Passage Through Darkness

“… 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.

January 1984

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.

4 comments

  1. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for you to relive this time in your life and the courage it took to open yourself up to the world and publish it. Thank you for sharing it Chip. Just SO happy you came back into the light! May 2018 be filled with joy, love and happy new adventures for you. hugs, Nancy

    >

    1. Thank you Nancy! It was difficult, and I’ve waited a few years to write this. I guess I was finally ready. May 2018 bring you everything you wish!

  2. You became a wise adviser and my greatest cheerleader when I was on my own. You were very convincing and could have made anyone believe in themselves!

    1. Thank you Carrie! I guess there’s always a silver lining to every cloud; we just need to look for it. I was, and will always be, your greatest cheerleader.

Leave a Reply