Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead

In the morning I am hopeful. There are two hearing scheduled for today.

One is for the supposed violation of an order of protection that clearly states I am to refrain from contacting Maria. The other is a hearing to determine whether the order of protection is to stay in place, and I am confident of it being withdrawn.

The first hearing starts at ten a.m. At first I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. There is a process where the public defender calls out all the names of people he is seeing before court begins. My name was not called.

I went to the door of the public defender’s office. “Excuse me.”

“I’m busy right now with clients. I’ll see you in the order your name was called.”

“Well, that’s why I’m here. I have a slip that says I’m supposed to be here today, but my name wasn’t called.”

That resulted in a check of the files, and a question put to the room about anyone else not having been called. It turned out the public defender’s assistant had to run back to the office for three files.

When it was my turn to see the public defender I raised my question about the order of protection.

“How is it that I can even be arrested for violating an order that, in big, bold, black letters says I am to refrain from contacting Maria?”

“You won’t get far with that line here. Is there anything else you want to ask before we go into court?”


The process in court was equally quick. The public defender, William Paternost, asked for the case to be postponed until January. The State’s Attorney agreed, and a new date was set.

This is something that has always confused me. Refrain means to keep yourself from doing something. That’s a long way from prohibited – you’re not allowed to do it. It’s sort of like farting in public. It’s a good idea to refrain, but it’s far from prhobited. And to top it off, even the state attorney said I reached out to Maria to tell her I lover her and ask to work things out.

The morning’s excitement was over.

The second hearing started at two p.m. I was surprised that it was the same judge as during the morning, but I didn’t think it would matter. Maria gave her testimony first.

“Your Honor, he yells and swears when he gets angry, and I have a photo of where he put a hole in the bedroom wall once when he was angry.

“He also once hit my daughter Skyler in the head.”

I don’t know correct court protocol, but I interrupted at that.

“Excuse me?! I have never struck you or the kids.”

“Mr. Hall,” the judge intoned. “Please don’t interrupt. You’ll have your turn.”

Maria chose to reply to what I said.

“Skyler told me there was something about her closet door, and you hit her in the head.”

The memory immediately leaped to mind, and I replied. “Okay. Except that isn’t quite true. Yes, I did make a light flick at her hair, but I certainly didn’t hit her. And why are testifying about something you weren’t there to see?”

The judge took part at this point.

“Ms. Sanchez, was your daughter injured in any way?”


“And do you have any proof that this incident happened?”


“Okay. And do you have any other testimony to offer?”

“No sir. I’m finished.”

“Thank you. Mr. Hall, you may offer testimony.”

“Thank you, your Honor. May ask her questions?”


“Thank you. Maria, before you and I were married, did we talk about my having a problem with anger and needing to get help?”


“And did we also talk about all of us needing help for us to become a family? That Brian had recently died, so you and the kids would need help, and I was coming from a completely different background so I would need help?”


“Okay. And once we were married, did we get counselling?”

“Yes, we did.”

“And did that help?”

“No, it didn’t.”

“In fact, didn’t it make our situation worse?”

“Yes, it did.”

“Did you agree at the time that the counsellor was not doing what we needed? That she was not helping us find solutions for our problems?”

“That’s right.”

“And when I stopped going, did you continue to see the counsellor?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And when you stopped seeing the counsellor, did you tell me that it had degenerated into a complaint session?”

“Yes, it did.”

“After that effort at counselling, did I ask you to help us find another counsellor for us to see?”


“Did you find one for us?”


“Did you find a counsellor for the kids?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And during our marriage, did I repeatedly ask you for your help in finding a counsellor to help us?”


“And was your answer always that you couldn’t find a counsellor in Springfield who would accept your benefit plan?”

“Yes, it was.”

“Did you ever try to find a counsellor outside Springfield?”


“And, have I ever struck you or the kids?”

“No, not really.”

“Would you agree that, throughout our marriage, I’ve consistently asked you to help me find help for us, that I’ve repeatedly asked for help in dealing with my anger issues, and you’ve consistently refused to help me get access to medical treatment since that one effort at counselling?”


“Okay. That’s it. I think I’ve made my point.”

The judge then asked whether we had any final statements to make.

“Your Honor, I want him out of the house. He yells at me in front of the kids, and he yells and swears when he gets angry.”

“Your Honor, Maria and I talked about my anger issues, and my need for help, before we ever got married. We agreed that we would all need counselling help for us to become a family, and that I needed help learning to deal with anger.

“After one failed attempt at counselling, Maria refused to help me find any other counselling options. I even asked her to show me what the benefit plan was so I could look for a counsellor, and she wouldn’t do that.

“Now, here we are today. We both made this marriage, and we have both made mistakes. I don’t think it’s right or fair that I’ve been tossed out of my home, and that I’m being asked to pay the full freight for something that we’ve done together. I’m asking you to please deny this order of protection, let me go home, and please direct us to get counselling so we can work out our marriage.”

There was a brief silence. For a moment, I thought I had made an impression.

“Mr. Hall, I think you’re simply blaming the victim.”

“Your Honor, that is not at all…”

He didn’t even look at me. He just raised his hand like a king demanding silence.

“You’ve had your turn to speak.

“I’m granting the Plenary Order of Protection. I think you do represent a threat to Ms. Sanchez’s safety, and there is this matter of having already violated the order of protection once. The Order of Protection is in effect for one year from today.”

That was it. Maria was granted a Plenary Order of Protection. The judge claimed I was blaming the victim.

 That’s a common refrain – Maria is right and I’m wrong. Why is no one listening to how much it hurt to have my wife exclude me from everything? To have her tell me weeks or months after that one of the kids said something good about me to her? What point is there if no one is willing to hear the truth?

I wandered around town all afternoon in a daze.

In the evening, I went to the Christian Youth Center (the place where Pastor Cook’s church meets on Sundays) and dropped off all my stuff to George, the fellow who runs the center. I told him it was a delivery for Pastor Cook.

I walked away from the building, and went straight to the bridge over the Illinois River. It’s a one hundred foot drop into a fast running river. Drowning won’t take long in December’s cold.

All the way to the bridge, and while walking up to the highest point, I was talking to myself. Some of it out loud, some of it not. I kept wondering why it was that I kept getting shafted. I was definitely feeling sorry for myself.

But from the depths of that self-pity came a spark of anger. Why should I let all the people who have ever crapped on my win? If I kill myself, I thought, then they all get to be right.

Now, I’m the first guy in the world to admit that anger is a blunt instrument, and a poor tool. It has been at the root of most problems in my adult life. But if anger is all you have to hold onto, here is my advice: Hang on tight, and plan to pay the price later.

Anger is our emotional signal that something is wrong. There was definitely something wrong that night.

The night before, I had to face the fact that I couldn’t keep going to counselling without a ride or money to pay for it. Today, I was told that the order of protection saying refrain doesn’t matter, that I was blaming the victim, and that I would not be allowed to go home. Oh yes, there were a few things that felt wrong.

It’s what you do with your anger that either makes the problem worse, or moves you toward a solution. I had no idea what my solution would be, but I decided suicide wasn’t it. I was not going to go away and die just because people didn’t want me around.

I went back to the Youth Center and asked George to speak with me outside. I told him I really left my stuff at the center because I had planned to commit suicide. I didn’t share the details, and he didn’t ask. What is truly important is that I told him I just don’t have it in me to quit this way.

We talked for a little while, and although I didn’t have a clear plan of action, I at least knew I was going to PADS that night instead of back to the bridge.

That evening at PADS, I’m arrested for “acting weird” and confined for psychiatric observation for 72 hours. I’m sent to Silver Cross Hospital.

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