Happy with a Lowercase h
Updated: Jan 28
About five minutes ago I stopped writing the story of the time – on October 21st of 1995 – I cut both of my wrists aggressively and savagely vertically open, while sitting on my front porch, by using a sharpened autumn branch that fell from the tree in my front yard. I wrote four crimson and agonizing paragraphs and then stopped as if my pen had suddenly and unexpectantly run out of ink. I just stopped writing. In the memory, the cement in front of me and my shoes became colored red, that quickly and permanently turned to black - it happened; and it is important and a major moment in my life– but I don’t want to write about it right now. I just don’t.
I placed 703rd within the Western High School graduating class of 1990. Not even a week before classes ended, my dad was at my school talking to the principal in his office, telling him why it was important for me to graduate, despite my poor academic performance. My dad and I have had our differences throughout the years, but on that day – he fought like hell to see me graduate. My dad didn’t take days off from work but, that day, he did. He called into work for the first time in 14 years to stop me from getting expelled. The principle listened, didn’t agree with my dad’s reasoning, but still (for reasons I’ll never know) allowed me to finish my senior year. At graduation I walked across the stage, accepted the empty diploma holder the administrator handed me, and returned to my seat in the general-purpose auditorium. My parents and sisters all sat in the bleachers in support. I wasn’t expected to graduate from high school with my classmates. That wasn’t supposed to happen. But it did. And it led to, many years later, a bachelor’s degree and me earning two master’s degrees – both with high honors.
During a cold winter evening in February, 8 months into my mental breakdown of 2004/2005 - me trying like hell to recover and return to normal, I passed out on the sidewalk in front of the Buffalo Lounge in the downtown gay district of Las Vegas. It was my first night leaving the house – attempting to re-enter the world – since collapsing months earlier, unable to move, in my apartment 2,000 miles away. I had only been out a little over an hour and someone spiked my drink – and I, somehow, reached the sidewalk before losing consciousness. A guy from my high school years, a bartender at the pub across the street, while on a cigarette break, saw what was happening. He yelled at the two men standing above me (I was told this later – weeks later – I have no memory of these events) and they fled. The bartender’s name is Paul Brazier – and that is his real name. He might have saved my life that evening – or, minimally, stopped me from being physically assaulted. Because of his actions, I was able to recover from my crippling depression for an additional two months to then return to Atlanta, feeling better, to give life another try.
Yeah, on October 21st of 1995 I cut both of my wrists open with a sharpened tree branch. What the movies and TV specials don’t tell you is cutting your wrists hurts like absolute hell. It was a tragic and long night I would rather not talk about today. And I’d rather not share with you, at this time, the reasons I did it. And there is no lesson or “things got better” message here. It was what it was and what it was was horrible.
What I want to tell you is, during my visit with my psychologist on Friday, I said the word “Happy” to my doctor – but specified I meant the word with a lower-case “h”. I have been seeing my psychologist weekly for a little over two years and, for the first time, I saw her smile. Honestly, I didn’t know how to react to it or to the silence that followed, so I just sat there, awkward. This happened four days ago.
I have zero doubts I’ll share an ocean-load of tragic stories with you over the coming months and years – it’s kind of my go-to. Leopards don’t change their spots without the evolutionary progress of thousands or millions of years and “Happy” (with a capital “H”) is something I still don’t understand - so I may not transform into a peppy and optimistic Care Bear or a Hallmark greeting card any time soon - but I’m in a different place than I was in a year ago.
And that’s a start.
Pictured: Jimmy Broccoli with the amazing digital art of Scott Johnson in the background.