A Witness Through the Window – Entry 25

Today’s entry will be about a window that is more current in time. Of course, this window is me; however, this is a version of me that I have been trying to become for almost 50 years. I say this because who I am now is relevant. I’m a man that’s lived on either side of the mental health table for a very long time.
In fact, I have lived this way for as long as I can remember. But even more, to qualify what I am about to show you; I want to start by explaining that above anything else, I am a very real person. I have accomplishments to be proud of. I have bits of shame and regrets from the mistakes I’ve made. Yes, I am most certainly human. Nothing more.

I’ve been known to curse at the television before. I’ve certainly cursed at other drivers on the road, stuck in traffic, and at times – if you want to know the truth, there are days when I’ve gone crazy.
Absolutely loco.

There have been days that were down the tubes and I mean all-out bad days when I was driving, leaving a bad day at work and while attempting to make my way down the Harlem River Drive and cross over the George Washington Bridge, someone comes along to cut me off!
Yes, for some reason or for some cosmic phenomenon, my irrational thinking takes off. I take this as a personal affront; as if this person knew what I was going through and they knew what they were doing to me.
I am real and human.
I have catastrophized ideas and romanticized the tragic plots which, in turn, these ideas become imaginary moves that I’ve played out in my head – and sure as hell; as the only person in this captivated audience, I’ve yelled out loud and reacted to my vivid assumptions.

Yes, I have given into my thinking more times than once and while intellectually I know that this is not helpful, emotionally I lose my place. Then again, emotions and intellect seldom work together. 

I have thought myself into panic attacks. I have thought myself into sabotaged situations.
And of course, I have thought myself into depression and anxiety.

This is me now, still living the same life; only now, I have grown some and learned some. I have changed some and worked on myself some too.
I have become more of what I’ve always dreamed which is a person who can help others find their way. I say this is especially so when someone is lost or so down and out that to them, the only option of relief is the end which is deliberate or fatal.

I can say that I am like you or anyone else in this world. I do not stand so tall on a podium. With all of my heart, I don’t ever want to stand that tall or be placed so high that I forget what it feels like to have the ground beneath my feet. There is no golden parachute. There is only life which I live on a daily basis.

I like to listen to people. I like to hear about what they see and more specifically, I love to know what pain is like to them. I love to know about ways to find freedom especially after being mentally or emotionally imprisoned for so long. 
To put this as specifically clear as can be: I needed to find a purpose.
I needed to find something so big that I could say: To hell with everything else.

I suppose this happened when my life took an unexpected turn.
I suppose this began when I joined a team of specialists who were deployed after a person would overdose on heroin.
The deployment would come after a 911 call of an overdose, in which public safety would call a dispatcher and the dispatcher would alert the specialist on call. The dispatcher would inform the specialist about the client (or patient) who overdosed, how old they were, name, and which hospital we would go to. That was me. I was one of the specialists . . .

I saw every kind of person here. I learned here. I gained a different level of understanding.
I was one of the specialists because at one point in my life, I was no different from the person who was laying in the hospital bed. However and for some reason, I survived in spite of myself.
I didn’t have to suffer in quite the same ways.
Maybe I got out young or maybe I got off and I’m lucky. This could be true.
This could also be the case that in spite of my depression or in spite of my anxiety; and in spite of my list of emotional disorders; the one thing I have been capable of doing is stay clean and away from the drugs which almost killed me. 

Either way, this position is not about me nor is this entry.
At least not really. This is about something bigger than the both of us. 

I sat with people and had the opportunity to see them as they are.
I mean really see them. I have heard stories so tragic and seen outcomes so awful and sad. These were people. They had families. They had moms and dads and brothers and sisters. They were people of all kinds, colors, belief systems, religions, genders and preferences.
They were children once too and, in fact, some of them were children when I deployed to their bedside. I have met some of the best people in the world during these deployments.
Where are they now?
Dead, that’s where.

I have spent time working with suicide prevention programs because, to me, this is personal.
To me, I am no different. On more than one occasion, I woke up after an attempt to achieve this very same thing.
Yet, I am alive.
For the record, I do not have survivor’s guilt. Perhaps I have a survivor’s responsibility. Perhaps I hold myself accountable and because I chose to hold myself accountable, I have both the drive and the desire to lend my support whenever I can.
I have the drive and the desire to also understand that absolutely none of this is about “me.” This is about something more precious and true to life. But either way, this is what I’ve chosen to do.

Why? In short, the answer is because this hurts me. The news of loss and the fact that the number of deaths are going up and not down is something that absolutely hurts me. I can feel it.
Some call this empathy but me, I don’t know what I call it other than this – there is something going on in a world where we have limitless information yet as informed as we are – we know absolutely nothing.
We have countless programs and media events which are designed to prevent overdoses, self-harm, and suicide yet with all of our technology and with all of our medical breakthroughs and even with all of our informative data, statistics show that the numbers are on the rise. In spite of our efforts to help, more people are dying, not less.
So, what does this say about the mental health of our society? 

There is a worldwide statistic that shows one person will achieve their death by suicide every 40 seconds.
Think about this.
Think about the time it took you to read this journal entry – and hopefully, if you decided to read on and read this far, think about how long it took you to read this and then consider the statistic of one person every 40 seconds. 

Would you like to know why this happens?
Would you like to know why people go back to drugs and alcohol even if it kills them?
Or why would someone move towards or go back to a life that would otherwise kill them?
Why would a person live a life that most people advise to run from?

Certainly no one wants to be down and out. I can say that as a person who has spoken with countless people in crisis, nobody wanted this part of it. But there was something common about their belief system. There was something aligned with each and every person who I spoke with. There was a commonality.
(Imagine if our society tried to work with our commonalities instead of our differences?)

The challenges we face are due to our belief system.
How can you possibly feel better if you don’t believe it’s possible?
How can there be an end to depression if all you can see are the sad problems and feel the rejective tissue which keeps you in like a membrane that separates you from the world?

I swear, there are times when the world in front of me seems so impossibly distant.
I can swear that as much as I want to touch something, I can reach as hard and try with all of my might; but there are times when it seems like as hard as I try – everything is just centimeters away from my reach.
So, I can almost touch it. But I can’t feel it.
To me, this is an analogy that best describes my depression.
So, what do I do?
I do the same thing I’ve been doing for years.

I have learned to replace thought with action. I’ll feel the struggle. I feel the pain. I’ll cry sometimes. I’ll have the angst of my anxiety and I will endure this; but no matter what, I will always look for a project or form some kind of effort.
I do this to keep me alive, one day at a time.
Why do you think I write this to you on a daily basis?
This is part of the only way that I can change my belief system –
(to keep myself alive).

I write this to you now and, admittedly, I write this with difficulty.
I write this with a bit of contempt as well as out of compulsion. Moreover, I write this to you after the news of someone famous who passed away. It’s sad too. I get that. I really do.
It’s sad because with all the fame and with all the popularity; even with all the attention and with all of the accolades from the crowd, none of this was enough to save their life.
I say they or them, not because of a preference in pronouns; but more, I say it this way because this is a person. No different from me or you. This has nothing to do with fame or money.
This is someone who came from a family. This is a person who put their clothes on the same as anyone else. But more, I explain it this way for a reason; and for the record, I am not here just to humanize the event or to abolish stigma. 

No. not at all.

I grant that it is sad. I grant that the news of someone who had such an artistic influence on this world yet now they’re gone, is sad news.
But did you know my friend Richie Tats? Did you know Mike the Rocket?
Or what about Dorian? Did you know him? Did Dorian ever smile at you? Because if he did, you would know what a real smile looked like. You would know what the word charisma means too. 
There were no vigils for them. At least not in the same way.

Did you know Joe or Tommy?
No. I suppose you didn’t and you wouldn’t because you couldn’t know about them.
How could you know if none of them were famous?
But is any one more irreplaceable?

It’s hard for me to see anyone go through this.
Famous or not.
I will say this: I hope that when we see people who pass this way; or when we read the news of someone famous who dies by the needle or from their own hand; I hope we recognize the disorder is all inclusive.
Mental illness, depression and emotional disorders do not discriminate.
Even if we do.

I am this person. Here. Right now.
I have this thing in me which degrades me at times. Hence, the writing. Hence, the programs I’ve built. Hence, the efforts to replace thoughts with actions because otherwise, I might not be as fortunate as I am right now.

Not to mention, I do what I do for one specific reason.
I hate bullies.
And well . . .
Mental illness, depression and anxiety, and not to mention the social and emotional cancers like alcohol and substance use disorders are the biggest bullies I know.
So, the way I see it: These bullies took my friends from me.
These bullies took your children from you.
These bullies are the tricks to our belief system which is causing the statistics to go up (not down).

So, as I see it – they took from me.
Now it’s my turn to take back.

That’s what this is about,
Thanks to you.

Dear Chris,

I really wish I had the chance to see you that time when I was in L.A.
I could have told you how important you are to me.
I could have told you that I love you.
And that I miss you.

But now, I’ll just leave this here for the universe to take.

Rest well my friend,

Benny

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