Halfway Through The Wood

 

I used to take a lot of walks.

I didn’t realize I was getting exercise, although I know now that it was actually doing wonders for me, because when I look back at pictures of myself I can see how in shape I was, despite thinking I was fat. The neighborhood where my family lived was built on this huge hill that was probably once part of a mountain or something, all of the houses lining the hill seemed simultaneously to be level and yet sliding down the hill. Our neighborhood was at the top of the hill and a little ways further around some turns. I would take my iPod out for a stroll so I could listen to whatever music I was exploring at the time. I remember walking during a cool, wet day and listening to Telepopmusik’s beautiful ambient electronic album Angel Milk, and feeling so… well, I wanted to say “at peace,” but that wouldn’t be right. I felt a lot of pain, and a lot of aching and longing, a lot of sadness, and mostly that I had so much I wanted to SAY. I wanted to write and play piano and scream and be heard, and I also desperately wanted sexual attention because I was in a stale relationship that had already lasted nearly two years longer than it should have.

When I think about me then and me now, the biggest difference is the depth of feeling. I felt so much then. Life was such a full experience, with rich textures and sounds. Most of the experience was sad, and in fact I was suffering deeply with my own mental illness, having panic attacks that were gradually driving me further and further indoors until eventually I was entirely agoraphobic and couldn’t leave my house, except to go to my boyfriend’s house, and the drive there was sometimes nightmarish. Once we got stopped by a slow-moving train and I was so visibly shaken and trying hard to breathe while I had a panic attack that my normally unattendant boyfriend rolled his eyes at me and told me the calm the hell down. He responded in this way to the majority of my suffering: a combination of annoyance and contempt. He would sometimes threaten to turn around and take me back home “if I was going to act like this.” I would look forward to seeing him all week and the first two minutes in the car with him would be wonderful, but we wouldn’t usually make it completely out of the neighborhood before he’d say something that crushed me, and all my hopes would be dashed, and I’d be deflated, and I’d settle in for a weekend of knowing I was miserable but refusing to admit it to myself because it just didn’t hurt enough yet.

But I digress.

I did a lot of walking aimlessly as an excuse to be doing something physical while listening to music. I loved experiencing the music and walking is a good way to do so, and I’d make a lot of music videos in my head, some of which I’d replayed so many times in my head that I’d added small details to until they were like their own little plays, with all the actors coming out to try out new things and add to the material. There were all these characters in my music videos, because I was always imagining myself as a musician, a real artist with real music videos and real fans who watched and discussed what I did. My music videos often featured various versions of myself interacting with each other.

I spent so much time back then fantasizing, creating, constantly creating in my mind.

When I look at who I am now versus who I was then, I guess the biggest difference is that now I feel so… drained. I mean, I was so naive and starry eyed when I was twenty-one, even though I was goddamn miserable at the time. I still had hope for this bright elaborate life that would take me to the places I dreamed of, for a future where I was far away from my family and on a tour bus playing shows or flying around the world and putting on elaborate stage shows. I don’t know where the desire to be a musician came from, because it wasn’t something I’d dreamed of as a kid, but now here it was. And it was mostly Tori Amos I was listening to at the time, because she was my newest musical interest and I was trying really hard to get into her catalog.

Eight years divide me from that time and that person, who he was. He spent so much time hoping and dreaming, there was so much still ahead of him. I guess the feelings that I’m having now, feeling a loss of that hope and even that innocence and wonder, is what you might call a quarter-life crisis, if such a thing really exists. But truly, that’s not really it.

It isn’t hard for me to pinpoint the real difference between me of the past and me of the present.

It’s the drugs, of course.

Not street drugs, not drugs like my cousins do and sell and go to prison for. Not illicit, scary drugs from a back alley. Good, safe, clean drugs that a nice respectable doctor prescribed me when I woke up one morning and found that the anxiety had gotten so bad that now the whole left side of my body, from the tingling on my scalp to the tenderness in my nipple to the weakness in the veins of my arm and on down into my feet, was numb. It’s weird because “numb” is the word I used at the time but now I think it was more “sensitive,” the whole left side of my body was really sensitive, it was easier to hurt me there, and there was this constant tingling running all up and down.

I was afraid I would have an early-in-life stroke or heart attack or seizure, afraid I might have some kind of brain tumor, and these symptoms were so strange and seemingly random. That’s when they finally gave me the medicine, and frankly I didn’t want to take it because I’d heard the word Klonopin before and never in a good context. I didn’t want to become addicted to a narcotic. But I took it, because my best friend told me the doctors know what they’re doing and I needed to take the medicine I was prescribed.

I remember where I was when I took it the first time, I was sitting at a barstool at the kitchen counter. I don’t know if I was on my computer or what, and I don’t know how long it took for it to affect me but it was very quick, and my dog was laying on the floor next to me, and I sat down next to her and petted her, and then laid down with her, and I felt so free, and I wasn’t sleepy but I knew I could fall into sleep perfectly at any moment.

In the early days they had that effect on me: my sheets were so cool, the air was so fresh, my eyes were heavy and sleeping and waking were so easy. I took them at the same time every day and I started to wake up with the sun and go to sleep with it too, and I felt so much more productive and healthy and mostly the biggest change was that I no longer had the panic attacks.

I could spend a very long time talking about my journey with antidepressants. I am not one of those people who thinks they’re evil and bad for you and that you should try something else. I tried everything else. I did the fucking breathing exercises and all they did was make me more scared. I tried meditating and doing yoga and doing reiki and projecting a fucking energy shield around myself with my mind during guided meditations and listening to Enya, I tried to be positive and to write positive and think positive, I tried not to focus on the fear, but that did not stop my body from going numb, it did not stop the panic attacks from coming, wave after wave, until living was impossible.

So I’m glad I took them, I truly am.

But.

The thing about antidepressants is that they start to sap color and sound and feeling from the world around you. The world is a bright and vibrant and terrifying place, and if you want the good stuff you have to take the bad stuff too, and the antidepressants will make the bad stuff go away but it also makes the good stuff go away too. It’s not so blatant that you realize that you don’t have depth of feeling anymore, but after a very long time, you look at who you used to be and you realize that even when you try to go for a walk and listen to music now…

…it just isn’t the same.

I am not the same.

I’m so very, very tired.

Drained, lethargic, weary. Weary is probably the best word. I’m just so over it all. I feel like I’ve seen it all and felt it all, which will probably seem silly to me if I read this back to myself in years to come. But mostly I feel like the old washed up could-have-been sitting at the table and smoking a cigarette and staring off into the distance, eyes filled with visions of what might have been.

It’s not just that none of my dreams have come true. It’s that there’s no hope of them coming true, nothing on the horizon, no real changes happening. I look at where I am and even though I still love people and have dreams and hopes and I try and I create, I don’t have that same fascination with life anymore.

I’m too weary.

It’s been a long day and I don’t want to go to sleep but it would be nice not to feel so fucking tired.

And I just can’t stop taking the medication because life would kill me. The colors and sounds and feelings would overhwlem me and I’d be unable to handle it. I live with my family, and that is not a safe place to be, and I have to have a shield projected around me at all times just to make it through the day when I’m near them. I want to leave them but then I’ll need to be reliant on myself and that’s even worse, because then I REALLY can’t afford to stop taking the medicine because I can’t afford to miss work because of a panic attack.

You see? There is no optimal solution short of hitting the lottery and having the ability to live in a comfortable house with someone I love who respects and supports me, and write and play piano all day and wonder at the fascinating minutia of life as I stare out into the rainstorm. Because right here, in real life, I’m on the ground, and I have to find a way to make it through a life that has and may still continue to consist of going to work in a job I hate and putting on a smile and pretending that I’m not miserable for hours and hours a day, coming home and eating and staring at a screen for fun, then going to sleep and either doing it again the next day or spending a day resting from how exhausting it is to do it.

I feel both envy and anger toward normal people. People who think it’s fun to go to a bar. People who make weekend plans. People who can just go anywhere and do anything without being in constant fear their own brain and body will kill them. How dare they walk around complaining about ANY problem when I can’t bare to step foot outside without enough drugs in me numbing my experience of life to the point that I can feel love but not much else. Sadness I feel, loneliness I feel, sometimes intensely. Maybe that’s why I love the feeling of loneliness, because it’s the only truly intense feeling I have left.

I got sick two weeks ago, and my sex drive disappeared. Which is ironic because I STOPPED taking the antidepressant that was lowering my sex drive. And yes, I know a lot of what I’m experiencing right now is probably due to stopping it. I’m taking a different one but still, the transition is always difficult.

I miss life before the drugs, though. I know that they’ve become so entwined with my system, like roots growing into a house that’s being built until the house is part of the tree. So I don’t know that I’ll ever have a chance to be whole. I’ve been walking on crutches so long that my legs have atrophied, and my emotions might have done the same thing and just given up. Sometimes life feels like a pale and grey facsimile of itself, and I am just a reflection, a shadow cast from the boy who walked around the block and listened to music and made music videos in his head.

I wish I could talk to him and give him a hug, tell him I love him, and that I admire him, and that I aspire to be who I remember I was when I was him.

I mostly drive now, instead of walking. I didn’t have a license then. I don’t know what driving would have been like for me. I wish I could take him for a drive.

I wish I could feel the way I did, I wish I could try it all again and do things differently, I wish I’d been born to a loving family where I’m welcome and encouraged and appreciated, I wish the cow was full of milk, I wish the house was full of gold, I wish a lot of things.

I wish I could end this with something happy. I wish I wasn’t such a miserable sod who probably depresses anyone who reads my writing. I wish that someone would love my writing and my music and help me grow and take me away into a happier world where I just know I can see all the things I’ve been waiting for.

I made it through the sickness, the black despair of lying in the hospital bed for ten hours, and the scar on my arm from the IV needle still hasn’t faded entirely. I reorganized my room today. I’m sitting in front of a television in my room in a chair that wasn’t here before. There’s a new book sitting on my bed. There are things to do tomorrow.

There’s a friend I love who I want to ask to be my boyfriend, because I’m saddened by the thought of meeting someone else. I don’t know if it’s a functional kind of love or just more dysfunction from me, because really, when have I ever understood how to treat anyone with decency, much less myself?

I feel so much shame for the person I have been and the things I’ve said and done to people and the thoughts I’ve thought at night alone and the wishes I’ve had. I feel so weary at how heavy everything is and wish I could just try again, start again from the boy who felt so much so fully. I wish I could be a good enough, sound enough, stable enough person to know what a relationship is and how to enjoy one or experience one or be a good boyfriend to someone else or a good friend or a good lover.

I believe I have so much potential, and I also believe that right now there is a foggy cloud of confusion and pain and numbness around my head that makes it hard to see anyone through the blur.

I believe I’m still worthy of love, and that I should still try anyway.

My ex-boyfriend, not the mean one I talked about at the beginning of this post, but another one from later, one who I really loved and respected but who just didn’t work out, we’ve stayed friends through the internet since we broke up three years ago. Three years together, three years apart. I made a new Facebook account and he didn’t accept my friend request. I checked Instagram and he removed me from his friends there. I sent him a message from my old account and he read but didn’t reply.

I don’t blame him and I’m not mad at him. But it hurts. It’s sad.

I’ve always wished I could just kiss him one more time, to say I’m sorry and try to fix it all, even if it can’t be fixed, but just to do it for the sake of doing it, and for the fun of it. I always hoped I would kiss him again someday.

Now I have to accept that that might not ever happen. What if I never hear his voice again for the rest of my life? When I was laying in the hospital bed, I thought only of two people: the person I love the most, and him. I made voice messages to them telling them how important they’ve been to me and how much I love them.

Does he know how much I still love him and how much I treasure every memory that touches anything related to him? That there’s never a time when I see something related to the Legend of Zelda and he doesn’t cross my mind? That I still think of him when I hear the line in Into the Woods, “Sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood.”

I love you, Nate.

I’m glad we gave it a try.

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Ten Hours

A few days ago I woke up, early in the morning, drenched in sweat. The sheets beneath and above me were soaked through with it, and my blanket too; everything smelled of sweat. My head was spinning, and I managed to push myself upright and take a drink of water. I got up and very slowly shambled into the living room, where my mom lay on the couch with the news on. It was still early enough that there was no light outside. I collapsed into the recliner, and wrapped a blanket around myself, taking staggered breaths.

There was a hurricane coming through, Hurricane Michael, but honestly I wasn’t concerned about it. I don’t really mind storms anymore, as an adult I’m not really afraid of dying in them like I was as a kid, and I often find the pounding rain comforting. I sat in the chair, my head lolling back and forth because it was so hard to hold it up, and every time I exhaled, a soft moan would accompany it. This was the second day that I’d been sick, and I still didn’t know what with. But it was terrible, and it was wreaking havoc not just on my body but on my mind and heart as well. I suffered from a constant dread, a feeling that this would never end, never get better.

I don’t handle being sick well, and I never have. At least not when it comes to anything stomach related. Throwing up is an incredibly rare occurrence for me, to the point that I’ve always found it incredibly odd to hear people talk so casually about throwing up from drinking, or making themselves throw up to feel better. For me, vomiting is a life-or-death experience, at least emotionally. My entire body goes limp and then seizes up, it’s more like a seizure than throwing up. I never throw up quickly, it churns in my stomach for hours and sometimes even days before it leaves me, like a disease festering inside my body. Usually I can feel a disgusting taste coming up into my throat for days beforehand and when I do throw up, it exhausts me so much physically and emotionally that I almost always cry, and then emotionally collapse and go to sleep, praying that it will be over soon.

So, it was with some unease then, that I went to work several days ago with my stomach feeling uneasy. Now, I’m actually used to my stomach giving me problems pretty often: I’m lactose intolerant, I have type 2 diabetes and issues with blood sugar, but usually it never gets bad enough that I throw up, and thankfully at no point in this story do I ever end up throwing up. Thank God for small mercies, I guess. I work at a coffee shop, and had taken home a couple of the “protein boxes” that were past their sell by date, which I’ve even before and which are usually just fine. I happened to take home a couple that have two hard-boiled eggs in them, and though I still don’t know for sure, I think the eggs are the source of all of this. I ate one of the protein boxes the night before, and another the morning of before I went to work that day. I was in and out of the bathroom all afternoon, but I was determined that I wouldn’t leave work early because of it.

The truth is, I have a bad problem with calling out of work, or avoiding work in general. I’ve never been good at working a job for the same reason that I was never good at going to school regularly: I don’t like feeling trapped. I can actually still remember the moment in Kindergarten, walking into the school on a dark and rainy morning, so early that the sun had not yet come up, and I remember looking up at the ceiling, which to a five year old seemed so incredibly high, like the domed ceiling of a cathedral, and I remember a teacher ushering us all toward our classrooms. As I walked, staring up at the ceiling and thinking of how I missed being at home and being with my mom, I was thinking about how I’d recently learned that school lasts for twelve years. Twelve years was an incomprehensibly long time, and it seemed to stretch out forever before me. And I decided then and there that I hated school, that I didn’t want to be there, and that I just couldn’t wait until it was over so I could stay at home where I was happy. After all why did I need to come to this stupid school for seven hours a day, five days out of the week?

And honestly, that feeling never left me. I was a very smart child so I had good grades up until middle school, when things began to actually challenge me, and my response was to simply give up and slide by on terrible grades until I ultimately graduated high school. I could have applied myself and been an outstanding student, but the truth is I didn’t want to be an outstanding student: I just wanted to go home. I always just wanted to go home. And when school was over and the time for me to start working jobs, it was exactly the same feeling: why am I spending eight hours of the day here, every day, wasting precious moments of my life in a place where I’m unhappy? Why does ANYONE do this? There are so many better things I could be doing with my time. If this is what work is, then I don’t care about work at all, and I don’t want to do it.

And, like school, it’s never really left me, that feeling of the utter uselessness of going to work. I can understand on some level why it’s important to go out and be a member of society, but the fact that in addition to that simple childlike desire to go home, I now as an adult have to contend with debilitating social anxiety and panic attacks, makes it even harder to go to work on a regular basis. And so, it’s always been difficult for me, and probably always will be. I started this new job incredibly excited about working for this company, but within a few weeks I’ve already called out about four or five times and left work early twice, and that doesn’t look good on me.

So here I was, at work, with an upset stomach, just trying to make it through the day. My vision started to get blurry and I began to feel more and more disoriented. I had made a decision the night before that I was going to start eating healthier, so this morning had NOT included a run through the McDonald’s drive through for a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, and instead I’d eaten my protein box with two eggs and some fruit, and later the turkey sandwich from another protein box, and even writing about either of those things right now is making me want to throw up, so you can see where this is going. I felt shaky and weak, which are symptoms that, along with the disorientation, I’m very used to, because they’re common signs of anxiety attacks, and also signs of low blood sugar. I didn’t feel particularly anxious, and when I checked my sugar it was lower than it should be, so I decided I would take lunch soon and have something sweet. On lunch I got a frappucinno (yes, I’m diabetic, and yes, I got a frappucinno, I didn’t say it was a GOOD decision) and a pre-made panini and went to sit in my car and eat and try to recover. After about ten or fifteen minutes I could feel my sugar rising and started to feel a bit better, when I suddenly realized that the air condition in my car was bothering me, so I turned it off. But when I turned it off I realized that actually, I was freezing, so I turned the heat on. All the way. And blasted it.

I was suddenly freezing, cold chills running up and down my whole body, and the heat felt like a warm blanket; my skin was covered in goosebumps, and I was reminded of the time I got bronchitis, which began with a terrible fever, when I’d sat in my truck with the heat blasting for a good fifteen minutes before I got out, and then discovered the next day I had a high fever. This was so unexpected and sudden that I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but my break was nearly over. The 30-minute mark of my break came and went, and I stayed in the car, shivering, and trying to breathe. Eventually about 45 minutes had past. I knew I wasn’t going back inside. I gathered up the courage to call the store and let my manager know what was happening, and that I was going to go to the Emergency Room. When I got to the Emergency Room, I brought in a small blanket my sister had made by cutting and tying together two pieces of fabric. I was surprised to find that I was NOT running a fever, despite having every symptom of a fever.

This led to the longest night in the Emergency Room I’ve ever experienced. I got there at 8PM. I was taken back, had blood taken from me, and hooked up to an IV pole with saline dripping. I kept going back and forth to the bathroom with dhiarrea like I had all day. I was taken to a room and given a gown, and the nurse even brought me a heated blanket. I did NOT like having an IV in my arm, as I don’t do well with needles, and an IV isn’t a needle, but a gauged tube that holds your vein open so that fluids can be injected directly into it, which somehow made my skin crawl even more. The tests were coming back not showing anything serious, my white blood cells were normal, my symptoms seemed to be an elevated heart rate, severe dehydration, and slightly heightened liver function. An ultrasound was taken of my liver and I was eventually given an X-Ray for one of my ribs which had recently been bruised, just in case it had something to do with what was going on. I was continually amazed that I was NOT running a fever, despite laying their shivering under what was now a pile of FOUR blankets: my sister’s quilted one and three from the ER. The fluids were making me even colder. Hours were passing. I was so exhausted, and just laying there and breathing was becoming more difficult. The heart monitor kept making annoying beeping sounds because my heart rate kept hitting 120, which is not dangerously high but is too high to be considered normal.

I was so afraid that at one point I took my phone out and turned on the voice recorder and set it on my chest and made a spoken Last Will and Testament, just in case it turned out to be needed. I told my lover and my best friend Jake how important he is to me, and that I leave everything to him, and said some words about people in my life who’ve been important: my ex-boyfriend Nathan, my friends Zack and Robert who I used to live with, and a handful of others. I said that I didn’t want a Christian funeral, and I didn’t want any preacher to use my death or the grief of my friends and family to prey on them with a funeral service inciting them to come to Jesus. I chose a few songs that I wanted played at my funeral.

I know this all sounds dramatic, and I was aware at the time that it was a silly thing to do, but at the same time… I just DIDN’T KNOW what was happening. All of the tests they’d run seemed to indicate that I was alright aside from dehydration, and despite having fever symptoms, I wasn’t running a fever. Did that mean that I was suffering from something really rare and unusual? Was I having a reaction to something that they hadn’t figured out yet? I certainly felt like I was dying, so was I actually going to? Sadly I didn’t get to finish what I was saying to Jake in my recording because someone came into my room.

Eventually I fell asleep. I woke up covered in sweat, no longer freezing. I felt a lot better already. My vitals were all the same as before: still a high heart rate, my temperature was elevated but not technically a fever. By now it was 1AM. I was lonesome, I was afraid, I was sad. I called every member of my family and none of them answered. My phone was at about 10% and had another hour or so before it died, and I didn’t have a charger for it. One of my friends, Tori, gave me a call, I’d never heard her voice before, but it was nice to hear someone friendly. She assured me over and over again that I was safe, that I was probably fine. It helped a lot, she was the first person to offer me any kind of comfort.

Blood cultures were taken and it was incredibly painful. My veins wouldn’t show up because I was dehydrated and it took three attempts, rooting around inside my veins with the needle, each time my heart pounded as I squinted my eyes shut and tried to breathe. I was told once again that they couldn’t find anything wrong, I learned I have a gall stone but it’s really not a big deal and probably had nothing to do with me being sick now. The doctor finally let me take the damn temperature myself, rectally, and yes I did in fact have fever. Strange though considering I wasn’t freezing cold anymore.

Around 4AM I started to get antsy, I was ready to leave soon, but then I was told I was going to be transferred to a hospital for observation because my heart rate was too high. I was honestly just not interested in doing that, but they suggested I take in another bag of IV fluids since the last one had helped so much and see how I was doing after. That sounded reasonable enough, except after an hour and a half, the fluids were still not any more than halfway through the bag, and I didn’t feel much different than I had before. And what’s more, I did NOT want to go to the hospital and suffer through any more of this. Finally I told my nurse I was thinking of leaving soon, and she said I’d have to sign papers saying that I was leaving against the doctor’s recommendation, and indeed that’s the only paperwork I was given: a pink copy of a sheet saying that I acknowledged that the results of my refusing treatment could be (and then a blank space in which was written very simply) “sepsis, death.” I still don’t know what sepsis is and don’t want to. I waited and waited for my nurse to come back and take my IV out, but now she was helping other people and cleaning another room, and I was nearly ready to march up to the counter and offer them an ultimatum that either someone take this IV out of me or I’m doing it myself and it’s going to be a mess, before finally at 6AM, I was released from the machines I’d been hooked up to and my vein was finally, after ten hours, closed.

The moment I walked outside and smelled the damp morning air from the rain that had fallen overnight, it was like I’d just been reborn. It felt incredible. I was reminded of a moment in Dragon Age Inquisition where Cassandra describes her vigil to become a seeker, where she’d kept in dark and solitude, fasting and praying for days on end, drained of all emotion, until finally being touched by a spirit of faith and let out into the world again, and that the feeling is indescribable. I honestly wondered if maybe I HAD died in the hospital, and this was me in another universe where I’d survived, living out the dead Jesse’s wish to see the outside again. Driving home in my car was a wonderful feeling, and as I got inside and crawled into bed, I hoped that the worst of it was over.

I was wrong, of course, but I’d made it through the experience at the ER. The next day was difficult, filled with just as much emotional trauma as the last. I felt like I was dying, like I’d never be back to normal, never have my life back. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t eat, I could sometimes barely even speak, and I was so tired at all times. When I slept, I sweated profusely. The only things that made me feel any spark of joy were watching the animals in our house: several cats and two dogs, as they went about begging for food or following people around. My dog Butterscotch stood watch nearby wherever I was resting. I felt better as I got into bed that night, and the next morning awoke more tired and afraid than I’d been yet, and a hurricane was preparing to come through our area.

Later that day I felt better, and it continued to go in waves: a little better, then terrible, then a little better, then terrible. No one at the Emergency Room had offered me a concrete answer as to what was wrong with me, but my symptoms perfectly matched that of food poisoning. Tori called me again and reassured me that I was doing great, that I would recover soon, and that it took her husband three days to get better from food poisoning. Everyone kept saying three days, actually, that was apparently the magic number.

And it was.

On the third day, I was out of the woods. I was not recovered or even nearly back to normal. It is the fifth day now and I’m still not back to normal, but I knew that the worst was now over. And I was greeted by another surprise when I woke up: autumn. Every year I look forward to autumn, because the choking heat of summer makes me feel like I can’t breathe, and the fresh breath of autumn is like water when I’ve been choking and thirsty for months on end. I stepped onto the front porch and smelled fall air for the first time in a year, and it was as though nature was congratulating me on making it through, and I had the feeling that my life before the sickness and my life after were probably not going to be the same. I don’t really know, honestly.

I have a lot more to talk about, but it’s getting late and I’ve written all I can. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what’s been happening in my mind this whole time, and where my thoughts are, and what my plans are. Going back to work… it’s something I still haven’t done yet. I don’t know if I’ll lose my job over this. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I am scared. But I’m going to just keep going and doing what I have to. Right now, I can’t afford to do anything other than exactly what will help me recover.

Yesterday there was a fire in the front yard, and they burned limbs and wood all day. At night I took this picture of the smoking embers as I stood by the remaining warmth. It felt like it was really fall. And as I found myself standing up, outside, and walking around, I felt like a different person than the one who’d been suffering these past fews days, like I was his representative, strong and determined, sent out here to speak on his behalf. And I couldn’t help wondering, again, if maybe I HAD died of the sickness, and this was some universe where I’d escaped that fate, or history had been changed to allow me to live somehow. I didn’t feel entirely the same. And with the seasons changing, I knew that one of my biggest sources of fear and anxiety, namely the heat and the environment, was going to be far away for a while. I felt hopeful, and yet still terrified at the same time. And I still do.

But I’m alive, I’m alive.

Hee-ee-ee-ee-ee, I said
Don’t even let this go
And it’s hey to that old man
I’m coming in the graveyard
With my little tune, it’s June
I said she’s gone but I’m alive, I’m alive
I’m coming in the graveyard
To sing you to sleep now.”

– Graveyard, Tori Amos

Wasted


Trigger warnings: this one is a bit dark, and very dreary and depression, mostly because I’m talking about depression. Enter at your own risk. If you do decide to read it and it hurts, then I am very sorry. I hope I’ll be okay, and I hope that you will too.

***

My head is a weird place to live.

Last night was very difficult. In retrospect, I should have seen last night coming, because the whole day was leading up to it.

Sorry, I’m being cryptic. What I’m talking about is my depression. My depression which as I’ve said before manifests as intense loneliness, and it just follows me around throughout the day. I was actually going to write a blog post last night about “Grey Days,” which was a possible word I was thinking of to describe the kind of day where my depression is having a “flare up.” This is something that’s really been happening all my life. When I was a little kid, it wasn’t so much a feeling of loneliness as it was an intense nostalgia, longing for a past time when I felt safe or comfortable or happy. This affected my OCD and caused me to spend a lot of time playing video games and watching TV to try and recreate a moment when I had felt safe. And then in turn I’d try to recreate that feeling later on, leading to me doing a whole lot of playing video games and listening to television and not a whole lot of anything else.

And you know, I wish that I had known then, back when I was twelve, spending all my time staring at screens, that it was a very unproductive use of my time. Granted, my life was not easy when I was twelve. I was raised by an emotionally abusive mother and I needed whatever moments of peace I could get. But I wish I had found peace in walking around outside or reading books more often than video games, because ultimately, as much as I love video games, it kind of saps all the creativity out of me and leaves me kind of zombified. Sometimes that’s nice, but to spend the majority of all your free time that way isn’t exactly healthy.

And really, I think a lot of my problems are due to unhealthy habits. I never learned to eat properly, I never learned to play any sports, I never learned how to interact with people my age, I never learned to drive or do my taxes or deal with the responsibility and stress of working a job. I never learned to manage money, I never had a supportive family who could comfort me when I was lonely or heartbroken, I had to do everything by myself. I had to raise myself. Emotionally, at least. And well, a kid doesn’t know how to raise himself.

I’m rambling today and I guess that’s just gonna be what today’s post is. It’s important that I write every day just to exercise, another thing I need to work on. I want to go back to the gym. I’d like to do so today. But today is another Grey Day where everything is just HEAVY.

I carry the loneliness and the depression around like a very heavy blanket over my shoulders. It’s like a blanket in a lot of ways, it comforts me and keeps me safe when I’m alone, but it’s also hard to carry around, and it keeps me from breathing unfettered.

I was determined that today, I would not let the depression keep me from being productive. I was going to get up, take my computer, and go out into the daylight, sit down at the coffee shop and write, apply for college, work on job applications, and try to make the most of the day. And I’m doing that. But it would be accurate to say that the simple effort to just sit here, out in public, and do something so simple, is so draining that my whole body is weak and I almost feel like I could pass out from it. I’m not really panicked or anxious right now. My current meds have traded panic attacks for deeper depression. It’s time I asked my doctor to change them. I don’t know what the next ones will be like.

I’m horny all the time. I always have been, I’m hypersexual. But this summer, I indulged way too much, and I had a lot of unsatisfactory hookups that ultimately amounted to self-harming. I was shattering my spirit every time I did it, to the point that I didn’t even enjoy hooking up anymore. I was even a little grossed out by it. This is not something I’m used to feeling. Usually, sexuality is so powerful that it consumes me, and even if things don’t work out with the person I’m having sex with, at least I had fun having sex. But now even that has vanished. And the loss of my sexual appetite (and inability to stay hard at important moments, again due to the medication) has really affected my sense of identity. Sexuality is such a part of who I am that I don’t know who I am without it.

A Youtuber who I like, called Contrapoints, said that when she transitioned and no longer had to deal with having so much testosterone running through her, she felt like a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders, like she’d been released from the curse of having a man’s body, the need to have an orgasm every day, to have sex frequently in relationships. I admit that I thought it sounded nice. I thought, it would be good not to have this throbbing thing between my legs dictating my bodily needs, demanding attention before everything else, to the point where orgasms didn’t even feel that good anymore. I usually cum more than four times a day. And this is me ON ANTIDEPRESSANTS, we won’t even go into what it was like before I had medication. Suffice it to say my sexual appetite is huge. And I guess that’s a natural part of being a male in my twenties, but combined with my recent struggles with such intense loneliness, it makes for a dangerous combination.

Last night, I gave up on writing a blog post, packed my computer up and drove home. I’d gone to Starbucks, which is my preferred place to hang out and write, mostly because they always have incredibly fast and reliable WiFi. I spoke to the manager earlier this week about a job and she was very nice to me, and I honestly got really excited. I called her a couple of days later and she assured me she hadn’t forgotten about me. I came in today and asked if she was there, but she’d already gone home. I’m hoping she’ll call me back. I’d always kind of worried about what working in a coffee shop would be like for me, being stuck behind a counter with long lines and potentially feeling really hot and overwhelmed, but for some reason I now really want to give it a try. I think I’d be a good fit. I hear they pay their employees really well.

You see, I don’t have any idea what I was going to talk about when I started this, it’s all very stream of consciousness today because there’s just so much I have to say. I’ve been working on writing a song, and every day I spent at least twenty minutes or so playing it and throwing around ideas. It’s progressing very slowly. I’ve been keeping track of my ideas for stories and blogs. And I made myself some lunch this afternoon instead of buying it, and that always feel better than eating processed food.

I wish I had any fucking clue how to do any of this. It’s awful to be twenty-eight and have no idea how to be a grownup. I feel so embarassed and humiliated, like this big child who doesn’t know what the hell I’m doing. And mostly, the only real emotion I’ve been feeling lately is desperate, cloying loneliness, which doesn’t exactly make online dating easy, because I’m either upset at all the rejection or I’m coming on to people way too strong.

I guess I’ve gotten over being ghosted a couple weeks ago. But I haven’t forgotten about it, and I haven’t stopped being angry. Another guy has put off seeing me three times now and vanished without responding to messages. I don’t know why people are so unreliable. I even asked him last night to promise he wouldn’t disappear on me. But he did anyway.

What I feel today is hopelessness. The effort to sit here is overwhelming. Just driving around, being out in the world, it’s enough to make me swoon with sadness. I walk through the day, on the verge of tears at all times, and the worst thing is I don’t know if it’s for a legitimate reason or if it’s just my stupid brain chemistry not doing what it’s supposed to.

I’m getting old. I’m not actually getting old but I can feel myself aging, turning into an actual adult, and I’ve missed so much. I didn’t go to college, and even if I start soon, I’ll never know what it’s like to be twenty-four in college. When I think back on my life, I ask myself, is there any time I would go back to and live again if I could travel into the past? And aside from my visits with Matthew last year and Jacob this year, the answer is no. I hate my childhood, I hate my teenage years, I hate my early twenties. When I look back on my life, I don’t see a collection of lived experiences and a life full of interesting thought and contemplation and expression of my talent, I see wasted potential, I see the person I currently am: a fat, diabetic, alternate-timeline version of the real me, the one who went to school and made friends and had lovers and felt things, felt life, actually FELT everything. But this version of me? It’s a bad dream. One where you wake up and think “I’m so glad I’m not actually in my late twenties, I’m so glad I haven’t sat around and wasted my life playing video games. I’m so glad I didn’t turn into my older brother, sitting on my ass playing games all day while a woman takes care of me.”

But in my case, I don’t wake up, I don’t look down to discover I’m still spry and energetic and hopeful and sexual. I realize that I’m twenty-eight, but I look like I’m twenty and I feel like I’m forty. And I’ve spent so much time doing absolutely nothing, and I regret.

I regret. So. Much.

I think I’m going to go home, and save the college application for later. I’m going to crawl into bed with the dog and the cat, and I’m going to curl up and maybe cry, maybe listen to ASMR videos, maybe browse through the fifteen open Pornhub tabs on my phone, maybe fantasize about my novel that probably isn’t actually any good, and has gone stale and old and lost it’s spark and it’s magic, and will probably never be written. I’m a good writer, but not good enough to write a book. I’m a good musician, but not good enough to make an album. I’m a good lover, but not good enough to make someone feel a genuine connection with me. Except for Jacob, of course. I still love him. And a few other people, but most of them live far away.

I didn’t mean for this to be so sad. But this is what it’s like inside me, walking around inside my sad little body. You can’t really explain it to people like my mom who don’t have a conception of what it’s like to be constantly in pain, constantly hurting, constantly alone, constantly on the edge of tears. To live your life with your emotions just laying gently on a razorblade, and any bit of pressure will bare down on you and it will cut you. To feel sick, and depraved, and like everyone who’s ever met you was mistaken when they saw your kind voice and your compassionate heart and your articulate way of speaking, and they didn’t see that inside you’re a creep. Everybody loves that stupid Radiohead song, “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.” But they don’t really believe it when they sing it, or identify with it. They don’t really know what it’s like to be a weirdo. They don’t know what it’s like to learn with surprise that your other gay friends DON’T peek at the urinal every time, that they DON’T find themselves fantasizing about fucking every cute guy they see, that they DON’T immediately wonder what someone’s penis looks like when they talk to you, that they DON’T see the world through a hypsexual fog that increases the color of everything like a television turning up the saturation, but that only gives you an exaggerated version of reality, and it’s pretty but it still isn’t real.

I’m ashamed. I’m lonely. And I don’t think that I’m really worthy of love. Because I know that I’m too much work. My heart is a tangled web of veins and arteries and muscles, and to actually get to anything worthwhile, you have to go cutting through the vines and searching for something hidden deep within. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m clingy and emotional, but at the same time I’m shut off, I can’t really express love or actually enjoy a connection. I’m so many contradictions in one person, and it tears my spirit into pieces when all the different parts of me are running in different directions and leaving me in the center, being pulled and pulled while the fabric begins to tear.

I’m not going to hurt myself. I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone else. My version of being suicidal is not actually attempting to kill myself because I don’t truly want to die, it’s a feeling of giving up all hope. It feels good to let go of hope, because it’s not the answer you want but it IS AN ANSWER. If you pray and God answers, “No,” well at least he spoke to you. That’s what giving up is like. It’s like trying to stay alive in the ocean but making the decision to unbuckle the life vest and sink, because now you’ve made a CHOICE, now the power is back in your hands, and even the ocean can’t take that from you.

I hope that tomorrow I feel better. I hope that tomorrow I find the love of my life. I hope that tomorrow I laugh. I hope that tomorrow I never have to feel the way I feel when I’m around my mother. I hope that tomorrow I’ll be a little bit better of a person than I was today, and I won’t feel so incredibly wasted.

“And Protect Yourself With Fire”

Content warning for some explicit sexual content

I think I’m beginning to develop trust issues.

I’ve had… one of the weirdest couple of weeks of my life. And frankly, it’s all starting to wear on me.

When I tell people about the things that happen to me, they often respond by saying I have such an interesting life, or they say “How are you meeting so many people?” or “I wish I could meet guys like you can.” Well, it isn’t really like that.

I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start about a week or so ago. The story is very detailed and complicated but to wrap it all up in a brief summary, I had a hookup with a guy in the middle of the night who was drunk and acting incredibly strange. At one point he asked me how much money I had in my wallet, then when I told him I was uncomfortable with that question and I’m going to leave if he keeps talking that way, he laughed at me and said “You really think you can leave? I’m very strong.” That’s probably the most horrific thing anyone has ever said to me. It occurred to me in that moment that the people killed by Jeffrey Dahmer probably also had a similar moment of realization that they were in serious danger.

Despite his creepy behavior, and for whatever reason, I actually ended up staying so that we could finish fooling around because it was late and I was worked up. He did another incredibly weird thing, which is that he found a zit on my back and then BIT IT OPEN, causing me to start bleeding everywhere. Weirdly, I did still stay until we finished, and then left soon after. That night, I went to Waffle House around 4AM to try and get some food and calm down, feeling really dirty and gross. When I went back to my car, I was sitting there looking at my phone and a drunk lady opened my passenger door and sat down in my car, resulting in me calling the cops to get her to leave, which she did, she hopped in her own car and drove away.

A few days later, after spending a day at a friends house more or less recovering from all the strangeness, I got a message from a guy on Grindr who wanted to hook up. When we met, we had a lot in common, and for some reason that I still don’t understand I just started to fall for this guy very quickly. He was charming and cute, and he was affectionate and understanding and very intelligent and well-spoken. He invited me to spend the next day with him while he worked from home, even told me to go home and get my computer and then come back, but later on after I left, he completely “ghosted” me, and never responded to any messages.

Next, another guy who I’d met through Tinder asked to come spend some time with me. He knew I wasn’t feeling well but he wanted to come anyway, and he actually drove two hours to get here. He was in his early twenties, but acted like a teenager and we had nothing in common. He was very rude to me, refusing to look up from his phone, playing on Instagram instead of paying attention to me, and when I tried to liven things up by playing piano for him, he was checking his Grindr instead of listening to me. He started playing piano for me and was doing pretty well, but he kept going on about how his favorite musicians were Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez and honestly I just couldn’t believe how awful his taste in music was, especially for someone with some level of musical ability.

Later on with that same guy, things got sexual but he said he didn’t want to touch me at all. He didn’t mind me touching him, just didn’t want to touch me back. I was a little confused and thought that was selfish, but eventually without really any prodding from me, he DID start to touch me, and then stopped to ask me if I’d showered, and implied he didn’t want to go down on me because I smelled bad. Considering I had come home early from my job, where I’d been standing up in the heat all afternoon, and he hadn’t seen me take a shower, I thought he might have put together that I hadn’t taken a shower, but to outright insult me like that on top of everything was too much, and I made him leave.

I felt guilty for doing it, because the guy has Asbherger’s, and while that isn’t a free pass to be a dick to me, he honestly just looked so SCARED when I told him to get out, and shocked and confused, and I realized that maybe he hadn’t intended to be as rude as he was, and I felt awful at the idea that I might have made him feel unsafe. We spoke about it and I apologized, as did he, but the whole experience is still upsetting for me, mostly because I feel so terrible for even possibly making him feel unsafe. I was angry at him and cussed at him, but I didn’t want him to think I was going to HURT him. I just told him he had been incredibly rude and was being a bitch to me.

After all of this had happened, Gay Pride weekend started in Charlotte. I wanted to go but I kind of chickened out. I never went to the parade or the official celebration, but I did go to a gay bar. It’s a small bar that caters more toward bears and a wider range of guys than our local gay club, and has a better atmosphere. I felt a little out of place there, as the majority of men were large hairy guys in harnesses and kilts, or wrestling singlets. I mostly sat by the pool tables and played on my phone, ignoring the crowds. At one point I start to walk around outside, where people were moving in a line to get through the crowds, and I saw one guy who stood out from the others, but only from behind: he was a short guy with somewhat pale skin, wearing nothing but rainbow briefs and a harness, with blue glitter all over his body and in his hair. At one point he turned around and I saw his face and realized it was actually the guy from earlier in the week who had ghosted me after I had started to kind of fall for him.

I called out his name and said hello to him. He was very nice and easy to talk to. He told me he’s in a weird place right now and didn’t know what to say, and I told him that if he didn’t want me to talk to him it was okay, just to let me know, and he told me I hadn’t done anything wrong. But later on, after I tried to message him… once again, nothing. No response. Ghosted me again. I was feeling pretty down after the whole experience so I went home. I wasn’t fitting at the gay bar and generally just preferred to be at home with my video games and my library of Kate Bush music.

I got a message from a friend who I’ve spoken to online but never met in person that he was drunk and needed me to pick him up. I’d told him earlier on that I was willing to come get him if he needed anything, so I absolutely didn’t mind doing it. I brought him back to my house and we got in bed, started to snuggle, and one thing led to another and we ended up having sex. This was actually a very special experience for me, because the guy in question is transgender and I’ve never been with a trans guy before. As far as having sex with someone with a vagina, I’ve done that once, a very long time ago, with a girl I worked with, and it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience. I didn’t get to do a lot of the things I wanted to try, we had very little chemistry, and the whole thing was over quickly.

So this was really my first time being with someone who doesn’t have a penis, and there was so much I wanted to do and experiment with, and I was finally able to. I tasted and touched things I hadn’t before, and I felt new sensations. I felt like a virgin again. We fucked twice, kissing each time, holding each other close. I woke up in the middle of the night to us already making out, and he climbed on top of me and we fucked again.

In the morning, I tried to reach between his legs and he pulled away. Later on I asked if I could kiss him and he said “I’m good.” We had a good time going out to breakfast, and then I took him home. He didn’t ghost me afterward, but I’ve realized that most likely what we did only happened because he was feeling very uninhibited and excited. He assured me the night we did it that I wasn’t taking advantage of him, as even though he was feeling tipsy, he was still in control of himself, which was why he’d asked me to come and get him in the first place, because he’d been with a guy who was coming on to him too hard and wanted to get away from the situation but couldn’t drive himself.

But I realized that what we did probably didn’t mean very much to him. For me it was special, it was my first time with a trans guy, it was a new experience that I’ve wanted to have for a long time, and it was beautiful. But for him… well, it probably wasn’t that important. And that’s okay, but after everything that’s happened, I just wish it hadn’t have ended that way. I don’t mean that we should have become boyfriends or anything, but getting rejected by him right after we’d had such chemistry hurt.

The next night, I was laying in bed when a guy on Grindr told me he was homeless, his boyfriend had dropped him off earlier in the day and never come back. I knew it was a dangerous idea to invite him over to my house, but I wanted to help, so I picked him up and took him to McDonalds, then to the gas station to get him some water and snacks to take with him. The next day he found somewhere to go, an ex of his came and picked him up. This story doesn’t actually end with sex or rejection or anything, but it was an odd experience to happen in an already eventful week.

And then we reach today. Yet another guy from Grindr (I’m starting to see a pattern here…) asked me to hang out. We’d spoken before. He’s polyamorous and married, and we’ve exchanged photos and generally been sexual with one another. So he invited me over to watch a movie and have dinner. He ordered pizza and he gave me alcohol. We actually spoke for about an hour beforehand and we were getting along well, he seemed like an interesting guy and we had things in common. But about fifteen minutes after we’d eaten and we were just starting the movie, he stood up and started walking around his house, and when I followed him to ask if everything was alright, he told me he needed to get started on homework. I was a little confused that he would ask me to leave right after giving me alcohol, as in addition to being strange and sending me mixed signals, it was also an irresponsible and potentially dangerous thing to do to me. I hadn’t actually come on to him apart from earlier when we sat on the couch and I gave his back a quick scratch and asked if he’d like come and cuddle with me while he watched the movie, to which he said no and just kept his face turned away from me.

After I left, feeling utterly hurt and disappointed, he told me that he was uncomfortable because he could smell something weird in his house that smelled like a combination of cat poop and body odor. I hadn’t noticed it, but his house did smell like cats in general because they’re fostering a bunch of kittens, and it hadn’t bothered me. But he also made a comment that made me feel even more hurt, he said he couldn’t tell if the smell was “Your feet, my work clothes, or cat shit under the carpet.” Wait did you just imply that my feet stank too? That’s the second time this week someone’s made a weirdly disparaging comment about how I smell! I literally had just taken a shower, what the hell?

And now here I am at home, genuinely starting to wonder if I can trust people. I told this guy about my experience earlier in the week being ghosted, and then told him that if he wanted me to just leave him alone all he had to do was tell me. I couldn’t have possibly made it any easier for him, but he continued to be evasive and not tell me the whole story, because his behavior was still incredibly strange and I don’t think I understand it completely.

I know what some of you are thinking: stop going on Grindr. It’s probably good advice. But the thing is, dating apps are the ONLY way to meet people, especially if you live in the South and there isn’t a very accessible gay community. I don’t have much choice when it comes to meeting other guys, and after deciding recently that I might even be open the idea of finding a partner, or someone who might become a partner, I can’t very well just delete all ways of doing that from phone.

I don’t know. Right now I feel crappy, and I feel unwanted, and I feel lonely. Like always.

 

Currently listening to…

Lily
Kate Bush
Before The Dawn