Heavy

“You don’t have to die, you know.”
“I … I know.”
“Then why are you trying to kill yourself like this?”
“Because I’m tired of this life and the lies I keep telling myself.”
“Is that all?”
“No.”
“Then what is it?”
“I’m just tired of failing over and over and over. I’m tired of losing and being lost. Tired of a life without control or direction. Tired of being a fucking joke or punchline. Tired of being me.”
“Well, you do seem miserable as shit.”
“I’ll drink to that.”

It was a conversation I had in a dream. I don’t remember the particulars of it other than I was sitting in a chair talking with another version of myself. I looked disheveled and worn out. I looked beaten by the toll of life. The other me, the one that sat across from the broken me, was in a suit with a novelty tie. He looked healthy, young, and concerned.

Frankly, he had every right to, even if he was wearing that ridiculous ensemble.

In real life, up until about a month and a half ago, I was passively trying to commit suicide.

It’s kind of hard to tell this story without context so I need to go back to the point of my life when I started to lose control and my confidence in myself.

Back in the beginning of 2009, I met a girl on Match.Com. She was ambitious, beautiful, and filled with life. We fell for each other hard. We spent countless hours together and in many ways we were inseparable. I took her to dinner to meet my folks and they approved. My friend’s all seemed to like her and could tell that we were both very invested in making it work.

It was that same year where my plans to buy my aunt’s home were to go underway. She had remarried and was planning to move in with her new husband in his town home. It had always been my dream to live in the same town I grew up in. My parent’s were literally four blocks away, my high school and college friends still lived in the general area, and the school system was amazing. Additionally, I had plans to have my brother and his wife to move in until they had made enough money to purchase a place of their own. My sister-in-law was to become a doctor and I knew that I had very little time to spend with my brother before she nabbed a gig that could take them anywhere in the 50 states.

I felt that this was the going to be the big beginning of everything for me. I had a girl that I was madly in love with along with a home to tend and mend. I figured that one day I would get married, have kids, and they would receive the chance to have a quality education. Before the sale, I asked my then girlfriend to move in with me. We had only been dating for seven months but I felt that it was the right decision.

Because love is blinding, you tend to overlook some of the smaller blemishes that come with the complete package. No matter which way you spin it, a leaky container of almond milk is still a leaky container of almond milk.

You don’t notice certain behaviors. You gloss over a dysfunctional family situation. You never look for patterns because being logical wasn’t ever on your mind. You’re just happy to be with someone who loves you back.

Or that’s at least what you assume.

The house was purchased in late August. We all settled in by early September. By late September I could tell that there were going to be issues.

Small disagreements were turning into larger fights. Everyone was assuming a very passive aggressive stance. This was amplified when my brother and his wife purchased a new puppy. As the situation unraveled, relations between all parties were starting to become untenable.

Then one week in late October I suffered a fever, followed by a root canal, and then a full blown Achilles’ tendon rupture.

I had never been physically hurt before. Never broken an arm or a nose. I’ve had your typical aches, pains and sprains but never anything that required surgery and rehab. Based on the tone of this story, you can guess that it went as poorly as you could imagine.

I was placed into a cast that went up just below to knee. I was told by my doctor that I was to be in a cast for two months and then after that I would be able to wear a walking boot and begin rehab. This was mildly devastating for me. I was always a heavy kid growing up so I was conscious about my weight. My junior and senior years of high school I went back to running cross country and track and eventually took my 230 lbs self down to 165 lbs. I became a decent JV runner and clocked a 5:14 mile toward the end of my senior year of cross country. At the conclusion of the season I ran the Chicago Marathon in the fall of 1999. It was there that I vowed never to allow myself to balloon back up to my heaviest weight.

Fast forward to the tail end of November and my brother and sister-in-law have moved out. They can no longer tolerate my girlfriend’s behavior. I am wracked with guilt for thinking that all of us could live in a house together.

It is the beginning of December and we are now sitting in a half-emptied house. I am now missing out on the rent money they provided to pay the bills. To make matters worse, the girlfriend has decided to quit her job and go back to school full time to acquire her certificate/license to become a full-time hair stylist.

Around the same time, I finally get out of my cast and start the rehab process. Things are going well on that front until we decide to throw a New Year’s party at the house. Thirty guests arrive. At some point, I remove my air cast as it is bothering me while she decides to pound a pitcher of mojito and descends into a fit of rage. I meet her in the kitchen to ask her what is wrong and she proceeds to berate me.

“You family is a bunch of liars. Your friends don’t like you. You are a piece of shit. Fuck you. You don’t deserve me. Your whole life is bullshit.”

I stared at her in wonderment. I’ve never heard such vitriol pour from her mouth. Every statement more venomous then the last. She continues on with her prattle, cutting into me while I stood there in disbelief. Her jaw slackens, the eyes narrow. The words are like a small razor blade working over my face.

With that I tell her I’m going to my parent’s house and that she can have the honor of kicking out our friends.

I take three hard steps toward the garage. On the third step, I crumple to the ground, slamming into the garbage can. I can feel searing pain in my ankle. I yell into the ground, “Why did you kick me?!” When I look back I see her across the kitchen with an angry sneer on her face.

“I didn’t fucking kick you,” she snapped, her hands now landing on her hips. The scowl on her face was so pointed it could pierce through a phone book.

I knew right then that I had re-ruptured my Achille’s tendon. I crawled toward the garage, opened the door and closed it behind me. I laid on the cement floor clutching my ankle muttering to myself no, no, no, no, no, no …

A minute later the door flew open. I could see her standing in the doorway. She approached me and hovered over my body.

“What the fuck is this bullshit?”

“I’m in a lot of pain. I think I fucked up my ankle again.”

“Fuck you. This is your way of getting out of an argument isn’t it.”

“No. This is really fucking bad.”

She crouched down and got inches from my face.

“Well you deserve it. You’re a fucking pussy. A fucking faggot. No one likes you because you’re a fucking piece of shit. A real fucking asshole. Fuck. You.”

The tears welled up in my eyes. She got out of her crouch and walked back into the house, slammed the door, and continued to drink. It wasn’t until moments later when my friend, Steve came to my aid, helped me upstairs and handed me a painkiller. It barely had any effect that night.

The next day she apologized. She said she had no idea what had happened. She vowed to be better. That she would make things right. I didn’t care about that. I was worried about my ankle and if it was actually fucked again. Concerned about how this would delay me getting back to health.

A few days later an MRI confirmed what I already knew. It was a full-on rupture. I received the call at work. I hung up the phone, hobbled my way to my car, and cried.

I would have surgery a few days later. This time the cast they put on me went up to the middle section of my thigh. My leg was placed in a permanent seated position. I had a terrible reaction to the anesthetic and hallucinated after I got home. The next day I would have a full on nervous breakdown and threatened to crawl into the basement where my tin snips were so I could remove my cast. My brother drove over with a prescription pain killer authorized by the doctor and BBQ beef sandwich. He told me to shut up and go to sleep. So, I did.

Over the next few weeks, things went from bad to worse. It was apparent that I couldn’t make payments with her not working and my brother and his wife no longer paying rent. My finances were in ruins and my girlfriend didn’t seem to care. I got her a job as a waitress to bring in some money to help with the mortgage and bills. At some point in mid-January during dinner she said she was hoping to go back for another year of school to get a teaching certificate in lieu of finding a full-fledged stylist job. My brain buckled and I shut down.

It wasn’t until I confronted my father about what had actually happened on the night of the New Year’s party that everything started to fall into perspective. I hadn’t known about some of the things she had done to my brother and sister-in-law. I didn’t know about some of the things she had said to my friends in passing. It turned out that she had been trying to build a perimeter around me to keep everyone away. She was actively trying to pit me against the people that I loved and loved me. It was the first time I had heard about Borderline Personality Disorder.

My sister-in-law provided me with a number of documents about the disorder. Everything lined up. It wasn’t one of those moments where you go to Web MD and through vague descriptors, believe that you either have Meningitis or Brain Cancer. It was the very definition of on the nose.

On a Friday night, we both went to bed. She passed out early as she had class to attend at 7 in the morning. I stayed awake the entire time staring at the ceiling and finally turning on my side to weep into my pillow. Eventually she woke up and I pretended to be asleep. She dressed herself and walked toward the bedroom door. She turned back toward me and said, “I’ll see you soon. I love you.”

With that she left. I could hear the garage door close and I began to cry heavy tears. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was choking on my emotions, my feelings, the whole situation. I grabbed my crutches and made my way to the bathroom. When I flipped on the lights I could barely make myself out. My eyes were bloodshot red and blood was pouring out of both nostrils.

That evening I asked her to leave and I never saw her once after that.

Since that moment in my life, nothing has really felt right. Emotionally I have struggled with bouts of depression along with moments of distrust. I initially found it hard to date and feel like anyone was being truthful or sincere about their emotions or feelings toward me.

Physically, my body has been altered. Being on crutches for a total of seven to eight months changed my physiology to where I look much bigger in the chest. During a cruise while I was in the second recovery phase, a worker on the ship asked if I had played rugby because my upper body was gigantic. It also didn’t help that I had been drinking beer and pounding food like a man possessed. I had been consuming everything to deal with the depression, which wasn’t healthy.

It was in the fall of 2010 when I was finally cleared to play softball again. It was a nice milestone but I had broken a personal promise to myself. I weighed in at 210 lbs.

After my break up, I decided to head to a therapist and based off of my descriptions of the relationship she all but confirmed that my ex-girlfriend more than likely had Borderline Personality Disorder. She told me I was lucky because it could have been much worse.

While that was all pleasant and good, I still felt damaged and maligned. I felt taken advantage of and in turn I was spit on for trying to do the right thing. From that point forward, I never believed that I was truly in control.

MOVING FORWARD

2010 was a hodgepodge of things. I spent a lot of time physically recovering from my Achille’s tendon rupture. I also ended up being fairly depressed but I also learned to love and in a way, trust again. I would end up dating someone from my past, which didn’t go much of anywhere but regardless it was nice. I’d go out with a woman who was incredibly outgoing but I never thought I could catch up with and another who I believed was just too good of a person to seriously consort with someone like myself.

In 2011, I met a woman who would ultimately become my wife.

I wont waste a lot of ink telling this story because I already did so here.

The quick version goes something like this

• We met on OkCupid.
• She moved in quickly because she was living in Sheboygan, WI and driving back and forth really sucked.
• We lived together for years , got engaged and finally married in September of 2014.
• Something happened immediately after we got married. It’s something that my ex-wife can not adequately explain but essentially, she checked out of the relationship and I death spiraled into a depressive state.
• She moved out in six months.
• By July of 2016 we were divorced.

Despite all this we maintain a very good relationship and regardless of what transpired I hold no ill will toward her or her devil dogs that soil carpets like it was their God damn natural birthright.

Man, the things we do for love. Right?

SPIRAL

My depressive state kicked off early. If I had to rewind the clock, I’d harbor a guess that it was before we got to couple’s counseling. I’m not going to rehash it but I was a mess. Every passing day was just another comically sized anvil that had been dropped from the highest vantage point, careening right toward my skull.

When she signed the paperwork and finally moved out the worst in me decided to rise to the top.

Early on I was binge drinking, eating, and chain smoking cigars like a man possessed. Most nights I would suck down 3 or 4 of them and kick back a few glasses of whiskey. I’d then cook a frozen pizza around midnight and scarf it down without thinking twice about what I had already consumed during the day. I’d wake up during the night with constant stomach pain, knowing full well that the combination of food and drink was killing me. I’d scuttle back to bed, collapse, and then struggle to wake up after getting a combined 3-4 hours of sleep.

I would force myself into work. I’d do my absolute best to put in a productive day and then I’d go home and repeat the exact same dance as the night before.

About 11 months into this behavior, my wife and I went out for dinner to discuss the state of our marriage. I had asked for her to make a decision before her lease was up. I wanted to know if we were going to move back in together and really work it out.

She opted to move on and so I opted to burn my life down to embers.

A month later, I went to Panama to celebrate a good friend’s bachelor party. It was evident that something was wrong. I started to feel extremely worn down. I could no longer choke down the same amount of alcohol that I had been forcing into my system. I started to gag or get incredible bouts of heartburn that would last through the day, regardless of how many Tums or how much Pepto I tried to counteract it with. For most of the trip, I would retire very early to get some sleep. I would then roll around in my bed with stomach pain. On the day we were to return home, I remember eating a pizza for lunch and then felt a dizzy spell. I didn’t think much about it but it made me extremely uncomfortable and nauseous. I chalked it up to mild food poisoning, got on the plane and came back to Chicago.

For the next month and a half, I was crippled by debilitating headaches brought on by bouts of vertigo. When laying down I was typically fine but if I was standing or looking at a computer monitor, I would get occasional waves of dizziness. The room would spin and I would begin to get sick. Most days, I would close my door at work and put my head on my desk for relief. For the first two weeks, I tried to ignore it but I eventually forced myself to the doctor. That doctors sent me to a specialist and that specialist spent me to another specialist. Eventually I made it all the way to a neurologist who had no idea what was wrong with me.

According to my blood work my cholesterol and triglycerides were through the roof. My physician thought that maybe I had eaten before the test. I knew that those numbers were real. You can’t subsist on red meat, booze, cigars, bread, and dairy for an extended period of time. Sometimes, I would awake in the middle of the night to vomit it all up. My body was in a complete state of rejection.

After a while I decided to cut back on the cigars and start drinking fruit and vegetable laden juices. I did this for about three weeks without much change. One day I went to the race track to watch the ponies with my friend, Nick. Suddenly the vertigo stopped and with that I decided to cut heavy drinking from my act and switched to heavy pot use instead. In my passive suicidal state, I wanted to die but I didn’t want to be unable to walk in a straight line or drive a car for the time being.

I spent countless days laying on my back on the couch in my living room staring at the ceiling. Some days I would fiddle with my phone, scrolling through Facebook to the point where I was seeing the same posts three to five times a day. I would open up Twitter constantly, reading bullshit political news and tweets. It did nothing but increase my agitation and despair. I did nothing but rot in my own echo chamber, shooting out 140 character messages to no one and everyone. I’m sure that in some deranged way I was exacting some type of validation or praying for a release of endorphins through likes, shares, and retweets, never really grasping how pathetic I had become or just how insufferable my on-line persona actually was.

I was spiraling and lying to everyone in the process. Hell, if I had to guess, I was probably lying to my therapist about being okay while I was clearly not. I pretended to be fine while wanting nothing more than to not be alive.

That’s not to say it was all bad. I spent a lot of time trying to discover myself. I took four day vacations on my motorcycle or in my car. I would look at a map just to drive to a location because I felt like it. One weekend I found myself in Louisville, KY. Another time I ended up in Clarksville, TN because if the Monkees’ sang about it then it had to be cool, right? Nope. It pretty much sucked like you thought it might but hey, I had a beer and chicken wings at a crummy college sports bar and witnessed a grown ass man scream fiercely at a television set while his favorite college football team went belly up on national television. Sometimes it’s nice not to have allegiances.

While the trips were nice, they were nothing but a short reprieve from the storm clouds in my head. I couldn’t escape them. I’d look at something in my house and it would remind me of my failed marriage or I’d see a second-place trophy and replay the moment where I botched something on a critical dodgeball play from over ten years ago. While I was at work, I’d sort through e-mails and see nothing but sales rejections. Anything that could potentially be negative would be amplified by the power of ten.

Worst of all was there were days where I felt like I might break out of my depressive state but just end up in an even deeper hole. I would start attempting to run. At one point I had four days of straight good jogs under my belt. I had even started some very light speed work. Things were clicking. Then on one Thursday, I played a meaningless softball game in October before playoffs were to start. I went up to bat, laced a would be double into centerfield and my right knee made a loud popping sound. I went down on the ground screaming in pain. My softball season was over and as I write this, I am now forced to wear a heavy-duty brace because for whatever reason, I have a tendon that isn’t doing it’s job. So it’s either wear the brace and be slightly encumbered or risk not being able to walk for weeks at a time.

It’s not like I wasn’t trying to beat this. Some days were certainly better than others but most of the time, when I looked in the mirror I saw nothing but an abject failure.

Another element to this was that I pursued retail therapy to no end. It seemed like an endless stream of Amazon.Com deliveries had made it to my front door. As I write this article, I am literally surrounded by books that I haven’t even had a chance to read because I’m still working on the first one. It was a shortsighted attempt to try and boost my spirits and yet, despite a library of incredible artwork and literature I have collected it did nothing to actually solve the core problem of me not understanding how to work through my destructive tendencies.

Relief never came though. I kept thinking of the wedding and all of the people that I recited my vows in front of and how I had failed all of them. I’d think about all the time, money, and resources that went into that day. How many people gave up their weekend. Even worse, the people closest to me who gave up a whole lot of their life to help with planning and designing only to watch the marriage implode in record time.

Not even the cynical nihilist in me could crack a smile at that. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the record holder for shortest marriage in your extended family? They should really hand out a patch for that.

So, I continued to do what I was doing and I kept smoking, eating, and killing myself slowly. The only reason I opted not to hang myself or put a bullet in my head was the thought of my nieces learning the truth about what I did. I kept thinking about my brother and my sister-in-law having to eventually explain what happened to me. I didn’t want my parent’s walking in to identify the blown apart skull of their first-born child. Instead, I wanted it to look more natural. A dead me covered in a blanket of Cool Ranch Dorito crumbs, finally done in by the heart attack I always dreamed of.

RECOVERY

There are three data points that I believe kicked off my road to recovery. One of them being extremely controversial and I have debated at length on writing about it as it could impact future employment or relationships but for the sake of honesty, I think it is important that I mention it. Please note that in no way shape or form am I advocating what I have done but one doesn’t write about depression and suicide without dredging up some dirt.

At a certain point in 2016, I experimented with a potent hallucinogenic. For most of my life I was strongly against the use of them as I had seen first hand the destructive power of the drug if it was treated like a joke. When I was in high school, I had a locker next to someone who had everything going for him. He was an all-state soccer player. He was incredibly intelligent and a lady killer to boot. Then his behavior changed and by senior year he was a gibberish spewing mess of a man who was suddenly on borrowed time. The last time I saw him was when I was working at the pet shop in either my freshman or sophomore year of college. An overweight man dressed in a tie dye shirt came to the register and asked me for a bag of crickets. I retrieved the insects and completed the transaction. I wouldn’t have even known it was him but as I handed him the crickets, he chuckled to himself and said, “Thanks a bunch for the crickity crickets, Osterhout, man.”

He died not to long after that from an overdose. He was at least 125 lbs heavier than he had been in high school. My lasting memory of him is not the star athlete or brilliant mind we all thought he would become but just a burnt out man with a bag of bugs off to feed an animal that only existed in his mind.

So, you can only imagine my apprehension about even attempting doing it but I learned more about the mind and the tunnels you go down. It forced me to stop envisioning my own failures and confront them head on. To stop pitying and victimizing myself. To learn from each mistake. Not all of this came at once but from a few repeated attempts to better understand, exploit, and control the darker corridors of my mind.

Most importantly, I had a say in all of this. For those who have ever steeled themselves and taken a ‘trip’ you start to realize that you have a choice. You can either take the ride and drown as the waves crash upon you or you can steer yourself to safety.

It was there that I learned being rudderless was no longer an option.

The second was my brother and my friends. To be honest, not too many people knew what was actually going on with me in the sense that I was suicidal. I managed to keep up appearances and proceed like nothing was wrong.

It wasn’t until my friend Woody introduced me to his friends Brian and Garret that things took a turn. Brian is a few years younger than me and on the road to marriage. Garret is an incredible singer and songwriter who has a knack for ripping my guts open with just an awkwardly placed smile. It was almost impossible to have a bad time with either of them.

At a certain point, I flew out to North Carolina with Woody to visit our mutual friend Larry and Garret. That trip was quite moving because the last time I had seen Larry, he was in a bad way. I think that if you asked him about his life story that he’d be honest in telling you that he was on a self-destructive road to Nowheresville. But Larry turned it all around. Aside from being an excellent tattoo artist, he is a dedicated husband and father. His family is beautiful and to watch him be all of these things was inspiring because I began to think, well, maybe it is possible to make it a life worth living?

After I returned home, I went back to my regular ways and continued to shamble around looking for substance. I’d go on shitty Tinder dates, eventually meeting someone who was really great but I couldn’t pull my own head out of the sand to make it work, so I let it wither away instead of embracing it.

It wasn’t until a few months later when Brian, a person that I had only hung out with a handful of times, mentioned something about my behavior.

One night, during a text exchange, I opened up a little bit about my feelings and how things were going with me.

“… it’s a relief for me to hear you talk about things this way. I know I don’t know you all that well … yet … but I worry about you sometimes dude,” Egan said.

“In what way? I’m a little curious,” I asked.

“Maybe I read into things the wrong way, but you just seem kind of depressed to me sometimes.”

And with that I realized that I was no longer hiding in plain sight. Brian, who had known me a total of seven months saw it for what it was and called me out on it.

He was correct. I was a fucked to death, walking contradiction of self-pity, and sorrow. I had been self-medicating for years and trying to suppress all my rage and my pain while it was slowly killing me mentally and physically.

Strike one. Looking.

One day when I was at work, I was talking to a colleague and I said to him, “You ever just go home, and lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling? You look around and see the thousands of things you need to do but you just can’t muster up the strength or courage to do them so you just do nothing instead?”

He replied, “Yeah, Jim. That’s called depression.”

Strike two. Foul tip.

The third was when I went to visit my brother in Milwaukee. In the outstretched great room of his house we sat on the couch amongst piles of children’s toys. We were having a fairly candid conversation about life when he mentioned to me, “You know, I always know when you are hiding something or trying to be evasive. You do this thing where you are self-deprecating, which is your thing. You use it for deflection. Not everyone can tell but I can tell because I’ve grown up with it.”

I didn’t even go down swinging. I watched that heater go right into the catcher’s mitt. I couldn’t even hide the pain anymore. I was starting to crack and with it the realization that my own brother now seemed to be worried about the state of my mental affairs.

I went back home to think about it. I needed to process my next steps. What was I doing? Did I even want to do this anymore? Did I actually want to live or was I just pussyfooting around the eventuality of suicide. Hell, why did I even care? I had been doing most of this because I didn’t know how I wanted to die, hence my use of the word passively. Regardless, it was so overly apparent that I was a disaster and I couldn’t even toe the company line anymore.

I was finally under the microscope in a Petri dish of my own making.

About 12 years ago, I walked into a Guitar Center and picked up a harmonica. At the time, there wasn’t a very deep YouTube selection of training videos so I grabbed a thin little how-to pocket book to learn. The end result of my self-education has been middling at best. I understand very basic concepts and can read tabs but I am not a natural nor am I able to improvise in the slightest.

One day I went over to my friend, Matt’s place to enjoy the pool at his apartment complex. We were accompanied by our mutual friend, Jeff.

It was a beautiful day out. The temperature was perfect and the sun was beaming. While we were there a small army of boys took over the pool. It was a birthday celebration. The kids were about the age of twelve if I had to guess. They were wild and spent most of the time jumping into the deep end of the pool, splashing the rest of the guests but no one got upset and everyone just agreed to let the fun continue.

It was an incredibly diverse group of people. There had to be at least eight different ethnicities represented. Everyone got along, some of them started conversations with the person in the pool chair next to them. Not to get overly sentimental about it but as the child of a mixed-race marriage, this was the perfect picture of the America I had dreamed about. People co-existing in a public setting and having a good time.

After the pool, we gorged ourselves on Matt’s homemade burgers and slaw. It was delicious. Afterwards, he grabbed a set of acoustic guitars. He handed one to Jeff and took the other to the opposite end of the sectional couch. I am pretty devoid of musical talent so I watched as they plugged away a number of songs, moving back and forth between some folk and 90’s alt-rock tunes. At a certain point, I started to nervously sing along with them, unsure if I was hitting the right key. After all, any practice I’ve had was in the shower or while I sang to the cat and dog. The cat, for the most part, hates it and will mew incessantly at my mediocre vocals. She’s a real tough critic.

About an hour or two into it, I remembered that I had my harmonica in my backpack. I asked Matt if he and Jeff could play Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” Somehow, by sheer dumb luck, I was able to hit my parts with some level of respectability. When it was over, Matt looked at me and said, “Man, that was awesome. I can’t believe you happened to have a harmonica on you with that exact key. Seriously, that just elevated the experience from here to there.”

And he was right. It felt good. It felt amazing. We weren’t great by any stretch of the imagination but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have any hang ups about anything. I didn’t feel encumbered by my own self-doubt or the fear of being judged.

I was just able to be me.

And as I drove away from Matt’s apartment, I began to softly weep and before I could reach the highway, tears streamed down my face and into my mouth. I realized then that this was the best day that I had experience in forever and that I was able to experience happiness again because for that one split moment I realized that it wasn’t all so bad.

All of this pain, all of this hurt, all of this internal violence I had been lugging around was a burden. It was a burden that I didn’t want. It was one that I didn’t need to carry anymore.

So, I did what I should have done a long time ago. I pulled out my shovel and buried it with the rest of my perceived failures because I knew that if I tried hard enough I could make something worth while of the time I have here now and the time I think I still have left.

I thought about how finite everything is. I thought about my family, my nieces, and my friends. I thought about my dog and my ex-wife. I thought about the interconnectivity of it all and I finally understood the importance of wanting to living a meaningful existence.

I went to sleep and I dreamt of something better than the long nap in the ground.

Because I didn’t want to die.

TAKE AWAYS

Needless to say, this was a very personal piece for me to write about. The themes are extremely dark and I have debated at great length about how in-depth I wanted to get about my road to recovery. Whatever the case, I have always believed in being as genuine as possible. However, as I write that line, the hypocrisy of me trying to hide my depression and suicidal tendencies while trying to appear authentic is not lost on me.

I wrote this piece for multiple reasons. Chiefly, it was a way to awaken myself from a long creative slump that has lingered for sometime. I figured that if I wasn’t to create anything new or with substance then I should at least re-create a narrative from my life and turn it into a story. The story, albeit dark, tends to be more common than we think.

I’m not beyond my own vanity but I’m also not afraid of public humiliation or embarrassment. I’ve written stories that end up with me getting laughed out of a crowded room or being covered in vomit. I tell these tales because I think they are not just humorous but they are also cautionary ones about self indulgence, the stubbornness of youth, and bad ideas mixed with horrific execution. Each one is a learning experience for me and the reader.

Depression is real. It is a virus that will feed off you for as long as it can. No amount of ‘it can always be worse’ will ever help because you may just be waiting for you cue to walk into traffic – thus making it actually worse.

The deeper you sink the more elevated your suicidal tendencies become. Not a day went by where I didn’t think at one point about how much easier it would be for me just to jump off a building or load a 9mm bullet into the chamber of my Ruger because it was the easiest place for me to go.

Despite all of the ‘nice’ things I had in my life, I took it upon myself to retreat into darkest places of my soul. The worst part was that after a while it became all too familiar and comfortable. Day dreaming about jumping from a window was a lot easier to do than make another worthless cold call to someone who didn’t want to talk to you. And you take that example and say to yourself, well, if that person doesn’t want to talk to you then who really does want to talk to you? You justify the most nonsensical thoughts, behaviors, and patterns because nothing makes sense anymore. Finally, the nihilism builds up to a point where you would be happy to see everything you are and everything you own go up in flames around you while you lay in bed waiting for the deadly asphyxiation from a hundred burning plastic superhero figures.

I’m lucky. I know this. We all have our demons to battle and some of us have an easier time with it than others.

As of this draft, I am again seeing my therapist. I’ve set out to make attainable goals while trying to live a healthier lifestyle. It’s not always easy but then again, I’m of the opinion that it was never suppose to be. If it was then we’d all be living in some utopian paradise that doesn’t exist.

The most important thing I want to get across is that you’re not alone and there are plenty of avenues for help. In my case, I opted to avoid all of those and prolonged my suffering because I couldn’t muster up the courage to speak or act on it. The truth is that I have an incredible support system that always existed. I just neglected to realize that it’s okay not to be okay. That it’s perfectly acceptable to approach a friend or family member when you’re not feeling right. You can internalize your feelings for a long time but you can’t carry it around forever without incident. An infection is an infection and without proper care or treatment it will fester. You don’t need to do that. There are always better options.

The hardest thing I ever had to do was to admit this to my parents. My parents are wonderful people that have always been there to support and love me and my brother. To this day, it still burdens me that I had been lying to them about my mental state. I had fallen into debt because I neglected to be reasonable with my finances. That I was practically lying to my parents about my own health because I didn’t want them to perceive that they had raised a massive failure of child.

It sounds hokey but you do need to love yourself. That’s the first step in all of this. To be willing to look at yourself in the mirror and think, “Hey there, my dude. Let’s use that big brain for something good today.”

Tomorrow is a thing you shouldn’t take for granted.

I know that now and hope I never forget.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 It would be severely disingenuous to not mention a few important people that helped me through my darker days (listed in no particular order)

Ed Carter: Few people I know are as brave as you. You’ve been with me from the start of all this and I appreciate you spending the occasional long night with me to talk about it.

Brian Egan: We’ve haven’t known each other very long but you solved me quicker than anyone I’ve ever met. Thank you for being a constant source of positive energy in my life.

Tessa Lulloff: We may not be married anymore but you have always been there for me and I’m happy that we can still be best friends while we enter different phases of our lives.

Woodrow Hart: My dude. Thank you for being an endless source of encouragement. You got me out of the house when I didn’t want to go and adventure. You came to me when I was down. You’ve introduced me to new people and new experiences. I can not say enough.

Sarah Cade: You don’t give up and you know how to get through the bullshit. You taught me a lot of things about the process of grieving that I never considered. You were not just a pal to me but a refreshing slap in the face when I needed to hear a different opinion.

Garret Santora: No one carves me up and gives me a case of the giggle guts quite like you do, Gar Bob. You gave me a lot to smile about when I didn’t think I had otherwise. Also, thank you for being the inspiration of this stupid voice I do all the time. I’m sure everyone loves it.

Katrina Swiston: Without you, I don’t know where I’d be sometimes. You’ve always been a great sounding board and there when I had to get advice. Also, you’ve always been awesome about looking over my work and throwing me a pointer here and there. You are the best.

Larry Slaton: No one is quite like Larry because Larry is his own dude and I always appreciate that about him. He is one of my favorite people and he continually does things that absolutely astound and impress me. If you ever get a chance to watch him high kick and scream, I suggest you do that. It’s a real treat.

Mom and Dad: Wouldn’t have been able to write and finish this if it weren’t for you. Thank you for helping me discover the courage to work through this and fight for myself again. I can not thank you enough.

Mike Osterhout: You’ve always been an inspiration to me and I still can’t figure out why everyone thinks I’m the funny one because I maintain your sense of humor has always been better than mine. Thanks for calling me out on my bullshit when I needed it most. Love you.

Paula Osterhout: You saved my life the first time and I don’t know how I can ever repay you and your entire family’s kindness. You’ve been the best thing that ever happened to my brother and I will always cherish you.

My Nieces: Nothing alters your thinking like being in the presence of children, especially when those children are your blood relatives. You are both beautiful and you make me happy to be alive. I am excited to watch you grow, fight, and cause your parents great distress and you both turn into beautiful human beings.

Sally Ward: You are one of a kind, gurl. You’ve got the best kind of smile and more importantly, a great attitude that is infectious.

Brent and Amanda Lipinski: You are both what I aspire to be. A loving couple that makes it work and takes the time to go on real adventures with one another. You are both beautiful.

Jeff May: You were there the night of my big break and I can’t ever forget that or that Incubus cover you engaged in. Congratulations, you’re a real sex machine.

Matt Owens: In many ways, you always helped me put things in to better perspective. You’ve had some times and I am impressed that you came through that hellfire as clean as you did. Your constant want to help and engage me was necessary for me to get better. And finally, you got me into trail walking, which is something that has been extremely therapeutic and helpful.

JP Scheckel and Jon Chua: My days at work could have been much darker if it weren’t for the two of you. In addition to being great colleagues, you both bring a perfect blend of seriousness and levity to my life that I need on a daily basis.

Molly Goltry: Just thank you for being you. Thank you for being there when I needed someone like you in my life. Thank you for just being a beautiful person.

The Old Deadspin Crew/Twitter People: Nothing brings me as much joy and anxiety than being on Twitter. Despite that, you people have kept me relatively sane as you’ve been an outlet for my bad jokes and puns. Additionally, it’s been nice to interact with some of the funniest people on the Internet for an extended period of time. I know it sounds stupid but from me to you, I seriously thank you for bringing levity into my life when I so badly needed it.

My White Sox Crew: I had a lot fewer blue days at the ballpark with you all. Even the shitty games, which was 98% of them were awesome. I hope we do this for the rest of our lives.

My Softball Team: To be completely honest, playing softball with all of you was one of the few joys that I ever felt while I was struggling with this. The diamond was the one place where I felt I might be able to drop off my baggage. Thank you for dealing with my 6 straight game triples hitting streaks followed up my 4 game slumps and occasional dropped pop fly.

2 thoughts on “Heavy

  1. Dude… I would say that:

    A) You are awesome, I prefer you living…
    B) You are an extremely gifted writer and I would encourage you to write a an actual book with your freakishly creative mind…
    C) No one likes Jeff May, so please do not acknowledge him ever again. (j/k Jeff – I heart you)

    Seriously Jimmy, I love ya
    Love,
    Billy

  2. Jim,

    I second that you are a truly gifted writer and encourage you to write a book about your battle with mental health. I really enjoyed this essay (not your pain, but feeling a sense of understanding because of my own personal struggles with mental health) and feel honored that you shared your story with us. Also, I’ll always be here and hear if you feel down.

    Your friend,
    Jessica

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