Just as this issue was going to press, I heard the tragic news of Neal Casal’s death. No specifics, other than the gut-punch: He took his own life. I didn’t really know him other than having interacted with him on a couple of occasions but have more than a few friends who knew him well. He graced our cover as a member of Hard Working Americans and had been scheduled to perform with Todd Snider at Live on the Green Saturday alongside former HWA members Chad Staehly and Jesse Aycock.
The news reminded me of what I went through one year ago this week when I abruptly stopped taking a psychotropic antidepressent known as Effexor, which threw me into a complete emotional breakdown. Had it not been for Lisa, I’m not sure I’d still be here. The experience left me with real concerns about the efficacy and availability of mental health treatment.
To paraphrase what Tommy Womack often says, it sucks having a brain that lies to you. To this I’ll add: It sucks living in a society in which we’re relentlessly bombarded by hopelessness. Even the most well-adjusted among us seem to suffer from low-grade PTSD. God help those who suffer from depression, or addiction, or any number of mental health issues. I can barely look at Facebook anymore, and it’s not because I don’t want to. Keeping up with the goings on in the lives of my friends is important to me. But the never-ending reminders of how fucked up things have become hits me like hot air from blast furnace, scorching my brain and searing away whatever positive energy I might’ve otherwise had that day.
So, I can only imagine how others feel, and it breaks my heart. Yeah, life isn’t fair and yadda-yadda-yadda but, if you care about anyone other than yourself, you know what I’m talking about. There’s been a seismic shift in our collective consciousness, and not one for the better.
I have to force myself to resist the urge to withdraw, to disengage, and I consider myself very fortunate to be surrounded by people who recognize when I am and push me out the door into life. I can’t do it alone; of this I am sure.
No one will ever know why. Not really. Even at our most vulnerable, we still hold back. We end up starving in the very citadels we build to protect ourselves. Maybe one day we’ll quit building them.