What I Learned From My Trip to Hell
May 9, 2017 – 3 minute read – by Trevor McNally
When I stopped writing in 2015 I was narrating my bicycle – car collision incident from a mostly first person perspective. I was typing one key at a time with just my left hand. (In case you wouldn’t have guessed). My right ulna was a non-union fracture from the day it was broken (April 20th 2015) until the day the Naval Hospital gave up on ultrasound therapy and decided to bolt the pieces together (Nov. 13 2015).
It’s not easy.
I felt optimistic when I was still an inpatient at the Naval Hospital. I survived death and now I had a whole life ahead of me. Life was a gift, every day was a gift, and I was grateful for every breath I had.
I was high. I had never done drugs before, but there I was simultaneously fucked up on Oxycodene, Morphine, and Toradol. My happiness and security was merely a side effect of narcotic pain killers. The next year of my life ensued to be the lowest level of hell.
I first realized I was addicted to Percocet after my 3rd or 4th surgery. I can’t remember exactly which surgery it was, but I do remember picking up my candy bag from the pharmacy and immediately checking to see how much Percocet my doc prescribed. A full bottle of little pills was a full bottle more than what I actually needed after that surgery.
I refilled that prescription twice.
My life became a miserable cycle of surgeries chased by Percocet. When the narcotics ran out and I had to go back to work I would drink every night. Then I’d drink a lot every night. When I was able to ride a bike again I would ride 40 miles to work and back each day. I was often still drunk from the night before while riding and sober by the time I got in over an hour and half later. I got into a routine of stopping at Family Mart before getting home and stocking up on Orion putting one in the bottle cage and a few more in my Camelbak.
I got addicted to feeling numb. When Percocet wasn’t there to do it, alcohol was. I became emotionally numb as well. My marriage went to shit. I was emotionally unavailable when my wife needed me. Divorce became a daily topic. Fights became a daily exercise.
We sought counseling together and separately. It was all useless. It pissed me off talking to psychologists who were never active duty or married about my dual military relationship. What the fuck do they know?
My wife and I would hit rock bottom and then just before one of us would walk into the legal office to file for divorce we’d realize it’s not what we want and we’d see another counselor. The counselor would piss us both off which, in some strange way, brought us back together. The hatred for counseling united us. We would be ‘good’ for a couple weeks until we hit bottom again and so the cycle continued.
I got exhausted. I was a victim of Okinawa. I lost my body. I lost my sense of identity within the Marine Corps. I was losing my wife. I fucking hated my job but I hated coming home even more. I hated getting a surgery every other month. I loved getting Percocet every other month. I hated when I ran out of Percocet every other month. I quit drinking every other month. I started drinking every other month.
I fantasized about different scenarios where I didn’t live. What if I would have just died from the collision? What if I didn’t wake up when the darkness enveloped me in the ambulance? What if I wasn’t right next to a fire station with EMS when it happened?
Depression is not a disease, it’s a fucking demon. It latches on and consumes your mind. It plants seeds in your head and feeds off the evil that grows.
I was alone at home. Again. It was quiet. Everyone was at work and school, but I was home. Convalescent leave is boring. I would sit at home for hours every day with my broken body. I had a lot of bad thoughts. Sometimes I would take a length of climbing rope and tie a noose. Not an easy task with just a left hand. I’d feel my pulse with my fingers and press on the arteries in my neck until my head would feel light and dizzy. Sometimes I would wear the noose. I would pull it tight and feel my head get light and dizzy. Sometimes I would fasten the noose on the end post of our staircase. Sometimes I would sit next to the post and wear the noose. Sometimes I would imagine my wife coming home and finding me sitting there dead.
One of these times I let my body slowly sink and the noose get tighter and my head get lighter. I could breathe. I felt my pulse throbbing in my head as the rope squeezed tighter around the arteries. It was easy. I slouched deeper against the post sitting on the floor. I didn’t feel any pain. I stared at the floor between my legs as my vision narrowed. It was the middle of the day. The sun was shining through the windows but my vision was like looking through darkness with a flashlight. The darkness was warm and empty. It was waiting for me. I closed my eyes and sank deeper into it.
I woke up laying on my left side. One moment earlier I had straightened up and removed the noose. One moment earlier I had tried to stand but blacked out. I untied the noose and the demon returned to the shadows.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12
I’m not writing this because I want you or anyone else to feel sorry for me. That’s bullshit and here’s why:
I’m not a victim of shitty life circumstances, depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, or suicidal thoughts.
I’m a victim only to myself. I chose to feel sorry for myself. I told myself I was a victim. I told myself that there was nothing I could do about it. I let others feel sorry for me because it reinforced the perpetual cocoon of bullshit and self pity I was hiding in. I let myself believe I was not responsible for my own misery.
Deep down inside we all know the truth about ourselves and when that truth doesn’t align with the “story” of our lives we feel the unhappiness. Failure doesn’t make us unhappy, knowing we didn’t try and failed is what makes us unhappy. The moment we stop taking responsibility for our lives is when we become mis-aligned.
I gave away my responsibility and let my life become mis-aligned. I gave my responsibility to the driver of the car. I gave my responsibility to narcotic pain killers, alcohol, and others feeling “sorry” for me. The more responsibility I gave away, the more mis-aligned I became. The more mis-aligned I became, the more cracks I had in my “story”. The more cracks I had, the more demons would slither in to my life.
I’m writing this because it might help somebody. When I stopped bullshitting myself and took back responsibility of my life (the good and the bad ) is when the demons finally fucked off and left me alone. When I finally got tired of hiding in my cocoon of bullshit I discovered the damnedest thing:
Everybody has problems.
Life is always going to be there waiting to rain down on you with bullshit. Sometimes it’s a clear sky, sometimes it’s overcast, and sometimes the bullshit comes in massive torrents that would test Noah’s Arc. When it happens, own it…own all of it.
This is my bullshit, there’s a lot like it, but this shit is mine.
Shovel what you can and accept what you cannot, then move the fuck on. Stop giving a fuck about what others might think, and ask for help if you’re in more shit than you can shovel.
It’s not easy.
It’s not going to be easy.
…Don’t ask for it to be easy. When the shit sucks, make the decision. You can let “The Suck” own and consume you, or you can embrace and own it.
For my brothers and sisters that are already gone; it sucks shoveling without you. For those still fighting their demons let me shovel with you. Mortality is a bitch and will eventually take all of us. Embrace it.