Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dark places



"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."
-John Milton


A little over a year ago, immediately following my father's suicide attempt, I began to have very violent, haunting dreams. Though I'm not willing to go into the details of the dreams, I will say that they involved me engaging in horrific acts of violence towards others. One involved a shotgun and a group of strangers.

I don't own any firearms. The only knives I own are my kitchen knives. I don't even own a baseball bat. I've never taken part in a fight, and I've never wanted to. As you can imagine, the dreams were frightening and utterly perplexing. Unfortunately, these were not the type of dreams that you forget right away.

It took me a while to make sense of these nightmares, and this of course brought me back to Dad's attempt at his own life. The semester following that tragic afternoon, I took a Creative Nonfiction writing class. Feeling that I could not yet write clearly about what Dad had done, I wrote a piece about a high school relationship.

Of course, as it usually does, the "story that needs to be told" came bubbling to the surface, and my essay about high school dating inevitably turned into a piece about that regrettable afternoon in the E.R.

I wrote several drafts, and by the time the semester ended I'd had enough of the piece. This semester I'm taking a Fiction writing class and, luckily, none of my stories have had anything to do with suicide (They have retained a dark flavor, which is fine--a good thing, in fact. I'm simply happy that I have not found the overwhelming need to focus on "the incident" and only that).

Looking back on my previous essay, I find that much of my focus was on the violence of Dad's actions. Dad was formerly a Vietnam protester and, more recently, a demonstrator against the U.S. presence in the Middle East. He'd always harshly reprimanded my little brother and me for any sort of fighting, and as far as I can tell, he'd always avoided violent confrontation.

Though I hadn't realized it until recently, the reason I was so focused on such disturbing images as the noodle-like tendon poking from his wrist, or the stitches in his neck, or the crusted blood inside of his car, was because they really stuck out. The most violent act Dad ever engaged in was towards himself.

Come to think of it, this is the first time I've written about this in months. I suppose I'm much more comfortable with the situation, now that Dad has undergone extensive therapy, has been sober for over a year, and has, as Y Tu Mama Tambien phrases it, "accepted his freedom." In a way, Dad was reborn.

As for myself, the dreams ended shortly after they began, but the memory remains. The memories are haunting, yes, but they are also a necessary, cautionary reminder of the dark places that the mind sometimes wanders.

8 Comments:

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Laura said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your tragic experience. Thank God that your father survived and got some help. Sometimes I think when you put feelings and emotion into the written word, it's like therapy. It helps you cope with the things going on presently in your life and things of the past that you just can't seem to forget about.

 
At 9:51 PM, Blogger Lunchbox said...

hey, at least we made it through. not that the battles actually over. i think i did the same thing as you, i had a notebook by my bed for a while. i found it a couple of weeks ago, i think it helped me put everything into perspective during that time.

 
At 2:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm gald your father survived and that you are able to talk about it. The dreams sound like a natural response to a traumatic event, which just means your normal. Hope everything is ok now.

 
At 7:35 AM, Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

As a child, my grandfather drowned in his car. That was years ago, and some family members never fully recovered. I used a tidbit of this in my story, "Thumbprints, Deadlines," in Pebble Lake Review.

I'm glad you're coping.

 
At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you called my blog less than light-hearted. I like your blog and I'm sorry about that post. Someone in the blosphere hates me.

Check back tomorrow for an amusing story about my trip to Las Vegas. I had a blast!

 
At 5:28 PM, Blogger Future Nurse said...

Why did you never tell me about these dreams? I was still dreaming about my grandma's cancer up until we heard about my brother. I'm glad your dad is with us today, though. Believe in what or however you want, it is such a mind blowing miracle that he is here today.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger heartinsanfrancisco said...

An amazing story, not the least of which is your ability to not only survive it emotionally, but to transmute your pain into art.

I'm glad you're taking writing courses. You have a lot of talent, and I look forward to reading more.

 
At 6:54 PM, Blogger Bird on a Wire said...

Thanks, San Fran. That's very encouraging.

 

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