Images by John Hook

May is Mental Health Month in the United States. This online series offers a platform to five individuals from Hawai‘i to share their struggles with and the realities of mental health.

Two Songs by Twelvenoon & Midnite

Gabriel Miller and Freddy Leone form the band Twelvenoon & Midnite. Their inaugural EP, Season,  recounts their personal battles with depression and growing their Christian faith along the way. In crafting lyrics and melody, both singer-songwriters find music to have a therapeutic effect, which helped them reckon with their mental health issues and achieve creative catharsis along the way.

“Sin”

Written by Gabriel Miller

I can’t believe these words you said to me

Smoking, drinking wash it down slowly

Every time I choose to do this it’s a sin

Although I’ve been gone all those nights

Lost in confusion stuck in the middle of the scene

Always wondering if I did the right thing

Chorus:

And many times I’ve been looking

To get away from here

And many times I’ve been searching

For a way out of here

Yes I know it’s a sin

But I do it anyway

Yes I know it’s a sin

But I do it anyway

I hate you I love you I want you I can’t have you

Clouds in my head smoke till I’m dead

Feels good too good I want it every day

I want to change all my evil ways

Lying to you hurts me every single day

But my problem is my selfishness

Chorus

Yes I know it’s a sin

But I do it anyway

Yes I know it’s a sin

But I do it anyway

I woke up from this crazy nightmare

Feels real, too real, maybe it is.


“Two-Thirty”

Written by Freddy Leone

Not myself, can’t recognize me

Zero confiding, there’s nothing guiding

Overwhelmed, can’t feel inside me

Thoughts are colliding, desensitizing

Chorus:

It’s so loud in here, yet I don’t wanna leave

I crave your air so bad and I just want to breathe

Can’t take the heat out there, but it’s hard

To stay away to stay away from that door

To be alive, prisoner of my mind

It’s so cold, so cold

Yearning a love, time I couldn’t have

Would I have been much better off, what life for me felt not so jaded?

Pre-chorus:

I tried to turn the clock around

And I saw the gears in groove

I turned back both the dials

It was never mines to move

Felt like I had to choose

But did I have to lose

Before I realized that I need you

Let me back in

Let me back in

Let me back in

* * *

An Oral History of the Korean War by Harold Yamauchi

Eighty-eight years old, Harold Yamauchi is a Korean War veteran who resides in ʻAiea, O‘ahu with his wife Toyo Yamauchi. After being deployed from the war, Harold became a certified engineering technician under the GI Bill. He has three sons and seven grandchildren.

When I was deployed from the Korean war, Toyo and I visited my brother’s grave for Memorial Day. We parked on top of the big hill at Kāneʻohe cemetery and were walking down to where a service was happening. Everyone was facing us. I didn’t know they were waiting for the 21 gun salute. When the guns went off, I hit the ground thinking I was back on Triangle Hill.

1952, The Battle of Triangle Hill. All the squadrons in Love Company were employed to conquer this hill north of the 38th parallel. That was the name of our company of 150 men. We served under the motto “Love Conquers All.” I was a squad leader at the time of the battle. When it began, it was everything you’d imagine–bullets, explosives, all kine chaos. I don’t want to tell you too much detail. People shouldn’t have to hear this.

The one good thing from that day was I saved two soldiers. They were trapped in a ditch below the enemy’s hill, one man was dying and the other refused to leave him. I was able to coax them out and return them to camp.

Later on, the order to withdraw went out. I was the only soldier left on the hill. All the men in my squadron had died and the other squadrons had similar fates or had retreated from injuries. At camp, medics were stacking the dead bodies. Some piles were head high. Only forty out of one-hundred-fifty men survived. The survivors were mostly from the heavy weapon platoon which never had to enter the field. Love Company lost all our officers that day, so I was promoted to a sergeant. I walked away with a minor grenade wound. Shards of the explosive had embedded in my left arm, but it was never removed. A Million Dollar Wound the doctor told me.

I never thought I had PTSD until the day at the cemetery. I was so embarrassed, I tell you, everyone saw me on the ground. Toyo and I never ended up visiting the grave. We got back in the car and drove home. I was 24 years old. Even today, I still get on edge whenever hearing the 21 gun salute. I don’t imagine I’m back in the war, but I feel the same fear.

I think it’s more psychological, but one day I want to get the shards removed from my arm. One day, I will.

* * *

A Poem by Corey Arakaki

At 16 years old, Corey Arakaki was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Today, the 38-year-old mental health activist is on the Board of Directors and Leadership for what’s commonly known as Nami Hawaii, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He recently led a talk with the Honolulu Police Department on how to better address people with mental health issues. In Fall 2019, Arakaki will be finishing up his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

“The Shadow in the Light”

You keep trying to kill me. Relentless.

Rage, delusions and infinite sadness.

An ominous whisper in the night. A seduction to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.

You hide in plain sight. Your lies are true. Death is better than living.

Mixing my emotions. Ebullient, manic, elation. Agony, crushed, shattered.

Every emotion at the same time. My life is at your mercy.

There is no God. Death is the greatest sacrament.

I drop to my knees.

God. God. God…

I close my eyes and seek refuge.  

God. God. God…

And we fight our way back into the light, climbing out of hell, one inch at a time.

Your screams cannot escape you.

You can no longer hide. Your lies and half-truths have been exposed.

I have extinguished your fire with a scepter of light.

Victory is my greatest accomplishment.

I lie in the light, exhausted.

* * *

Three Journal Entries from Lyndie Irons’ Diaries

Lyndie Irons is the founder of the Andy Irons Foundation, an organization focused on uplifting youth living with mental illness and other related problems. AIF’s recent project partnered with Teton Gravity Research to release the documentary Andy Irons:Kissed by God, which shared about the late Andy Iron’s struggle with bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Today, she lives in Kauaʻi with her and Andy’s son, Axel.

December 2, 2010

Everything I knew was taken away from me on November 2, 2010. There really aren’t any words to describe losing your love unless you have lived it. I felt like a piece of me died that day. I was eight months pregnant with Axel and I stopped caring about myself and anything else. It was like my whole world went absolutely still and numb. I have never felt so lost and alone with zero hope.

I can’t be alone. Not even for a second. I can’t sleep alone; I can’t shower alone; I just can’t be alone and feel the silence. Whenever I sleep, I wake up and think, “That was a dream. Andy is here, right? He’s coming home. Wait no he’s not!” Then comes a pain so deep. I cry and cry and cry and feel numb again.

April 24, 2011

Today, I laughed and felt happy for the first time in months. Axel is four months old and it has been about five months since Andy passed. We spent the day at Hanalei Bay. I surfed for the first time and felt happy in the ocean. Seeing my beautiful friends in the ocean, baby Axel on the beach, and a perfectly sunny, beautiful Kauaʻi. That feeling of being happy! Crazy enough, right after I felt happy I crumbled when I got to the sand because I actually felt guilty for being happy.  

How can I possibly feel happy when Andy is gone? Is it possible I’m able to feel again? I’m realizing that my whole existence was Andy. He was my whole life, my whole everything, and now I’m raising his son. I’m having to man up and take it day-by-day figuring out who I am, what I’m going to do, and how I’m going to do it. I need to find a bridge to overcome all my sadness and adjust to a new life. I need to provide a healthy happy environment for Axel. I’m going to try harder, start surfing more, and go on hikes. Because now I know there can be happiness inside me. I never wanted to be a victim of the loss of Andy. I’ve always wanted to find a way to overcome the pain. This moment in the ocean today gives me hope.

March 15, 2019

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I have fought hard to be where I am today mentally and I still work on myself constantly. I still search for happiness and make sure that I am the healthiest I can be for myself, my courageous son Axel, my new handsome love Pat, and Pat’s brilliant son Joseph and his stunning love Yvonne. It hasn’t been easy. If it weren’t for my friends, family, and community, I wouldn’t have found the motivation to keep pushing on. My friends and family literally stopped and put their whole lives on hold just to be with me, to make sure I never gave up.

Today, I have a new outlook on mental health. Since I suffered so deeply, I have so much more compassion for people that are suffering like I did. If there is any advice I could give to them it would be to never give up. I still have sad days where I cry, but I know myself better now and know it’s okay to be sad. A quick ocean dip, a surf, or a walk will bring back that momentary happiness.  

Axel is now eight years old and life seems sweeter, lighter, and more tranquil. Not dark, heavy and numb. I have found love with a man so beautiful that it’s brought me greater peace and passion in love and life than I had ever expected. Life is good, but I also know how painful it is. I’ll always be fighting for my happiness. xxxxx

For Mental Health Month this May, FLUX Hawaii is sharing stories about mental health in a four-part series by individuals in the local community. For more information and resources on mental health, go to namihawaii.org. If you or a loved one are thinking of suicide, go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call (800) 273-8255.