We All Fall Down


My friend:

What I am about to share with you is extremely personal.  But I felt the need, an obligation to tell this story.  Through the many years I've written for you, "my friends I've never met", I shared everyday struggles, personal challenges and observations of a beautiful life I live. Because of the nature of this, some of you may decide to leave my list.  Others may find peace in it because you'll connect in some way to my experience.

In all my years of writing and speaking I always opened my heart and my life to help others understand they are not alone in their struggles.  I ask that before you come to any conclusions you give me the chance to share the entire story with you.  Let me assure you all is well and my life is even more on track than ever before.  I hope you'll understand because...

"We all fall down"

You may remember the childhood rhyme, although in different variations depending on where you grew up:

"Ring around the rosy
A pocketful of posies
"Ashes, Ashes"
We all fall down!"

We would hold hands and circle around until we got to the line..."We all fall down."  Then we dropped to the ground laughing.  Well, it's true.  We do all fall down at some time, perhaps many times in our lives.

The point is we all get back up again.

Through the many years I've been writing for who I lovingly call my "friends I've never met," (you), I've always written openly about the good times and bad in my life.  Recently I was attacked and criticized by two "good Christians" who found my work garbage and "self posturing."  They saw no value in my telling you the good things I do to fulfill my mission to "touch the world one person at a time."  They never gave credit for my talking about the bad.  I was told they were going to use my message and reply in an upcoming meeting as being a good example of a bad Christian.  They are the self righteous, who in the name of God, scour the internet to destroy those who don't think the way they do.

Don't feel sorry for me.  I hear from others periodically and then they move on to beat someone else up.  Although I do take it personally, I have always been able to remain focused on what I believe God wants me to do and how He wants me to do it.  What I am about to share with you is about that truth..."I take it personally."

I have come to realize that I carry the weight of the world and haven't been able to put it down accept to catch my breath.  I see pain in the faces of the innocent victims of war.  I see an obituary of a young person in the paper.  I see the joy filled faces of loved ones reunited with their soldier family member.  I read messages of despair and fear from my readers. I get messages of hope and thanks from people who tell me one of my stories "Arrived at just the right time," or "I think this was written just for me."

All of that is my reason to keep writing for you.

I struggled with whether to tell you this story.  In fact, when it was happening I didn't want anyone to know.  I was ashamed.  Now, God has urged me to be as open about it as I have always been in my work.  I have an underlying depression and have for most of my life.  It serves to slow me down, sometimes, stop me in my tracks, but it also helps me to be in touch with my emotions.  Those emotions come out in my work.  I am sensitive to how really big little things are and sometimes lose sight of how little big things should be.

A few weeks ago, when we had a snow and ice storm pass through my hometown, I spent hours trying to clear the ice off our driveway.  Unable to use the snow blower, I had to do it in three parts using an ice chopper and shovel.  Without going into very personal details, I will say that months prior to this day, I had been slowly crashing.  Family issues, the fact that my book would not be reprinted, the closing of my online store and loss of income, my dependence on one friend for a source of income, and finally, and the biggest issue of all, was the fact that my wife needed another operation.  We were reliving the fear of a return of her cancer, all of this made me feel helpless and without influence or purpose in my life.  At the end of the day, I was beaten down mentally and physically tired from shoveling.

I took a medication called flexeril for my back pain and then after calling my wife I took a 1 mg xanax.

"I'm tired.  I need to go lie down," I told her.  I never do that.

Apparently I took more.  Time passed and when I awoke I was stumbling, falling and pretty much incoherent.  I ate, kept repeating myself enough to add to the concern my wife already had, then went back to bed.  I have absolutely no memory what so ever of the next day.  I did, however, call my doctor to tell him I was considering suicide.  He urged me to go directly to the "crisis center" at the nearby hospital.

"I'm really too tired, Doc," I insisted.

"Promise me that when your wife comes home you'll tell her about these feelings."

When she walked in the door I did just that.  I believe that the influence of the meds lowered the veil of my secret depression enough to speak the truth.  "I have been praying each night that God take my life," I said.

I talked about family and how worried I was about them and felt helpless in finding a way to protect them.  I went on to explain that I was using the new treadmill to an extreme in hopes that I would have a heart attack and die.

"Knowing God, he'd turn that around and make me healthier," I joked.

We spent the evening together after dinner and I promised her that I would indeed seek help at the crisis center.  I found out later that I had spoken with my good friend Nathaniel for about 25 minutes.  He is a most remarkable man of God.  Early in the day his cell phone rang, when he answered it one of my recorded Power Minute messages played.  He knew that God wanted him to contact me.  It was confirmed when he received the following email from me on Thursday.  I have no idea how it slipped through "spell check" this way:

"Nathaniel, at today eat five o'clock call doctor to admit that suicide is promirnrnt in my mind. This is serious stuff, pleas pray for me, last nighet I was aIwas pouncing off rhe wals. literrally.  fella few time.  Don;'t rememnber anythng,  Plesse pry for me.  I lost mypurpose."  (end)

I found that email in my sent box a week later.  The next day I drove myself to the center with the sole purpose of beginning a process of finding help.  I just wanted to talk to someone and schedule appointments for on going therapy.

That was the plan.  The next thing I knew someone was asking me over and over again,  "Are you willing to voluntarily commit yourself?"

I was shocked and appalled at the idea.  "No!" I said time and again.

"One last time...Are you willing to voluntarily commit yourself?"

"No!  I drove myself here.  On my own.  I just came to speak with someone."

They called my wife.  My story of events and reasons for coming there did not match the real story she shared.  Remember, I had no memory of Thursday at all.  My wife arrived at the crisis center.  I was frantic, feeling like a caged animal and all I wanted was out.

"They want me to commit myself," I said.

She replied, "I know."

Pausing for a moment in what felt like slow motion I asked,  "You didn't sign the papers did you?"

"Yes.  Honey, they said it was the best thing.  They said you might hurt yourself."

My wife had committed me under what they called a 302 ... involuntary commitment.  If she didn't they would have sought a court order.  I blew up.  I was beyond rude, arrogant, cruel and horrid.  I had no idea where I was headed or what would happen to my future.  My entire world came to an abrupt halt.  Before I realized it I was in an ambulance, they had me remove my laces on my sneakers, my belt and all personal items.  I was committed to a mental health facility.  I arrived at the facility in the early evening.  I had since calmed down and was adjusting to the reality that there was no way out.  I simply had to follow through on the process so I could get on with my life.

What I wasn't acknowledging was I needed help to do it.  Upon arrival I told the nurses that I wanted no visitors.  Not even my wife.  Perceived shame and arrogance still prevailed.  I was introduced to my room and room-mate and settled in with what little I had.  The unit was a fully locked facility for obvious security reasons.  As I was checking in, I observed a group of people in what was called the community room.  All eyes on the new guy made me feel a bit uncomfortable at first.  I have never had a problem with meeting new people so, I made my rounds introducing myself to the others.  I began a journey defiantly and would come to discover it was all in God's plan.

Since I arrived late on a Friday the next few days would be pretty much uneventful.  There were no therapy sessions, classes or in depth conversations with anyone other than my new friends.  I was in Adult 4.  This section worked with people who were struggling with life issues.  Cutters, people who hurt themselves, people there for a brief mental interlude because life was smothering them and a few who had suicidal thoughts.

I am guessing that some of you might refer to this as the "nut house", the "loony bin," and other sadly misunderstood and hurtful labels.  It couldn't be further from the truth.

In one discussion I had with a fellow patient, we came to the conclusion that if you took anyone off the street, perhaps even you, and placed them in this unit, you'd fit right in. You'd most likely discover unaddressed issues and realities you may be hiding for years. You might also have a difficult time convincing the staff that you were "just fine" and could go home.  The fact is, we all have life challenges.  Some handle them, some don't...some hide them and slowly self destruct from the inside out.

This place can change all of that.  I believed that as soon as Monday arrived they would come to see that I didn't belong there and release me.  Throughout the weekend, in fact, a number of people asked me, "What ARE you doing here?  You're too happy."  It became apparent on Monday that in order to get home I'd have to prove my ability to deal with my over sensitivity to family concerns and put things in perspective.  I didn't want to become numb to my sensitive ways, I just wanted to put them in their proper place.

I would later determine that I had not in any way attempted to take my life.  All my pills were intact, accept for the scrambled message sent to my friend asking for prayer,  there were no suicide goodbyes or notes left for loved ones.  I simply crashed under self imposed pressure.  That first evening I called my wife and apologized for what had happened.  I asked for her to visit the next day.  It was super bowl weekend and I knew I had to do something about it.  A few were taking up a small collection to try to get a pizza. Since I had no money, wallet or cell phone, I had to wait my turn at the pay phone to place a request with Marianne.

"I heard they wanted to order pizza for the group.  I offered to pay for everything.  So, I need $100," I told Marianne.

"Okay?"  she replied with a slight bit of confusion.

This little party became the focus of everyone there.  We were about to place an order for $100 worth of pizza, wings and soda.  It was a big deal because most of the hospital food was tasteless.  Pizza and wings were a bit of the reality of outside the walls of this place and a taste of the future we all longed for.  It was remarkable how excited everyone was. Those who had cares and concerns, depression and anxiety came together to celebrate life.

When Marianne arrived I also had her bring several copies of my two books to leave for others and to give to people I felt God wanted me to personally touch.  Over the next few days I came to know each and every one of these people like we were long time friends, even family.  I truly believe that I was meant to be there.  There was a greater purpose than my own issues for having to spend time with friends I've never met...before now.  Although we sat through chat sessions of therapy, art classes where scissors were not permitted and all too many games of Pictionary, I discovered that the real therapy evolved right there in the community room and in the hallways one on one among the people themselves.  It took 14 full laps to walk the hallway to equal one mile.  I did a lot of walking.  We did a lot of talking.

I cannot go into personal details of the lives and reasons my new found friends were there, but I will tell you that for some like myself, it would be a one time visit.  For some it was like a homecoming because they still have not found the answers they were seeking and have been there before.  No, it wasn't because they lacked faith.  The Bible was prominent in many conversations.  It wasn't because they were "druggies and alcoholics" who some consider should be locked up for good.  They were human beings with families, children, lovers, friends and professionals who permitted life to get out of focus and fear rule over their every decision.  Yes, some had drinking problems, drug addictions but all were just like you and I. God's children.

It would end up being six days in that facility for me.

I remember clearly the moment my wife walked through the door that first day and saw me standing there with my sneakers unlaced, my belt missing, unshaven and ashamed.  I can see myself standing in the window of my room each night watching her drive away into the real world, the big world I could not touch, smell or even inhale.  The day I was released I walked into the community room where all my friends were meeting.  Interrupting the class I stood in the doorway afraid that I would burst into tears because you know I hate goodbyes.

Suddenly these words came to mind:  "Every time you hear a car horn beep, a patient gets their wings.  Listen, in a few moments you'll hear it."

I hugged two friends, Momma and Big T, as tears poured out.  I ran as fast as I could with the nurse to meet my wife downstairs.  I didn't even lace my shoes nor put a belt on.  As we pulled out of the lot I said,  "Turn right and stop when I tell you."  She did.  I laid my hand on the horn and beeped a dozen or more times.

Reminiscent of "It's a Wonderful Life" I found myself yelling,  "Hello, car!"  "Hello, house" "Hello, pond!"  "Hello, froggy on top of the television!"  And then I fell on the floor and let my dogs lick the "hello" out of me!

On a Valentine's Day I will remember the rest of my well lived and greatly appreciated life, I had my first appointment with my psychiatrist.  A tough old guy who during my stay there personally challenged me by knowing what buttons to push.  I had promised him when we made the appointment on my last visit with him that I would call if I needed him.

"You know that's Valentine's day.  Do I need to bring you chocolates?"

"Yes," he replied without looking at me.

"Milk or dark?" I asked.


"Okay, but I refuse to bring you flowers!"  I told him.

"You can't eat flowers," he said with a tiny curled up smile on his face.

It turned out to be the sweetest day of my life.  So, there you are.  I had to be committed to a mental facility.  Just writing that still shakes me a bit.  It was worth it.

Imagine too, what my wife felt like.  Imagine the pain and anguish she held in her heart as she left me there and drove home to an empty house.  She would later tell that she "felt my presence."

Now listen...you there right now reading this.  There is no shame in any of this.  If you had any other disease or physical ailment you would deal with it.  You would fight for your life. If you are struggling with life and at times feel overwhelmed and think you can't handle it talk to your family, your doctor, your minister, rabbi or priest.  Talk to God.  He's a great listener and already knows your heart.  If you have had thoughts of suicide...don't wait, get help right now!  No your family or the world won't be better off without you.  They will suffer greatly and there will be a void left in their lives that only you can fill.  You can lose your job, your house, your best friend, spouse or all your valuables and your being gone won't change any of that.

You are loved.  Even if you think you aren't.  You are needed desperately in this world.  Even when you believe you have no purpose.  God didn't create you without purpose.  He created you with love and hope for the world.

I love you,
I need you.

Here are four things that I learned:

1. I will stop and think before I react and ask myself "Is it worth it?"
2. I will do what is in my best interest.
3. I will NEVER consider suicide. There are always other options.
4. I will remember the past to learn from it so I don't repeat the same mistakes or "Beat Myself up."

Oh, wait.  There are five...My wife did this because she loved me that much.  Yes, That much!

I want you to learn to love yourself that much, too.  To love yourself is to love God who created you.  There is nothing that you and God can't handle together.  I know.  Believe me, I know because...

"We all fall down!"

Love always and all ways,
"I wish you enough!"
Bob Perks

Postscript: Although I do not know Bob Perks personally, I have shared many of his stories, or rather, 'teachings' with many of my readers and family and friends and I feel that Bob is one of the most courageous, humble and Godly men I know, even if it is simply through the Internet.  How many people would openly share their feelings, their pain, their doubts and even their descent into darkness (depression) with not only their family and friends, but the entire world through the Internet?  I daresay not very many.  Courage?  Yes, he fits that bill.  Honesty, humbleness, love for others?  Yes, he fits that bill also.  By sharing his story with others, he has pulled back the curtain of darkness and secrecy that many people, feeling ashamed, try to hide behind who suffers from depression and I feel, may have planted seeds of Hope to many who read this story.  Even if only one person reading this story follows Bob's advice and seeks help, especially from God, then he is victorious.  As for so called "Christians" who criticize his writings as "self-posturing" and garbage, there will always be those who call themselves 'Christians' but actually are wearing blinders in much the same way as a team of horses pulling a wagon.  They only see what they want to see.....they fail to see the beauty of a rose or a sunset at the end of a day....the laughter of a small child.  Bob's stories has helped myself and countless others not only see the obvious things in life but sometimes the things that we either take for granted or don't see.  Then, after reading one of his stories, we look at life with a better understanding......a deeper appreciation of those around us, and most importantly, we appreciate a little bit more of God's love for others.  I am honored to share his stories with others and there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever, than when God calls Bob home, He will greet Bob with these words........."Well done, faithful servant".

Rick Harris





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