6, God.

And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.

(Holy Bible, New International Version; Genesis 1:3)

Six years ago. September 2013. Glen Oaks, Queens. New York, United States.

Discharged from my second stint at Zucker Hillside Hospital.

Zucker was part of North Shore Long Island Jewish (NSLIJ) Medical Center. NSLIJMC eventually renamed itself Northwell Health in 2015.

Time flies on the outside.

Both stays summed 22 days total. Time slows, hardens, freezes on the inside.

Zucker’s initial discharge date was a week prior. I came back. I’ll explain why.

Breakfast was fruit, milk, and Corn Pops.

After recycling my tray, I retired to my room and decided to kill myself again.

Like any suicidal sucker worth his salt, I was cheeking every dose of we-don’t-need-your-informed-consent-inside-these-walls medication I was put on.

Cheeking? When your mouth is a closet. When your tongue is the rug to be swept under. When you pretend to swallow only to spit it out later. TWSS.

Schizo Skittles, what we, the pill-popping pirate inmates running the asylum, called our meds. Is this offensive? You can’t cancel me. Believe me, I’ve tried!

Amnesics. Anticonvulsants. Antidepressants. Antipsychotics. Anxiolytics. Depressants. Hypnotics. Relaxants. Sedatives. Stabilizers.

Amphetamines. Benzos. Lithium. MAOIs. Pams. Pines. SSRIs. Stimulants. Agonists. Antagonists. Agony. Take a pill. Leave a will.

Adderall. Ambien. Effexor. Lexapro. Lorazepam. Paxil. Prozac. Remeron. Seroquel. Wellbutrin. Xanax. Zoloft. Zyprexa. A to Z.

I was given these meds every evening shortly after supper. Supper is what dinner is called when there’s still daylight outside. It was usually bland.

I would cheek my meds, swiftly hiding them in the valley between my bottom molars. The nurse on shift would expect me to stick my tongue out and go, “aah”, to which I happily obliged, but they never checked under my tongue.

I would race back to my room, retrieve them, and hide them in my collection. You might think they’d be no good by then, but one of the chief side effects I had was cotton mouth. Not much saliva. I didn’t sweat. I barely drank water.

I kept them in relative plain sight. They never checked under the pillows.

Funny. I found this strange, because in college and grad school, I was a resident assistant. Every veteran RA knows you always check under pillows, even though you’re not supposed to. Not every hero always wears a cape.

Sometimes, some of us, some times, wear hospital gowns, sometimes.

Back to breakfast. I swallowed my sadness with the Seroquel stew.

It was a way for me to deal with the shitstorm I had dived headfirst into, a way to compartmentalize, clean out my cluster — fuck, I swore I’d stop swearing — a way to make sense of the basketcase I’d never thought myself to be.

It’s always the leaders, the fixers, the cleaners, the people who seem the most put-together with the biggest messes underneath. Nobody checks up, and in, on, their wellbeing, and, the worst part is, neither do they/we/me/you/us.

As an addendum, something I wish I could tell a younger me 13 years ago when I first joined Facebook: this is precisely why you should never tie your self-concept, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-identity, self-love, and self-worth, to what you see of other self-serving selfish selves on social media.

(No shame in the game, until you learn Silicon Valley’s Big Tech multinationals have quite literally addicted you to the “Hooked” model of neuro-feedback, and, if we’re all being honest, we’re see-sawing on a spectrum of relative addiction, quantifying clout in and on everything from emoji, favorites, hearts, likes, pins, regrams, retweets, shares, snaps, subscribers, etc. Don’t believe me? Google it. I’ll wait. Godspeed, Gen Z.)

Never compare others’ curated highlight reels with the reality of your behind-the-scenes, your bloopers, your director’s cut, your DVD extras, your no-filters, your reality.

left: rock bottom, summer 2013. right: recovery, fall 2013.

That’s not even the point here.

I decided to go back because the side effects of what I’m still certain to this day is, was, and always should be a lethal overdose were suffocating and overwhelming. There was nothing they could do.

I didn’t even tell anybody about the overdose until the day after, and by then, it was too late for intubation, gastric lavage, activated charcoal, anything else, invasive or otherwise, to really do anything. So they did what they could.

Nothing.

A few days after “monitoring” me, which basically meant charging my insurance over $200,000 for the bells-and-whistles bed-and-breakfast experience — I call it the ER-bnb — except your fellow outcast travelers are a motley crew of manic-depressives, scores of schizophrenics, narcoleptics and insomniacs, and your all-inclusive hotel resort is a psych ward… they discharged me once again. Not another overdose this time, nor since.

I had nothing to do but sit and think. I willed myself to get better.

The mental part was down, but I still couldn’t sleep.

Oh, and the physical symptoms. The worst pain ever felt. Tardive dyskinesia.

Involuntary muscle contractions, which for some twisted reason, perhaps divine punishment, I could feel everywhere, even where and when I wasn’t supposed to, at least according to the friendly faces in long white coats.

Not just the usual stomach gurgling when you’re hungry. I mean every muscle on fire, especially my heart. I had felt palpitations the whole summer, but this was different. Imagine believing you’re going to die for 120 straight hours.

The worst part? Death doesn’t even visit you once. I’ve shared part of this story before, but I learned this past February disease visited instead — I now live with a slight arrhythmia. Inverted P waves. When I first learned this, I thought they meant “inverted pee waves”. My inner child laughed defiantly.

The first thing I did when I got home was collapse into my bed. I couldn’t sleep. Later that afternoon, I somehow mustered the strength to roll out of bed, and crawled into prostration. I remembered thinking God won’t listen to me, even then. And yet, it was never a matter of weak faith, then or now.

This is what most people don’t understand about mental illness. It’s never about normal thinking. It’s never normal. You’re necessarily, definitionally, literally, technically, absolutely not yourself. But I’m a smart cat. I know this.

I don’t care if it sounds arrogant or ignorant. It’s not even confidence. It’s self-awareness. I majored in biology, specialized in physiology, and concentrated in neuroscience, and I have been working, volunteering, shadowing, and/or interning in one arena of healthcare or another since I was but a wee preteen.

(My inner child laughs defiantly now, too. Tell me “wee” isn’t hilarious.)

I knew not to trust my intrusive thoughts, but to tap into something deeper, more fundamental, the basic emotions — again, my opinion — anybody who’s being honest, without filter, coercion, persuasion, influence, and corruption, will admit when thinking about “God”. How I once conceived God, as a child.

Light.

I remembered this one prayer.

I forget who taught me this, but however and wherever and whomever you are, I love you more than life itself, and I hope you are rewarded on my behalf for this with nothing less than paradise in this life and the next. Amen.

It’s called the Prayer of Light.

It goes something like this:

“God, place light in my heart, and on my tongue light, and in my ears light and in my sight light, and above me light, and below me light, and to my right light, and to my left light, and before me light and behind me light. Place in my soul light. Magnify for me light, and amplify for me light. Make for me light, and make me light. O God, grant me light, and place light in my nerves, and in my body light and in my blood light and in my hair light and in my skin light”.

Amen.

I then figured now/then was the best time to exercise poetic license, and quickly blurted out a few more lines* of my own, specifically asking God to enter His Healing Light into the entirety of the particulate chaos constituting every single subatomic particle constituting every single atom constituting every single molecule constituting every single cell constituting every single tissue constituting every single organ constituting my entire single body, as well as whatever sparkly cosmic magic (my Abrahamic texts professors back in college called it “clay”, forgive me if I’m blaspheming, but if you’re still reading, kindly indulge yours truly for the moral of the story) animates my self, soul, spirit, and my consciousness and being in all dimensions. Amen.

This isn’t meant to proselytize.

I’m no preacher. I have less than zero interest in converting anybody to anything. I’ve been agnostic at times, and being honest, I’ve flirted with the most transient, flitting atheist suspicions in my weakest, angriest moments.

If you thought me to be the model Muslim, you’re only half right.

All this is to say, I believe in the power of prayer, I believe it to be much greater, more potent, stronger than the power of placebo, and, holy anticlimactic surprises Bruce Wayne, I believe in God.** Accordingly, I believe in surrendering to something beyond yourself. That’s how I got better. That’s why I’m here today. And it’s why I haven’t had a panic attack, relapse, serious ideation, suicide attempt, or another hospitalization in the past six years.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

I’m happy to be the poster boy for it if it saves a life.

There’s no call to action here. That’ll come way later.

For now, just know if you have the power to save a life,
you should do everything you can to do so. Call, text,
stop by. Hug, kiss, laugh, smile, cry, listen, speak, dance.

This gift we call the present, our lives, is a fragile thing.

Cherish it with the love and sacred respect it deserves.

In case nobody told you today, yesterday, or tomorrow.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

I love you.

*Lyrics? Verses? I’m no poet, but your boy’s been rapping since: November 1997, when Abu let me cop Busta Rhymes’ “Dangerous” on. cassette. tape., back when Virgin Music Megastore was the only reason Times Square was worth any native New Yorker visiting; spitting hot fire since September 1998, when Charizard spat hot fire on the only rare holographic my Pokemon Trading Card Game battle deck could boast; flaming bars since November 2001, the tenth anniversary of my favorite episode of The Simpsons, the one with Moe’s Tavern. All this is to say, I might mess around and put out a companion hip-hop album with Brown Grass, just to kill clout chasers and school some Soundcloud stans. Pharaoh Q drops Winter 2020. #WorldStar)

*The real surprise is my steadfast belief in those dry stuffs of various historical Enlightenments, Golden Ages, hell, even the Hellenics — those fabled, ignored, much-maligned called ethics, epistemology, eschatology, esotericism, linguistics, logic, philosophy, physics, reasoning, rationale, rhetoric, TL;DR: SCIENCE, undergird this understanding.

It’s why I believe in things like climate change, evolution, and futurism, and why I vehemently albeit compassionately refute their respective rejectionists, like antivaxxers. (PSA: seriously, fuck antivaxxers. They’re even worse than flat-Earthers. And don’t get me started on flat-Earthers.)

These beliefs aren’t mutually exclusive with my belief in the existence of, growing interest in, and respect for bodies of knowledge, crafts, and disciplines concerning and surrounding energy, herbalism, magic, occult, spirituality, unidentified aerial phenomena, etc. But, hey, that’s just me, and you didn’t read this far to argue with a stranger on social media, did you?

I live to tell stories. If you’d like to read more,
consider joining my mailing list: bit.ly/2vxpWsj
Spam never. Stories forever. Thanks for reading.

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Author, BROWN GRASS | CEO/EIC, PERENNIAL MILLENNIAL. Earned 3 STEM degrees in 5 years. Advised Fortune 500 C-suites. Medium’s resident cheerleader since 2015.

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SF Ali (Farooq)

SF Ali (Farooq)

Author, BROWN GRASS | CEO/EIC, PERENNIAL MILLENNIAL. Earned 3 STEM degrees in 5 years. Advised Fortune 500 C-suites. Medium’s resident cheerleader since 2015.

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