January 21st, 2017 – Musical Truths

They say don’t let them in.
Close your eyes and clear your thoughts again.
But when I’m all alone, they show up on their own.

Cause inner demons fight their battles with fire.
Inner demons don’t play by the rules.
They say just push them down, just fight them harder.
Why would you give up on it so soon?
So angels, angels please just keep on fighting.
Angels don’t give up on me today.
The demons they are there; they just keep fighting.
Cause inner demons just won’t go away.
So angels please, hear my prayer.
Life is pain, life’s not fair.
So angels please; please stay here.
Take the pain; take the fear.

They say it won’t be hard; they can’t see the battles in my heart
But when I turn away
The demons seem to stay
Cause inner demons don’t play well with angels.
They cheat and lie and steal and break and bruise.
Angels please protect me from these rebels.
This is a battle I don’t want to lose.
So angels, angels please just keep on fighting.
Angels don’t give up on me today.
Cause the demons they are there; they just keep fighting.
Cause Inner demons just won’t go away.

Angels, angels please keep on fighting. Keep on fighting.
Angels don’t give up on me today.
Cause the demons; they are there.
They keep on fighting.
Inner demons just won’t go away.

So angels please, hear my prayer.
Life is pain; life’s not fair.
So angels please; please stay here.
Take the pain; take the fear.

Thursday, August 25th, Late Morning

Time was no longer of any relevance to me. I knew I had stepped onto the train at roughly 1:30 a.m. I knew that I had stepped off in Chicago roughly 10 hours later with a time change. Sometime around 10 a.m. I knew that I had lasted less than 5 minutes in Union Station before being taken into protective custody by Amtrak police. Since then…I knew nothing of time.

I had been searched, along with my possessions. Phone calls had been made by the authorities. Questions asked. I had been placed in an Amtrak Police Department SUV and transported through downtown Chicago to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I had sat in a registrar’s chair with the police standing over my shoulders and answered the most basic of questions that come out of our mouths by reflex.

Now I was sitting in a triage station. The police were still standing watch at the edge of the partially drawn curtain. We were joined by two members of the hospital security team. Also with badges, but clearly not with the level of training or authority that a police officer has experienced. They were wearing latex gloves and began asking me for a number of personal possessions to be placed in sealed bags, cataloged and locked in a hospital safe that god only knows the location of.

Drivers license. Credit cards. Cash. Insurance cards. Items of value less my clothes and cell phone. Listed out by number. Placed in those FedEx like vinyl envelopes that you tear the strip off and glue seal to itself. I was handed a pen, the first time I can remember someone actually making something available to me, and asked to sign as to my verification of the contents. Muscle memory scribbles provided through the haze, daze, and clouds of my mind.

My duffel bag was placed in a larger, clear hospital drawstring bag with my last name written in large letters with black Sharpie across a large white block. My shoes as well. And then of course, the inevitable, “Strip down to your underwear and t-shirt, and put on these gowns. The first like a normal shirt, the second backward.” Soon to be my 24/7 wardrobe for days.

I was left alone to change. Not really. The curtain was drawn three-quarters of the way as I followed the instructions. A wheelchair was provided without request, and I was separated from my possessions. Told they would meet back up with me in a bit. A change of location was imminent, and I could tell this was when I would be separated from the sane citizens who had come to this hospital for broken arms, rashes, fevers, or “physical” illness. I knew this was when I would enter the type of place I had only entered once before, and that was as a visitor of a patient. What little I could feel was solely dedicated to the emotion of fear.

Fear at the awareness that my mind was truly broken. Fractured. Maybe beyond repair. Fear of movie depictions of psych wards and mental institutions. Fear that maybe no one out there would ever want me anywhere but in here. Fear that this would be where I needed to end it, but might lack the means for just that very act.

I began to be wheeled toward an elevator. The Amtrak Police offered words of well wishes and health to me. I wondered if they would ever think of me again in this life. How many “me”s did they deal with every day?

How interesting it is that such a life pivoting moment for me, was likely just another couple of hours in the midst of a long week of work for them. It is no exaggeration to say that every day from that moment when they called out my name in Union Station forward has been forever altered…by three people whose names I never received or will ever know.

Three people who took me from the man on the train to the man in the ward.

Monday, November 28th, 2016

As I laid on my bed, it hit me. I have always been afraid. Battling fear. Paralyzing, debilitating, irrational fear. Some might even describe it as paranoia.

In the early years of my childhood, I would wake up after everyone else had gone to sleep. The house completely dark, but haunted by endless sounds that all homes make. And while not the most logical next step, I would slowly get out of bed, and begin to search the entire home. Slowly peering around each corner. Opening each closet. Ever so quietly making sure that we were all alone and it would be safe to at least attempt sleep once again.

The searches continued into my teen years, but the fear grew intensively worse. Many nights I could not pull myself from the bed to conduct the search. I would lie there frozen. Not moving for fear of creating a sound that would draw a would-be intruder’s attention. Convinced that someone had entered the home, and would soon be harming us. Eventually falling back asleep due to mental and emotional exhaustion.

It should be noted that in the midst of these years were the endless nightmares. I don’t know at what age they actually began, but they have continued to present day. Not as frequent as they once were, and varying in their appearance at different phases of my life. Nightmares that play out horrific deaths. Of me. Nightmares that provide very real images of pain. Torture. Abuse. Acts that should have killed me, but during which I miraculously remain alive to continue enduring the onslaught. I digress.

As I entered my adult years, another element was added to the fear. My mind would begin to play out dramatic, emotionally horrific scenarios. Now, while awake. With my eyes open. It was like a whole new phase. First, nightmares while I slept. Second, paranoia while paralyzed in bed. And now, third, excruciating mental images while wide awake. Maybe it would be thinking through a sequence of events where a loved one dies. As my mind races forward through the time loop, I would tighten up. My nerves would come alive. I might even begin crying.

As my kids grew older this could take on a level that easily should have been addressed with therapy and medication. Let’s say my son was going out with friends after a high school football game. Everyone else in the home may be sound asleep. I would be in the living room. Imagining a knock on the door. A police officer informing me there had been a horrific accident. Advising me my son was no more. And I would sob. Sitting there. On a Friday night just like any other. Weeping over the death of my son…which was totally fabricated by my severely broken mind.

As I drove north on the interstate three months ago and began facing a paranoia like I thought I had never before experienced it struck me as odd. I didn’t see myself as struggling with fear. As being a frightened person.

Now I see it. Because it has always been here. Another puzzle with many pieces I had never placed together. Another piece in the larger puzzle of my Bipolar mind.

Today I still struggle with occasional nightmares. I can still play out the dramatic, emotional, painfully weighted scenarios in my racing mind. I constantly battle trust issues which can tie directly to fears of being hurt. Pain. Sorrow. In my challenge to separate my rational from irrational thoughts, days in which I fail to do so can bring back so much of this past.

At FDR’s first inaugural address he is known to have said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

For me…that’s more than enough!

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…