On the Loving End of Crazy: Our Story Told to Equip You to Live Yours
Faith Tibbetts McDonald
Here’s an excerpt:
Our family lived a nightmare packed with bizarre twists, thwarted hopes and stark fear. For years, I lived as a casualty in this maze of disaster. Each day, my main task: dread the next crisis. Life’s richness faded and other facets of living took place on the outskirts of that main task. I remember every pain.
A doctor said Matt might forget—at least, he might forget the worst parts. When people who have lived through similar trauma try to recall their state of mind, they draw blanks. The forgetting is a gift. But my son remembers vivid details leading up to the day his brain betrayed him. He recalls the evening when, with his dad Steve and his brother Phillip, he ate and enjoyed pizza covered in sausage, peppers and cheese. A few hours later, Matt squatted alone in the dark on a ledge in the heavy presence of a towering mountain that edges Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He struggled, without success, to silence the voices that urged him to jump.
But he lived and we lived, I believe, to tell.
Remembering squeezes me inside and I feel tears collect in my eyes. The tears wait for my consent to streak my face with grief. I let them slip, for I have learned that tears are relief. For years I was so numb I couldn’t cry. I braced to trudge through each day and tried to ignore my pain. I tried not to compare the nonsense of our family’s circumstances with the ordered lives of our friends and neighbors. I muddled through trying to make sense of the nonsense.
And now, looking back, I compare the present to my memory of the past and find reasons for gratitude. We survived. I remember and I find a reason to tell our story. For I have learned so much. I think that valuable lessons I learned and the tools I acquired might equip you to find your way through similar darkness with more agility, maybe, more quickly and with less pain. For there is a way through. People with mental illness can get better. That’s the happy end to my story and I want it to be the happy end to your story.
But first let me tell you about the pain-filled middle of our story–when nothing made sense.
Matt recorded his memories of pizza and squatting alone on that mountainside in a journal. He let me read it a few months after our March vacation in Colorado which included him lunging from a moving car as it wound through the Vail Pass. He opened the backseat passenger door, plunged, rolled, righted himself and ran off the road, trudging into deep snow that slowed him. Steve was driving and he pulled the car to the road’s shoulder as quick as he could and jumped out to chase Matt. As Phillip watched, bewildered, Steve caught up with Matt, pushed him down into the snow and, so he’d agree to return to the warmth of the car, wrestled his coat and shirt off. Matt resisted vehemently.
Just off the shoulder of a heavily traveled highway, two members of my family rolled and pulled and yelled. One man pinned another down and stripped him of his clothes on a frigid, windy day. Cars whizzed by. No one slowed or stopped to help.
Months passed before Matt explained. He fled, he said, because he thought Steve and Phillip were plotting to harm him. He felt compelled to find a place to hole up surrounded by trees and buried in snow in the Colorado wilderness. He wanted to die there. As the thoughts of fear and flight ticked through his mind, he knew they were nonsense, yet he lacked the power to stop them.
An excerpt from his story:
That winter my family took a ski trip out to the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The skiing was really good, but my depression and anxiety set in. On the way up the ski lift I had thoughts of suicide. These thoughts were not new. At home, I had thought many times, “I should shoot myself.”
While skiing, I didn’t want to think of suicide. I had planned to ski and have fun. But I thought things like, “I should jump off the lift. Or when I get to the top, I should ski off the back of the mountain.”
However, I didn’t do it and when I didn’t, I thought, “I’m a failure because I can’t. Am I too scared?”
We skied two more days and then I stayed at the condo the fourth day because I was feeling bad and depressed and I couldn’t enjoy myself. On our last night in Glenwood Springs my anxious thoughts finally got to me and I cracked. I got up out of bed, put my clothes on, took my suitcase which was already packed, and left the house with intentions of killing myself. I walked the streets of the small town, rolling my suitcase behind me. I came to a dumpster. I thought, “Well, I won’t be needing this.” And I put my suitcase in it.
After reading, I ask, “Why didn’t you tell us? Then?”
On vacation, we’d noticed his sullen silence. He kept going off to ski by himself; we didn’t know why and when we invited him to stick with us, he got prickly.
Months later, he when he was able to explain, he said, “Nobody wants to ruin a vacation by saying, ‘I’m thinking of killing myself.”
And I think: so you try to complete the act instead? Like that wouldn’t ruin a vacation?
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