Order of Sunday morning status updates across my various social networks:
8:26 a.m.: I am so sick of mental illness (double entendre intended).
8:28 a.m.: "The easiest way to get a reputation is go outside the fold, shout around for a few years as a violent atheist or a dangerous radical, and then crawl back to the shelter." F. Scott Fitzgerald
8:34 a.m.: Yeah, I'm done going "outside the fold and shouting as a dangerous radical." Holden just said, "Love Dada," and my heart melted. I have been tamed. Where's my 401K?
I received some distressing news in the mail on Saturday afternoon. Not going to go into it much, except to say it was legal in nature (in the broadest sense of the word) and related to my anxiety condition, triggering a massive panic attack. I get these attacks fairly regularly. Usually they are health-related (various cancers, etc.), sometimes they event-based, but they always suck. I can't overstate how bad they suck. Nor can I adequately explain, logically, something that is brought about by something so often illogical.
It's funny the amount of sympathy I receive(d) over the motorcycle accident. When I was laid up in Miami with the shattered pelvis, broken back, collapsed lung, etc., hooked up to the medicine machines and pump, everyone came to visit. They brought gourmet, homemade meals and they stayed long, asked if I needed anything, and they kept coming back. Their faces betrayed genuine ethos, pathos, and fuck, why not?--logos. Because most of these friends were in grad school with me. And I appreciated it; don't get me wrong. Nothing like seeing how much you mean to other people when you've almost died. But the truth is, I'd take a lifetime of chronic physical pain over the mental stuff. (Fortunately, for me, I don't have to choose. I get both.)
It's easy to see, regarding the sympathy factor I mean, why the physical trumps the emotional. You can see a broken leg; you can't see a screwy brain. I remember watching this comedian do a bit, and he was, like, "These days, everyone's bipolar, or they got ADD or OCD, or they got borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorder, whatever, but it used to be people were just assholes. You'd be like 'What's wrong with Bart?' And someone would say, 'Bart? Oh, he's just an asshole.'"
I get sick of it too, everyone's whining about some psychological ailment. You see someone's who's always depressed and whinging about not being happy, and it's like this Cracked article: http://www.cracked.com/article_19376_5-scientific-reasons-your-idea-happiness-wrong.html. Which I agree with, wholeheartedly. In theory. So I get even more disgusted with myself when I fall victim to the same faulty, touchy-feely mindset. I read what I've written above, and I think, What's wrong with that guy? Oh, him? He's just an asshole.
But I do panic. Can't help it. I have a severe anxiety disorder. I see doctors for it. Receive medication for it. It's the real deal. And when it is at bay, I look around and wonder what the fuck I was so worried about... Until the next one strikes.
So I got upsetting news in the mail, and it was very foggy outside, the new house in the SF fogstream, and I became convinced "they" were taking away my money, my house, my wife, my son, and I was going to either end up A.) in prison, or B.) back under the bridge. Which is where these attacks always go. Because I lived like a hobo in the '90s. Entirely my fault, mental issues or not. I was a jackass. I did very bad things. I got what I deserved. I know that. But we got out. Or rather, some of us did. Some of the others shot themselves, went mad, took sleeping pills and put plastic bags over their heads. Some went to jail. Some disappeared. But a surprisingly high number of us got out. Which always begs the question: why me? Why was I so lucky? When will God realize his oversight and ask for the payback? Anyway, that should address Status Update# 1.
Then about six minutes later I thought of the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, one of my favorites, and a life-path I followed to a T. All the trouble I caused, which precipitated this unique brand of survivor's guilt, it was just another cliche in a lifetime full of them. Even these posts I write now, I'm a goddamn phony. I went outside the fold, shook an angry young man's fist at an invisible enemy, and as soon as the danger became real I crawled back to the shelter, tired of being cold and hungry, taking solace in the loving arms of the same world I railed against and spat on.
Status No. 2.
Then my son said he loved me for the first time.
I know, I know, Ol' Mr. Stumpy. Put the sap back in the tree. If I was subjected to such schmaltz when I was a younger man, I'd have retched, too. But I am not a younger man. Not anymore. I'm just a mentally ill guy, who was in the midst of a wicked panic attack, when his son decided this was the time to give his daddy a kiss and tell him he loved him.
How much fucking better does it get than that? The answer is...None. None more...fucking...better.
I'd gotten up early with Holden. Or rather Justine did, because I was mired in the funk, having not slept, head not working properly. And when she passed him off to me, I wasn't feeling any better, my mind taking me to bad places with worse fates. It was early. I was down. Kids are pretty sharp, and I can't hide my emotions for shit (which is going to be a challenge raising a child, I know). But I'm typing away on my laptop, trying to salvage production at least (I work a job-job on the weekends), and he's hanging around, all snot-bubbly, because he woke up with the snot bubbles, and I'm just trying to type and he won't get off my feet. Holden's got this new habit where he likes to watch TV standing on my feet as I sit, pinching the hell out of them.
Then it happened. He looked back and up at me. I bent down, tried to smile, and said, "I love you, son." Then he leaned over and kissed me, and said "Love Dada," in the sweetest little kid voice you ever heard.
My mother talked about this for years, all that "nothing like the love you have for a child," and I'd be, like, Yeah, yeah, so can I borrow the $40 or not? But Mama got the last laugh. Like everything else, she was right about this too. Because nothing has ever come my way that made me feel like those two little words did yesterday. The little hand on mine, the twinkle in the eye. And hearing my son tell me he loves me. (Anything makes you feel better than that, and I promise you it is illegal.)
Of course, I tried to get him to do it again when his mother woke up. And he wouldn't. He proceeded to spend the rest of the day in "little terror" mode, throwing food off the highchair, pulling the dog's ears, refusing to nap, and every time I said, "I love you, son" and would lean in for a kiss, he'd push my face away. Or if he was holding a toy, he'd hit me with it, refusing to give me the satisfaction again. Which made sense. He is my boy after all.
And how many fathers have sat like I did on a Sunday morning? The rest of the world asleep, isolated from the cold outside, sitting with your infant son on your lap, and promising not to make the same mistakes your father did with you. Nothing but good intentions, pure and noble, implemented by the profoundly fucked up... Saying the same things I do now: I will get it right this time. And I promise you I will.
Now who feels like crying with a little Cat Stevens?