Hello once again ATS! It has been awhile...
Given that I have scarcely visited nor posted in just a few days shy of a year, I imagine that this should begin by greeting the folks who have come
along during that time span. Hi! I am Hefficide, or Heff, or John - or "That damn guy who just deleted my post and won't apologize" to some.
Individual mileage with me will surely vary! Regardless, however, I am thrilled that each and every one of you are here on ATS and I am eternally
grateful that those of you reading these words have chosen to do so.
From the deepest recesses of my heart, thank you. It has taken so much work and so many small miracles to get me back to my online home that I truly
do feel a profound appreciation just to be able to post and interact with this community.
If you are a new reader to my writing - buckle up. I tend to be verbose, irreverant, somewhat tangental and always stuck somewhere between dead
serious and totally joking. You'll get used it, for better or for worse.
To those who are familiar with me from the past - either cheer, or drink and take some Excedrin. Either way, you're stuck with me being back!
368 Days and Why
Exactly 368 days ago today I disappeared. Not just from ATS, but from the entire world. As it happens I
knew where I was at, but nobody else
did. I wound up a missing person and a great many people ( the majority of whom are ATS members ) went to some amazing and very touching and humbling
lengths to try and find me.
The reason for my disappearance was that I had myself hospitalized. The reason I wound up a true to life missing person - on the G.B.I. missing
persons list - is that medical privacy laws prevented anyone from finding out where I was.
The reason for my hospitalization will come as no surprise to those who have been around a few years. It is a subject I have been very open about (
quite deliberately as a means of fighting an ever increasing stigma )... I am mentally ill. I had a full nervous breakdown. A breakdown that resulted
in me being spirited off a few hours from home and into my first experience as an inpatient in a "mental health crisis ward".
Needless to say ( I think ), a person in such a place, both in regard to state of mind and actual physical location, does not bother to consider
things like "Somebody might be worried about me". In fact it was weeks and weeks after leaving that particular facility before I even discovered, by
chance, that I was a missing person and that there was a small army seeking to find me. One very awesome individual even taking his own time to
plaster my ugly mug all over half of the state of Georgia.
Imagine my shock when I went to the public library in the town I had been taken to for the first time, logged into Facebook to check messages only to
discover that there was a group called "Where is Heff?" that had quite a few members and who were doing everything that they could ( much much more
than law enforcement even thought about doing ) to try and solve the mystery.
I was utterly overwhelmed. The truth be told, I still am. It is a thought that deeply touches me even today and reminds me that there are some
incredibly caring and giving people in this world. Many of them members of this community. My debt to those folks can never be repaid. Not in a dozen
To get back to the narrative, after eight days I was discharged from the mental health crisis center. I had walked into their front door with
literally nowhere else left in this world to go. I had left the very place I am writing from now with a duffle bag and a desire to never be a bother
to anyone else ever again. Such is the way that severe depressions can get one thinking. That duffle bag contained one pair of jeans, two T-shirts, a
pair of socks, a bottle of Aspirin, a pocket knife, and three flash drives.
I truly have no clue why I packed half of that stuff. I remember thinking, at the time, that it all made sense. But in hindsight it was not the
optimal mixture of things to pack when one is headed out into the world with empty pockets and nowhere to go.
Given those facts one of the case managers in the mental health crisis center asked me a profoundly bizarre and disturbing question the very first
full day I was a patient... She said "How would you like to remain in this city after you are discharged?"
At this point I was still pretty jacked-up mentally and the question made me about as paranoid and anxious as it possibly could. What the Hell did she
mean? Why would I want to stay in a city where I knew absolutely nobody and had never so much as visited before? The entire day I freaked out over her
question. It haunted me for some reason.
The next day, however, my senses began readjusting to normal and I saw the question in an entirely different light. I had left home due to a family
squable ( now solved through the miracle of my sister and her husband breaking up ). But, moreover, after having spent several years sick, unable to
work, and fighting tooth and nail with Social Security, the idea of not imposing on friends and family any further was extremely appealing. So, things
were arranged, I was interviewed, a background check was performed and I was accepted into a place that refers to itself as a "Community Home".
I still cannot tell you exactly what a "Community Home" is. It seemed like part nut house, part nursing home, part homeless shelter, and part
halfway house. Even having spent 51 weeks there I never did quite figure out how to explain to others. What I can say is that the place changed and
saved my life. In spite of the horrendous food, the fact that I spent the first six months in a bedroom with three other men ( the remainder of the
time with just one roommate - who I am going to write a short story about in the next few days - and a staff that had several extremely bad apples in
it... That place still changed it all for me. I walked into their front door a broken man who had sunk into depression so profoundly that I had become
an agoraphobic and recluse who could not even make eye contact with others any longer. I walked out their door, late last night, upright, smiling,
engaged, proud, and strong. Never again will I meet a person without looking them dead in the eye. Never again will I fall into that nameless and
shapeless fear of nothing and everything, all at once, that PTSD can lead a person into.
For the first time in seven years, I am almost as in control as I was before my illness began to escalate.
Prior to my absence from ATS I was known and pigeonholed as a dyed in the wool liberal. That was BEFORE I entered the literal belly of the beast and
saw just how dysfunctional and broken the support system for sick people is in this country. Before I learned the truth about things that I think 99%
of the population just doesn't know.
I have more to write about my experiences, but this is enough to begin the dialogue.
Thanks for reading!