Present Day, April 3rd, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 6

It had been scheduled weeks ago. Maybe months. I do not really remember. Just like the plans of so many others. A Spring Break get-away. For us, one of the family favorite activities: camping. Reservations in place. A great break in the weather. Three days away from “it all.”

Then, as it has for everyone, everything changed. Not actually until the last minute for us. It was just last night that the governor closed the state park campgrounds for overnight stays. We almost made it. Nevertheless, the order came down, the campgrounds were closed, and vacation plans had to be altered. It is just the new normal.

In this case, for this time, it meant pulling the camper into the yard and setting it up for a staycation. Same dinner, just cooked inside and then eaten outside on camping chairs. Same games of ladder ball. And for my wife and the girls, the same sleeping accommodations. I just cannot be this close to my bed and pass up the opportunity to sleep in it.

You really have to go with the flow during this time. That is not my specialty. I am easily derailed and frustrated. I am trying to be less rushed and more patient. Trying.

I took our dog for a walk this afternoon. The usual route that I typically hope to navigate in about 35 to 45 minutes time. I took a different approach today. It was sunny and mid-60s outside. So I just let the pooch set the pace. She tends to stop and sniff…a lot. Normally I give a tug on the leash and encourage her to keep moving. Not today. Today I just let her sniff. I kept telling myself, “What’s the hurry?” “What do you have to get back to?” “What else do you have to do?” The end result was a walk that took about an hour, and still get me home in plenty of time for…well, nothing.

Truth be told, I continue to struggle. Struggle with depression. Struggle with anxiety. Struggle with getting my head around this whole situation we are in. The old saying says “One day at a time”, but I cannot think of another time in my life that I was living more hour to hour. Activity to activity. Just trying to pass time, make it to the next activity, complete another day.

It is terrible thinking that there are months of this still to come. And that even with that, literally hundreds of people may die! How are we not supposed to be afraid? How are we supposed to “feel” healthy or normal? How is someone with a mental illness supposed to manage their condition in the midst of this?

The family is in the backyard cooking s’mores. I should just join them and act like everything is okay. At least for tonight. At least for the next few hours of this staycation. But that is so hard for me. I just want to meltdown and scream. I just want to crawl into bed and weep. I just want to find a new way to get away from “it all”.

Wednesday, August 24th, Midday

As I drove down the interstate a call came into my cell phone. I didn’t recognize the number, so I let I pushed it to voicemail. Not that I would have likely answered a recognized number at this point either. A message was left, and curiosity always gets the best of me, so I checked it.

It was a detective. A police. A police detective from my hometown. He needed me to get in touch with him.

He immediately followed his voicemail with a text message. Actually, multiple text messages. He repeated the content of his voicemail along with adding that there were a number of people concerned about me.

I sent a text back letting him know that while I appreciated his concern, we wouldn’t be talking. Thanks, but no thanks.

My phone immediately rang again. Same number. Pushed to the same voicemail. Message left. I listened.

A bit more urgent plea this time. With a bit of a tone to suggest I was defying police orders and needed to comply. Guess he decided to try the strong arm tactic. Again, I ignored the voicemail only to receive another text a few minutes later. His communications turned more aggressive, and while not effectively spurring any interest in my part on communicating with the authorities…they did have one effect. They kicked in an extremely high level of paranoia coursing through my veins.

My mind transitioned from a state of focus on the mission at hand to almost a split frenetic state of moving forward while constantly checking behind. The mirrors of my vehicle became all the more important. From this point of the day until I boarded the train any eye that rested on me for more than a second caused me great angst.

My ability to plan or map out any hope of rest over the next 18 hours was thrown out the window. I resolved in my mind that I could not stay in any single place for more than an hour. I could not nap. I could not let my eyes rest for a second. I would need to constantly be on the move. Constantly be on the lookout. Find crowds. Blend in. Never stay parked for too long. Never leave my vehicle unoccupied longer than absolutely necessary.

It became exhausting. Physically. Even more so mentally.

I remember at the time thinking, “This is how I know I have lost my fucking mind. I have never been this paranoid. Afraid that I’m being tracked. Afraid that I’m being followed. Afraid that someone is after me. Unable to settle. Unable to rest. I have lost my grip.”

Fast forward to today. I rested on my bed following work, unable to get my weekly Monday nap underway, when it hit me. I have always been paranoid. I have always battled the inner demons of fear. Year after year after year, without ever putting them all together.

Why?

Because this was just one more sign that was always being ignored that something wasn’t right. That my brain wasn’t working right. That it was sick. That I was suffering and had always suffered at some level from a mental illness.

Let me show you what I mean…