Some four nights ago, I was walking home beneath the black of night. I was sober, and aware and thus, deep within thought. I traipsed along the cracked but paved sidewalk, ever nearing my destination – a shanty I call ‘home’.
As I began to ascend the stairs of the fire-escape, I was taken aback by an unfamiliar sight resting on my landing. It was the figure of a man. A disheveled and unkempt man. Emitting a rather unpleasant odor. He was resting there as though this was his bed. It was I Suppose, for the night, anyway…
I was about to speak, find out what was going on, but his senses must have already alerted him to my presence. He jerked quickly as if having been startled. I raised my hands in a non-threatening way to somehow inform him without words that I was not there to do him any harm, and I think he knew that just as quickly.
I informed him that I live here, pointing towards the paint-chipped door, and that I needed to get past him in order to get into my place. He apologetically shifted himself over so as to allow me a pathway. As I walked passed him I heard the quiet words of “sorry” sheepishly fall from his lips. I acknowledged at the same time I was opening my door. I entered into my apartment and after closing my door, allowed myself to rest my back against the door that I had closed behind me. See, this was just the icing on the cake for me this night, this week…
Earlier in the evening, I had attended a film screening event that was entitled “The Other Side of The Hero”, It is a documentary shedding light onto the horrors and after effects that first responders go to on a daily basis, and throughout their careers. Having been a first responder, and a veteran who has had the honor and heartbreak of burying his brothers, this film spoke to me. It was masterfully done, and really pulled at some things inside of me. I felt myself tearing up at numerous different times throughout the duration of the film (This is not like me – I suppose it is now, but, it hasn’t always been).
And prior to that, I had found out earlier in the day, that I was denied another apartment that I had applied for. No reason was given though I suspect being on disability may not have helped my cause. Though, this is just a working theory. This is the third apartment I have been denied while in my search for a place to call home.
Oh, I should mention, my apartment, the current one, well, they have begun another construction project downstairs so, I am now woken to the tremendous sound of a hammer’s thud, as it nails whatever into whichever. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that sudden noises (especially ‘thuds’) are a bit of a nuisance for me. That sudden ‘thud’ instantly transports me back to being a paramedic. Being in the basement with the dead fourteen-year-old boy, and hearing his bereaved mother, pound and strike her fists to the floor above my head. “Thud. Thud. Thud!” … Needless to say, this is a less than stellar way to be woken up, especially for consecutive days.
I can think of much better ways to be woken up other than being thrust immediately into a flashback of torment…
So, let’s recap: The Apartment(s) that I cannot get, thus remaining stuck in my shack of crumbling walls and paper-thin floors and a hammer of remembrance for an alarm clock. A movie that held some rather aggressive “trigger” points for me. And, the hobo sleeping right where I live. A perfect cocktail for a depression martini. Straight up. No olive. Tastes like shit. Not to mention the ongoing legal battle between me and my vengful ex. We’ll just call that: Icing. Yeah?
This is a far call from where I once was and who I used to be.
I used to own a home. It had curtains and framed photos with two lovers smiling to eternity. Hand picked appliances chosen by me and the woman I thought I loved. I had a dog, cats, cars, the whole charade. And a charade it was.
I used to dawn a uniform, free from wrinkles or loose threads in order to go to work. I would polish my boots almost nightly. I never had to ask if my job meant something. As a paramedic, at the end of a day, you rarely had to ask yourself if you’d made a difference. What I had, was – pride. Honour. A sense of duty, and a drive to fulfill it. Now, well, now there’s a hobo sleeping outside my door as if to be a drunk roommate. No more pictures of lovers on my walls. The complete absence of animals, and no fancy vehicles in sight. Just crooked floor boards and poorly fastened cabinet doors, and ghosts that walk behind, no matter where I go. A far cry from who I once was indeed…
My initial thought was to tell him to seek refuge somewhere else, I didn’t want a hobo sleeping at my door, but, as quickly as that knee jerk reaction came to me, it vanished. It was replaced by a fictitious tale that I was telling myself about this man outside on my fire-escape landing. I asked to myself “what if he is a vet? What if he used to be a medic and this is where life has taken him?”. It was in that fable that a renewed sense of empathy emerged. I opened my door, and then the door to the outside and looked at this sad and weathered man at my feet. I asked him if he was warm enough, knowing the answer could not possibly be yes. He responded through a broken series of shameful stutters “yes”. Choosing not to believe him, I went back inside and began going through my closet for things I no longer wear, or have not worn in some time. I placed what I could into a garbage bag, and started to head outside. Just as I was about to open the door, I saw my winter coat hanging pathetically on the back of my door. I told myself that I can always buy a new one, and that I have time to do so, so, I grabbed it and made my way outside once more.
I handed the man the bag, and explained this was all I could at this moment. He seemed grateful in a humbled way, or a drunk way, doesn’t matter. I didn’t need the stuff. He did. Sober, or otherwise.
I went back inside and sat down onto my couch. The cushions enveloped me into a cocoon of further depression and I fell victim to its familiar embrace.
I began pondering back and forth on the life that I used to have, and the one I currently live. The differences between the two are stark and numbing. I was beaten with remembrance as if tied to a chair. My mind was bleeding. It was taking a pounding. So was my patience.
Speaking of pounding, the following morning came early. “Thud. Thud. Thud!!” … I awoke to the sound of hammers striking walls. After convincing myself that it wasn’t a grieving mother pounding a floor above me, I persuaded myself to get out of bed, and go have a shower. I say persuade because I literally had to talk myself into it. Anyone who has depression knows what I mean by this.
After my shower, I watched the minutes turn into hours as time passed on the clock. Neglecting to eat, I suddenly realized that I was supposed to go to therapy. One would think that therapy on a day like this, or the days I had been having would be a good thing (and I’m sure it would have been but, I canceled at the last-minute). Not spawned from any discontent towards my therapist, not at all. More so, it was the fact that I felt too angry to even converse. To irritated to even articulate. AND, AND! I was coming down with a fucking man-cold!!! Jesus H. Christ!!
In a fit of quiet and internalized rage, I packed a bag. I then released that quiet anger towards the floor to the people downstairs. Screaming down to the hammer wielding menace downstairs. Punched the floor to really get my point across (I don’t think it did). Called a hotel in Niagara, and took off. I ran away. I am fully aware that one cannot outrun these issues – these, demons, but, God dammit it wanted to! And I tried.
I checked into a hotel and shut the blinds. No more outside world. I had a jacuzzi in my room so, that’s the first place I went. I went and melted into the warm bubbles of expensive comfort for the afternoon. At least there was no hammering. Worth the price.
The man-cold would reach its full potential on day two. I basically stayed in bed all day. I did however manage to catch some uninterrupted sleep for the first time in a very long time. So long in fact that honestly, I cannot recall a time prior to this. That was of course until last night/this morning… A nightmare. A God damned nightmare. A beautiful culmination to a ‘fuck-off’ week.
The most pernicious aspect of this nightmare, was not so much the nightmare itself (although utterly awful in its own right) but rather that it occurred in a foreign place – a hotel room. When I was shaken to semi-consciousness, I was confronted by a darkened room with nothing around me bearing any familiarity. This added to my already heightened state of terror. I swam through a sea of blankets until I found my way to the floor. From there, things did not improve. Not right away anyway. The floor felt nothing like the flooring back within my apartment, I could barely catch my breath at this point. More fear. Eventually my panicking eyes caught sight of the light sneaking its way in from underneath the door. I scrambled over to it, and began climbing up the door frame with my clammy hands. After fumbling with the locking mechanism on the door, I pulled it open and found myself looking into an empty hallway. The only sounds were the buzzing of the vending machine about halfway down the hall, and my panting breaths of fear and confusion. I knew where I was now though. I was starting to come back.
I allowed for the door to close under its own power and returned to the inside of my room. I crumpled to the floor and sat atop my knees in an almost pitiful display of defeat. I felt like a child. Alone and frightened. In that moment, all I wanted was for someone to come up to me, wrap their arms around me and speak softly, telling me that its alright. That everything was going to be OK. That never happened. I was alone. Horribly alone. Only the ghosts of my dreams chose to linger and sit with me. I could have done without that.
So, there we have it – I am 34 years of age, unable to rent an apartment. Unable to hold down a job due to symptoms. Unable to sleep and as we’ve just read, unable to outrun the ghosts that keep me from rest. Quite the resume. Written in depressions ink.
I’ll tell ya, depression and PTSD feel a lot like gravity. But not the kind we are used to. A heavier and more sinister kind. A punishing kind. A type of force that just sits on your shoulders and forces you to look down. Forcing you to stagger and fall. Depression feels like weighted foot steps. Like you’re not alive, you’re just, awake. Always awake. Tirelessly aware of just how different you are from the rest of the world.
Hopelessness is the cocktail that depression makes. And it is one that I have consumed for a long time. A truly revolting flavor of remembrance. A taste that lasts.
Room 2050 on the 20th floor of the Hilton was probably the loneliest room in Niagara that night. All it had for company, was me. All I had, were aching muscles. A tired brain. Heavy eyes and dry mouth. No comfort in sight. The closest thing I had to hug onto was a pillow. And did. I hugged it and tried to breathe slow concentrated breaths. A pitiful sight it must have been. A grown man resembling that of a wounded child. Pathetic.
Eventually I found my back to sleep. The sun had already risen though, and unbeknownst to me, my alarm was about to go off. It’s been a long day. A long fucking week.
I’m going to try to sleep now. Let’s hope for a better tomorrow.