Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Our lives are filled with turning points. I don't mean marriages or home purchases or graduations, any of the official markers of transition, but rather moments when something without us causes something within us to shift and we know that one era has come to a definite end. We all have that.
It will be no surprise to any of you to learn that I recently experienced just such a turning point. It will likely surprise all of you that the turning point in question was not my October 20 suicide attempt. No, the real threshold moment for me came three weeks earlier.
The date was October 7, 2013.
Thomas and I spent most of that day hauling boxes from the awful yellow farm house that had been my prison for more than a year and a half to the beautiful new Mountain State home where my parents had determined to start anew. I'd only seen this place in photographs, never been, and when I stepped through the front door I found in the house's beauty such stark contrast with the squalor I'd endured that my heart leapt into my throat.
Relief coursed over my shoulders like a warm waterfall, and it was only then, as the onerous weight was washed away from me, that I realized how heavy the burden had been. That farm house had robbed me of heirlooms, of my dignity, of my happiness, of my sanity. I decided that moment that I would never live in it again.
"I'm staying here tonight," I told Thomas. "Do you want to stay with me?"
"Dude," he replied. "Yes."
My mother Marie, who before my recent self-inflicted brush with death was, to put it mildly, not an understanding parent, took immediate issue with this. I can't remember the litany of ridiculousness she recited: we'd eat all the food in the house; we'd shower until we ran the well dry; we'd sleep in her bedroom despite the total lack of furniture. Whatever it was, it wasn't worth listening to. And when she at last agreed to let me bunk in the house I was paying to live in, on condition that I get up in the morning and leave with her at seven, something in me snapped.
"Trying to get you to do anything--anything at all, just things normal people do--is like asking for gold," I spat. "And you know what? I'd rather sleep in my fucking car!"
So I did.
I drove back to that farm house, back to that terrible place where I no longer lived, and I spent a miserable night crouched in the back seat of my seventeen-year-old Oldsmobile. It was one of the most empowering things I've ever done.
I woke up the next morning, drove to a cafe, and surveyed the date on the national newspaper with quiet joy.
Thank God, I thought. Thank God.
It seems astonishing to describe my suicide in anything but the most horrible terms, but it was, for all its tragedy, part of a larger narrative that is quite positive. It was part of my larger assertion over my own life. I took that assertion to an extreme place in a desperate moment, but the assertion itself is something that's been long overdue.
So when I woke up from the coma, when the drugs wore off but before I could get through a morning without crying, I remembered October 7. And I remembered October 20. And I remembered that what happened to me belonged to me.
That first week home I got out a piece of paper and wrote down four points:
I. Public relations
Beneath each I made an extensive list of contacts and strategies, and then I dove in with a vengeance. I considered everything, from grad school to HTML classes to editorial assistant positions to municipal media relations management, all within the context of the four broad categories and all approached on a systematic and realistic basis.
Before my suicide--"You basically died in the ambulance," my mother later told me--I'd gotten so locked in to the tunnel vision of the job search that I'd closed myself off to things like additional schooling or internships. But now, with my family behind me and the knowledge that opportunity can come from anywhere, I approached my mission with an open mind.
What I learned? The bigger your door, the more people will come knocking.
It wasn't long before I found myself in Marble City interviewing for an internship position with a public relations and public policy company.
"We are actually having someone in our communications department leave to accept a job in Misty City," the supervisor told me. "And there is the possibility that there could be a hiring opportunity at the end of this. What most concerns me about you, though, is that you have prior experience. If you came on with us, it wouldn't be at a very senior level. Is that a problem?"
"No. I want the chance to start at the bottom."
I was selected for the role the next day.
So in January I'm moving, at least part time, to the Goldlands so that I can make the commute two days a week to Marble City. Pirate Ninja, an old friend from college, lives in a single-family home there with six Christian men who voted unanimously to let me stay with them.
"No matter what," he told me. "You're in."
No matter what, I'm in.
I'm going to learn all I can about this position. I'm going to pour my heart into my work, and I'm going to do everything within my power to win this job. I will do it. And if I don't, then I'll take the experience on my resume and go somewhere else, and then somewhere else, and then somewhere else, until something opens. I'll do whatever I have to.
On October 20 I accidentally survived. Now I'm determined to live.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Maybe I'm just not as strong as I thought as I was. I seemed to bounce back so fast, to the point that I even made a few off-color jokes about it. I smiled. I laughed. I was energized. But beneath it all I'd feel these moments of welling terror, of panic.
What is going to happen to me? How can this be real?
I'm in disbelief that I am who I am. I hate myself a little. And a part of me wants to do it again. But damn it, I have resolved not to think that way, and I'm going to keep the promise I made when I came out of the hospital to give this life of mine the good college try.
Oh, my God. How has this really happened? How did I become this thing?
I looked out my bedroom window several days ago to see a maple tree, resplendent with autumn glory as its leaves glowed golden-red in the setting sun. This morning, seemingly out of nowhere, the tree was almost bare and suddenly ugly. I thought that it would be irredeemably sad but for the fact that it will one day come to life again. Spring can only be so many months after Fall.
The maple tree is weeping now
Its red and amber tears
It sheds its little stars of grief
They make a bed of fear
The tree has lost what made it whole
Its shining emerald hands
That time and nature one day stole
Have fallen in the stands
The wind that's whirling through its holes
Screams like a mournful wail
The branches empty, brown, and dead
Bow low as if to fail
The tree holds on with stubborn roots
And though it's hung with doom
It stands high hoping one day that
It once again might bloom
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
You know the feeling you get when you wake up from a truly horrible nightmare and thank God you were only dreaming? I guess you might call that relief, maybe euphoria, maybe joy. I'm not sure what the term is for when you open your eyes and the nightmare keeps going.
I can remember the nurse screaming.
"Do you know what year it is?"
"Twenty-twelve," I answered. "Twenty-thirteen."
"Do you know who's president?"
"Do you know your name?"
I remember that fifth glass of wine, the frantic confession to the priest over the phone, my brother telling me to stay awake even as I started to fall into a coma.
"You can't stop me! I already took the pills!"
I was crying and laughing at the same time. I was so happy. I was so sad. I was so unburdened.
I'm so sorry.
And I mean that, as much as I have ever meant anything, because in pulling out of a 14-hour coma and being restored to life the only thing I can think about is all the people I betrayed. Thomas, who was my erstwhile companion. Powell, who was still my brother even with all his faults. Pie, who looked up to me. God, who gave me all my gifts and many of my flaws. You, my readers, who rooted for me over the years. And myself.
One thing I keep returning to is the BB I used to be, the one who threw blackened away and decided to see life for all the good it contained.
I don't understand how I went from being that 21-year-old boy, the one with the future standing as an endless sunlit vault before him; to the 25-year-old young man who saw no future at all. I don't understand how I went from striding a summit to collapsing on my bedroom floor. Every time I think about it it makes me cry.
There are no easy answers for me as I return from the psychiatric hospital to the home where I almost died. There are many things I'll need to do, and one of them is to grieve. I'm giving myself time for that, but not too much time. The other element in moving forward is reconstruction, and that means that I can be fragile and vulnerable, can withdraw into myself, for only so long. Eventually some heavy lifting has to take place. I'll let you know when, with the help of doctors and my family, I figure out what that is. I already have some ideas.
I know you all expected more from me. I expected more from myself. And I really hope one day I can achieve that.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
It seems like the time between these posts is getting longer and longer. A month has gone by in this round, but what's a month now? The days and the weeks and the months and even the years blend together.
September 29 passed a few days ago. That was the day, you know, the day this all began. The day of the incident. The day I returned home from the City of Fate, fresh off a thrilling foray in the recording industry, and walked into a nightmare. At least that's how I remember it, where I place the divide.
Any historian will tell you that points of demarcation are arbitrary.
The Western Roman Empire did not, for instance, fall wholesale on the morning of September 4, A.D. 476, and Europe did not plunge into the Dark Ages later that evening. The seeds of a coming Roman cataclysm presented themselves as early as the 3rd century, well before the old girl really cracked, and elements of Roman civilization persisted in pockets for hundreds of years after hindsight says they were theoretically gone. But on September 4, 476, Romulus Augustulus abdicated and people realized, definitively, that something had reached an irreversible critical mass.
I've had a few wins since September 29, 2010. Some of them have even been substantial. But the general trend, over the three longest years of my life, has been one of consistent difficulty and decline. I didn't just blow up one day. Somewhere along the way, though, I noticed my urban areas depopulating and my roads becoming a little worn out. I've been ravaged by a plague or two. People aren't reading as much. There's more cow shit than is strictly necessary. And I can't figure out if I'm about to get a makeover from a bunch of Italian guys with a thing for statuary and human rights, or if I'm just craning my head up from an accelerating nosedive. Is this thing nearing its end or is it only getting started? And how much longer could it possibly go on? The idea that it has any more more fuel strains incredulity, but if there's one thing I've learned since that fall three years ago it's that happiness runs on sweat and diamonds but misery can coast on ethanol. There's never any shortage of shit.
That being said, I'm really hoping against hope--and a good amount of empirical evidence--that this thing is wrapping up, because it's done a doozy on me. In the last three years I've become a person I don't recognize or even particularly like. I've lost my hope, my optimism, my self-assurance, and a tremendous amount of my money. I've lost any shred of love I once had for my parents, any belief that they might be capable of change. I've lost, in moments, my desire to live. Loss, loss, loss, loss.
And what have I gained? A skill set, to be sure, in the field of commercial book publishing. A series of potentially valuable connections. As of two weeks ago, an offer of publication on one of my clients' books. That, in the long term, could provide an income, but it will be a bit before it produces any money. And that's what all of this really boils down to: money. I expended an enormous amount of money on a college education that was supposed to net me more money, and now I find myself with a much-diminished store of money in a house run by two financial vampires who demand ever more money.
Their single-minded focus is immune to the bounds of morality or social convention, to the point that when a sick Powell asked my mother what over-the-counter drugs we had in the stocked medicine cabinet, her reply was, "Whatever you go out and buy."
I think what hurts even worse than the fiscal raping is knowing my parents see me as a dollar sign. Good times.
So I'm trying and mostly losing. Sometimes I have great moments of optimism and a little bit ago I even had a solid few weeks of good cheer. It's not often, though. I feel dead a lot. Sometimes I cry, in the shower or on the phone in the parking lot outside Starbucks as I apply for a deferment of payments on my colossal student debt. I'm not some kind of a bum or anything, not a layabout looking for free cash. I've been proactive in building the foundation for a career. I interned and networked. I came from a wealthy family. It's just that no one cared.
I know what some of you will say. "Enough with the self-pity." "Get over yourself already." "There are people out there who have it a lot worse." "You should look at the blessing you've been given in life."
I count my blessings and I say my prayers, and at the end of the day I am still so massively screwed. The sick little gay boy with the terrible family who overcame child abuse and incurable disease to graduate college. In every feel-good movie I would have been the loveable hero. But you know what? In real life people hit walls and the vulnerable outcast doesn't get to ride a broomstick to glory. In real life those who need the most help are just left behind. In real life the bad guys just win. At least often.
Look at my parents. They will never shed a single tear, never pay a single cent, never feel a single moment of contrition for the suffering they've inflicted. They'll get away with it. They'll keep their investments, their cars, their new resort house, their obscene piles of money stuffed in lock boxes, and they'll walk Scot-free. The only ones left to attempt some sort of clean-up will be the ones they shat upon. And then society will reward them.
So I'm going to keep fighting the good fight, keep trying to land the job that will take me out of here and give me the freedom I've dreamed of for two decades. For now, though, fuck everything. I'm going for a run.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Summers tend to linger in Southern State. Labor Day passes and September with it, Columbus Day and most of October, and then some time around Halloween we get around to realizing that it shouldn't be 90 degrees anymore. With the hot skies and lazy breezes lingering so long, it can often be easy to think that time might have stopped, that the bright sun cresting the clouds won't ever change.
But Fall came early this year.
It seemed to sneak in right around the first week of September, creeping up on us with chilly evenings and days that were just a whisper too short. Summer is usually a moment that stretches out towards eternity. This time around, though, no one can doubt that something new is coming on the crisp winds.
I made my therapist cry last week. I didn't do it on purpose, nor did I provoke her tears with harsh words; I just told her, in a matter-of-fact way, about my life. Who knew it was so interesting?
"You have to know that people care about you," she said. "That I care about you. You have so much to offer. And you would be such a waste."
That's the down side to the juncture at which I currently find myself. But it's only one potential aspect, one face of the many-hued ruby now flipping through the air. For I truly am at an intersection of possibilities--a crossroads of the most dramatic kind. What comes next could be horrific. But it could also be great. And I have to believe in that greatness, as the hope of it is one the only things I have left.
In a fitting development, the members of Our Family will soon leave this awful yellow house; my parents successfully purchased the home they'd had their sights on, and we will all be moving from here some time in the middle of next month. Where exactly I wind up going will heavily depend on the events of the next few weeks, which also promise to have an outsized impact on my life in general.
I know that many of you aren't believers, and for that reason I have often opted not to discuss my faith on this site. But you should know, in the interest of knowing me, that through all the peaks and valleys of the last five years my conviction in God has never been fully beaten out of me. I've come close a couple of times, sure--but in the real defining moments that stubborn belief has flared without fail. This moment being what it is, I've spent an awful lot of time praying lately.
I just hope He listens--and I hope He shows some kind of mercy.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Norwegian stood at the edge of the summit, her feet inches away from the sheer drop that went hundreds of feet down.
"Isn't this amazing?" she turned to ask me, her blonde ponytail bouncing like a golden Slinky in the August sunlight. "I come here to go hiking all the time."
I cursed myself for neglecting to bring my camera--the photo above is a stock image from the location--because she was right: it was stunning. The steep trails of rock-embedded soil converged on a mass of shale that jutted high into the air, giving hikers a stunning vista of the valley spread out below them like a green basket.
"We should bring some people up here and roast marshmallows or something," she said.
"Yeah. We could have the most incredible-slash-terrifying picnic ever."
Her eyes narrowed in confusion.
"Terrifying?" she turned back to the cavernous sky from her perch on the cliff. "Why would you be afraid?"
I think I've needed some reminding lately that people can do courageous things, can put themselves on the tops of mountains without falling off. Sometimes, of course, they might slip on the gravel. But sometimes they'll stand at the point where the ordinary meets greatness and propel themselves into the heavens.
Not that I was asking for that much. I didn't need wonders served to me on a platter. I just needed the relentless beating of the last year or so, the merciless stream of setbacks and traumas, to end.
Last Thursday I applied for a position with a public relations company in the Goldlands. Later that day the firm's director contacted me with an invitation to visit their office for an interview on Monday afternoon. That was it, and that was all I wanted. A chance.
As for the interview itself, I don't think it could have gone much better than it did. I at last had the opportunity to prove to someone else what I've known for a long time: that my research skills are on point; that my written-communications abilities encompass both storytelling and hard news with ease; that my time in journalism and publishing gives me relevant insight into the public relations profession; and that I just flat out have a good head for image management.
We'll know soon. Beyond this process's outcome (which is, of course, important to me), however, my experience over the past few days has provided some sorely needed hope. I do have something to offer, and others can see it. My troubles, amplified in an environment of isolation, disrespect, and contracting resources, are never more than one successful job interview away from fading into the background. I have a real shot at life. I do.
So I'll hope, and I'll pray, and I'll let all of you know as soon as I hear anything. And in the meantime, as I refresh my e-mail's in-box every ten seconds and count the ways in which these prospective employers could say yes or no, one of the greatest sources of my discontent could be on its way to a fitting resolution.
"We put a contract on a house," my mother informed us today. "We could know if we've gotten by as early as tomorrow."
That's right. The era of the Yellow Pile of Shit, which began on February 17, 2012, is at last approaching its overdue end. Back then, a mere two months after I graduated from university, my parents unloaded our old Mountain Town home and, in an effort to get back to roots we never had, moved us into a 200-year-old farm house with no central heat or air conditioning. As this summer winds to a close they have, in Thomas's words, "finally gotten their heads out of their asses."
This is the house, located just across the border in Mountain State, that they're now attempting to secure. It's spacious, stylishly appointed, outfitted with all the amenities a 21st-century American could expect to have, and befitting our family's station. It's the kind of place we had always lived in before my parents gave in to a bout of delusion a year and a half ago and tried to make us something we weren't. The game of pretend is now over.
Of course, David and Marie's return to reality will hopefully not have much of an effect on me. If I get this job I'm planning to move to the Goldlands as soon as possible, but my stepmother threw a surprise volley my way this afternoon while discussing the upcoming move with Pie and Thomas.
"You know, BB, your father and I are rooting for you with this job," she said. "But if you don't get it you'd be free to come with us. The house has four bedrooms."
Not enough, pointedly, for Powell, whose antics have of late attained new levels of infamy.
"I appreciate the offer, but I'd really like for us to not reach that point."
"I'm just putting it out there."
For two people who have time and again proven inconsiderate, oblivious, and occasionally downright vicious, my mother and father surprise me with random moments of compassion that make me yearn for the parents they could have been. My father went even further.
"And even if you get the job, it might be a good idea for you to stay," he advised. "It's entry level. So if they're only paying you $30,000, you could save a lot of money by coming there. The $400 we'd want is way less than anything you'd put out to find housing in the Goldlands. Plus we're actually going to be closer to their office than we are now. It's not a bad commute."
I'm weighing all the possibilities, which will be circumscribed should the position not come through. Something tells me, however, that it will. Something tells me I nailed this thing. And if that's true, then the set of options for where I go next just got a whole lot bigger.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
I'm sorry for the string of grim--but conveniently cryptic--posts I've made lately. In them I've said so much without ever really saying anything at all--clever metaphors about an imagined Fate, evasive allusions to hallways and doors and ends and beginnings.
The truth is that I want to die about half the time now.
The other half? I don't particularly want to go in those moments, but even then I'm convinced that it might be necessary and inevitable.
I came so close last weekend. There I was, three thousand miles from some place I call home, being feted for an expertise and an influence that I've done nothing to earn or prove. A literary agent who's sold no books--what do you call that? When these writers, these dreamers, these people who have invested so much of themselves in their projects, when they come to me and hand their hopes into my shaking hands, do they know they've climbed atop a dull horse? Of course, many literary agents are dull horses, at least at first. But the absence, despite my relentless efforts, of some other livelihood to truly sustain me in that interim, has filled my mouth with dead air.
And that's really not the worst of it, which, all things considered, is pretty significant.
Call it a weak moment.
But when the boy with the pretty face and clear eyes left, that hotel room felt so crushingly empty, empty not just with the loneliness of one night but with the parading void of the future. He kissed me before he went away and I wondered if he hated me as he did it. Then I wondered why he even wanted me in the first place.
I'll probably never have him. I'll probably never have anybody, which is really the larger point. He was just a beautiful someone I met in a strange city. That can happen to anyone, right? The follow-up is where I falter.
So there I was, with that terrible, aching chasm swallowing my stomach. And I thought, You have the complementary bottle of wine. Would it be so difficult to get some sleeping pills? I'm sure there's a store open.
And if those pills had been there, I don't know what I would have done. I think, though--and I can judge myself fairly well--that I would have made a cocktail more delicious than all the others combined, better than what passed down my throat at any party or on any solitary night.
Instead I went to bed, and woke up several hours later, and wondered how long it would be.
The problem was in recovery. I guess the easiest way to explain what I mean is that when you have a brain disease there's just so much you don't know. You don't know how to be normal, true, but you also don't completely know what you're missing, and to a large degree you don't know of the limitations that are, and probably always will be, present.
Starting around when I was twenty--incidentally, the same year this blog was begun--I recovered so much so fast that I felt like I was on a roller coaster headed straight to Heaven. All of these things that had been mysteries before suddenly came to me and no one, my doctors included, really has any idea how the hell that happened. But I was happy.
I had friends, I had discipline, I had talent, and God did I have courage. I had courage to do the kinds of things that can hurt, and I did them because I believed there was nothing I couldn't accomplish. But I was a child. A teenager sees a little bit of life and is enamored with how worldly he's become, but a few years later he looks back and understands that he didn't understand.
I didn't understand. And the absolute worst part of recovery has been gaining the wisdom and insight to objectively assess my situation and comprehend the very daunting obstacles that neurological disease, psychological illness (because they are separate things), and a legacy of abuse actually present.
So don't think this post is a dip into the pool of self-pity. It's not. It's an acknowledgement of my keen-eyed appraisal of my own prospects, which just aren't very good. I still have moments of disorientation. I still face the vertigo of uncertainty. I still feel my brain slip. I am still unlikely to ever have a substantive romantic relationship, to ever know love or father children. And why would I want that? They could turn out like me.
I am happy that, if nothing else, I was allowed the golden moment of a false sun ascending through my sky and draping the world in a light of glory I thought would never be extinguished. It was false, of course--it always was--but it felt so real, and for one instant in what has been a genuinely unfortunate life I believed that I could have everything. I held that in my hands. Nothing can ever take that away from me.
But now the illusions are gone and the orb that burned so bright in 2009 and 2010 has blown out like a dandelion stripped of its silver ornaments. I see. I understand. And I want no part in it. I'm not going anywhere just yet, but I'm planning. You have to approach these things practically.
I don't know why I'm telling you this. I don't know why I do much of anything anymore. But thank you, I guess, for supporting me and believing in me, and for loving me, in your own way. It meant a great deal.