April 15, 2016

Target parking lot "Atmosphere"

This Wednesday night I had a tantrum with Mary that (in hindsight) was really juvenile.  I was exhausted after work.  I could barely keep my eyes open even sitting up straight.  It was ten minutes before Phillip's (my son with autism if you haven't read earlier posts) bedtime.  I started to think whether my exhaustion was due to work or whether I was at a low energy point due to mental illness.  Feelings of self-pity and entitlement flooded through me.  I thought, "How often do I really reach for help from Mary?  Don't I hold my own most of the time?  I am so exhausted I'm not sure I can even handle putting him to bed. What a help it would be if she would do it for me!"

To provide some background here, our bedtime routine for him takes all of 10 minutes.  It involves changing his diaper, brushing his teeth, tucking him in, and singing a song.  However, at that moment, it just seemed like way too much to do.  Like something I just wasn't capable of doing.

Mary: "Come on, like ten minutes before his bedtime? I really don't want to do it."
Me: "Can you please just help me? I need help."

Mary interpreted this as we were going to do it together and she was going to help.  I didn't make it very clear that I wanted her to do it all.  In a huff, I took him to and began the routine.  She came into the bedroom.

"I thought you wanted my help?"
"I don't need your help!" I hissed and shut the door, fighting her attempt to keep it open.

As soon as bedtime preparation was over, I grabbed my keys and drove off without saying anything.  I just left the house suddenly... something I've previously acknowledged is unacceptable.  Of course, as often happens, there was nowhere to go.  I had the usual thoughts of going to a hotel room and turning off my phone so she would worry.  Immediately I realized this was just punishing her and not fair.  She had misunderstood and done nothing wrong.  Nevertheless, the thoughts continued.  I drove to the Target parking lot and just sat there.  I had put my Joy Division mix in the CD player.  As I was pulling in, "Atmosphere" began playing, possibly one of my favorite songs by them.  I played it over and over.

My thoughts were dark, angry, and suicidal.  I wanted to lash out at Mary.  I felt sorry for myself.  I thought about all my responsibilities and all the pressure.  I just wanted a relief from it all.  Did I really have it in me to keep it up any longer?  The exhaustion, anxiety, and fear were just too much.  I stared down at the faint scars on my wrist and thought about buying the sharpest most expensive knife I could find at Target.  How many people go to Target and just buy a knife?  Would they know what was going through my head?  Would I try my hand or my neck this time?  I thought of how bleeding out would ruin the car.  But if I left the car somebody might see me.

As horrific as these thoughts were, I had this comforting distance from them.  I knew deep down I was not going to act on them.  They were passing me through me and I knew they would not endure.

I kept listening to the song.  And as I often do in times of crisis (and I imagine others do as well) I started to look for meaning in what was around me.  Given that Ian Curtis struggled with epilepsy, (possibly) bipolar, and killed himself, perhaps Joy Division was a bad choice.  But the lyrics resonated positively.  I wrote them all down on a napkin.  So as goofy as it might all be...
I had just walked away in silence.
The danger of suicide and the ultimate freedom to actually do it... that danger was always there.  It was never going to be gone.
And the part about 'People like you find it easy' spoke to me about those who don't have mental illness.  We all wear masks, but are theirs a mask of self-hatred?  Aren't they naked to see... unashamed... with nothing so difficult to hide?  As many difficulties as they may have, it's easy to imagine they are "walking on air" as they have relative control over their thoughts.

All in all, my angry episode lasted an hour.  I sat in that parking lot an hour... listening to the song repeatedly.  Which at four minutes a pop meant I listened to it 15 times or so.  I can do that without a song getting old.  I returned home and went to bed without speaking to Mary.  She has learned to let that happen and to indeed "let the sun go down on my anger".  Things were so much better in the morning.

Image credit: Headstone


  1. Brains are the freaking worst sometimes, aren't they. I hope you were feeling better in the morning.

    1. How could I wait to reply to my very first comment ever! Whoo-hoo! Yeah it was all better in the morning. Sometimes I just have to give up in a way and call it a day.

  2. This is quite a sad post to read I must say but good to see how brave you are and struggling so hard with your sadness. May God bless you!

  3. There will be difficult times for everyone in this world, some are very disturbing like yours, but God definitely help you to heal as good as possible.. i am sure dear author..