James W.D. Stewart

James W.D. Stewart

Embrace "The Suck"


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By anonymous:

Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire…
As one great Furnace flam'd, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd onely to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes…

/blog/2017/05/22/darkness-and-depression/

https://forces.army/blog/2017/05/22/darkness-and-depression/

Darkness and Depression

Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Published: 
Updated:    Spelling
Location:  Tim Hortons, 1373 Martindale Rd., Sudbury, Ontario, P3E 4J7, Canada
 

 

By anonymous:

Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire…
As one great Furnace flam'd, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd onely to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes…

In the above passage from Paradise Lost, Satan's launched his unsuccessful war against God and heaven, and had rightfully been cast down into the pits of Hell.  He finds himself chained in unbreakable chains, to the floor of a fiery pit, without even the comfort of light from the flames.  In "darkness visible", he sees only "sights of woe, regions of sorrow, doleful shades".  In the absence of God's presence, he flails about in pain, doomed to never know peace, rest, nor hope again.

It was on a rather beautiful spring day — birds chirping, sun shining in through the window, adoring, four-legged friends at my feet — that I used the aforementioned passage, to describe to my girlfriend of the time, how empty and defeated depression made me feel.

We have different names for such things now.  However, "sights of woe" sounds an awful lot like intrusive thoughts.  To me anyhow, "doleful shades" accurately described the synesthesia of strength-draining darkness that had creeped over me.  With all promise of "rest" and "peace", dashed by medical science, and the constant voices of doubt within my head — I'd, most certainly, lost hope.

Worst of all though?  The closest comparison that I could come up with, to describe myself, was that of Satan.  A lot of doctors, would call that "a poor self-image".

Fast-forward several years…

Not many people talk about suicidal ideation.  It seems that they're either embarrassed, worried about alarming their loved ones, and/or afraid of being locked-up.  Of course, all of these reasons, are valid.  However, I made a promise — some time ago, now — to be open and honest about what I'm going through.  I think that it makes me stronger, while helping those around me.  So, again, here it goes.

The other night, I was lying on a makeshift bed of cardboard in a back alley — completely, in the dark — waiting to fall asleep.  The self-effacing negativity, and spitting of curses at myself, ran rampant as it had for some time.  It was something that I'd grown accustomed to.  The dark thoughts are easier to push away when I'm alert.  When I'm tired though, about to fall asleep, it's often a very different story.

For me, as a man who had experienced a suicide in his immediate family, it will never be an option.  I realize, on both an emotional and intellectual level, that it only hurts the ones whom you love.  But, that doesn't stop the theatre of the macabre from acting itself out in my head anyway.  Thoughts and images of hurting myself, flash before my eyes, faster than I can stop them.  I know that I'll never act on them…  I know that I'm, physically, in control.  Still — and, I doubt that I'm alone on this — simply having the thoughts, can be discouraging.

I find that flashes of self-harm occur rather vividly and alongside waves of self-deprecation and doubt.  The slightest slip-up and/or failure can trigger them.  Those who know me well, have learnt that I vent this negativity, through creativity and jokes.  As with most all veterans, I've got a somewhat fucked-up — dark, twisted, and warped — sense of humour.

I've been grappling with this issue, both intellectually and spiritually, for quite some time now.  My goal has been to, symbolically, represent the causes of the condition through language and understand — beyond the limits of medical science — the role of my soul.  But, learning causes, didn't result in the ability to produce effects.  So, with each passing day, I'd learn something new.  Each night, I'd lie in the dark — struggling — waiting, for that ability to come to me.

Suicidal ideation's like being strapped to a chair and forced to watch a really graphic movie of your own death.  Here's the catch…  You're both, the protagonist and the antagonist — literally, your own worst enemy.  The voice that you hear, the one screaming that you're "disgusting" and/or "pathetic" and/or "weak", it's your own voice.  And, after a while, you become convinced that you're the one doing the talking.  Why wouldn't you?  It's your voice…  Your brain…  You're the one, conjuring up these thoughts, because you're "sick" right?

I'm no longer convinced.

On the night in question, I looked over…  There sat my trusty knife — the one, which PTSD tells me to keep ready for threats, at all times.  Then, came a flash of me stabbing myself and collapsing on my makeshift bed.  It lasted for less than a second…  However, it was so disturbing and graphic, that it wounded me.  It was like being punched in the gut.

In its shocking repetition, suicidal ideation, makes you feel very much like a victim of abuse.  But, you're the abuser.  What the fuck gives, eh?  I was in control, but the thoughts weren't going away though.  I felt like I was losing the battle — that it would just get worse and worse, until I was no longer in control.  That's what knocked the wind right out of me.

I said to myself, "You know, if you're thinking about offing yourself, the responsible thing to do would be to secure the weapon".

Ya, I don't want to do that.  What if somebody attacks me?

I tried to be rational.  It dawned on me, that the safest alternative to securing the weapon, would be to crawl over to a corner of the alley and sleep there.  Then, it hit me — I'd just told myself, to curl up in the fetal position, in a corner of the alley.

How did it get to this point?  Listen to yourself!

In the background, during all of this, that vile and contemptuous voice kept talking.  It had been telling me to "do it" — reinforcing its previous points about my being disgusting, pathetic, and/or weak.  In my mind's eye, I stepped back for a minute, and asked myself something which I'd not before:

If I'm listening, who's doing the damn talking?

I created a representation of the scene, the best that I could, wihin my brain.  I saw myself stepping away, outside of a circle of white light.  Inside the circle, crouching and holding a severed head like a puppet, was the thing that had been talking.  It was black like venom with skin the texture of a smoky-ink.  The head that it was holding, and by extension the voice, was my own.  But, I was obviously on the outside of the circle.  I was listening.

"There you have it", it wasn't me talking after all.

Some may describe what happened next as an epiphany, but it wasn't really that.  It was more like something remembered — something, I used to know, but had forgotten.  I paid, particular, attention to the voice.  It tapered off…  Its tone, described someone who'd just been caught…  And, it muttered something to the effect of "this doesn't change anything".

But, I knew better.  I made a conscious decision to listen, and for the first time in months, the voice shut its damned mouth.

What ensued was astounding…  My head and face tingled.  I felt a, distinct, crunching feeling within the tip-top of my brain — as if, the folds of my cerebral cortex, were tightening and strengthening themselves.  I'm used to getting headaches, but a new and different one presented itself at my forehead.  I welcomed it…  I knew something big was happening.  That some new — or, old and forgotten — pathway was being opened-up and I was (re)learning how to make use of it.

Within "darkness visible", I'd opened my eyes.

Since that time, I've come to call the voice, the "Puppet Master".  It was as though he'd had his hand inside of the back of my neck, making me spout-off terrible obscenities and lies about myself.  The sound of my own voice did a lot to convince me.  But, then again, so did the constant message that there was something wrong with me.

There may be something wrong with my brain…  There may be something wrong with the way in which I live my life and/or the decisions that I've made…  There's, definitely, something wrong with the things that have happened to me.  But, those things aren't and have never been me.  I held, somewhere deep down inside, the view that there was something defective with my soul — that I deserved the constant torment.  It was a lie, and now that I've learned to put a muzzle on the liar, it's one that makes me burn with a healthy anger — rooted in self-respect.

I'm sure the Puppet Master reinforced that lie.  He still likes to catch me unaware and slip in self-hate and violence when he gets the chance.  But, I'm onto his game now though.  When I catch him, I get angry.  I step out of the circle, locate him, and drag his wretched ass to a nice box that I constructed in the corner of my mind.  I borrowed the box metaphor from my fellow veterans.  Now, I know what to put in there.

What should you make of all of this?  I don't really know.  You may think that I've lost my mind and/or that I've used too many psychedelic drugs.  To me, it seems like a lot of veterans — and, people struggling with mental illness, in general — believe lies about themselves.  What I've done, in my best estimation, is find a way in which to represent the source of the lies — a Puppet Master — and, a way to control it.  Some people achieve this through medication and therapy, others through exercise, and still others through religion and service.  My journey has been a combination of all of these things and it's far from over.  However, I've just won a major battle.

For now, I'll just keep listening.  I'd encourage you to take the time to listen to yourself too.  You may be surprised at what you come to learn.

 
Categories:  Health, Lifestyle, Medical  
Tags:  MyCAF, Opinionated, Self, The Suck

 
Syndicated to:

 
References:

  1. Paradise Lost
    by John Leonard, John Milton Published: 
    Referenced: 

 

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Creative Commons Licence :: BY-NC-SA James W.D. Stewart by James Stewart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  Based on a work at https://github.com/jwds1978/jwds1978.github.io.