A letter to my son: I
This article reflects a letter I wrote my son while initiating divorce discussions with my wife. It contains advice for those going through the initial turmoil of divorce, social loss, and recovering from a delirious state of mind.
For context to the situation, you can visit my previous writing. All of me loves all of you. It covers what happened before and after the incident described in this story. Before writing the letter in this story, we had gone to therapy and felt we had tried. What followed a few days after the letter was six almost sleepless nights ending in a very delirious state of mind. Something I like to describe as taking a trip down the rabbit hole.
After getting acute professional help, I spent eight days accompanying other adults, mainly friends and family. After that, it took another eight days to get sleep without medication. I hope to share some learnings while reflecting on the events that transpired over those few weeks. I write so others don’t have to. Enjoy the read.
A letter to my son
Today is the third day after telling your mother I didn’t think we’d spend the rest of our lives together as a couple. We played a “dinosaur game” game where you are “moma” dinosaur, I am the daddy dinosaur, and Vivi is a baby dinosaur. The game went so that you go to the bank and pick up money (monopoly) and bring it back home. You keep bringing cash, and all the money should be “put on display.” There is nothing else in the game other than getting money to put it on display and buying items. Sometimes the game includes an occasional “trip” where you don’t know where to, and running is accepted when I ask about it.
When I ask what one can do with the money, you say one can buy stuff, but you don’t know what to buy other than houses or “something from the store.” I try to get you to read a book or build Duplos with your sister during the game, but you say I can play that real-world game for 2 min then I need to get back to your game. So the game goes on until all the money is in the nest and all over the place. Then you panicked, didn’t know what to do, and everything was a mess. When I tell you to clean up, you get even more upset, and you say, how can we continue the game when nobody knows where we ended.
This play, in my mind, reflected how you saw your reality as a 4-year-old. I almost welled into complete tears. I don’t want you to run after money in life only to realize you have no clue what to do with it once you have it all, and if life is a mess, you don’t know how to start again; this is my advice for you today:
1. All you need to start any game again is you and me. Essentially, all you need is yourself, as you will always carry a part of my soul in yours. Not just because you are my son, but because we exist in the memories others have of us.
2. If you want to know where you are at so you can continue again later, pick up a pen and document your current situation (we counted the money before putting it back in the box)
3. If the game is a mess and you don’t know how to continue. Stop, clean up and start again at 1.
Also, if you ever make more money than you need, here is some advice: give it to those who need it more than you or use it to create something good in this world.
Additionally, it was not your fault. It never was. When I was as old as you, I felt alone and felt alone ever since, until I realized all I need not feel alone is myself. Because I hold all the memories of my loved ones, they live in me and are thus always with me. I love you and Vivi very much. I am sorry for any pain I’ve caused you. Know that you are not me. You are free to make life what you choose it to be.
Going down the rabbit hole
After the situation described above, what ensued was an episode of six days of almost no sleep, with a deteriorating mental state. The trigger was how we related to each other as a couple, and it shifted fast. But unfortunately, neither of us was prepared for it.
As you can imagine telling your significant other, you don’t see yourself spending the rest of your life with them, no matter how hard you’ve tried, will be met with a strong reaction, and rightly so. The key is that it shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it still felt like a surprise for her, which fueled my guilt.
Trust? It takes years to build, and seconds to break — The internet.
The way we related to each other changed, and at the core of that change was a deteriorating perception of trust. Not because the other does things that can be seen as distrustful, but because of your lack of sleep, you start losing faith in your thoughts. I became dilutional and began creating stories in my head that could be true but had nothing to do with reality.
When relaying these stories to my friends, later on, one of them said, “sounds like an incredible script for a Hollywood movie.” It’s a scary place to be when your mind does not stop racing to a point it becomes impossible for you to fall asleep. You start finding meaning and messages in all the places there should be none, e.g., songs from the radio are a “sign” and cannot be a coincidence.
People want to find meaning in everything and everyone. That’s the problem there is no meaning in everything — Andrew Lakey
You understand that the world does not work that way, but you lose a sense of which part of it is true. Additionally, I started developing an increased sense of paranoia, of being listened to or recorded for what I said, also just a product of my imagination. Though understanding this didn’t make me feel any safer and more secure.
The fabric and perception of reality started to degrade, along with my ability to “trust” how I used to trust things, people, and my thoughts.
For this very reason, I need to clarify something about the story in the letter. First, I read too much into my son’s games. It wasn’t a complete picture of reality. So even though I wrote the letter before the worst episodes manifested, it is still just a story, my version of interpreting reality at that given time. Not the absolute truth of the situation, even if my imagination made it feel real at the time. However, that does not mean the advice given wasn’t sincere.
Everything you can imagine is real — P. Picasso
Nonetheless, the learning being; don’t read into everything too much. If you suddenly start finding poetry in a cookbook, it will likely make you lose focus of the food you’re trying to prepare (the now & your task at hand), and you should also be able to grasp the fact that the cookbook does not exist to contain advice on how to live your life. Whatever meaning you find in it is a product of your imagination. You should ask yourself; Why is your imagination producing the said meaning or sign?
My natural ability to find meaning and create stories was on overdrive at the time. Essentially, my whole body was on overdrive when it wasn’t getting any sleep. So, after the fourth day of not catching sleep, I was encouraged to call a specific emergency support number even if I wanted to. When I finally made the call, they told me to eat five times a day, have bigger meals than usual, and do some breathing exercises that would help me get a sense of the here and now.
Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it. — Ziad K. Abdelnour
My paranoia was peaking at this point. The core narrative that I constructed for myself was that I would lose my kids if I sought professional help and people labeled me crazy. So to even make that call was a “trust hurdle” to overcome. Moreover, I was afraid that if I were labeled “crazy” or incapable of taking care of my kids, my wife would use that against me. But, to be clear, there never was any real reason for me to believe that to be true or that she’d do such a thing.
Additionally, it felt like I was in a movie where people were either helping me succeed or creating diversions in my path. For some reason, I felt if only I got past this next point, someone would come and tell me it was over, that I wouldn’t have to fight anymore. I was interacting with quite a few people, trying to go on with life as usual. I believe many may have recognized I was a bit off, and I couldn’t stop talking about my current predicament with most of my acquaintances.
The whole episode climaxed into a situation where I sent an email to my friends whom I trusted most in this world when it comes to sound, objective reasoning. I explained my thoughts, and if they deemed what I said was crazy, they should take me to the psychiatric ER.
True friendship isn't about being there when it’s convenient — it’s about being there when it is not — The internet
The following day, one of them came to my place, alongside my father, put me in the car, and asked, do you “trust me”? At that moment in time, and it was the first time, I could say I trusted someone more than I trusted myself. Sure enough, he drove me to the psychiatric ER.
I was asked to explain all of the thoughts in my head, and my incident got labeled as an “uncategorized, acute and passing psychotic state, with an acute stress factor.” I was given a choice to stay at the hospital or stay with my friend who took me to the hospital because going home wasn’t an option. I didn’t feel safe in my own home due to my mental state.
The most expensive thing in this world is trust. Cheap people can’t afford it — The Joker
Getting out of the rabbit hole
After visiting the hospital, I was released from any sense of duty or obligation. I wasn’t allowed to use a phone, no communication other than through the primary adult responsible for looking after me, and discouragement from making decisions that would have implications past a day. The main goal was to rest and sleep by any means necessary.
Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together — Thomas Dekker
I spent time doing things I enjoyed, cooking, writing, and exercising, but avoiding movies or any medium that would have the risk of “influencing my thoughts.” In addition to some discussions on my thoughts on the divorce situation. Our friends and family were trying to mitigate either of us making rash decisions to get a sense of where we stand.
It took me eight days to get to a state where I could be on my own for short periods. During this period, I had checkups at the hospital every other day and had to do several drug tests as part of the treatment protocol. I was also scared of getting hooked on sleeping pills, so we changed the medication, and it took me another eight days to get sleep without any prescription. During these days, I spent time trying to help others with simple tasks, such as helping my father get the sailing boat ready for the sailing season.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated — Confucius
Then, finally, when sleep was somehow attainable, I could take care of my kids on my own. The thing that felt like the most meaningful way of spending my time, since the future was a place I could not imagine and I was incapable of doing any work.
What also helped me deal with everything was that I kept a notebook everywhere I went. If I got any sense of anxiety, I would start writing. I also kept a diary of what happened each day to keep track of the causality of things. It also helped me get a sense of what was in the present.
A poem a day
Keeps my demons at bay
Writing is my form of medication
Thinking of you my form of meditation
Because you live in the favorite part of me
the part that knows who I want to be
— Yours truly
I spent a lot of time at my lake house during the summer and with friends old & new. But, trying to solve every knot in my life at once was challenging. It felt like going into one tunnel after the other, you saw the light, but as soon as you found it, you fumbled into the next tunnel.
That period is the subject of another article. Regardless of the fact, I have discussed how far we have come with the mother of my children in my previous article. To conclude and not to leave readers in doubt, I’ve come a long way when it comes to recovering from it all, though life is a journey always full of new things to learn and others to unlearn.
I have a habit of expressing gratitude to all of the people in my life who helped me see things through and to get to where I am today.
Thai Quach — Amazing friend with a rigorous work ethic, combined with an uncanny sense of when to enjoy a little play in life. Thank you for being the voice of reason when I need it and thank you for coming and cleaning the house when even that felt like an impossible task to do alone. I couldn’t be happier that you are the godfather to Noa.
Aleksi Käherä — The big brother I never had. Regardless of your stubbornness and almost annoying attention to detail, it’s an inspiration how you dedicate yourself to any task you take upon yourself to complete. Few are as dependable and loyal when it matters, so I trusted you more than I trusted myself. Thank you for housing me when I felt I didn’t have a home. I’m forever grateful to you and your family.
Nasim Selmani — My brother from another mother. Influencer, an example to many, an extraordinary kind soul, and a lover of life. Words cannot describe the sense of gratitude I have for the fact that you carried me emotionally through it all. Thank you for coming to play with the kids when things were at their worst. I cannot think of an act of kindness and courage that has been more meaningful in my life, however small you may find it.
P.s. The content of my notebook
Curious as to what the content of my notebook looks like during my delirious state of mind? Here is an excerpt from the first night I realized I couldn’t catch any sleep. Reaching out to the only person that mattered when nothing else did, I felt as if I was good as dead;
To follow your heart is a struggle
The heart leads you towards the abyss
A place your mind interprets as oblivion
Your body will refuse to follow
Your mind will turn on itself
And all you can do is crawl
Crawl hour after hour
Crawl day after day
Crawl minute after minute
Until everything gives in
That’s when you know you gave it everything you got, but it wasn’t enough
That’s when you find the truth because, at the brink of exhaustion and lunacy, nothing matters anymore.
In oblivion, nothing is real
Except what your heart tells you is true.
The truth in your heart still exists in oblivion because love is born in a place in you that does not die.
The sane person is better at lying than the insane one.
Nothing is real
Everything is what we make of it.
You are either the victim of your environment or a creator of it.
It is simply a matter of perception, like interpreting a reflection.