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…

Thursday, August 25th, 12:05 a.m.

I had left home for work at 3 a.m. on Tuesday the 23rd. Upon returning from work and continuing in a desperate downward spiral, I had left home with a bag to simply get some “space”. Checking into a hotel, I operated at a fairly cognizant level of logic into the next morning of work before coming unhinged prior to completing my responsibilities for the morning. That is when things came unglued, and I went on the run.

Almost 18 hours later, I had exhausted myself with constant bouts of paranoia, changing locations, hiding from people I thought were chasing me, attempting to “tie up loose ends”, and all while believing that my plan and demise was all dependent on making that 1:41 a.m. train westward.

All the while my mind was racing. Processing thoughts at light speed. And when I say light speed…I’m telling you, if you don’t have the type of mental illness that includes a severe condition of racing thoughts…you have no idea how quickly the mind can fire!

They had finally opened the renovating train station and escorted us back to the waiting room where I would find myself huddled in a corner counting the remaining minutes until my departure. It was there, amidst the struggle of an almost uncontrollable brain, that I bared down to give all the focus I could to one final email to my wife –

 

I want you to know some of my deepest regrets that have plagued my mind today –

My biggest one is how overly critical I was of you. My endless barrage of criticism and critique had to lead to many miserable days in our time together. My life long struggle to see the positive vs the negative has robbed me of so much joy and peace. And I know it did the same to you. I am so sorry.

I also regret not telling you how beautiful you always were to me. I let that go away after the wedding, which is shameful. You captivated me till the end.

And I regret not sticking to plans. Conflict resolution plans. Emotional health monitoring plans. Safeguards that were supposed to keep us from these moments. Looking back, it is all so obvious: sleep deprivation, parenting stresses, XXXXXX’x departure, the mediation…I should have been more proactive in managing myself. I failed you. And I am sorry.

I don’t know what I am doing. But every fix seems so temporary. I just don’t want to fight this all my life. The constant neuropathy pain. The endless self-management. The lack of resources to tackle a crisis like this when it arises. Life is an endless struggle and I’m just so tired.

The nightmares are back. The ideation is back. The temper. The insomnia. Every victory is fleeting.

I regret not being stronger. Not being whole. Not having managed my life better so that we could enjoy these years.

I regret not having a lifetime with the most wonderful, beautiful partner I could ever dream of.

 

I hit send. Boarded the train. And as far as I could tell, began to say goodbye to my demons. All the while knowing…they were getting on the train with me.