The last day of my life (or so it seemed at the time)
Nobody tells you what to do, baby
Hey kids, shake a leg
Maybe you're crazy in the head, baby
Damn those Ativan looked attractive.
They weren't my Ativan. Too many visits to a neurologist who wrote too many prescriptions left my son with a lot of pill bottles he was never going to use. And when Children's Services ripped him from my arms I inherited his stash. One or two Ativan made for a really good night's sleep. Three? Four? Twenty?
I will try not to breathe
I can hold my head still with my hands at my knees
These eyes are the eyes of the old
Shiver in the cold
I will try not to breathe
This decision is mine
I have lived a full life
And these are the eyes that I want you to remember
"It's about my kids, it's about my not being able to find work, it's about people not having faith in me, it's about... well... it's just about not giving a shit anymore."
And the emergency room attendant kept typing away as she tried to distill the desire to end a 50-year-old life into responses on an intake questionnaire. I can't find a reason which can be verbalized, how am I going to be able to communicate it to a woman who just met me today? How does a person get to this point, where the simple joys of life are so out of reach? How is a man supposed to conquer the cloud that threatens to envelop him, a cloud that society won't admit to existing in a man's life? Depression? That's a woman's issue. What the hell do you have to be depressed about? You live that sweet life of privilege, dude. You got no problems.
Or so the voices would have you believe.
It's these little things, they can pull you under
Live your life filled with joy and thunder
Yeah, yeah we were altogether
Lost in our little lives
Funny farm? Don't ever call it a funny farm. It just ain't funny.
The Behavioral Health Unit consists of a certain number of rooms circling a common area where patients come together for meals and group meetings. Other rooms are available for group therapy and late-night television watching. I had a single room, but that wasn't guaranteed; there were single and double rooms, and most of the time they were filled.
So I assumed.
The reality is that some people came out to watch TV, some people came to group therapy, and some people just stayed under the covers, waiting for sleep. That is how I started my stay. I'm on a floor with lesbians hearing voices, rape victims, drug abusers, and people who have committed various and sundry illegal activities, all ostensibly seeking the same thing- peace of mind. Freedom. A sense that no matter what, your life has value. To someone. To yourself at least.
The first day there was a never-ending series of meetings with therapists and nurses, asking me how I was doing. How are you feeling? Are you feeling like you want to hurt yourself? Do you feel like you want to sleep and never wake up?
How am I feeling? I'm on the Behavioral Health Floor, aren't I? How do you think I'm feeling? I feel like I want to disappear. I feel like the past 50 years have been a prelude to a drama that just never seems to hit the stage on time.
Do I feel like I want to hurt myself? Does a cat have four legs?
Do I feel like I want to sleep and never wake up?
Next question, please.
Monty, this seems strange to me
And movies had that movie thing
But nonsense has a welcome ring
And heroes don't come easy
Now nonsense isn't new to me
I know my head, I know my feet
But mischief knocked me in the knees
Said, "Just let go. Just let go."
Day two, and you start to come to the realization that you aren't going home right away. They are going to keep you here until they are convinced that you aren't going to hurt yourself. So now you attempt to leave your room every once in awhile. If you want to get out, you have to play the game. And to win that game, you have to figure out for yourself what exactly there is to live for, and what exactly there was that you wanted to die for. Is life richer for your presence in it? Is life poorer for your absence? Who would miss you? What would you miss?
deserves a quiet night.
I'm not sure all these people understand.
It's not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
replaced by everyday.
Day Three. Between Game 7 and the tiny little bed I slept on, about the size of a washing-machine box with the comfort of concrete, I got about six hours of sleep. I sat in front of my dime-sized pancakes and turkey sausage that will never, ever see the inside of my house (ever), and contemplated my morning nap. I could grab a good hour before morning group therapy, and maybe even after if I skipped art therapy.
I want to sleep. Sleeping allows me time to forget life after the hospital. I wanted to get out, but life "after" would still hold the same challenges, the same roadblocks, and I wasn't sure I was ready to deal with that yet. Really, I wasn't sure if I was ready to deal with that ever, but I was faced with a dilemma- either get ready to leave the hospital and face it, or be prepared to stay awhile and face myself.
If you're on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on
Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody hurts sometimes
So hold on
This is the point where I receive the revelation of the beauty of life, throw off the shackles and exit the hospital a changed man, no longer seeking the exit door. This is the point of the denoument, where all the strings tie together, where I throw my arms to the audience and shout "Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est".
On the fourth day it was decided that I would be going home over the weekend. I had convinced them that I wanted to get better, that I didn't want to kill myself, that I was willing to take the medicinal path to a new outlook. The reality is that I was pretty sure I wanted to get better, that I really didn't want to kill myself, but I couldn't really promise anything, could I? How could I say for certain that I would never again feel depression, that I would never again feel crushed under the weight of life's challenges, that I would never again feel like being dead was a better option than, well, not being dead?
I can't find anyone willing to hire a 50-year-old man who hasn't worked in 10 years because he was caring for severely autistic children who happened to be his own. My children are never coming back home. Our bank account is nearly depleted. So the complexities of life still exist, whether or not I have the energy to say "Look out life, I'm coming for you!" The only thing I can guarantee... is that I will try. For the sake of my children, whom I do want to see again, I will try. For the sake of my wife, whom I love dearly, I will try. I will get up tomorrow morning and try. Some days may be tougher than others. There may be times that I need an emergency call to the psychiatrist. There will likely be times that I cry. But I will keep trying.
Everybody hurts, sometimes.
(all song lyrics are from the Automatic For The People album by R.E.M.)