Sunrise photo“There’s got to be a morning after 
If we can hold on through the night 
We have a chance to find the sunshine 
Let’s keep on looking for the light”  Maureen McGovern 

I remember my college days in the fraternity when I was a lost soul seeking the solace of alcohol every day of the week. I would spend the nights intoxicating my brain, self medicating myself struggling to endure through the intense pain of life. But thank God for every wasted night there was the morning after. With mental illness, after a hospitalization there is also a morning after. 

I recall my first hospitalization vividly. The social worker was extremely nice and we were working on a place for me to stay after discharge. I definitely didn’t want to go home so together we sought a good friend of mine. He was an employee at the college that I attended and I worked with him. In fact he was in many ways like a father to me. But after my psychiatric illness he wanted nothing to do with me. It was the first in what I would view as a long series of betrayals.

After several days at home I moved back to my fraternity. The drinking and drugging were definitely not what one would call a wholesome environment. At the suggestion of a church friend I was offered a bed in another church friend’s apartment. I was very prone to accepting suggestions so I moved out of the fraternity into Q’s apartment.

I was faithfully taking my medicine which I believe was at the time was lithium. That perhaps was my only saving grace in the matter. Q had a spare bedroom which I shared with another brother of the church. This other brother was a very nice man and was both working full time and going to school. As a result he wasn’t around a lot.

My nights and days were shear misery. All that my mind could do was focus on my mental illness. It dominated my psyche and consumed my being. It was all that I could think about. My whole personality was relegated to being a mental patient. I would lie in bed, some days not even showering. My mind was full of thoughts of suicide and I would lie in bed contemplating different ways I could end my life. It was suffering from an intense clinical depression.

But as time passed I seemed to recover. Like a boxer being hit with an uppercut my feet were rubbery. But as the battle continued I became more sure of myself. In the room next to my mattress was a book shelf. I picked up a couple of books and I began to read them. One was a biography of a woman who became a nun and then deserted the catholic church. She exposed some secrets of the religion and I found the book fascinating. There was another book called “Blue Highways”. It was a man who I believe got divorced and decided to tour America. He traveled on lesser used roads which were colored blue on his map, thus the title of the book. I could really relate to the author as several months ago I had just returned from hitchhiking across America.

Q was kind in a stern sort of way. He insisted that I go find a job. Feeling a lot better and motivated by an external source I went out looking for a job. I found one at the pizza place and from there my confidence started to grow rapidly. These events and others are all chronicled in my book, “More Than The Madness”. https://johnkaniecki.weebly.com/more-than-the-madness.html

I want to encourage all the people just barely clinging on to life who’s hope has been extinguished.  I have been through the night. I have embraced the darkness of meaningless and despair. But I am here now as a witness that there is a “morning after”. Hold on and keep keeping on because so will come the glory of the dawn.

Photos by Doug Waldron,