Sunday, July 13, 2014

COMING OUT OF THE DARK

I’ve been having a streak of good luck of late.

Karma?

Good things happen (finally)…?

But I’m going dark with this post. There’s a backstory.

When I first started the blog, I swore that it would be an authentic portrayal of a single, middle-aged gay man living in a rural area. For all the tasty blackberries flourishing in my backyard, there are plenty of thorns. And so it is time to be completely honest.

I knew I was in trouble last August. I’d had a wonderful summer in L.A. I felt reconnected and reinvigorated. But I was all too aware that wouldn’t last. I hadn’t moved back to Los Angeles; only visited. As I’d taken my dog, Hoover, I had a long drive back to British Columbia to think about what the trip did and did not satisfy. It was dangerous to return to my ho-hum life and expect the happy hangover to stretch until the next summer vacation. While driving the I-5 through Washington, I pulled over at a rest area and typed out a survival plan of sorts—things I needed to keep doing, start doing and stop doing. It was a comprehensive document.

By October, the emptiness returned. I lived by rote. Hoover continued to bring me plenty of smiles and laughs each and every day, but there was no other source of fulfillment. I couldn’t entice friends to visit. And my writing seemed to stall. I’d slipped from Writer to Writer Wannabe. As an intensely high achiever, I’d accomplished nothing in any domain in recent years. Life had peaked.

By January, I decided I was done with life. The thought of another thirty years of nothingness seemed like an excruciating existence. As if to confirm my thoughts, my laptop crashed. I’d backed up nothing. Years of writing projects vanished. While I should have been an emotional wreck, I took two Tylenol and went to bed at 6 p.m. Done. The sham of being a writer was over.

I knew I would never leave before Hoover. I would not do that to him. And so, while I drafted and tweaked an elaborate suicide plan that would neatly leave no loose ends to burden others, I continued to savor life with eleven-year-old Hoover, knowing that we had about a thousand days left together. Hoover would allow me to buy time. Maybe I could turn things around, find a purpose for being.

Tragically, time with Hoover came up 910 days short. He died unexpectedly and traumatically in early April. I blame myself. The grief was intense, far beyond any typical loss-of-a-pet scenario. Truly, he was all I had. While dealing with grief, the suicide plan came to the forefront. The downward spiral went into freefall. I had myself committed. I spent nine days in hospital.

In many respects, that made things worse. My timing sucked. I was admitted on the Thursday preceding Canada’s longest holiday stint of the calendar year. I was basically in a holding pen through Good Friday, the weekend and Easter Monday. And that pen happened to be the Psychiatric Assessment Unit, a place for the most acute patients. All along, they assured me that I did not belong there, but they had no other beds available. With the long, long weekend, doctors weren’t releasing psych patients. There were also more appropriate clinics at other hospitals, but all had put out the No Vacancy shingle.

In PAU, I was the model patient. They weren’t having to call security to force me to take medications by injection. When required to, I engaged in pleasant conversations with other patients, never once veering into an unpredictable tirade, never even provoking such an episode in someone else. They never had to lock me in the windowless room and I didn’t fall into an hours-long rage, pounding and yelling, “I’m going to fucking kill you all!”

I just witnessed such things. Repeatedly.

I developed an anxiety I never had. I’d shake, my heart would seem to race and I failed to sleep even when I’d take one of the sleeping pills the nurses and fill-in doctors eagerly hawked.

I was not “treated” in any substantial way. I negotiated to have my admission changed from involuntary to voluntary and I checked out a week earlier than they’d wanted. I couldn’t bear the thought of going into another weekend with absolutely no medical intervention. Before I was released, a psychiatrist who had seen me twice for a total of twenty-five minutes spoke with confidence of The Plan “we’d” created. “What plan?” I asked. The all-encompassing plan involved a follow-up appointment with a new psychiatrist, my sixth.

Apparently most people do not plan as elaborately as I.

And yet I am still here. I am on an upswing. I am giving myself some time. I held on—sometimes just barely—until I could get back to L.A. This vacation once again offers a temporary reprieve from the monotony. I appreciate every minute of it.

On this visit, I’ve planned less. This needs to be more low-key. Frankly, I feel the edge. I don’t handle the daily nuisances so well. Even so, I know I am safe here.

That recent stroke of luck? Maybe it does have something to do with being a good person. I’m pretty sparing and dismissive of any kind of acknowledgment, but frankly, I don’t think I could have lived a more honorable life. Still, the luck may be of my own doing. I’m less reserved. I’m taking more chances. Why the f*#k not? What have I got to lose? I am not the same. My life has shifted. It needed to.

Now let’s see what I do with it.

3 comments:

Rick Modien said...

Oh, RG. This is difficult to read. Especially when you come across so differently in what you write. Especially when I know you, through your words, and the utterly amazing human being you are. Which just goes to show we never truly know someone, what's going on inside them, their inner turmoil and pain.

I give you a lot of credit for sharing this with us. It can't be easy to admit some of these things, to admit them to yourself. I'm sure you look at what you've written here and feel…what? Disappointed in yourself? Fearful? Relieved? Only you know. I hope you feel relieved. It's out now. Time to release it, let it go.

Imagine what you would have missed if you'd followed through on your plan. I'm taking from the title of this post that you've come through it, you're on the other side now, and you're looking forward to what life holds. I know you look at me as the eternal optimist, which couldn't be further from the truth–just ask Chris–but I believe so much of life is still ahead of you, and there's so much for you to look forward to. I hope you believe that too.

(And I'm going to add this one piece, which may or may not be helpful: Even if it doesn't work out with Tim, which I'm hopeful it will, your experience with him has been good for you. I think it's restored some much needed confidence in who you are and in your self-worth. I think it's confirmed you have so much to offer. And I think it's proved you are a special man. You really are.)

It may be presumptuous of me to offer, but, if you ever need to talk or chat or whatever, I'm here for you. Please email me at rmodien@telus.net. And we can Skype too. I leave it up to you. I don't want you to think you're alone, that no one cares. I care. I hope you know that. All you need to do is reach out. Don't be scared to do it.

Thanks for sharing and for reading this.

oskyldig said...

Good things happen to good people, or so I'm told. :)

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