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The following is an excerpt from my memoir: Pieces Of My Path.  It recounts the pain, hopelessness and extreme loneliness that I felt while being locked up in a mental hospital on Thanksgiving Day in 1990. I have moved on to a much more happier life and I am Thankful for all that I have but let’s not forget the ones who still live the way I once lived and let’s give thanks to the strength and wisdom that can be born out of depression and despair. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!:

When Thanksgiving Day arrived, I woke up with a gut wrenching feeling of being bitterly lonely and lost. No one invited me to their home. I wanted so desperately to be with a loving family around a table filled with turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes. I wanted to feel a deep and abiding love but what ever love I once had was lost and gone forever.  I lay there on that mental hospital bed and pulled up long ago distant memories of being with my grandparents on Thanksgiving Day.

My grandmother worked for hours in the kitchen, the hot oven giving our home a nice comfortable loving warmness. The kitchen window steamed up from her cooking; making it seem like all that mattered in the world was what was happening in our home. I felt like I was in a warm cocoon, protected from the cold and coming winter of outside.   I sat in the living room watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV. Nan set the table with her finest Syracuse China and then set the walnuts out with the nutcracker. My aunts and uncles soon came through the door and there we’d be; enjoying the best Thanksgiving dinner you could ever ask for. Pop started serving, and with his usual excitement for food, he’d say, “Oh boy! Dig in Tom, it won’t hurt cha!” It was such a nice and warm memory.

Now, here I was in the gloom of a plain white room in a mental hospital. Those times around my grandparents Thanksgiving table seemed like a million years ago. How could a boy of twelve, watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, ever imagine that he’d end up in a shameful, miserable place like this?

Before getting out of bed I decided that I wasn’t going to let the gloom and doom overwhelm me.  I figured that on this day of thanks I would make the best of it, and be thankful to be in the company of at least ten out of thirty patients who, like me, wouldn’t be giving appreciation to their families. I wanted to extend my gratitude to all of the other lost souls who had no place to go. We would have our own Thanksgiving dinner later in the afternoon and despite our problems I was looking forward to good food and hopefully making a few new friends. Unfortunately my calculations were way off and I was in for a shock.  By mid afternoon, 26 of 30 patients had gone “home” to “family”.  My spirit took a massive hit and I ached with a deep gnawing unbearable hurt.  I stood near a lobby window, in the grips of an unrelenting misery, watching at least a hundred cars roll past on the highway.  People were on their way to be with their families; I was here, stuck in a world of Hell. Thankful I was not but I did try to enjoy the dinner that they put out for us four.  I managed a few forkfuls of turkey before the lump in my throat put an end to the rest of my thankful feast. My heart was empty and now, so was my stomach.

After I pulled away from my plate I went over and sat near the cafeteria windows, looking out on a wintry courtyard. Dr. Gilbert strolled over.  I was hoping that he’d at least wish me a “Happy Thanksgiving”. I really wasn’t in the mood for anything more than small talk.  All I really wanted to do was to get through this very painful day.  He must have seen how awful I was feeling and he must have seen the full plate of food that I left behind on the table. He also knew that I was only one of four patients left on the unit and he must have known how that was affecting me.  It must have been obvious that I was in tremendous emotional pain but he continued to bruise me, “Hi Tom.  Why aren’t you with your family for Thanksgiving?”  I hated his hurtful insinuating questions and I hated him with a passion. I wanted so much to punch the son of a bitch through a window.  Instead I mumbled, “I wasn’t invited. They made other plans…”

You’d think the man would offer me at least an ounce of empathy and since he was a psychiatrist you’d think that he’d want to help me work through my feelings but what he said was just another brush off of my mental condition, ignoring what brought me here in the first place, “By the end of the week-end we should have you set up with a bed at the Rescue Mission.”  Again, I was being kicked in the stomach and threatenedwith the Rescue Mission all because I wasn’t connecting with my family. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I gagged, and with my head throbbing over the toilet bowl I threw up the few slivers of turkey that I had just eaten.  When I returned he was still there.

I needed to change the subject and to move the discussion back to my mental health needs. I asked him about his promise to put me on “new medications” before discharging me.  He said, “I’m unsure if they would help you…” I was determined to get this asshole to at least listen to me and I slapped the palm of my hand down on the table interrupting him, “I’ve been telling you for some time now that I’m not feeling any better than when I arrived here in September! If I walk out that door, I’ll be without any kind of help.  What am I suppose to do, just give up!? Why can’t you do what I’m begging you to do? Why can’t you put me on Xanax? That’s all I’m asking. I just need for some of this anxious pain to go away….please, you’ve got to help me here…”  He gazed at me with those indifferent cold and icy eyes of his and I was surprised, he gave me some hope even though he never mentioned my request for Xanax, “I can change your meds starting tomorrow…..we can try that for about a week and then we can go from there…”  I wasn’t feeling too thankful but to conciliate him I said, “Thanks.”  He walked away, leaving me with words that seemed less than sincere, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

I sat there and stared out at the white-coated earth.  It was a cold unpleasant day.  I sullenly reached over and put my finger tips against the window.  I felt the chill of the world flow through me and I dreaded the thought of being in it without a home.

 

 

It’s strange how life works.  20 years ago I was in the final stages of a very severe depression. I was on way way back from a very nasty  stretch of life when in November of 92 I attended my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.  To say the least- “The Boss” moved me during that show and had me LIVING life again!

Bruce Springsteen

All of this happened not only in the misery of my depression- but that concert came just 3 months after losing a very dear friend in a horrible car crash. Debbie had idolized Bruce and all of her friends who attended that concert could feel her spirit surging to every song that vibrated through that thumping and Bruce crazed dome.

Now, here it is almost exactly 20 years later and again, I am on my way back from a very nasty stretch of life where, seperation, divorce and death have consumed me for almost one full year. It’s been very difficult, at times, to get back into the swing of life. To appreciate and to LOVE life again has been a struggle but I believe I’m at  the same place I was 20 years ago when I walked into that dome. I’M READY TO ROCK  THE HELL OUT OF LIFE AGAIN!!!  I just need a boost and I’m excited to say: I’M SURE BRUCE WILL DO IT!

On November 11th, just 2 days shy from that special concert that took place in Syracuse in 92, I will be in St. Paul to get some well needed BRUCE medicine!!

A  trip back to that magical time in 92. From my memior: Pieces Of My Path:

 

11-13-92

Well, this will be a day that I will never forget.  It’s been a happy/sad, bitter/sweet day.  My zest for life was enhanced by a street preacher who spoke the fire and brimstone word of God.

Then, to top off the day Bruce Springsteen preached his own sermon of high energy songs for close to 4 hours!!!  The spirit of my love for life flows out of me in “wonderful” feelings.  The feelings wouldn’t stop flowing as I clapped and danced to the music!  The music stimulated me like never before.  The “Spirit” was there in that vibrating, thumping atmosphere.  It literally moved my insides.  BUT, Debbie’s spirit was also there.  I could see her smiling face. It moved me so that a lump formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.  It almost didn’t seem right, that I felt sooo alive in that moment and Debbie, is gone from this life.  BUT, I really felt that she wanted all of her friends to feel the uplifting spirit that Bruce’s music brought.  I KNOW she is happy, knowing that I’m “living life” now.

Debbie wasn’t just in spirit at the concert, she was in the morning paper.  I was moved by an article that announced a Birthday Party at her grave tomorrow.   The story told of her love for her dog and her love for motor cycles, both of which are engraved on her stone with the words:  “Ride Like The Wind”. 

Please visit the author of this post: www.tomriddell.com