I walked into work last Friday when I was pulled aside and told that the temp position I’d held since the day I walked in the door back in January had been shut down, and I wouldn’t know if I have a chance to finally get a permanent position for another three weeks.
Being less than thrilled about the prospect but also being unable to do anything that changed it, I decided to get out of Dodge for a while and enjoy the last real summer weather back up at one of my favorite places in all the world, Lake Champlain.
I’ve been here for the past week and after my initial frustrations over the fact that the city’s powers-that-be do not understand the concept of overnight parking, I’ve been taking in as much R&R as I could.
The rest side of that equation has been helped by the discovery of a hostel just a few blocks from the shoreline, that had beds for about $20 a night, which is hard to say no to, especially when you haven’t slept in one for close to six months.
The relaxation side, for the most part, has come every morning when I climb back into my jeep with my camera and some provisions and then head off exploring whatever direction pulls hardest on my emotional compass. I started with the northern side of the lake, since I was most familiar with it from previous trips and then yesterday, I turned south to see what I could find along the way.
About twenty-five miles down, the road leads you into New York across the Crown Point bridge and on the nearby bank, sits this rather majestic piece of architecture, the Champlain Lighthouse.
Until yesterday, I had no idea that such a place existed but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to pull over and check it out.
I hung out here for about a half-hour and as picturesque as the landscape was on the ground, I figured it could only be better from the top of the lighthouse. So I marched up the extremely narrow and winding staircase and then an even steeper ladder to step out onto the upper terrace…
…and no less than ten seconds later, I realized I had a serious problem.
I have never been afraid of heights. Ever.
To the contrary, I’d always loved being up in tall buildings or airplanes and looked forward to the views they offered. Considering my childhood fascination with Superman and his ability to fly, I suppose it was only natural that part me wished I’d wake up one morning and suddenly be able to take off into the air.
It’s one thing to wish for it, though. It’s another matter entirely when you are up in a high place and your subconscious mind openly demands that you try it.
And that’s what happened the instant I stepped out onto the terrace.
My brain demanded that I launch myself over the low granite railing to the concrete 55 feet below. So strong was this impulse, in fact, that I couldn’t even touch the stone in front of me. I had to squat on the terrace and hope it would go away, but it didn’t.
I was up there for less than a minute and didn’t get to take a single photo. Instead, I went back to the ladder and went down the stairs as fast as my feet could get me there.
To be absolutely clear, I have no idea at all why that episode happened.
I hadn’t been having a bad day, nor was I in any sort of a bad mood. To the contrary, I’d gotten a good night’s sleep and had enjoyed the drive down. It was a hot, gorgeous morning and there was no reason for me to be depressed or upset enough to want to do anything other than take every advantage to enjoy it as best I could.
I was also very aware that I’m not Superman and that I can’t fly. Sitting there on the terrace, trying to calm down, I told myself over and over that if I did go over the side, one of two things was going to happen. Either it was going to kill me, or it was going to mess me up enough that I’d wished it had instead. Common sense told me that and I knew that as soon as my anxiety passed and I calmed down, my subconscious would finally let up.
But even touching the railing to stand back up was terrifying because I could genuinely feel the muscles in my arm pulling on the stone in such a way that would almost guarantee that I went over the side. That had never happened in my life and I know this might not make much sense.
Hell, even I don’t understand it and it’s my mind we’re talking about here.
And I guess this is the best illustration of what it’s like to live with severe chronic mental illness, that I can offer.
Even on a good day where nothing else is bothering you, one small and seemingly inconsequential thing can put you in a situation that you’d never expected to find yourself in.
I’m hoping this goes away soon, but in all honesty, living in a country where health care is considered a luxury item and that mental illness is a myth or ‘fake news’, I’m also hoping things don’t get worse before they get better.
There’s still a lot of views from a lot of really high places that I want to take pictures of.