Ready. Set. Sail!
I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing. I really don’t. I’m writing right now to write. I’m overwhelmed and I feel like I’m drifting away from everyone. How can I convey my thoughts, my struggles, and my feelings without restraint?
For those of you who have been reading and following me, you know that I try and use a story format to convey my feelings. I find the analogies (or metaphors I honestly don’t know the difference) to the places in my head calming and less threatening. I write like this to better understand myself. Describing my enemies as Fog and Fire keep me from treating them like demons. They feel like demons. That’s not what I want them to be. If I look at my life from the perspective of a journey, it helps me track where I am and how far I’ve come. Stories have a useful entertainment value. They draw people in. They can see how I think. That’s the most important part.
Lately I’ve been really overly concerned with formatting. I believe this brings clarity and purpose, but I’m sort of using that to make my blogs easier to read. However, that’s not how I think. My mind works and reads like a spiderweb. Crawling along and stopping to find which direction to go. There are so many. I feel like if I don’t just sit down and write out my feelings in a cohesive format then it’ll get lost in translation.
Here is what I want. I want to know people are listening. Can you hear me? Are you learning?
This isn’t just for me. I am a unique person. Crazy, a word that can be used both derogatively and comparatively, is how I am. Bipolar Disorder amplifies the crazy. And the crazy is the chaos….
…yesterday I arrived at the dock. I stepped out onto the boat. The Fog pushed me out to sea. I’m letting it win again. I can’t help it. It keeps telling me to give up. That I’m not doing any good. Why does it seem like he is right? The pain is so strong again. As I sit there, drifting farther from the shore, my vision is clouded with memories. Horrible memories. My nightmares that I still have. About that day…
January 2014 was when my journey officially began.
I received a phone call from my mom. Sobbing on the other end of the line she told me that heartbreaking and shocking news: my dad was in the hospital…on suicide watch…because he decided he wanted to end his life.
I froze, confused and shaking. How? What? This isn’t happening. No. Fuck. This isn’t happening.
Not having a car she begged me to come down to pick her up so we could see him. In Ward C of the VA hospital, visitors are only allowed a short half an hour window to meet with patients. Visitors have to leave all personal belongings with the staff before entering. My dad was under suicide watch in the Direct Observation Unit. He wasn’t allowed anything on him. Nurses strolled around keeping a watchful eye on them, making sure that there would be nothing and no possible chance to end their lives. I remember only two people were allowed per patient at a time. My two younger brothers let my mom and I go first. Escorted into the living room, we trudged our way back to the corner of the room. There sat my dad….or what was left of him…
My heart broke. No not broke. Shattered. There, seated before me in a plastic purple chair, was the emaciated ghost of a man I once knew. A man who played board games with me every Sunday. A man who taught me how to ride a bike. Jesus. Fuck. That image still haunts me. Drugged out of his mind, the man turned to me and said he was glad to see me. We asked him why. Why was he here? We thought you were happy.
He looked over and said to me that he had been planning this for a while. That he waited impatiently until the holidays were over. That he didn’t want the image of his death to be forever associated with that special time of year. He said he just gave up. He wanted to end it.
He said he had no more reason to live.
God. It broke me. All I could do was cry. I’m crying while typing this but that doesn’t compare or represent how I felt in the slightest. I cried cause that’s all I knew what to do. But the tears only show what was happening on the surface. My heart felt heavy. Sinking into darkness. A pain so overpowering. So all-encompassing. I couldn’t even take it all in.
We told him we loved him. That’s all that we could really think to do. We hoped he would get better. I looked at the clock and time had flown too quick. I said goodbye and that I’m going to switch with my youngest brother. We did. After that my other younger brother switched and went in.
We left the hospital talking about further visitation and that we should probably stop by and get some clean T-shirts, socks, and underwear for him. It looked like he was going to stay there for a while until they found a stable cocktail of meds for him.
Later in the week we spoke with his psychiatrist. He told us that my dad had PTSD and Major Depression.We immediately responded with confusion and disbelief. Where in the world did all this come from? I knew my dad had served in the Navy but he never mentioned anything. The doctor said he isn’t legally allowed to disclose detailed information but that the death of his dad (my step-grandfather) on top of financial troubles from losing his job must have triggered him. Come to find out later that it was something about a being bombed on the ship he was assigned to. Good. God. Almighty.
My younger brother asked what we could do now for him to support him. His doctor said visitation and education. He handed us some printed out pamphelt from this organization called NAMI (I’d never heard about them before but now I’m very much familiar with them) about Major Depression and PTSD.
We took the information and left.
Over time he was upgraded from suicide watch to a more liberating environment. Still unable to have a cell phone, we would just call ahead and stop by to check on him. I went in one day and dropped off his clean clothes. I asked him reluctantly how he was doing. He said that his hallucinations and flashbacks were under control. He said that it lasts just shy of a minute instead of several. He said the nurses apparently couldn’t find him one day until they looked behind the door of his room. He stood there standing; trapped in the nightmare of his own memories.
I can’t put into words the way that made me feel. Mortified is a good word I guess but it can’t fully represent how scary that kind of information was. After a forced smile and positive pep talk on his progress, I left.
Before I could visit him again, his release was planned. It was decided that since he needed a strong support system, he would move back in with my mom.
A few months prior to this whole incident, my parents decided to get a divorce and she kicked him out. He went to go live in a shady, dingy, and dangerous hotel downtown. The night he left, he said he spent the whole day crying uncontrollably. He texted me the next morning telling me he downed an entire bottle of cheap vodka he bought at the liquor store. He told me he loved my mom dearly. That he wasn’t going to give up. That he was going to remain true to her and that things are just getting to be too much and that she needed a break.
I listened and cried and felt terrible but not surprised. My parents had always been polar opposites, aside from race (my mom is black and my dad is white) they never saw eye to eye on anything. They always fought and threatened divorce ever since I can remember. They almost did twice but stayed together for us. Fast forward to today, my parents are both officially divorced after a rocky hard process I hope I never undergo.
He lived in that hotel for months. He would stop by occasionally to see my mentally disabled younger brother and slowly collect his things. When I came to visit him downtown, he insisted that we meet up in an area far from his residence. Starbucks seemed to be a his favorite place to hang out. He treated me to a hot drink and we sat and talked for what seemed like hours. He talked about how he loves the city life. That the people, the culture, and the vibrancy gave him room to breathe. He related to me about the friends he made. He complained about how the girls at the bars were so picky and all they wanted was “a doctor who looked like Brad Pitt.” Whatever the hell that meant!
He said he was happy and living life to the fullest. He was majoring in Psychology of all the things. He was enamored with his classes and, more importantly, the process of learning. He said he was happy and I believed him.
From what I was told, he was living off of savings from a VA scholarship he received. After losing his job, he decided to go and get his AA from a community college in the city. He was offered a substantial $10,000 to use for books, classes, and living expenses. With the volatile nature of having both my parents seeing each other more often, tensions grew to a boiling point. Too many things were happening all at once to my dad and he was getting more aggressive and temperamental. After a while, my mother couldn’t take it and that was when she had kicked him out.
Unfortunately, going back to live with my mom proved more difficult than anything. He gained the weight back and started having trouble sleeping. Sleep apnea. According to him his lack of sleep would trigger his anxiety, which would in turn give him trouble falling asleep. He said the meds he was on were giving him horrible side effects and that he felt worse on them than off them. So he lied to his doctors and dumped them down the drain. Consequently, he became a monster to deal with. He’d either lay there on my mom’s couch all day depressed or he would go out randomly and stay out all night without letting her know where he was going or what he was doing. Occasionally, he would come home and show her pictures on his phone of these hot young girls he met that were sexier and prettier than she was. He would tell my mom that she was an old lady who lived a boring life and that he was young and needed adventure (mind you my dad is 54 years old). She couldn’t take it anymore and he hated her now so he left and went back to live “somewhere”.
After hearing all this information AFTER THE FACT, from my mom over the phone, I asked her what she meant by “somewhere”. Scolding her on not telling me until now and practically letting him go out into the world without any kind of psych medications, she snapped back at me saying she tried her best but she can’t deal with him anymore and that if I care so much “he is my problem now”. All this while my husband was away on one of his week-long business trips!
That night I called my dad and asked him why he had stopped taking his medication. He said that he was drowning in pills and he “needed to detox”. He was prescribed what he called a “suitcase full of pills”. Pills to calm him down. Pills to make sure he didn’t pass out. Pills to calm his night terrors. Pills to lower his anxiety. And pills to deal with the side effects of the pills. In a fit of rage, I told him he needed to get back on them, go back to seeing his therapist/support groups, and be honest with his doctors. Because who the fuck lies to their doctors? (it’s a joke, I’m referencing myself)
After a few weeks I got a phone call from him saying he got back on the bandwagon and started taking his meds again. He was going to group therapy at the VA hospital and getting help from his therapist who, just like me, scolded him for getting off his meds and lying to her.
Fast forward to today, he is doing very well. He has a few headaches and nausea but other than that, he is back to the man I remember.
Now, why tell you all this? Because I’m still haunted by it. My dreams tend to be about my family for the most part. It’s always all of us together under the same roof, laughing and joking. We are all getting along together. I’m usually just waking up to sounds and violent shakings from my youngest brother telling me breakfast is ready. We head downstairs in our pajamas and sit around the table. My dad rushing back and forth trying to find his belt and get his police uniform together. My mother telling us about the latest celebrity gossip nonsense. She says that she wants to plan a trip to Disneyland or Sea World or something in a couple of weeks. I’m at peace. Life is good.
When I wake up, tears stream down my face. I forget the dark grim reality of life. The Fog reminds me about how torn apart my family is. That I should indulge in the posthumous diagnosis my father received last year. The Fog reminds me of my dad’s phone calls telling me he feels empty and lonely and that I’m the only one who cares. That I’m the only one who stands between him and an overdose. It’s so much to think about. So many memories I’m having trouble forgetting. He is fine now so he says. And that’s all well and good. But while I’m out here, floating slowly into the Firth, I cant help but wonder when I’ll ever stop letting this haunt me. If I’ll ever stop thinking about it.
I take my oars and begin to paddle further in. It’s getting so cold and cloudy in my head. I feel so lost and alone. My compass is pointing me back to shore.
I can barely see the shoreline anymore. It’s starting to fade away.