Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Thirty

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

After I was released from a night in a mental hospital in February, 2007, I was entered into a series of group therapy sessions. I had an insurance plan through my job, and this particular insurance plan didn’t offer individual counseling sessions for suicidal people in Oakland. This came as a shock to a roommate of mine who had been seeing an individual counselor in San Francisco for almost three years before they realized she had moved from SF to Oakland. She had to go to group therapy for the first time in her life, and almost suffered a complete breakdown, and only then was she given some sort of waiver to go back to her old therapist in SF.

The group I went to was called Intensive Outpatient Therapy, or IOP. Each session was begun by going around in a big circle, stating your name, how you were feeling that day, and what had put you in IOP. It was here that I was first introduced to the strange phrase “intrusive thoughts”. “Intrusive thoughts”, in psych-speak, are thoughts you cannot seem to shake, no matter how illogical or negative or unlike your true self they are. Almost everyone in the group had suffered from intrusive thoughts. I had never felt that way. But then again, there had been those nights where I lay in bed in tears, silently screaming SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP at myself. In the past, I had used, of all things, an Everclear lyric as a window of explanation; “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”. I now realized that some things were out of my control.

There was a fellow, he called himself Benny, he was a successful dude, he had a Bluetooth earpiece, and he had tried to kill himself. There was a dude whose name I can’t remember who had tried suicide because he hated his new boss, who was years younger than him and didn’t seem to respect him. There was another guy, I forget his name, he was seventeen and a fucking smart kid, and he wanted to die because he couldn’t handle the pressure that had been placed on himself by others and his own self. I felt for all of them, and I offered my most sincere testimonial, and I wished them well.

There was another guy whose name I don’t remember, his hands had been mangled in an accident in his youth. I remember we were waiting by the water fountain before the session started and he told me an intriguing story about a woman in a documentary he had seen who had never in her life left an eight-square bock section of Harlem. This made me think about the limits we placed upon ourselves.

By the end of one particular session, I was ripped apart. There was a fellow who I think was named Michael who moved fine art for a living, but who had become so depressed he had a hard time playing with his young daughters. He showed us some pictures of those daughters, and they were adorable. He was in tears. The really bright guy who had tried to fail out of high school and then, failing that, kill himself, started bawling. Decorum prevented a group hug, but fuck, something was built that day. Large and straight, straight up to the fucking nose of the last person who said you weren’t good enough.

The last person who got to talk about themselves in that session was the guy with the mangled hands. He talked about his fear of the future, and his remorse of the past, and I saw a hawk flying through a New England forest, searching for nothing, looking at everything. I offered that I had started keeping a diary, and suggested that he do the same. My rationale was that by archiving my time, I could occasionally read back and see that there HAD been a time I felt this low, or sometimes this high, and get a more level sense of, well, to put it crudely, same shit, different day, ha ha.

He shed a tear or two, then laughed, and said that his job had been trying to get him to use some new voice-recognition software for transcription. He looked me straight in the eye and said that maybe the urge to journal would get him to learn it. I felt a brisk wind, a lift…

The walls collapsed, and there we all were. The sky was bright and there were several intriguing clouds which lent themselves to endless interpretation. Our friends and families and loved ones were milling about, eating potato chips and playing checkers, or tag. We were the changelings, and we wanted nothing more than the moment at hand.

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