Brendon's FAQ, 1.0

Dear friends and acquaintances,

I know that there’s quite some juicy gossip flying around about me recently. So, I decided to write a little entry that’s brutally honest (thanks Roland ;) and contains a FAQ so that, rather than trusting in gossip, you can trust in my words.

I’ll make it easy and start with a FAQ.

1) Are you still a Christian?

Not an easy answer. The answer is something like a “yes, but”. I still often think of myself with this label, but my experience of late has been uncomfortable. What is uncomfortable to me is that my understanding of Christianity seems to be changing. My experience for the past 10 years has been fairly narrow in exposure, that is, it’s mostly southern-baptist evangelical non-denom blend. That might sound vague, but, if you’ve spent much time at churches in SoCal, you probably have seen it. Now if I end up at a church, it will probably be at something more traditional like an Anglican church. The point is, suddenly feeling like I strongly disagree with aspects of a church I’ve attended for 10 years is to say the least, very unsettling. I’m rattled.

2) I hear you believe in evolution?


3) I hear you aren’t going to church right now. Is that true?


4) I hear you are never going to church again?

Not sure about that. It’s just not at the forefront of my mind right now. My efforts are spent discovering what is true about church, and if so, what environment would match that.

5) But you’re not actively looking right now?


6) Aren’t you just doing this because you want to do lots of drugs and have sex?

That’s funny because, I’m not having sex. And by the way, there was a time where I went to church regularly, and was having sex at the time. Kinda ironic, eh?

7) What sent you off the edge?

First, I don’t consider myself to have lost it. I consider my current spot in life as the best in years.

In regards to anything setting me off though, I will share a little.

  • I grew tired of the number of people and the teachings in church that linked serious mental illnesses with demonic possession.
  • I grew tired of rampant homophobia.
  • I grew tired of people detached from reality being praised as faith healers.
  • I did not feel issues were up for discussion to the degree that would be preferred and beneficial to healthy beliefs and faith.
  • The strawman arguments consistently leveled against evolution, and current love affair with the pseudoscience of “Intelligent Design” turned me off.
  • Fear of the educated, intellectual, and “the world” in general turned into a giant red flag.
  • The earth is not 6000 years old.

8) Anything else?

Certainly I’ll oblige.

I’d like to share with you my journey from the past year. For those of you that haven’t guessed it from reading my blog or looking at galleries, I have a wonderful girlfriend named Crista. She must be the sweetest, most selfless person I’ve ever come across. I’ve personally seen her really, really care for the sick. So much that, I believe that she has helped people, in ways I’ve previously thought was only the realm of those with extensive psychological training and expertise. I love talking with her, I love being with her, and not only am I attracted to her as a woman, but, as my best friend. It is my intention to keep her around forever, or at least, as long as absolutely possible. She is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of my life, and I can only hope, remains as such. In short, I love her.

But it hasn’t always been so rosy in Brendon and Crista land. When we started dating, it felt great at first. But then, I started freaking out, I mean, really freaking out. I got wrapped up in cycles of hours upon hours of trying to prove to myself that I really loved Crista. But that’s ridiculous, I know I loved her. But yet, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. For hours, and hours. I’d end up at my parents house, in the fetal position, crying about my confusion. Or perhaps locked in a bathroom stall at work, trying to regain my composure, trying to wipe away the tears and thoughts that plagued me, only to have them come back minutes, maybe seconds later in a stronger wave. Have you ever had an experience where some bizarre thought just popped into your head for a couple seconds, and you thought “gosh, that was really sick and weird”, but, brushed it off quickly? Thoughts like this can commonly include examples like hurting small animals, cutting people on purpose or accidentally when around knives, thoughts of losing control and punching pregnant women against your will, or being concerned that somebody might have an accident you need to protect them from. Now, take that experience, get really upset about it, draw it out over a day, then a week, and you might understand my experience. If I just noticed, and I mean explicitly noticed but not lusted after, a random woman driving a car on the way to work, I felt ruined for hours. “If I really loved Crista, all other women would just be a blind spot”, I’d say to myself. Over, and over, and over. Day after day, week after week. Pile on the variances a few feet thick (“I wouldn’t enjoy talking to this other girl at all” was real popular). I was clinging onto my relationship for it’s dear life, and frightening my love in the process.

After dealing with this on my own for far too long, having broken down one too many times, lost my appetite, lost weight, really felt like I was losing my mind, I decided to see a therapist. It was one of the best decisions of my entire life. I’d seen one for a semester or so when I was at Biola, but it didn’t appear to be a productive experience, for a variety of internal and external reasons I’m sure. This time around, it’s a whole new ball game. After continually working with a counsellor for the past year, and a psychiatrist for the better part of it, I feel fantastic. In the process, I found out something important about myself: I seem to suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. I say “seem to” because there’s not really a blood test or anything for that type of thing, but, I do score real, real high on psychological tests that indicate the disorder. Not to mention, upon my own investigations of OCD, I found pages upon pages that read like they were ripped out from my journal. It was crazy, reading a seven page article written by a doctor that seemed to contain my own private thoughts. What were the chances.

My attack against the disorder has primarily included two things: first, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT, for short), and secondly, medication. I take 40mgs of Prozac daily, in the morning. 40 is a moderate dosage for someone in my state. I started with 20 (too low really for most OCD cases). Some people often take dosages going up to 80. It’s been a great help. I felt a bit spacey and nauseous, and very tired at first. For the most part, the side effects are gone. Mostly what remains are short term memory impacts. I fumble with words more now than I used to, but that may be also the result of not enough sleep. I think it’s likely a combination of the two. Hopefully I won’t be on them much longer than a year. That’s not my preference, but, it’s possible. Quite often people in my shoes use medication like waterwings (credit to BrainLock author Jeffery Swartz for the analogy) to learn to the swimming portion, the CBT. I hope that’s true for me. My psychiatrist is going to try and work me off them in 6-12 months, so, we’ll see. Oh, and, I do feel much, much better and in control. It’s amazing to me.

One of the funny things is, the therapy didn’t stop with CBT. In fact, my Dr. recognized quickly I could pick up the CBT fast, so we haven’t spent much time on the subject. Instead, I’ve talked a lot. And then, when I thought was done talking, I talked some more. I’m still not done talking. The only thing at this point that would stop me in the next six months, I’d say, is if I ran out of money or insurance. There’s a neat thing that happen in a dynamic, closed door relationship with a therapist. For me, I got to practice confidence. I got to practice saying things I was afraid to say. I shared things about myself I previously kept as deep dark secrets. In this process, there is something both magical and obvious that has been occurring with me, just as it does with many others in similar process: I have grown. What I mean at the core of that is I have started to weed out what I really believe, down to my core, and what I’ve been faking. Now imagine me in this position, looking back, realizing that I haven’t been authentic in much of my faith experience and expression for the past decade. It was shocking, unsettling, and scary. For example, what would my friends say if I disagreed with them, at points? Would I be able to stay afloat, emotionally, and socially? And what of my relationship, could I maintain it? And to extend that, would people that once supported my relationship turn on it and label it as wrong, sinful, unproductive, and so on? The chemical and mechanical underpinnings of my OCD would turn out to not be able to hold a candle to my deeper issues of integrity. Those are my real deep, dark demons. Undoing my machine, my OCD, was comfortable. It was about getting fixed, getting back to normal, I knew how I wanted and expected it to end. It was a formulaic process. But my faith, my core beliefs that are mine and not yours, this has been my new experience. And it is the process I am in even as I write this.

I’d like to leave you, the reader, with an exercise. First, imagine you were in my shoes. Imagine you’d had repeated thoughts, over and over, day after day, like “Break up with her. It’s what you should do, it’s what you are supposed to do”. You don’t like the thoughts, they feel foriegn, in fact they feel like they might just destroy you or at the very least, a part of your life you love.

Now, walk into a church. Probably many churches my SoCal friends go to will do. With those thoughts in mind, surround yourself with people that stand up and confidently claim “God spoke to me”, “God told me”, “God moved me”. Translate that to, “God is in my head”. Really experience that confusion. Then start walking forward, and see how you think you might come out. Imagine the complexities and confusions that might manifest. Imagine how it might change you. Imagine how we might be different, and how we might be the same.

So, will I give up? I don’t know. Life is complicated, our existence is fragile. But there are things I do know. The answers are rarely easy, in fact, sometimes there are only questions. If you say otherwise, well then, I’ll politely disagree. But of the things I am reasonably certain about – my loves, my friends, my hopes, dreams and desires, I can say this. I refuse to use my uncertainties as ammunition against myself to destroy my certainties. And that is where I stand today. I don’t have all the answers I need yet. But please understand, the search is at my pace and no other person’s.

And if you’ve braved it this for, I thank you for your time.

—Dec 05, 2005