Quickly and quietly, the trapdoor had closed on me. My attempts to reflect on things I had enjoyed or loved were immediately darkened by vicious pain and uncustomary confusion. They would not relent, and it felt like there was no escape.
In the span of a few short months I moved back to my hometown after a nearly 10-year absence, watched a successful business we had built collapse in on itself, and in the turmoil allowed a lifetime of unmanaged mental health issues get way ahead of me. I pushed away a person that would have loved and cared for me forever, lost the house I misguidedly bought upon my return, and left my brother unemployed during the Christmas season.
For much of that time I was struggling with an injury that left me sleeping sitting up with near-constant pain in my back and legs. The surgery performed to repair it did not do its job, and after the pain and recovery of that process, the original pain had barely changed.
Now I was simply weaker, but no less uncomfortable, and avoiding at all costs becoming drug-reliant to cope with it. All the while I was in the midst of losing my mind, and was somehow good enough at it that none of the right people were asking any of the right questions.
It wasn’t that I felt I had nothing further to offer. I was just so profoundly disappointed with myself that my already challenged self-esteem and self-worth had no chance of making any sort of credible stand. Our main business had failed, I exiled the one person that may have been able to offer the clarity and stability I needed, I was in constant, serious, physical pain, and each of those failures was impacting those that I cared about in negative ways.
I have never paid much mind to how things impact me, but I over-care about how even small things impact others; In this particular period of time, that flawed strategy got way out ahead of me.
Day-to-day I was functioning mostly on instinct. I had begun to learn how to talk myself out of pain- if even for just brief periods of time- in efforts to not simply take the pills and try to forget. If I stayed positive-minded and distracted, I could make it; I truly thought I was making it.
I had developed a small training business, and it was something that even back in 2009 I had already put many years of work into. It provided structure, and the people that (much to my daily surprise) kept showing up provided motivation. When I was engaged in either my or their process of learning, the seas were somewhat calm. The danger zones were weekends and nighttime… I would sit with the cat, and think, and try to write, and watch things I had seen before simply to feel any sort of familiarity and comfort when I was feeling none in any other aspect or moment of my life.
When I moved correctly and deliberately, the pain was manageable; If I made a drastic mistake, such as leaning down too quickly to tie my shoes, or redirecting my movement without first stabilizing myself, it became anything but. I would black out occasionally simply from moving in a slightly compromised position; Sometimes the pain and tension would just turn the lights out.
All of it gave me some very real perspective on the relativity of discomfort, on my own capacity for physical endurance, and a possibly unsafe dose of humility for someone that had spent most of his life developing physical skillsets that appeared to be disappearing before his eyes.
I felt no lifeline, and saw no endgame.
Unless you have done something so morally detestable that you deserve to feel pain by your own hand and leave this earth in shame, there is always a better path out of the dark. Reading this is not likely to be helpful to those in the midst of, because once your brain malfunctions to that degree, very little sense can be made of very much… and you are never nearly as in control of any of it as you think you are. I thought I had it… managed… But that ended up being the furthest thing from the truth.
There is a nearly-infinite stream of opinions and notions and debate about the how’s and why’s of such things. My simple take on it is this: Each of our brains has the power to trick us; Some simply capitalize more maliciously on the ability.
When the die is cast, you no longer see a choice in the matter. It isn’t weakness, or strength, or success, or failure that governs the game, its chemicals. When I woke up that morning, I had no idea that nine hours later I would take enough pills to kill me, on purpose, and calmly standing in my kitchen. But that is exactly what happened.
It all just made sense, and yet none of it made sense. Everything was neutral, but just so heavy that it didn’t even allow me the panic and dread and redirection I should have been feeling.
In the past two decades I’ve been prescribed every brain drug and ham-fistedly diagnosed with every mental ailment that the blue pad has boxes for. Even after listening to my reasonable, intelligent analysis and description of why I sometimes struggle mentally, the first response was always assign a scary diagnosis and drug it into submission. I would often start the drugs, become unsettled with either what they really did or what I anticipated them doing, and then stop. That was very likely not the best strategy, but I would then and now rather be a product of myself than a product of their product.
I was thinking, but it wasn’t working. All I wanted was quiet. I found the cat, told her everything would be OK, ate an impolite handful of narcotic pain medicine and high-dose brain medicine, and sat down on the ground. Even then, I wasn’t worried about myself. Through the fuzz and fury and frustration, and soon confusion, and relief, and elation, I remember thinking about the fact that my parents and brother would likely have to move all my stuff, and what a hassle that would be. And, who would care for the cat. At that point the system was completely broken, and was about to shut down.
I don’t know how long I was out, or why I woke up at all. As I lay on the kitchen floor barely able to see, the cat climbed on my chest as she often does, and head-butted me in the chin, as she often does. I don’t know exactly what did what, or why, or how, (and would be lying for the sake of continuity if I pretended to) but an emotion stirred in me as she sat there, and the panic I should have felt earlier finally appeared.
I could barely feel anything. It was as if I were crawling on clouds, or bubbles, or pudding. I was disoriented beyond belief, and began opening low cabinets because I was unable to stand. I found and gulped from a clear bottle (which ended up being vinegar), and threw up many of the pills.
I don’t know how long I was out, again, but this time I at least woke up knowing I had woken up. Everything was still the furthest from right, but I was awake, and there was at least enough clarity to be grateful for that fact.
I must have been absent for long enough to inspire worry, because after waking up for the third time, I heard my parents enter through the garage. Things were clearly not right, and I was taken to the hospital.
I only gave part of the story; Thankfully that was enough to let me recover and exit in somewhat short-order, though not without some contention. There was still an air of denial on my part, and it made me indignant and uncooperative towards the idea of staying any longer than I already had, though it almost certainly would have been valuable.
I have thought about that day, every day; How it could have gone, and nearly went. How it ended up where it did; How I ended up where I did. Why my usual rational, logical, calculating mind couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and why something that made no sense made so much sense. And, mostly, I think of how improbable it was that the very thing I oddly thought of last was the same one that rattled my fuckin’ cage at the very right time… and that she’ll never even know.
Her simple, familiar gesture was the only reason- I believe- that everything didn’t end right there.
It took me six years to finish writing this. I began in 2010, and decided soon after that I didn’t want to complete or publish it. I had revisited it since and kept the same perspective, but in light of several recent events and out of a desire to close an open door, it is now fucking done.
Again: Unless you have done something so morally detestable that you deserve to feel pain by your own hand and leave this earth in shame, there is always a better path out of the dark.
Reading this is not likely to be helpful to those in the midst of, because once your brain malfunctions to that degree, very little sense can be made of very much… and you are never nearly as in control of any of it as you think you are.
I thought I had it… managed. But that ended up being the furthest thing from the truth.
I couldn’t save myself from myself; No matter what I accomplish or what may happen from here out, knowing that it really all came down to luck and timing beyond my control provides an unrelenting humility and clarity, and a sharp, tight tether to reality.