To Someone Who Shall Ever be Unnamed

Well, Longshot Magazine didn’t take this essay, so I can publish it here now. It’s dedicated to someone whose name I won’t ever say, someone who saved my life, and someone to whom I wish all the happiness this sorry world can muster. Anyway, essay below.

“The Debt I Owe Her is My Life”

By BENJAMIN TAYLOR

I owe my ex-girlfriend for the fact that I’m alive.

I know, I know, it’s not supposed to work out that way, and the fact that I think it highly unlikely we’ll ever speak again just sort of complicates things. But here are the facts of the matter: I’ve suffered from severe, often crippling depression my entire short life. It’s led me to stupid deeds, copious quantities of alcohol, and a veritable cornucopia of intoxicating things. All of which I assume full responsibility for, mind you. The point being depression is a seriously angry and vindictive bitch.

Last autumn, it got very bad. Very, very bad. After getting completely wasted and threatening with every intention suicide, one of my roommates had the sense to call 911. I was hospitalized and had my first experience on a psych ward early in October in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The experience was interesting, to say the least. If you’ve never been on a psych ward – and I hope that’s the case with anyone reading this – it’s a place which is strictly regimented, smelly, and with very bad food. Also there are varying degrees of crazy, varying, that is, from depressed folk like myself to paranoid schizophrenics to drug-brain blazed-out individuals who evolve into paranoid schizophrenics. Now, a psych ward is a short-term sort of institution, and the latter two need long-term care for which we, as a society, should pay. That’s a separate issue.

Let’s just say, they’re not exactly vacation destinations.

Thankfully there was wi-fi, and House reruns. And a psych team, which meets with you once a day for about fifteen minutes and arbitrarily changes what meds your regular psych has prescribed you. This leads to tremendous fluctuations in mood, which, of course, are less than ideal for someone who’s landed in a psych ward. However, I was considered a “low-risk” patient, as I had only threatened to end my life, and then was released after a few days.

Needless to say, I found myself back in my Somerville apartment, not feeling much better for the wear. A few days went by, most of them consuming what-was-then-legal Four Loko and playing World of Warcraft. These were not enjoyable days.

And then I found myself at four in the morning, looking out into inky blackness through my window, and thinking “Yes, that’s what I want. Just permanent blackness.” Lacking the courage to inflict actual physical harm to myself – when I was fifteen I had taken the knife to my heart, but couldn’t actually do the deed – I ingested about 90 Aspirins. It was really all I had available at the time – a shitty way to kill yourself, and an almost laughable one, but it’s what I had.

I added to that a considerable amount of vodka I leeched off a roommate who had stowed it in the freezer. I don’t really remember much of what happened after that, but, waking up for work, my ex-girlfriend – whom ill-advisedly on my part had become my flat-mate – found me naked (I’m not sure what happened there) and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

Thankfully, she cared about me enough to call an ambulance. I recall none of this, nor (what I imagine were) her heroic efforts to get me into pants. I remember waking up in the emergency room and being forced to drink charcoal – which, as a food enthusiast makes me retch even thinking about it. The acetylsalicylic acid, which was running rather heavy in my bloodstream, had also – and much to my chagrin – wreaked some righteous havoc on my electrolyte balance. This involved drinking another vile concoction of phosphorous and sodium, which, to make matters worse, was the color of Tang.

After a short time, the orderlies wheeled me up to a room where I spent two days with an IV drip of God knows what, and answering questions posed to me by a very kind (though at the time annoying) physician overseeing my care. As it was the same Cambridge hospital where I had been earlier, when the time came to travel upstairs to the psych ward – this time for a considerably lengthier engagement – at least I knew the staff and a few fellow-travelers who were still on board for the voyage toward sanity. My first day I was placed on suicide watch – a matter of course; waking up alive has this way of putting a damper on your desire to die, I wasn’t a danger to myself, but to make sure, I was placed in the special room, and monitored at all times.

I did my time, and served it with as much courtesy, shame, and humility I could then muster. It’s taken since then to reacquire a scintilla of hope that I’ll ever be happy, that anyone could ever love me, that the moon to which I wrote adolescent poems by candlelight on the back porch would ever mean anything to me again. I’m not where I’d like to be yet, but the moon shines and thrills me again. I stay awake just to listen to the sound of the rain. I’ve discovered a new love of cooking and trying new cuisines. None of those were possible all of six months ago.

No, my ex and I don’t speak. I don’t expect we will again. Much of what went wrong between us was due to my inability to help myself and my pride in not seeking help. I can’t blame her, and don’t. We’re not even Facebook friends anymore, and I’ve since left the Boston area for the corn-and-soybean-inflected fields of northern Illinois. Yet I still miss her, and the debt I owe her is my life.

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~ by Benji on August 8, 2011.

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