“… O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” — Matthew 26:39
I have wanted to tell this story for a few years now. But first I needed courage, honesty, and painful self-reflection. After 35 years, I’m finally ready.
I had been living on my own for the first time for about four months. It seemed like four years, so much had happened. At first, it was great. I had a job that covered my expenses and a nice apartment with a balcony. But more importantly, I had freedom. Freedom from a life at home, where a deep divide was forming between me and my parents. Freedom from another awful year of community college, where it became obvious that I had no direction, and certainly no passion. Finally, I was given an ultimatum: stay in school or get a job and move out. I chose the latter, not knowing what dark passages that would lead me through.
It was September 1983 when I got a job as a teller for Crocker National Bank. I was trained on the job by a very patient, low-key gentleman. I was also employed part-time at Sears. The training was going well. And then things went sour. I was chronically late, despite leaving rather severe warning notes to myself. None of them dissuaded me. I was staying up late — something I could never get away with at home. Freedom can cut both ways, apparently. After less than a month, I was fired. I had never been fired before. It was a shock to my psyche. In what was probably the most textbook case of denial, I skipped out of that bank happy to be free of a dreary job, already making plans to go back to retail.
That’s when my descent into madness began. That very day. I was starting to lose grip on reality.
Unbelievably, I got another bank job. This time, the training was held across the bay in Fremont. It was a good training program, but I hated the instructor. Despite that, I gritted my teeth and passed the course. I hated my manager, too. He was a jerk. But I managed to hold it together, do the work, and show up on time. Despite this, I was fired from that job as well — on nothing more than a stupid, petty technicality. I was convinced at that point that life was trying to tell me that I wasn’t supposed to be here anymore. I remember the drive home, holding in tears. I was going to kill myself. When I got home, I took a few sleeping pills and played Debussy’s La Mer. It wasn’t enough to do me in, thankfully.
At that point, I was nearly in a state of financial destitution. I started writing bad checks to cover my expenses. I took any retail job I could find. My old job at Sears had vanished — I never gave notice and never received my walking papers. Eventually, I was caught and led into the security office at the Sears store where I had worked for two years. I was told by the investigator that I would have to pay the money back, or end up in jail. I was given a month.
My descent into madness was complete. I had convinced myself that I would win the sweepstakes and all of my financial troubles would be over. I would drive around town not knowing where I was going or why I was driving. I briefly became a born again Christian.
I heard a loud banging on my door. The investigator was on the other side, telling me that he knew I was in and that I had better open the door. I complied, numbly. I had a suitcase that was open. He saw it and accused me of trying to evade my responsibilities. In truthfulness, I didn’t even know why I had the suitcase. Maybe I was thinking of leaving. But to where? The investigator told me that my time was up. I told him I needed some more time, and that I would cooperate, fully. I think he could see the ashen expression on my face. Somehow, he took mercy on me and left.
I made a decision. Tonight would be my last night. I couldn’t face my life anymore I wrote a suicide note. I called my friend, Alex, and told him what I was going to do. I also asked him to inform my parents “where the body could be found.” He begged me not go through with it. I told him I had reconsidered. I lied. I then purchased four boxes of Unisom from the local convenience store. The gruff man behind the counter didn’t seem to be fazed by this. Back in my studio apartment, I took all of the sleeping pills and laid down on my bed. After 30 minutes, I could feel effects of the pills. It was like being pulled down into a dark void. It was visceral. At that point, I panicked. I can’t do this! I’m not ready to die! No!! I fought the somnambulistic effects with every ounce of strength I had. Unbeknownst to me, Alex had called his mother out of concern for me. His mother called my parents.
Once again, I heard a loud banging on my door. I froze where I was. I could not get up out of bed. My mother and father were on the other side. I could hear my mother cry out to me, softly. Dad finally busted down the door. When he saw that I was alive and awake, he was relieved but VERY angry. They took me home. I stayed there for a few days, and returned to my apartment, broken and confused.
Two months later, I finally came home. I had lost some weight. I was in bad shape. I needed time to heal. I had no idea it would take me a year to recover and get my life back in order. Looking back, I had not been mentally and psychologically prepared to go out on my own that first time. But I will tell you, that this experience, like a crucible, had burned away that which no longer served me. I grew a backbone of steel — and I am thankful for that.
I made sure that when I left home the second time, it would be for good.