As much as I had hoped to be doing better with my life, I am sad to say that I have failed miserably. My earlier reunion with my wife and son was a miracle in itself, although one ultimately doomed to failure.
It started this past June, when I woke up on a Saturday morning with an overwhelming need to talk to my wife, Anne. Unable to get through to her, I borrowed my mother’s car -– pretty cool, no? –- to make the drive to Richmond. Keys in hand, I jumped in her little Ford POS, scraping the precious hair off my 43-year old scalp on the car’s roof in the process. I then sped down Route 64 at the car’s top speed of 55 m.p.h.
No sooner did I pull into the driveway of my mother-in-law’s apartment complex (where my SO’s were staying), when my wife walked out holding a wet dishrag in her hands I later found out was my son, John Tyler. Seems he had a urinary tract infection, and his fever had spiked just that morning to 106 degrees.
I learned long ago not to question my gut instincts, and thank God I didn’t this time. Anne and I spent the next week in the hospital with John Tyler. The poor guy went through a series of tests and shots I can only describe as barbaric.
For the second time in my life, I felt the sting of those nerves that trigger only when a loved one in is pain and beyond your help.
I held John Tyler tight for every IV insertion, every catheter, every intramuscular shot, letting him grab my hair, my head, my skin, screaming at the top of his lungs “Help me, Daddy.” All the while I stroked his hair, trying to calm his terrors.
Mercifully, John Tyler got better, and we were out in a week. After a traumatic event like that, Anne didn’t want us to separate again. Never having been able to say “no” to her, we started staying in cheap motels near Charlottesville, while I worked with my former judge to find legal “hired gun” jobs in the area.
During a lunch with my judge several weeks prior, I explained to him that while I had the skills to help out most any law firm in the Charlottesville area, I simple couldn’t be a “front-line litigator” anymore. I was frank with him, telling him that diagnoses of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder made litigation and fatherhood incompatible for me.
Maybe I was too frank. The money has now run out, the judge never came through with a job lead, and Anne has now left me to live with her mother again.
I’ve spent the last week homeless again, this time in Charlottesville in the middle of summer. While I’ve waited desperately for my judge to come through at the last minute, I learned that homelessness in the summer is incomparably more brutal than in the winter.
Winter is solemn and serene, if fatally cold. Summer is hot and sticky. “Nasty, brutish and short,” if you will. There are swarms of people everywhere, and while it’s always warm enough to sleep outside, precious few are the places where you can do so undisturbed. I find that I can’t stop sweating, the grime is neverending, and I believe that my feet have turned into two giant blisters.
In the process, I have, I believe, also learned that I am becoming insane. Not the gibbering, drooling kind of insane, but the kind where you can’t trust your own mind. I haven’t eaten solid food in six days – not for lack of food money, just no desire for it. And I stopped drinking alcohol after the first two days, when the pain of losing Anne and John Tyler again had just been unbearable.
But now I fear I’ve fallen into a pathology far more savage than mere alcoholism or depression. Locked in my own uncontrollable mind, with no food, comfort, or companionship to anchor me, I fear that I am spinning out of control.
I’ve been seeing shadows of people at night, watching me, spying. I see people whispering to each other about me. Worse, I have begun hearing what I can only describe as auditory hallucinations. A phrase in the middle of the night, “I don’t even know why he’s here, homeless and all. Especially with all these students around.” Imagined conversations between police officers in the bushes coming to get me.
Most painful, I constantly hear my phone ringing, with a hoped-for call from my wife, even though my brain knows my battery died days ago.
It’s a terrible thing to be betrayed by your mind, especially when your mind is what has defined you all along. I know, logically, that the increasingly chaotic and self-destructive thoughts I’ve been having are insane. But there is precious little my mind, the source of these very thoughts, can do about it.
N.B. – Two points. First, for those who think I should be out getting help instead of writing, I have tried in the past week, repeatedly, to commit myself or enter rehabilitation programs in the area. I have been denied every time, with the unhelpful advice that my efforts would be more successful if I (1) committed an actual crime; (2) actually tried to commit suicide; or (3) had the money to pay for it. Thanks.
Second, in case you think that this writeup sounds too lucid for someone in the middle of an actual nervous breakdown, just ask the people I really talked to: Bitriot, Junkill, Grundoon, IWhoSawTheFace, and Shaogo. I’m not as sane as my words appear. Something in the discipline of putting pen to paper forces me to sort through the jumble of crazy thoughts in my head, presenting only the “catch of the day” as my written image.
I’m taking the bus to see my wife tomorrow. It’s her birthday, and I pawned my wedding ring for the ticket, a birthday card, and a present for John Tyler, whose birthday is eight days later. Please wish me luck. I need all the help I can get.
Help me, Daddy.