him to the hospital, but I was a babbling, dehydrated, frenzied mess. It was a good thing he had gassed up the Jeep, because we took some long, lost detours through Hampton Roads, Virginia.

I was still feeling overhyped and excited. Though seriously impaired, my brain seemed to be revealing things to me. Looking back, it smacked of hallucination, but to me it seemed I was getting a picture of an altered reality, or of a different dimension, or of a future time. Or all three.

Andy just kept driving and driving past some familiar landmarks. I was so tired that I could barely peek out from under my heavy lids, but I do remember this vision of heaven on earth distinctly: we passed a public housing project on the right, which had always looked run down and sad. The bricks were always mildewed, the grass was more dirt than grass, the people were weary and poor and hunched over with what seemed like bitter resignation. There were never any children outside. When we drove past the projects on that Friday in February, I saw beautifully manicured lawns, and graceful trees and bright flowerboxes and fluttering curtains and freshly painted doors and lots and lots of kids laughing and playing in the yards. The sun shone warmly and the sky was a pure and perfect Carolina blue. And the birds! There were brilliant songbirds of every color soaring and sailing and singing in the bright sun. And there were happy mamas and proud papas and friendly neighbors and lots of smiling and joking and carrying on. The kids in particular waved and beamed as we drove by, and I can remember the spotless white teeth set against the healthy black skin. It was as if the kids were saying “Come on over, join the party!” and because it looked like the happiest place I had ever seen I wanted to be with them. I would look back later and realize I was looking at the future, at what heaven on earth would look like.

But we had no time to join the picture perfect tableau. I was about to jump out of my skin. I was sure I was dying. Andy kept following my cryptic directions. For some reason we passed up the hospital and instead checked into the downtown Marriott. I would later find out that for someone in my position money is no object….irrational and exuberant spending are the norm. We just whipped out my credit card and checked in that afternoon. I knew my parents were due back the next day, and a hotel seemed like a safe place to light.

Within a few hours of checking in, I changed my mind. The hotel room seemed like a dark tomb, a tomb that yielded no sleep. Late that night, we left the hotel and drove to my parents’ house in the West Ghent neighborhood. I was simply delirious.

We went up to the guest bedroom and I fell on to the bed, beyond exhausted. This would be a long night.

I tried to sleep but I was clearly beyond sleep. I visualized myself as Jesus, come to earth 2000 years later to love those whom love forgot, to heal those hurt by human hands. To show everyone what unconditional love felt like. Because in spite of my sleep-deprived state, I felt an overpowering, all encompassing, unconditional love for every person on earth. I felt just like God, like I had 6 billion beautifully perfect but pained children, striving to find my love but not knowing where to find me or how to access that perfect love. I felt overwhelmingly blessed to feel this God-Love, but terribly sad to think there were those out there who were lost or longing, or hurt or forgotten, or sick or afraid. I hurt because everyone was still seeking that which I had found, and I wanted more than anything to give this love to them. I just didn’t know how.

For some reason, I fixated on young women with eating disorders. Though I never suffered from an eating disorder, I knew many who had. I envisioned myself living in a stately cottage on Cape Cod, and that anorexics and bulimics would come to my house to be healed. I saw myself saying “I love you, more than you can know. You are all beautiful, so beautiful, exactly as you are. There is nothing to be afraid of….I will never ever stop loving you. Love yourself as I love you and you will be healed. We all love you more than we can express.”

I also saw myself making the same promise to the worst criminals incarcerated in the nation’s maximum security prisons. I saw myself hugging them and holding their faces in my hands and looking them in the eyes and seeing all of their pain and hate and fear, and healing the parts of them that were hurting. I saw myself, loving the parts of them that no one else had.

As sick and scared as I felt, I also felt very, very lucky. Who would not feel lucky to be the one God chose to come save the world? What got me through the darkest of hours that night was my core belief in myself, in Hilary Elizabeth Martin. The twisted ego trip that christened me the Second Coming also gave me the faith in myself that would help me survive this night and many dark nights to come. If you think you have come to save the world, suicide becomes an impossibility. At my most severely depressed, when I would playfully flick at the edge of the boning knife and wonder how long it would take for me to bleed to death, I thought “There are too many people counting on me, and waiting for me, and starved for my message, to kill myself.” That egotism saved my life on many occasions.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Still no sleep

Andy was shaken by all of this. He was trying to comfort me and encourage me to eat and make our apartment amenable to sleeping. But he knew he could not handle this alone. He sent me to my doctor who gave me a sleeping pill. Also on Thursday, we called my parents who were on a cruise in the southern Caribbean. They were not due to fly back for several days, but they quickly discerned the gravity of the situation and arranged to get back on Saturday.

I kept trying to eat, to no avail. I couldn’t even swallow. But boy could I talk! My speech was stream of consciousness. To me it made perfect sense: the leaping from one unfinished thought to another, full of purpose but absent direction. I felt I could not talk fast enough to keep up with the rapid firing pistons in my brain.

When I went to the drugstore to get my sleeping pill, I had the most unusual feeling (although I soon learned that a panoply of new feelings were in store). I felt like others were looking at me with recognition. As if they knew me, but more than that. As if they knew I was special, touched, destined to do great things. Could they know I was the Second Coming? Had they been waiting for me all along? They seemed to look on me with joyous expectation. They looked at me unflinchingly and kindly. Looking back on it now, I think it more likely was concern that I saw in their eyes, and a sweet sympathy for someone who looked as sick as I did. But I wonder….

On Thursday night I tried to relax before bedtime by watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” This was a strange experience. I swear Regis Philbin looked right at me several times and asked me if I knew the answers. I also felt like I could transmit correct answers to the contestants, telepathically. I knew all the answers.

By Friday morning I was terrified. Four days and nights without sleeping or eating. We tried to call my parents again, but it was virtually impossible to reach them and the call cost a fortune per minute. My mother has a recurring dream that she is trying to call one of her children and cannot get through either because she cannot remember the number, cannot see to dial the number, or the line goes dead. That’s what it felt like on both ends.

I do remember asking my mother over the phone if she trusted me. Perhaps a sensible request for someone who thinks they are the almighty saviour, but it had to be scary for my mom to know she HAD to trust me because she was an ocean away. To be truthful, she had to trust Andy, and he did very admirably in a time of crisis. This trust concern will be a theme for my mother and me. Fast forward ten years and we will hear Mom’s final answer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The next day I went to work. I was distracted, and again I could not eat. I tried to choke down crackers and Coke, but just felt gaggy. I was tired, but energized. I felt sharp, wired, caffeinated.

As I lay down to bed that night, I wondered where my mind was going. It felt unharnessed, like it had jumped its tracks. Racing thoughts…..spinning gears….the documents in my brain’s hard drive were shuffling and re-shuffling like a deck of cards.

I went to work on Wednesday having had no sleep since Sunday night. I kept reassuring myself that it was no big deal. People operated on little or no sleep all the time. And I believed my Dad’s refrain: “Your body will sleep when it needs to.”

I actually felt pretty effective at work. Multitasking came naturally.

That night, when I lay awake while the alarm clock teased me, I started worrying that something was pretty wrong with a girl who could not eat or sleep. I knew I was sick, but with what I had no clue. So I made a list of things I needed to do at work to be caught up in the next week, because my gut told me I would have to miss some work to tend to myself. Then, at 2:45 a.m., I got in my car and drove to Capital One and worked for a good two hours. I tidied up my desk and left a couple of notes of instruction for my boss. The good thing about working in the movie Office Space is that you are totally disposable and not many people will miss you if you’re gone.

That was the last I saw of Capital One for over a month.


On Thursday I begin having bizarre thoughts. I felt like I was very close to Jesus and God. In my sleep-deprived state, I wondered if perhaps I was Jesus?

On Thursday morning I watched Later Today on NBC. Florence Henderson interviewed Michael Clarke Duncan from the Green Mile. He spoke about how special it was to play a man who could heal people through touch. He said it gave him an inkling of what it felt like to be Jesus. I thought, “My God! He feels like I do!” Surely the lack of sleep was playing tricks on me. How crazy it sounds to say you feel like Jesus! But to be sure, I felt a huge capacity for love, and a tremendous empathy for those around me. All the while, my mind continued to race and leap and somersault in a hundred different directions.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Core truths and the beginning of the story

First, the truths I have learned that are the foundation of my new world view, of the new faith that exhilerates and liberates and comforts and nourishes me. It's a faith that has guided me into heaven on earth. It's a faith that I have never seen in the world before....a religion with roots in all the religions that have come before it but that stands on its own in elemental and transcendent ways. If you've ever had a doubt about your own faith or wondered if something is missing, or if you ever had a question your religion could not answer, or if you have ever longed for a beacon to light your way out of the maze in which we find ourselves, read on....because that's where I was too, and now I SEE.

Core truths (there are more but this is just the beginning):

1) There is no hell.
2) There is no original sin; we are not born sinners. We are born perfect.
3) There is not now and never will be a judgment day.
4) Heaven on earth is real, it is radiant, and it is coming for all of us very soon.
5) Fear is the opposite of love and in heaven on earth, there is no fear.
6) We are graduating from our current concept of God and he could not be happier....it has been a long time coming for him. God does not want or need worship; he wants us to stand on our own and turn the love we have showered on him for thousands of years back on ourselves. He knows we are ready now and he is brimming with excitement.
7) You are God. "Through a glass darkly, then face to face." When the veil is finally lifted, you look in the mirror at God and it is you. It is like finding your twin soul, reclaiming your best friend, meeting your heart's desire after millennia of being apart. It is fun and funny and familiar and such a relief. You will laugh and cry and marvel with a big grin at the simplicity of it. You have known the truth all along.
8) You don't need to do anything more to be ready for heaven on earth. No more praying or perfecting or purifying or atoning...we are all ready exactly as we are and no one will be denied entry.
9) You do not have to try to love unconditionally anymore. All you have to be able to do is receive unconditional love.
10) Worshipping a deity external to ourselves has failed us in so many ways because it is the wrong premise. Loving others or God above yourself is backwards. Self-love is the first, most beautiful and reverent love, and all other loves follow from that in ever increasing tidal waves. You can do nothing else but love others when you love yourself without bounds first.

I found this new faith and I rejoice in it, but you need not turn aside your own religion to enter heaven on earth. If your religion (or lack thereof) resonates in your own heart and clarifies truth for you, then I exalt in it. It is perfect for you. It is just such a joy to find what is perfect for me. And I am thrilled to be able to share my discovery with you.

Now I need to tell you how I came to understand the core truths, as my faith has been years in the making. It's been a long and involuntary journey. I did not seek out this faith, rather it found me. Let's go back to the beginning of the story....

How did I come to find myself in heaven? There’s no short answer. Many people claim to have been to heaven, and I believe them. Some have gotten there via near death experiences, some get there through meditation. Some see heaven through the lens of psychadelic drugs. Others find it through asceticism or religious rapture. Others go there when they are very sick.

My journey to heaven on earth started with me getting very sick.

It was Valentine’s Day 2000. I was 24 years old and I lived in Richmond, Virginia. I had a job at Capital One and a nice apartment in the Fan. I was dating Andy, a fellow volleyball player from a nice Richmond family.

His family took me out to one of my favorite Italian restaurants for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you’re like me and a million others, Valentine’s Day has generally been a disappointment…..a day bloated with chocolate and expectations. For a day when we honor perfect love, it seems a lot more like an annual reminder that our love is never quite perfect enough.

I was stressed about my job because I didn’t know how I could keep waking up every day in the movie Office Space. I was stressed about my boyfriend because he did not have a degree or a full-time job. I was in a big city that had a lot to offer those who grew up in its gentrified embrace, but that sniffed superiorly at outsiders.

On that Monday night, I ordered my favorite Italian dish and engaged in the usual small talk, but found I had no appetite. I was not nauseous, but nervous. Something in me seemed agitated and restless.

That night I could not sleep. I couldn’t explain what was brewing in me, but something stormed all right.

Continued in next post....

God, to have these guys in a room together again....