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Sweatpants & Sanity | The Other Me

By Matthew Heneghan

My eyelids slowly peel apart, bringing my surroundings to life. The dim lighting of the early morning hours has snuck its way through my blinds and rests upon my walls. The dull hum of air coming through the vents resonates in my ears as I slowly become more awake. My only appeasement of being awake this early comes from another sound, and soon a sight—rain. I love the rain. I always have I think. In my current life, it is really the only small joy that I find. The rest of what surrounds me is simply a bleak reminder of a life filled with failed objectives. I am a man in his thirties lying alone on a bed. My apartment, a shell of what I used to have, what I used to own. All of that, gone in the divorce. It is hard to not feel defeated, or self-loathing but, on most days I do my best to fight it. After all, I’m above ground, and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

On peaceful mornings like this, as the rain falls, I find myself thinking on the things I have done, of the things I have accomplished. All of this is fleeting though, once I am stung by the reality of here and now. I look around at my surroundings, specifically at my closet, knowing what’s inside. Uniforms. Medals crisply adorn a deep, blue tunic. The one I wore when I was a paramedic. A green uniform hangs behind that—the type of green that soldier would wear. Attire previously worn by a different version of me, once upon a time. Now they simply hang, much like my shoulders. They serve only as shadows. Reminders of a man I once was. I am now a man conflicted. A man not at all at peace, even if I can find small measures of it watching rain cascade down my window.

There is a painful acknowledgment in all of this. It is that I am not at all a victim in this, this new life. I am a consequence. A consequence of decisions, both good and bad. Good, in that I once made a willful decision to serve others and intervene in their times of need. At 34 years of age, I can say I have both saved lives, as well as failed to save them, a duality that is hard to comprehend. And bad, in that I seem to have injured myself, and neglected to acknowledge it for a long time. In service to both my country and community, I landed up in a psychologist’s office. After spending some time with her, she would leave me with a diagnosis of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was a number of years ago, now but, it never really goes away, does it?

As I lie in bed reflecting on previous glories and failures, I am reminded of something a little more recent. A night that would see me go from a respected man with a selfless job, to that of a criminal—Jesus, even typing that is hard. In the middle of a black, humid summer night, I would find myself in a jail cell. But, unlike when I was a paramedic, I wasn’t there to check the glucose of a claimed diabetic patient. Nor was I there to assess a passed out drunk, for signs of head trauma. I was indeed in a cell, but that’s because only moments before I was in handcuffs. A failed breathalyzer along the side of the road, leading to the charge of a DUI, confirmed the idiocy of my reckless abandon of that night. I went from feeling sorry for myself, drowning in a bottle, to instantly and completely sober.

The paramedic and the soldier—I call them “the other me.” I do this because I still feel like those men. I just don’t stand up as straight anymore and my medals well, my medals have a little rust to them. At 34, I have seen myself go from married to single. From hero to villain. From proud to ashamed. Ashamed because, as a medic, I cannot tell you the number of calls that I have responded to involving booze and driving. I have seen it culminate in the most drastic of ways, and I was stupid enough to have done it myself, years later.

Life has changed a lot for me since then. I have grown to live with the error of my ways. I started an online blog, where I have an open e-mail policy. People can write me with anything they want, and fortunately, I have been gifted with mainly positive feedback. I try to find solace in things other than just rain but, this is all still just a work in progress.

I force myself to get up out of bed. I get showered and dressed. I purchase a tea, and I walk. I walk in the rain for hours. I suppose in some small and unrealistic way, it is because, just as the rain washes the roads, I have hopes that it will cleanse and rid me of the dirt and grim of regret. I am not saying that is the only reason I like the rain. I have always enjoyed the rain, even as a child. And maybe that’s the point—to get back that innocence, to see the world with marvel and splendor again. To see the world as new, even if I do it as the other version of me.

I suppose the one thing I can take away from all of this, is that I have both seen and survived adversity, both of my choosing, and not. And if I am still here, still living, still writing, and still finding beauty within the world—such as rainy days—then maybe, just maybe, I can make the other version of me, a better one. Today I have the rain, and that’s something, isn’t it? For me it is. That’s where it starts. One small thing to get you out of bed. To get your heart beating. It all starts with one small thing.

 

Author Bio:
My name is Matthew. I am 34 years old. I have only recently begun to place thoughts to paper. Or rather, text to screen as it is. Prior to that, I served as a Canadian Armed Forced Medic for six years. Upon my release, I became a certified paramedic and began working on ambulance within one of Canada’s largest cities. In 2011, I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I did not address it at the time, I just continued working. I did this until 2014. That is when I moved to Toronto, Ontario. It was there that I began to realize that I needed help, and subsequently, began writing. If you would like to follow me, or read more about what is in my wounded mind, you can do so over at; amedicsmind.blogspot.ca or on Instagram @Henny_83_.

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