Passed Life (July 2nd)

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To say I’m at a loss would be an understatement. I feel like I lost, I feel lost. I’ve experienced loss. What’s odd is this recycled thought pattern that I constantly need to be silenced by podcasts, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, making an income, etc. My belief is that people write to make sense of these conflicting thoughts, well-knowing they still will exist once typing has ceased. I realized that I don’t have strong reactions to Father’s Day or even my late great dad’s birthday. They happen and I don’t always have emotions beyond the expected. However, July 2nd is approaching. It was the day of his diagnosis back in 2001. Then in October that same year, he was gone. I didn’t cry the day he passed because I played music on the piano in the Hospice room. Again, I needed my feelings to be silenced. What’s also unusual about July 2nd is that it was also the day that my girlfriend and I became official one year prior back in 2000. So something happened on that same date, different year, that I never thought would happen - that I would be wholeheartedly loved and adored by someone other than a family member. We lasted for about three years and I do vividly remember having to tell her on our one-year anniversary in 2001 that my father was just given a terminal sentence.

However, even on that day I recalled what happened in 1995 so I wasn’t too worried about my dad initially. Back in 1995, a doctor came into my hospital room after major surgery to inform me and my parents that the fungal disease was still spreading. If it got to my heart, which could happen within a couple weeks, then that would be it for my time on this planet. Guess what? I didn’t die. So on July 2nd, 2001, I actually thought, “Well my dad won’t die because I didn’t. Doctors will help.” I was wrong. After my dad passed, I basically discovered what true clinical depression was and my version was so extreme that eventually my girlfriend had enough around 2003-2004. We were eating cheese curds at a Culver’s that had recently opened in Merrillville, Indiana when I knew that her love for me had expired. We didn’t speak a word through that entire meal and we went home. She announced to me that it’s over.

I think about how if I was given terminal news from a doctor today, it would be a relief. Because that would mean thought patterns, migraine headaches, humidity, Trump, paying off debt - it would be over. Done. Kaput. Permanent silence. But that’s not fair. My body will ultimately decide one way or another when I’m officially meant to expire. Despite being a control freak to some degree, I shouldn’t be trying to control the pain by eliminating its source. Pain is a reminder that I’m a thinking, feeling human being for better or worse. Still, I can’t escape this one inevitable conclusion: some things will never stop. Take for example, migraine headaches. I started getting them around late 2000 into 2001 on a nearly daily basis. Tests were done, medications were tried, and nothing helped. For a good 15 years or so, they eventually subsided to the point where I didn’t even think about them. Then within the past couple of years, they’ve returned on a semi-regular basis. Some things never truly go away.

It’s not the pain, I’m used to it, it’s feeling like I’m already dead - Dan Wilson, Semisonic.

Same goes for grief. Riding into work, I was looking out onto Lake Michigan. My dad’s goal was to buy a boat of his own to enjoy on the lake. His ashes were instead scattered there after he passed away. Some of his friends had accomplished this goal of owning a boat and I knew that retirement for him would include being able to enjoy the great lake. He also used to ride his bike around the neighborhood and I see lots of people riding bikes now that summer has arrived. Instead of thinking about riding a bike or getting a boat of my own, I can only think about how depression will not allow me to do much of anything. I know it has to be treated, managed, and evaluated again, along with the headaches. Still, there’s this sense of repeated dread that is finding its way into me - the idea that one can lose weight, but the pounds will come back. One can take medicine for debilitating headaches, but they’ll come back as well. And a feeling of incredible loss has stitched into every fiber of my being until I can no longer see the forest for the trees. Any time there is a sense of inconsistency in life, it does feel like I’m traveling back to a time of shock and dismay. Whether it was the unfortunate dissolve of a fulfilling relationship or the loss of the person I was closest to in my life. The feeling stays even if the circumstances and the year are different. It is 2019 and I still don’t see life as something that can improve due to loss. People everywhere particularly on social media are advertising their gain, their accomplishments, their excitement to be around other people both outside and in. Somehow I have become a ghost that is wandering around realizing that the only entity that can be haunted is itself. 

So what’s next? Acceptance that this is to be expected - that physical and emotional pain will always find their way back into the forefront. That intimacy, takeout, binge watching, or any strategy to numb the pain is only a band-aid on a wound that won’t heal. Learning to cope is not some marvelous endeavor that can be brought to light only to stay there, and keep you happy. There is a darkness that never seems to dissipate. That darkness can be fear, uncertainty, loneliness, loss, or having zero income. No amount of self-induced silencing can eradicate it. Life does feel like it’s being lived in a way that will be eternally unsatisfying, even when there are pockets of relief, joy and gratitude. I can’t pinpoint July 2nd as the moment in time where that sentiment was cemented. After all, on that date in the year 2000, I was filled with hope, relief, and excitement for the future. It lasted a solid year and even after my dad passed, there were moments when having a partner made the pain feel a bit less painful. When I nearly died, I was overweight, had broken up with a high school girlfriend and wasn’t sure if my parents were going to make it or not. But I survived a significant ordeal. Why couldn’t my dad be gifted with the same fate of surviving? He worked hard, had a decent income, and most importantly, he taught me to be empathic and giving. So it currently makes little to no sense why I’m still flitting and flailing. I guess one could say that his great qualities were passed down and so it is up to me to uphold his legacy, but I am also not my father. 

At this point in time, admittedly midway through a better year than last year was, I am struggling to keep up with thoughts particularly because they are accompanied by sharp pains on one side of the brain. I guess I wanted to write in hopes of making sense of the headaches, restlessness, and subpar sleep quality. All I can make out of all this is a muted madness that will eventually be deconstructed in a therapeutic setting. It’s not like I can just cease to exist though it feels like a good option. Sadness, pain and imperfection come with having eyes, ears, and a heart. The best thing to do is to believe that life can actually improve or at the very least be manageable in a way that can make contentment a prolonged reality. If there is an afterlife where my father had the ability to check in, he would be unhappy to witness that I’m unhappy. I don’t know what happens after we pass so I’m not putting a lot of stock into that idea. Yet, I know the point to being alive isn’t to wallow in self-loathing due to circumstances that are out of my control. Headaches happen, people die, there are bad days with the potential for good ones. I keep thinking that I can fight my way through simply because I survived a life-threatening illness. The reason I survived though was because of a specialist who didn’t give up on solving a mystery. Others might have. Others might have just thrown up their arms and given up. I don’t know if I can simply do that, even when I have the desire to. There is no pinpointing a source for depression, even if the loss of a parent is an obvious catalyst. What matters now is what can be done to make myself look forward to the future - whether it’s a career change, a new (or old) friendship, or volunteering at a shelter again. Maybe it’s taking a vacation, writing more music. As much as I want to disappear from the world, I also don’t want to let the darkness overwhelm and take control. It is right now, probably because my mind is surrounded by feelings of July 2nd or the fact that life isn’t where I want it to be, but a feeling of hope must be retained. Otherwise, I’m not sure what else to hold on to.

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James Laczkowski