Sunday, August 28th, 3 p.m.

They call it the “Meditation Room”. Or the Quiet Room. Or some were referring to it as the Comfort Room. I don’t like to be comforted.

One of the touted highlights of the room is a weighted blanket. Apparently, a blanket that when you wrap it around you, feels like you are being hugged. I don’t like hugs.

However, just three full days in and I am getting the feeling from my head nurse that they realize both of these dislikes in my life, and are not about to let me out of here until I enter the unknown that is this room.

So, being as it is Sunday. Being as our agenda today is very light. Being as I am considerably bored. And being as I do enjoy quiet which there is very little of today with the poor folks who struggle with psychotic episodes wandering the halls…I’m going to give it a shot.

Upon entering the room there are a few things that immediately catch my eye (a rather odd cliché use of the singular, don’t you think?). First, there is a massive flat screen on one of the main walls. I could really use this thing for football or hockey games! It is playing some nature scene. A quick grab and scan with the remote reveals that I have some choices of location and season. The background sound is a mix of nature white noise with a Yanni vibe of New Age composition providing an admittedly soothing effect when brought down to a subtle level. I’m a big fan of winter and it is a roasting late end to summer, so I naturally go with the winter season in some Alaskaeske (yeah, I made that up) like setting.

I also notice a couch and a few rather comfortable looking chairs. Mind you, I’m in a psych ward of a hospital. Comfortable chairs are hardly the norm. Hard plastic is more like it throughout the ward, and wooden in my room. These are padded recliners. Chairs one could actually fall asleep in (as I will soon discover!). The couch is also of a more overstuffed and out of the setting piece of furniture that looks very restful.

The lighting in the room is a bit more subtle than the rest of the hospital floor that has become my home. There are a few blankets and stuffed animals on the couch which lends at least some creepy factor to the isolation that one discovers in this room. By way of reminder, I have hardly been left alone for minutes since arriving here, including regular bed checks during the night. There are cameras in even this room, but they are of an almost hidden security nature so this feels like being alone for the first time in days. All of which means I don’t need this moment to be filled with mini-bears staring at me. I place them on one end of the couch, grab one of the blankets, and cover them up.

Now, into a recliner. But first, I grab this infamous “weighted blanket”. It is actually quite heavy and I find it very hard to imagine it having any comfort level at all. For kicks, I wrap it around myself, and wouldn’t you know it…it really does have the feel of someone wrapping their arms around you and giving you a big hug. Probably a rather soothing experience for some of the people staying here. For me…eh.

With that said, I decide to hit a recliner, pop up the foot rest, lay the blanket over the top of me, and breath deeply as I watch the nature scenes pass by on the big screen in front of me. I figure I will appease the parties that be by staying in here for 10 or 15 minutes. Then I can say I gave it the ol’ college try and be off the hook.

…an hour later there is a knock at the door which awakens me from a deep sleep.

Well…that worked.

National Men’s Health Week 2017

Quite confident the statistics cannot have changed much in one year.

And not in to squabbling over UK vs USA numbers. A bleak picture regardless.

Present Day, June 9th, 2017

Overwhelmed.

One word. The only word. The only word needed. And quite conveniently so, because the only word I can come up with.

My guess is that readers will fall into two categories (well…the majority of readers). Those with a mental illness will say, “Exactly. I know what you mean. What else needs to be said? That is it what I have been trying to tell people.” Those without will ask, “Can you describe your feelings further? Maybe help me understand better what you are going through? What is overwhelming you?”

It isn’t a panic attack. At least, I don’t think it is. Though maybe people that suffer from those would say the symptoms…or feelings…or sensings…or whatever plays out the same. It isn’t a manic episode or plunge into depression. Though I’m guessing it can lead to one or both of those (my recent experience definitely shot me directly and deeply into a state of depression). It isn’t a collection of emotions making some overbearing cocktail of explosive energy.

It is simply a singular feeling. That of being “overwhelmed.” Which is actually the past tense of the word overwhelm even though we feel “overwhelmed” in the present. Weird, huh?

By definition…

  • o·ver·whelm
    to bury or drown beneath a huge mass.
    to defeat completely.
    to give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate.
    to have a strong emotional effect on.
    to be too strong for; overpower.

Which one most recently applied to me? All of them. I was overwhelmed by the multitude definitions of being overwhelmed! What caused it? Not the point. At least not of this blog. The point is that it hit me like a Mack truck (possibly preferred), and I was almost instantly left paralyzed. And really all the Mack truck was, was life. Ordinary. Everyday. Run of the mill life.

But life instantly became a huge mass. It defeated me completely. It inundated me with too much. It had an incredibly strong emotional effect on me. It was way too strong for me and overpowered me. For the better part of five days, I was down for the count. It was all I could do to get out of bed, get to work, do whatever family socializing I needed to do, and get back to bed.

And there were two real kickers to this. First, it was quickly apparent that it takes less and less with each passing year to overwhelm me. That’s not supposed to be the case. I’m in therapy. I take a shit ton of pills every day. I get the sleep I am supposed to get. Doesn’t seem to matter. Life still wins. I still lose.

Second, the reality of being so easily overwhelmed was in and of itself, well, further overwhelming. This didn’t used to happen to me. In the past, less self-care would still result in less overwhelming. I would still know how to fight through it. And a fight it often was. But now it is just debilitating.

What was you ask? I told you, nothing. Just. Being. Overwhelmed.

Wednesday, August 31st, 1:30 p.m.

I found myself growing more and more used to the routine, and even finding my personality with no part of it probably harder to squelch for long than my natural competitiveness. All of which meant that eventually, I was going to need the daily time of recreational therapy to shift away from coloring and crafts, into the realm of the stock of board games that resided in the room.

This day seemed like as good as any for taking that plunge, and my timing could not have worked out better when our hospital staff member actually suggested that we try a game of Scattergories together. I am a fan of the game, but was a bit perplexed by a certain aspect of it. As I would later learn, these “therapy” hours were being billed out to my patient account at a clip of $125 per day. Call me crazy (which my location at the time might well have suggested I was…am), but it would seem like for that price we would have someone guiding us through the playing of the game who actually was familiar with the rules of the game.

That was when the “true” me sprung forth. I just can’t…or choose not to…or don’t know how to…or however the fuck you want to interpret it…I just don’t let it go when someone thinks they know how to play a game, but when compared to the instructions or formal rules of the game make it clear that they do not. This would prove to be no exception. So I did what any reasonable person who has ditched his job and family, jumped on a train, fled the state, been placed in protective custody and had his shoelaces removed less he off himself would do…I took over. And for better or for worse, she let me. She tried to guide us, but I think she grew weary of my correcting her (not the first one to experience that phenomenon in an encounter with me). Eventually she, or at least the other clients (because crazy people prefer to listen to another crazy person rather than the sane ones…I know, crazy…huh?) looked to me for game guidance. And I? Hell yeah. More than happy to provide it.

This all fit into what I would come to consider the abnormal normal. The abnormal normal was when I was doing something completely normal, such as playing a game of Scattergories with a group of adults, in a completely abnormal environment, such as a psych ward with the group of adults being people I really don’t know from Adam.

Other examples would come to include brushing my teeth (normal) with a prison toothbrush at a sink that required constant pumping to continue the water flow (abnormal). Placing an order for my dinner (normal) an entire day before with fairly decent certainty that it might not arrive as what I ordered (abnormal). Checking my email (normal) while someone paces behind me swearing loudly at another individual who does not visibly exist (abnormal). Or putting on my socks (normal) and them having those little no-slip rubber stripes on them and the face of a small teddy bear (abnormal…at least, for my wardrobe).

I can’t remember who won the two games we played that day, which means it is highly likely that neither of the winners was me. That’s just how I roll. But I do remember who knew the “right” way to play the game, and for that afternoon at least…that felt normal.

Present Day, May 18th, 2017

I have a Moleskine journal. Moleskine because that is the only journal my oldest daughter believes to be a true, authentic journal. Like any other father, I am always striving to impress my children. I know, right?

Inside the back cover is a pocket for storing things. I really do not know what they have in mind. Locks of hair from loved ones or wanna be loved ones? Stamps for collecting? Clips from newspapers or magazines?

I have a few items in mine. Things I wrote when I didn’t have the journal along. Or things written down for me. 

Two items create a unique juxtaposition in the pouch, sitting back-to-back. The first is a letter from my wife. We did a wine box for our wedding. The idea for the  wine box is that you seal a bottle of wine with love letters to each other in a decorative box to be opened on your first anniversary. You place it in a visible place. If, god forbid, your marriage is on the brink in less than a year, you both agree to open the box and read the letters. I am not sure what happens with the wine.

We didn’t. Make it a year that is. Oh, we are still together, but it was close and the box was opened. The letters were read, and I keep the one she wrote to me in my journal. I don’t remember what happened to the wine.

The letter is right next to a much shorter note. Torn off a sheet of paper. By my therapist. It is the number for a suicide textline. In case of an emergancy. 

So I don’t know what Moleskine intended, but it is kind of my survival pouch. A love letter from my wife, a suicide textline’s number, and another item or two. Things to review if I am on the brink. And have my journal handy. And am willing to seek inspiration.

I reviewed the contents tonight. Mainly just to remind myself of what is in there. It was a rough day, but I am not at “that” point. Just curious. So I scanned the contents, reordered them all, and tucked them safely away again. 

I was reminded that I have not been mindmapping enough lately. Have not been “journaling” enough. Have not put enough ‘pen to paper’ so that I can go back and see what I was thinking. See what conclusions I was drawing. See where I was and how it compares to where I am.

I think my daughter is right. I think Moleskine does make a better journal. However, sitting unused on a shelf…they are all the same.