Every once in a while my brain begins what I call its rage cycle. Very rarely once it begins can I keep it from going through its cycle. I can regulate my activities, and control my diet and to a certain extent my surroundings. But in the end I am a slave to the cycle once it begins. Rage is hard to describe to very many people, they generally relate in terms of anger, rest assured it is not anger, it is rage. Sometimes it begins with an injustice. The past few weeks the injustice of my children the damage done to them has been the catalyst. But sometimes, it’s just watching unhealthy people continue in their unhealthy way to make themselves sicker and sicker without seeing that it is their habits that are at fault and not their “Genetic Make Up”. For several decades now I have had to answer to this rage that continues inside me. The truth is it’s not even the event triggering the rage that is the issue as any injustice or petty belief I have can trigger it. It’s the rage itself that is the problem. It truly is darkness, or an abyss. If I was depressed I have no doubt it could cause suicidal ideation, but I’m not a depressed person in any way. If it was anxiety, I would be so paranoid; I would be unable to engage in any aspect of life. The only way to describe it is rage, and to unleash it or not to keep it subdued would result in a catastrophic event that would cause harm to anyone in my vicinity.
For decades now I have spent the better part of my day in a ritual that allows me self control. From the time I get up until I close my eyes at night, I engage in an ongoing series of exercises to calm the rage in my mind. For example the first hour of my morning is spent calming my spirit (in fact I stop and do this many times during the day). As a rule I rise before anyone else in the house, and make a coffee (I allow myself one shot of caffeine in the morning), sit and inhale the aroma and allow my body to finish waking from its sleep or many times lack of sleep. On the rare occasion that I don’t have the hour to myself, I find a spot and push out the world if I am able. When I can’t find a place for myself; on these occasions my risk of expressing my rage is greatly increased. I continue with momentary periods of occupying my mind on repetitive simple tasks that allow me to continually calm my mind. For example, most food I eat is non processed and raw when I buy it. So refining my food, gives me time to slow my mind. I grind my own grain into flour; make coffee by grinding the beans and the perculating them in an old fashion perculator and many simpler home processing tricks rather than buying prepared foods. If I could I would buy a cow and milk it as part of my routine to slow the world down so I don’t feel I have to get off of it. It’s not because I can’t organize or handle stressful days, but rather because if I don’t slow the world around me down, I won’t be able to have stressful days and not lose control of the rage. As I’m getting older the probability that I could one day end up in a nursing home scares the shit out of me. I can’t imagine a day without my routines. Who becomes responsible when because of an environment that doesn’t allow me the freedom of my routine (and dictates what my routines will be) disrupts my ability to have self control?
I spent a lot of time on ranges perfecting the art of instinctive battle drills. Responding without thought to given dangers. The fact that I can slow the world down and think before I respond is the only reason I am still alive. The Desmond family of Nova Scotia brings to mind the ugly truth of what I refer to as the flip side of the suicide coin. Behavior that is so outwardly driven, that it results in self destruction, but only after you had destroyed what you loved. I suspect I know a little about what you may be thinking if you have read this far into the article. This is some pretty dark reading. Unfortunately I will get a little darker before I return to the light. When someone’s brain is damaged to this point and when all hope of returning to that light is abandoned, (this is where I was 20 years ago when my children were taken from me) this is when they will act out. Knowing this Lionel Desmond asked for help but none was there. To be clear I never acted out in any act of violence, I had always been able to maintain control on the rage, but to this day I still don’t know why I never broke and acted out. Perhaps it was the old men from the Knights of Columbus that showed up and led me by the hand or my family or any number of other intercessory events that kept the breakdown from occurring. I do know that it often felt at the time like it was a deliberate attempt from those involved to create a situation that I could never recover from, so that my children would never have a relationship with me. Every week a new accusation would be leveled against me, and every week I would have to return to court to answer the accusation. The accusations were never justified or proven, just leveled week after week. In the middle of it all my pension would be cancelled and I would have to fight to get it reinstated, which would take months. I even had to have myself admitted to prevent further accusations and to allow an independent Doctor to assess my mental health. Looking back at this I am even more amazed that I didn’t follow in Lionel Desmond’s footsteps. If in fact I was the problem they believed me to be, why after $50,000.00 in court fees, a week long trial that found no evidence and the return of one son did I not break mentally? For this I have no answer, only that all of this occurred throughout the 90’s and began 25 years ago as I write this article. Twenty five years later we are no closer to having a solution to the problem, although we do throw millions at it annually.
So what would have happened to Lionel’s family and my own if instead of being abandoned by our government, society in general and then attacked through the courts; or deigned treatment or a safe place to recover? What if Lionel and I had a safe place to go with others, who understood our rage, and had suffered and survived and learnt how to flourish and stay one step ahead of their rage. Would I have gone as deep and as dark as I did? Would I have lost the relationships I lost? Would my children have been hurt to the extent that they were hurt? I ask the same question of the Desmond Family. Knowing what I know today allows me to grow, thrive and enjoy life, had the two of us been working towards his control on the rage within him would his family and him still be alive and healing while moving toward a fulfilling future? The only way to answer these questions is to change the past which we cannot do. But we can change the future. In the next few weeks several Not For Profits focused on veterans mental health are beginning a conversation. A conversation we hope will end with a step forward in funding and organizing a peer’s support initiative that will accomplish just that.