Kevin Hall finds the source of his greatest strength.
The kids have just headed off to school. I collapse, alone, on the couch. I stare out the window at a tree. In my mind’s eye, I see myself driving off a cliff. Then jumping off a bridge. Then driving off a different, higher cliff.
I know you’ve been sad lately but you’d never do that…would you?
I don’t know anymore.
I drive on hill-less roads to my appointment. I put on a super-brave “everything is really great” face for my therapist. She knows it’s not. I tell her I’m struggling with my oldest son, he’s very cruel to our middle child. I say I’m not interested in my work anymore, which is disorienting. I tell her my wife has made it clear I’m not pulling my weight around the house and that needs to change.
I tell her about my visions of self-harm. I tell myself to be stronger.
I hear from my Twitter friends that I’m sick, not weak.
Her voice is far away. She asks if I need respite.
I have to pick the kids up at school. They have soccer practice, and, and, and….
My wife arrives home from her meeting. My eyes say it all. Shame. Failure. Shame. Failure. Shame. Disgust.
“We need you. The kids need a Daddy. Sure, it will be hard here. I can juggle a few shifts, see if Jan can help again,” she says.
You can’t leave the family again just because of a few strange thoughts. They’re really only fleeting. You control them. Get your shit together. You’re stronger than this. Look at all you’ve done. That wasn’t a fluke, that was you kicking ass. Just put your kicking ass hat back on. It’s just not that hard.
Visions of driving off a cliff again. This time, it’s superimposed on my wife’s face. This time, I see the car tumbling. I see me in the car. I have a look of relief on my face. Almost of grace.
I fight back the tears I don’t want to cry in front of her. I’m a man. I can do this. I can soldier on. Check the schedule. Wednesday tutoring, grocery shopping, invoice for those gigs. I am strong. I can do this, I’ll just breathe when the thoughts come. I’m so strong.
Strong would be asking for help. Strong would be accepting that you might not be able to talk yourself back from the cliff this time. Strong would be accepting your family’s love and understanding. Trusting the doctors. Trusting the fifteen years of your marriage. Trusting that the kids would rather visit you in the hospital than visit your grave.
I let go. I cry the tears which need to come for me to survive. I agree to go back to the hospital. I’m devastated and embarrassed, and frightened and small. I’m ashamed to be so weak.
I’m still here. I’m able to write these words: those tears were the bravest thing I have ever done.
Photo by Carlo Villarica