"This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom."
— Chuck Palahniuk
I am free tonight.
Hope walked out the figurative door at 6:47:15 p.m.
Nothing dramatic happened to make it so; this isn't the movies or some great American novel. There was no defining event. I simply felt it leak out of my body and marked the time, as any good journalist does when he or she recognizes a significant moment.
6:47:15 p.m., Thursday, June 7, 2012.
Around 6:20 p.m. an out-of-town friend texted me: "You deserve (and will have) way more than what you give yourself credit for ... I know something great will happen for you."
And I almost heard my heart as it cracked open and started spilling its contents into my chest. Because I know what I deserve. And it's not anything great.
I finally understand what has happened to me in this last month of life, why I deserved to have a stroke, why it was destined to happen. I believed in myself too much; I was an arrogant, egotistical prick who thought I deserved a great life with a great girl. I got what I thought my entitled ass deserved. Then I got what I really deserved. Cue Emeril.
I don't need a psychologist to tell me about depression; I've carried that diagnosis on my back since 1994. I've taken meds and seen counselors and heard the blah-blah-blah of what causes it and how best to treat it. I'm savvy enough to always say that I'm not a danger to myself or others; I know all about 96-hour holds in Missouri.
I'm depressed because I had a stroke and I was too proud for my own good, so I deserve to feel old and walk around like a useless piece of shit.
("I'm proud of the steps you've taken to improve after the stroke," someone texted me today. Ha. She said "steps." I can't even walk up or down a flight of steps the way I used to.)
I'm depressed because I'm now deeply in debt, with new hospital bills coming in the mail every day. I'll be lucky to pay my rent, much less feed the cat and keep him in litter. Groceries for me? Fuck. Even the peanut butter I'm eating is out of date.
(Yay! The MRI and CTA bills are here! Thank God for insurance; I only owe a few thousand dollars instead of several thousand dollars for those tests!)
I'm depressed because I finally realize what has been nakedly apparent to my friends: for all my progress, for every forward step — pun intended — I am a shell of what I was. I have been deceiving myself into believing otherwise.
Let me count the number of feel-good stories I've been told about people recovering from strokes: several, dozens, scores. "It's like he/she never had a stroke," is the common refrain. "You can do it. I know you can do it. I have faith in you."
Which is all good and peachy, until I realize that I don't have that faith. I don't believe I'm getting better. Physically? Sure, I can walk and talk and not drool. Mentally? I'm a goddamned wreck (but I'm not a danger to myself or others, just in case you're wondering). What good is a walking wreck?
Not two hours ago I wrote about drawing great strength and comfort from my ex-girlfriend, but that only proved the point of that post — I am a stupid boy. There is no reason to find comfort there. To quote Maynard James Keenan, the past is done. And dead. Set on fire and cast to sea, the pyre of what used to be is now a speck on my horizon. I miss its warmth but I deserve to be cold, very cold. I appreciate Venus for showing me that truth. I bow down before the one I serve.
I appreciate every single person who has tried to be my ally in that struggle — especially Leigh and the Amazons. They've been the first ones to kick my ass and call me out when I needed it. They haven't mollycoddled. They've been true friends.
I appreciate everyone who stayed away because they didn't know what to say after the stroke. Hell, I don't know if I would have approached someone in my situation; it's awkward and the temptation to say "you poor thing" is great.
But I'm not a poor thing. I'm an intelligent man who brought all of this on himself through a lifetime of hard work and harder living — through a series of actions that lifted me up while bringing others low — and I'm paying the price for it now. It's good that I didn't lose anything upstairs because this way I can appreciate this clusterfuck to the fullest. Had the CVA scrambled my brains I would have been blissfully ignorant. That wouldn't have been right. That would have been cheating.
I'm glad I don't have scrambled brains. I need to feel this. I need to be free. Unshackled from any modicum of hope, I finally am free. Weary and tired, very tired. But free.
This is what I deserve — a life without hope. It's not quite a plastic bag over my head. But it suffocates just the same.