Stinkin’ Thinkin’

When I was a teenager and my depressive cycle started, my sister would tell me,

That’s stinkin’ thinkin’, stop it

She and her husband ran a sales office and motivation was their game. Positive thinking would drive a man to enter a strange place and do something completely out of character, and after that the money was addictive.

I always tried, for her, goddamn I worshipped her. She had always seen good in me, and told me.

That’s important, that you tell people good things you see in them. Not everyone can see good in themselves.

……

So my depression isn’t a constant. I have cycles that don’t run on a clock or a schedule. Most of the time I’m just normal depressed, and I’ve learned some good coping mechanisms for that.

I write, I focus on my children and wife, I watch funny movies or I play games and try to get out of my head.

It works for me.

Then comes the darkness… I never know when it’s going to happen but once it starts I can feel it

Suddenly there’s less to say

There’s a growing weight on my eyes, my shoulders start to slump

It gets hard to laugh

My mind goes numb

and for a week or two or a month

Watching The Princess Bride doesn’t fill me with nostalgia and laughter

I have to avoid most of the songs I love because they’ll send me into uncontrollable fits of sobbing

Stray thoughts float around and if I pull the thread

I’ll find death at the other end of the line

Ol’ Grim doesn’t give up…

As patient as death, is that a thing?

……….

When it passes, it does so like an Iowa summer thunderstorm. Rip through, make a lot of noise and leave a quiet sunny day in its wake.

I’ve felt it leave often enough that now I just ride it out, hoping it goes quickly.

I can tell my wife it’s starting and she loves me a little louder. As I fall into myself she holds my hand and won’t let me fall alone.

The second day (the one I’m on as I write this) is when the numbness dissipates and the memories flood my mind.

Standing up and speaking for the dead. I remember the words coming out of other’s mouths, telling me

She’s gone

He’s dead

Or I’ll be not thinking about anything in particular and suddenly I’m reliving some awful shit from my childhood

Sneaky fingers sneaky toes

Keep the secret no-one knows

And I can’t find my grown-up strength, I can’t find my walls, my mechanisms are seized up and nothing will help

….

Until it passes

I have to be very careful with

Stinkin’ thinkin’

Because the wrong thought has almost done Ol’ Grim’s work, before

Like the night I was in the bedroom closet with my knife and my wife, my savior, my angel,

Wrestled it out of my hands and damn near cut her thumb off

And I can try to make excuses to myself but I can’t look into her eyes and say words that are less than true

So I ride the darkness

and wait for the light.

I know it’s coming.

Reaching Back

I saw him.

He held a razor to his wrist, tears streaming freely down his cheeks.

He kept whispering, “Just do it. Just do it. Just do it.”

I saw him, trying to convince himself to cut his life off, and I had no idea how to stop him, or if I should try.

When animals are suffering, we kill them, and call it humane. Wasn’t he an animal? Aren’t we all? How could I tell him to prolong his suffering?

What could I say which would be honest enough to be accepted, and change his mind about life?

He lowered the razor to his wrist, prepared to cut open his veins, vertically, so there wouldn’t be time to save him, if they found him before he died.

He had a plastic bag, spread open below him, trying to be considerate, not wanting to leave too big a mess, for the unlucky soul which would find his body. An open bottle of aspirin lay on the counter, he had taken it to thin his blood. He had thought this through, maybe for years.

I could see him, but he didn’t see me, yet. I watched him deliberate his existence, and my heart broke for him. I could see that the perspective I had gained through life’s experience had not been revealed to him. He was fighting a battle which he was bound to lose, searching for meaning in a meaningless life. His pain was palpable as he swam back and forth through the waters of depression, and all I wanted was to throw him a line, help him back to shore, give him some way to make sense of it all.

Over and over he lowered the razor, then pulled it away, shaking his head, face twisted with pain and sadness. He was dancing with demons, first leading, and then being led. The agonizing march was tapping its way toward oblivion.

I resolved to cut in on his dance, and I made my move cautiously.

Trying not to startle him, I softly whispered, “Don’t do it.”

He looked up, finally seeing me. A brief recognition crossed his face, then the storm clouds crossed his sight again, and he asked, “Who are you?” I shook my head slightly, responding, “You’ll find out. What’s more important is who you are, and who you might be.”

Anger flashed as he caught my eyes, shaking his head violently, and said, “This life is too cruel, for me. I have tried to be happy. I have tried to be true. The two mix like oil and fire. Humanity spends all its energy trying to destroy each other, and greed is the law of the land. Because I’m young, they tell me I don’t understand, but I understand better than they do. This life is wrong. For me, for everyone. We are not animals, we are a virus, an infection. I won’t be a party to it, anymore. I will go, on my own terms. Now.”

He once again lowered the blade, this time touching the soft, thin skin at his wrist, piercing his skin and drawing blood. A look of determination had fixed upon his youthful features, and a small grin peeked out between his teeth.

Mind racing, desperate, I cried weakly, “Please, don’t do this.”
He looked up from his bloody wrist and stared into my eyes again. He angrily spat at me, “Nobody loves me. Not the real me. They don’t know me, and they don’t want to know me. Nobody will even take the time to find out who I am, what I need. They have no time for anything but their selfish pursuits, and I won’t feed their egos nor wallets. They don’t care to know me.”

I tried to send all of the love I possessed into his eyes as I whispered, “I do.”

Laughing angrily, caught off guard but unwilling to concede a single inch of battled-for ground, he walked toward me a step and thrust his face toward mine. The rage flew out of his eyes and his voice shook as he yelled, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME!”

His point was valid. I nodded agreement, and put my hands up to show my surrender to his fury. I said, “I want to know you. If you die today, I never will.”

Shocked by my statement, he stepped away, looking down at his bleeding forearm. A crimson pool was collecting on the plastic below him, as his blood dripped down his fingers. He looked at me, then back at his arm. He started to speak, and his voice cracked.

Tears started flowing again, and he shook his head side-to-side. Shoulders slumping, he pointed his bloody hand at me, again tried to speak, but could only issue a mournful groan as the sobs ripped their way out of his throat. His anger faded, and he crumbled, limply collapsing, sobbing, to the floor.

I let him cry, speaking softly.

“You have only just begun. You will find your way to people who see you, understand you, and love the real you. You have more to be. You are needed. Your life has hurt you, and if you stick around, life will hurt you more. But you will grow strong. You have a purpose. There are people not yet born who need to know you. Would you leave them to their hurt, without your help? Without your love? Who will help them, if not you? Who can help the next young person to see their place in this life? The cruelty and suffering you see is real. You may be the only thing standing between someone and their grave. Someone will need you, and someone will love you. If you are here, breathing, living, fighting against the sorrow, the cruelty. To that person, to those people, you are already their life. Somewhere, someone is drowning in their own misunderstood sea…you have to be the driftwood to which they cling. You have to let them be saved, by your presence. If not you, there will be none. No rescuer, no lifeline, no hand reaching back to their flailing grasp. Your pain will not cease, but without you, they will never learn how to carry their own weight.”

When I finished speaking, a look of understanding was on his face. He stood, put the razor down, and looked me in the eyes.
“You’re right. I don’t know who they are, yet, but I need to be here, to be there for them.”

He picked up the plastic and placed it in the trashcan. Looking at me again, he said, “thank you”, and walked away from the mirror.

Again The Night

Through the darkness, the beast stalks
slowly, cautiously, tasting the air, peering through the shadows
perked ears straining for the slightest shift, the indrawn breath
silently probing the impenetrable darkness
for sign of the prey
prey which too suddenly could become predator
there, the whisper of flesh against tree-trunk
frozen, the beast fixes upon targeted shadow
swift and sudden, one fluid motion to the creature’s throat
teeth crushing breath, metallic life spurting as molten lava
death incarnate, the beast ends the creature
blood staining his fangs-

a noise
suddenly awake from my dream of predatory tension, lying next to her, I am a coiled spring, in my bed. Did I hear that, or-
again, a soft thud
a sharply indrawn breath
she shifts next to me, and now sure that my dream is over, I time my movements with her deep breaths, so I am not heard
inhale- my feet to the floor, softly
exhale- I stand and slowly move to the open door of our bedroom,
stopping just to the side of the opening. Knees slightly bent, head cocked to the side, I taste the air, searching the darkness for any unfamiliar scent
perked ears strain for the slightest sound, waiting for my prey to give away its location
there, a rustle of flesh against soft carpet
my mind sharpens, as my heartbeat increases slightly, adrenaline coursing through my body, in anticipation
I visualize my movements, I will be prepared,
sudden and swift I will be through the door and upon the intruder,
hand to throat as I attack, force the creature to the ground and overwhelm with ferocity, gathering violence in my bones, I aim towards the sound, swiftly and suddenly through the door-

my son lies on the floor, beside his bed, twists again to escape the monsters in his head… so much like me.
Calm, now, I scoop his sleeping body up, and he curls toward me, puts his hand on my chest and murmurs softly, still lost in his dream world
I gently lay him back in his bed, covering him with his soft baby blanket, then the thick comforter

I lie back in bed, mentally laughing at myself, careful not to disturb my wife from her all-too infrequent sleep. As I curl up next to her she reaches out for my hand

I close my eyes
Through the darkness, the beast stalks