• David Sales

Hello Vulnerability

Today is my 53rd birthday. I wasn't planning on having it.

I don't mean I would not acknowledge it as some heroic stand against the inevitability of aging - I mean; I was would not be here. Not in this world, not on this planet, and not among the living. I thought it was a good idea at the time.

Well, that was just dumb. Perhaps I should have known better.

Like others who have travelled in the world of mental illness, alcoholism and other addictions, I am aware of more suicides by people I've met than I wish to mention. I've been witness to the deep sadness, grief, helplessness, and anger of those left behind. It's part of the territory and perhaps one numbs to it after a while.

I realize that some consider such a drastic move selfish and cowardly, which is fair enough. Leaving others to clean up the mess, deal with the hurt, and leaving them with lasting scars is a terrible thing to do. That is one side of it.

There is another side. I believe that sometimes it may just be a last act of a tired, battle weary and fatally wounded soul who has fought too long and has nothing left with which to fight. Such an act is rarely a sudden decision, but more likely a succumbing to a long and exhausting war for survival.

As I allow myself to reflect, I realize survival had become the sole daily accomplishment I could hope for. In fact, it became my response to every inquiry from those around me.

I'm surviving.

I'll survive.

I know how to survive.

I had, over time, drifted to a place where the meaning of survival was staying alive. While I was keeping my body alive (barely), me - my essence and soul was dying bit by bit, day by day, empty breath by empty breath. Finally, surviving was not living but in fact dying slowly.

The things I did in the months leading up to Christmas now seem very obvious in reflection. Organizing pictures, papers, getting rid of things that could be uncomfortable for others, giving away sentimental items to special people in my life.

I was going to be alone for an extended period at Christmas. There were significant dates such as birthdays like my late Mothers on the 22nd. Loneliness, sorrow, hopelessness, grief, worthlessness, voices in my head, self-hate - all the ingredients of a putrid and disgusting suicide soup bubbling away in a tired mind. Over 5 days I ate bowls of it... until I couldn't swallow another mouthful.

I choose not to wade through all the messy details. They lack importance today and besides; they are mine alone.

In short, because of the intervention and compassion of 2 friends, I was admitted to the hospital on December 23rd. For the next 6 days I underwent treatment for a myriad of things and detox. Different Doctors, a Psychiatrist, Social Workers visited me and despite the messiness of it all, I found my sense of humour pop up sometimes.

While they were trying to bring my blood pressure down to a safe level, I was asked if I had been taking my blood pressure medication to which almost with indignation I replied, "of course, I take it every day."

"So... you were trying to kill yourself but felt it important to take your blood pressure medication every day?"

Well, he had me there. One wouldn't want to accidentally die while trying to die.

I walked out of there on December 28th and today I am 53 years old, in this world, on this planet, and among the living - not just the surviving living either. I have the best counselor I could ever hope for, and she's in for the long haul. I trust her completely. We are working hard to clear some deep-rooted rot. She, along with my Family Doctor and Psychiatrist are working together. I am working hard too. While I am taking a lot of medications, they are working - my body feels good and my mind is coming around. I haven't used alcohol since the day the paramedics took me to the hospital.

I want to be here, but I know I can't be here that way. In order to live, I know I need to embrace vulnerability, not shun it. Show vulnerability, not hide it. See vulnerability for what it really is - an opportunity for connection. I'm not thinking so much about recovery as I am discovery.

While I am most definitely 53 (as my ever-disappearing man ass will attest), I accept that emotionally I am a troubled 15-year-old. Something I guess other people knew a long time ago. I told my youngest daughter of this realization to which her reply was "Ya Dad, we kind of knew that."

Which brings me to this.

I'm going to be writing full time. That's what I've always wanted to do. I guess a one positive about losing pretty much everything is that I have little to lose. I'll give this vulnerability thing a try.

I have a more than good start to my book 15 at 50, some of which will show up in this blog. I've waited long enough. I'll have some help from my counselor and I have the moral support from some friends and family.

I did this today, my Birthday, because I guess it's kind of like being born into a new world - a world I get to create. A life I want to live.

So from my 15-year-old self, here's to the vulnerability of discovery, love, sharing, and sobriety.

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