“What is your higher power?” boomed the man at the front of the classroom. Wrapped in a tight white t-shirt, his muscles seamed ready to burst through the seams, drenching us in shards of cotton/poly blend. “What is your higher power?”
I had spent the last three weeks in a partial hospitalization program, working each day on improving my self-esteem and pouring my guts out to my therapy group. One month before, I had woken up midmorning—disastrously late for work—and decided it was time to end my life. My depression had been worsening for months, and I finally reached the point where I couldn’t go on. I decided to swallow every pill in our bathroom, which was well stocked with medications that were supposed to be treating my bipolar disorder. But I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t even cry. I stayed there for hours, finally rising when it was time to go see my therapist.
The next day I checked into the hospital. They stripped searched me and took my shoelaces. Because I was on suicide precautions, I slept on a mattress in the middle of the common area. That night I felt lonelier than I have ever known. If there was a god, he had forsaken me.
Weeks later, sitting in that classroom, I at first rejected the idea of a higher power. I was raised Catholic, and had spent eight years of my schooling being educated by the Jesuits. During that time, one of my friends was attacked and then thrown down a flight of stairs for being gay. The administration took the stance that homosexuality was a sin, but it was wrong to beat people for it. After a few weeks, the investigation into the attacks was dropped. Where was god I wondered? And why did these “godly” men not care that someone had been put through hell on earth?
I was finished with god. And with those who followed god blindly. I threw my faith into science and logic—it seemed like the rational thing to do. I found comfort in it. For a while.
“What is your higher power?” he asked again.
I sat there quietly in the hard, institutional folding chair and tried to find a god. And then something occurred to me. While in the hospital, I listened to “Protection” by the band Massive Attack on my iPod over and over again. I found comfort in the steady beats and solace in the strong but soothing vocals. It was beauty in an unlikely place.
While I didn’t have faith in an all-powerful god, I did have faith in beauty, truth, and art. These were things worth fighting for, worth living for.
“What is your higher power?”
I smiled. Not because I had just found it, but because it had been with me the entire time.
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