This is a post that I have been struggling with. It’s not a Casper post. It’s not fun or funny. This goes in the category of so many of my posts – the should-I -even-write-this-garbage-again post.
See, I just remembered that it is September, which is suicide prevention month. So maybe that means I’m supposed to go through this for myself and for someone else? Usually when I’m afraid to write, that is exactly when I NEED to write. Perhaps, there is one person out there who will be helped by my rambling post…
For this post I am going to do something that is out of character for me (and I am fighting it). I am NOT going to research the numbers. So, basically, don’t look for any decent content here. This is just about my own experience.
So here is the deal, let me just get this out right now:
I am not special.
I am not an inspiration.
I am damaged goods.
I am privileged and have no earthly right to ever feel what I do. [Editor’s Note: Everyone has the right to feel whatever they feel, honey.]
Maybe it’s time that I tell a story that honestly scares the hell out of me – so much so I literally just started shaking and tears have begun to well in the corners of my eyes. I wish I was an artist and could write songs so that I could be damaged and play it off as brilliance. But, I’m going to try and get this out, for me. (I know, selfish right?) Ready? No? Good, me either.
I thought I was past it all years ago, but if I really look at the history of my mental state how could I be? Since I was a kid I’ve struggled with self-worth.
I want everyone to understand at the outset of this, that I really am privileged. I grew up in a family with parents who truly love each other and who have stayed together. I have an older sister who has always had my back. I never really wanted for anything. I had the golden retriever as a boy who was my best friend and caretaker. We even had a summer lake home, and the list goes on. I’m probably going to go into too much detail, but I feel like the framework matters somehow.
I guess I was ten or eleven when we moved from a three-family home, that my parents owned, to my mother’s homestead. The new home was in the same town, and actually just a few miles away, from our first home. The homestead was a farmhouse that had been in her family for generations and was, by this time, on about an acre of land. THe home was smack in the middle of town on Main Street, which had become a 4 lane major route by the 70s. From the street was a driveway that was several hundred feet long and at the bottom of the drive was an old tobacco barn. To the left was a greenhouse and to the right another tobacco barn. In those barns there were all sorts of tractors and farm equipment that were used when the lot was much larger and still a working farm. The land stopped being worked and all of it sold long before we lived there. It was still a gift to have the space we did in East Hartford, CT, where open land was getting scarce.
I learned a great deal about work ethic as we cleaned out and updated the house and the barns. You would think that this would be a great place for a boy to grow up, with all those farm “toys” and shop tools. In a way it was, and I wish now that I had learned more than I did. I can see now that I battled with my self worth even as a child. I remember wanting to ask more about things like engines, power tools, carpentry, and basically everything, but I didn’t. My father could fix anything and I looked up to him like most boys do to their father, but for some reason I never felt like I was worthy of his time. I know now that he would have loved every moment of teaching me these things. Instead, I found every reason to avoid the interaction and allowed myself to fall deeper and deeper into depression.
On the outside everyone saw a happy kid. [I can attest that the photos of Dan as a child show a contagious smile that I am sure won over everyone.] Sure I was also the typical moody teen, but very few people knew I was deeply depressed. In my own mind I couldn’t see how anyone could ever love me. I thought I didn’t have any friends (I did). I was convinced that no female could ever love someone who looked like I did. [Obviously that was a big BIG misconception. And I am fairly sure he had girls who were crushing on him then, but was too oblivious to notice.] I walked funny, talked funny, had ridiculous acne, and overall had absolutely nothing to offer. I never had girlfriends after all, so that’s proof, right? I even wondered, if by that fact alone, if I was gay. I mean I wasn’t attracted to the same sex, but I had no idea. I also knew what a financial drain I was on my parents. My father always had at least two jobs and my mother worked as soon as I was in school full time. I knew they were always tired because of me.
Now, just let all of that roll around in your head for long enough and you can convince yourself that you’re just wasted space.
One day, I guess I was in my junior year of high school, I went out to the barn. It was a place where I could be alone. Most of the time I would go out there to decompress, regroup, and be okay enough to try again. This day was different.
I don’t recall now what made it that way, but I had made a decision. I opened the loading door of the barn. I set a work stool in the opening. Then out of a drawer in the old kitchen cabinets that had been reworked into a work bench, I took out a revolver. I loaded all six chambers; I was NOT playing games or crying for help. I sat down on the stool and cocked what I knew was a double action – just to make the final squeeze was that much smoother. (For anyone unfamiliar, a single action requires that the hammer be cocked to fire; a double action will cock and fire during the trigger pull, but cocking the hammer first meant less force was needed on the trigger.) I placed the gun in my mouth. I remember having one thought: So, that’s what gun oil and stainless steel tastes like.
As I placed the middle of my pointer finger’s first digit on the trigger, I was ready. My pain would be over and, soon enough, my family would move on and ultimately have a better life, the one they deserved without the burden of a kid like me. I started to pull the trigger, smooth and slow on the exhale, just like any target shot I’ve ever taken.
Like I said, I was halfway through the squeeze that was already shortened by cocking the hammer … Why am I still here? After all, this was planned. I had made a decision and once I do that, there ain’t much quit in me.
The answer is very simple and very profound at the same time. In that moment, that final split second, I heard a voice. The voice was not external and I can tell you it was not me either. It wasn’t the voice you hear when you talk to yourself. There was nobody else to come in and save the day. The voice was deep, picture James Earl Jones if you need to. You may call it God, Spirit, Universe, a higher power, whatever.
Well then…? What did Darth Vader say? It came all at once like a block falling on you.
The message was this:
Your mission is not complete. You have a purpose. There will be people only you can help. You have work to do.
What do you do with that?! Nothing like that had ever come to mind before, so I know it was not me. It was profound enough to make me back off the trigger. I unloaded and cleaned the gun before placing it back in it’s case and closing the drawer.
Fast forward to today:
I haven’t set the world on fire, but I do have all the things in my life now that teenage me never thought I would have. I have a family, an amazing wife, a house, a career… so I am pretty successful. I know plenty of people who haven’t done so well. I’m pretty happy now, most of the time.
I decided for myself, years ago that if I could allow myself to believe I was worthless, then I could rewrite the programming and turn it around. There’s proof of anything you want to believe if you look hard enough.
I’ve learned something else, though – the tendencies your mind has do not just go away. It is something that needs to be kept in check, always. Sure, there are high periods where I can’t believe that was me, but there are also lows where I’m sure that my wife would just be better off with my life insurance policy. This is not news to her. I have actually said as much, out loud to her. [And I punch him when he says it! Not really, but I set him straight because we ALL know I would be a mess without him.] We’ve made an agreement to not leave each other early. She knows that I need her to make it through this life.
I still haven’t found my true purpose. I know this because I still hear reverberations of that voice. I have to trust that there will be a time in my life where I know I’m doing what I was intended to do.
My idea at this point is that it has something to do with disability awareness. I keep standing on the edge of that cliff and backing away. It’s hard to find the balance between the consistent pay with benefits of a full time job and putting myself “on-stage” for everyone else.
As of today I am waking up each day fighting to stay and knowing that there is something great about tomorrow.
I need everyone who struggles with this to remember you ARE important, you are loved, and you have a mission to complete. Try, just for today, to make it through another day. I will be here tomorrow waiting for you.
There is a quote that I like to remember when I feel worthless. It is a pretty nerdy source, so it is perfect for our family.
The 11th Doctor (Doctor Who):
“900 years if time and space and I have never met someone who wasn’t important”