The person who said to that list something like that I was experiencing “mental health challenges” certainly had not talked with me about it – or to my best friend and friend of Jubilee Tom Kilby (who has been in very close phone connection with me over the last few days). https://rlcol.com/2019/10/22/tom-kilby-a-hero-of-customer-service/
They had certainly had not spoken to my very wonderful new friend and blues guitar master Eric Freeman.(https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Musician/Eric-Freeman-aka-The-Blue-Ridge-Boy-105752814194017/) I took Eric into my apartment 11 days ago, so he wouldn’t have to be homeless while he tried to ship to a recording company “100 original blues songs” – which could potentially pay him royalties for years in the future (he has shown me the ten-page contract).
This enormously challenging and stressful two weeks (just three months after arriving in Asheville from New Orleans, seeking – like so many of us – a “fresh start” here) has included Eric simultaneously preparing for his big gig tomorrow night at the White Horse Black Mountain (https://www.facebook.com/events/545637376163163/), where he opens for Abby the Spoon Lady – who in the last year has gone from an impoverished Asheville street busker to a national celebrity, featured in the New York Times and PBS. She is apparently about to move back home to Kansas and this may be the last chance – for quite a while at least – to catch her in a live local performance. Come on out tomorrow night at 7:30 to catch this very exciting show.
They had not spoken to my last psychiatrist, who released me from her care two months ago after helping me – over the course of six months – wean myself off of the very potent cocktails of psychotropic drugs I had been taking for over thirty years. In our last session, she very sadly acknowledged that the psychiatric diagnosis I had been given over thirty years ago was probably all a terrible mistake. “They gave you that diagnosis when you were in the middle of a huge life crisis that included the sudden return of memories of a four year history of childhood sex abuse. These days we never would give anyone a psychiatric diagnosis when there is so much chaos in their personal life – you just can’t know what really is going on. I’m afraid they got it wrong.” (https://majowakingup.com/2019/12/18/its-good-to-have-that-30-years-over/)
They had not talked to the LCSW psychotherapist I have seen every week for the last 12 weeks. She had said to me 12 weeks ago, “You are gradually weaning yourself off of the powerful drugs you took for 30 years – and you are ‘unreasonably happy’, happy with no apparent reason, just happy to be alive. We are trained to look for any sign of mania in this case, because many years ago your diagnosis was changed from ‘clinical depression’ to ‘bipolar disorder’. So I will be working to ‘rule out’ mania.” I told her in that first session that I knew she would have to watch for any sign of mania – and only asked of her that she would listen fully and carefully to me, keep an open mind and ‘stay curious’.
On those grounds, we began our work – and in twelve weeks, she has never seen anything that looked like mania. “You think very fast and often talk fast – I can understand why you say you feel more at home in New York City than anywhere else. Certainly very fast for the old coot that you are. But you also are extraordinarily and ferociously grounded, you have all these moments of deep peace, you act slowly and deliberately and purposefully – and have an amazing, powerful presence.” She used the same words that the psychiatrist had used: “I’ve never seen anything like this.” I gave her the same response I gave the psychiatrist. “I’m an anomaly.”
I take no personal credit for any of this. I had massive bouts of suicidal depression last spring – which ended in me, more than ever before in my life, completely giving up hope for my life and absolutely letting go.
I will soon write up more information about the extraordinary events of the last week, which yes have included punching a virulently racist neighbor who attempted to humiliate my friend Eric by saying “What are you doing around here, boy? You don’t belong here, boy.” I took this action not just out of anger (of which I had plenty), but out of a shrewd calculation that this was the only way to stop Eric from reclaiming his dignity by beating this 5’6″ ignorant white boy up. Eric is 6’4″, in his own words “strong as an ox” and black. I knew that the justice system would probably go easier on me than him – and, in the run-up to his big show tomorrow, he needed to be home practicing his songs and shipping songs to his recording company, not sitting in jail.
I was arrested and go to court in April for an assault charge. The Asheville cops were uniformly wonderful – what a special town. They had obviously never arrested anyone who was so happy about what he had just done or about being arrested – and we all had a really good time together.
When they were leading me, in handcuffs, down the Battery Park steps to their squad car, my dear friend Paula Hanke just happened to be coming out of the Grove Arcade – where I had earlier confided to her what I intended to do, to her horror. “Aren’t you afraid? Why are you laughing?” “Because I think the whole thing is both dangerous – and totally funny, I actually find most everything funny these days, maybe especially my own foibles.”
I yelled out in glee at the site of her, “Paula! Paula! Have you got your camera? I want this for my scrapbook! Officers, is it OK if she takes pictures?” “OK, but just two – we have paperwork to do on you.”
I know that this story lies outside the life experience of most of us. I certainly have only heard of this kind of thing in famous people like Thich Nhat Hanh and Eckhart Tolle, but I have come to understand that all around us, many people are starting to “wake up” – I guess because our country and the planet need them more than ever.
I will try to put up here more information about all this tonight – or maybe in the morning (or maybe later – I’m starting to get pretty tired. But I want to get something up here now, to try to head off some of my Jubilee friends going to bed with pain in their heart over me.