Growing with two debilitated parents, I’ve developed an enormous empathy, verging on admiration, of weakness. This is only natural when the people you first learn to depend on are people you, in a very real sense, can’t. Mom and Dad’s deafness has led me through life constantly reaffirming what I know, terrified of the next step, terrified of having no guidance, of having to guide the ones who are supposed to guide me.
This predicament had its upsides, too. Having an enormous dependency on fluency, literacy and maximal utilization of my mental faculties has led me to obsessively cultivate skills that every average person can if he’s pressed against the wall. It is a fact that I stubbornly reiterate to anyone who not only bothers to reach out to me, but to also exhibit admiration to my unusual skills – that I am not gifted in any way, I am not more intelligent, probably am less intelligent, and am not talented more than anyone else. It’s usually the other way around.
So I grew up with thick skin, I forced myself to learn, to train, to adapt to a reality in which I not only had to fight and fight on my own to make it in a hostile environment, I also had to look up for mom and dad. At some point in my life, being my parents’ son became more than just a burden, it became somewhat of a pathological neccessity.
When mom finally died, it came as something that was so mind-boggling and unacceptable after all those years of spitting blood to preserve her infirm, ever deteriorating body. When I finally went and looked at that corpse, something in me truly and potentially irreversably snapped:
I lived with mom and dad and managed to overcome more and more responsibilities, as they grew older and in mom’s case, sicker and sicker. But I never wavered, I persevered.
But when I was faced with mom’s corpse, my mind did a routine action: it tried to make it right.
And when I realized that this was a dead body and not something I could in any way change, that relentless, bullet-headed, infinite hope simply gave in. My entire moral backbone just snapped at once. When mom went, so did my ability to be of any use to anyone. I became, for more than 18 months, something that I never was:
I cared for nothing, I cared for no one. I was interested in two things: dying, and that day when I lost half of everything I had.
So I started detaching myself from friends, stopped caring for my commitments, I stopped feeling empathy, ceased honoring relationships. I betrayed and doublecrossed and squeezed everyone’s ability to adhere to me on the basis of the man I was until I was left with almost nothing, and then:
I turned to hurt, in ways unimaginable, the person I cared about the most.
At that point, I quit college, closed myself in my room and realized that the tiring quest of liquidating everything I had is almost complete. At that point, I took an overdose of pills, ran away into a place no one could find me in and waited.
Lying on the sand gave me some time to think. I knew that if the overdose won’t kill me, I’ll simply have to find more intricate ways of ensuring my death. By that time, I was truly willing to die. I lost all my friends, the person I loved the most hated me, and my dad truly gave up, he couldn’t see his son dying anymore, especially not after looking up to me all those years, using me as ears and protection.
After a few hours I came back home, the pills didn’t kill, although they made me feel horrible for a few weeks. It was a failed attempt, but a damn good one. In the following weeks, while my family rushed me to a psych ward (where I was diagnosed with PTSD), I spent time researching a clean, clear-cut means of killing myself, and this was undergoing serious planning until something rather strange happened that suddenly, somehow, jerked my entire twisted mentality back to where it was the day before mom died. I called it “the Efes”, or “zero” in Hebrew. Because it was an event that was so powerful that it felt as though something that was born on April 1st, 2007, when Mom died, was completely destroyed.
After I started having panic attacks about a few days after the funeral, I started recieving prescribed anxiolytics. One of the drugs I recieved was an anti-psychotic called “Resperidal”. Resperidal had the quality of pacifying the body so violently that taking it sometimes led me into self-induced, 20-hour long comas. It also had the rather nasty side-effect of producing a rather horrible panic attack as soon as I woke up. The scariest part about Resperidal is that when I actually woke up and panicked, it wasn’t because of Mom or being afraid to lose my girlfriend or Dad or anything. It was pure, unadulterated fear. It’s as though somehow the drug managed to put every single nerve in my body on a stretch and cause me to feel terrified because of something I cannot identify. It was a chemical ghost, terrifying, invisible, incapacitating.
Then one evening, about a week or so before I planned to perform a much more elaborate suicide, I had a severe, mind shattering panic attack. It was so intense and so powerful that I had lost all capacity of judgment and simply took every anxiolytic I had. I simply didn’t care – I just wanted it to stop. So, what actually happened is that I took about eightfold the standard dose of Resperidal, which shut me down like a steel hammer.
When I woke up, I woke up in Hell. I woke up delusional and horrified. That burning sensation of fear that follows taking one dose of Resperidal was powered up until the sensation of dread became so intense, that I began hallucinating. I’ve never experienced true delusions before, since I never took drugs or had any mental illnesses. I saw darkness in a lit room. It was as though everything I’ve seen was somehow dying and fading away. For the first time in more than a year, I couldn’t even panic, I simply started sobbing hysterically as soon as I understood that I’m awake.
Since my dad’s deaf, he couldn’t hear anything coming out of my room, so basically, during that time, I was crying hysterically for, I’m not sure, about 6 hours straight, much of that time my dad being in the other room. I remember a dark light becoming darker, so I assume that morning and noon came and became evening and night. At one point or another I began feeling sure that Einat’s dead. I started calling her name and signing it over and over. At some point my dad came to my room and saw what was happening. I know this because he’d told me that I signed him insane things. I also remember being sure that he was standing next to me in the hospital.
At one point, even though it was dark, dad noticed I was signing Einat’s name over and over again, so he told me to talk to her or meet with her. I don’t know if dad eventually brought her up to her computer or she just happened to be around, but after all those hours of hysterical, manic sobbing and delusions, Einat got online. When she appeared, I wrote to her that I can’t live without her now that she’s dead. She was, obviously, baffled by this and turned on her webcam to rather bluntly show me that she isn’t, in fact, dead.
And then something very strange happened. When I saw her beautiful, pristine, perfect face, it all fit together. When I saw her smiling at me, after all I’ve done to her, after all the pain and anguish I felt that day, something snapped backwards. It was the experience of feeling so horrible, so unimaginably bad, to “boil” emotionally in the same way I did in the hours before mom finally died and this time – with a different “ending”, that’s clicked my incapacitated mind into place. This time, the pain and misery was pure, it wasn’t a result of bottled up horror at the proposition of a vital person’s death – it was completely custom-made terror. This time – instead of losing the person I loved, I got her back.
So when I saw her face and her smile, something undescribable, an eternal noonday demon, a face in the dark that never turned away – simply disappeared. It was like having an arrow stuck inside of me and feeling the agony of the wound without ever dying, and somehow, at that moment, someone just pulled the arrow out of me.
Ever since that day, I ceased, not gradually, but abruptly and completely, to have panic attacks. I stopped feeling terrified, hopeless, weak, pointless. I felt exactly as I did when mom was alive, except that she isn’t and wasn’t. I came back.
Of course, ever since then I’ve been building it all up from scratch, but at least Einat’s by my side. I got back to training, got re-admitted to college, majoring this time not only in Biology, but also in Israeli Sign Language. I started to rebuild.
Up to this day, I got a steady income, school’s in a month from now, I write, train and am taking care of dad again. It’s lonely “up here”, since I really did ditch all of my friends and there’s no one left besides Einat, amazingly, since I hurt her the most. Even so, I feel the same elevation as I’ve always had being the son of Mom and Dad – that being weak and outnumbered, alone and ignorant – is a lure to fight and an invitation to fight harder and to reap greater rewards.
It is true that there is much to rebuild, even after all I’ve accomplished since the Efes, but after all of this – I know that I will never be broken in that way again. I will never allow something to turn me into a traitor, a criminal, a shadow of a man.
Not everyone gets a second chance.