I had a sense that something was different. I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breath until I could hear it above the Christmas favorites playing in my headphones. I wanted the season in my body and soul. I wanted a miracle.
Sirens interrupted my breathing exercise. Lights—not the holiday kind, but the red and blue ones that signal distress—amplified the wail of emergency: a crisis across the lake. I sat alone in the concrete bleachers, tracking the firetruck, aid car, cruisers, and ambulance. I switched off my music and heard the whisper of winter in the pines. The din settled in the same spot where, two years ago, I attempted suicide during a major psychotic break.
From my vantage point in the treetop bleachers, four stories up, same pattern of lights. Same action through the mist. First Responders moving into formation, police in pairs on either side of the bench. It wasn’t a flashback. It wasn’t a dream. It was a gift from my disordered mind: a Möbius strip reminder of contextual continuity. The tail of one story and the birth of another.
My mind had gone so dark that the only resource I believed I had left was to stop the pain by stopping my life. Against all instincts, one last desperate move—I called my best friend.
He knew my symptoms: the empty replies, reduced body language, social withdrawal, isolation. He’d seen me unwashed and zombied-out from zero sleep and lack of food. We’d been to the ER for anxiety attacks based on delusions of reference and paranoia. When my behavior disrupted our friendship, he took it in stride, but he’d never seen this. Schizophrenia was winning. With a handful of trusted friends and professionals, he fought to bring me back.
In that moment I was afraid to trust anyone. Yet there I was, phone in hand, as if my plan to die had lost its allure, which it hadn’t. Psychosis had planted its flag in the heart of my mind. My friend hadn’t met this version of me; he knew another, a variation where I loved life despite the daily echoes of trauma, self-stigma, and fear.
As sirens signaled the response team’s approach, I panicked and cried that I wanted to die, that people in the park had been replaced by robots. The commanding officer spoke with intent. They wouldn’t allow me to kill myself. Though I posed no threat, I had a suicidal plan and was trapped in the delusion that I must terminate a robot masquerading as a friend.
Restraints would follow, as would anti-psychotics. I never knew why I agreed to their terms, until I sensed that someone was watching over me. The last thing I remember doing before they strapped me to that gurney was to look across the lake. I saw an angel in the pines, as high as the bleachers, four stories up in the winter mist.
I had a sense that something was different. I concentrated on my breath until I heard it above the medics. I watched the angel as my body left my soul. I sat in the bleachers watching the person belted to the stretcher watching me.
This was no longer a matter of perspective—it was a pivotal point. I was both on the bench and in the bleachers, looking to myself, safeguarding me. Time had passed and stayed. Days had gone, but not. The angel at the top of tree was me.
For now, and for as long as I can hold on to it, I am willing to believe that a brighter future is possible.
I’m learning to take care of myself. I’m taking chances and making new friends. Some of them have offered to be on my phone list, to be there for me when things go sideways. Not as a replacement for my treatment plan, but as a necessary addition to it, helping me to accomplish what I can’t do alone. I authorize their working in conjunction with my therapist. They share information because they’re a team. Friends helping friends, breaking down barriers surrounding mental illness because one of their own is in need. A present that big won’t fit under the tree.
There’s always more work to be done, more stories to share and mysteries to solve. I’m not willing to lose this weird, wonderful world to my genetic encoding and environmental influences. One brain in one-hundred works like this. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. To the contrary—wouldn’t those odds be considered unique? Not “better than”, “worse than”, or “snowflake unique”, just different in a way that deserves to be acknowledged.
Something is different today. I’m becoming someone I want to know better. And that’s a miracle.
WOW WOW WOW yet again your words touch me—I have to say at that last paragraph I had goosebumps and a gratefulness that you write and I get to read your words!!!! I have a child I feel much the same about—someone every one should get to know and it starts right where yours did — with self love!!!! Good stuff HBJ your gift is truly ours to read!!!!!
Thank you, Monica. Self-love is head and shoulders above self-stigma, to be sure. I’m not always there with it, sometimes it takes a while, like this blog describes. I agree with you: it’s key. Happy holidays!
Oh Henry Boy, this is the best! What a gift you have. You paint a picture that few can paint. I am blessed and inspired.
Thank you, Darla E. I hope that your inspiration can carry over into sharing your stories so that others can see a brighter world. Cheers!
Henry, you are our angel . Your words are a lighthouse in this journey we are taking. Write on! 🙂
Thanks, Carol. I play a video game with animals in it who have a lighthouse in their village. During the holidays the programmers put in snow and twinkle lights. I find inspiration in so many places, which is much better than when I experience darkness everywhere; I don’t always get a warning and rarely have a choice, so I cherish the magic I find and hope to pass it on. There are generations coming who need to know it’s a safer world for minds like theirs, mine, ours. Tidings of comfort and joy, as it were. 🙂
Please continue to write you are inspiring!
Thank you very much, Jessica W. It means a lot to know that. Happy holidays to you, and good tidings for the coming New Year!
HenryBoyJenkins! Your descriptions of what it is to be you are a gift to your readers that can never be replaced! If it were not for you I would not understand my Aunt’s schizophrenia nor my son’s psychosis nearly as much as I do. For this and a myriad of other gifts you have bestowed upon me I am deeply grateful!! Your elegance with words and your raw, deep honesty puts the life in front of me in exactly the humble and clear way I can see it without a clouded and dare I say, distorted, lense, of other writers! You have enormous talent, HBJ, and I thank you for sharing it so generously with us, your devoted readers!! Please keep doing what you are doing!! It’s working!
Thank you, Jocelyn. I am happy to hear that my blogging is helping in some way. That you have found some understanding of your son and aunt’s conditions is uplifting and encouraging; I’m grateful for your having shared that. Stories like yours are why I keep writing. Fighting stigma and discrimination, working towards mental health parity, those are good causes, for sure, but being able to communicate understanding of one another—that’s the real gift, I think…and it’s a great step forward for all of us.