Present Day, November 26, 2017

‘Tis the season.

No time of year is probably more defining of my plunge into mental illness than the holidays. There was a time in my life when I lived for November 1st. When the day after Halloween launched two months of thanksgiving, joy, celebration, and happiness. Don’t get me wrong, there were still the challenges, arguments, and stresses that come with any two month period of life…but they were tempered by decorations, music, and those glorious days off of work.

Now I would describe it as being marked by a huge unknown. The unknown of what emotions will hit me, when they will hit me, and what they will do to my overall psyche.

For example, today was to be decorating day. You know, haul out the holly…deck the halls…stringing up the lights. And it still is. There is a box sitting to my left and three more hours of daylight with which I am to get the outside lights hung. But I simply don’t have it in me. Haven’t all day. Tried Christmas carols playing in the shower. Tried moving around the pieces of a Dickens-like miniature village. Tried looking over wish lists and contemplating Christmas gifts for those I love. None of it works.

Why? I don’t know. I have enjoyed a four-day Thanksgiving break which included quality family time, visits with my out of town children, and lots and lots and lots of rest. The weather is nearly ideal for this time of year. Sunny. 50s. Perfect for walks, taking in fresh air, and avoiding the sedentary indoor trap that can come with the tryptophan coma. Two date nights with my wife in the past week. And the prospects of just four more weeks until a 10 and a half day…yep, 10 and a half day Christmas break!

But still the darkness. The sadness. The loneliness.

I worry about the direction my life is going. The trajectory. On a scale of 1 to 10, the existence of medications has given me a fairly steady and consistent year, but one that I had always described as being about a 4. The last few months, it feels more like a 3.5…maybe a 3. My environment has improved (employment, home life, relationships, etc.), but my emotions seem to continue to slide downhill. Depression has gone from simply the norm, to a deeper and darker daily hole that I have to climb out of each morning simply to manage a shower and climb in my truck in time to arrive at work.

A medication change has been prescribed to attempt to counter this direction, and we will see if it does. Ironically enough, the next 30 days may make it hard to tell. They can be filled with so much happiness while simultaneously serving as such a period of struggle for so many people. Myself included. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while simultaneously being one of the least predictable. Especially with a mind that can do its own thing and turn left right when you are longing for it to turn right.

‘Tis the season. The season of the unknown.

Present Day, November 12, 2017

There is a strange but somewhat consistent and often proven out as true phenomenon surrounding death. I have witnessed it myself. It typically centers around the passing of an elderly person. In this scenario, it is often a grandma or grandpa who has been on their deathbed for some time hanging on by god only knows what power. Everyone, including the medical professionals, anticipate that their last heartbeat would have…should have…already occurred or take place at this very moment. But it doesn’t.

In fact, it is not until a certain visitor arrives. Maybe a loved one from out of town, an estranged child, or just someone with more of a life than the ability to simply stand vigil. It is with their arrival that things begin to change. Yet the arrival is not enough. Typically there is a very specific act, let’s call it “words of release” that are uttered…and death comes. Almost instantly.

“I made it grandma. You don’t have to fight anymore. I love you. Goodbye.”

“It’s okay dad. Be at peace.”

“We promise to take care of everything. Please don’t worry anymore. Just rest.”

And the battle to stay alive ceases. The last breath is drawn. Tranquility comes.

At my worst, this is how I feel. Like I am just waiting to be released. To be freed to quit fighting the demons in my head and find peace. Maybe it is just a survival mechanism or subconscious form of self-preservation, but without that release, I struggle to take those final steps. I envision them. I feel them in the depths of my being. But I am held back by something or someone who will not allow me to “go.”

I think the suicidal urges and ideations of someone with a mental illness are maybe hardest to understand from the outside looking in. The darkness of them is impossible for me to put into words. The tangible “realness” of each impulse.

I have just come through a rather dark period. I mood chart daily and have a level that indicates a particularly bad, desperate kind of day. After having only two of them through a four-month period I had six of them in three weeks. It was rough. And there were days when I just wanted to be released. I just wanted those closest to me to indicate they would be fine without me and that I could finally end the pain. To just hear the words that would allow me to end my torment.

They weren’t spoken and I survived another fall. Is it just me? Does anyone else know how this feels? Has anyone ever longed to know that it’s okay to never again want to feel not okay?

I wonder at times how my life will end. Will I get old? Face cancer? End up in a hospital or hospice care? Whatever the scenario, I think I will be holding on loosely. And when the words come…I will go. Quickly.

July 15th, 2017 – Musical Truths

How long have I been in this storm?
So overwhelmed by the ocean’s shapeless form
Water’s getting harder to tread
With these waves crashing over my head

If I could just see you
Everything would be all right
If I’d see you
This darkness would turn to light

And I will walk on water
And you will catch me if I fall
And I will get lost into your eyes
I know everything will be alright
I know everything is alright

I know you didn’t bring me out here to drown
So why am I ten feet under and upside down
Barely surviving has become my purpose
Because I’m so used to living underneath the surface

Everything’s alright
Yeah, everything’s alright

July 1st, 2017 – Musical Truths

You saw my pain washed out in the rain
Broken glass, saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart

But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
We’ll live a long life

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright

So lead me back, turn south from that place
And close my eyes to my recent disgrace
‘Cause you know my call
And we’ll share my all
And our children come and they will hear me roar

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright

But hold me still, bury my heart on the coals
And hold me still, bury my heart next to yours

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me we’ll be alright

But the ghosts that we knew made us black and all blue
But we’ll live a long life

And the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we’ll live a long life

March 4th, 2017 – Musical Truths

Hey, I hear the voice of a preacher from the back room
Calling my name and I follow just to find you
I trace the faith to a broken down television and put on the weather
And I’ve trained myself to give up on the past ’cause
I froze in time between hearses and caskets
Lost control when I panicked at the acid test

I wanna get better

While my friends were getting high and chasing girls down parkway lines
I was losing my mind because the love, the love, the love, the love, the love
That I gave wasted on a nice face
In a blaze of fear I put a helmet on a helmet
Counting seconds through the night and got carried away
So now I’m standing on the overpass screaming at the cars,

“Hey, I wanna get better!”

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

I go up to my room and there’s girls on the ceiling
Cut out their pictures and I chase that feeling
Of an eighteen year old who didn’t know what loss was

Now I’m a stranger

And I miss the days of a life still permanent
Mourn the years before I got carried away
So now I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself,

“Hey, I wanna get better!”

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

‘Cause I’m sleeping in the back of a taxi
I’m screaming from my bedroom window
Even if its gonna kill me

Woke up this morning early before my family
From this dream where she was trying to show me
How a life can move from the darkness
She said to get better

So I put a bullet where I shoulda put a helmet
And I crash my car cause I wanna get carried away
That’s why I’m standing on the overpass screaming at myself,

“Hey, I wanna get better!”

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

February 18th, 2017 – Musical Truths

Run away, run away if you can’t speak
Turn a page on a world that you don’t need
Wide awake and you’re scared that you won’t come down now

Didn’t I tell you, you were gonna break down
Didn’t I warn you, didn’t I warn you
Better take it easy, try to find a way out
Better start believing in yourself

We build it up, we tear it down
We leave our pieces on the ground
We see no end, we don’t know how
We are lost and we’re falling
Hold onto me
You’re all I have, all I have
Hold onto me
You’re all I have, all I have

Now and then there’s a light in the darkness
Feel around till you find where your heart went
There’s a weight in the air but you can’t see why, why

Thursday, August 25th, 6 p.m.

I had been duped. At 3:45 p.m., still in the psychiatric emergency room, I believed I had mustered enough energy to put on a mask and pull it off. The psychiatric resident had sat across from me and indicated that I would not be put in the psych ward. I would receive a regular hospital room. I would be placed close to a nurse’s station so they could keep an eye on me, but in my mind I had once again avoided revealing the greatest indicators that I had totally lost my fucking mind.

It is right in the hospital notes. I did not merit “CVO” (constant visual observation). Then the damn attending psychiatrist had to go and meet with the resident to review my case. Had to go and show him the realities of my case. Had to review the intense suicidal ideation I had been experiencing. The thought out plan I had to kill myself and possibly harm others along the way. The lifelong history of depression and manic behavior. The phone conversation with my wife indicating her level of concern over the rapid flip of my mental and emotional switch…yet again.

So here I sat. Sitting at a small round table across from a diminutive woman talking to me very softly and gently as she took out a packet of forms and a pen. I had entered yet another state of shock when they placed me in a wheelchair downstairs and informed me that I would be taken to the 13th floor and placed in the care of the psychiatric unit where I would get the care and help I needed. This was NOT what we had discussed!

The shock had deepened into a very dark depression as I was escorted to this table in this “living area” across from a large nurse’s station. Into disbelief as individuals in hospital gowns walked by checking out the newest member of their community. Some of them offering gentle smiles. Others talking out loud to demons located somewhere in the deepest recesses of their minds.

This was not yet rock bottom, but I could see it from the point of my current downward float. I was provided a “Patient and Visitor Information” brochure to look over as the small administrator ordered her items to begin checking me into the Norman and Ida Stone Institute of Psychiatry.

Meal schedules. Medication schedules. Telephone schedules. Television schedules! It had been at least 35 years…if ever…since I had been told when I could or could not watch television. I know, strange thing to stick out in my mind and pop up at that moment. It gave procedures for laundry which I remember finding significantly startling. How could I possibly be here long enough to need to do laundry! Details regarding group and individual sessions. I don’t know these people. I can’t share with them my thoughts. My places of brokenness. My pains!

She could see me looking over the brochure and it seems was attempting to verbalize key points related to the sections my eyes seemed to be passing over, but she sounded like the teacher from a Charlie Brown episode as my mind raced out of control with dark frightening images of straight jackets, syringes and injections of unknown fluids to attempt and control my thoughts and behaviors, and fears that I had finally been locked up…and would never be fit to get out.