Immortality, A Little Fiction For Your Enjoyment

[I decided to take a break this week from writing my story directly. Here’s a little fiction I’ve been working on. It’s part of a larger work I’ve been putting together. Except for the poetry I mix into some of my posts, this will be the first fiction I’m sharing here. Enjoy, share if you like, and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading]

He lived his life in such a way that his only regrets would be the adventures he did not pursue, the things he did not try, and the words he never spoke. His life seemed exciting to him for the many ways and times he cheated death over the years. He knew most other men would not survive the life he’s lived. Not because he was boastful or proud in a condescending way, but more in wonderment. He couldn’t understand why he was still alive after all the near misses. But certainly, no regrets.

As he contemplated his life, he fell into his own mind, searching for answers. The maze of memories was hard to navigate. He did not recognize all of the memories that were flashing through his brain. He wondered if all the memories were his. He wondered if it were possible to have someone else’s memories. He wasn’t sure if he had even really lived the life he remembered. All the countries he visited, the people that he met, the good times, the bad times, the food, the colors, the smells, the animals, the mountains, the rivers, the cultures, the wars. Were they really his memories?

He dug deeper into his mind. He didn’t like what he was finding. He started to doubt his existence. He started to believe that he wasn’t the person his memories portrayed him as. It occurred to him that he might be just be a figment of someone else’s dreams or thoughts. This bothered him. He felt used. Why would someone else create him and this exciting life just for it to be a farce? There is no pleasure in life when you find out that you don’t exist. And he knew that.

He was perplexed. He pondered his options. He wanted to find a way to escape from whatever or whomever it was that forged the memories in his mind. He wanted to prove that he existed. He wanted to stop being a pawn. None of this was helping his sanity. He knew he was losing his mind, but couldn’t help but wonder if it was real or if it was under the control of someone else. And then it hit him. What if he was the one creating his own memories that weren’t real or familiar? And where were his real memories? All of this compounded his feeling of being either artificial or insane.

He came to the only rational conclusion that made sense to him. He would have to die. He figured if he didn’t really exist it wouldn’t hurt or matter. He figured if he wasn’t really who his memories say he is, it would simply be for the best. Either way, he was certain that being dead was the solution. He no longer wanted to feel artificial or insane. The only question he had was if he died, would this work? Certainly if he were insane it would work, but he wondered if he were just someone else’s made up existence with fake memories, would that work? He wondered if the person who made him up would even know that he died. There would be only one way to find out.

So he did it. He let himself die. He ended his life by his own hand. Afterward, he just lay there. Nothing seemed to change. He tried to figure out if he were dead or alive, real or imaginary. He felt no pain or emotion. But that’s how he felt before he died. He was confused. He wasn’t sure if he had done it right, or had even done it all. But now something new was happening. He could hear a voice. He could hear a second voice. He didn’t recognize them. He couldn’t see them and he couldn’t tell what they were talking about. He wondered if they were talking about him. He wondered if they could see him. He wondered if they knew who he was.

He tried to move. This made the voices he was hearing more excited. He knew they weren’t just voices in his head, they were real. He knew they could see him, but he still couldn’t understand what they were saying. And he still didn’t know who they were. And he couldn’t see them yet, he couldn’t see anything. He was starting to regain some consciousness, but still couldn’t open his eyes. Even so, everything was becoming more clear. Most of this had been a dream. He could now remember his memories. They were all his memories, it was indisputable now. He had tried to kill himself in his reality, in his real life. He remembered. Now he couldn’t figure out why it didn’t work. His memories were real; he had in fact cheated death a number of times throughout his life. And suicide didn’t work either. There could be only one explanation. He was immortal.

He imagined that Heaven and Hell got together, sitting across a table from each other and argued which one would have to take him when he died. He guessed this meeting happened every time he was close to death, dozens of times in all. Heaven and Hell could not come to an agreement, so he was forced to live on as immortal. This made the most sense to him. Some men might think that immortality would be good. However, in his case, he still aged, he had pains that wouldn’t go away, and he most certainly lost his sanity. None of these dreadful things should come with immortality. He could find no benefit for him to be immortal. He wondered what he would have to do to be able to die like a normal man.

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The Mirror

The Mirror

 

I see the man in my bathroom mirror

Staring back at me

He looks somewhat familiar

But in my memory I cannot see.

 

Was he someone I knew in passing

Or was he a close friend?

Did I do something to upset him

To make our friendship end?

 

He hasn’t said a word to me

Nor even tried to smile

Just glares at me with bloodshot eyes

Now, for quite a while.

 

I’m afraid to ask him who he is

Or why it is he’s here

But his silence is so very loud

That’s all that he’s made clear.

 

I see disappointment in his eyes

I wonder what he thinks.

Now his face becomes clear to me

My heart stops and sinks.

 

I see the man in my bathroom mirror

Staring back at me

I still don’t know who he is,

But I know that man is me.

***********************************

It’s a hell of a lot easier to go to war than it is to come home from it.  It takes a while to adjust.  I think my that lack of being able to adjust lead me to my attempted suicide.  I further believe that coming back from war wasn’t the problem with me, as far as trying to figure out who I was.  Once a Soldier, always a Soldier.  I just don’t know who I am now anymore.  I think it’s the aftermath of surviving suicide that makes me question my identity or what defines me now.

Sometimes I feel that I have no idea who I am.  I am unrecognizable to myself. I used to be motivated.  I used to desire to work.  I used to have a plan.  I used to feel invincible, that I could conquer the world.  Now, most days, it’s a challenge to conquer getting out of bed in the morning.  While I know I’m improving daily, I’m still searching for who I am.  I’m finding pleasure in writing again and that is helping.  Too bad it doesn’t pay the bills.

Those of us struggling with this will eventually recognize the person we used to be, even if we don’t know who we are now.  It can be disturbing for a number of reasons.  Either the person we used to be did horrible things and we can’t face that, or the person we used to be was a lot better person than we are now and we can’t accept whom we’ve become. One way or the other, we are changing daily.  Good or bad.  I made my downslope already in my changes.  It’s a tough climb back up, and I know I will never be who I was, but I will be me again, whomever that may be.

I write because it’s therapeutic for me.  I share it in case it helps someone else.  Thank you for reading my story, my message.  I welcome your feedback.  Feel free to share if you think it will help someone.

Good day, God bless.

Dave

The Irony of Life

It’s incredible to me how far-reaching my last blog post (Battlefield) made it.  The response was overwhelming.  Not just from people I know or talk to on a regular basis, but from people I haven’t talked to in twenty or more years and even from people I’ve never met.  From the comments on my Facebook of the link to my blog, to the private messages, texts, phone calls, emails, and even the comments I saw from others that shared the link to their page.  I made a few new friends that I otherwise would have never known.  Thank you.

 

I write for my own therapy.  But it is very nice to have the positive responses I received.  It is encouraging and motivates me to continue to tell my story.  I expected to have maybe a hundred views total when I published “Battlefield.”  I had over 400 visitors to my blog on the first day.  “Battlefield” is up to almost 800 views in a week. Incredible.  I never expected it to be shared as far and wide as it was.  But it’s an important story.  Suicide, specifically among veterans, is real.

 

Both my deployments, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, were as a chaplain assistant in the army reserves.  It’s not the hardest job, but it does come with certain stresses.  Obviously, like my job title suggests, I assist the chaplain. Appointments, travel arrangements, meetings, security (U.S. military chaplains are non-combatants and do not carry a weapon), and so many more tasks.  Although I do not do any counseling to individuals, I have always played the role of go between for a Soldier and the chaplain.  Many, for whatever reason, do not want to talk to the chaplain about their problems. There is a stigma to it.  I can’t even think of the number of Soldiers I’ve talked with over the years because they felt more comfortable with the assistant as opposed to the chaplain.  Hundreds.

 

In addition to my regular duties, I have taken it upon myself the last five or six years in all the units I’ve been in to take the lead role on suicide prevention and awareness.  I have had specialized training in the subject of suicide prevention. I have conducted and facilitated more training sessions than anyone else that I personally know.  I have intervened with Soldiers with real suicidal ideations, some that had a plan in place, at least one in particular that was on his way to carry it out.  I know the warning signs.  I know the risk factors.  I know how to help someone get through it or to get the help they need.  And I’m very comfortable doing it.  It is something I have always taken seriously.

 

With that said, the irony is not lost on me that I attempted suicide.  How could I get to that point knowing what I know?  Why in the world would I not use my own teachings?  For a short time after my suicide attempt I felt like a hypocrite.  I tell you what you should to do help yourself or others, but I don’t follow my own advice.  Then it hit me. A dentist doesn’t fill his own cavities.  A heart surgeon does not cut open his own chest.  I was not capable of fixing or helping myself.  And I was too stubborn to let any one else help me.  In addition to that, I was not doing anything for self-care. My self-care for now is writing and sharing it with you.

 

While in the hospital after my attempt I was diagnosed with PTSD and major depression.  These are both things that I knew about in myself but tried to cover it up and deal with.  For a while I fooled everybody.  But as time went on it became more evident that something was wrong with me.  But I felt that if I knew I was “crazy” then I must be sane enough to realize that, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?  However, if I break my leg, and I know it’s broke, that doesn’t mean it’s going to heal itself.  I would still need treatment, I would need a doctor.  Mental illness needs to be looked at the same way physical problems are looked at.  It’s the same concept.  If something is wrong, fix it.  But for some reason with mental illness, it’s always viewed differently.  It’s a catch-22.

 

One of my favorite books that I’ve read is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  The title of the book is actually where the phrase originates. Here’s an excerpt from that book:

 

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern

                for one’s own safety in the face of danger that were real and immediate was

                the process of a rational mind.  Orr was crazy and he could be grounded.  All he

                had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would

                have to fly more missions.  Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if

                he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them.  If he flew them he was crazy

                and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.  Yossarian

                was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22…”

 

The American Heritage Dictionary defines Catch-22 as “a situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.”  So, in my mind, as I dealt with what was happening to me, I thought that since I knew it was going on, I must really be ok.  If I were to go to counseling and tell the therapist that this is what’s wrong with me and I know it, and they agree, that I must be fine.  That actually happened to me shortly after returning from Afghanistan.  I was so in tune with my flawed mental state and what needed to be fixed, that the therapist said he thought I was good to go, as long as I worked on those things.  I didn’t need to see him anymore after only three visits.  The problem was I stopped working on those things. I fell into a hopeless mindset.  I spiraled out of control in my emotions, thoughts, and actions.  All the while, thinking to myself, that I’m ok simply because I know what’s wrong.  If I know I’m crazy, I must be sane.  That train of thought almost cost me my life.

 

The irony of life, or at least mine, is that I had all the tools to help someone else.  I just couldn’t use them on myself.  To further turn my life into irony, I spent the first few months after my suicide attempt mad as hell that it didn’t work, yet still making plans for the future.  The thoughts of not wanting to live still hit me once in a while, but there is no plan to take such actions.  I promised a number of people that I would let them know if I needed that kind of help again.  I intend on keeping that promise.  I know I have a long road to go and I know that I will never be the person I was before. I’m not a big fan of the person I am now, but I’m getting better.  Slowly but surely.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  Please feel free to share it and get this message out.  An average of 22 veterans a day take their own lives.  Maybe this story will help even one person change their mind about committing suicide or the stigma of getting help.  Or it might help one person understand what some of us go through when we battle our demons and nightmares.  I’ll keep writing for my own therapy and also in the hopes that it makes a difference to someone.

 

Good day and God bless.

 

Dave

Battlefield

On August 2, 2015, late in the evening just before midnight I almost died. In all the things I’ve done in my life and lived through, it was me that almost took my life. I attempted suicide. I failed. Not the first thing in my life I failed at and it certainly won’t be the last. It’s been six months. Part of me thinks I should already be further along to finding normal again. Part of me has accepted that I must find and accept a new normal. It is a daily struggle. It wasn’t until five months after my attempt that I was actually glad that it failed. But I do still struggle with my thoughts from time to time.

I had a good plan, but obviously it was flawed. I spent 3 days composing my suicide letter. I re-read it a couple months ago for the first time since I wrote it. It was dark. It was apparent that I was not even close to being in my right mind. I look back at the person that wrote it and I’m not even sure who I was at that time. I’ve tried to piece together all the details that took me to that point and it’s not as easy it should be.

I saw the police report. It was sobering to see how close I came to being dead. In the officers statement he said that he found me unresponsive, but breathing. He went on to say that as he approached me, he couldn’t see my face due to the condensation on the clear trash bag that I put over my head and tied around my neck. I don’t know how long I was out but when I woke up I hurt. My chest hurt, I was breathing hard, I couldn’t sit up and ended up falling on the floor. I was scared, confused, and didn’t know where I was at for a moment. Then it all came flooding back. I was supposed to die, but didn’t .

After getting me up and moving, and regaining my faculties, I got checked out by EMS. I was told that they’d be taking me to the hospital by cop car. I resisted briefly and made it clear that I wasn’t going anywhere with them. I saw the officer that was behind the one that had been talking to me take a more offensive stance. I guess when you tell the cops you aren’t going with them, they are up to the challenge. It didn’t come to that. They told me that my oldest daughter was on the scene and that I had a choice of going out to see her first, or to be dragged off in cuffs in front of her. Her being there saved me from further trouble and embarrassment. She still had to watch me get cuffed and put in the back of a police car, but it certainly could have been worse. The story of being in the hospital will be for another time.

A couple weeks after my attempt I wrote a poem called Battlefield. I’ve mostly kept it to myself.   The very few handful of people I’ve showed it to have encouraged me to share it, to publish it. I think I’m ready to do that now. Since I know some of you won’t get the “22” reference I will explain. Approximately 22 veterans a day commit suicide. There are a number of organizations that use “22” in their efforts to bring awareness to how many veterans take their own lives on a daily basis. I was almost one of the 22 on that day but I guess I waited too late into the night and the quota had already been met.

Here’s the poem.

Battlefield

By David George

On the battlefield he did not die

Fearlessly served by comrades’ side

Bullets and bombs whizzed on by,

But not everyone there came home alive.

 

His body intact, his mind gone mad

To see him now, doesn’t look so bad

But the wounds he carries are just as sad,

As the ones brought back in a body bag.

 

Try as you may, you don’t see his pain

But he can’t avoid it, it’s in his brain

His memory becomes one big stain,

Of war and darkness again and again.

 

The enemy failed in bringing him down

But he’s losing the battle of himself right now

Hard to reach out, he doesn’t know how,

But without some help, to his demons he’ll bow.

 

Fate is cruel and already knew

He’d be the next member of Club Twenty-two

He took his own life, sad but true,

Another one gone, what do you do?

 

Going to war was the easy part

Do your job and do it smart

Had all the training from the start,

His death this way should break your heart.


When you look at the number of Service Members that we’ve sent to war and brought home it’s sad that so many lose the battle of themselves after returning. I think I can speak for all of us who have been to the dark and hopeless desire to die that we would have much rather died on the battlefield than to go out by our own hand.

If you or someone you know needs help, help them. Get them help. Don’t let them slip through the cracks. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t even have to fix the problems, you can’t anyway. Just be there and help them get help. I had people helping me, but I cut them off and stopped letting them help. Don’t let that happen. Don’t get offended or take it personal. And don’t be afraid to ask if someone is thinking about suicide. Be direct. You get a more honest answer and a better opportunity to help.

I’ve still got a long road to go. I’m not in the dark place I was before, but I don’t exactly know where I’m at anymore. But I am ok. I promise.

Take care, God bless.

Dave