That is my daughter.
The photo is from 2006. I chose that picture because ... for reasons that are too personal. Anyway, she is older than that now.
My daughter is the reason you are reading these words today and any of the tens of thousands of words that make up all the content of Taming the Polar Bears. She is the reason you are reading these words because without her, I would no longer exist.
She is my sun, my moon, my stars, my galaxies, my everything.
But most importantly, she is my anchor. She keeps me tethered to Terra Firma on Spaceship Earth.
I'm not sure how to describe adequately what an anchor is in ways those who have never been there could understand. Most simply, an anchor is something that is going to keep you from stepping over the last and final line in to the deep dark abyss from which there is no return called death.
There are several different ways a mind will take one over that last and final line. I went through almost all of them but the two most terrifying and closest to that edge are the most dangerous in my (well earned and well researched) estimation.
One I liken to being like an astronaut doing a space walk. The only thing that stops the astronaut from drifting off into space, getting sucked into space where the laws of physics will quickly vaporize him or her, is that tether they wear. That's their life line, the most literal lifeline we can imagine.
One form of almost going over that edge into the abyss is that your mind narrows down to such a narrow dark tunnel that you lose touch with every single thing in your life, in the world, in your mind - you lose contact with everything. And it feels like there is a vacuum sucking you further and further down that tunnel and away from Life. There comes a point where there is just no return. And it feels exactly like being that astronaut and the tether has been cut and you are being drawn out into that black void of space. And it's terrifying because you can sort of look back on where you were but the powers are drawing you away, slowly away, drifting, drifting, drifting until ...
There were several times I was being pulled down that tunnel or that feeling of being pulled out to the dark void of space. It is unbelievably powerful, it is beyond your imagination. It's beyond the imagination of almost everyone because you have to a) experience it to understand it and b) survive. I don't think many people do.
And the only thing that will bring you back is an anchor, that tether. That is what will pull you back and reconnect you to the world.
And for me, that anchor was my daughter. Somehow through the darkness of that tunnel, the darkness of space that I was being pulled in to, somehow, somehow her light would shine through, her image would come to me. Sometimes maybe her voice. And that would draw me back.
And for that reason and that reason only, I did not die that day.
[I can't tell you how extremely hard it is to recall this and write it down]
Another way is psychosis. I'm not going to clinically define psychosis today but they are forces from I don't know where that just take you over. These are visions, voices, dialogues, scenes that you are just strapped into and cannot escape. You cannot turn it off, you cannot "wake up" from it, you cannot make it go away, you cannot dismiss it from your mind. There is no technique of psychology or anything that will make it stop once it passes a certain threshold. And in me, all those demonic forces were demanding and directing me to either cause myself great bodily harm or to in some way end my life (there were around ten of these episodes between July 2010 and the final one December 28th 2012).
I have yet to talk to anyone (and you have no idea how many people I talk to seeking out similar experiences and answers to these episodes) who has experienced anything like it. Again, I believe, for the simple reason that there are so few survivors. I cannot even begin to relate to you how difficult it was to come out the other side of them.
And again, the only reason I am here at this moment typing these words is because of my anchor, my daughter.
For through all these terrifying visions and voices and commands that were like a tornado in my mind, somehow, somehow something about her penetrated the terror of it all to give me something to cling to, something that somehow - and I have no real idea how - gave me the strength to fight off those demons another time. The. Only. Reason.
She was my anchor.
When I had my first episode of psychosis and subsequent break down in July of 2010 and was about to end my life, it was because of her that I walked into a hospital and started my road asking for help. At that time I was on a manic drive towards death and she was the only thing that stepped in the path of that drive and knocked me a different direction. The. Only. Reason.
* * * * *
From the day she was born on November 24th, 1994, everything I did was dedicated to making her future the best it could be.
I did all the things you were supposed to do. I built equity so that when I passed away, she'd have something. For fifteen years almost my entire life was dedicated to building something that she could inherit so that her life could be easier than my life. So she could go to university, or start a business, or buy her own home in which to raise her own family. I just wanted her life to be easier than mine. That's what fathers do.
Then in long manic swoop from the end of 2007 through 2009 when it all fall apart, I lost every single penny of the approximately quarter million dollars in equity that was to go to her (and would have been more; it was all very soundly invested). Every. Single. Penny.
And then some.
So now what can I leave her?
And not only did I lose all that, my daughter lost the father she'd grown up loving.
I'll get to this another time, but it is now well documented the horrendous impact on children of those with severe mental health disorders.
And as I crumbled and broke down and lost my mind and my sanity and everything I ever worked for and was losing her mother, she had a front row seat to every single minute of it. All the breakdowns, all the hospitalizations, the manic looniness, the weeks of dark depression where I never left my room, the loss of every single thing I used to be, the heartbreaking attempts to find a job - any job - and pull myself out of it that were all in vain: the whole sickening descent from the life loving, fully in control home owner father, to the man who ended up homeless and living out of an unheated 37 year old van.
And she watched it all.
At some point I realized the only thing I could leave her was my mind, the products of my mind.
I deeply desire for her to know that her dad was more than that person who underwent all those horrible breakdowns and lost everything and became a homeless man.
And since that time, every single thing that I study, that I write, that I photograph, that I envision and create is to build a legacy that I can leave for her.
And that's what this whole blog and my photography website are about - a written and photographic record of who her dad was, how his mind worked, what he did for people, how he saw the world, all of it.
Every single thought, every single word, every single photograph, every single effort.
When my fatigue is so bad and my mind so darkened by its inability to create the energy to turn on and function and I cannot get out of bed, or the circumstances of life are crushing me down it is for her and this legacy for her that I somehow find a way to.
Everything I do and all the passion that drives it for all of you - whomever is reading and gaining value from my words is
For she is my sun, my moon, my stars, my galaxies, my everything.
And everything I now do is dedicated to
My anchor. My everything.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for being here.