Day after day the gaping maw of despair and confusion pursued me like a jaguar after a sickly gazelle. I felt like I was stuck in an endless loop, unable to find a way free from the pursuant. I was running out of energy to run, to fight, to heal.
I had spent the last 10 months learning about how trauma affects the core of the survivors being. I learned about self worth, various coping and grounding techniques. I was finding normalcy, spending less time with my mistress and finding happiness away from her clutches. I studied different types of relationships like the difference between objectification and a healthy give and take relationship. I began to realize that, like me, there are many survivors of abuse that objectified their perpetrator giving them an opportunity to take advantage of the position held over them.
I learned how the primal wound causes addictive cycles from a non-being sense of abandonment, powerlessness, and worthlessness. It was from these studies that I began to pursue what happened to cause me to seek AFB for counsel in the first place. If I could understand the circumstances surrounding that, perhaps I could end the addictive cycle of medicating to erase my own primal wound.
I learned that I was valuable and worthy of love on my own. I learned that just being me was good enough. I learned that I feared my own longevity and that was why I worked so diligently to sabotage my own happiness.
Through all this learning and healing I grew increasingly anxious. I needed to understand the “set-up.” I needed to understand exactly what were the circumstances that opened me up to vulnerability of a monster like AFB. The answer eluded me; perhaps I wasn't ready to understand. It wasn't until October 2012, just after the second anniversary of my first memory, It began to become clear.
It was not the answer I was hoping for.
As I reviewed my journals for this story, the theme was apparent. I increasingly complained about the constant noise around me. The voices of my children, wife and others were overwhelmingly loud in my ears. I was unable to tune them out and silence the cacophony beating inside my head.
I couldn't speak to be heard over the clatter of voices all around me. I became increasingly withdrawn. I felt as if no body was listening. They were all speaking, competing for attention and I was the loser. The noises and clatter was building until one defining moment during a family gathering for Thanksgiving in November. The room suddenly quiet, one solitary voice became heard, “I was brought up that you never question your pastor.” The noise resumed, but that one sentence echoed inside my being. “Never question your pastor.”
It seemed as if the pieces to answer the question were there. It wasn't until a month later in mid-December that my refusal to piece the puzzle together was becoming more than I could tolerate. I was holding myself together like the little Dutch Boy held together the crumbling dam with his finger. With each day that passed the pressure increased causing me to become highly unstable.
I kept looking for quiet that just wasn't there. My children doing what they normally do--boisterously playing. My wife was making her requests known, and others endlessly, frenetically talking without stopping to listen. The constant noise was more than my fragile mind could handle. All of my coping skills began to fade into a distant memory as the rage and confusion took hold.
Eventually, I took Amy aside on a Monday when she came home from work and told her that the medicine I was on was no longer working and that I was thinking about taking my own life. I told her in a cool and calm way that I had been in the basement where I kept our weapons and I was considering pulling the trigger. Though I had not gone to the other side of the house where I kept the ammunition, I knew where it was.
We called the doctor and booked an appointment for early the next day. The nurse on the other end said that there was a booster pill that I could take until the new medicine was able to take hold in my bloodstream. That gave me hope to make it until then.
At the doctors office, waiting for the appointment, I tried to slow down enough to take stock of what my body was doing.
“Fast heart beating, pounding in my chest. Angry, on a knifeblade of cataclysm. Trying not to freak out.”
It was all I could do to keep seated in my chair. I wanted to run away and find some quiet hole in the ground to hide and find peace.
“I understand you are not feeling well.” The doctor said as he entered the examining room.
“The medicine I am on isn’t working.” I curtly replied
“Do you have a plan?”
“Yes, I have a rifle and ammunition,” I cooly replied
After a series of questions, the doctor turned to Amy. “Do you feel safe at home?”
“No. For the first time through all of this I don’t feel safe for Joel or my children,” she said.
He looked at me seriously. “Let me check on something.”
A few minutes later he returned, “Would you like to go voluntarily or would you like to go in a police car?”
“Excuse me?” I asked in shock. “Your nurse said that I could get a booster pill for the antidepressants I’m on.”
“There are no booster pills, Joel, I have checked you in to a psychiatric hospital. You have two hours to get there or the police will be notified.”
“Your nurse lied to me?” I looked at my wife for help to get me out of this situation. I saw a mixture of fear and relief on her face. She gently nodded her head yes as if to indicate I should go.
“Yes. we needed to assess your mental health. You stated to me that you were suicidal and that you had a plan.”
I lowered my head. It was true; I feared for my safety, and for the safety of others around me. I was on a cliff looking down at my own sanity as if it was a speck on the ground and I was hovering high above it. The world was loud, too loud for me to understand it. I didn’t know how to make my body and emotions align to tell this scary world that I needed help.
My desperation made every sensation amplified. Each subtlety of my own movement would send spikes of pain deep into the core of my being. I feared what I would do in a moment of uncertainty just to make the pain stop for just a second so that I could experience something different.
“Ok, I will go.” I grabbed my brown leather coat and walked out of the office into the cold December air.
I went to bed at 10:30 pm, but sleep would not visit me in this strange, surreal place. The bed checks came every 15 minutes. The door to the room would quietly open and a flashlight would shine on my face to make sure I was ok and I hadn't done anything stupid. I had lost count of the checks long ago. I think the last time I counted it was nine. It must have been around 2:00 am. I got up out of my bed and looked out the window. It was still dark and cold outside, steam rising out of the ventilation pipes poking out of the tops of the buildings nearby. The highway was void of any traffic. It must still be early, I thought and laid back down in bed. I folded my pillow once and then once more to make a six inch by six inch rock to place my head upon. This was not my bed and not my home, this was my hell.
The door to my room opened, another light shone in on my face. Another 15 minutes had passed on this night with no end. I shut my eyes and tried to quiet my mind, but to no avail. A few more times the light shone on my face. Why am I here?
Soon the black sky turned deep purple. The snow on the mountains nearby began to faintly glow orange. Every few moments I could hear a tractor trailer downshifting to avoid an icy patch on the highway. I sat up in my bed and put my pants on, splashed some water on my face, and walked out to the common area. Everyone was still asleep. With a steaming cup of putrid black tea in my right hand, I walked over to the window to watch the sunrise reflected on the mountains in the west. It was a nice reminder as to why life exists, to enjoy beauty. There really isn’t anywhere else that I know of that you can enjoy the sunrise in the east by looking west.
The snow on the mountains slowly turned from orange to yellow to white. Clouds on the peaks in the distance morphed from purple to orange, to pink and then lastly white. As a native of the area I knew those were snow clouds and that the ski areas were going to love the new powder. I looked around me as the others began to groggily file in exchanging “good mornings” and grunts. A thin brunette girl cured into a tight ball, her head resting on her knees, arms wrapped around her calves as if to make herself as small as possible. She looked so sad, as if she too had been up all night.
People of all ages filled the room. Some looked like they had been here for awhile. Others, like me, were just getting used to the new surroundings. I poured another cup of tea, grateful for the caffeine but wishing it was a real cup of home ground coffee in my French press. I blew the steam and took a sip.
My sleepless night did nothing to assuage my racing mind. The surrealness of this place made me feel detached from body. I was watching what was going on like I would a curiously strange documentary that felt as if I shouldn’t be watching it.
Was I really that bad?
I questioned what I had done and said the previous morning. I reviewed the events that lead me here trying to convince myself that everyone, including myself, had overreacted.
Nah, I probably would never had done anything stupid. I lied to myself.
The dishonest thought immediately betrayed me as someone deep inside me cried out I am here! I am here! I am here! I need help.
I rode the elevator to the breakfast room. As the elevator descended, I decided that I would descend inside myself and find the quiet to listen to that person crying out for help.