The Poet’s Path: A Life of Pain

July 2007

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The Poet’s Path: A Life of Pain

Never does a day pass by that I don’t think about the things that happened leading up to today. During those moments in time they didn’t seem to be all that important, but now looking back they seem to mean a whole lot more; now that they are gone.

Thumbing through my photos of yesterdays, I am reminded of the opportunities I had to change my ways, to say the things that should have been said, to do the things that should have been done. Why does everything become so clear after the fact?

Time is such a wretch. It goes by so fast when we don’t want it to and when we wish that it would pick up the pace it slows to a viscus state.

There are some people who have parted ways with my life that I wish I could meet at least one last time. To get a second chance to say that I’m sorry, to get a chance to redeem myself. And the thing is, there are people in my life now who won’t be someday and when that happens I’ll feel the same way and wish for the same thing.

Parting with people for me is like feeling they have died, especially if they move beyond communication. They become ghosts in my dreams, figments of something that never really was; just a made-up world of characters. More often than not, when I find out that they are leaving, I turn them into enemies to make it easier for me to let them go. It’s so much easier to wave off enemies than allies.

It never takes long after goodbye that I find myself making contact with regret. I start hating myself a little more, start feeling a little more stupid. Sometimes I am just too stubborn to move outside of my comfort zone and if there isn’t a reason for me to stay in it, I’ll create one.

I’ve been trying for a long time to be better than who I am. I wish that I could talk more, be more involved in what’s around me. It’s just so damn hard; maybe it’s because of where I come from, maybe it’s because of what happened to me or maybe it’s because subconsciously I don’t want to change.

No one has a clue how much I’d love to be like everybody else, be more social, more active in volunteer stuff, spend my nights with friends, go back to college, travel beyond the walls that bind me. There seems to be a chain on my ankle, a piece of lead in my stomach weighing me down, and an anti-social demon in my head called depression.

I’ve been through counseling, I’ve been on medications, I’ve read the best books, tried to change my faith, even tried to change my scenery for a short time. I abandoned friends, cut the ties of relatives, allowed myself to hate some people – just to give me a reason to leave.

Thinking of the life of a poet, the best example that comes to my mind, the one that my mind relates to the most is Edgar Allen Poe. But I prefer to write with philosophical overtones like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Some say that merely wanting to change can be enough to give you the opportunity to do so. I’ve thought about that and have truly tried to act differently, but it never lasts. My mood changes too often for me to maintain a certain kind of mindset.

I remember times back then when I wanted to change so bad, there probably wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to do. I kept myself aware of opportunities to mark the day I’d set myself on a different path. But those days my mind was distorted, my eyes cloudy, my perception easily altered and my thoughts easily persuaded.

There were points in my life that I felt as though I’d never be any different than I was at that moment. Those thoughts usually led to deeper and darker things, an ever-increasing feeling of desperation. At that point only one thing seems to assure a state of change and that was death.

Once during my second heavy battle with depression, 2004-2005, on my way to work one morning I thought about pushing the gas peddle all the way down and driving my vehicle off the road on purpose in order to crash and hopefully kill myself.

Those were very dark days, but darker still was the day I actually came to peace with the fact that I was ready to die.

I feel as though these things, as tragic as this sounds, are really what makes me a good writer. To me, the best poets and authors are the ones who have lived through terrible things and were able to write about them. Such an example is Victor Frankl, who survived concentration camps during the Holocaust and wrote one of the greatest short books I have ever read, “Man’s Search For Meaning”.

To me, people never really get over things like that, like this. Sure we become ’stronger” because of them, our hearts scar over and become a little tougher, we become a little more numb to the pains of life, but the memory of what we felt never really goes away.

In “Premonitions/Restitutions” I wrote, “I don’t write for anyone’s attention.” That’s not really true. I do write to get people’s attention. Writing is my best form of communication, without it I don’t know what would have come of me.

In current times I worry about all those soldiers and marines coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m sure that many have found ways to deal with the things they have seen and done, but for those who have not or cannot – for them I worry.

I know what it is like to live with thoughts in your head, the kind that plague you, the ones that haunt you. The memories that live in your dreams, that can awaken at any moment during the day. The kind you can’t forget no matter how hard you try, no matter how busy you try to make yourself, no matter what you become addicted to. Those things you’ve seen and heard will flash and echo in your head ’til death.

Living with them is so difficult that all too often it seems easier and somehow inviting to just let go, to just give up. No where else seems to give you rest, no comfort, no refuge. In the calm silence of night, sleep frightens you because you know that even in your dreams you cannot escape as you awaken in a panic attack having relived what you wish so hard to forget.

There were days I didn’t want to be near guns because the only thing that came into my mind was putting the barrel to my head. It’s so hard to explain this to people who haven’t lived it. I never had to force myself to think of doing it, my mind would automatically be filled with the action of raising the barrel… the scenario would play over and over.

The things I have endured have somehow humbled me, somehow given me insight into things that others, I pray, never know for themselves.

One thing that still terrifies me, is that there are people out there who endure even worse things, who witness much darker things, who suffer greater losses and they live with it alone, outside of the acknowledgement of their fellow human beings, intentionally or not. It concerns me, as it should everyone, what comes of these people, what comes of the troops, or anyone else who is burdened by the effects of trauma. I literally feel pain, like a punch to the stomach or a crushing in my chest when I hear or read about those whom find their only relief at the end of a barrel, at the end of a rope, at the sharp end of a razor.

Can I ever blame them or even hate them for ever making that choice? No, I cannot because I know their series of thought. I can only blame the rest of us for not saving them, for not showing them the light at the end of their dark tunnel, I can only hate myself for not finding the courage to step forward, to rise up from the crowd and speak out about this on a grand scale. I can only feel ashamed of myself for being a survivor and knowing that I could do more.


 

 

This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud:

Premonitions and Restitution

July 2007

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Premonitions and Restitution

Looking back now at how far I have come and yet seeing in that time span an equal amount of uneventfulness, I cannot feel anything more than incomplete, unsatisfied and without fulfillment. These past few days inside my mind, when the world has kept its distance, when my eyes have blocked out what exists before me, they have been focused on what other’s cannot see, cannot know, cannot understand.

Someone once told me how great it must be to have a talent such as mine, to write so fluently about my thoughts and emotions; I smiled at them and said, “Yah”. And then I looked away and whispered to myself, “not really”. Even though many people say they know where I am coming from, they really don’t “know” at all or they don’t truly understand. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have never placed my pen to paper that very first time, I wonder what or who I would be, if no one ever knew the real me or the past I’ve tried so many times to leave behind me – buried along this desolate road.

It never seems to stop surprising me how many times people will read my material, look at me and say, “oh that’s so sad”, or something about pain and sorrow. I don’t write for sympathy, I don’t write for hugs, or to hear anything about touchy-feely hogwash. I don’t want people to approach me and hug me, to smile at me and say everything will be okay, or to ask me how I feel. I don’t write for anyone’s attention.

I write because I have to, I write because if I don’t, all these things will build up in my head until I cannot hold it in any longer; it’s happened before and I know what that entails. I write because I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, the only one to think of these things, the only one who really gets it.

Sympathetic gestures will never change what has been, hugs will never snuff out what was and no additional tears will ever wash away what came to pass. Sitting around feeling sorry for myself, or being on the receiving end of someone’s sympathy will never fix my past, it won’t change who I am and it won’t secure a better future.

These things I know. But knowing what is true and living in that way are not the same thing, they do not walk hand-in-hand. At times it may be easy to know what is right, but it’s not easy to make things right.

Spending too much time thinking about what I should have done then or what I could have said at that moment, living with regret; it’s something I’ve done for a very long time. Letting go of possibilities that had always existed in what was – life altering situations, seems to be difficult for me. Beating myself up over what the right choice would have been, occupies a lot of my head space. It’s easy to say that “what’s done is done and there’s no turning back”, but how difficult it is to really live like that!

I often contemplate what life would be like if I could forget everything up until now, to not have to remember what has been, whether it would make my life better or not. I guess that I’ll never know.

Writing about how people should act, how they should think, what they should do to better their lives and the lives of those around them, a person would think that I’d be able to do that very same thing I speak of. But it isn’t that way at all. I can help other people, talk to them about how to get beyond where they are in life, advise them on how to get up when they fall and yet I am unable to help myself. How ironic that is, how ironic it is to be able to save someone else and yet be completely incapable of saving yourself.

Still, I am not without cause, I am not without choice. I may be in a fight that will last my lifetime, but I am not without allies, not without a strategy, not without a last resort. But the enemy I face is without mercy, without remorse, without limits.

That vulgar fiend in my head is always plaguing me with hopelessness, ever more regret, anger, selfishness, jealousy; it makes me sick and makes me weak. Never-ending is his attempts to take away the only thing he really wants, my life. Forever lasting is his will, unmatched is his determination to make me fail, to make me give up, to make me quit and kneel before him.

I have seen so many fall before me, I have seen so many give in to his demands, like some kind of tyrant, offering mercy for pleas and cries. But never does he fulfill his part of the deal. Never will he subside his tyranny. Hate and fear are the only things that abound under his rule. Vengeful and savage are his ways, this demon of my mind.

Within this wretched darkness, still illumined among the wrath of chaos is one Light. A Light that cannot be put out. A source of hope, an enduring beacon of peace, rest, humility. This single ray of Light grants all who seek it courage, a steadying of the mind, an awakening of the heart, a vision of truth, justice and freedom. More vivid than any dream, so much more than a glance at nirvana; rather this Light is wholesome, pure, eternal beyond the lifetime of the universe. What I wouldn’t give to touch this Light just once, to bear its glory on my flesh, just to taste its effervescent flavor of joy for a single moment in time.

Seeking this Light is all that gives me a reason, the only thing that reminds me that life is worth living, discovering the immeasurable qualities of its greatness is how I find a way to continue. Always I will remember the darkness and it will haunt me without lapse, but in this Light, I cannot be cut, I cannot bleed, I cannot fail, I cannot be lost to the ever-turning pages of time. Blessed am I to stand before this Light, opened and honest, bearing all that I am, vanquishing all that I am not.


 

 

Part of this essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud:

Playing Chess With Demons

May 2007

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Playing Chess With Demons

Writing about depression is not always easy to do. I feel as though the topic is extremely important, I know it so well and yet to really nail down the key points I want to make on the subject I find to be difficult. Depression and suicide are separate topics, but so often they play along hand in hand. A man can be depressed without being suicidal, but to be suicidal a man must surely be depressed.

Even in this day and age I still come across ignorant attitudes in regards to patients of depression and especially those who are suicidal. I believe that society still enlarge believes that suicide victims were fully aware of their thoughts and the effects of their actions, ultimately accountable for their suicide. Nothing else can be blamed, but the weak man who pulled the trigger, so they say.

My bout with depression has spanned many years, in being silent of this I became more and more distant and distraught. When I was encouraged to write poetry during grade school, I found an outlet that I could pour out my thoughts and feelings. Poetry became my only way of letting out the thoughts that were building up in my head. As my writing skills increased, I started writing more than just poems. Much of what I wrote became pages of thoughts and feelings, of confessions and regrets. These writings never saw the eyes of others nor the light of day.

By the time I entered high school, I was having a hard time dealing with my thoughts and emotions. Without ever having talked to anyone about it I started to feel as though it was my fault. That somehow I allowed it to happen to me. Eventually I came to believe that it was I who had caused my pain, I was to blame, and the pain I felt was well deserved. This is when I started to physically harm myself. At first I simply gained an interest in taking pain (punches, falls, strained muscles, accidental cuts, bruises and scrapes). Then I started weight lifting and things changed. No longer was the pain accidental, instead I began causing myself pain because I liked the way it felt and I wanted more and more of it. Partly because I felt that I deserved to endure it and partly because I was in control of it; I was causing me this pain.

As the weightlifting increased and stretched from simply a half hour session to sometimes three hours, I put on twenty pounds of muscle in less than a month. I would start lifting after my parents went to bed around 10 P.M. or later. There were times when I was up until 4 in the morning working out. I loved how my arms would go numb, how my abs would ache and my legs quiver from the strain. I became addicted to the chemical reaction in my muscles, I became addicted to the pain. For me it was a way to forget the emotional pain I was feeling, a way to block the thoughts of the things I wanted to forget.

Over time the increased testosterone levels made me irritable and even more seclusive. I became angry and distrustful of everyone. But poetry and writing remained my emotional outlet. In 2002 I came to the conclusion to commit suicide. I was at home and the lite rain outside seemed to make me even more sad. I remember crying a lot as I had written my goodbye note earlier that morning and then left it on the bed of my parents. I put on my jacket and walked outside my house and wandered off a ways a top a hillside behind my father’s shed. Standing in the rain with a cup of what I believed to be a poisonous chemical, I looked up at the dark sky above me and closed my eyes. Many thoughts were going through my head. I thought about how much better everyone in my family would be without me. I thought about how God, if He existed, would take away all my pain. I thought about all the things I would miss, the people I would miss. I told myself that I would see them again in another place, under better circumstances.

As the cold sprinkles of rain fell on my face, I felt more alive at that moment, than I had ever before in my life. Everything was so still, so quiet, as if everything had stopped moving, as if all eyes were on me, waiting to see what I would do. As I lifted the small, cream colored cup to my lips I wondered what it would taste like, I wondered how much it would hurt to die and whether or not the pain I already felt was worse. I anticipated the bitter taste and perhaps a burning in my stomach. I figured that I would convulse and I was hoping that I wouldn’t throw it up before it had the chance to kill me.

The evening wind still carried the scent of summers end. As it was August, the grass around me was yellow from the burning sun of the daylight hours. My heart was pounding and my salty tears bled into the fresh water that the clouds were weeping. My hand was shaking and my knees grew weak. The liquid touched my lips, it was a dark blue like an early winter night, clear of clouds and full of stars, each twinkling a promise for a better tomorrow. But in reality this was a cloudy, summer eve with a lite rain and that’s all that there was, no promise of anything better.

Standing there alone, damp and exhausted both physically and emotionally, I dropped the small cup. It was all in slow motion as I looked down at it falling away from my face, growing ever so smaller. And when it hit the ground, all that it contained flooded forth and into the ground, losing it’s identity among the wet yellow grass at my feet. I hadn’t drank it. I never even allowed it beyond my lips. I fell to my knees and started crying out loud, cursing myself and God. I hadn’t even the courage to end my fight, not even freedom from these demons would God grant me, so I believed.

Two years passed before I ever considered suicide again. The years in between were filled with sleep met after hours of crying and many more curses at God. I began cutting myself after I graduated from high school, after I had quit college and during the time I left home. Some say they cut to remind themselves that they are alive and that the numbness is only in their heads. I had cut because the pain was enough for me to forget the pain inside my head. At the end of my time at high school, when I was enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, one of the reasons I gave myself was that the pain and trials of boot camp was a suffering I deserved. I believed that through it I would somehow find redemption.

In less than a year later, I once again began feeling as though suicide may be the answer, the only anecdote for my pain. This time I was sure that a gun would be so much easier, so much quicker. There would be no more second guessing the decision. However during my battle with depression I had befriended someone who was also battling depression and who was also a writer. She became my lifeline. With her support I sought medical attention. I freely admitted myself into a temporary mental health facility. There I stayed for three days, until I was sent home. I was put on medication while I was there, but other than that I appeared to be well enough to return to life. I went through several different medications before I was able to find one that worked for me. Some gave me terrible nightmares, some simply didn’t do anything, and others made me sleep all the time. At one point I was even diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, which was later declared to be misdiagnosis.

The thing that I believe helped me the most was not the medication, rather for me it was having someone to talk to. My counselor was so much more beneficial to me than the medication. Not that it didn’t help, but being able to talk about it to someone who understood, who listened, who didn’t judge me or make me feel more guilty or terrible about myself. That’s what helped me the most.

All along I kept up my writing as it remained my outlet. My counselor later moved away, but I talked about my experience with depression often, with anyone willing to listen. I spoke to others who suffered and the families of those who could not suffer any longer. In time I intended on giving talks about my story and aid in the education of the public on depression and suicide. I believed that awareness was the key to saving lives. And that the greatest enemy of victims of depression and suicidal depression was not the disease itself, but the ignorance and misunderstandings of those who did not suffer from those diseases.


 

 

This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud:

The War of Depression: A Synopsis

March 2007

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The War of Depression: A Synopsis

The War of Depression is not one battle with dark days, weeks or months. It is a war waging within one’s mind perhaps everlasting. The demons of unwavering conviction taunt long after one’s release from medical and psychological treatment. It is not a disease to be cured, for there is no such thing. The unrelenting bruises and infinite scars remain long after all treatment has ended. One could say that death shall be the only release.

So easy it is, when in such a state of mind, to forget so much of your life. So easy it is to lose track of who you were, are, or ever wanted to be. It is in this fog of illusion that one forgets others exist and that you are not a man among manikins. You lose track of what is real and what is the trickery of your own subconscious mind. In this abandonment of sanity the thoughts and feelings of those who love you, if not said enough, no longer pass through your own thoughts. You begin to feel alone, see no one around you and soon the vastness of a crowded room seems so vacant. People who you once loved and cared for seem to be nothing more than ghosts and remnants of a dream long gone. Anyone without the proper approach becomes your enemy and you lose trust in them. Best friends become enemies, but none as evil as yourself.

The unavoidable temptation of death is always but a fleeting moment away. At the time it seems nothing else is logical. No answer, no phrase, no harsh words can ever alter such a set mind. An attitude of anger will do nothing in saving of a man in ruin, for digging the hole deeper will only force them down farther and further from salvation.

So many people, who’ve never experienced depression, misunderstand how you should treat a person plagued by it. They believe that a person can be forced out of it, or can just simply be happy and it will go away. They believe that if given unending tasks they will not think about being depressed and therefore be cured. They believe that one chooses such a life. How wrong they are.

No other human can save you from your depression if you do not want to be saved. That much is true. But when you want help, when you want to regain your footing, chances are you cannot do it alone. The actions of caring individuals can play a major role in the recovery of a suicidal depressive. In fact, they may be surprised at how much so little can do for a person suffering from it. We may not be in our right mind, but we react to every little thing happening around us and we can blow it out of proportion. So if the action is small, but good, it can have a big impact on us.


This essay is available as an audio track on SoundCloud: