Since I have been living with my daughter Cynthia Gale, I admit that I felt for the longest time like a displaced person, but her motivation and sterling intentions have energized me to slowly overcome my self-destructive intent. We have plans for ourselves and for my other two children, Cynthia’s little sister Regan, and her little brother, future Catholic Pontiff, his excellency George Edward Hand V.
We two live here together in this tiny studio apartment, where I have lived out of my suitcase and slept on my daughter’s couch for over a year now. She has yielded the very best of her real estate to me in the form of a home office work space she created. Just this very week she gutted the sole closet in our space, arranging it just for me: my clothes on hangers, shoes in a rack, shelves… just like a real person might have.
I was slow to recover from 2015. I came to have a craving again for a certain foods. It didn’t matter what food, because a craving is very important to a person affected by depression. A craving is a hope, a desire to taste something because it gives you pleasure, something I had not felt for nearly a year.
Taking a shower was vexing for me. It’s hard to explain. Just the ritual, with all its steps and maneuvers was a real ass-kicker for me. It was so involved; there was so much to do. I couldn’t accomplish it all without sitting several times to regroup.
The thought of getting in my truck and driving horrified me beyond any other possibility. Our bathroom shower head leaked like a sieve. Wouldn’t Cindy be so pleased if she came home and saw that it was fixed? I can do this; I’ve got this. This would require transportation; my first drive since my arrival in this city.
I studied the Albuquerque city map on the Internet, locating a hardware store in the neighborhood. I counted the number of blocks: only one block west and nine blocks north, with just two traffic lights. I’ve got this; I can do this! I walked to my truck brushing the wall lightly with the fingers of my right hand for balance assurance.
And I drove.
I drove the blocks north. Each block farther from the apartment I felt like a man seasick in a boat going farther and farther from land. I considered turning around, and then I considered turning around even harder. I hit both lights red, giving me all the more reason and chance to make a right hand turn and just go back. I hugged the curb in the right lane. The middle lanes were simply out of the question. Small steps, man.
I made it to the store. Inside the store were one hundred million items just swarming and swirling in an amorphous senseless mass to my front. My balance challenged me. My resolve to leave immediately was interrupted by a voice: “Can I help you find something?” came the voice. I must have had that ‘hunter’s dream’ look on my face.
“Yes, yes my good man; I’ll be investing in a new shower head this afternoon.”
“Very good Sir, step right this way.”
And there I was, out the door, standing by my truck, shower head in hand, and an endearing George W. Bush smirk on my face as if I had rendered an unintentional intelligent remark. The drive back was easy enough, as I was headed toward land once again. I was even cocky enough to not brushing the wall with my fingers. Yeah, brushing the wall with finger tips for balance is for babies, man!!
Using tools was like trying to solve two Rubix Cubes with both hands simultaneously. Yes I know there are people out there who can actually do that—fuck them.
Yes the First Daughter Cindy was overjoyed with the repair and gushed, as she did so many times, so often to keep my courage up: “Dad you ate most of your toast! That is so awesome… you are doing so fantastic, you know?” And so it went for months on end.
I had a minor relapse that ended with me waking in a hospital, once again; my poor daughter Cindy sitting at my side. “Hi dad!” she said with forced cheer.
It put me in mind of my one and only trip to see a psychiatrist at the VA in Las Vegas: I was seated finally in front of a doctor, who asked me with excruciating apathy “Ok Mr…uh… ‘flip’ ‘flip’ flip’… well anyway what seems to be the problem?” I could barely see a quarter of the man’s pupils, he lids hung so low.
It was at that moment that for the first time ever, there appeared a winged disk Icon that flew over the doctor’s shoulder and slowly toward me. It scared the absolute B-Jesus out of me. I looked at it in disbelief. It was so God-awful real. I looked at the doctor, so peeved that he must be pretending to not see it too.
It slowly climbed in its trajectory, finally pausing against the wall over my right shoulder. I pinned it to the wall, slamming it hard with my right index finger and screamed to the doctor: “WHAT’S THAT!!!”
The doctor’s expression turned to a stun as his eyes grew, mouth agape, jaw dangling. As he started to stand I became aware of a bundle of green lights flashing in the lower right periphery of my vision. The greens were alternated by a bundle of red lights that also flashed.
I turned my head slowly toward the flashing green-red lights. I tried to center them in my vision to get a better look, but no matter how far I turned my head, they stayed in the extreme low of my right periphery.
I hit the floor hard, biting through my tongue. When I came to seconds later on the floor, my mouth was filled with blood, on which I sputtered and choked. “He bit his tongue!” the doctor called out to the group that was assembling around me.
I awoke in my old stomping ground, the hospital. A nurse came by, and with her most unimpressed affect informed me: “Well Mr. Hand, you have had a full-blown seizure; do you have a history of seizures?” She gave me a shot of an anti-seizure medication—perhaps diazepam. Shortly, I surreptitiously unhook my umbilical to the hospital and slipped outside through a service entrance in the rear of the building.
I walked ‘home.’
All that behind me now and the words I heard so often from encouraging friends: “it will get better,” ring in my ears these days. I recall so very vividly hearing those words repeatedly and thinking every time: “Absolutely not, they will not ever get better for me. Things get better for other people, but they will in no way ever get better for me… this feeling is just too powerful, and cannot in any way be overcome.”
I do not look forward to, but I will not flinch from, an inevitable situation to try and talk somebody out of ‘the abyss’ I was once in. I only pray that I can be effective enough to make the sliver of difference in a person’s life to keep them with us. I am confident that I will send the very hammer of Thor to bear in the fight to render a survivor… but I understand completely if I lose them, and I have to fairly fully expect that eventuality, because after all, nobody was able to talk me up from my low.
Thoughts of an early audience with the Creator have subsided for the most part, and I am somewhat rededicated in effort to the mundane world of the living. I find comfort always in the realization that I can have a way out should my eyes begin to bother me again. I have been there, and it has become familiar terrain. I contemplate my current situation often now, but with pride and confidence.
I was raised a Catholic man by creed, knowing full well that the Catholic faith regards suicide a sin. Someone call me a coward; please call me a coward again. I remember so well sitting in my truck in a late-night obscure location, gobbling sleeping pills and sloshing fire water, hands on the wheel like I was driving, not giving a tenth of a rats ass if I were sinning or being a coward.
Let’s argue about the morality of my actions; me from the standpoint of the living AND the dead, you from just the living. Who’s foundation for the moral struggle is more sound? The defendant rests his case. God is my only judge, and his judgement of my vector was “permission denied.”
Suicide sucker punches. It doesn’t revere your faith. It doesn’t subscribe to any notion of statute. It slips in when you’re emotionally feeble and near defeat. It’s a permanent resident, heavy onus that rides your shoulders. It’s like malaria that gets into your blood and you can never get rid of it.
It worms its way into your psyche and bids it snap. If suicide gets hold of you, you will break. Do you want to know the truth about suicide? Ask a body who lived it, but didn’t die from it like he was supposed to.
When I was institutionalized for 16 days and was the model patient, I was attentive and active at all therapy groups, and interacted sweetly with all the other ‘inmates.’ I ate three square meals a day and cooperated to the utmost with all the faculty. I did this, all the while biding my time until I got out. At that point I could resume where I left off willingly and gladly, ready to step right off into the dark side once again.
If suicide ‘catches’ you, it will be with you forever. What you do with it is all up to you. You can throw thousands of dollars of counseling at it, you can stuff it with pills, you can drown it with cheap cabernet, but you will always have it.
Suicide never sleeps. It watches you every second of every day and night. When you are emotionally frail, it will rise to the occasion and remind you that you have options out. If you relent, it will gladly take over for you and rid you of your misery.
Suicide will feign a friendship to you. It won’t offer you a ride when you are too drunk to drive, but it will convince you that its ok for you to drive anyway. Thanks friend!
Requiem came to me first in the form of an invitation from Jack Murphy to work as a contributing editor to SOFREP, and then again from the Founder and Executive Director of a deadly effect Counter Human Trafficking non-profit program. The organization was pointed in my direction by a close friend, Ranger Hall of Fame inductee, former Command Sergeant Major of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Alfred Gregory “Iron Head” Birch.
In the organization I was immediately put in charge of counter human trafficking street operations. I had mission focus once again, a theater of operations with no owner’s operating manual, no left or right limits, just perform or exit stage left. Its a great gig if you can get it: challenging work, thinking man’s game, requires risk and bold moves, unorthodox methods and creativity. All the world is a stage, but on this one you can’t take a bow… like being back in Delta.
There was a time that the devil issued me an attractive invitation to meet him at a rally point, but I had it on good faith with a higher authority to rally elsewhere. And he is jealous, the devil he is, and reminds me of his rage daily. I have seen the devil, so I had to find the Lord. That’s just the way it was.
Criticize the suicidal? The cliches have bottle necked in my damaged brain: “Walk a mile in my shoes,” “Judge not lest you be judged,” “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Once again someone please tell me I’m a coward; you, embellished by your bravado. Remember though, won’t you, that karma is a wheel that goes around, but then it comes back around again too. Karma comes around in many forms, and may eventually catch up to you in the form of a thing… a thing that taps you on the shoulder. Venture a glance back?
(Dedicated to the First Daughter, Cynthia Gail B.)