About Mental Health – A Repost

What follows is a repost of something I shared last week on my blog but took down shortly thereafter. I edited, added to, then shared it on Facebook. I have since deleted all social media accounts because it became too much for me to process.

I think I have Asperger’s Syndrome, or what is now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

After the devastating loss of yet another friend and love interest, I set out on a journey of self-discovery and came to an unsettling, yet definitive conclusion. I started off with a simple Google search, “Why can’t I make and keep friends?” That was a hard question to allow myself to ask, even to a search bot, but I was in deep emotional turmoil at the time and desperate for answers.

The overwhelming response to my query, both in webpage returns and YouTube videos was, “Could it be Asperger’s?” I watched the videos that experts and other “Aspies” shared, and to my great relief, their symptoms and personality quirks closely mirrored my own. Some I have learned to overcome, but the compulsion to do them is still there, and I saw each of them reflected in the precious people who laid their lives bare for all to see. I finally felt like I belonged.

That’s when I decided to take a test. Several of them, actually. And the results were all the same: I had a high likelihood of being diagnosed with ASD. With that, I have sought counsel and in the next couple of weeks begin the process of determining a proper diagnosis. I plan to post regular updates of my progress.

Normally this is diagnosed in childhood, but Asperger’s wasn’t a medically accepted diagnosis until 1994; long after I had become an adult. They say it is hereditary and hindsight has given me reason to believe that my dad may have had this issue as well. My mom was always the outgoing one and had lots of friends who would keep in touch. My dad, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say I only ever saw him with family. I don’t remember ever hearing him talk about having a friend, let alone have one call, stop by, or write. It was always just us.

Until my health caused me to exit the workforce, I had been a very successful troubleshooter. That’s my natural ability. I’d see a problem, visualize the process that created it (whether mechanical, electrical, fluid power, or programming), then arrive at a logical solution. Some problems were trickier than others, but I always fixed them.

Sometimes I had dreams about an issue and when I went in to work the next day, that exact problem occurred. I did what I saw myself do in the dream and that fixed it every time. This happened to me dozens of times in every place I have ever worked. I could never explain why.

Aspies manifest their symptoms in ways as unique as the individual, but for me, people are my kryptonite. I tend to look at them the same way I do a machine or manufacturing process. I was good at solving those kinds of problems and I never thought people were any different. I think methodically, so everyone else does too, right?

As most of you already know, this isn’t how social interaction works. So, I learned to adapt. I became an intense listener. If I find a subject (person or topic) interesting, I digest and retain information like a hard drive. Observing and listening to someone provides me with the background I need to figure out how to interact with them. That’s why it takes me so long to make friends.

Once I have sufficient knowledge and experience with someone, I can then begin to anticipate how they will respond and gradually unveil myself to them. If I don’t have anything in common with them, humor, or rather, sarcasm is a huge part of the self-revelation process for me. I could never really formulate a joke myself, but my sense of sarcasm is razor sharp and I’m not afraid to use it. Regretfully, this often occurs at the expense of an innocent bystander.

I also discovered I had a talent for imitation. I could make people laugh by doing an impression of someone or something – cartoon characters were a favorite – and I enjoyed the response I got. Say something that reminds me of a pop culture reference, and I will regurgitate that scene to its penultimate end. If my friends followed along like we were on the same page, then the shared nostalgic experience made me feel accepted. As long as I made them laugh, I thought I was doing well. I had no idea I could have been alienating people at the same time.

Despite my ability to make them laugh, my friends and co-workers all but disappeared into shadow. From that, I have learned that just because someone enjoys your company, doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be your companion. Friendly and friends are two very different things. Just like loveable and loving. The capability may be there, but how they treat you must match how they talk to you or it’s just words, and I tend not to see the difference until after the relationship is over.

Because of that, romance has always been a nightmare for me. Especially at the beginning. Unless I initiate the flirtation (which is beyond rare), I never seem to pick up on it. I look back on my life and I am grateful for my naivety, as I am sure it saved me from a lot of pain, misery, and penicillin. But I remember those instances like they were yesterday and now I can clearly see everything that flew right over my head.

Here’s a perfect example of how naïve I am in that department. When I was 27, an 18-year-old girl came to my apartment, stripped naked, and asked me for a massage. So, completely oblivious of her intentions, I gave her a massage. She thanked me, got dressed, and went home. She did this on two separate occasions. Since I thought she needed me, I equated that with friendship because it was a form of acceptance, and that was what I needed.

As I grew older, my need to be needed waned and I grew tired of people using me for what I could do for them. This developed into a problem because that is the very nature of employment. I became contentious and condescending to everyone who didn’t think like me. I hated my boss, and I hated my job. What was once a creative outlet for me turned into a hostile working environment, and as a result, my health deteriorated.

If I volunteered my services, that was different. If I saw a need and wanted to fill it, or I saw something that needed fixing and wanted to fix it, then I enjoyed helping. That statement holds true for me today and it is how I decide when, where, and for how long I offer my services. I have left employers and religious organizations because I felt used. The acid test of whether I was right to leave was how they treated me afterward. Without exception, I have no regrets.

I no longer need to be needed. Now I want to be wanted. Professionally, socially, and romantically. It’s a subtle difference, but I prefer someone choose me because they like who I am rather than because I fill a need in their life or workforce. And I don’t want to have to convince anyone that their opinion of me is right or wrong. Manipulating someone else to get what I want isn’t right. I’m not a puppeteer. That’s not respectful of them, it isn’t respectful of me, and it’s no basis for any kind of relationship.

In my opinion, giving your time, talent, and ability to someone who doesn’t respect you as a person in order to gain their approval, friendship, love, or anything else to make yourself feel better is equal in every way to someone who harms themselves because they don’t want to feel any emotion at all. Whether that self-abuse comes through surrendering their body for the pleasure of another, self-medication, intoxication, or mutilation is irrelevant. Both are trying to escape what they feel by compromising themselves for the benefit of the ungrateful. They are opposite sides of the same coin, and they only serve to destroy the person we were created to be. It is a slow and malicious form of suicide, and I will never compromise who I am for the sake of another again.

At the time I am sharing this, I am 52 years old, I have never been married, I don’t have any kids, I can count the number of true friends I have (not including family) on one hand, and I have never had a romantic relationship last longer than a couple of months. I say this not to garner sympathy or to entice the ghosts of relationships past to return (that must be their decision, not a compulsion of my contrition), but rather so that those who have not abandoned me will understand me better and thus stabilize what friendships remain. And, hopefully, those whom I have yet to befriend will grant me grace in the befriending.

So, here I am at the end of this post and, alas, I have lost another love. Seven years of friendship; gone. Unlike all those who came before her, it saddens me greatly to think I shall never see or speak to her again. Despite my tragic loss, I would, however, like to thank her for leaving me. If she hadn’t, I am sure I would never have sought to understand why people discard me so easily and why I so often adapt to it as if I were changing a tire.

They say time heals all wounds, but if time is part of the pain, how then shall it heal?

What is it the French say? C’est la vie. That’s life. Well, that may be, but I sure don’t have to accept it willingly. And the knowledge I have gained from this experience will become a part of the next. Maybe one day I’ll get it right.

In the meantime, life goes on and so shall I. I wish her well and hope she finds the love that I had hoped to give her. She and her children deserve that much.

Finally, I realize that many of those whom I have offended over the years will never see this, but I would like to offer my apologies to them just the same.

If you were my co-worker, I shared what I knew not because I thought you didn’t know your job, but rather because I knew you did. I now see that I came across as a know-it-all or like I was self-righteous, but I just wanted you to have all of the information I did, no matter how trivial.

If you were my friend, I probably shared more information than you wanted to know because I trusted you with it. I thought you’d appreciate my openness, and more often than not, I wanted you to share your opinion.

My intention is always to be truthful, and I see that compulsion often comes across as blunt, heartless, and/or insulting. Until recently, understanding why never concerned me. The loss of my dearest love has given me ample reason to correct that attitude. I am truly sorry for offending her.

If I could have one wish, it would be that people would be as brutally honest with me as I am with them. My feelings are not nearly as sensitive as yours, believe me. I can handle the venom and vitriol better than the vacuum its absence leaves. Talk to me, yell at me, call me names; I don’t care. The more real you are, the better I understand. The better I understand, the more stable the relationship becomes.

I don’t want to use ASD as an excuse to justify anything I have said or done, but I am hoping that knowing this helps those who want to either repair or maintain a relationship with me to better understand my mannerisms in the future, or at the very least, give them a reason to stop and ask questions before walking away in anger – again.

I may be lonely for a while, but now that I understand myself better than I have before, I am hopeful that sharing this insight with everyone will gain me a moment’s mercy and people will be willing to talk through their concerns instead of withdrawing into cruel, deafening silence.

I realize this has been a weighty thing to share, but I felt it was important. Besides, with cancel culture sweeping the globe like wildfire, I am hoping that by inspiring others to take the time to ask questions before getting offended, it will go a long way to helping heal the world’s woes.

If my story changes the heart and mind of one person for the better, then it was worth it.

God bless and thank you for your time.

About Forgiveness

I’m finding it difficult to find the words to start this post. I know what I want to say, I just don’t have a clear idea how to get there, yet. Have you ever done that? You can see where you want to go, but you’re not quite sure how to get there? I think forgiveness can be like that sometimes.

We know that we should forgive someone for what they’ve done, either to us or in spite of us, but there’s that persistent little devil inside with a death grip on your emotions. He wants to squeeze every bit of resentment, hate, and rage out of you before it’s satisfied that it has ruined another relationship for you. In times like that, we feel like we don’t want to forgive. We want to be angry. We want to justify our words and actions.

We know that forgiveness will bring our hearts and minds the peace we so desperately need, so why do we so often choose to wrap ourselves in a blanket of bitterness instead? In my opinion, we do so because we harbor no hope for reconciliation. Since we see no path forward, we embed ourselves in the disappointing ground we know so well.

In that moment, forgiveness seems so close you can touch it, yet too far to grasp.

Okay, enough of the “woe is me” nonsense for now. Let’s look at things from God’s perspective.

Forgiveness, as He sees it, covers the past, present, and future because He is outside of time. It is an integral part of His eternal, unchanging nature and therefore has and will continue to exist forever. That is the true nature of forgiveness. And, unfortunately, according to the rule of opposites, unforgiveness also encompasses the past, present, and future.

I think I can explain this better with the following analogy.

If someone offends us and that offense endangers the relationship, then no matter how much good they have done for us in the past, your present unforgiveness prevents them from ever approaching you to resolve the issue in the future. So long as you harbor hate in your heart, there is nothing they can do to repair the relationship regardless of how hard they try.

But, if we follow His example, then hope springs eternal. When we presently choose to forgive someone of their past offense, then we open the door to a future moment when the offender humbles themselves, acknowledges their wrongdoing, and repents of what they have done, thus restoring the relationship. This is what true forgiveness must look and act like because it is what He has done for us.

God has already forgiven all of our sin. Past, present, and future. That does not mean that we are all going to heaven by default. That means that the door to heaven is open and we have free access to approach the throne of God and receive it through humility, contrition, and repentance. He isn’t waiting to strike us down the moment we attempt to approach Him. He isn’t standing in judgement of our sin until we do, either. The moment we die is when our choices become permanent. Until then, there isn’t anything that we have broken that He isn’t willing and able to fix.

Forgiveness and unforgiveness are flip sides of the same coin and thus both are eternal.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14 & 15 (NKJV)

God isn’t telling us that to manipulate us. It’s called informed consent. He’s letting us know the consequences of our choices before we make them and “I was upset” will not be an acceptable excuse for them when we stand before Him in judgment.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” Deuteronomy 30:19 (NKJV)

None of us are so perfect that we can afford to hold on to offence. Let it go.

About Me

I have heard it said that the first rule of writing is to write what you know. Well, I know me, so, that subject has never really been interesting to me. I imagine it is the same for most everybody. We are taught not to brag, so most people resort to self-deprecation in order to appear humble. Conversely, we charismatics have learned not to speak negatively, so we just avoid ourselves as a topic of conversation altogether. Throw in the ever-growing threat of identity theft and it’s a wonder anyone ever talks about themselves at all.

So, in the interests of being reserved (and very vague) about sharing things that could compromise the security of my digital self, I hope to present a balanced view without being overly boastful or belittling of myself. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as they used to say on Dragnet.

I am what is lovingly referred to as, a Hoosier. That is, I was born and raised in Indiana, and not in the fanatical sense that I enjoy Indiana University sports. I am not a fan of any sport anymore, to be honest. I used to watch professional football, but as a veteran, we parted ways when they allowed the National Anthem to be used as a whipping post for social justice. For my family, friends, and followers outside the United States, I am referring, of course, to gridiron football and not soccer.

As you have probably already surmised, my explanations can be rather long-winded. Not because I like doing so, but rather because I’ve found that people often jump to conclusions if others don’t adequately explain themselves. This is sad, and quite annoying really. I couldn’t tell you how many friendships I have lost because someone took offense rather than taking a moment to ponder what I said. Asking for clarification naturally humbles oneself, so… yeah. That rarely happens. Assumption becomes their reality and the relationship dissolves. Oh well.

Moving on…

Blaise Pascal famously apologized for the great length of a letter he wrote because he didn’t have time to write a shorter one. I think that is what I am doing now: apologizing for not taking longer to be brief. The thirteenth rule in the Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White (of Charlotte’s Web fame), says to “Omit needless words.” Well, I would if I felt that fewer words would be interpreted as I intended them to be 100% of the time. However, given that the English language can have multiple definitions for one word, and that one definition can be shared by multiple words, clarity of intent is likely to diminish as word count does, respectively.

My first book, The Character of Faith, took me three years to write and it is only 83 pages long. The first several drafts were much longer, but I went to great lengths to remove all personality from it. I wanted it to be clinical because it is meant to help diagnose issues we may have with faith. It is neither meant to be a chronicle of my experience, nor an apologetic diatribe, because to have waxed poetic about faith would have made me feel as if the book would have been less relevant to you, and more aggrandizing of me. That is my definition of irrelevant. And there is no point in doing something if it isn’t going to make a difference in the life of another.

The Character of Faith is as sterile and pristine an example of how faith thinks, speaks, and acts as I could muster. I do plan to do a revised and expanded version at some point in the future after other projects are done. In that version, I will include personal experiences and anecdotes that will hopefully be enjoyed by those who best connect with a book when the author does a little self-exposition. For now, The Character of Faith is like a control sample that is universally referenceable.

I wrote two pages of my work history before I realized that I was just journaling my resume for you in excruciatingly boring detail. I will share how my former career came crashing to a halt later, but for now I will just give you the gist of my earlier life experiences for brevity’s sake.

For most of my teenage years and early career, I fixed things. TVs and VCRs with my dad as a kid; electronics in the military; tool & die setup and repair, pneumatic, hydraulic, mechanical, electrical, and electronic installation, maintenance, and repair in various factories; I programmed PLCs, vision systems, lasers, and robots in others; then finally, as a technical writer and software administrator for a medical device manufacturer before medically retiring at 45 years old. During that time, I also created preventive maintenance programs to gain either ISO9000 or QS9000 certification in multiple locations as well as maintaining TS16949 certification in another.

I even briefly worked as an electrician in a locomotive repair shop. That was a dirty job, but I got to test the effectiveness of my repairs by running the engine up and down the track. That was fun!

One day, when I was about 35, I awoke barely able to breathe. I was slurring my words and panting like a dog. I couldn’t get enough to drink and felt like passing out. I called my apartment manager and asked her if she could take me to the hospital. She declined but called for an ambulance and sat with me while I waited. The first person to arrive was a policeman who kept asking me how much I had to drink. “I don’t drink,” I always responded, but he kept asking as he inspected my apartment for empty bottles. He never found any.

When the paramedics arrived, they asked me the same question, but quickly began asking if I was diabetic when I never wavered. When I got to the ER, they gave me a finger stick test and I pegged the meter. For those of you unfamiliar with a glucose meter, that means my blood sugar was greater than 600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Normal is between 70 and 100.

They immediately drew a blood sample, and I pegged the lab test, too. The result came back >1000 mg/dl. My hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) was 14.7%. That’s more than twice the maximum recommended level of 7% or below for diabetics and nearly three times the max normal level of 5% for non-diabetics. The doctor told me that I was lucky I wasn’t in a coma and immediately admitted me to the ICU ward. When they finally released me, my blood sugar was still over 200 mg/dl after four days of fasting. I spent the greater part of the next two weeks recovering before returning to work.

I was referred to an endocrinologist, assigned a dietician, and given a handful of prescriptions to begin taking. Little did I (or my doctors) know just how insulin resistant I was. I began with a regimen of Metformin, but that did nothing, so I graduated to injectable insulin. Basal (long-acting) and bolus (fast-acting).

I didn’t need much at first. My doctor called it “the honeymoon period” – a brief moment of normality after my body had recovered from a major incident. In the weeks and months that followed, I found it hard to adjust to a regimented diet and fell back into my unhealthy habits. I used insulin as a crutch because I could always use more to stabilize.

Bad idea.

At my worst, I was taking 150 units of basal insulin every night, and as much as 180 units of bolus with every meal, two or three times a day. At 540 units, I was using almost 2 full insulin pens a day. “That’s enough to kill an entire stable of horses” as one ER nurse put it. And that was in addition to taking 2000 mg of Metformin, which was supposed to help my body use insulin.

In a matter of 6 years, I gained over 170 pounds because I failed to understand that insulin reduces your blood sugar by converting it into fat. I am sure my doctor told me this, but I was so bombarded by information overload that it didn’t register.

At my heaviest, I tipped the scales at nearly 400 pounds. This, obviously, compromised my health even worse than diabetes alone. As I write this, I am down about 45 pounds from that mark, but I have a long way to go to achieve my health goals and I am well prepared for the journey. I have a family doctor whom I regularly see, a general practitioner with the veteran affairs department I see annually, an endocrinologist whom I wouldn’t part with if you paid me to that I see quarterly, and I am looking to add a cardiologist to the mix for good measure.

Back to my work history.

The last place in which I worked was the most stressful. Without naming the company or individuals involved, I will only tell you that I caught my former boss falsifying company records. And it wasn’t the first time. For the purposes of this story, I’ll call him Bill (not his real name). Anyway, Bill had a habit of cutting corners to meet the overly demanding dictates of his boss, and the proverbial mess rolled down hill.

My main duties were that of technical writer and as our department’s lone enterprise software system administrator (brand name omitted). This also meant that I was the only one authorized to train people on it’s proper use.

As the gatekeeper of a federally regulated and validated system, it was my job to be a junkyard dog. The problem was, Bill wanted a concierge who would cater to the whims of everyone’s demands. Much to his chagrin, when you define how you are going to use a system, the validation of it locks in the terms of its application. Any changes to the way you do things must go through the same rigorous process it did when introduced. The integrity of the system and the information it safeguards must be inviolable.

Well, Bill interpreted this as if I were the one who was making this assumption and told me that it was his intention to get rid of me and replace me with someone else. Someone who would be the yes-man (or woman) he wanted me to be. For the last year of my time at this unnamed company, he undermined all my efforts to do my job, even going so far as to shift the standards by which I would be judged. I was no longer given credit for the improvements I made to the system. Instead, I was told I had to participate in activities outside of my department and those would be the sole measure of my performance.

Shortly after this, I awoke one morning barely able to move. I was shivering uncontrollably, unable to focus, and soaked with sweat. I called in sick, took a couple of Tylenols, and went back to sleep. When I got up later that day, I went to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with what would become my first bout with staph infection compounded by cellulitis. I was out for the next few days. When I returned to work, the mood was hostile.

A few months went by and Bill handed me a training form and asked me to sign it. If he were the one performing training, this would be normal, however, he was asking me to sign as the person having performed the training – past tense. I asked what the training was about, and he told me that it was a new part of the system he wanted to gain access to so he and a group of others (all in my department) could try using an untested function of the software.

I explained to him that we do not test theories in the validated system, and I do not sign off as having trained people I haven’t trained. I added that we had a “sandbox” system that was a clone of the “live” one where we can train people and test hypotheses. The validated system must remain secure.

He didn’t like this, so he called a system administrator from another department, a new IT guy, and asked him to sign it as having trained everyone – again past tense – without ever having done so. In extreme defiance of my warning, he had the IT guy sign the training form on my desk right in front of me. Incensed by my refusal, he took the paper and was off to get it processed. I explained to the IT guy how wrong this was, but he didn’t understand.

I then contacted the training coordinator for our department, and she promised to prevent the form from being acted upon, but she never saw it. Bill circumvented her, too. Instead of taking the form to our department, he went to the administration building and had the central training department manager input the form. He then contacted yet another person in IT, different from the first, and had them activate access to the system.

This normally takes a day or two to take effect since major changes (like user access) get processed once every 24 hours and that day’s cycle had already occurred. The next day, I was watching to see if those users had gained new access and sure enough, they did. I immediately called the head of IT and had their access revoked and began filing my own form to report Bill for having falsified company records.

After an extensive investigation, I was called in for a meeting to discuss their findings. They agreed that Bill was in the wrong, but they failed to conclude that his actions were intentional, opting instead to say it was “a misunderstanding” of the way things are supposed to happen. I disagreed with them and explained that it was a complete understanding of the rules that allowed him to sidestep each safeguard along the way until he got what he wanted. They were unmoved by my argument.

My former boss could best be described as unscrupulously kind. By that I mean he was manipulative in the nicest possible way, so I can only assume that Bill “Golly geed” and “Aww shucked” his way out of a lawful termination. His “Opie Cunningham” routine. He was given a slap on the wrist, put on a performance improvement plan, and sent on his merry way. I, however, was returned to an even more hostile working environment now that he knew I reported him.

For those not familiar with highly regulated environments, the governmental rules are such that he could have (and should have, in my opinion) been fired and prosecuted for having done what he did. The company could have been fined millions of dollars by the federal government and other international regulators and endangered the validated status of the system. It could have shut down production at the facility and mandated the ongoing presence of external regulators to monitor all activity for several months, if not years afterwards. All of which the company would have been financially responsible for.

But no, they chose to shoot the messenger instead. A couple of months or so after all this, Bill gave me an unfavorable review. As a result, I didn’t get a raise and my annual profit-sharing bonus was forfeit. Doing my job cost me thousands of dollars. Never mind the fact that I could have received a percentage of the fines collected had I turned Bill in to federal regulators instead of trying to resolve the issue in-house.

I couldn’t handle the stress and got sick again. This time I was out for two weeks.

When I returned, I was required to write a user manual that described how to do my job in precise detail. It took me a month or so, but I did exactly that. I then passed it around for review, as required, and began the paperwork necessary to submit it for internal publication (and thereby regulation). Bill prevented me.

I spoke with several people about it, but there is no recourse for control of an unpublished document. Even though we were told that every scrap of paper we wrote on was a company record and should be protected as such, nobody wanted to confront this particular issue, or Bill.

I was out sick for another two weeks.

When I returned, things had gotten much worse. The person who was tasked to replace me (from the beginning), did exactly as Bill wanted and had been catering to craze rather than code. I performed a simple record search and found hundreds of errors, all of which could have been prevented had the procedures I created been regulated. I reported these to Bill and for my trouble I was tasked with “fixing” them.

They were not fixable.

When you alter a record in a regulated system, you compromise its integrity and put the status of its validation at risk (as well as your employment). Bill knew this, and I wasn’t going to fall for his trap.

I didn’t change a thing, went home, and was out sick for a month.

My doctors were hesitant to let me return at all. Diabetes, morbid obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, compounding stress, and the recurring infections all formed a perfect storm of poor health and my career was suffering its chaotic wrath.

When I did return, it would be for the last time. The first thing I did was search the system for errors. It returned pages and pages worth. I became visibly ill, went to the on-site nurse, and she sent me home a couple of hours later.

I burned through the remainder of my paid FMLA, which transitioned into short-term disability, and then finally long-term disability. I was required to file for Social Security disability as per the terms of LTD and was approved for total compensation a few months later. A year and a half after walking out the door, the company and I officially parted ways.

I don’t tell you this to garner sympathy, they are simply facts. Take them however you wish. My life experiences (or anyone’s for that matter) are waypoints on my journey through life. That is also why I have so many doctors. You see, in order to map out and plan where you want to go, you must first know where you are. And to know that, you must acknowledge where you’ve been.

My doctors and I have a plan, and it is for me to be healthier than I have ever been. It is to become a contributing member of society again. I keep them apprised of all my concerns and changes in health and see them regularly. I also keep the Social Security Administration informed and updated about my health and finances as often as they request. I don’t want to be a drain on the system.

That being said, I have earned and paid taxes on more than $1M in my life, so I will continue to use the benefits afforded to me for as long as is necessary, but this is not the last chapter of my financial book. I will return to the workforce one day as an entrepreneur. My writing is the key, and it is especially important to me because it helps me exorcise the demons that have haunted me. And the ones I just described are the ones I am happiest to be rid of.

I don’t care if those who have wronged me ever get their due comeuppance, but I do care if I ever let my voice be silenced by manipulation and deceit again. It is not my responsibility to care about what others think. I will do my best to accurately express the eternal truth, even if I need to use an inordinate number of words to do it. The better I can explain a thing, the better it can be understood, and therefore, the less likely it is to be misunderstood.

In Matthew 13:19, Jesus explained that when we fail to understand kingdom principles, that is the moment when the devil comes to steal them away from us.

One morning, in that lingering moment between sleep and awake, I heard God call me, “Guardian of Truth.” That is what I am here to do. Everything else is a distraction. That is why I wrote The Character of Faith in such a sterile voice. The truth is what needed expression, not my impression or use of it. You take the expression and let it impress upon you a way to use it. Only then can the words I’ve written truly help you. The truth will free you, but only to the degree you free it to do so.

Blessings to you and yours.