Present Day, March 12th, 2018

It seemed so bright for 4 a.m. Too bright. A quick look out the window explained the reason. A significant snow had fallen. From the view of the bedroom window, maybe as much as six inches. Which in this town typically means shut down. As in, life shut down.

Which caused me a bit of a predicament at this early hour because I had never before had a “snow day” at this workplace. Would I receive a text? Would they post it on the local TV channels? Would they even shut down due to a snowfall? All of which meant that the two and a half more hours of sleep I had waiting for me, in either event, was now shot to hell.

When six o’clock rolled around I decided to grab my phone and check in on the snow closings. Sure enough, there near the top of the list (as our company name starts with an “a” followed by a “c”) was the indication that we were closed for the day. (Ironically enough, and unbeknownst to me until later…not because of snow, but because of a power outage caused by the snow. Thus meaning, I still do not know if we in fact shut down for snow.)

A few snooze alarms and FitBit notifications later (don’t ask), and I actually managed to fall back asleep. Most likely in the 6:45 range, but regardless my next significant conscious moment didn’t come until around 8:25. A nice additional block of sleep to help compensate for the previously lost.

Bring on stressor number two. Being closed doesn’t mean the customers that direct work my way will be shut down today. Meaning double the work will be awaiting me tomorrow. Maybe not a huge deal in a normal week. However, this is not a normal week. It is my birthday week. Which means I am scheduled to utilize my free day off on Friday and enjoy an extended weekend. Alas, a four-day week is now a three-day week.

I was texting the same thoughts with a co-worker who ended the conversation with “try to enjoy the day off.” I am pretty sure she was sensing that I was probably more stressed about the work awaiting tomorrow then I was focused on enjoying the free day that had fallen into my lap today. She would be correct.

Seeing the pattern here? I imagine most people would flashback to 4 a.m. and respond with something like… “Looking like a snow day!!!” Then they would check back in around alarm time, and enter into a true celebration of the gift that is a day away from work (and/or school).

Not me. Not my mind. Not that simple.

The difference is not the reasonableness of stress or the unknown. It is more the management thereof. I assume everyone experiences some curiosity as to if they will get the day off. Everyone likely wants to make sure they get accurate information rather than guess about staying home from work. Everyone probably thinks ahead to the fact that a double day of work will likely be awaiting them. But not everyone obsesses about any of the above. Or loses valuable sleep due to them. Or sees a day slip away in stress rather the enjoyment of “didn’t see this coming when I went to bed.”

Obsessive minds do. Racing minds do. My mind does.

4 a.m. was almost 10 hours ago. The good news is, I seem to have it all under control now, and with still a good six or seven hours of a day to enjoy. I’m sure the panic will come back as the sun sets. That’s just part of it. But for now, it is a half a snow day to enjoy, at the launch of an unpredictable three-day work week.

Present Day, February 5th, 2017

It was a pretty logical response. Fairly in line with what I expected. Mainly surprise. Possibly with a slight undertone of shock. Throw in a dash of disturbed. But again, mostly what I saw coming.

I had just told my wife that there were times I missed being in the hospital. The psychiatric ward. Inpatient treatment. Yesterday was the five month anniversary of my returning home, and it was not without its nostalgic reflections on the upsides of my time there. I knew some explanation would be necessary. And I also knew she would be open to hearing it and receiving it without offense. She’s loving like that.

So we talked for awhile about this emotional challenge of mine with the following points being shared –

One, there is a freedom from stress in freedom from responsibility. I have five children that I love and care about. A wife who I am deeply tied to. A turtle, dog, 17 chickens…and now a cat. All a part of my life routine. However, all of these things come with varying levels of responsibility that add to the stress and tension of anyone’s life, let alone someone struggling through a challenging period of their mental illness. There is something about waking up in an environment where those responsibilities are out of your grasp.

Two, there is a lack of panic in leaving behind financial burdens. Now, I couldn’t fully experience this because I knew that the business I owned was awaiting my return back home or would fall back into the hands of a larger entity. My wife could only keep it afloat for so long. However, for some patients without jobs or personal ownership of a corporation, the burden of finances can quickly disappear in a hospital, and to some degree even for me. You see, I knew my “out of pocket” health insurance max, and I knew how much a hospital stay runs. It only took a moment of math to know 48 hours in that my respite was no longer costing us anymore from a treatment standpoint whether I was there one more or ninety more days.

Third, who doesn’t appreciate an environment where you really don’t have to be an adult for awhile. My food showed up three times a day as predicted. Monotonous and bland at times? Yes. But predictable, and for many of us with mental illnesses…finding routine and predictability can be half the battle. Or more! Laundry was free, if I even wanted to do it. Socks. Gowns. Bedsheets. Towels. All provided. Hell, someone even cleaned my room. Not quite like a Hilton, but a helluva lot easier than keeping said home with humans and animals clean.

Fourth, anonymity. I started with a name. And that was it. From there, anything anyone knew about me was of my choosing. Clean slate. I had a first name and had obviously flipped my shit to some degree somewhere out there. That was it. My identity from that point forward was all in my control. No history. No past. No future. No present. Just a name. And that may sound like a lack of an identity. And a lack of an identity may sound like a very sad existence, but when you have loathed and hated what has become of your identity over a 47 year period…anonymity makes a stay in a psych ward quite appealing.

Fifth, I was at a really good psychiatric unit (Northwestern Memorial Hospital). Not just the physical facility, which was outstanding, but the staff. They really cared. Maybe I would have outworn my welcome. But I surely didn’t in the eight days I was there. They listened. They were helpful. They offered insight. They were available. They invested. They cared. Aside from loved ones, that can be pretty damn hard to find out here. And can alone be enough to make you want to be back in there.

Well, there are other reasons, but you get the idea. At least she, my wife, did. I shared how there were individuals in with me who seemed to have begun to make a living staying “inpatient”, and to some degree I could see why. More so on my stressed out days. Yet maybe a little bit always.

Five months ago I stepped out onto the sidewalks of the Miracle Mile in Chicago and breathed in the September air amongst the hustle and bustle of pedestrians and automobile traffic. I was glad to be going home, but it felt a little different. A little uncertain. A little scary.

That feeling hasn’t gone away. And every now and then I can picture waking up on that little twin hospital bed, putting on my double tied gown, heading down the hall toward the small dining room for breakfast and think…yeah, I miss that.

January 7th, 2017 – Musical Truths

…I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink,
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think.

…Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young,
How come I’m never able to identify where it’s coming from,
I’d make a candle out of it if I ever found it,
Try to sell it, never sell out of it, I’d probably only sell one,

It’d be to my brother, ’cause we have the same nose,
Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam,
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered,
Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter.

…We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face,
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”

Present Day – New Year’s Day, 2017

Not this year. Not today. I just don’t have it in me. I can not remember the last time this was the case. Years. Probably decades. In fact, I have almost been religious about it. Looked forward to it. But now? I just do not have it in me.

Today is the day millions of people will launch their New Year’s Resolutions. Over the past six or so years I have allowed the numerical year to fuel mine. 12 goals for 2012. 14 commitments for 2014. 16 resolutions for 2016. Even went as far as to connect the year to the next level. 15 challenges for 2015 including losing 15 pounds. Neurotic? A bit. You get the idea.

However, as the now past year wound down and this day approached there was never a second thought. I knew weeks ago. Probably months ago. It simply was not going to happen.

Not that there aren’t plenty of needs. Weighed in today 16 pounds heavier than when I left the hospital and 27 pounds over what my doctor recommends. Split the difference and wouldn’t it sound great to aim for 17 pounds of weight loss in 2017?

Opposite my weight, my reading has dropped to a hideously low level. Let’s aim to read 17 minutes a day in 2017! A little over a date a month is far from too many so how about 2017 including 17 dates with my wife. Hell, I’m not even trying and look how easily they flow.

But no. No way. No how. No chance. I simply am not ready to look another year of resolution failure in the face. I do not have that in me. Not even close.

I’ve been one of those people who have joined the mantra of shouting good riddance to 2016. If you have read many of these blog entries, you know a major reason why. There are others.

I’ll confess, I’m not a fan of the President-Elect and all that 2016 included in bringing us to where we are politically in America. Then I got to thinking, if you didn’t like those results in 2016, how is 2017 going to be any better when the “-Elect” part comes off the job title?

Owning my own business and driving close to 100 miles a day in a 9 miles per gallon F-250, I have been a big fan of sub-$2.00 per gallon gasoline. As we have seen over the last month, that’s gonna change. And not for the better. If you weren’t a fan of gas prices, health insurance premiums, or cost of living budget lines in 2016…yeah, I think 2017 is going to be significantly more disappointing.

In my home state, 2016 was the second hottest year on record. I have some familiarity with the arguments for climate change and tend to agree with them. Are we turning the corner in that area of global challenge in 2017? I think not.

International conflict. Civil war. National violence. Addiction. Crack down on racism. Elimination of stigma. Equal rights for all people. Yeah…fuck you 2016 because these are all about to be resolved in 2017. Right? Umm…no.

I find myself unable to resolve too much of anything for the New Year. I have yet to receive the final bill for my last mental breakdown, and over the past few weeks have not felt that far from my next. If you think 2016 was a rough time to be alive, try being one of us for whom every day is a rough time to stay alive.

So this is my only commitment for 2017…each day when I wake up, I will commit to giving my all to staying alive for the next 17 hours. To doing everything within my power that day to make it back to that pillow 17 hours later.

To recognize that I will likely fail more than I will succeed at the tasks of my day-to-day living, but that failing alive is probably better than succeeding at death.