You were promised a campfire tale, so throw another Vanya on the bonfire, it might smell rank, but it burns good. Let us proceed. Not long ago by Rip Van Winkle standards, disaster struck me and I became disabled. I was diagnosed with severe PTSD. The best diagnostic explanation I have come across came from another vet when he said “Buddy, the cheese fell of my cracker.” The only thing that kept me going was Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, and some wicked gallows humor.

I moved to the Veterans Administration campus as a refuge of sorts. The VA, found housing for me just a mini click away. I settled in without a stick of furniture and just a few personal things, as I had thrown everything I owned, all my old writing, and personal stuff into a dumpster. My logic there was that all of it was crap – especially the writing! Clearly, something was very wrong with me. Why would an ordinary peaceful man like myself roam the most dangerous neighborhoods at night with a concealed hunting knife? Confessing that to my therapist didn’t sound nearly as much fun as it was doing it. I think I did it because I couldn’t feel anything. I was numb inside. My weight had dropped from 210 to 156 pounds. Unconsciously, I was starving myself to death. Bad idea and the worse Atkins Diet ever!

Building 103-7 is the mental health center where the VA keeps the broken and unstable of war and life. As you can imagine, there are a lots of meds being dispensed there. Some of these guys are insane from their buddies being ripped apart or from their own killing. The rest were victims of life and brain chemistry. I was living just spitting distance from there, and was becoming friends with them – at least the ones that brought that 1000 mile stare down to couple hundred yards. There was a lot of cheese on the floor there.

I was kindly asked if I was thinking of doing that anymore, and of course, if I gave the wrong answer, I’m zonked! Ha ha! It’s time for 103-7, some stupefying medication, and some old school care from Nurse Ratchet. Red flags were everywhere. “Are you feeling suicidal? Homicidal?” My therapist asked. In the words of Jimi Hendrix, “Blah blah woof woof.” So, I said, “No, doctor, I’m fine…I won’t be doing that anymore. Maybe I need to see you a couple times a week.”

My therapist looked at me and said, “You ever heard of suicide by cop?

“Yes, I have.”

“How is what you’re doing any different?” he asked.

The answer that flashed into my mind, wasn’t the one that I gave. I was numb, I blamed myself for my wife’s death, I had lost the will to live. Beneath the surface in my unconscious there was a beast..let’s call him Id, or how about Mr. Iddy. I had actually realized that I was trying to kill myself by flaunting danger, but the bigger problem was that I was prepared to take someone with me, as in fighting to the death. Where in the hell did that come from?

I went home and locked my door. I hid my hunting knife under my pillow like a good little grunt, and turned off the lights in my apartment and lit a small candle. My cat and I sat there in silence day after day and night after night, month after bloody month while I waited for my name to be called for a compensated work therapy program. I only went outside for appointments and food. I holed up with a radio, reading the Lotus Sutra, chanting, and meditating by candlelight.  Even my cat thought I was nuts.

Tired now…will return…