For my high school graduation, I got a big heaping pile of clinical depression. A life of fun, laughter and partying soon became one of misery, lost direction and loneliness.
There were specific events that catapulted me into that state, but even without them, I wouldn’t have escaped the throes of what I would eventually just call “my depression”. As I had written in my first blog, God had plans for me and to make sure I followed those plans, He wired them into my brain.
Depression for me was liking having a sixth sense. It was as though I could see the world differently than others or had access to layers of our existence that they did not. It was empowering although miserable at the same time.
However, within that darkness that consumed me, there were messages on dungeon walls that I began to decipher…
Late nights writing dark and foreshadowing poetry had begun. It became a tool that allowed me to discover that there was power in writing.
As I write this it occurs to me that some who read this might believe this to mean the power to change the world through words. You would be wrong…at least as to the meaning which I am writing about now.
It gave me the power to believe in something other than the world I had always known. In my world, work was the key to everything. As my father used to say, “if you want more than you got to do more.” When he referred to work it meant the work one does with the hands. Although the mind is certainly part of that work, the sweat comes from the actions of the hands and not the thoughts conjured in the mind.
So I worked
In other words, there were a few people out there who could write, act or sing and make money doing those artistic type of things but those people lived in some alien place like California and certainly not in rural Oklahoma. I still remember the day my dad told me the sentiments I just wrote. I was 19 years old. My dad’s belief was not a criticism as much as it was the view point of a man who had never known anyone who had made a living that way. The people he knew and spent time with had regular jobs and used their hands to make a living. The other people, those aliens in California, were on his tv and radio but never in a shop or factory. His words were hard to take, but nothing really compared to the constant voice in my head screaming at me to write. Looking back on it now, I believe that he was telling me not to chase the wind because it’s always going nowhere even though it seems to be going everywhere. So I worked and made a living with my hands. I also continued listening to that voice. for the first time in my life, I began to learn what it really means to have hope and that hope and misery are two sides of the same coin.
So I worked and within three years of graduating high school, I worked on cars at my dad’s shop. I worked at a tubing manufacturing plant. I built trash cans for Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. I worked at a machine shop and all of this I did while battling an ever growing depression that alienated from every happiness.
Did I mention that I flunked out of junior college too during this period?
The voice that I spoke of in the first blog was screaming in my head so loudly that I couldn’t even concentrate. All I wanted to do was melt away in the dark world in which was my life. I knew there was no escape from it.
I could have used drugs or alcohol, but I knew they were only vacations away from the misery and not a permanent destination for happiness.
I am about to tell why God does not allow us to see our futures. I chose faith and patience. Had I known then how each of those choices would be tested in the years to come, I probably would have chosen the alcohol. I would guess if He did show us, we would all just become drunks and junkies. That may not be a rewarding way to go, but one has to admit that it’s a helluva lot more fun.
What God did give me though was another escape. He gave me writing. And without it, I would have gone insane.
Although it was dark and gloomy poetry, it was something. It was what I needed to believe that there was something beyond the depression and the sadness. There was hope that writing could set me free from all of it.
And the voice never lets me forget it.
Over 30 years later as I come home each day from making my living with my hands, that voice is still there with all the fervor that it first spoke to when I was still just a teenager.