I’m in an old friend’s basement and in the corner of the room is a giant black and yellow monitor lizard that wags its tail when I address it as “buddy.” The lizard seems friendly, but I shake with anxiety, terrified it’ll devour me when I’m not looking, so I walk upstairs. I push open a wood panelled door and step into a classroom full of people I don’t recognize, scrunched into tiny children’s desks. The teacher is writing on the whiteboard behind me. I can’t read what he’s writing. It’s blurry. I can hear the squeak of the pen dragging on the whiteboard. All of a sudden, it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. I wince and turn around to see what’s changed. The teacher is writing on the wall. Still blurry. A man in the back row grows frustrated at the mess the teacher is making on the wall. He stands up and walks to the wall and tries to wipe the blue ink off with his sleeve. It smears. I want pizza. I have no money, but I pick up the phone to order one, regardless. It’s a rotary phone. I keep dialing the wrong number. A lady gets up to help and I yell at her. “Leave me alone!” I walk outside and get into my mom’s van. The seat is all the way back. And stuck. To reach the breaks I have to swing my entire body under the steering wheel. I’m driving, fast and notice a roadblock up ahead. I barely stop. I ask the cop to help me fix my seat. He can’t. “It’s broken.” I continue driving and crawl past a barn that’s been painted white and turned into a house. On the front porch there are piles of white painter’s pails blocking the front door.
(…for a brief description of what happened prior to Hallway Blues, please read “I’m Sorry.”)
After I stripped out of my street clothes and into my boxers, I put on a beige hospital gown and stuffed my clothes into a bag with my name written on it in black felt.
I sent a group message to my family apologizing and letting them know that I was being involuntarily committed to the Abbotsford Psychiatric Unit.
“Okay, Robert,” said the nurse, softly, “follow me.”
I was led to a reclining chair in the hallway, as there were no available beds in the psychiatric unit.
“How long will he be in the hallway?” my wife asked the nurse.
“We hope to have an open bed, soon,” she replied, “but, he could be waiting in the hallway all night.”
I held back tears, too embarrassed to let strangers who walked past see me cry.
Beside me was a young man dressed in faded tea-green hospital garb, smiling widely, shaking his fists in small circles, seemingly holding back a burst of destructive energy.
My wife left and the nurse brought me a juice box and some blankets and I covered my head and started weeping, uncontrollably.
A few hours later, a nurse spoke to me through the blankets and told me that there was a bed for me in the pre-Psychiatric Ward waiting room, but I’d have to wait for security to escort me upstairs.
“Protocol,” she reassured me.
Security arrived and I followed them, dragging my bag of clothes on the floor behind me.
I was led into a room partitioned by a thin curtain and I plopped onto the bed, exhausted from the small walk.
The Psychiatrist who admitted me poked his head in the room and asked how I was doing and I responded with a wordless grimace and he assured me he’d be back to talk, shortly.
It was nearly 3 pm and I told my wife it was time for her to go and snatched “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle from her purse.
When I heard the locked doors close behind her, my head hit the pillow and I fell asleep.
At 9:30 pm I was woken up by a nurse with a tiny ketchup cup with two small orange pills and a cup of water.
“What are these for?” I asked.
“They’ll help you sleep.”
“I was sleeping.”
I put the tiny pills on my tongue and gulped the water.
“Can you open your mouth, please?”
I opened wide.
“Can you show me the cup, please?”
“Thanks,” she said, “protocol.”
There are two beliefs I’ve always held about life; if your story can teach someone else something, it is your responsibility to share it and, secondly, all highly creative people (writers, musicians, artists) have two choices; admit themselves to the Psychiatric Ward and survive life or become lost in their own mind, self-destruct and commit suicide.
I was involuntarily committed to the Abbotsford, B.C. Psychiatric Hospital Unit on November 19th, 2018 after a psychotic split from reality; I had become uncharacteristically suicidal, convinced that everyone’s lives would be less burdened without me in the picture; my wife, daughter, family and friends.
It’s something that makes me sick to admit, but it’s my truth.
In the hospital I wasn’t in the mood to socialize with the other patients, so I meditated, read and wrote in my journal.
These are the pages of my journal and I share them for multiple reasons, but most importantly because I want you to know -if you struggle with mental health- that there’s no shame in asking for help.
I assure you it’s not a bad experience; if you’re open to it.
I’ve also included a string of highly graphic and symbolic dreams that I had while in the Psych Ward to help you -if you’re a student of Jung- fill in the blanks.
A quote from Jordan Peterson…
“The worst thing for creative people is to not be creative. They just die. If you’re extroverted you can’t be cut off from people. You just whither. Open people have to be creative. They have to be because otherwise they die. They don’t have any vitality. So, they’re cursed with the necessity of having to put one foot out into the unknown and making sense of it. And they’re cursed with the necessity of having to make a living while they’re doing that…”
I once knew a man who smoked a lot.
He was convinced that it calmed him down.
One day, I watched him smoke.
He inhaled, deeply.
Held it in for a second.
We live in a social society that filters out the ugly.
When you don’t, it scares people.
Love Life or Die Trying IS NOT a cry for help, sympathy or attention.
The mind amazes me and my mind has unique quirks that I want to understand.
One thing about my quirks that I’ve come to understand is that they aren’t so unique.
Those who suffer from mental illness suffer similarly to others with the same problems.
It is somewhat textbook.
Admittedly, the mind’s textbook is never-ending and highly cryptic.
The only way we’ll be able to decipher the peculiarities of the mind is to share our deepest insights into the only one we have full access to; our own.
Believe me, it’d be a lot easier to just shh and not be vulnerable because I prefer to not talk about what bothers me.
Silence will never help me put the pieces of the puzzle back in place.
And – the reason why I write this website- maybe some of my pieces match your pieces.
I’m an observer to life and I live in the world that I observe.
I stand back when I write.
My mind wandered towards the cliff and jumped into the abyss, yet survived the fall.
It dug deep, hit an artery and kept digging.
The mind’s soggy bandages are dry and now I want to know why I didn’t stop.
Why did I jump?
I don’t write this for people to say, “are you okay?”
I write this to help others and myself.
I was weeding my garden. It was overdue. Weeds were suffocating the nutritious vegetation. The life. Late into the evening I tugged on the root of a weed that wouldn’t budge. I yanked at it until the flesh of my palms rolled back and bled. I got a heart-shaped shovel and stomped on it, but the root was unharmed. This root needed to be dug out. I shoveled. Dug. Deeper. Ouch. That hurt. Kept digging until no longer was I digging a hole, but I was digging to escape, upwards. The root kept going and going and I kept digging and digging until finally, dirt fell on my face and I broke through to the other side. That root was a tree on this side and it cast a deadening shadow. It was the home of many evil spirits. They poured out of the hollow and slithered into my hole. I jumped in behind them and began falling. By the time I slowed down and started climbing, the spirits had plonked their rotten seeds in my garden. I was too late. Rain was in the forecast, heavy. I didn’t have a raincoat. I got caught in the flood and drowned.
I have been on a quest to dissolve my ego and last night I had a dream that I died, my first one.
I was one of many passengers crammed into an airplane. We hit turbulence, hard like the belly of the plane scraped across a mountain top. We began descending in a spiral. Over the PA the pilot calmly said, “I’m sorry, we are going to die.” We hit the ground. There was an explosion. An boomerang wave of atomic heat accompanied a magnificently bright ball of translucent light that trembled with an energy I’ve never felt and couldn’t describe, but it pulled my body towards a fiery-orange brimmed white circle that pulsated in silence.
The entire moment happened in a fraction of a milli-second.
I awoke and jumped out of bed and ran across the room.
“I’m not dead.”
I was forced to attend Sunday School at the only Lutheran Church in our town as a remedy from my sprouting pre-teen aggression and rebellion. It was awful and I devoted myself to being a pain in the ass to the teachers and the congregation. I would show up wearing my skull jacket every Sunday, making sure I’d forget a roach in the pocket while I’d blare “Antichrist Superstar” by Marilyn Manson through my discman headphones.
Like my dad said, “too bad that didn’t work.”
I somehow passed my Catechism -a oral test based on the memorization of the Ten Commandments, a few selected Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer; none of which I remembered- and I was officially a member of the Lutheran Church.
I’ll be honest for the first time in my life; my rebellion within the walls of that church made me nervous. I felt like I was fucking with something bigger than myself. Something that I didn’t understand. Something that might have a real consequence and not just a wooden ruler to the knuckles.
I was afraid, but committed to being banished from the church, eternally.
The truth is that I do believe in something, but I’ve never admitted it because it almost seems rationally irresponsible to my scientifically-driven ego to do so.
Atheism is fashionable to the intellect.
I believe that WE are a soul and each soul is the piece of something bigger; the godhead or GOD. Therefore, we are all connected in the cosmic sense that we originated from the same place; Heaven.
Why we left Heaven was because each one of us transgressed against GOD in Heaven, so he banished us to the lowest of planes; Hell.
Thereafter, we spend as many lifetimes as it takes to make our journey back through each spiritual plane -there are seven and we are on the third in the physical- walking through hell to find our way back to the godhead/Heaven.
Each body/vessel that our soul occupies is used to gather experiences that’ll lead to a small piece of insight that we need to progress to the next spiritual plane and therefore, when we are reincarnated, we carry with us the experiences of all our past lives, so that we haven’t lost the formulas to the questions of the answers we need.
Before God banishes us to the depths of Hell, he gives us the opportunity to sign-up for all of the different sufferings we will experience on our journey. All the heartbreak, sickness, death, etc.
I like to remember this; all the hardship and hurt that we experience in life our soul signed-up for, having faith that it could handle the pain.
As we collect experiences -especially from the insight of suffering- our soul manifests itself into new spiritual planes of existence until one day it’s again back in Heaven, reconnected with the godhead.
Therefore, I think life is -on this plane- learning through all the sensory inputs.
We have to learn what we’ve lost in Heaven before we’re able to return.
After the fall, I limped into my new boss’ office – as my old boss was booted out after the chaos his inaction caused – and told him that I’d just nearly killed myself.
Frustrated, he replied, “well, we’re going to have to write up an Incident Report,” forgetting to ask if I was okay.
“I’m going home.”
“You know how busy we are, right?” he began lecturing.
“I can barely bend my elbow,” I told him, as it was beginning to swell up from smashing against the stock picker’s platform.
“It’s not really fair,” he continued “that you get to go home after a few hours while everyone else is going to be working until five in the morning.”
“It’s not my fault that you haven’t bothered to hire anyone, either,” I replied and walked out of the office.
I drove straight to the Walk-in Clinic where they greeted me by name and I saw a familiar face.
“What happened, now?” asked the doctor and I explained what had happened and how my elbow was clicking.
“You’re going to need to take at least a week off to heal,” the doctor advised.
I skipped the next day of work, but – once again ignoring the doctor’s orders due to guilt – went back to work the following day and was immediately hauled into the office.
“Why weren’t you at work, yesterday?” my boss asked.
I pointed to my wrist, which was wrapped up in a tensor bandage.
Reiterating the motto of my old boss he reminded me that “managers don’t miss work,” and I could’ve came in and sat at my desk for 8-hours to show the team how important it is to be at work.
Furious, I reminded him that I was given a week-off, but decided to come in today, and since that wasn’t good enough for him I was going home, again.
The next morning, I walked straight into his office and slammed a piece of paper down on his desk.
“Effective immediately, I am stepping down from my position of management and am taking a Leave of Absence, so that I can refocus on healing, since it’s obvious to everyone in this building that I’m not yet better.”
“Well,” he began mustering up his phoney empathy, knowing there was nothing he could do to stop me, “that is the best choice for you and your family at this moment.”
His “boss-talk” was easy to see through, as just the other day he held a meeting telling us to guilt-trip everyone into staying until the job is done – which was up to eighteen hours a day, now – by reminding them that “this is their job and we are the ones paying their bills,” so they owe it to us to “work until the job is done,” and strike subtle fear in them that if they don’t stay they will be laid off when it is slow.
After his bullshit pep-talk I went and cleaned out my desk and left.
During that month, I focused on healing by meditating, going for walks and slowly exposing myself to the computer – my escape plan from the hellhole work was becoming – because I couldn’t look at a computer screen for longer that 20 minutes without my vision blurring and eyelids twitching, my headaches intensifying, ears ringing and feeling nauseous.
A couple weeks into my leave I got a phone call from my doctor.
“Have you told your employer that it’s okay for us to divulge your personal information to him, in regards to your injury?” asked the receptionist.
“Absolutely not, why?” I asked, already knowing why,
“Because he’s been phoning here once a week asking for an update on your leave of absence.”
“That’s funny,” I said, “because he said he was encouraging of my leave. What did you tell him?”
“We keep telling him that it’s confidential and we won’t divulge anything, but he keeps calling.”
“Yeah, I know.”
And, I did know because only a few weeks before I left he tried to get me to call a team member’s doctor to get information about his absence and I reminded him that’s confidential and his reply was “that doesn’t mean we can’t try.”
After a month of unpaid time-off – still not feeling much better – guilt crept back in and I decided to try to go back to work with the promise of not pushing myself passed 8-hours a day.
A week into my return, I was pulled back into the office.
“We need you to start working overtime, immediately.”
“Why do you think it’s fair that you get to leave after 8-hours while everyone else is here double that?”
“We’re not talking about me, right now.”
“Not everyone else in this building is recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury.”
“You had a month off.”
“Don’t act like you were supportive, you were calling my doctor every week to find out why I was permitted to be off.”
He backed up into his chair and denied the accusation.
“Regardless, starting tomorrow you will be working overtime, as much as is required.”
“No, I won’t be.”
“Yes, you will be.”
I walked out of the office and phoned my wife and told her that I was done with this harassment and walked right back into the office.
“Effective immediately, I quit,” I said, slamming a piece of paper on his desk.
Before I stepped a steel-toed foot back into the warehouse, my Occupational Therapist visited my workplace to survey the environment in order to outline a Gradual Return to Work Program that would set my limitations, hours and break schedule, so that I wouldn’t regress in my concussion symptoms.
The program started off with me working Monday, Wednesday and Friday for four hours a day, ten minute breaks on the top of every hour, no operating machinery, mandatory noise suppression earplugs and under no circumstances was I to be included in ANY managerial responsibilities.
The main focus was for me to get comfortable enduring the exaggerated noise, excessive lighting and distracted commotion that is known and proven to aggravate and worsen concussion symptoms.
“Of course,” my boss, only half listening, agreed. He put on his PR-Bullshit hat and continued. “Our biggest concern is to see Robert get better, because we all miss him and want to see him get back to his old self.”
Within an hour on Monday morning I was paged to the office by my boss.
“We have a conference call about a new initiative that is being rolled out in the stores that the warehouse has to take the lead on it.”
Annoyed, I rolled my eyes and reminded him that only less than 72-hours ago he’d agreed that I wouldn’t be involved in any manager-related tasks, regardless of how seemingly insignificant he assumed them to be.
Frustrated with my insubordination, he informed me that it was “just a conference call,” and all I’d have to do is “sit there and listen.”
He couldn’t comprehend how hard it was for me to be involved in conversations that included two or more people talking at a time.
“Remember,” he began to lecture, “you signed up to be a manager and part of your responsibilities are to be involved in meetings like this.”
Feeling the pressure and guilt of having abandoned work for so long, I went against my Occupational Therapist’s recommendations and my better judgement and sat in on the meeting.
After the conference call ended, my boss hit the END CALL button and looked at the other Assistant Manager and flat out said, “we’re not doing this, we don’t have time.”
“It didn’t sound like it’s an option,” I replied.
“Okay, good. Then you agree to take it on,” he replied and ended the meeting and limped back into his closed-door office to finish off his day flipping through the sports section of the newspaper.
My four hours was up and my brain was pulsating, my eyes wobbled and my face wouldn’t stop twitching.
“See you tomorrow,” I said as I peaked my head into his office, interrupting his perusal of the newspaper.
“You’re seriously leaving, now?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, “it’s been four hours.
“We’re really busy, but okay, that’s fine. See you Wednesday.”
Over the next few weeks, all of the rumours being spread by my co-managers started to make their way back to me…
“He’s faking this injury because he plans on going back to school.”
“He’s milking his injury because no concussion ever lasts this long.”
What aggravated me most about the gossip was that those talking shit were the only ones who didn’t reach out to me to ask how my family and I were copping with my injury.
And, it also frustrated me that both of the muckraking co-managers had been off much longer than I had.
But, like I was reminded, their injuries were real; back injuries, hip replacements, hernia and pneumonia…
Their veneer-thin spurious support led me to start smoking again and during smoke breaks I’d be pelted with passive aggressive comments…
“It has been really hard doing the job of two managers while you’ve been gone.”
“It’s unfair some of us are working such long days and some of us get to leave after a few hours.”
“We are all struggling and reaching our breaking points because of how much we have to work right now.”
I repressed their blame and it ate me up inside and as I got closer to full-time hours, my symptoms seemed to be worsening, not getting better.
I would regularly get home, puke and fall asleep until dinner was ready and then go back to sleep until the alarm buzzed in the morning.
My Return-to-Work Program had been extended from eight to eleven-weeks because it was visible to those who cared about me that I was getting worse with every increase in working hours.
“Sorry, Robert,” the Occupational Therapist whined in her nasally voice, “but we can’t continue to extend your Return-to-Work Program. We already have.”
“So, what am I supposed to do about the fact I feel like my recovery is being negatively affected with every increase in hours and duties?”
“You’re just going to have to learn how to adapt to some of the lingering symptoms that are present,” she flatly replied, “because some of them could last another year, or possibly a lifetime.”
The following Monday was my first day of full-time hours in over nine months.
Immediately, my boss pulled me into his office.
“Now that you’re cleared to work full-time hours, you need to start working overtime, again. It’s unfair to the other manager that you’re both making the same amount of money, but he’s working more than you.”
“I have a traumatic brain injury,” I replied, slowly and forcefully, so that he’d understand.
“You know how busy we are,” he said, unwilling to admit it was his hiring-freeze that caused it, “and everyone is pushing themselves, while you walk out the door after 8 hours.”
“You walk out the door after 7 hours of reading a newspaper,” I replied, refusing to push myself beyond what I felt was safe.
“Well, you’re cleared, so you’re going back on the rotation and I think the guys are doing 2-weeks of days, 2-weeks of nights.
I explained how dangerous that idea was to my own recovery, as well as those who would have to work with me.
“You are cleared, so there’s nothing more to discuss and I want you working overtime as soon as possible.”
I left after 8 hours for a few weeks, but the constant harassment and blame was eating me away inside and I couldn’t handle the guilt and stress, so I caved and started working ridiculous amounts of overtime for someone who was still struggling with a brain injury.
Not long after, I could feel myself crumbling, falling apart.
I was pouring water into my hot coffee so I could slam it and drinking multiple pre-workout drinks on shift so I could keep going, but I knew my body and mind were both falling apart and soon I collapsed.
I spent a week at home, bed-ridden and hardly able to move.
I came back to work after the Christmas holidays and we had a new boss, so I was hopeful he’d be more understanding.
But, he wasn’t and kept pushing me to work longer and longer hours because I was the manager and that’s what managers do, ignoring my excuse of a pre-existing medical condition.
One day, after weeks of endless, unpaid (salary) overtime, I was driving the Stock Picker and my vision went blurry, my mind went blank, my eyes wouldn’t stop twitching and my right hand didn’t want to hold anything and kept dropping my electronic handheld.
I pulled over to the side of the building and deep-breathed for a few minutes, until I regained my composure, but I had completely forgotten what I was doing; going to grab a pallet.
My eyes refocused and I drove down an aisle, raising myself 15-feet in the air not knowing that I’d forgotten to grab the pallet that I needed.
I turned around to step on the pallet that wasn’t there and fell through the forks, my harness catching me after I slammed my elbow and fell 6 or 7 feet, dangling.
I pulled myself back onto the platform and sat there, my body trembling with fear and adrenaline.
I realized I had nearly killed myself, again.
I arrived at the Best Western hotel on King George Highway in Surrey, B.C. on a Sunday and ate a spaghetti dinner with my family, who left once my daughter was stained red with tomato sauce.
Then it was back to being left alone in a dark and lonely space, but this time even more lifeless because the option of wandering upstairs to curb my boredom wasn’t there.
On Monday morning, class began.
I had stubbornly refused vouchers for cab rides to-and-from the concussion clinic thinking, “it’s only a kilometer away,” not admitting that was more than I’d walked in total the past few months combined.
I put on my Ray Ban wayfarer sunglasses and stepped out into the hotel parking lot, the fresh air dizzying me from the unfamiliar rush of purity.
Shoving my earbuds in deep I turned on “Blonde” by Frank Ocean at the lowest volume possible, hoping the stripped-down, minimalist album would muffle the rumblings of the morning commute.
A semi-truck rumbled past like a stampede of galloping rubber and stiffened my entire body into a panicked jolt and I jumped, luckily not into traffic.
I walked with a tense hunch looking like a Surrey-born street kid strung out on cheap drugs.
My feet dragged with a sluggish hesitation and I arrived at the clinic short of breath, sick with apprehension once realizing I’d have to walk up a set of stairs to the second floor of the shared office building.
The lights were dimmed in the lobby of the clinic and I thought, “maybe they do understand concussions…”
Inside the rehabilitation clinic were classrooms with tables covered in half finished puzzles and photocopied crossword, psychiatrist offices with shelves stuffed tight with multiple copies of both the DSM-V and “Feeling Good” by Dr. David D. Burns and an open-spaced gym with rubber resistance bands.
I retreated to a chair in the back row of the unlit classroom and waited while the seats began to fill up with other expressionless patients who hadn’t the energy to talk, either.
An overly animated Australian lady bounced into the inky classroom and lit up the wall with her projector and everyone let out a moan of subtle discomfort.
She explained, with flighty hands, how “concussion aren’t fully understood by science,” but promised that we could recover if we “followed their science-based approach to recovery.”
That approach included seemingly pointless and menial tasks like opening and closing clothes pins onto a string, hitting a hammer against a 2×4, typing on a keyboard for five-minutes, mimicking displayed patterns with red and black dominos, locating different shapes on a poster and doing crossword puzzles.
Which were all nearly impossible to do smoothly.
The next block was guided meditation and it made everyone cringe, besides me.
Next was counselling.
The counsellor looked oddly familiar and then we realized we’d graduated the same year and grew up in the same town, which made it uncomfortable to open-up about anything that troubled me beyond the concussion.
Then was a free-block where I’d splutter through the “Karma for Today’s Travellers” book by Phra Bhasakorn Bhavilai I’d brought to be at peace with my injury.
We ended the day with a low-intensity workout circuit where we’d practice balancing on one foot, intentionally making ourselves dizzy by looking back-and-forth in-between mirrors on opposite sides of the body, walking up and down stairs, pulling rubber bands, lifting 5 pound dumbbells, tossing a ball up and down while walking, weaving through pylons and ended with ten minutes of stretching.
After the six hour class, my brain pulsated like a balloon that wanted to pop, but was constricted by a bruised skull and I’d walk back to the hotel with my headphones in and eyes squinting in the sun.
The boredom of the hotel was excruciating, as I couldn’t watch TV or write and had no one to talk to, so I’d force myself to walk to new restaurants each evening.
Dressed in an oversized XXXL jacket, baggy sweatpants, a toque, sunglasses and gloves with the fingers cut off and threads dangling loosely I’d get suspicious eyebrows raised when the door’s chimed alerting restaurant workers of my unwanted arrival.
Fun for the evening consisted of buying snacks from the gas station next door to the hotel where an older East Indian lady would follow me around the store, worried that my crooked posture, twitching eyes and my somnolent stride indicated I was there to steal.
After a few days of her standing at the end of each aisle I stood in I wanted to clear up why I was here, to alleviate her worry that I was a new street kid stealing Mike and Ike’s.
When I was at the cash register I tried to explain to her that I was staying in town to be rehabilitated from my concussion and was living at the hotel next door.
But, unable to communicate, I stuttered “I’m staying at the hotel next door,” with a twitched-eye that looked like a wink and she let out a high-pitched gasp of flattery thinking I was inviting her to knock on my door after her shift was up.
Back at the hotel, my headaches were worsening and my boredom was slipping me into a dangerous bout of depression, so next time I went home I stocked up on cannabis products to keep myself busy, thinking my doobie walks would be a good way to encourage unforced exercise when I wasn’t in rehab.
One day, after smoking a joint, I walked into the hotel lobby and there were thirty-plus RCMP officers with heavy artillery and drug canines waiting for something, or as my squishy, paranoid brain believed, someone.
I quickly walked through the gaggle of RCMP officers and ran up the stairs, avoiding locking myself in the elevator with cops while I reeked of marijuana.
As I opened the door that lead to my floor, I heard the pattering of steel-toed boots run up behind me and six cops, two with automatic rifles and another with the leashed canine, ran past me and I was told to, “stay back for a minute.”
That’s when the two officers with automatic rifles raised their guns and shuffled down my hallway until an officer yelled, “stop!”
Right in front of my room!
I was dizzied and sweating from a major panic attack, mouth drier than cured leather, when the cop who told me to stop told me I could continue on to my room.
I squeezed passed the cops with their guns drawn, “excuse me,” and fumbled my keycard into the door to my room and as soon as I got in I ripped off my sweat drenched t-shirt, shoved a towel under the door and spread my feet far apart so I could peek out the peephole without casting a suspicious shadow into the hallway.
“Adrenaline,” I panicked, “that’s why every junky on COPS has their shirts off.”
The cops were still standing in front of my door and my heart felt like it was slamming against my ribcage, so I locked myself in the bathroom with my weed and fought the urge to flush it until I finally heard the hallway door slam.
I ran back to the peephole and they were gone, so I put on a dry shirt and ran back down the stairs, through the cop-filled lobby and outside to bum a smoke off someone, because I thought I was dying.
Barely able to speak to bum a cigarette, I asked a lady from the concussion clinic if she knew why the cops were here, knowing she’d have intel because she was an RCMP officer in my hometown.
“They’re filming a training video,” she replied and I nearly collapsed from relief.
Over the next two months of concussion rehabilitation, my motor skills were increasing, but my headaches, memory and speech were slow to improve regularity.
I was feeling better, but not better.
Then, one day the Occupational Therapist walked up to me with a smile and said, “guess what? You graduate next Friday and you can go back to work.”
Knowing I could barely manage this dim-lit environment with minimal noise I asked, “how does someone fail?” telling her how the majority of my problems were still present.
Annoyed with my lack of enthusiasm she flatly replied, “you have to go back to work, sometime.”
“Even if I’m not recovered?”
“Well, you are better than you were coming into this program,” she replied, as if they’d put my broken leg in a cast and that was good enough for me to start limping through marathons.
“Well, you are better,” she repeated with an annoyed smirk, “and you’re just going to have to learn how to live with some of the symptoms because it could be a long time before they subside.”
“That doesn’t sound like you’re saying I’m better.”
“Sorry,” she said, frustrated with my lack of enthusiasm of their program’s success, “but, you can’t stay here forever. This is an eight-week program and you have been here for almost eleven weeks…”
Next Friday I waited for my wife to come and pick me up, as I was still not supposed to be driving a vehicle, yet somehow okay to go back to work in a warehouse environment and operate machinery…
I decided to stop wallowing in my own self-pity about everything that I couldn’t do and instead focus on all-day, every-day meditation.
I decided to stop wallowing in my own self-pity about everything that I couldn’t do and instead focus on all-day, every-day meditation.
At first, I couldn’t go thirty seconds without my thoughts mocking my attempt at clarity.
Thoughts yelled, screamed and revolted.
They tossed bricks of heavy guilt and shame at my weakness for letting a concussion debilitate me into a malfunctioned shell of a human.
They dumped buckets of abashed insults on me and soaked me in the bubbling memories of repressed trauma.
I kept calm and thanked them for rearing their snarled grins and let them pass, reminding myself that there was nothing I could do to expedite recovery.
In my darkened basement I envisioned myself as a wounded animal who’d been shot by a sadistic kid with the BB gun he’d gotten for Christmas and I sunk into a bush to hide -without food and water- for however long it took to recover from my wounds.
I let go.
Soon after, my sludgy mind was drained and silence was achieved.
Day-after-day I was able to lay in absolute quiet, deep breathing for longer and longer until I was meditating anywhere from four to twelve hours in a day.
It was the most peaceful I’d ever been in my life.
While my mind was absent of any negative thoughts, I thought to myself, “your mind is a blank canvas, so why not fill it with positivity?”
I went on YouTube and searched for I AM Meditations, Positive Affirmations and anything with a script of hope and happiness and played them at a low volume that wouldn’t agitate my symptoms or distract my blank mind, but would hopefully allow their messages to trickle deep into my subconscious.
One day, as my wife was driving me to another doctor’s appointment, I saw a bus bench that was advertising hypnosis to quit smoking and I recalled an article I read that explained that the lucid state -in between consciousness and sleep- was the trick to successful hypnosis.
That was how I felt meditating; not asleep, but not fully awake, either.
I went home and found a video by Michael Sealey called “Stop Smoking Self Hypnosis(Quit Now Session)” and smoked one last cigarette, laid on the floor and closed my eyes.
An hour later I awoke confused as to why I was sleeping on the floor, not remembering what I was doing.
A week later I had another doctor’s appointment and put on the jacket I was wearing that day, reached in the pocket and pulled out a package of cigarettes.
“Oh yeah,” I remembered. “I smoked.”
I tossed them in the trash and went to the doctor’s office.
My doctor walked in with a smile on his face. “Well,” he chirped, “Nearly eleven months later, you’re signed up to go to concussion rehabilitation in Surrey.”
Day-after-day, my symptoms worsened and all I could think about was everyone that I was letting down…
My wife, my daughter, my friends, my family, my relatives, my co-workers and worst of all, myself.
All I could focus on was what I couldn’t do, which was beginning to feel like everything, at least in some capacity.
Every 4 or 5 days I drove myself to the Walk-In Clinic trying to get a back-to-work note, as if getting clearance to work would cure my progressively worsening symptoms.
Finally, after my fifth or sixth visit, the doctor told me to stop coming in.
“You are severely concussed,” he reminded me. “Work shouldn’t be your focus, right now. Recovery should be. Go home, rest and stop coming back here because we will NOT clear you for work until you are better.”
So, I began making more regular appointments with my family doctor.
“How are you getting here?” my doctor asked.
“I drove myself.”
“I’ll have no choice but to revoke your licence if you continue to drive,” he warned me. “Work isn’t your priority and they shouldn’t be pressuring you to come back. Stop coming here, because I won’t clear you until you’re recovered.”
I went home and laid on the floor in absolute darkness and I blamed myself for not being able to recover in 2 to 3 weeks; like everyone else. I didn’t understand how my list of concussion symptoms kept growing longer by the day…
…My headache intensified each day and even minimal noise -the sound of the television, talk radio, music with drum and bass, conversations and the sound of my daughter’s voice- made me nauseous.
…Illuminated screens made my head throb if I looked at them for longer than a few minutes; television, computers and cellphones, especially.
…I experienced extreme dizziness and disorientation, especially in cars -driver or passenger- when other vehicles would pass me or I’d look at the mirrors to change lanes.
…I was either unrelentingly fatigued and lacked even a smidgen of energy, or I suffered from insomnia and desperate restlessness.
…Natural and artificial light both turned my stomach, especially buzzing halogen lights.
…My speech was slurred, stuttered and incoherent and I had a tendency to repeat myself, endlessly, which caused horrific social anxiety because I was embarrassed to talk.
…Tinnitus (ringing of the ears) got so bad at times I couldn’t hear other people talk.
…People would need to clarify even the most basic of concepts to me, repeatedly.
…Both short and long term memory were absent.
…Loss of coordination threw off my balance and I’d constantly fall down the stairs or drop anything I was holding in my right hand.
…Multitasking became impossible, which meant I couldn’t cook food for myself or my family.
…I’d forget to eat all day.
…I was unable to read and couldn’t formulate full sentences, so I was unable to write.
…Uncharacteristic actions became regular; shaving my head nearly bald, sobbing and throwing all of my button-up shirts into the trash so that I could replace them with over-sized sweatshirts, jackets and other thrift store rags because I told myself that “these shirts aren’t me.”
…I had wildly concerning mood swings, a reduced tolerance towards stress, agitation and was harmfully aggressive with my words.
…My emotions were unstable and easily triggered; like the proverbial rollercoaster, but always freefalling downwards.
…I was in denial of what happened, ashamed and blamed myself for allowing the injury to happen.
As every day got worse -not better- I was terrified that this might be the new me.
Depression compounded with each passing day and I could feel myself sinking into darkness as each day presented new obstacles that I wasn’t able to overcome.
But, worst of all was that I couldn’t be an active participant to my family.
I couldn’t cook, clean, change diapers, grocery shop, be around my laughing or crying child or drive her to daycare, bring myself to doctor’s appointments, be an engaged partner to my wife in social settings, or help run errands, etc…
About two months into my injury I accepted that this was life.
It was killing me, spiritually.
Until one day I remembered what I told myself just before my injury.
“I want to take a sabbatical to figure out life.”
“Well, here it is.”
From that day forward, if I wasn’t at the doctor’s office, I was on the floor meditating anywhere from 4 to 12 hours a day trying to understand what Karma was trying to teach me from this debilitating experience.
I wasn’t sleeping.
30 to 60 seconds I awoke, laying flat on my back.
The top of my skull was pulsating, violently thudding with a dub-step bpm.
There was blood in my mouth.
The top of my spinal cord felt like it was pushed into my neck, like when Wile E. Coyote had an anvil dropped on the top of his head by that pesky Road Runner, laughing from the cliff’s edge above.
I opened my eyes and stared at an unfamiliar ceiling and said to myself, “this isn’t bed.”
I slowly sat up, feeling the blood in my head swoosh like a pale of water.
Scanning my surroundings, I realized that I was sitting on a wooden pallet full of tires.
I looked down and panicked when I realized I was fifteen feet in the air, not sure why or where I was.
The building looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming.
Then I clued in; I was at work.
My head wobbled into my palms and I tried to figure out what was going on.
I peaked through the gaps in my fingers and saw the steel beam.
“I hit my head,” I muttered, embarrassed.
I sat there for a few minutes, no one in the warehouse questioning why my stock picker was elevated fifteen feet in the air, but not having moved for an odd-period of time.
Without standing, I lowered the machine to the ground and stood up as the blood from my skull fell into my feet, nearly knocking me off balance.
“Managers don’t get hurt,” I told myself and gripped the directional handles, nearly crashing the machine into the cages of tires that knocked me out.
“I’m going to sit in the washroom for a few minutes and let this pass.”
As the machine lurched forward, I lost balance and my face hit the cage in front of me, nearly crashing into the pallets stacked around the corner.
I drove towards the office trying not to make eye contact with anyone, so I could hide for a few minutes and recover.
Then I saw a friend walking towards me with a grin on his face that told me he wanted to vent about something that just happened in the office.
He waved me down and started talking, while I squinted in concentration.
Quickly, he raised an eyebrow and asked me if I was drunk.
“No,” I replied, “I hit my head.”
“You look like you hit your head.”
“I’ll be fine,” I lied.
“You don’t look fine,” he said, his grin morphing into concern. “You better go to First-Aid.”
I trusted him, so I did.
As I was sitting in the First-Aid room while my friend filled out an Incident Report, another pal of mine walked passed the open door on his way to the office.
“What happened?” he asked with a look of concern.
“I hit my head,” I laughed.
He raised both eyebrows and proceeded to the washroom, re-emerging a few minutes later.
“I hit my head.”
“Yeah, you already told me.”
The First-Aid attendant told me that I was obviously concussed, so he’d have to drive me to the Walk-In Clinic.
When we got there, I convinced him to drop me off, alone.
“That’s against company policy,” he replied.
“It’s fine,” I replied. “I’m the manager, you won’t get in trouble.”
Going against his better judgment, he agreed and I stepped outside of the work truck.
I opened the door to the Walk-In Clinic and was assaulted by the ringing of the telephone ring, loosing balance and grabbing hold of the door to keep myself from falling.
I grabbed a number and sat down.
Above me, I could feel the halogen lights buzzing.
My body crumpled and I put my hands over my ears and sunk my face into my lap, deep breathing so I wouldn’t puke.
My number was called and as I stood up to follow the nurse, I lost balance and sat back down.
I made it into the room and collapsed in the chair.
A few minutes later, the doctor walked in. “What brings you here, today?”
“I hit my head,” I stuttered.
“Yeah,” he replied with wide eyes, “I can see that.”
Within two minutes he told me it was visibly obvious I was concussed and I’d need anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks off to recover.
“No,” I replied. “Managers don’t get hurt.”
That mantra was what my soon-to-be retired boss lectured, regardless of his multiple hip surgeries, hernia and his own concussion that caused him to miss nearly all of his graduating year.
“They do,” he said with annoyance.
He scribbled a note and told me to go home and rest.
“I’m going back on Monday,” I told him as I accepted his note.
“I can’t stop you, but I highly urge you to not.”
As I stepped outside of the Walk-In Clinic, the noise of the parking lot knocked me off balance and I swallowed down a mouthful of puke.
I sat down on the bench and called my boss and told him I’d be back on Monday.
“Managers don’t get hurt,” he seemingly yelled into the phone, “and you know how busy we are.”
I apologized and promised I’d be back on Monday.
He sighed with frustration and reminded me, again, how busy they were.
I hung up feeling guilty and scared to call my wife.
This was her last week of maternity leave after the birth of our child and our daughter’s first week of daycare; her first week not having to be a 24-hour care provider to someone.
She picked me up.
As we drove home, the cars that passed made me dizzy, so I closed my eyes.
I got home, turned on the TV and tried to watch the American election results, but after only a few minutes, I turned them off and went downstairs.
I closed the blinds, unplugged everything with an electrical buzz and laid flat on my back in the darkness.
2015 was the best year of my life.
On Friday, February 13, I tricked my wife into thinking I had booked a hotel in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C. to celebrate the launch of my website, bjdrake.com.
When we arrived, there was a fruit and chocolate platter waiting on the bed, along with a bottle of wine.
I fired up my laptop and asked her to see what she thought.
After a few minutes, she noticed the post “For Your Eyes Only.”
She read the poem that confessed my love to her and scrolled to the bottom of the page.
There was a picture of me on my knee, proposing.
She turned around and I was on my knee, proposing with the ring.
“Will you marry me?” I choked out.
“Yes,” she said, teary-eyed.
We ate steak and fancy appetizers, drank wine and I attempted to dance with her in the Copper Room, Trevor MacDonald singing while he played guitar, as I stepped on old lady’s heels.
A few weeks later, she found out that she was pregnant with our soon-to-be beautiful daughter.
Meanwhile, at work, I was progressing through management quicker than most others had within the company.
It opened up a world of boardroom meetings, work-paid travel, fancy dinners and a substantial increase in pay.
I’d also finished my first book.
Needless to say, my life was bustling with excitement and I was busy.
During all of this, work was becoming more exacting than it had ever been.
This was partly the causation of a disengaged boss counting down his retirement and freezing the hiring process in hopes of padding his own pocket to max out his year-end bonus at the expense of the team’s livelihood outside of work.
The team was working around the clock, anywhere from 10 to 18 hours, five to seven days a week, depending on each individual’s breaking point.
November 8, 2016 started out much like every other morning, as of late; me slapping the alarm clock five times to stretch out my sleep, trying to get at least four hours in.
I rushed to work at 120 km/hr so that I’d be there in time to lead the morning team meeting.
I told myself that I wasn’t going to work late today.
It was the tumultuous United States election and I wanted to blog about it.
When I got to work, we were chaotically busy, as per usual.
So, I avoided the office, harnessed up and started helping out on the floor, so that the team members starting at 3:30 pm could get out of there before 5 am the next morning.
I was constantly being called on the radio from the ladies in the office and the team on the floor who had endless questions, concerns and complaints.
I was distracted, to say the least.
While riding around on the stock picker, I thought to myself, “after this busy season, I’m taking a sabbatical and figuring out life, because this isn’t living.”
I rode up to a cage of tires, lifted myself fifteen feet in the air and was about to grab a set of tires when I dropped my chalk.
Frustrated, I bent down to pick it up.
When I stood up…
A good friend of mine sent me a friendly wave on Facebook Messenger late last night after he read “I’m Sorry.“
“I’m sorry we weren’t here for you, bro.”
The truth is that he was, as were many others.
Everyone – at some point – shook my shoulders to shake some sense into my soggy brain to the reality of my erratic, alcohol fueled behaviour.
I couldn’t hear them.
Or, maybe I didn’t want to.
As far as depression is concerned, I hid it from myself and others by masking it with the binge drinking, drugs and the increasingly problematic level of isolation.
No one could’ve helped me with depression because it was something I’ve never been honest about living with.
But, at some point, every friend who cared about me said something about the wide-path that I staggered on, in regards to substance abuse.
I know it’s hard to believe, but I didn’t have an addiction to anything.
In fact, since the first sip of liquor I ever tasted to the most recent, I have always hated the taste of alcohol.
It makes me gag, which is the reason why binge drinking became such a problem.
It wasn’t enjoyable to me, simply a means to an end; getting blackout drunk so I could be comfortably social.
I could have lived my entire 20’s without a sip of alcohol; the proverbial gateway substance into other drugs.
If only I had been honest with the state of my mental health.
I was trying to strip myself free of the doctor’s labels of bipolar and anxiety by being normal; social and happy.
Which was something I couldn’t handle without being intoxicated because mingling and mindless prattle exacerbated the symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
Stepping into a room full of people – good friends, family or strangers – was the prick of the dagger my depression needed to slice open an artery to begin it’s ritualistic bloodletting and let the thinned plasma pour freely with self-hate and a debilitating lack of self-confidence that left me scrambling for something, anything ! to funnel down my throat to drown the dizzying misery of cross-eyed anxiety.
When it was apparent that the consequences of a blackout only furthered the self-loathing, I simply replaced drinking with introversion.
Or, more appropriately put, isolation.
Isolation became my escape from everything.
Alcohol, drugs, social anxiety and the fear that people might find me out and realize I’m depressed.
But, when I’d wake up one morning feeling the euphoria of a manic state, I’d have the shaky urge and false-confidence to make an attempt at being a normal, socially functioning person, so I’d go out.
As soon as my pinky toe crossed into a room of filled with laughter and loud music, I’d tense up, panic and frantically reach for the destructive, yet familiar, social lubricants that immediately suffocated mania’s electrified psychosis.
I stopped trying, almost entirely, because it seemed less damaging to hide from the world.
Unfortunately – though isolation was less damaging – I was avoiding the underlying causes of my social discomforts.
Bipolar depression and social/general anxiety.
I fooled myself that introversion and isolation was better.
I wasn’t waking up with a suicidal hangover and a headful of hate to fill a journal full of smudgy guilt and regret with.
But, I did love and truly miss my friends, so when depression lifted and mania took over, again, I’d tell myself that “this time I won’t drink.”
A promise that I broke 98% of the time.
As soon as I’d breathe shared air, not a single syllable would trickle out from between my chattered teeth.
My sarcasm would become aggressive, so people wouldn’t want to talk to me.
I couldn’t look people in the eyes.
I would d start pouring sweat.
I’d freeze up.
Possibly a tactic of depression to encourage “shots!” because as long you look like you’re having fun, no one would think to assume you’re unhappy.
Thankfully, I’ve begun thawing.
his fingerprint, so
until the inK
has dried n is
au revoir .
from higher frequencies
borderless vibrations, away from
observer , who never judges
whose bacK is turn / d
towards an artificial trompe
l ‘ oeil , a taciturn
gate – keeper , who ,
dress / d in rags , perches amid
the pair of foolishly
wander / d
eyes , an unarmed watcher ,
guardian of a connection lost
once it is bombarded with stupefacient
stimuli until it is brimming w / an uproar
of nothingness and defeat / d, replete,
familiarly relax / d , comfort / d in routine ,
lethargic , sunKen into a couch
conform / d to the pathetic blobby vessel ,
held up on the bony shoulders of devilish
brethren , who cackle w /t he
live ( ? ) studio audience
as the flame of your
blinK / d.
For years I bought into the myth that “anti-depressants kill creativity.”
It is a dangerous myth that is perpetuated by quackery factories like the Scientology community and other fanatic religious movements.
The lazy practitioners of medicine and the greedy, deep pockets of the big-pharma industry don’t help by over-prescribing medication to people who don’t need it and could benefit solely from exercise, healthy eating and socialization.
But, for some of us, a healthy lifestyle isn’t enough.
I’ve went overboard on healthy eating and exercise regimes, I do daily meditation, I practice the wishful thinking practice of gratitude affirmations, I journal and read, I practice Cognitive Behavioural technics.
That all definitely helps.
In the short term.
Eventually, life comes crashing down for those of us with chemical imbalances in the brain.
And, it doesn’t help that there is a stigma around anti-depressants.
On one side are those people saying that “anti-depressants are a hoax perpetuated by pharmaceutical companies and doctors who receive kick-backs for prescribing them to as many people as possible, regardless of whether they need them or not.”
The other side are the people who hear the word “anti-depressant” and forever use it against you as a way to win arguments – “that’s the depression talking” – and are quick to discredit your abilities by labelling you crazy and unstable.
Then there’s the “tough-love” crowd who tell you, “just suck it up, bitch! Life is full of setbacks, so get over it and move on.”
So, no wonder so many people steer clear from seeking help for an illness that will fandangle you into suicide.
Me, on the other hand, wasn’t worried about the opinions of others; at least in regards to taking medication.
What worried me was losing my creativity because the “authorities” and “self-help gurus” kept telling me that anti-depressants would stifle my creativity.
And, creativity is one of the reasons I wake up and breathe each day.
Plus, scientist link depression and anxiety to high creativity and researchers claim that writers are 121% more likely to suffer from bipolar depression than the general population.
And, they are also 50% more likely to commit suicide.
So, I believed it was necessary to take the risk because writing wasn’t something I was willing to give up, ever.
Well, maybe not “ever…”
I believed them, because each time I wrote something – while not using medication – it got better and better.
But, that’s because I’d keep writing, every day.
Sure, depression helped me isolate myself, which provided me with endless hours of smashing the keyboard to unleash my inner rage and self-loathing, but it was at a trade-off for a normal, socially healthy lifestyle, which adds a perspective of life that the recluse can only read about .
So, consider this…
If you’re on medication and YOU KEEP BEING CREATIVE how could you possibly become LESS creative?
The only way your creativity will be affected by depression is if your depression kills you.
And, that’s the END GAME of the illness.
If you stay away from help and isolate yourself and write, paint, sculpt OF COURSE YOU’RE GETTING BETTER at whatever creative endeavour you pour your soul into.
But, if you’re on medication and do the same, you’ll get better, too.
That’s called practice.
And, that’s what makes you better at something.
So, “depression kills creativity” is backwards.
Depression kills the creative minds that refrain from using anti-depressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers or whatever other medications may (actually) be needed.
I am bipolar and suffer from social anxiety.
That is “my truth” and it is something I’ve rarely even admitted to myself, let alone anyone I know.
Well, I had a nervous breakdown; the last of a string of many since a Traumatic Brain Injury that debilitated me for a year-and-a-half at the end of 2016.
It was recently my daughter’s birthday -November 18th- and we had our families over to celebrate.
My anxiety was the worst it’s been since it first started in 2003.
My palms were sweaty. Knees weak. Arms were heavy…
Every ten to fifteen minutes I had to run downstairs and deep breathe in the bathroom to stop my eyes from shaking.
The room was spinning. I turned on the tap, hoping no one could hear me puking.
I knew I had to be by my daughter’s side, but as we sang Happy Birthday I felt like everyone was watching me and every bead of sweat pour down my forehead.
When it came time to cut the cake, I could barely hold the knife and everyone got a crumbled slice. As soon as the last piece was served I ran back downstairs and puked, again.
As soon as everyone left I collapsed. I couldn’t move. My body felt like I was encased in cement.
I felt like a failure, a worthless piece of shit father who couldn’t even keep it together long enough to celebrate my beautiful daughter’s birthday.
After two minutes of trying to lift myself off the basement floor it took another minute to walk up the stairs and stand in the doorway of our bedroom.
“I need help,” I mumbled to my wife. “I don’t want to die.”
The truth is, I’d been becoming increasingly more comfortable with the thought of suicide.
It’s been my “escape plan” since I learned it was an option in elementary school.
“Think of your daughter,” those who I’d admit it to would tell me, but the truth is I’d look at her and tell myself she’d be better off without a broken, bipolar basket-case in her life.
And, that scared me.
I promised my wife I’d go to the walk-in the next morning to get a note to see a psychiatrist, so that I could get on the proper medication after years of saying “no” to anti-depressants.
Why was I so stubborn for so many years?
Because when I was 23 I started taking the wrong anti-depressants (prescribed by my doctor) and quickly became hell-bent on suicide.
One night, not even a month after starting my medication, I swallowed all the sleeping pills that were left in the bottle.
Luckily, 30-some hours later, I awoke.
Unable to move, speak and barely able to open my eyes.
I was in bed for nearly two full-days and then I sat in the shower, fully clothed and cried.
So, back to my story…
The next day came and I couldn’t get out of bed. I was paralyzed. I could hardly pick up the phone and text my inquiring wife back with “I can’t move” to her text asking if I’ve went to the doctor.
She came home to bring me to the hospital.
A doctor came in and asked what was wrong and I said that I’m worried that if I don’t get help I was going to kill myself.
Next thing I know I was being admitted to the Abbotsford psych ward and asked to remove all my clothing and jewelry.
For the next 10 days I was a psych ward patient, stripped of my clothes, belongings and rights.
But, it saved my life.
Which brings me to the title of this post; I’m sorry.
After the medication began to stabilize my thoughts, I realized what this past decade has done to my life.
I’d been pushing friends and family out of my life because – like when I was 23 – I told myself that “once everyone has left you, it’s time to kill yourself and end this hurt.”
For years, I blamed my isolation on creative drive, avoiding alcohol, not enjoying small-talk.
I blamed friends, family and everyone but myself for my actions.
I’ve ruined friendships, relationships and rarely even spoke to my own family members.
I told myself it was because I was too busy with work, driven towards fulfilling my dream of becoming a published writer, or simply because I was an introvert.
It was all a lie.
I was depressed, bipolar and suffered debilitating social anxiety.
That’s why I didn’t return your calls, accept your invites to parties, pretended I didn’t see you when I walked passed you in the mall and deleted all my social media.
I was fulfilling a self-destructive prophecy to end my life.
And, I came close.
So, I am sorry to everyone I’ve hurt. Everyone I’ve left behind. Everyone I’ve bullied, judged or pushed away.
Bipolar isn’t an “excuse.”
I accept responsibility for my past actions and can understand if you can’t forgive me or accept what I’ve done.
But, just know that my biggest regret is losing touch with each and every one of you.
I love you all and I am sorry, so fucking sorry.
I hope that we can rekindle a piece of what was lost.
But, I understand if that’s not what you want and I’m accepting of your choice.
I love you all.
…Love Life or Die Trying is me unravelling the destruction my depression has caused in my life.
Not to dwell, but to learn.
And teach others that there is hope.
There is help.
And, you are worth it.
There is an infestation of worms that have burrowed deep in my brain.
A mushy ball of slimy, dormant belly crawlers who are blind and unable to find food.
Until it rains.
Then they follow the pattering vibrations of the raindrops.
They wriggle and squirm to the surface of my brain and drink the waters of my emotions.
I used to allow them to feast, undisturbed.
Their gummy bites would numb me until I was drooling from the eyes, powerless.
I was simply a limp host who’d been programed to find the wormy pollution their daily nutrients by stirring emotion outside of me.
I now see them slurping my puddles of pain.
And I know that they cannot see me.
I have begun to observe their feeding habits, their mating cycles and I’ve found the burrow where they hide their summertime reserve of moldy grub.
Now, when I’m flooded with emotions, I kneel in the darkness and wait patiently to pluck them out, one-by-one.
I drop them into a rusty bucket and use them as bait to go after bigger fish in the murky pond.
When I was eight, my mom dropped my brother and I off at school.
As we pulled into the parking lot the Canadian flag was flying at half-mast.
“Why is the flag like that?” I asked my mom.
She was slow and hesitant in her response.
“A boy in grade five,” she swallowed heavy, “hung himself in his bedroom closet this weekend.”
I didn’t understand what that meant.
“It means that he won’t be coming to school anymore.”
“Why?” I asked, having no prior insight into suicide.
“Because his girlfriend dumped him and he was sad, so he killed himself.”
“You can do that?”
As I walked towards class, I remembered when I was 4 and had my first experience with death; my great-grandpa’s open casket funeral.
My dad told me to stay away from the coffin, but while he was out smoking a cigarette I snuck in and looked at his cold, lifeless body and poked him to see if he’d wake up.
In the school parking lot that day I understood that death was an option, not just an act of God.
My child’s mind came to associate feelings of sadness with suicide.
Life took on a new meaning; a video game that – if you’re bored of playing – can be unplugged, anytime.
Soon after, I was introduced to the music of Nirvana and felt a bond between myself and Kurt Cobain.
I’d always felt out-of-place as the artsy, writer kid.
Kurt made me feel alive in my own skin and allowed me to overlook other kid’s criticism that I was a nerd.
Kurt Cobain made it feel cool to be different.
I began to find comfort in my writing and drawing and it became a daily obsession.
I strived to write poetry that I could imagine Kurt Cobain singing in front of millions of adoring fans and made drawings I envisioned on album covers.
His music and odd-ball personality made me feel like there was hope in making a career out of creativity, something my father disapproved of, harshly.
Two years later, my mom and I were driving to the mall when the radio cut-off mid-song and there was dead-air for thirty seconds.
“I’m sorry,” the radio host whimpered, holding back tears, “that I have to be the person to tell you this.” I turned up the volume.
“Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home this morning with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”
The car stopped and my mom’s eyes went wide with fear as she watched for a reaction in me.
I asked her to leave the keys in the ignition and leave me alone for a few minutes, and as soon as she shut the car door, I broke down in tears.
All of a sudden, the man who I aspired to be like had killed himself.
He too must have been sad like the boy from elementary school.
If my idol – who I frantically tried to creatively emulate – couldn’t find happiness in life, I was doomed to failure.
After Kurt Cobain’s death, there was a wave of copy-cat suicides, as teenagers were shooting themselves with shotguns every day in tribute to their fallen hero.
It worried my mom, so I didn’t have to go to school for the next few days.
Instead I laid in bed and plotted my own life’s demise.
My world crumbled, from this point forward.
My mind became consumed with death.
I began to plot the end of my life; write a few books and once people start to read them, kill yourself.
That way, I’d never be forgotten.
Years later, I tattooed 27 on my wrist, as if X marked the spot…