I want to say it was in 2005, but I really don’t remember. Maybe it was in 2003 or 2004 — that period of my life was very chaotic and I look back on much of it as a blur. This moment however, I remember with unmistakable clarity.
It was 11:00pm, I was in bed unable to fall asleep, and I was profoundly depressed. Still digging my way out of the rubble of divorce, and poorly negotiating the meaningless life I tried to assemble after that divorce, I’d simply had enough.
I got out of bed, put on whatever clothes were laying on my floor, and I drove 6-miles to the Ralph’s grocery store off Highway 76 in Oceanside. I remember turning the radio of my car on and off the entire way to the store. I wanted to hear something good — something to cheer me up, but nothing on the radio was what I wanted to hear.
Once in the store, I immediately grabbed the largest bottle of tequila I could find, and I put it in my handheld basket. Next up were a couple bottles of NyQuil — boom, into the basket they went. I headed to the automotive aisle, where I’d grab a bottle of lead gasoline additive, because I’d read or heard somewhere that you don’t survive drinking that stuff.
At this point, it was just shy of midnight.
At the checkout aisle, I swiped my debit card through card reader, but made no eye contact with the checker. I just stared at the ground as I began to feel the shame building within me, from my chest up to my head. I had hoped the checker and the bagger weren’t onto me.
Still looking down, I heard the checker’s voice…
“Your card has been declined, do you have another card you’d like to use…?“
I explained that was impossible and that I had plenty of money in that account. She looked at me as though she heard that a thousand times before. This was my business account though, and at the time I had about $5000 in it.
I asked if I could swipe my card one more time and she afforded me the opportunity to do so.
I was stunned because I knew there was money in the account. So stunned, that I failed to process that there was an ATM machine just a few dozen feet from me at the end of the checkout aisle. I had no cash with me, so I left my things on the conveyor and headed out to my car, looking down the entire way. I drove home angry, confused, and I guess a little bit relieved.
This was in the early days of online banking, but as soon as I got back to my house, I logged onto my account and saw that I had plenty of money available in the account linked to that card. I couldn’t make sense of my card being declined, but I was emotionally exhausted and determined that I would deal with it in the morning.
For some reason, which I will never know, my card was errantly declined that night. I remember drinking wine directly out of the bottle until I fell asleep.
The next morning I woke up in a pretty good mood. The truth is, I always wake up in a good mood — I always have. Wanting to drink led gasoline additive or a gallon of tequila was the furthest thing from my mind. And that began to resonate with me — that I woke up in a good mood and that I never wake up depressed.
In fact, as I woke up thinking about the failure of my debit card, I began making plans to kayak in the ocean later that day. I remember making a list of cleaning priorities, also for that day. The night before, I had realized, I didn’t want to die for the rest of my life. I simply wanted to die for that moment.
That thought, that I only wanted to die for a little while but not for eternity, would forever change the way I would view the ideal of suicide. My depression, I was coming to realize, was something that ebbed and flowed, but was never present at the start of a new day, and that always passed. It always passed.
Thinking about this as that day continued, and understanding that it is only the bricks of ritual that can pave the road to mastery, I began the process of mastering my depression — of getting me beyond those moments when I didn’t want to be me any longer — when what Epictetus referred to as “The Doorway” seemed like the best option.
This is where I will be the most honest with you…
…my brain has been peppered with thoughts of the doorway intermittently, each day for most of my life. I understand that most people never experience such thoughts or feelings. There are millions though, perhaps tens of millions who feel this way everyday. I have no memory, since the 3rd grade, of a day in which I didn’t think the best way out of a bad moment was to not be alive.
I wouldn’t wish that burden on anyone.
Of all that I am proud of though, what I am most proud of is the strength that I have found in those darkest times to know that they always pass — and they always pass.
When I ride my bike each day, or when I walk in the woods, or when I lift weights, or when I just sit on my patio and pet my dog while listening to the birds, I reflect on the night that my debit card was declined just before midnight. There has not been one day since, that I haven’t thought about that gift.
I’m sharing this story, above all, so that those who can relate to it know that they’re not alone. I’m also sharing this so those who can’t relate to it will consider that they probably know and interact with people like me in their everyday lives, and they probably have no idea those people carry these feelings.
This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes ridden: 4
15.3 mph avg
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Jonny Wickersham. Enjoy…!