The Next 100: Time for a Tour!

This is post 101. That’s right, the first post of the second one hundred. Not bad for a blog that is less than one year old. And it seems like a good time to give you an idea of what I am trying to accomplish here. A quick tour of The Man On A Train. So here goes…

First, I originally set out to provide an inside look. Inside the mind of someone who is mentally ill, and being hospitalized. When I was taken into protective custody last fall, it was the first time in my almost fifty years of life that my illness had reached the point of being placed under psychiatric care. The experience was loaded with fear. Loaded with images of movie depicted institutions. Loaded with misconceptions. So I wanted to provide some insight as to what it can look like to obtain the kind of help that some of us need when a full-fledged admission is required.

These entries can be identified by their titles which begin with a date stamp occurring during the last week of August and first week of September (i.e. Thursday, August 25th, 5 p.m.). While no year is included, these events transpired in late summer 2016. These entries can also be searched via the “Categories” tool on the right side of the blog under the heading “Out of Town”.

Second, I wanted to share the after. What is it like to attempt to pick up the pieces after a complete meltdown? Breakdown? Loss of all sanity? It is not like they discharge you and all is well. We are not “fixed” near that easy. Knowing that the hospitalization was merely the beginning of another chapter or book of my life, I wanted to continue the story.

These entries can be identified by their titles which begin with “Present Day” followed by the actual day I am reflecting on (i.e. Present Day, July 12, 2017). Another way to isolate these entries is by utilizing the “Categories” tool under the heading “Back Home”.

Third, I love music. A massive variety of music. And music lyrics speak to me. Very directly. So I decided that every Saturday I would post a song containing words that I thought were particularly relevant to my journey and battle with mental illness. Some are sad. Some are upbeat. Some are heavy. Some are light. But all of them share a common thread of being songs that I can sing with the sense of being or having been right where the lyrics land.

And yes, these also have a simple way of being isolated. Utilize the “Categories” tool and search for the heading “Music for the Road” (i.e. July 15th, 2017 – Musical Truths… though based on the number of entries I have either missed a few weeks or failed to get all of them dropped into the right category).

There is a fourth category that I have yet to get to: the before. What was life like before the meltdown? Before the breakdown? When did I first know I had a mental illness? Or that something simply wasn’t right? How did I find out about it? What ways did I live in denial of it until denial was no longer a possibility? Which events in my life shaped the deterioration of my mental, emotional, and psychological health? Who was I or did I think I was, before I became who I am or who I think I am?

I don’t know if I will ever get to this fourth category. For now, the first three are keeping my plate full. But when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Hopefully, this helps make more sense of just where this journey of The Man on a Train is going. Whether you want to know what life inside the hospital walls was like, how I’m struggling through the journey today, or are just looking for some music to speak for you when words don’t seem to come…I hope you will find my walk a helpful part of yours.

Peace.

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

January 28th, 2017 – Musical Truths

…They’ll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down
And hope that we will never see the truth around…

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

Interchanging mind control
Come, let the revolution take its toll
If you could flick the switch and open your third eye
You’d see that we should never be afraid to die

Rise up and take the power back
It’s time the fat cats had a heart attack
You know that their time’s coming to an end
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend

Present Day, January 15, 2017

I started at a very young age. Maybe five. Possibly earlier. It was just what we did in my family. The first lessons came from my mother. My sister had started them a couple years before me. My brother would follow a few after. Once we outgrew my mother’s ability to push us any further, or was too busy due to outside employment, or the drive to mold us into mad over achievers overcame her teaching skills my parents passed us on to a professional. A very rigid, classical instructor. I can still picture him.

So from a very early age until my junior high years I would give hours each week to sitting down on the bench, in front of the ebony and ivory keys and practicing my piano. And I became quite good. Was even what many would call a bit of a natural. Purely classical in training and repertoire. Rigid in posture and structure. Bred to succeed.

At some point we each picked up a secondary instrument. As memory serves me, this was also mandatory. Not a choice. The choice was the instrument. For my older sister, flute…though later replaced by the saxophone. Or visa-versa. For my younger brother, the drums. Always, the drums. For me, the trumpet.

School bands, and private lessons. To commend my parents, no expense was spared for either instrument. Though the expense came with a price. We would perform whenever, where ever, and for whomever they required it. Often against my will. Often kicking and screaming. Often ending in my humiliation.

However, again, I was good. Even better than at piano. All Northern California Honor Band good by my senior year of high school. United States Naval Academy good my freshman year of college. A little more diverse this time. Classical. Jazz. Spiritual. Marching.

Music was in my blood. To the point of serving as drum major of the high school marching band. I had no trouble reading music. Playing it. Transposing it. Fully engaging in it. And practicing it for hours on end between the two instruments daily.

My senior year of high school also launched another creative part of my life. Acting. With no previous experience and no participation in the drama department, I auditioned for the school play and was awarded a leading part. This paired with debate and public speaking right into my college years. Intercollegiate competitions across the western states winning awards in impromptu speaking, extemporaneous, and with the drama background…reader’s theater.

Believe me, I do not tell you all this to brag. Rather, to confess a regret.

The piano was surrendered in almost its entirety by high school. Allowed by my parents having put in my obligatory number of years to earn the freedom of choice. The trumpet passed during college, and my instrument was formally donated to a young man in need of a better one just a few years later (it was a beautiful, silver, Bach Stradivarius…musicians out there will know what that means!). Acting? Theater? Never again.

The connectivity between arts. Music. Drama. And mental illness. Bipolar. They aren’t hard to find. They are not challenging to locate throughout history.

From Robert Schumann to Demi Lovato. Vivien Leigh to Carrie Fisher. Van Gogh to Virginia Woolf.

How did these people get famous while battling a mental illness? My theory? Their creativity helped provide an outlet for their mental illness. Rather than the illness stifling their lives, it placed within them the type of mind, that while often maddening, spurred the ability for creative greatness.

Back to my regret, which potentially has nothing to do with the previous three paragraphs, I regret that my creativity died. That my ability to make music passed.

Last year I attempted to re-engage with the piano. The struggle was too great. The frustration. The reality of playing worse, much worse, at 47 than I was able to at 12 or 13. The fact that what used to flow so easily now seemed nearly impossible.

Since leaving the hospital last September I have been aware of what a shell of a person I am compared to what I used to be and/or what I could have been. I think this has a lot to do with it. I was created…or born…or wired…or whatever philosophy and/or theology works for you…to be creative. It was in me. It was a gift. And it is gone. Not taken away. It has died.

And with it, a piece of me. A large, vibrant, positive reinforcing piece of me.

I have returned to listening to a lot of music lately. A large variety of music. With a massive dose of classical mixed in. It has stirred something in me.

Not something that can fill that void. But something alive. Something better than dead.

January 14th, 2017 – Musical Truths

I was the knight in shining armour in your movie
Would put your lips on mine and love the aftertaste
Now I’m a ghost, I call your name, you look right through me
You’re the reason I’m alone and masturbate

I, yeah, I’ve been trying to fix my pride
But that shit’s broken, that shit’s broken
Lie, lie, l-lie, I try to hide
But now you know it

That I’m at an all time
Low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low
Low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low

I was the prototype like 3 stacks on that CD
An example of the perfect candidate
Now all your girlfriends say that you don’t want to see me
You’re the reason that I just can’t concentrate

December 17th, 2016 – Musical Truths

The song is about the desire to inundate yourself with pain or angst or noise or joy, or really any experience, in order to have ownership of the feelingThough it emerged from a dark place, the song quickly morphed into a celebratory thing, which was surprising and cool for me. It kind of felt like I was enacting the song as I wrote it KFlay

…Guess I’m contagious it’d be safest if you ran
Fuck that’s what they all just end up doing in the end
Take my car and paint it black
Take my arm, break it in half
Say something, do it soon
It’s too quiet in this room

I need noise
I need the buzz of a sub
Need the crack of a whip
Need some blood in the cut

…I don’t have an agenda
All I do is pretend to be ok so my friends
Can’t see my heart in the blender
Lately, I’ve been killing all my time
Reading through your messages my favorite way to die
Take my head and kick it in
Break some bread for all my sins
Say a word, do it soon
It’s too quiet in this room

I need noise
I need the buzz of a sub
Need the crack of a whip
Need some blood in the cut