my past self expects me to push to the limit — and i do

It was a night like most others. 2 am. Cold. The only light was streaming in through the blinds from outside. No electricity. I couldn’t bring myself to leave my house and go to the office to take care of the shut-off notice, so I had no light – no heat.

I’d bought two cartons of Marlboro Reds earlier in the month, so at least I could smoke in the dark.

I hadn’t showered in at least two weeks, and it wasn’t happening tonight with cold water, so I had to live with the smell coming from under the blanket. Fomunda – that’s what we used to call it when it was a joke.

The noise was unbearable, but my neighbors couldn’t have heard it because the screaming was in my head. The bastards in charge had spent the better part of the day and night trying to get me to slice open a vein with the razor blade I had been using on my upper arm.

For the most part, I wasn’t listening. In my mind, I was hiking up a cliff above a fjord in Norway. The view was breathtaking and a credit to the imagination who had created this reality for me, so I didn’t have to deal with the pain, blood, darkness, and fear in my real life.

“If I get through this, I’m going there someday.”

I survived each new day with the promise to myself that when things got better, I would travel and visit places like the ones my broken mind had fabricated.

Over the years, my mind had taken me to the beaches of southeast Asia, the craggy mountains of Norway, the cloistered streets of the old town in Estonia, the rivers and peaks of Switzerland, and the streets of Paris where I ate croissants and spoke terrible French. Each day was a new place to visit, and by the time I was able to fall asleep, I felt like I had explored every nook and cranny of these manufactured realities.

I was going to visit them all for real one day.

Fast-forward – twenty years later – and although I have walked the beaches of the Philippines, I haven’t been anywhere else. It’s not that I forgot about the promises I made to my past self those nights sitting in the dark; it’s that right now, even if there was no pandemic, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere.

A little over two years ago, I decided I wouldn’t let my illness keep me from my dreams. I hadn’t worked in over a decade, except for a few freelance jobs, but I had spent so much time learning ways to cope with my episodes of psychosis, depression, and anxiety that I felt I could take on a bit of a career in writing.

At times it seemed as if I would make progress, only to push myself too hard and end up fighting the voices in my head and those pesky suicidal tendencies. But I would always bounce back, and each time would jump into writing with an enthusiasm unmatched.

For two years, its been a cycle of intense work and focus, and then a period where I would lick my wounds and recover my strength.

I do this to myself because I can feel the Jason from twenty years ago pushing me to be better than I was the day before. He wants to see Norway and France because I promised and he won’t let me forget.

I push myself both because 30-year-old me demands it, and because I want a better life for my family. If I drive myself hard enough and I can afford to travel the world, you can imagine that my family would be well-taken-care-of as well.

My dream is to travel, but it’s not my wife’s dream. If I can travel though, I can afford to finance her wants as well. I can put money away for the time when my kids want to spread their wings and experience all that life has to offer. I want to help my aging parents live out their life without wanting for anything, and I’d like the boys I raised to be men to be able to count on me if they ever need anything.

It’s not just a selfish desire to take my past self to exotic places, it’s also to make sure every member of my family is safe and cared for.

I have big dreams, and I must push to reach all the goals I set for myself.

Everyone is counting on me. I depend on me.

Here I sit. 2 am. The air is cool, and the electricity is on. Like every other night, I am working – writing, building blogs and brands, and battling the demons that seek to engulf me.

I push myself hard, but not enough that I topple from my perch above the darkness. I don’t push myself too hard because I can hear the voices screaming my name, deep down where I locked them. They look for any opportunity to break out, so I have to be careful not to leave the keys lying around.

I run harder and harder because I can see the finish line in the distance. I am at the precipice of a breakthrough that will give me everything I want and need and allow me to take care of my family.

I push harder, but I am strong, and I know I can run forever.

I move forward because my past self wants a croissant.

rediscovering a lost blog and the terrible secret it held

It has taken me almost a week to compose myself enough that I know I can safely write about this subject without breaking down into an emotional mess. After six years, I thought I wouldn’t be so sensitive, but this is the first time in a long time that I read my old secret blog.

From December of 2013 to June of 2014, I wrote down what I couldn’t tell anyone else and published the words in a blog under a pseudonym. Most of it was day-to-day angst, but a few things caught my eye as I scrolled through the posts.

On May 28th, 2014, I wrote a (suicide) note I published after midnight the next day, then took three handfuls of pills and waited to die. I would post it here in full, but you might find it a bit dry unless you are one of my family members.

There are a few things I wrote that day that stand out to me now.

I was very hard on myself because I felt I was a quitter. I never finished anything, mostly because of my mental illness, but in my mind, it just proved I was weak, and my life would never amount to anything.

“…I just couldn’t handle the pain anymore, and I am giving up. Yes, after all this time, I prove to everyone that I am a quitter. I live my last hours comfortable with that thought, not at all ashamed, because I have fought this for so long, and I just can’t do it anymore.”

The pain of having lived a life with nothing to show for it was too much for me to handle, even though, at that time, I had four beautiful kids who loved me, and a wife. Despite every obstacle thrown at her, she tried to love the real me, but I hid from her. I felt like a failure and a burden because my toxic mind told me all I had ever been was a sick loser and nothing else.

Even at the end of my life, I worried about what people would think of me. It was bad enough that my family was going to have to live with the stain of suicide in their lives. They would also live with the stigma of having someone close to them feel like they had no one to turn to in their last moments.

“I know you are probably thinking it was incredibly selfish of me to kill myself. I can’t disagree with you on that. I feel guilty right now, as the hour draws near, and I am sorry to all of you. I expect you will at some time be angry with me, but I hope you will get over it with time.”

I was scared, and I was sad to be going, but I felt I had nothing left to fight with, and this was the only thing left to me.

“As time is upon me, I don’t want to say goodbye. I want one more hug and kiss from each and every one of you, but I know I can’t have that. I’m crying as I write these final lines.

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

I hope you can forgive me.”

Then, before I sent out the note and took the pills, I took a picture on the webcam and captioned it “Goodbye. I love you all!”

This is the picture that will haunt me forever.

Over the past six years, I have analyzed this night and have written about it at length many times, but until I reread the suicide note, I wasn’t able to put myself back in the frame of mind I was swimming in.

Now I remember it vividly, which you might think to be a bad thing, but it’s not. Now, I remember what it’s like to be at the lowest point in my life. Now, no matter how bad my episodes of psychosis are, or how deep my depression is, or how painful my anxiety and panic attacks are, I know I’ve already touched the bottom of the rabbit hole, and I know I don’t have to go back there again.

I still have suicidal thoughts, but the difference is that now, suicide is not an option or an answer to my problems.

The Aftermath

On June 7th, 2014, I was out of the hospital and had been writing. I wanted to put down all the details of what happened before I lost it to the fog of medication and the cruelty of time.

Going back after six years and reliving the days before the suicide attempt through my time on the mental ward left me gutted. I took a week and let my mind mull over and ruminate about it.

Tonight, I sit here at 3:00 am on October 8th, 2020, and am grateful that I didn’t die. I could have died, considering the number of pills I took, but somehow I am here today and alive to tell the story.

My three boys, men, are all happy and living in the U.S., and here in the Philippines, I have my daughter Zoey, and our newest addition, Joey. If I had died, I could not have seen Zoey grow, and would not have been here to bring another life in the world.

I would never have finally started something and stuck with it. My writing career has been going strong for two years, and I have seen incredible growth within myself as a person.

I would never have seen this time in my life where I am starting to manage and control my illness and earn for the first time in decades.

I am a father five times over, and a proud husband for the second and final time. I am fulfilled and happy, and in the version of success I hold dear in my mind, I am one in every sense of the word.

The suicide attempt is terrible, and I wish it didn’t have to be the catalyst that finally lit the spark that changed my life. How something so awful and appalling could mold me like clay and create the different person I am today is a mystery.

I wish it never happened, but I am thankful it did.

I guess I keep writing about this because I hope that one day, someone who is suffering will read my words and change their path before they do something drastic like I did. One day, I hope all the pain and anguish I still feel will help at least one person realize that taking their life is not the answer to the question they are asking.

I’ve battled the voices I know aren’t real and this brain that is so incredibly noisy, the depression that tries to sink my life into a spiral of darkness, and the anxiety that threatens to send me into a panic I will never recover from, so I can get to a point in my life where I can help others.

I lived for my family, and I lived for myself. But I also lived so I could give hope to someone else.

Are you that person who is feeling like they have no choice? Are you at the end of your rope and feel like you have no one to talk to? Is your brain trying to convince you that taking your own life is the only answer?

It’s not.

No matter how wrong everything seems right now, your life is worth living.

If you need to talk, I am only a comment away.

Get help, and prove to yourself that your life means something because it does.

I almost died to prove that to myself. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

the ‘nerd rapture’ could create technology that will cure mental illness

Thirty years ago, I had a dream. I dreamed that computer technology improved exponentially until computers became a trillion times more intelligent than any human could be. Instead of destroying the human race, these computers set out to help the humans who had created them.

Computers figured out newer and better ways to solve everyday problems and improve upon ideas and inventions that were destroying the earth and the minds and bodies of the humans they wanted to help.

It started with implants that would allow the human brain to interface with the computer intelligence and improve within a framework of neurons. But the computers began to see that improving within the faulty lattice of the human brain and body was futile and figured out a way for us to download our consciousness — what makes us human — into a network where we could all interact together as if we were living and breathing on earth.

The computers knew that the human psyche couldn’t handle the disconnect of no longer breathing, tasting, feeling, and seeing with our eyes, so they built a world or a matrix, but I wouldn’t use that word to describe it until Neo fought the agents onscreen in 1999.

Within this environment, the work to improve each human package continued, solving problems like mental illness, autism, dementia, and all other forms of diseases of the mind that couldn’t be solved while our minds existed within the prison of the human brain.

With technology, humans were able to evolve into a new realm of existence and occur as quantum impulses that could travel anywhere in the universe instantaneously.

This event describes a technological singularity, or what some would call the “Rapture of the Nerds,” but I wouldn’t know that minds much more intelligent than mine had conceived this reality long ago.

The Reality of The Singularity

“The technological singularity — also, simply, the singularity — is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.” — Wikipedia

It used to be, according to Moore’s Law, that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years. So we could estimate future computing power based on this rule. Still, there was also the law of accelerating returns to take into consideration, that the “pace of technological progress — especially information technology — speeds up exponentially over time because there is a common force driving it forward. Being exponential, as it turns out, is all about evolution.

Technology evolves as new technologies build on the backs of previous generations, and the growth accelerates.

“The first computers were designed on paper and assembled by hand. Today, they are designed on computer workstations with the computers themselves working out many details of the next generation’s design, and are then produced in fully automated factories with only limited human intervention.” — Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near

Technology will keep improving, and innovations like quantum computing will take the computer or artificial intelligence to a level where it no longer requires human intervention to improve. It will innovate for itself until it achieves consciousness, limitless intellect, and the power to make crucial decisions by itself.

The technology will become so advanced that people will first interface with the intelligence then download their whole consciousness into a computer, finally achieving immortality of a sort.

But, in the minds of many, this progression is not inevitable. One of my heroes, Jaron Lanier, virtual reality pioneer and technology thought leader, thinks “it’s still just a thought experiment — not a reality or even a virtual-reality hot ticket to immortality. It’s a surreality.

So even though thinkers like myself are writing stories that predict a tech-utopia, it is not a given, and thousands of other possibilities could occur instead.

But what if?

Can Limitless Technology Cure Mental Illness and Disease?

To consider if an advanced enough computer could download your consciousness, or you could interface with it through some form of implant and affect change upon the failings of the mind, we have to step back into the realm of science fiction again.

So far, scientists have been unable to create a medical or pharmaceutical cure for mental illness and the various diseases of the mind like dementia, and they have only been able to provide prophylactics that almost work on the symptoms.

What if an advanced enough computer could take the impulses of a mind, or could even change the nature of DNA to cure the demons that infect the mind of people like me?

I have a stake in this game. I have fought and come to terms with severe mental illness, only through a lifetime of hard work and medication. But I am not cured by any means, and my sick but intelligent mind is constantly coming up with ideas and realities where the failings of our brains do not limit us.

And, although I think in circles on the advice and ideas of pioneers like Paul AllenJeff HawkinsJohn HollandJaron Lanier, and Gordon Moore, I am nowhere closer to knowing if the singularity is plausible enough that I could put hope in a future where I am not fighting my mind for control of my life.

For now, I have the dream of a younger man to keep me afloat and the knowledge that one day, computer technology will advance past the point that any human ever could, and it would find a way to cure and rearrange minds that are not optimal like mine.

We have to keep studying and learning about the good that technology could do, and not listen to the naysayers who say that artificial intelligence will turn against us and destroy humanity. We have to turn away from the religions who seek our indoctrination and speak out against using technology to aid the evolution of humankind because it goes against their idea that only a god can create perfection.

Humans can hope, and for those of us who battle our minds, we look forward to a day when we are not controlled by impulses and the influence of a less than optimal mind.

We can hope.