Choose an episode that pressed your first footprints on some new path. Like the time you landed in a mental hospital. Not the first time, when you were bent on squeezing the life out of your sad, broken body, but the second. The time you saw God, or thought you did. Start there.
In the first hospital the fence around the roof-terrace garden rose four feet above your head. Like an inmate, you were led into this pen each day, where you felt the moist San Francisco breeze and the warmth of a sweet pale sun shining through chain link. It might have been pleasant, but you didn’t experience it that way. Demoralized, you were battling a long-checked rage, decades old, now turned against your own body in the desolate dark between thirty-minute bed checks. At night you wrapped your head in cellophane (your sister unknowingly smuggled it in to you) and jammed plastic down your throat, hoping to choke. Each time you reached for death the pain grew too intense, and you broke free to fall backward gasping, frustrated and ashamed. You sensed raving demons in your stark gray room; they loomed over your narrow bed, clinging with curved nails from the steel grate that saved you from jumping out the tenth story window.
No. Don’t mention that hospitalization. Talk about the next one.
Where to begin? How about in the emergency room a week after discharge from the suicide watch? Or earlier, when you were descending the stairs toward the kitchen. The air conditioning was running full-blast, even though it was only March. You were sweating, flushed, blood pressure climbing. Your wife was chilling the house to slow the rivulets flowing off your forehead, the wet patches soaking through your tee shirt, and your incessant pacing. She convinced you to lie down, but you jumped up within minutes. As you descended the stairs you knew. Or thought …