For the last while I’ve been struggling to find words for what’s been going through my mind… I’ve a very dear friend who’s been struggling a lot of late, and though my contact with them has been minimal, I’ve mostly been trying to figure out how best to help them. From what I’ve learned about trying to help people is to listen – listen far more than you talk. To truly help, you need to be able to join them in that dark place. Not as an outsider who’s observing and waiting to catch them falling, but to free-fall with them and not know where the bottom is.. To not even be certain anymore that there is a bottom. That’s what it’s like when you fall into these dark places.. When you think it can’t get any worse, it can. I know every time I’ve hit that threshold with my own struggles – what I believed to be the worst of it, I’ve been proven wrong every single time. Not to sound bleak – it can get better. I’m still alive and enjoy nearly every day now and appreciate being here even on the bad days now. It wasn’t always so, though. My friend is in that dark place, struggling to come to grips with the reality that there may be hope – that it’s not to late to stagger back to their feet and get back into the fight. Hollywood does such an injustice to those that struggle deeply.. A movie or documentary at longest will summarize what put a person in that dark place, examine it for literally a few minutes, then spend at least a few minutes at the end tidying up progress in some way. That’s not all programs or movies – just the vast majority. I do know the place that my friend is in, though. I know the years upon years of feeling the way they do right now.
I feel so guilty and selfish for the hell I put him through for several months last year. He was in the same place, but still had the energy to keep picking himself up time and again. I was in such a bad place then. Our exchanges via email were long enough to be put into a novel – truly, a novel’s worth. I was arguing my position – my place with it. I wanted to end things, and he argued against it. It wasn’t the hollow arguments that most people give when pleading with someone to not do something. His arguments were thoughtful and realistic. They were personal. I know I drained so much energy from him for those few months.. I recognize the pattern that he’s in right now, and there’s no amount of reasoning that’s going to pull him out of that place. So, instead of trying to drag him to his feet, I’ll sit down next to him and keep him company until he asks for help standing up again. We can do damage control later.
I know when I was at my worst, I was pressing for him to say it was okay to give up. I wanted validation that the fight had been fought with every fiber of my being and that continuing was cruelty. I wanted it to somehow be okay with at least one other person – for someone to truly accept my decision and to give me permission. My God, the stellar attempts on his part literally kept blood in my veins for months.. At my lowest point though, I’d not hear it anymore. I won’t get into the details of exactly how things went here at home, but I didn’t say exactly what was about to happen when I went for the door, but my wife knew me well enough to grab my arm and try to keep me there. I’m physically much larger and stronger than her. Her trying to physcially force me to do anything is more of a gesture. She sobbed and begged me to stay. I had been cold and rigid to that point. For a split second, I put myself in her shoes, not being able to physically stop the person I love from leaving to die by their own free will. I asked myself if I’d be able to live with that. I walked back in a few steps and sat down on the floor. I lost it.. It takes so much to work yourself up the point where you can actually go through with it. Emotions are so charged up, but lay just under the surface. You need to remain calm enough to actually go through with the physical process – whatever that may be. To override instinct and go through with the act takes true commitment and resolve. Emotionally you’re like a volcano just waiting to explode from under the surface of the frozen mountaintop. So, there I sat on the floor with all of that charge and nowhere for it to go. It’s been at least 15 years since I’ve sobbed like that. Not shedding a few tears, or crying, or weeping – sobbing. I still feel so guilty for the things I said to my wife during the couple of hours that followed. I put myself in her shoes now and imagine what it would be like for her to say that she wants to die. Not in a cry for help sort of way, but to say it with true conviction. Then to say it’s pointless, that she loves me dearly and doesn’t want to hurt me, but she needs to end her own suffering. Then I imagine what it would be like for her to ask me to let her go… Then for her to ask me to forgive her for what she’s about to do. . . I imagine this and it shakes me pretty badly inside – to truly imagine her saying any of those things. She doesn’t have to imagine though. My friend doesn’t have to imagine either. I put them through that. For the last few weeks I’ve been hearing these arguments more and more from my friend. I do understand that place that he’s in. I know it well. It’s like revisiting an old apartment.
Tonight I saw something that really shook me. I didn’t expect it, nor did I see it coming. I’m largely unaffected by the things I see and hear, but this was something in a television series I was watching on Netflix. For anyone familiar with psychology, this was a trauma-related trigger. For many years, my triggers have been entirely physical, and very specific at that. I need to find balance. My friend needs me right now, and I’m not going to bail on him. I am drained right now, mostly from that given that it brings up so much of my own things. I need to keep myself a little more guarded for awhile. I’m also going to do something nice for my wife – something to honor her. I need to thank her. In spite of her own struggle which was tremendous at that time, she joined me in my horrible place. I was so blinded by my own bullshit that I didn’t even see how badly she was suffering. I owe her an apology for that. I’m not apologizing for my being the way that I was. Even as self-critical as I am at times, I don’t see where I was as being avoidable.
I know there’s a whole set of words that psychologists and therapists tell someone not to use, but I find it to only be useful to an extent. Yes, certain words aren’t exactly empowering, but to omit them is to omit the truth sometimes. I’ve been broken and weak at times. Some of those times I had no one to help, and other times I’ve had amazing people in my life to help me back up. I’m left wondering tonight if we aren’t all somewhat bruised or broken and that we can’t wait until we feel strong enough sometimes to help each other out. If you happen to be reading this and want to parrot the whole “you can’t help someone else before you help yourself” speech, save it. I did put on my oxygen mask first, just not very well, apparently. It’s so fucking hard to reach out when you’re in the thick of it, I’m not going to stomp on his fingers telling him to seek help elsewhere. I’ve had that happen – I didn’t reach out after that. I just need to find some balance. And rest.
Sorry for the infrequent updates/entries. My health has been stable, but I’ve been so incredibly tired lately. I can’t believe how much I’ve been sleeping. I’ve terrible pain that started tonight around my kidneys and liver. It’s sharp pain. If it gets any worse tonight or is still as bad as it is right now I’ll go to the ER. One of these days I’ll need to take a couple of actual vacation days from work that don’t involve staying in the hospital. On that note – it’s time to get some sleep.