Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Back in February, before the event I have come to refer to as my March Meltdown, I was driving back to my normal workplace from a training seminar when I was pulled over by a very observant young police officer. He gave me a ticket for an expired inspection sticker on my truck and advised me that if I got my truck inspected right away, he would drop the charges.
I thanked him for his service, accepted the ticket, and continued on my way to work, slipping the ticket in the little sunglass cubby built into the overhead console of my truck. Once I arrived, I took a moment to look up the phone number of a repair shop mere minutes from my home and arranged to have my vehicle inspected the following morning.
So far so good, yes?
Remember that March Meltdown I mentioned earlier, because it comes into play.
When I picked my truck up from the shop, I was advised by the helpful receptionist that the treads on my rear tires were worn to the point that it barely passed inspection. I asked for an estimate to have the tires changed, preparing myself to hear a price far higher than I ultimately did. I had enough in the bank to cover the repairs at that moment, but instead I decided to hold off a bit, speak with my wife about how to fit it best within our monthly budget, and deal first with the ticket I had received for the expired inspection sticker. The reception did say that it passed inspection, after all. The tires were bare, and she warned me that if not changed soon I might lose traction and slip if I was not careful, but even with my wife telling me we should just make the repairs then and there, I was hesitant. It could wait. Before winter, I told her. I'd get the tires changed before the first snow.
Then March came, and halfway through the month, my 43rd birthday. I went to sleep the night before completely oblivious of what day was coming, but as my eyes met themselves in the mirror they remembered. More years behind me than I had ahead, I told myself under my breath as my wife yet slept in our bed, our dog curled up at its foot. I looked in that mirror that morning and hated what looked back. All the color drained from my face, and indeed, from my world. From the moment I looked away from the mirror and went about getting ready to start my work day, reality itself was awash in a haze of gray. Depression. Suicidal. I kissed my still-sleeping wife and pet my dog, looked in on my elderly mother asleep in her bedroom across the house, and I whispered my goodbyes.
I remember very little of the remainder of that day save for the fact that I meant to end my life that night. I had no plan, but I wrote a note as I sat at my desk next to my work partner, a man who had become one of my best friends, a man who had asked me to serve as best man at his wedding. He had conversations with me that I do not recall, laughed at jokes I do not remember telling, and though he thought I looked like I might be coming down with something (God forbid, Coronavirus), he had no inkling that I was convinced he would be the last face I would see.
I received a phone call from my brother, then; it is an often rare thing to get an unsolicited call from him. The sound of his voice changed everything. I realized, as I sat in our cramped locker room, how close to the edge I had come. He recognized how I sounded, that my words mismatched my tone as I tried to hold some form of normal conversation with him. My facade was crumbling. I couldn't pretend to be okay anymore, not for one more moment. He knew that I was depressed, and he made me promise him something: that I talk with my wife about it when I got home that night.
What followed were the darkest days and nights of my life. I revealed my depression and my suicidal ideations to my wife, as I promised my brother that I would, and together the two of us went to our family doctor to discuss matters with him. At this time, COVID 19 had become such a barrier to visiting the hospital for anything else that I was terrified of what would become of me if I was admitted.
Besides which, the moment I admitted that I was suicidal, I wasn't anymore. Not really. I didn't want to live... and I sometimes very much wanted to die... but from then onward I no longer wanted to kill myself.
My perspective changed with a voice on the phone precisely when I needed to hear it, with a promise kept to speak with my wife, and a fear overcome to seek the help of my doctor in spite of what hospitalization during the age of COVID 19 would entail. What had on my birthday been a cold, cruel, gray world devoid of hope took on a faint shade of color: the warmth of my family, the embrace of my wife, the understanding of my doctor, and the first trepid steps on a long, terrible, beautiful path called recovery.
This morning, I woke before the alarm just as I had on my birthday eight months ago. I looked in the mirror and held no hate for the man who looked back. He is a flawed fellow, often challenged to recognize that the world is not always as he sees it in the moment. I had extra time before leaving for work, and instead of wafting about my home like a ghost in training, like I did on my birthday eight months ago, I sat down at my desk and began to write.
It is something of a passion of mine, writing. I have wanted to do it for so long, but for so long what I wanted came a distant second to everything and everybody else. From my point of view, for as long back as I can remember, everyone deserved better than they got from me, and I didn't deserve anything at all. As I sat there at my desk, tapping away at my keyboard, I realized that it was one of the very few activities I ever did that pleased me and instilled me with pride. It is something I have been considering for quite some time, starting a blog like this. I never knew how to begin, what to write, or when would be the right time.
Then I was given a reminder in the form of a jarring event that forced my eyes open anew.
Remember those tires I meant to change before the first snow?
While on my way to work this morning, the good feelings that had blossomed as I was writing gave way to a mounting anxiety regarding the day ahead of me. There has been a growing discord at my job, a mounting distaste for some of the decisions being made that effect the way my work group functions. I was rehearsing an argument in my head, and indeed verbally to the otherwise vacant venue of my truck, as I drove over a slight hill with a left-hand curve.
My rear tires slid over to the shoulder. It was a terrible oversteer, I knew, and as I tried to correct the spin, the front tires slid as well, losing all traction as I went into a sudden and violent tailspin. I clamped my hand on the wheel, unable to do anything but stay on the brake, pray that nobody would be approaching in the opposite lane, and yell out with all my heart "I don't want to die!"
My spin came to an end with my passenger-side rear tire just inches from a deep culvert. I was off the oncoming-lane's shoulder and part-way in someone's yard, facing back the way I had come. There were no other vehicles. I thanked God I didn't hit someone. I swept quite close to a mailbox. I thanked God that nobody was there getting their mail or sending a letter at the time. When I got out to examine my truck, I realized that I was not wearing my seatbelt. If my wheel had gone into that culvert, my truck would have flipped, and I could easily have died. I thanked God that didn't happen. I thanked God I am alive, and as I leaned against my truck, shaking from the adrenaline rush, I suddenly realized, for the first time this morning, how glorious a day it was.
The skies were vivid and blue, speckled with puffy clouds across the horizon. Birds darted from limb to twig, chittering noisily and basking in the morning sun. It was unseasonable in all the best ways, and for some reason, as I drove to work with my anxiety building about what my work day might entail, I could have sworn it was overcast. I could have sworn it was a gray day.
Now, as I write this, I thank God once again, because he turned me around in every good way. I recall the warnings of the receptionist at the repair shop. My tires were bare, and if I did not change them, and soon, I would one day slip.
Rather poetic, I think, that as my truck gets four brand-new tires installed, I begin this blog. My tires were bare, and I slipped, both today and back on my birthday. My eyes are open, now, thank God. I am escaping the gray. I hope, with this blog, I might be able to help someone else escape theirs.