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  • Writer's pictureEric Dugan

From Hell to God

Updated: Jan 2

I'm a Cancer with an Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Prospecting personality.

And a Bipolar Mind.

Each characteristic alone creates a heavy dose of emotion. When the three traits are combined and bottled inside it can become an erupting volcano. In January 2003, I was a victim to this.

I was thirty years old.

My heart was broken which for someone like me is hard to handle. But it was deeper than a simple heartbreak. It brought to surface all the past trauma of the last 30 years. I never had what I would consider “family”.

My childhood was toxic, devoid of love.

What I remember the most was yelling, depression, and always an empty dinner table, which led to me acting out in various ways, creating a troubled kid. I always felt like an oddball, even around friends.

In January 2003, I became flooded with intrusive thoughts that I no longer could escape. The breakup was yet another notch to add to a never-ending list of empty love and broken promises. For the next 7 months, I battled these overwhelming thoughts of emptiness.

I was yearning for something more, seeking something to hold onto. This led me to going deep to try to answer the question, who is God? At one point, I gave him my middle finger and yelled “if you exist, reveal yourself”!

He did exactly that and I learned to never do that again.

A Mental Health Professional would say the breakup was the main trigger of a manic/psychotic episode that would last the next 9 months.

I lost touch with reality.

A Mental Health Professional uses the term manic/psychotic breakdown. I prefer the term spiritual transformation. According to The Three R’s Mood Assessment Chart, by August 2003 I reached Mood 80 defined as Extreme Elation. I stopped eating. I stopped drinking water. I stopped sleeping. I was incoherent, overactive, and unable to care for myself.

The lack of food, water, and sleep, along with the other symptoms occurred for at least 30 days prior to my time in Rappahannock Regional Jail which is the story I will tell. I was in a state of emergency prior to my arrest and rapidly approaching death.

I hope this gives you a glimpse through my own eyes of what it is like when someone reaches the highest state of mania and lives to tell it. It is a small part of a two-decade journey that will be told in full in my memoir Spiritual Wars: My Experiences and Philosophies living with the Greatness of a Bipolar Mind.

I was arrested when I rushed into a plant store thrusting my head in a flowerpot desperate for water. My heart raced as everyone stared at me, as you can imagine.

Before I had time to think, I was surrounded by 10 police.

They forced me outside, threw me to the ground, and dragged me across a gravel driveway! I could feel the rocks scraping my face as they continued to drag me to the bottom of the road! I felt their pressure on top of me with their knees and forearms on my back.

They tossed me in the back of a police car in handcuffs. I didn’t know this then, but I would have much rather stayed with them then the guards I would encounter in jail. I am thankful it didn't come to deadly force.

Alone, in the back of the police car, I heard a voice whispering outside my right ear. A voice like I describe is no different than if you were sitting next to me and talking to me except, I can't see you. I can only hear you.

The voice said, “I put you here and if you don’t do what say I will cause you more pain”. I immediately felt my skin burning and became engulfed in flames! It became so hot I felt my eyes pop out of my socket! My heart pounded so loud it was like it was playing drums! I thought my chest would shatter to pieces.

This was as real as it gets. This was my reality.

It happened for what felt like an eternity until the cop finally got in and drove off. I blacked out as soon as the car moved.

I woke up to my physical body locked to a steel chair. My ankles and wrist cuffed and chained. My mouth wired shut. My eyes covered.

I tried to scream but there was no point. All that came out was silent air. I could hear guards in the distance, but I couldn't see them.

The handcuffs were so tight I tried to break loose causing a deep cut on my right wrist. A scar that exists today. The only evidence of this. I entered and exited the jail under the name John Doe.

To say I was freaked out is an understatement. My heartbeat faster than a racehorse as I tried to shut out the voices. That is when I had a spiritual experience and walked right out the chains. My body remained in the chair, but I left my body and the chains.

Only to wake up to my naked body lying on a frozen cement floor surrounded by concrete walls and covered in what I hope was my own piss! I shook faster than a locomotive train. It was blistering cold as I lied in my own stench.

The voices were madness. It was like there were 100 people in there with me except no faces, just invisible voices. The physical pain, no less excruciating. My body was cramped to the max. Every single piece of me was as tense as an over tuned guitar. My chest, like a ticking time bomb ready to explode.

I wrapped my arms around my chest to try to lessen the grip of terror. It was a horror film, and I was the main character. I had to get the fuck out this hell hole. I escaped jail.

You may think how. I left my body. It was my one breather. I had a miraculous experience and flew around the world and saw more than I ever did in my first 30 years.

However, I refused to leave my body there. I returned to my body lying on the frozen cement floor. I screamed for help. I heard nothing but laughter from the other side of the solid walls. I was losing hope.

I was dying, the guards were joking.

I yelled “I am dying, I am dying! Help! Help! I need water, I need food! Please, something." I slammed my hands against the concrete walls with the last bit of energy I had. I only heard in return “no you’re not dying”. I slid my naked body down the side of the cement wall. There was no way I would survive this.

My body clammed up. I slowed down. My speech stuttered. My hearing, distant. I could feel the shortness of my breath. My eyes filled with dust.

I have no verifiable proof that I stopped breathing but a lack of food or water for a very long time causes death by starvation for people in the state I was in. It is a real consequence.

I don't judge the guards. In my opinion, they were not properly trained on dealing with a mental health crisis. Looking back, my assumption is they thought I was on drugs, and it would wear off.

However, during this time period in 2003, at least 7 people died in this jail under similar circumstances. There were several wrongful death lawsuits filed against the jail. You can google it.

That's when I heard silence. It felt like my bones were crumbling.

I thought it was over when I saw a blinding, powerful light in the top right corner of the cell. A spiritual force came to me and revived me, bringing me back to life. I have no way of verifying this, but I know for sure that I only made it out by the grace of God.

Sometime after that, I was provided one cup of water that I frantically grabbed through the slot, spilling most of it. They gave me one soggy piece of bread. I rationed it for the rest of my time there.

After approximately 48 hours, I was escorted out by more police than I could count and transferred to the emergency room in Snowden psychiatric Hospital.

I did not know what I would encounter next, but I was no longer alone for the first time in my life. I had felt love from the same source I gave the middle finger to and cussed. I knew from that day on God would be with me every step and I knew I would survive. If I wasn't meant to, I would have been a statistic inside that cell.

This began an unbreakable faith in a higher power that exists to this day and continues to grow. I owe him and I repay him by giving love to whoever needs it. Why else would I be here? It is the least I can do for God picking up off that concrete floor and providing me a second life. Twenty years later I live a life beyond my wildest dreams.

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