Facebook migration


Hi all,

Although I am not giving up on the WordPress blog format (although I have been less than vigilant lately about posting!), I have moved my “central” page to Facebook under the name Midnite Runners. I would sincerely appreciate it if you would take a moment to follow the link, review the site, add any comments, questions or reply to existing threads, and please please “like” the page. Many admin and advertising functions are limited until I can prove that I have a loyal base of followers (that’s you!).

If you haven’t been following me over the years, what started as a blog about my harrowing, sometimes humorous, often horrifying experiences with being diagnosed and labeled and living as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a much misunderstood illness, a much maligned diagnosis by laymen and professionals alike, and so it often goes un- or under-treated because the patients/friends/family are “manipulative,” or other such epithets. Looking at the diagnostic criteria for BPD, it is no wonder that patients experience such actions and emotions and elicit such dramatic responses. Looking further, at the real lives people with BPD face, have faced, do suffer with and live with every day, there is no question that much research and support remains unmet and unfinished.

My book, a collection of my blog articles, doesn’t attempt to clinically interpret my trials and tribulations. Instead, I tell a story of day-to-day life living with BPD. The experiences leading up to my diagnosis, and most likely a probable cause of the diagnosis, are discussed at various stages, and my life post-diagnosis is detailed in a rambling prose style of writing, mostly unstructured poetry with some short essays.

If you or someone you know or care about is or may be suffering from BPD, the one thing I have found universally true is that there is a dearth of literature written for the patient. When I went looking for support, I found clinical manuals on how to “deal” with borderline patients, I found the much-lauded but tragically critical book “Walking on Eggshells,” and various other clinical research studies and other books written for and directed at the families and friends of sufferers, again meant to provide assistance on “dealing” with the BPD patient. Nowhere, in the millions of books that Amazon carries, in the thousands of books at local booksellers, did I find a book written and directed at the sufferer. Some came close, but none captured the essence of what I was feeling and experiencing. I found this void unacceptable, and chose to publish my blog articles as a self-published book on Amazon, published through createspace.com, a subsidiary company. I don’t make much money off these sales, but my goal is to raise awareness and provide support, not get rich. I want to reach out to the fellow sufferer and let them, unlike me, know they are not alone. No, I have no instant cures or even long-term “fixes,” I do believe that BPD is a life-long illness that at best can be “managed,” but I definitively and adamantly do not subscribe to the widespread assumption that non-BPD-patients  must “deal with” the sufferer, as if the patient is an animal at a zoo, caged, with warning signs to not provoke the beast, and instruction manuals on how to walk away (i.e., break up with or divorce) from the animal without fear of him breaking the bars of the cage and taking down the world in rage. I think BPD patients can learn to have control over their emotions, to the extent that there is a self-awareness of when the emotions are misaligned with the intensity or reality of the present situation, and I think that the emotional response, while always present, can be diminished by allowing rational thought into the feeling-thought-action cycle and start a feedback loop that allows for a deeper understanding of the situation that is not black-and-white, that is not “the sky is falling,” but that analyzes and copes with the present moment, recognizing the impossibility of controlling the situation, without rendering oneself as having given up control over themselves. I believe that we can control ourselves even when the situation is uncontrollable, and that may be the ultimate goal or desired outcome of treatment.

I am not embarrassed to say that I, by and large, manage my symptoms entirely through medication. I have seen therapists in the past, several of whom I grew to be very fond of because of their understanding of the situation and recognition that small steps were huge accomplishments. They taught me that focusing on the present moment can lead to clarity and insight, but also not forgetting to take into account past interactions and similar situations so that a holistic impression can be made that is less black-and-white and more shades of grey, accepting that a certain present response to a situation is just that, a present response, but instead of acting on that response, it should be considered in the light of the “bigger picture,” where past interactions help to mediate the emotionality of the situation and force one to first think before acting. Perhaps a friend has disinvited you to dinner. Your immediate feeling is that you are seen as a parasite, as a leper, etc. But feelings are just the start of the cycle. Taking those feelings, accepting them as valid but perhaps incomplete, start the thought process of pulling apart those feelings and examining them piece by piece. What really are you feeling? Offended. Under offended you might find that you feel embarrassed. Most commonly, BPD patients feel anger, overwhelming anger, but are unable to clearly express what the anger comes from, what it means, and why it exists. Anger is a secondary emotion. Other primary, or fundamental, emotions contribute to and combine together to rise up to a level where so many factors conflue that there is no way to feel anything but anger, if only anger at the realization that other person’s actions have created such a barrage of emotions. But under that anger is the hurt pride, the embarrassment, the confusion (why did this event occur?), the uncertainty as to an appropriate response, the desire to isolate this event and view it through a black-and-white lens, instead of, perhaps, taking past behaviors into account or present knowledge into account (remember, the present knowledge exists or can be discovered once one realizes that emotions are but part of the feeling-thought-action feedback loop and is willing to entertain the idea of receiving further input or information), and, again, perhaps, realizing that the party host had ultimately decided it was just going to be a family affair, and really she had cancelled invitations for many of her friends, and that you were not singled out. Or, perhaps, you were in fact singled out, but not because your actions were “strange,” “weird,” “unexpected,” etc., but because the date or location had changed, or the theme of the party was different than originally planned, or that you were, correctly or mistakenly, believed to be unavailable on that particular date. Perhaps, in the worst case scenario, there were bad feelings between you and another party guest, and instead of putting you both in the same room, she decides to hold a separate party to which you will be invited, and not the other person. Could she have stated all that clearly in the dis-invitation letter? Perhaps. But perhaps she didn’t have time to explain, or thought it was self-explanatory, or explained it in a way that didn’t make sense to you, or any number of other possibilities. Our tendency as BPD patients is to jump to conclusions based on the information directly in front of us, not accounting for the fact that our interpretation of the information may be biased, or that further information is available, if only it could be requested. Maybe further information is unavailable. Fine. Just repeat the above process and slow down and break down your feelings into the primary emotions that give rise to the anger (which generally is the emotion that is most commonly felt), then imagine alternatives to each primary emotion that is felt, imagine that your intuition may be flawed, not because you’re stupid or have an illness, but because most people, in general, have unacknowledged biases that go into their thought processes. It only takes one counter-example of why, say, you feel embarrassed, which really represents a lack of self-worth, which really means that what you “feel” is that you are unloved (and you extrapolate that to mean you are unlovable, in a generalized sense). But what you might “think” as a counter response to the feeling is that your friendship, say, has stretched back several years, and this one incident, even if it was rude, was probably not intended to be rude and is certainly not intended to ruin the relationship that you have enjoyed for so long. Perhaps you decide to take “action” based on this counter example, and call your friend, and ask why you were dis-invited, and you find out that, say, the caterers fell through and the entire party was cancelled, or that there was suddenly not enough food, fun and games for the original plan to remain feasible, so several people were disinvited, but that another event will be planned that includes you, because, as you remembered after thinking about it, you are friends and she enjoys being around you and is very sad it won’t work this time, but is sure you’ll understand. Give her that benefit of understanding, instead of lashing out, and you won’t be seen as an “eggshell” personality, a person to be “dealt” with, but as a responsible, caring individual that may be a bit more sensitive than most, but that doesn’t let their emotions run their lives, rather relying on rational thought and acceptance of new information. Doing that makes you stronger than most people, in general, who all too often let their emotions guide their actions. Un-linking actions from emotions and letting the thought process separate the two not only gives you space to more carefully choose your actions, rather than let your feelings give immediate rise to actions, but it gives you back the control you yearn for so desperately, that sense that life doesn’t happen “to” you but that you are an essential part of the equation and that you have a choice as to what you do, with whom you do it, how it is done, when and where it takes place, and whether participation at all is in your best interest. That type of examination is your rational mind super-ceding your reptilian brain (your “gut feelings”), takes you out of your animal cage and puts you back into the society you so longingly crave. Crave no more, be part of the change, change your thought patterns, let your feelings be inputs, not outputs, and you’d be surprised at how much control you really do have.

My book shows clearly that, in many places, at many times, I felt out of control, I let my feelings do my talking for me. I felt that so much control was taken away that the one single thing I still had control over was my life. And even that could be taken away. So, all too often, I chose death, to prove to myself that I had a choice over my life. It took years to begin to learn how to make choices, choices that I deserved to make, picking out a brand of ice cream at the store, recognizing that I can’t control everything, but I can control what happens to my own bodily integrity, and, eventually, I learned that the abusive situations I had placed myself in were not situations where I did have control over my body, and that I had the choice, the right, the dignity and the self-respect to walk away. That’s not an easy or light decision. My book ranges in topics from my many suicide attempts to repeated rape, abuse and violence, to drug addiction, homelessness and my experiences with prostitution. I am a gay male, and many of my stories revolve around experiences common to the gay lifestyle, but perhaps uncommon, unheard of or unacceptable to the general public. My response is that knowing, or understanding, life through another’s lens is beneficial to all involved, may lead to greater empathy and understanding of how life treats certain groups so differently than others, and, even if being gay is just unacceptable to the reader, the harrowing experiences I faced, regardless of the sexuality involved, were real, were far too common and often far too deadly. You don’t have to be gay yourself to step into the shoes of another. You simply have to accept that everyone’s experiences are different, but, in the case of BPD, they often merge into the same experiences over time. I want to express, in my book, the simple fact that no one who suffers from BPD is alone, they are not the first or last to experience the mental and physical trauma that results, that others have gone through it and survived it, and, I hope with all my heart, that someone out there who may be scared, alone and suicidal, can read my book and see that suicide, yes it is always an option, but perhaps its not the only option, perhaps control over your life can be found in smaller ways, in smaller things, but represent just enough control that you no longer have to prove your control by taking your life, but prove your control by, even, taking the first step to simply read my book in an attempt to better understand yourself. The act of choosing and reading a book requires a great deal of control, and taking the time and effort to understand what is being said requires emotional and mental control. These may seem slight or even overstated, but I assure you, it is only in the small matters that we can begin to build up a life where we find ourselves in control of larger and larger matters, life-changing matters, matters that don’t happen “to” us but “with” us or “because” of us. Knowing that it is possible to transform from a person with a bottle of pills in hand ready to overdose to becoming a person that has poise and integrity, a person that embraces life, because they chose life, just this simple knowledge may prevent those pills from being swallowed to forever take away our ability to make choices that are within our control. You may not know it, you may not think it, but look around you and see where, in the smallest things, you have control, and celebrate those successes as reason enough, for now, to live. It would be hypocritical of me to say that suicide should never be an option, I understood far too well the desperate need to prove control by ending your life, but once that’s done, there is forevermore no control. By choosing, actively choosing, unwillingly, even, choosing, to wait one more day, one more hour, one more minute before swallowing those pills, you’ve just exercised control over your life, which was your goal the whole time. So take that minute, that second, to think about what control you do have – swallow the pills or set them aside – and be proud of the fact that you alone have that choice, and every time you choose to set the pills aside, you’ve exercised what you considered your “final” choice, the choice of life or death, because you’ve chosen life. That is an incredible act of self-control, a badge you can wear with pride, and every time that choice comes up again, remember that choosing life is taking control of your own destiny for the remainder of your natural life. That’s powerful. I wish I had chosen life more often. I wish I had seen that just having that choice made me more powerful than I ever thought possible. I thought I had to, that I must die in order to prove I had control. I am extremely lucky, through the miracles of modern medicine, the care of friends and family and interventions by my doctors and therapists, to remain alive and relatively well. I don’t know if I’ll ever again try to take my life. I really don’t. I may sound here like I’ve experienced a moment of nirvana where everything suddenly makes sense. To my knowledge, no such thing exists. So what I’m telling you here is applicable to me too. These words aren’t empty, not coming from a place of judgment or superiority, but from someone who has legitimately suffered through the worst that BPD can throw at you, and yet still survived to live another day. I wake up every morning knowing I’m still alive. I may not always be grateful of that fact, but the reality of the situation is that, somewhere along the line, I made the ultimate choice to choose life, and as a result, I’m still here. And maybe I’ll have a good day, or even, perhaps I won’t, but either way I have retained control over my own personhood, I am learning to gain control over what brand of ice cream I select at the store, and I hope and am striving towards a goal that I can one day be rid of the negativity in which I so often find myself, the abuse and violence that permeates my existence. This book isn’t a self-help book, it isn’t a tale of hope, per se, it is simply a tale of a life lived with BPD, a life that you may well live too, and a tale of slowly learning what it takes to survive in a dark world, a world that often renders us so emotional that we break, but not, I repeat, not a black-and-white world, but a world in shades of grey, if only we can learn to look past the boundaries of what we know and experience and embrace the grey that makes life not just possible, not just survivable, but, dare I say, perhaps even enjoyable. That’s my story. That’s my message. That’s my hope. For me and for you. For everyone of us who suffers from BPD, for everyone who loves or cares for someone with BPD, and for everyone tasked with the responsibility of “dealing with” the BPD patient. Once you no longer have to be “dealt with,” once you’ve reached the point where you, instead, are yourself “dealing with” the situation, interacting with it, not letting it act upon you but rather acting as an agent with the power to influence your surroundings, once you’ve reached this point, you’re no longer an “eggshell” or a bomb about to explode, but a person who is proud, who can hold their head high, who can walk confidently into society knowing that they have the tools to make it, to survive, to thrive, to succeed. Yes, you can be that person. I have faith in you.

Please use my Facebook page, following the link at the start, to post comments to this blog. I reserve the right to take any responses I receive directly on this blog, which I deem applicable and appropriate, and repost them on Facebook in order to generate more conversation. I want to hear from fellow patients. I want to hear from those who have had encounters with BPD sufferers, I want to hear from those who take care of, in any fashion, a BPD person. In short, I want to hear from you and generate a conversation about the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the rich lives that are lived and, perhaps, shared with others similar to yourself. Don’t be shy, if you don’t feel comfortable posting on a public page, e-mail me at rehn.kirk@gmail.com or hit me up on Facebook Messenger, and let’s have a chat. I’m not a therapist, that is my formal disclaimer, but I have some experience under my belt and if you need to express your fears or frustrations, or share your accomplishments, I want to know about them. Partly, I’m just selfish, I want to know because I want to always remember I’m not alone. But I use this public posting platform because it’s not just me that needs to know that, its every other person in my position. Gay, straight, lesbian, bi, black, white, Indian, homeless, housed, starving, well-fed, drug-addicted or sober, we all share something in common, and I want to bring out our commonalities, not our differences. Its far too easy to point out how and why someone is different, and to, from there, jump to the conclusion that their lives and stories are not applicable. But dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find that they have the same fears, the same stories, the same experiences that you have, maybe in different ways at different times, but that that wall you put up dividing yourself from others only hurts yourself, since breaking it down, having empathy for others, builds up self-confidence, not fear, it builds up understanding, not bias, and, finally, it builds up integrity and control, giving you the option and the tools to choose life, just one more day or hour or minute, just long enough to remember that of which you are in control, that of which others like you have found themselves to have control over, and to remind yourself that death, while the ultimate form of control, forever excludes your personal development and growth into someone that has greater control than life or death, that has greater control than brands of ice cream, that, in fact, has control over their entire environment, how they interact with it, and whether they choose to stay in that environment. Control is so much more than setting aside the poison pill, it is actively choosing to engage in life so that the control you desperately seek comes to you in ways you never imagined possible. I smile at the thought you might choose life and find your own path to control, it makes me happy to think that your simple choice of choosing life has led you to a life of true happiness, and it makes me proud, whether I know you or not, that you have made the biggest choice of all, the choice to choose life, and you have put yourself on the path to success, to happiness, to humanity, to becoming someone ruled not by emotions and fear, but by rationality, becoming someone that is not numbed to this world but exuberant about the possibilities awaiting them. That’s you. Tell me about it. I’m listening.

You can find my book on Amazon here, or direct from the publisher here. Choose whichever you like, I think the pricing and shipping speed varies, so check them both out if you’d like. It is available in e-book format, which is offered free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, or it also comes in a lovely paperback format of my own personal design. If you purchase the book, please be kind, and pass it along. I would love to have this book presented to local booksellers in your area, and please let me know where it is accepted, if it is accepted. I want to see a tattered, used copy of this book lying around, having been read forward and back, passed from friend to friend, envisioning the path it took, the stories it told, and the people it helped. And, of course, please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon. Its very simple, just click on your account, select orders, then select review. Star ratings are fine, but a personal touch would make me so grateful and, given the byzantine process by which Amazon chooses to promote certain books over others, would help my book achieve a higher rank in Amazon searches and ultimately bring this book to light for so many others. Your purchase, your sharing and your review help others find this resource. And your comments here or on Facebook would fill me with gratitude, give me hope, give you hope, give others hope, show everyone that the trials you face are not faced alone, that the successes you experience can or may be experienced by others, and that its ok to be scared as long as you know that fear is just an emotion, one which you can learn to analyze and control. So seize control of yourself, your life, your destiny, and let’s start a conversation.

Thank you all, much love, and I look forward with exhilaration to further discussion.

Kirk Rehn

rehn.kirk@gmail.com

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#mylifematters Part V


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Part V

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Dear friend, this is the point at which you enter the story, the point at which we met, the point that we experienced together. A series of points, really, of good times, of bad times, of highs and lows, of friendships lost and gained. I didn’t know what to do with my life at age 25, so I applied to a few law schools and took my LSAT. Studying gave me something to do. I had finished college, obtained my BA, dual majoring in philosophy and political science. Not the kind of combination for which the money just rolls right in. So I did what every other jaded political science major does, and applied to grad school. I couldn’t stand blood and guts, so I couldn’t be a doctor. Teachers were worked too much and paid too little. So I guess law school was the only other option. It would (did) make my parents proud. If only they had known what would happen to me. Anyways, my friend had told me about USF, University of San Francisco. I had already applied to Seattle University, a Jesuit college, some school in New York, Berkeley and now USF. I didn’t much consider it. You have to write some school codes in those boxes at the LSAT, so why not these codes? It’s not like it’s your only opportunity. For me, though, it was. I showed up late to the game. Berkeley had already closed their admissions process. I did get a letter of acceptance from the school in New York, but now I was second guessing that decision, whether I could endure a New York winter, or whether I could manage the city at all. So I waited to respond. Then a wonderful thing happened. Seattle U wrote back, offering me a full ride scholarship, expenses included. I had never dreamt of such a possibility. I knew I was a good student, not quite a 4.0 but a 3.89, without rounding. My LSAT score was 165, out of 180. That placed me in the top percentile at Seattle U, and they were courting me aggressively. So it was that I almost responded yes. All expenses paid? Yes. The day of my decision, I received one more letter in the mail. This one was a letter from USF, a thin letter, not the overstuffed generic letters with brochures, but a single, lightweight envelope bearing the USF logo, and handwritten on the front was my name. I nervously brought the letter inside, to the dinner table, calling for my mom and dad. I don’t know what I so nervous about. Two schools had already accepted me, one with a full ride scholarship. So I didn’t need this one. Maybe I should just throw it out. No sense tempting the fates. But, fate was, I opened that envelope. Just a letter inside, neatly typed, as if by one of the Mad Men typists. But that show didn’t exist yet. I read the letter, forcing myself to not skip to the end. It was a letter of acceptance, it said so right in the first paragraph. I hardly needed to read any further. Except, wait, what was this? A scholarship? A full ride scholarship? I could hardly believe my eyes. Two full ride scholarships was just too good to be true. Note, USF didn’t offer to pay expenses, but still, San Francisco, the city life, no more Seattle gray and drizzle, the chance for a new life, in California, the land of opportunity, where dreams come true. It wasn’t a fair fight. Both were Jesuit schools, which was important to me, but Seattle U, despite the generosity of their offer, didn’t hold a candle to the exotic paradise of San Francisco. I made up my mind instantly, though it was harder to convince my parents. I’d only been to the City once before, for a friend’s wedding, and wasn’t able to explore. I remember initially thinking, what a dirty city! Compared to the gleaming, mirrored skyscrapers of Seattle, these old buildings, scrawled with graffiti, surrounded by homeless people, this wasn’t what I had dreamt. I later learned that I was in the Tenderloin, and the rest of the City was truly beautiful and spectacular. I’d seen photos, so I took it on faith that, truly, the rest of the City was glamorous, with multi hued, multi level housing, parks, lights, trolleys, a mass transit system that worked, that went underground! How exciting.

So I moved down a few days before school started, with nowhere to stay. I met a guy at an orientation session meant for us to find other students needing housing, and he was there, and I was there, and we were the only two gay guys there, I think, so we did what gay guys naturally do. No, not that! We moved in together. More like lesbians, really. USF was very generous with the cost-of-living expenses, of course, it was all loans, but still, there was more than enough in the budget to afford a place near campus. Some people, those who didn’t know better, or perhaps they did know better, chose to live in other areas of the City, but Chris (my new roommate) and I stayed near campus, about 15 blocks. It was a little bit of a hike every day, but I didn’t complain. We rented a true San Francisco house, multi hued, multi leveled, an entire middle flat to ourselves, just the two of us! There was a living room with fireplace, a dining room with French doors, a kitchen with gas range, a split bathroom (what a concept!), two massive bedrooms, and a study overlooking a garden, all laid out railroad style. This was better than heaven, as far as I was concerned. I was living the City life, finally, something I had always dreamt of doing. I wasn’t a rural boy, or a suburban boy, I was a real, live, cosmopolitan, worldly, educated City boy. And not just any city. The City. These were heady times indeed.

I made friends quickly, you may remember. I’d never been outgoing in my life, but, hey, this whole experience was about change, right? So I opened up, gave a cheerful smile, a gentle touch, and soon found myself at the center of activities, day after day. In fact, I started to organize “bar nights.” The school held official bar nights on Thursdays, since the 1L schedule was light on Fridays. It was an opportunity to informally  meet our class representatives, other members of student government, 2L students who were open to being mentors, and occasionally an alumni. But Wednesdays started to be “Kirk’s bar night.” I don’t know how they became so popular. But on occasion we would have 50+ students in one bar, or club, no small accomplishment for a class of 250 students total, and an even richer accomplishment when the official bar nights only attracted a small handful, on the best of nights. Those were the nerds, anyways. Mine had all the cool, fun people. I’d never been cool and fun before, I was in awe and jealous of myself, how lucky I was. In fact, and I feel entitled to self promote here, when it came time to elect representatives for our 2L year, I ran and won the vote in the biggest landslide victory in school history. I can’t release the numbers, but the dean was impressed, as was his staff. I had made friends with one of his staff, Jillian, so I got special access, wink wink, nod nod. So I was happy, in a good mood going into the first summer. The The @@a

Well, I was only partially happy. See, my success in the social realm left me struggling a bit in the academic realm. I’m sure everyone student says they would never repeat 1L, and I can attest that is wise advice. No one knew but I often felt completely defeated, deflated, not at all like the type of student that gets a full ride scholarship. I should be able to answer every question, write the best papers, impress the teachers. None of that happened. In fact, by the end of 1L my GPA had dropped to a rock bottom of 3.0. I had never failed so miserably in all my life. This was exactly why I didn’t do new things, accept new challenges, because I might not do well. I was embarrassed to walk down the hall, couldn’t hold my head up high any longer. So it was great news about the election, since the school had just rescinded my scholarship for 2L since I had slipped beneath the requirements. I begged, I pleaded, I appealed to their Jesuit ethics, their history of tending to ları 
the weak, but to no avail. Rules were rules.

The summer was exciting. I had signed up to attend an international studies, overseas, trip. Mainly because I needed to attend class so I could get a summer living expense stipend, but I was enthralled by the opportunity to go to Dublin and Prague. I barely even got to Canada growing up, let alone crossed an entire continent and flown abroad. I still pinch myself, having not been able to get abroad since, feeling lucky and privileged at the opportunity. As 2L representative my primary responsibility, besides being a liason between the dean’s office and the student  body, was to plan, organize and attend all social events. This was something I could do, something I already excelled at, something in which I could get an A+. If only it counted towards something. Still, the joy and satisfaction was recompense enough. But that’s all skipping ahead. Time for a quick side note.

As always, I don’t remember how it happened, but I met a boy. He was attending business school at USF, on the other side of campus. I told you, earlier, that I hadn’t dated since I was 16, ten years prior. I figured it was time to let down my guard a bit, nothing that bad could happen, I already had a great social network, this was just icing on the cake. Only that icing ruined the cake, and the table it sat upon. I had no way to know what was coming. There was something different about how I pursued relationships. I didn’t dip in, didn’t test the waters, didn’t even bother to ask what the other was feeling. No, I went all in, all at once, all of me, all the love I could give, all the emotions I could spend. His name was Jason, as I mentioned earlier. We  only dated for about a month, longer if you count the on-again, off-again courting stage. I had signed up for those summer abroad classes and I only just met him a few weeks prior. So I had to leave him, with promises and assurances that he would be always on my mind, that I wouldn’t even look at other boys, that I loved him with all my heart and soul. I don’t know what he promised in return. Certainly he did not give up his heart and soul. I suppose one of us had to be reasonable. He did give me a gift, though. I had been trying to get my cell phone carrier to provide international coverage for me, but there were so many barriers that I couldn’t accomplish it in time. So Jason gave me his work phone, an international phone, with a prepaid calling plan, so I didn’t need to worry about a thing. I promised to call often, and thank you so much, and more I love you’s, then off to the  airport. I was so sad I had to leave him behind.

There was a group of maybe 20 of us, some attending only the Dublin trip, others, like me, who signed up for both Dublin and Prague. It seemed so exotic. Besides, summer courses were more about the experience than the education. This was actually a golden opportunity to quickly and easily raise my GPA, with just a modicum of effort. Besides, the company was fun, I was meeting new people and was going with some of my closest friends, there was nothing that could go wrong. Nothing.

I feel, in retrospect, a little like the Titanic. Built strong and beautiful, guaranteed quite brashly that she couldn’t sink no matter what the tempest may bring. I was like that. Thought I could survive anything, especially with a lover back at home waiting for me.

Well, briefly put, the Dublin leg of the trip was beyond fun. Even the classes were fun. And after class all of us, including the professors, would find a new bar to go to, even, once a gay bar. Everyone was having the time of their lives. I certainly was, at least. My main complaint, which I still complain about, is that shots of alcohol are pre-measured, even the bartender couldn’t override the system. I grew bored quickly with trying to make friends with the  bar backs. What was the point, if I couldn’t get a stiffer drink, free shots, anything special at all, really. But I had a good time regardless, perhaps more sober than I want to be, but still enjoying the frenzy of activities. When we weren’t busy at the bars, I would call my parents, or call Jason, or meet up for a Guiness factory tour, along other things. Yes, you do get free drinks at the tour. Unfortunately I gag on dark beers, so I gave my samples to my friends. They didn’t complain. I did get lost once, on my own, in the rain. I wasn’t even sure I was headed in the right general direction. Luckily I ran across a cute guy, exiting his hotel, who pointed me along the way, I wasn’t really that far at all. I tried my best to seduce him, I had the apartment free for a few hours, but apparently he was just being nice when he helped, he wasn’t coming on to me. I did meet up for sex once, though. It was a guy I met from Adam4Adam com, the newer version of gay com. It was internationally popular, so it didn’t take long to entice some boys out to play. I was the exotic one, from California, a bigger state than their entire economy, I was tan and cosmopolitan, sleek and suave, I was exactly the conquest they wanted. I met him at a luncheon in the botanical gardens, hosted in the greenhouse. It was an experience, looking out over the campus of Trinity College, one of the most beautiful campuses I had ever seen, with students frolicking in the grass, walking hand in hand down the cobblestone sidewalks, rushing to and fro. I sat there with my gin martini and savored the moment. I don’t remember with the guy I met. I remember introducing him to my friends, as if to legitimize what was going to happen. I must have taken him back to my apartment. I was staying in student dorms with five other guys. There were three bedrooms, two baths and a fully stocked kitchen. A far cry above America dorms, with three people squashed into a room, no kitchen or bathroom, in an old building never retrofitted for such use. Luckily I never had to stay in dorms, I always had my own apartment, near campus. I worked, so I could afford it. Anyways, I’m sure he and I had sex in my room, very forgettable, though that may just be my memory, not any failing on his part. Certainly no failing on my part.

It was about three weeks into the course, which was only three or four weeks long before heading to Prague. All the students were taking a train out into the countryside, idyllic Irish countryside, with castles and everything. I wish I had been able to go with them. Actually, I wish what happened next had never happened at all, that I could have still lived a normal life. It wasn’t in the cards. I got a call from Jason, or maybe I call him, either way, he wanted to break up with me. And he was turning off my cell phone service so I couldn’t contact him. What the fuck was happening? Did he have a new lover? Did I call too often, or not often enough? Did I not say all the right things, do all the right things, to show my love and devotion? I’ll never know. What matters to this story is my reaction. At the time of the call, I was alone in the apartment, getting ready to join the others as they waited for the train. Prof. Donovan was scheduled to oversee this trip, so she and her daughter were out on the lawn already. Excitement was in the air, like electricity, you could hear it and see it zipping back and forth. This was our first trip together, aside from getting here in the first place, and there was no homework assignment due for this visit, it was purely extra curricular. Optional, technically, though no one in their right mind would refuse the offer. While everyone else was killing around in the bright sunlight outside, it was a beautiful, cloudless, warm sunny day in Dublin, perfect for seeing the countryside, I was inside, silently breaking down, breaking apart.

Remember I said the I was too emotional, too quickly, in relationships? Remember how I said I had avoided them for ten years, scared of what might happen? Well, this is exactly what “might happen,” a textbook example, a larger than life example of what I had feared. Before, there was just a nebulous fear, I couldn’t pin down what I was afraid if or what, exactly, might happen that would be so awful. Now, I knew precisely what that fear was about, how it had protected me all these years, now surfacing, breaking through, breaking me.

I was violently shaking, convulsing, dropping to the ground. A million thoughts were flying through my mind. My vision narrowed, then went completely black. I couldn’t see. My heart was pounding through my chest, so hard and so fast that I thought it might just give out, then and there. Sounds were rushing all around me, rushing through my ears like waves crashing inside a seashell. I couldn’t breathe, something big was stepping on me, making me about to puke, only I couldn’t draw enough air for that. My eyes were bulging out, my skin clammy, no, sweaty, sweat pouring out of every pore to cool my overheated body, giving me chills. I was grasping, grabbing all around me for something to which I could hold myself, contain myself, stop myself. My brain was working in overdrive. I could literally feel the blood pumping through my body, up to my brain, whirring around, processing thought after thought in rapid succession, trying to protect me by shutting down. I didn’t want protection, though. I wanted it to end. All of it. So I reached out, under the bed, as best I could figure, where kept my medicine. You see, I’d been medicated all these years, but had never reached a point where I understood myself, never reached a point where the medicine started to give me some reprieve from life’s harshness, never felt that I could brave it alone, without the medication. There were a few strong pills, mainly sleeping meds and anxiety meds  I don’t recall how I obtained them, which doctor I saw. I think it was just the school clinic and my internal medicine doctor. I hadn’t been to a psychiatrist for a long time. Maybe once, yes, I think once, while I was in 1L, I made an appointment at UCSF. I was starting to come unglued, but didn’t know it yet. At any rate, I didn’t receive much oversight on my medicine, and certainly had no one to call in a psychiatric crisis. Anyways, I managed to grab a bag of pills and dragged them out into the open. I couldn’t see, my vision was black, I could barely feel, even, my body shutting down to protect the core, leaving the extremities without blood or oxygen. It didn’t matter. I knew what was in that  bag. The thought had never crossed my mind before, else I’m sure they wouldn’t have given me these particular meds. I’d never felt the need to take more than the prescribed dose, oh, maybe one extra here and there, but nothing unusual. So the sensation I had when I grabbed those pills was entirely foreign to me. There were voices clamoring, screaming at me, vying for my attention. I didn’t want to hear the voices. I didn’t want to feel this pain. I wanted, no, needed it to stop, using whatever means necessary. If one sleeping pill was good, a whole bottle is better. If one Xanax relieved anxiety, 20 of them would make me feel great. And popping a few extra Zoloft, well, that was pedestrian, but they were there, so I might as well. It’s not like I could see or feel to sort and count them anyways. I was in shock, in crisis mode, barely breathing, attempting to flee, not fight. I grabbed each pill bottle, reached for my water bottle, I know it’s here somewhere, just keep flailing and you’ll run into it, opened the pills, no one had bothered to give me child proof caps, and dumped bottle after bottle after bottle down my throat, finally finding the water to swallow it down. It took a second. I felt relieved, knowing that I had stopped the pain. Then I realized what I had done. My senses were coming back, I was re-entering reality, and all I could see were empty pill bottles and a strange feeling inside. I leapt up, still dizzy but determined, lurched towards the door, raced down, or maybe fell down, several flights of stairs, the outside, to the train station, where everyone was waiting. My mind was blank. All I could focus on was getting Prof. Do novel’s attention, somehow make her understand what had happened. I caught up with the group just as they were boarding. Prof. Donovan was in back of them, shepherding them forward, into the train, like little children who need instructions for the simplest matter. She had a heart of gold, but not sure she thought much of us. We were a little too carefree, this was a study abroad program after all, but she enjoyed her time as much as we did, joining us at bars, taking us out on field trips, telling us about the city, buying us rounds of beers. Beer was ubiquitous there, like coffee in Seattle. It was just unimaginable that you couldn’t like beer, the darker the better. Well, I didn’t really like beer, but it sure was a more cost-effective way of getting drunk than buying those miserable, measly shots they call a drink over on the other side of the bar. I mean, really, how do people get drunk off that? How much would you have to spend? This was no Castro 2-4-1 special, no dollar pitchers of cosmos, leaving you in a stupor, but asking for more, no, this was pre-measured shots in prepared cups, simply adding juice or soda to those glasses lined up, like McDonald’s used to do with their sandwiches, all pre-made, just waiting to be ordered by some poor fool. I wasn’t going to tip for the art of throwing soda into a cup, so I just took my very cranberry drink with a splash of vodka and joined up with the rest of the group. At least I was getting my vitamin C and antioxidants. Anyways, I found Prof. Donovan, about to board the train herself, pulled her aside making motions of urgency, and whispered to her that I needed to get to the hospital, right now. The poor lady. She never signed up to take care of suicidal students. Luckily for me, though, she remained absolutely professional, telling the group that something had come up and she would meet hem back here later, then she grabbed my arm and practically dragged me back to her on campus suite. It really was quite lovely, with two bedrooms, overstuffed chairs, a living room and dining room; this use be where they house the seniors, or student to with special status. What I wouldn’t give to have a place like that to myself.

In Ireland, you customarily call the doctor for a house visit, then he or she refers you to the ER if necessary. The doctor pulled up, wheels still spinning, in his black car, with a black suit and black briefcase. He hurried inside with Prof. Donovan, to those overstuffed living room chairs, where I was sitting at the table, slowly but surely losing consciousness. There was no point in questioning what had happened, Prof. Donovan had to fill in the gaps as I fell ever more comatose. He took my vitals, obtained a brief description of events, then placed a call to the hospital. Prof. Donovan was instructed to immediately take to the hospital, where a doctor was already waiting. I don’t know why they couldn’t call an ambulance, probably because it would have been no faster than her taking me, it was just down the street. We did get slightly lost, but still made it in record time. I went to the ER window, showed my passport, was met with knowing stares and glances, then the door to the ER opened and I was hustled in. Prof. Donovan followed.

I don’t know exactly what happened. Probably because I had lost consciousness  by that point. All I remember is walking up in a small vestibule with Prof. Donovan. I had survived. The psychiatrist was called as soon as I woke up. I knew Ireland was a Catholic country, so I stepped around the issue a bit, expressing my fear that their religion would affect my care, being gay. He had to assure me multiple times that Dublin was very open-minded, and I was receiving the  best care available. Unfortunately, the best care was inadequate. The doctor prescribed Zyprexa, a very potent, fast acting anti-psychotic. No one flat out told I was psychotic, but the choice of medication said it all. Prof. Donovan placed a call to the Dean at USF, to determine how to proceed. I wanted to pretend it never happened, and continue on to Prague. Instead, she was instructed to book me my  next flight back to San Francisco, where the Dean would meet me, and to buy me three doses of medication, enough for me to get to the States where better, more intensive care was available. So it was that I spent the night on the cold, hard floors of the airport, watching nervously as armed soldiers marched around the facilities. Air France had allowed me to reboot my flight for a small fee. Well, small in comparison to the cost of the ticket. My friend’s dad’s secretary had booked the tickets for us, and I was paying back my friend. Sean, if you’re reading this, I apologize deeply for leaving you on the hook for that expense. I hope that there is a future in which I can repay the debt. I boarded the plane the next morning, and arrived back on a non-stop flight at San Francisco 12+ hours later. I certainly took advantage of the free wine, even for coach passengers. I wasn’t going to go home sober. When we landed, and finally disembarked, I walked right into the expecting hands of the Dean.

I lost it all

One day, I woke up, and realized I couldn’t go on
One day, my lover broke up with me, while I was overseas 
One day, I overdosed, lay comatose, sprawled on the bedroom floor
One day, I wish it all would end

I was a star 
The envy of my peers
A socialite 
A student
A player, yes
But a body of the best

Yet

Something was missing 
Something felt wrong, deep inside 
Something went awry, somewhere, sometime 
And I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know why

I never let on 
No one ever knew 
If I couldn’t understand it, why should they? 
That’s my biggest regret today

And I had it all

The friends
The fun
The frolicking

The fates were on my side

So
Where did I go wrong? 
How did I stumble, how did I fall, 
Into this abyss, so deep, 
Even I can’t see the light of day?

It just happened, one day

My lover rescinded his love

And my heart broke

And I, 
Yes I,
Unknowingly, ungratefully, unexpectedly, 
I went insane

My heart beating wildly inside my chest, I was gasping for air, screaming but no one could hear, 
Watching my world turn bleak, no, turn dark, turn empty, my vision failing, my pulse pumping, 
The ocean racing through my ears, 
And I was 
Falling 
Helplessly 
I saw it happening, as if it were to another 
Crumpled on the floor, spasmodic tempo in my muscles, convulsing back and forth
I knew, 
Then, 
That I couldn’t survive, that I didn’t want to survive, that without love there is no life, without him there was no me
In that second,

I lost it all

The will to survive
The desire to see another day 
The ability to move forward

And so I reached, excruciatingly, painfully, spasmodically, to the pills under the bed, 
Ambien, klonopin, xanax, god knows what else, 
Trembling, seizing, I unscrewed the fucking child proof caps (who decided I needed those?) 
Counted out a few… 
No, fuck it, I decided, somehow conscious enough, I’m not going to slowly slip away, 
I wanted my lover to see a grotesque image of a contorted body clamoring for air, swollen, spastic, eyes bulging out, shitting my pants, grabbing violently, puking blood… 
I wanted him to feel my pain and know, deep inside, that he was the one that caused it all, that his act of betrayal had sealed my fate, that the blood I spewed was on his hands 
So
I grabbed the full bottles 
Dumped them down my throat 
Gulping the poison 
And I was happy, blissful, knowing death was near 
There’s something so good and right about seeing your end approach 
I was playing God with my own life 
Sealing my own destiny 
Not afraid 
No more questioning

And then
Some half witted fucked up spawn of Satan, with his pitchfork not yet concealed away, with his stupidity scrawled across his leering face, with evil in his eyes, 
Oh if I could only describe
He came to me in my moment of bliss, as the sun was setting on my worldly existence, as the light at the end of the tunnel grew ever near, as I prepared myself to leave my body behind and enter a new world, as I was happy, for the first and last time I could ever remember, I lay convulsing but unaware, dying in this world, eager to fly to the next, 
He came to me 
And pulled it all away

I was destined to live

Fuck him, fuck my friends, fuck the doctors, fuck the establishment, 
Fuck me

I nearly had it all

And then I lost it all

-(No) Loss, personal writings, 2014

In this chapter we finally see where the chaos began, where my life forever veered off course, and how it happened. It was, yes, simply a breakup, unfortunate and sad, but nothing to cry over, let alone die over, but my mind operated differently. That abandonment was just the start of an inexorable cycle, in which I was whipped around by the vicissitudes of life, out of control, living (and dying) anew each day. Next chapter I explain what happened my 2L year, why it seemed so strange, looking in from the outside, and how life, and death, became more complicated every day. Dublin was just the beginning. Let’s watch now how the rest of me unraveled. Take a break and have a strong stomach before reading the next section. No, it’s really not all that graphic, I can’t remember the bloody parts. I can only real events to the point where I lost consciousness, and rely on doctors and nurses and friends to relay the rest of the information to me. So, here’s my story as I know it. This is the crux of the story, so please devote your time and attention. I’ll make it as brief as possible.