"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Happy Anniversary, Baby
brink Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse brekka slope; akin to Middle Dutch brink grassland
Date: 13th century
1 : EDGE; especially : the edge at the top of a steep place
2 : a bank especially of a river
3 : the point of onset : VERGE 4 : the threshold of danger
5 : January 20th, 2003, 3:30pm for Cliff
It's an anniversary of sorts today.
Today, I have beat the odds. I stand proudly with the two out of three men who make it this far. I have deepest sympathy for the one that didn't.
Well, let me explain. To do that, let me take you back to my life as it was, January 2003.
Our company had been in some turmoil, and a great deal of it was due to my finding some very questionable financial transactions by someone high up in the company. I pushed it and the Board of Directors fired him. They also fired our factory management, and our corporate office staff moved in to handle things.
All that sounds well and good, but something else had been going on. The person who had taken over as plant manager assumed that since the corporate staff was on his premises we all worked for him. This blindsided me since we had worked together well in the past, and this arrangement had never been indicated. The Vice President, in his typical avoid-any-conflict-no-matter-the-cost way let him do pretty much what he wanted, and resumed his private solitaire marathon.
Now, I am the IT Director and Controller for the company. Before the Plant Manager was done, I was relegated to a dark, dirty, and incredibly lonely closet sized office in a separate building from everyone else, and entire areas of my job had been moved into his office. Every time I would try to even get involved enough for due diligence, I faced conflict with him.
This was made worse by the fact that he would verbally assault me whenever he got the chance. For some reason he felt that he needed to tear me down. I imagine he has always been a bully, all his life. He's in his late 50's and single, never been married. Guess why.
The person I had gotten fired had been his best friend and the reason he was with the company. The VP also considered the person as a best friend. They both held me to blame. The only other person who could have done anything to help the situation pretty much washed her hands of it and abandoned me to work it out without her being involved.
The daily tension was horrible. I never knew when my world was going to explode.
What I did not realize was that I was quite ill. And that illness had been waiting for decades for this chance to finish me off.
The illness is called Bipolar Disorder. I had had it since I was little and had no idea that I did. Until then, I had managed to handle it.
I was no longer handling it.
The first signs to me that things were very very wrong were when I began entertaining not only suicidal thoughts, but suicidal intentions. I knew inside that I did not want to do that, but the thoughts were increasingly hard to fight. (Of course, most of the people around me had known something was wrong for months.)
I began writing manuals on how to do my job. That way when I was gone it would still get done.
One night it was raining and I was the only one left at the plant. I stayed for three hours extra because I did not trust myself driving. For those three hours, I just stood there in the cold rain, trying to get a grip. I wouldn't stand in my office, it felt like a bear trap. Whenever I looked at the door to that cursed room, I saw that bear trap in my mind.
January 13th, I went into a storage trailer to get some documents. I suddenly felt overwhelmingly weak and could not even walk out of the trailer. It was two hours before anyone noticed I was gone. After some candy I had the energy to return to my office.
January 14th, I went to the McDonalds down the street because I did not feel well. I got a breakfast sandwich, but then became suddenly so weak that I could not even lift it to my mouth. It was an hour before I was able to come out of that, and I just went home. When I got home I ended up just staring at my computer screen for hours without moving, listening to the voices in my head.
These two events were the edge of what is called catatonia. I thought they were sugar crashes. They weren't. My brain was shutting itself down, finding it harder and harder to cope with the outside world.
January 16th, it snowed. On the way to work, I wiped out on the interstate at 55 miles per hour. My thoughts at that instant were one word... "Finally." But I came to a rest and nothing was damaged, no accident, didn't get hurt. I felt disappointed.
January 20th, Monday morning. In my head, this was the day. I had decided. I never wanted to face another day again. I had reached my limit.
I took a coworker and taught her for most of the day how to run payroll. She was obviously angry at me, who knows why, I was acting so bizarre. But she gritted her teeth and let me show her. I ignored it and did it anyway.
We finished at the end of the day. By that time, I had the sense to tell my wife what I was thinking (but not the degree) and she had already called around and decided to herself that I needed some urgent intervention. She was calling every few minutes to check on me.
But first, I had to get home. I don't think anyone knew how hard that would be for me.
I got in my car, then thought better of it because of the tension earlier, and got back out. I walked up to my coworker's car window and tapped on it. She rolled it down. I said that I had felt some tension, what could I do to make it go away. She said everything was fine. I said, so we are OK? She said yes. I went back to my car, knowing that that exchange would make things better for her when, well, when. I purposely did not say goodbye to anyone else.
So, there I was. Behind the wheel of two tons of metal and 20 gallons of gasoline.
In ten minutes I was going to have to make a decision... One exit was the bridge, the other was the way home. The bridge was the quick exit, it would all be over. Home was going to be more problems and more struggle.
I just wanted it over with. It was hurting too badly.
But I still had some sense. I called my mother, my father, and my sister, as soon as my cell phone got into range. Between them and the cell phone, they got me home.
I was in the hospital for ten days. From that point forward, I have been getting well. This blog is my record of that journey.
Bipolar disorder is when a person, for some chemical or biological reason, has nothing that limits his or her mood swings to normal levels. The downs are WAAAY down, and the ups are WAAY up.
It's hard to live with one.
It's harder to live as one.
Statistics say that 33% of men, one out of three, will commit suicide within one year after diagnosis.
So for that one out of three, I am sorry, I know the monster that ate you.
And I stand as part of the two out of three, victor, fellow traveler, child of God just the way he made me.
I?ll feel that horrible feeling in my stomach you get when you?ve gone over to the Dark Side. But I'll be fine. That's the good thing about the Dark Side. Eventually, your eyes adjust.
James Lileks, The Bleat web log, September 4, 2003