The Poem of My Life
Faith For Today and Hope For Tomorrow
Finding the place to start writing about any topic is difficult for me. But when it's about my own life (to this point), I find the task even that much more difficult. Does one start from the 'beginning' or just jump into the middle of the story?
I've known that I wanted to share my 'story' with others for quite some time. My wife beat me to the task and wrote her own condensed autobiography before I did. However, the success of her story in spreading hope to others has encouraged me to finally tell mine. I share it to encourage those who have gone through the same and those who will.
Our lives are lyrics written by God; Paintings created by God; poems rhymed by God. This is the Poem of My Life.
The Poem Of Your Life - Michael Card
Harold George Dyer
My father was a good man. He was born in Alma, Nebraska, and except for a short tour with the Navy in Pensacola, FL, he lived in Nebraska his whole life. He has been described by friends as an extremely happy man who whistled continually. He had beautiful sky-blue eyes with long eyelashes. It seems strange to hear that said about a man, but I've had it said about me, too. I guess some things really are inherited.
My father loved the outdoors. He loved to hunt and fish and plant flowers. He enjoyed riding his bicycle and when he returned home every evening from work, he would gather his family together to go for a ride. He would put my sister on the back of his bicycle and my mother would put me on the front of her bicycle and away we would go to our friends house just a few doors down. When we got close enough to their house, my father would whistle as loudly as he could and our friends would hurry out and jump on their bicycles (with four kids...one on the front, one on the back for each of them) and we all would spend the rest of the evening riding all over our small Nebraska hometown.
My father loved Jesus, his wife and his children more than anything else in this world.
My father died in September 1973 of a rare systemic virus. He came home from work one day, sat down in his chair and passed away. One of our neighbors came over to the house for some reason, and when no one answered the door, she looked in through one of the windows, saw my father and called for help.
My father was 36.
Songs that changed my life - Poiema
Books that changed my life
The updated New American Standard Bible in a travel-along size with a beautiful Italian Duo-Tone leather cover.
Cheryl Joan Haney
My mother was a remarkable woman. She was born in Kearney, Nebraska, in the middle of World War II and lived her entire life in Nebraska. She had a cute smile and beautiful blue eyes.
My mother made a positive impact in the lives of everyone she came into contact with. One of her friends told me, "...to this day, I'll say to myself if something has me puzzled, 'I wonder what Cheryl would do or say.' Just think, I'll be in heaven with her someday. Sometimes, I ache to see her again. I loved her so very much. I looked up to her."
My mother loved dogs. She started a dog grooming business and had plans with my father to one day open a pet store. She had thirteen dogs (mostly Schnauzers) at one time that she wanted to use for breeding puppies that could be sold in the pet store.
My mother also had a passion for music. Her desire was to make a record (when they were still called 'records') with her best friend. She wanted to use music to share her relationship with Jesus with others, and she also wanted to leave a recording of music to my sister and myself as a legacy.
My mother died in December 1974, just a few weeks before my sixth birthday, of ovarian cancer. She didn't know she had it. She had been to the doctor many times during the year, but the cancer was not found until late November, 1974. From the time the cancer was found to the day she died was around ten days.
My mother was 31.
Songs that changed my life - Adonai
Books that changed my life
Internationally renowned because of his earlier books, among them tape Letters, Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis - making religion provoking, memorable and delightful is still more - latest Reflections on the Psalms. Though he protests that he writes - learned about things in which he is unlearned himself, the reader is likely- thank God for his wise ignorance. Here especially he throws a clear lightly or not, on many of the difficult psalms, such as those which abound with and cursing, and a self-centeredness which seems to assume' that God must be side of the psalmist. These things, which make some psalm singers pre- not there, have a right and proper place, as Mr. Lewis shows us. They - of Psalms more precious still. Many readers owe it to themselves to read - flections if only to learn this hard but simple lesson. Urge everyone to this book. (Kirkus Reviews )
A Change in Identity
Life in Transition
Before my mother passed, she made living arrangements for my older sister and myself. We went to live with our aunt and uncle; my mother's sister. They had two daughters of their own and when we arrived, we had an instant family of six.
Life was difficult. I can remember trying to convince myself that everything was a dream. I wished, prayed, and hoped that I would wake up and my parents would be alive and life would be 'normal' again. As Steven Curtis Chapman has said after the tragic death of his daughter, Maria Sue Chapman, I had to learn a new 'normal'.
I didn't really deal with the loss of my parents until I was a teenager. As I started unpacking the details and dealing with them, I also started my life-struggle with anxiety and depression. At the time I didn't know what I was dealing with, and as I attempted to 'treat' myself, the anxiety and depression only grew worse.
Songs that changed my life - Hold Me Jesus
Books that changed my life
Narnia . . . where lies breed fear . . . where loyalty is tested . . . where all hope seems lost. During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge—not an invader from without but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear in this, the magnificent ending to The Chronicles of Narnia.
My Teen Years
As a child, I was very compliant. Whenever I was asked to do anything, I did it. I won't lie and say that I was perfect, because I wasn't. I had a very bad habit of wandering off and not telling anyone where I was going. And, we lived in the country, so there were many places to go. Now that I have my own children, I see how unsettling it can be to not know where your child is.
My uncle worked as a trucker and was not home very much in the beginning. The company he worked for decided to close the depot in our small town and relocate all drivers to Cheyenne, Wyoming or Lincoln, Nebraska. At first, he was planning to move the family to Cheyenne (Lincoln was never an option). In fact, our entire family of six piled into our old 1970-something Mercury Marquis and visited Cheyenne to look at houses. But, a rude policeman squelched any chance of our family moving there when he gave my uncle a hard time while we were stopped at a local park to eat lunch.
In 1980 he decided to start his own business so he could be home more. However, during the first few years, he was absent nearly 24-hours, 7-days a week. He kept his trucking job and commuted from North Platte, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Then he would get into a truck and drive from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City, Utah, drop off his load and drive back to Cheyenne and then back to North Platte. When he got home, he went to his new business and worked until his next run. I longed to have him home more. Only recently did I find out that he did this so he could pay the mortgage off early.
My aunt tried her best to raise me, but she didn't know how to raise a boy dealing with the death of both his parents (most parents didn't and still don't know how to deal with this). I spent the majority of my time alone in my early teens. I am not saying that I didn't have friends during this time. I did. But I spent most of my time alone and was very lonely.
The Maker of the Universe - Phil Keaggy
The College Years
I went to college at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. I didn't know how I was going to deal with the yet-unnamed anxiety away from home, which only added to it. I was learning to mask the anxiety well by this time, and nobody knew about the turmoil inside my own mind and body.
I made some good friends during this time, and it was during this time while I was in college that I realized Christianity was much more than a religion. I started going back to church whenever I went home for a weekend. I started seeing little victories over the anxiety. Things seemed to be getting better. I was able to do some things that previously caused me too much anxiety.
But there was this underlying feeling that the anxiety was caused by my own sin. I believed that I had done something wrong and was reaping the consequences. It felt as though God was far away in some distant land. I continually cried out for help from Him, but felt he couldn't be trusted to protect me. I experienced every emotion imaginable toward God during this time. I was afraid, angry, penitent. I became legalistic about my faith.
I found a church in Lincoln, Lincoln Berean Church, and became very active with the college ministry. I started serving in the youth ministry and became the worship leader for the youth. I re-discovered a favorite author from high school, CS Lewis. His writings have had the greatest positive impact on my life than anyone or anything to date. When I graduated from the University of Nebraska with a major in German Language Studies and a minor in computer science, I started working at the church full-time as the 'computer guy' and graphic artist. I thought things were going so well.
While things may have been 'getting better', the irrationality of the anxiety led me to attribute the anxious feelings with the place where they started: home in North Platte. As that lie strengthened, I went home less frequently. I would avoid it as long as I could but would finally feel obligated to visit. I was feeling controlled by the expectations of my aunt and uncle and masking my anxiety behind anger toward them.
It was a difficult time. But, I thought things were getting better. I thought I could manage the anxiety on my own. I was wrong.
Books that changed my life
In a world where men and women are encouraged to reject traditional sex roles, Elisabeth Elliot candidly reminds men why the sexes are not equal and interchangeable. Written as personal advice to her nephew, The Mark of a Man reveals the glory and purpose of true masculinity. With Christ as the example of the ultimate man, this classic take on understanding a man's role in life and relationships, romantic or otherwise, helps men define their own masculinity in a positive way. This timely repackage encourages men to stand strong in their unique role established by God for all time.
Songs that changed my life - Growing Young
Anxiety and Depression
In 1997 I experienced my first panic attack. I was playing my guitar, helping to lead worship one Sunday morning in May. The panic attack wasn't a large one, but if you've ever experienced a panic attack, you know that the last thing you want is to have another one. So, the avoidance begins; avoidance of anything that could trigger another panic attack and the end of playing my guitar in front of large groups. I stopped spending time with friends and family. I stayed close to home, because it was the only place I felt safe. I had trouble going to work. I had trouble driving. I had trouble being in public. I even had trouble talking on the phone.
My focus turned toward finding distractions.
- I bought a computer (the internet became my friend...do you know how much you can buy from the web so you can avoid going places?). That distracted me for a while.
- I bought a new Bible...a big Ryrie NIV Study Bible, thinking that the study notes and the simpler translation would help me find the 'cure' which had to be in the Scriptures somewhere.
- I made a mandolin and an electric guitar from kits I bought off the internet.
- I started trying to self-medicate by smoking cigars and pipes.
- I bought a house.
- I got a dog.
- I got another dog.
- I worked in my new backyard.
- I tried multiple over-the-counter and herbal remedies: Benadryl, St John's Wort, Valerian Root, Kava, B-Complex vitamins, Melatonin, and I'm sure I'm missing some.
Again, things started getting better. But, nothing really helped long-term.
Then, in May 2000, I had a large panic attack. To this point, my home was still my safe-zone. I didn't feel the anxiety there (at least not like I did when I was away from home). When this panic attack hit me, I was in a staff meeting at work. I excused myself and went to my office. Panic attacks make you feel like you're having a heart attack. Your heart and your mind start racing and you are unable to think logically. Literally, you feel like you are dying.
I lay down on the floor in my office, trying to calm myself. This time, removing myself from the situation (i.e. - the staff meeting) didn't calm me. The only thing I could think of doing was to completely remove myself from the 'world' and retreat to my safe-zone. I knew that if I could get there, I'd be fine. So, I drove home, which was one of the most difficult tasks I've ever done.
When I got home, I lay down on my bed and again tried to calm myself. It didn't help. Everything I tried that used to help, failed me in my deepest hour of need. I got up and grabbed a liter of water and went to my unfinished basement and started walking the perimeter. When I finished the first liter I got another and kept walking and drinking. After two hours of walking I knew this panic attack wasn't going away, and I realized that I had two options:
- Call someone for help (divulging my long-kept secret)
- Commit suicide
The second option was never a valid choice for me. So, I called a pastor at my church and explained how I was feeling and what was going on physically. He recognized that it was a panic attack (to this point I didn't have a label for what I was experiencing) and he called my doctor.
My doctor phoned me and prescribed some medication for me and had me come to his office for a physical. I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it to his office, but the medication did its job and I made it to the office with no problems. After a number of tests, he diagnosed me with anxiety accompanied by depression. He prescribed some medication and referred me to a counselor.
From that point forward, my recovery has been dramatic. Things that I never dreamed would be possible are now reality.
Books that changed my life
A classic best-seller. "Lord, I must speak of Thee" wrote Tozer, "lest by my silence I offend against the generation of Thy children."
Songs that changed my life - When Night Falls
Please, do not misunderstand me. I still deal with anxiety daily. For some people it may go away completely, but that has not happened for me. I take medication daily to help control the anxiety, and that is completely acceptable to me. I would rather take medication for the rest of my life than live an anxiety-riddled half-life, hidden away from the world. The medication has given me my life back.
Today, I am married to the most beautiful, loving, caring woman on the face of the earth. Jeanine and I met on the internet in June 2001. You can read a bit more of our story here. She has played a large part in my continued recovery. She loves me without judgment. I couldn't ask for more.
When Jeanine and I met, she lived in Arizona and I lived in Nebraska. I flew her to Nebraska in October 2001 so we could meet face-to-face. I flew her and her two children (from a previous marriage) to Nebraska in November 2001 for Thanksgiving. Three weeks later, I moved to Arizona and we were married on June 15, 2002.
When the anxiety was ruling my life, which lasted for the majority of my life to date, I never believed I would be married, let alone have children. I desired it, prayed for it, longed for it. But deep down, I despaired. I could never imagine myself telling anyone that I struggled with anxiety and depression. However, combine good medication, an understanding and loving woman, and a faithful God, and my anxiety melted away and that dream became a reality.
Another 'un-named' fear that had been a heavy stone in the back-pack of my life disappeared quickly. It was as if it disappeared overnight. At this point I don't feel comfortable explaining this one, but I never thought I would be free from it. I am.
I was captive in my home for many years. I stayed home, because I couldn't bear the struggle inside my heart and mind when I went anywhere. That was another manifestation of the anxiety that disappeared almost overnight.
I was unable to ride in a car or drive a car anywhere with passengers. After the medication, this still hung on for a while. I felt trapped. But when I met my wife, I believe I experienced for the first time total acceptance. She was not judgmental and though she may not have understood what I was dealing with, she accepted me completely. Something changed inside me during her second visit to Nebraska, and that 'Giant' was slain!
I saw a counselor for about a year which helped me a bit. He helped me work through the triggers that fired the 'anxiety juice'. Once I knew what the triggers were, I started working on destroying the lies that pulled those triggers. Overcoming anxiety in my life is a continuing process. Every morning I have to choose what I will believe.
If you are struggling with anxiety, please know that healing takes time. This is a 'long-haul' kind of thing. Stick with one Dr and counselor. Find the combination of medication that works for you. Your doctor should be seeing you on a regular basis, at least once a month in the beginning, hopefully more frequently.
And remember, there is always hope. Do not isolate yourself from other people. Force yourself to be social, even if you don't want to. Isolation will only make you more depressed and re-enforce the anxiety. Find someone you can share EVERYTHING with, someone who will listen and not judge, or try to fix you (suggestions, however, are always appreciated), someone you can call whenever you need to.
So, lean on God by getting the medical and psychological help you need. DO NOT give up.
Joy in the Journey - Michael Card
The Poem of My Life by Jeffrey L Dyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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