I remember, way back in my early childhood, a dream I had of a black Knight, on a black horse, surrounded in a room of nothing. A cape of hope hung around his neck and he looked at me, straight at me, and in the raspy echo of his helmet said, “Come to me. Come get it.”
I have to share this. I have no choice. At some point it has to come out. It will hurt people, and I’m sorry.
I’m not one who pushes God. It’s a taboo subject, and I think God is something people come to on their own accord. Belief or not, I don’t judge. I don’t judge people’s religion. God is an experience, and everyone has a different perspective. It’s as individual as staring at a table. My vantage point has me looking in one direction, seeing what I can see with my eyes, feeling what I can feel with my hands. Your vantage point is different than mine. Maybe an inch above, to the left. You see more than I can see. For me the table has legs. You can’t see the legs, so for you the table has none.
And for those who cannot see the table, whose vantage point has them too far away, or turned around, that doesn’t mean the table isn’t there. That doesn’t mean your perception is wrong. You’re experience is different than mine, but we are all experiencing the same thing. Because as much as we see a table, science says it’s mostly empty space. Nothing. So, even non-believers are staring at the same thing, just differently.
I’m trying to put us all on the same page here, if you haven’t noticed. Believers and non. Because I want everyone to keep an open mind. I’m not here to convince anyone of God or Religion. I just need to tell my story, and I just need you to listen. There is no point of a story if no one listens. But I have to say it, I can’t keep quiet any longer.
A friend of mine convinced me to write this, in his own special way. Actually, he doesn’t even know. He just asked a simple question. He wanted to know what sparked my curiosity. And then there is my therapist. Who asked how. Actually, many doctors have asked how. How am I alive today?
I have been through so much, survived so much, and yet I persevered. I did it and I can laugh. No matter how much I have been hurt, no matter how much I have been angered, I still have love and not hate. I refuse to give up on my family and friends. I refuse to be swallowed in misery. It’s not an easy road to take. Most wouldn’t. But, I’m a survivor. And I truly believe there is a reason for it all. I truly believe in the end it will mean something. Because it does. Because I want to leave something of me behind to help.
So here it is. My soul. My curiosity.
In college my life fell apart. My mother had a botched surgery on her shoulder. It left her in more pain then she went in, and caused her to be disabled. My mother was always a strong, independent woman. She worked hard to give my sister and I a life where we weren’t rich, and weren’t poor. We got everything we needed and then some. And when she applied for disability, all on her own, no lawyers, no nothing, the government agreed with her. It’s rare, most people get denied their first try, even with a lawyer. But, she was truly unable to work, the pain too great. We all knew it.
And it broke her heart. Here, a woman who worked her whole life, a woman who relied on herself for everything she needed, who in the 60s was told she could be only this or only that; defied her father, married the man she would happy with; who gave her life to her children so they could get everything they needed and wanted and grow up independent dreamers. And she was told by the US Government that she was no longer able to support herself. That’s how she saw it. She told me in not so many words. She felt useless. I watched a woman who I admired shatter. And I wasn’t the only one who felt the repercussions of our strong family matriarch give up. The glue had withered, as glue does with age.
I don’t want to discount credit to my father here. He is strong in his own way. In my house, my mother ruled. She held us together and she held him together. He never denied that, and wouldn’t. But there is something to be said for a man who stands behind his woman. Who supports her 100% in every decision she makes, and agrees with her whether he truly agrees or not. Both my parents took the anti-establishment of their times to heart. Gender roles meant nothing, religion was control, God was a word, the “Joneses” was an illusion, and money came in from both sides regardless of a “breadwinner.” Now maybe for the tradition of what makes a man, “a man” it makes my father look weak, but for us it was strength. Because the outside world could see what it wanted, but the inside… we knew the truth.
My mother was glue. Strong glue. Any crack was quickly filled. And it wasn’t a dictatorship. Believe me, my parents loved both my sister and I dearly. They weren’t perfect, no parents are, really. They made mistakes, some catastrophic, but they are human. So, “dysfunctional family”? Sure. Name me one family that isn’t.
But the glue snapped. My family crumbled quickly. My mother’s despair sucked the wind out of everyone. I don’t blame her for that. It was unfair of us to rely on her so much. And I could make excuses. I could say I was a child, I didn’t know any better not to. I could say it was my sister who took every advantage she could to break the sanctity of the inside and threaten to expose us for what we were. I could say my father shouldn’t have put that much pressure on my mother, should have been stronger, should have better prepared him and us for that moment.
But where would that leave us? Blaming and pointing? Accusing and name calling? Hurting and anger? Nothing to solve the problem, just watching it grow and fester.
Hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it? Because that’s exactly what happened. Blame, pointed fingers, everyone knew what everyone should have done and it became a big mess.
As college was coming to an end, so was I. My mother was injured, and then my father rolled his ankle, and became injured as well. My sister was getting married. Then divorced. Everywhere I turned I had injury, heartbreak, and chaos.
And I became depressed. I felt my mind regress back to my childhood. I reached out for help.
It’s amazing, when you sit in a hospital full of depressed people, how many people turn to God. Or, well, actually away. Everyone seemed angry at God. Everyone felt abandoned by him. I asked one of the nurses about this, why is it everyone talked about God? She told me that most people, like me, were at the end of their ropes. Facing the darkest corners of their minds, facing the choice of their own mortality. They felt rejected, and angry. I did too. But not by God. I didn’t believe in God. I couldn’t put hate into a thing that didn’t exist. But I knew I existed. And I knew who to be angry at. Everyone else.
I was angry at my mother for shutting down; angry at my father for not standing the ground and taking over; I was angry my sister had an escape through drugs; I was angry my friends didn’t have to feel what I did; I was angry my parents threw money down the drain; I was angry I had to keep going; I was angry I had to go out into the world alone; I was angry I had to keep public perceptions up; I was angry that I couldn’t tell the truth; I was angry that the truth brought both fear and change.
They say people who make the choice to commit suicide don’t really want to die. I think back to that time, and, yeah, I really wanted to die. So whoever “they” are need to understand. We want to die. I even had an after-plan. I wanted my energy and anger to haunt what was around me. I wanted the blame to be cast on those around me like a curse, to punish all generations. It was about revenge, hatred, and pain. I would watch the catastrophe happen as a final middle finger and laugh and say “I told you so. It wasn’t my fault, I tried to tell you and no one cared, no one listened. And now look at what you did. It wasn’t my fault at all.”
I tried to die by running my car into a tree (missed). I tried swallowing hair spray (yuck). I tried standing in a tub with the shower running and an electrical cord plugged in (thanks Hollywood). There was even a time I seriously considered making a sign that said, “I hate black people,” and driving down to Camden, NJ, standing in the middle of the street with it, letting the gangs kill me, for me. Yes, I got that from a movie. That’s how depressed I was. I watched an old Die Hard movie and actually thought it was a cleaver way to off myself. Death becomes an obsession when you are depressed.
One night there was a fight going on. Typical fight. My sister in one of her lucid moments, denying something she did in her comatose drugged state. Screaming, throwing things in the bedroom. My father hiding upstairs.
I just walked out. Unprepared. A total compulsion. I didn’t stop to put on a jacket in the cold November air. I didn’t stop and think about shoes. I just walked barefoot down the road to the park being guided by some sort of peace of mind. A comfort, calling me there. I felt united with the world. For some reason I felt so at peace, like something guiding me. I felt one with the earth, free, and alive. Suddenly I felt the whole purpose of life, the whole connection, the design of everything. And there it was. Some kids must have tangled up the swings, but I swear it was like a perfect noose.
And as I stared at it, the rain began to fall. All of it made sense at that very moment. The connection. The world was crying for me. Nature was mourning me, I could watch it in these few moments and it was beautiful. And peaceful. And freeing. I imagined me swinging back and forth in the wind, like the end of Huxley’s novel, “Brave New World.” How poetic. A family refusing to show emotion, a singular revolution of hatred, how meaningless it had all become. That’s how I imagined me.
I tried to climb up the pole, but the rain, the light mist that had passed during my peace… I kept sliding back down. I tried stepping on the other swing but it wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to get my head through the chain and snap my neck. Eventually the mud on my feet, the slickness of my skin, with the dampness of the rubbery swing and wet iron got me nowhere but landing on the ground. God won, and I cried my eyes out, and went back home defeated. I cursed it. I had a new thing to hate, and it was God. It mocked me with its humor and I screamed, “Is this your way of getting me to believe in you?”
Now it was personal.
I told my mother I would get help for my depression. For my problem. I wanted to give my family some sort of hope. As sick as this sounds, it was so I could dash it away. Because I was so angry. I wanted them to feel as miserable as I did. I let my sister convince me to call this private hospital and check myself in over the phone. The guy listened to me, he really wanted me to come then and there, but he didn’t have a room. I lied to him. I told him I had no plans to kill myself. I begged him to let me come tomorrow, put my name down for a room. That I wanted to die, but I promised I wouldn’t do it that night. He called it a verbal contract. Sure, bud, whatever you say.
The stage was set. MY stage. In MY room. In MY walls. MY energy, MY haunting ground. The last thing to do before I drank my pills was the suicide note. I wrote it all out, every word. The hate, the misery, the blame, the isolation, the selfishness, the pure unexplainable pain. The noose. God. I wrote it all down. There was nothing left for me to do but die.
And it was like I saw outside of myself for a moment. Like suddenly I didn’t belong in my own body. It’s deafening. I can’t hear anything. Or I don’t remember hearing anything now. And I brought up the thought of “they”. What “they” say. “They say people who are suicidal don’t want to die”. Did I want to die? Was this it?
I thought about where I would be buried. Could I have a burial? Would I go to a graveyard? Suicide is a crime by the church, would they let my mother bury me? I wondered what the end would bring me? Peace? Is this a sin? What did I really think would happen? Would I float above and watch the suffering? Would I really be able to watch the wrath of my anger? Do I just enter a void and all is over in an anticlimactic event?
I poured a bunch of Aleve in my hand, and stared at it. I saw all my past attempts to die. I realized I won. This was going to work. I beat God at its own game. I would join it now. I smiled at my victory. Who else can beat God? Surely God understood how miserable I was, how desperate I was, it was trying to save me, kept trying to stop me, but it couldn’t… it wasn’t… it..
A realization hit me. All those suicide attempts, all those times wondering why whatever it was wouldn’t let me go… It wouldn’t…
Something beyond me wasn’t letting me die. Something believed in me, or needed me, for something beyond what I could see. And I see two hands before me. One filled with pills, one not. I could win and die, beat God at its own game. Or I could trust in God that I was meant for something. That this was a test of some sort. I took a deep breath, clenched both my fists, one around the pills, the other empty, and with tears in my eyes I whispered to the energy around me, “You love me. YOU love me. You’re fighting for me. I promise I won’t take my life. I swear to you I will not take my life, but please, please, make this better, please. If you make this better I won’t kill myself.”
A leap of faith. As Kierkegaard had put it, a “Theological Suspension of the Ethical”. I put my hand out to something. At this point, I didn’t know what. Just something. Something that had kept me alive all this time. Something that refused to give up on me. Something wasn’t LETTING me die. I felt loved. It had been a long time since I had felt love. Especially the love I felt at that moment.
But the pink cloud doesn’t stay. Life doesn’t work like a fairy tale. And my soul came crashing back down to my body eventually. Only this time I had no escape plan.
I clung to the hope I felt that night I tried to die. I clung to that desperate will to live for something. And as each empty day passed, as each challenge rose and fell, I started to question what I did. What had I trusted? Why? What life was this?
I put my faith and belief in… what? Was it just my own human will not to die? My mind? I started questioning everything I learned. I still wouldn’t break that promise I made to it, but I was beginning to think it was some sick joke all over again.
Days of desperation turned into weeks, into months, into years of waiting. What was my purpose? Why was I alive? What was I meant to do?
Any hope withered as no answers came to the questions. Every route I tried to get out of this despair left me at a dead end, circled me back to the same dark place I was. I lived like a ghost. There was no anger at this point. There wasn’t anything, it was all a void. I didn’t even think I was worth the trouble to die. Yeah, there is a beyond to suicidal depression. Being so depressed you don’t even deserve to die.
Months passed. The world swallowed in darkness around me.
“I can’t go on like this anymore. I need you to hold your end of the bargain or I’m going to die. I don’t know what to do, God. I will break my promise if you don’t help me. “
Deep black misery coated my consciousness
“I can’t do this any longer. I give myself to you. I said I won’t kill this body and I won’t, God. But I am already dead in spirit. So I will wait for you to take my body from my soul.
“Oh God, oh God, why have you forsaken me?”
And then everything shut down…
…And I Broke
Not a break, not a snap
But a shatter.
A shatter of shards around me.
Was a mind once
Now it lay in prickly pieces
A painful process of peculiar patterns
Possibly never pasting right.
And it hurts
Apparently a day went by. My body did stuff, disconnected to me. I have flashes, disconnected clumps of time. I apparently did a lot that day, but I have no memory of any of it. Just brief attempts of my mind attempting to gain back control of reality, to fall back into the obscure safety of the subconscious.
My understanding, from what I have pieced together from those around me, is that my anger boiled over into something I could no longer control. The bleak sadness just put me to sleep. I really did become a ghost. Dead, with just an energetic body moving, talking, pretending among the conscious.
God had given me what I wanted most in those years I waited. Something I was trying to will into truth. I was beyond wanting to die. I wanted to cease existing. I wasn’t worth the trouble, the misery death would cause. And for a day my soul did just that, ceased. Leaving nothing but the shell, an angry energy disjointedly hung in the present.
When I awoke from this trance, this break, I lost everything. Independence, autonomy, freedom. I woke up where most do when faced in a psychological break, a state mental asylum. Hidden from society like a thrown away piece of meat past its use, as if I might poison those I meet.
I was told by anyone who mattered that I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t them. I had a psychological breakdown brought on by depression, environment, drug addiction by myself and those around me, and a complete injustice done to me by the mental health system. “A Disassociative Fugue.” Where most people are swallowed by that hell for their eternal lives, doctors in the hospital with the help of an outside organization rescued me.
But I sat in hell for three long months. A place where the criminally insane, homeless, and hopeless cases of mental incapacity come to rest. It was violent, scary, and unpredictable. Some of the staff might have well been patients, some of the patients would have made much better staff. It had it’s terrorizing moments, and some of the most beautiful acts of humanity and friendship I’ve ever had. But throughout all of it, I hung on to my hope. This serene promise that had been made.
Dante had to go through every circle of hell before reaching paradise. This was my final circle before reaching life again. I spent my whole life trying to find God. I yelled at it at age 7 to show itself or I would not believe. In fifth and sixth grade I was angry at it for not doing what I wanted. In high school I had such a traumatic fear of death and what happened afterwords that it would keep me up all night. I read the history of God, religion, death, afterlife, to discover what it was all about to the times of man. And there were so many Gods and religions to pick from I couldn’t chose. Ever.
I told you this started in college. One of my more happy memories was when I was with a friend of mine in Lake George, NY. The sky was gorgeous, and the night was clear. We were having a great time as the sun set over the water. And just as night fell into the sky, a star twinkled. And yeah, I’ll admit, I thought of the little children’s poem. So, I made a wish. I wished to be happy. And something instinctively struck me. Like time stopped for a second. A thought whispered, “What would make you happy?” I remember really considering this question. Maybe even to the point my friend thought it was a bit weird. And I thought about what was going on at the time: my sister’s addiction, my mother’s disability, my father’s isolation, my friends moving on, college life ending, jobs, careers, the start of adulthood and responsibility and the fear such a transition involves. I thought hard, and looked back up at the single star and I said quietly to the night air, “I want to know God. That will make me happy for the rest of my life.”
In the end, what I should have known at the beginning, is that this isn’t going to change. I can’t change people. They are who they are. And I am me. I can only speak for me. This was my journey, with all the wrong decisions. But, I learned. I learned about me and about others. I learned about people and life. I learned mistake are just that, mistakes. They can be fixed, and we can move on.
I opened this by stating that I don’t want to prove to you God exists. I just knew I could not exist for me. I had to reach out to something intangible. And whatever that was saved me. So I believe. It is part of my journey for survival. If I didn’t, I’d be dead. You wouldn’t be reading this. I wouldn’t exist in this moment.
And in my spiritual quest, I got my wish. I got what would make me happy. And I’m a better person for it. So, I alone, have to believe. I owe my life to it.
Whatever “It” is.