I’ve been gone for a while, more than a while. It’s been more than two months since my last post, and so much has happened that I felt compelled once again to share the innermost secrets and emotions occupying my heart and mind for the past few months. The months I’ve spent away from this blog felt like an eternity, each day blending into the next in a never-ending stream of constantly questioning the nature of my own reality. I spent days looking so deeply inside of myself that I completely lost track of where I’m looking, blurring the line between myself and the memories I am trying to unlock and the peace I seek. While I was away, my poked and prodded brain was forced to recall all my past traumas, pushed far beyond the edge of sanity, to the point where even words lost their meaning. I lost the ability to pick up a pencil and put it to page and express the enormous range of emotions that coursed throughout my body. I was literally reduced to drawing stick figures to try and express the immense intensity of of everything I was going through.
So where the fuck was I?
I just spent two months hospitalized in a mental institution; well 50-something days to be a little more precise. Now, I’m close to halfway through outpatient therapy, which takes up half of my day. One day, all of this living with mental health problems, living with the darkness, with the voices telling you to hurt yourself, to end your life, just got to be too much. There was one day in my life where I had to make a choice: go to the hospital and get help or take the very large risk that my life would end in a few days.
I chose to get help, and that decision is probably one of the biggest I’ve ever made. It’s changed my life, but I’m still trying to figure out what it’s been changed into. Being hospitalized has me gripped with so many questions about myself, but more about how I will have to probably explain for the rest of my life this turning point in my life; my scars bare testament that I have something to explain.
How do I even explain any of this? I feel like I’ve been given a new life, and that my old one is just another shell shed in life’s many transformations. In so little time, so much has happened to me that has changed everything. I’m afraid that I will never return to where I was, that my former self is an impossibility. There is only this thing which I must explain over and over and that is truly inexplicable. I must take every day at face-value and live without looking forward or backward. I have to live in the moment if I have any chance of surviving, and possibly making it to a point where I can pick up my head and look to the future.
How do I tell my friends that they haven’t heard from me because I cut myself off from them while I was in the four walls of that place? That talking with people on the outside was too painful, that seeing social media streams was so petty in comparison to trying to get to the root of my madness. How do I tell them what I saw? How do I tell them what happened to me? What I did? How I felt every single emotion to the infinite degree? Do I tell them about the time that I got so lost in a memory recall session that, afterwards, I had to be sedated and dragged off to my room in a near-catatonic state, the ward cleared and nurses scared by the new patient? Do I tell them about the near daily toll it takes on a man’s psyche to see the people around him go through the same? To sleep next to a man whose nightmares from war still haunt him years on, screaming in his sleep? That every day, I saw another person I grew to love break down; and I had to stand by as some professional took care of it, while us patients were left to pick up the pieces. That place created such deep bonds, shared connections over grief and pain and trauma, that I cannot help but think of those people now as knowing parts of me more than anyone else on this planet. How do I explain to my friends of decades that a person I’ve known for two months has seen more of my soul than they ever have? How do I explain any of this to the people I love?
Do I show them my arms, now the bearers of scars, monuments to moments where the urge to harm overwhelmed any kind of sense of self-preservation? Do I tell them about the calm you feel when that cut over your arm relieves you of the guilt you feel for past misdeeds? To focus on the immediate pain and not the demons screaming in my mind? That seeing the red blood flow down your arms feels like the warmest blanket on the coldest winter you could possibly imagine for a troubled mind solely focused on ending the pain in one’s head. Can you explain to someone who has never had the urge to hurt oneself the indescribable screaming in the back of your head just to do anything to make the pain focus somewhere else? How can I explain madness to the sane? It’s like trying to describe color to the blind, or music to the deaf, or the overwhelming feeling of wanting to die to those whose lives are entirely dominated with the indomitable will to live? At a certain point, words just seem to lose their effectiveness.
I’ve moved to outpatient care for now, but I’m just trying to get by every day. I wake up each morning and spend the rest of my day in a state of trying to link myself to reality, to reign in my mind’s attempts to escape this plane that I live in now. Everything familiar is alien, everything comforting is bizarre, everything that I thought was constant seems like its constantly on the precipice of crumbling. I have good days, or at least good parts of days, before it all starts to come back. I am not at the point I was two and a half months ago, but I am now at another point of being adrift on this long journey. I thought of an example of how my brain feels. Imagine you have a very large bowl of water, with another smaller bowl of water floating in the middle. Slowly, you start to spin the outer waters, and slowly the inner bowl spins as well, it’s waters matching the pace of the outer waters. You keep doing this, increasing the pace, until the water is almost tipping out of the outer bowl. Then, suddenly, you stop your hand and start spinning the outer water in the opposite direction. The water in the small bowl breaks and swirls in confusion. That’s my brain, a small bowl of water spinning in two directions, trying to make sense of everything happening around me.
Honestly, I sometimes feel so lost and aimless these days. I feel like whatever shred of self-image I had was torn from my skin by the process of psychiatric evaluation and reevaluation. Whatever compasses I had in my mind, pointing towards hope, towards G-d, towards what I thought was the path in front of me were smashed along with the idea of the man I’ve become over some thirty-odd years. I sit here writing this truly only living for today, expecting nothing from tomorrow, not knowing what the future holds. It is existentially terrifying to be rudderless in this sea, in this ocean of fixing the deep flaws in my mind.
There was my life before this, and now there is this. I never would have thought it would have taken me to thirty to have such a life-defining time, and one especially like this, but it is what it is. I am no longer Ari; I am Ari with this. Even after these scars fade, I will still be forever changed by time in the hospital. Even now, I am still struggling to stay afloat, although it’s gotten a little easier after spending my time away. I still have dark thoughts and dark nights, but I can smile now, I can laugh, I can even crack a beer and spend time with friends. I’m functioning, but I still hope to thrive one day. I can experience joy now; my wife has even said that these days have been better than they’ve been in a long time. I know that my time in the hospital, and my time in outpatient care, is working. I can enjoy life, even if there is still darkness in the corner in of the room. The voices are mostly silent these days, and I hardly notice the birds flying around me. If I do, I can get through it. I am still trying to figure out what it means to be me, and that is not always filled with rainbows and light, but it is better than being three days away from another statistic.
This is just a portion of what I must write on this part of my life. Fuck, I might write a short book about all of this, if only to give justice to every person I met along the way that got me to this point. The fellow patients, the staff, my family, all of them deserve to know more; but I can’t give it all right now.
Look out for more. I don’t know what format it will take, but it will come out. There is also a collection of images that I drew while that I was in there that I may release via here and Instagram @htxtoholyland, so keep an eye out. For now, much love from the holy land, and hello from the new me.