Wanting To Get Better

I’m not sure where to begin with today’s post. This past week has been a really difficult time. I’m still feeling very shaky and unsure of my life, things have been pretty solid for a while and lately everything has been upended.

Some of it I won’t talk about yet, because a lot of it involves my job and it’s not a good idea to air your job drama in a public space online. But what I can say is that I started a new job in December of last year and over the past nine months or so I’ve become pretty good at it, I’ve received positive feedback from management, from customers, and from the people I’ve met at my job. I’ve become comfortable with where I am and what I’m doing, and it’s been a great feeling to have a job that isn’t a source of constant stress.

Working is always a source of stress for me. Especially if I have to work at a job I hate. I find it completely unbearable. If I’m forced to get up and go to work every day at a place I hate, with no end in sight, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the entirety of life starts to seem futile to me. My thoughts turn very morbid. Last year was especially difficult because I started the year employed and then had a health problem that I couldn’t do much to fix. I had a bone spur in my mouth, poking through the gum, and the oral surgeon I went to see wouldn’t remove it, so I had to spend a month or so on very heavy pain medication just trying to exist, and missing a lot of work. On top of that, my stepfather died, and my family was busy with his funeral and with dealing with his death, and right afterward my mom got a really substantial insurance policy from his death, which meant that all of a sudden our family didn’t have to worry about where groceries was coming from next week until pay day.

My mom moved into an apartment of her own, because she couldn’t take being in the house after he died. I quit my job because it had become too stressful, I was getting in trouble for missing so much work, and I knew my mom could take care of me anyway. I admit that’s not a healthy attitude, but at the time it was the choice I made. Afterward, a lot of things started to happen very quickly. My best friend, who is the closest thing I have to a boyfriend, and who I love very much, moved in with me. I drove eight hours to pick him up and tried to help him break away from his abusive family. After a few months living with me, he went back home so he could go back to his internship, and then his job. I was left alone during the summer and unsure of what to do next. My mom had basically given me one of her debit cards and though it didn’t have unlimited money, I could get food and gas pretty much whenever I needed. I got a couple of jobs that I didn’t last long at. I finally started to settle into a job at Starbucks when I got incredibly sick and had to go to the emergency room, followed by recovering at home for two weeks, during which time I quit Starbucks. After I had recovered I was feeling very alone, very useless, and very unsure of where to go.

I ended up finding the job I have now, a comfortable job in a sales environment, a fairly low-stress job where I can sit at a desk. It’s not quite as stress free as an office job would be, but it’s a good place to be, and I’m able to use my personality to make money. Though I admit to feeling a little slimey being in a sales position at all, as it makes me feel like I’m actively participating as a cog in the machine of capitalism, but then again, I exist in a capitalist society so I have to survive somehow. My pay has been decent. My mom moved into her own house at the beach and my brother and I have been living at the house my mom owns. We don’t exactly pay rent, just the power bill and our phone bill and we help when asked, but usually my mom takes care of the bills. I started to get a lot of commission and have large pay checks for the first time in my life, and I was honestly not sure what to do with the money, so mostly what I’ve done is spend the majority of it on food. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m getting progressively better at grocery shopping but I still don’t know how to cook many meals.

There is a big purchase I need to make, which is a new computer, as the one I’m currently typing this on is on it’s last legs. But I just never seem to have enough money. For a while I was using a savings account and doing pretty well but then I had to start dipping into it until there was nothing left. It seems like I have just enough money to feel confident that I’ll survive, but not enough to get nice things. I guess it could be worse, I am from a poor family.

And all that preamble is to say that I find myself in a position where my life is going to go through some changes, and it all hit me rather unexpectedly. Starting a few weeks ago I started going to the gym and though I haven’t been doing it as frequently as I’d like, I’ve been getting in about two to three visits a week which is a very good starting place. I’ve been overweight since I was a kid and as an adult I have type 2 diabetes that I don’t exactly manage very well, so losing weight is important. I was actually starting to feel really contented with my life a couple of weeks ago: my housing situation is safe, I’m making enough money and I even had a savings account, I was starting to get in better physical shape, and my anxiety wasn’t hounding me as badly as it ordinarily is. I still dealt with intense loneliness and depression, but in general it seemed like things were on an upward curve.

And for all I know, they still could be, but there have been some upsetting developments.

The first and most important thing is that my job situation has changed. I’m still employed, but I’m no longer at the same store. Again, I can’t go into the details, but my old manager, who was great at his job and who was a very honest person with a lot of integrity, left our store when he moved to another state and transferred to a new location. The new manager was a nightmare, who made working there virtually impossible for me. I asked to be transferred to another store and thankfully, the management came through. Right now I’m working at another location while I wait to figure out where I’m being transferred. I don’t exactly know what will happen next but at least I’m out of that toxic environment with the new manager. Still, things have changed, a job where I was happy and comfortable has been pulled out from under my feet and I have to learn to adapt to a new atmosphere, possibly with people I won’t connect with very well. I can’t know what will happen, but the anxiety the past few days has been almost unbearable, and I’ve had to take way more of my anxiety medication than I’m used to, which scares me because I don’t want to become even more dependent on it than I already am.

Today I was off. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon sitting in the living room and playing Final Fantasy X and watching Youtube Essays, which are my favorite form of entertainment lately. A lot of what I was watching was related to media from when I was a kid and early teenager: The Simpsons, Silent Hill, Dragon Ball Z, even W.W.F. Wrestling. And it got me thinking about those days in the 90’s, and how young I was, and how I wasn’t truly able to enjoy a lot of the things that were popular then because I was too young. I’ve started to wonder what life would have been like if I’d been born in the early or mid-80’s and been a teenager during the 90’s or the early 2000’s instead of a kid. I might have been able to go to Tori Amos concerts in 1996 or bought my own Playstation or Nintendo 64 with money from my own job. I would have had a car with a CD player and a binder full of CDs like I do now, except it wouldn’t be outdated. I’d be making mix CDs like I do now, except other people would actually care about mix CDs and I could make them for friends. I could use the internet not as a young child but as a young adult, enjoying the fullness of AOL instant messenger and browsing the web with other people who were just building the online landscape.

Hell, I’m writing in a blog right now. Blogs are a mostly outdated form of media, at least a personal journal-style blog like this one, which might have actually been popular if this were the early 2000’s.

And of course, these thoughts are rooted in the same thing I’ve been thinking about for the past few months: an encompassing feeling that I have wasted the past decade of my life. I’m 29 now, and in a year I’ll be 30, and what will I have to show for it? I’ve done virtually nothing with my twenties. And I came to realization earlier about why I might be feeling that way.

I have never had a social life.

I mean, I almost did, once, in junior and senior year of high school. I went to friends houses and rode around in cars with them, and we laughed and had fun. I met new people, did new things. I went places. But now… I don’t do any of that, and I haven’t for many years. And I think I’ve just wasted so much of my youth. My life since I graduated high school has consisted of trying to survive through a haze of rolling, continuous panic attacks, and then alternating between relaxing at home playing the same handful of video games I’ve played all my life and going to work, day in and day out. There’s been no time for much else. My romantic attempts have all failed. Very few of them were even fulfilling or meaningful. I’m musically talented and I’m a good writer but I’ve not created anything with it. I’ve not written a novel, I’ve not recorded an album.

On top of it, I’m faced with issues I didn’t have when I was younger. I’m fatter, I have type 2 diabetes, and over the past few years I’ve been having issues with my memory that have been getting progressively worse. I have difficulty recalling words I need when I need them, especially when writing, or in the middle of conversations. I can’t recall things I need to when I need to, and my gut suspicion is that it’s a result of all the antidepressants I’ve taken over the years reshaping my brain chemistry and fucking up my memory. I’m tired. I used to just be lazy when I laid around doing nothing, now the reason is that I’m exhausted. I’m just as horny as I used to be but now I’m becoming a grown man whose penis doesn’t respond to the slightest whisper with a stiff erection the way it did when I was a teenager.

Time has not yet quite begun to take it’s toll, but it’s starting. I’m about to hit some kind of peak and then… what? So often my thoughts turn to death. What will I leave behind when I die? I’ve come to accept the fact that I probably won’t have an afterlife. So life is now even more fleeting and precious than I thought it was before. So what then? What will I leave? This blog? It’s the closest I’ve got to a legacy. My journals, where I talk about the really dark shit that I wouldn’t admit in a public space? The conversations I’ve had?

What would my funeral be like, if I died today? Would my mom organize it? Would it be a Christian service? For god sake, would they play I Can Only Imagine or When I Get Where I’m Going? Would I be buried in the same drab cemetery where my grandparents lay? The thought is sickening. It’s defeating. So much of who I am would be lost. No, all of who I am would be lost.

Today when I came to Starbucks to sit down and write this, I felt the overwhelming urge NOT to. It was like a boulder I had to push out of the way. When I’m in my car, when I’m playing videos, when I’m sitting and thinking, I can come up with a brilliant way to express my feelings, but when I sit down to do it I’m reduced to scrambling through a hastily written journal entry like this one. I’m confused, I’m scared, and I’m alone.

So what do I do about it?

Dragon Ball Z is all about growing through adversity. Maybe this is a low point. Maybe this past decade has been building to something, some moment where I make the choice to change. Like I said in a previous post, a little at a time, but a change nonetheless. To go to the gym. To find the right job. To go to school. To study piano and creative writing, to record my songs, to organize my thoughts and feelings, to reach out and meet new people, to build relationships, to not be stuck on my own, sitting in my chair or in my car with nowhere to go and no one to do anything with. To move away from South Carolina to a place where I feel I can truly be myself.

After I wrap up here, I’m going to the gym.

I haven’t reached a point where everything changes, not yet. But I’m still trying. I’ve been sinking and sinking for years, and I can’t come up and crawl and stand and fly and soar in one day or maybe even in a year. But I can keep making changes. I can keep trying. I can keep doing little things until finally, something big happens.

I just don’t want to keep feeling like everything I’ve done up to this point is futile, like I’ve wasted not just the past decade but my life. I wouldn’t want to start all over from childhood because I hate where I come from, I hate being from the south, I hate being from a poor family, I hate having parents who damaged me, I hate not knowing the concept of a loving and supportive family, I hate the pernicious influence of the religious cult I was indoctrinated into. My life has just been a series of traumas, moving from one to the next, and as an adult I’ve been stumbling around, trying to survive, but I don’t want to just survive anymore.

Maybe therapy is the next step. I can’t say I know when I’ll try to reach out to a therapist but I hope I do it soon. I want things to change, to get better.

Maybe that’s what’s different. I didn’t want to get better before. I would have been happy if things got better but I wasn’t driven. Am I driven now? I think I am. I want to get better.

I want to get better.

That seems like the most important step in beginning a journey, truly wanting it.

On 2018

I just realized that I’m “twenty-eight” and the year is “twenty-eighteen.” Words are funny.

I didn’t intend to write an “end of the year wrap-up” post and lord knows if that’s what this will be, but here we are either way. When coming here to write this I got a notification from WordPress that I registered this blog nine years ago today, which is funny because I always thought my first post was in December of 2009 but apparently it was mid-way through January of 2009. I think that’s actually because I had a very short-lived blog somewhere else around the same time that enjoyed a total of three posts before I gave up and started over. I tend to do things like that a lot.

So I was actually about to begin THIS particular paragraph by saying that this year was a total shit show that sucked from beginning to end, when I remembered that wasn’t true. Actually some VERY good things happened this year, it’s just that they all happened during the early parts of the year so I’ve kind of forgotten that they happened this year at all.

Let’s start the beginning. In January I was about three months in to a job at Walgreens which I actually enjoyed pretty well and was moderately successful at, things which do not often happen to me when jobs are involved. In February I discovered I had an incredibly painful protrusion inside my mouth which turned out to be a bone spur literally coming through my gums. The worst thing is, this has actually happened to me once before, and I had to have surgery to fix it. So after going back and forth between a dentist and an oral surgeon, I was basically told to take some pain medication and wait for the bone spur to fall out all on it’s own. For about a month I was hopped up on pain meds and just waiting for this incredibly painful piece of bone in my mouth to fall out, a process which included missing practically weeks of work, trying to pull the thing out myself with my fingers resulting in a lot of bleeding and a midnight call to an ambulance because my entire family was out of town, and then finally a trip to a completely seperate oral surgeon who just took a pair of pliers and ripped the remaining bone spur right out of my mouth without any buildup or numbing injection or anything. It was, um, fucking painful. I got so used to being in constant pain over the course of weeks and weeks of just taking meds and constantly reapplying mouth-numbing ointment and gel.

Also in February, my stepfather was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital, and within two weeks they learned he had terminal cancer and then he died. The death was more surreal than anything, I’ve never had any kind of relationship, positive or negative, with my stepfather. My mom married him about six years ago and he’s usually worked and lived several hours away, so I’ve honestly just not had much interaction with him. An incredibly strange after-effect of his death was that my mom inherited a lot of money from him and suddenly we were, as far as we could tell, very financially well-off, at least for the time being, something no one in my family had experienced before. Suddenly money just wasn’t an issue for my mom anymore and there would be stretches of time when I would have her debit card in my wallet for weeks and just use it here and there for whatever was needed. I kind of understood what it must feel like to really be middle class and have a family that isn’t struggling to survive. I won’t lie, it was a really good feeling. All of the sudden our life felt like an adventure. My mom moved out of the house into her own apartment with my sister, leaving me all alone in the house for a limited time before my brother and his wife moved into the house with me.

I know it seems wrong to have been excited about this sudden wealth when it happened because my stepfather died, but I’m not really in control of how I felt. At the time I felt guilty, and I still acknowledge that it’s odd, but the truth is, for me personally, my stepfather’s death resulted in an improvement in my life, not because he was no longer in it, but because I was no longer at the mercy of my mother needing money from me or threatening me with not being able to eat or stay with her because she didn’t have the money to keep helping me. It’s just a weird situation.

Around this time, an incredibly positive thing happened. I asked my mom if my best friend of several years, Jacob, could move in with me. I’ve written about this before so I won’t go into all the details, but she said yes, and after a couple of weeks of trying to convince him, so did Jacob, and he moved in with me for two months. I drove up to get him, dealt with his obnoxious, religious and homophobic family several times, and then he and I got to have something like a life together for a couple of months. Neither of us were working but money wasn’t really a huge issue because my mom could help me and he had money saved up from a very lucrative paid internship. We were taking trips to the mountains, listening to music in the car, and spending every night cuddled up naked together.

I think maybe I got to know what it feels like, for just a little while, to be part of a functioning, healthy, loving relationship. We had a cozy little life, for a couple of months.

Then came May, and he went back to his family for the summer to do his summer internship, and a couple of months later, after we’d visited once, we both agreed it would be best for him to move in with his dad, something which still hasn’t really happened but hopefully will at some point soon. We hoped that he would have more freedom and it would be easier for us to see one another. I’ve not seen Jacob in about six months now. I miss him still, but it’s not like it was in the beginning, where I was endlessly yearning for him.

After Jacob left, everything really went downhill. My doctor switched me to a new antidepressant, the first one in my life to cause any kind of serious side-effects, almost all of which were sexual. I also tried to fill the void I was feeling emotionally by having a lot of promiscuous unprotected sex with strangers I met through hook-up apps, including one HIV scare. I haven’t gotten tested since then and I ought to, but I think I’m afraid that maybe by irresponsibility earlier in the year will end up causing me to pay some kind of consequences, and maybe I’m scared to know what those consequences might be. But I think I’m healthy. Sexually, at least. Except for the fact that the antidepressants make it hard to cum, hard to keep an erection, and hard to feel much of anything sometimes.

I quit my job at Walgreens and lied to my family that I’d been fired for being absent so much. The way I quit was even worse: I just walked out the door without saying a word, got in my car and drove away. I sent my manager a text and never said anything afterward. My friend at work was very sad to see me go but was understanding, and I still visit him periodically while he’s working. I’ve not seen my old manager again but I’m told she isn’t angry at me for leaving. Through the summer I had no job, until I was finally hired full time at CVS in their pharmacy. I went to work to do training modules and then had one full day of on-site training, something like a nine or ten hour work day, and then I got scared and I quit that job because of the anxiety I was feeling at work. I again lied to my family, I said that I never registered with the board of pharmacy (which actually was true) and so I was fired (which was not true). After a lot of pressuring and threats from my mother, I found another job, this time at Starbucks.

Then I got very sick. I had food poisoning from eating bad eggs that came from Starbucks and were past their expiration date. I spent ten hours in an emergency room that refused to just outright diagnose me with food poisoning and had to sign a paper saying that the ER would not be held responsible if I died when I went home. I went back to my doctor to ask about changing my antidepressants and help with my food poisoning, neither of which happened. After this I tried to quit my antidepressants altogether. It wasn’t originally my intent, because I was taking two different kinds and was only supposed to quit one of them. The thing is, the second one had no effect on me in the first place, so what I ended up doing was quitting psychiatric drugs altogether.

I fell into an intense… I don’t know what to call it. Depression isn’t the right word, because I wasn’t depressed, I was anxious. Constantly, incurably anxious. And my doctor would only give me limited prescriptions of weak Xanax which I had to ration out in order to survive. I became obsessed with some events that happened a year or two ago, and couldn’t get them out of my head. I had some intensely bad experiences that still haunt me, and at least one person who knows about them has tried to share them online and publicly humiliate me, which they in fact, did. I wanted to kill myself. I was afraid I was going to either end up dead or living a life that wasn’t worth living. I was afraid of very real danger, not just the kind that I make up in my head. Looking back on it now I don’t really understand how I got through it. I started developing these mental techniques to release the stress by constantly reminding myself of the few bits of positive encouragement I’d had from trusted friends who I knew weren’t just trying to comfort me because they loved me, but because they truly believed I am a good person who has not caused harm to other people.

I’m still not truly over it. I don’t think I ever will be. I guess that’s okay, but even though it ISN’T okay, it kind of has to be because I have to keep living.

I started taking the antidepressant again, the one that caused me all the sexual side effects. I take it less often than I’m directed to so that the sexual side effects aren’t as intense. In general, it’s been helping. Ever since I started back on it I’ve felt more positive and more productive.

A month or so ago, I got a call for a job interview, and after the first one I was given a second interview, then a job offer, and then finally I went to Virginia for a week of training, and started my new job a few weeks ago. I really, really like it. I’m having a good time there, and most importantly it’s a job where I feel I can excel and my talents and personality are put to good use, and I am cautiously optimistic that I’m actually going to be making enough money here to take care of myself, maybe even afford a small apartment.

It’s been hard. I’ve had more casual sex with more strangers this year than any other time of my life, and it’s probably not unrelated that I’ve been more lonesome and sad than ever before in the past year. I’ve spent many, many nights curled up in my bed, listening to quiet, somber music, with tears either rolling down my cheeks or always on the verge of coming forth, and I’ve sighed again and again and again.

It’s so hard to be alive.

My goals in 2019 are similar to the ones I always hope for in a new year. It’s a weird thing that we choose the beginning of a new year to choose goals for ourselves, but honestly, maybe it’s not that weird either. I want to become more healthy and do more creative things like writing and making music. I recorded a somewhat low-quality improvisation earlier this year in a piano store that’s probably my favorite recording of anything I’ve ever played on piano. I actually listen to it on repeat to help myself sleep at night. I’ve got some ideas for running features I want to do here on the blog: one is going through the tracks on an album I love or have listened to a lot and discuss each song individually, possibly while ranking them and discussing some B-Sides as well. I also want to share more my self-made greatest hits and playlists/mixes that I make as a hobby, and maybe learn how to record good-quality and pay to have my piano tuned so I can study more with it and record with it as well. I also have wanted for a long time to do a series themed around something like “confessions of a liberal” where I talk about things that annoy my about culture, both on the opposite side of me socially and politically and the things that annoy me about fellow liberals, and believe me, both groups behave like a bunch of entitled whiny brats, probably because that’s just what people do. I think I might call the series I No Longer Give A Fuck.

And honestly, maybe that should be my new years goal: to stop giving a fuck about unimportant things, to speak my mind and my truth unapologetically, to be even MORE loud and unapologetic, and to take care of myself first and foremost. Maybe it should be what we all do.

 

Dangerously Alive

As you get older, years start going by faster. Time begins to slip through your fingers and you wonder how so much could have happened so fast. Or in my case, how you could have wasted so much time.

I’m twenty-eight now. This blog has existed for eight years. I look back on who I was when I started it and see how sad he was, but still how bright his hopes and dreams for the future were. I don’t think I’m the same person I was then. It makes me sad.

Sadness is basically my default state now. I spend so much time in a state of melancholy that it’s honestly where I feel most comfortable. It’s better to accept the sadness and become friends with it than to dread it, and really why dread it? Being sad is kind of a nice feeling. People say you shouldn’t wallow in self-pity, but sometimes wallowing in self-pity is the most intense emotional experience I’m capable of having.

So much of my time this year has been spent in a state of deep, painful self-reflection. I try to be honest with myself, I try not to lie to myself, because I’ve done that in the past and it’s a terrible feeling. I try not to keep secrets, and especially not to keep secrets from myself. When you try to lie to yourself you do a weird thing where you split yourself into two versions: the version of you that believes the lie, and the version of you that is lying to the other one. And you have to constantly navigate life with these two dissonant voices clashing in your head. I’ve spent a lot of this year absolutely hating myself.

It’s something I can’t truly talk about in specific terms. There were some things that happened to me a year or two ago, things that left me feeling profoundly dirty, and guilt-ridden, and ashamed. And I was transformed by those experiences in a fundamentally negative way, no longer able to see myself as the naive, innocent person I’d been before. At a certain point in everyone’s life, there comes a time when you do something that you’re really ashamed of. You hurt someone you love, or you do something petty and spiteful, or you physically strike someone, or you disregard someone else’s feelings, or you take pleasure in someone else’s suffering, or you do something really perverted or fantasize about violence, or you openly admit something shameful to someone who won’t be sympathetic because you kind of want them to expose you and make you suffer. It’s a weird mix of emotions. I’ve done some of those things, at different times, for different reasons. I believe that deep down I’m a good person, but I’ve spent so much time hating myself for mistakes that I’ve made, for things that I’ve done that I have no power to change, and for people that I’ve hurt, knowingly and unknowingly, and for pain that I’ve played a role in.

The thing is, how do you go on living with yourself when you’ve done something wrong? You can’t exactly turn yourself over to the police, cause either you haven’t committed a crime or what you’ve done is just morally questionable but not legally questionable, or it’s entirely something in your head and it wouldn’t make any sense to do that. You can’t always tell a therapist because maybe you’re poor and can’t afford therapy. Telling friends doesn’t always help because sometimes your friends can’t handle it or they don’t understand.

So you spend your time sitting alone in your room, playing video games and drinking soda, going from day to day, meal to meal, trying just to focus on what’s happening right now, because you don’t know how you’re ever going to make it into the future living with the person you’ve become.

Of course I’m talking about myself. I always am. I don’t know if I have any particular skill apart from painful self-reflection.

There have been so many moments where I’ve thought “I’m setting this pain down now and walking away. I forgive myself. I love myself.”

But you know, sometimes even when you say it and you mean it, it still doesn’t change anything.

Sometimes it just takes a lot of time and a lot of pain for you to feel any different. A couple of months ago, I got very sick and lost my job because of it. After that, I stopped taking my antidepressants and fell into a state of perpetual anxiety and self-hatred, where I kept telling myself that the mistakes I’ve made in my life are unforgivable, that I’m not worth loving or keeping around, and that it would GENUINELY be better for the world if I were dead or behind bars somewhere. That my mind is unclean and sick, that I am a bad influence on other people, that I am twisted and warped and I don’t deserve a second chance.

And the worst part is, those weren’t fleeting angry thoughts. I really meant them. I really felt them. I still do. They live inside of me, questioning me, these fears. I’ve had nightmares and been unable to sleep. I’ve been afraid that people I’ve talked to about the things that haunt me will go around telling others what I’ve told them to try and hurt me as a person. It’s happened already, more than once. There are people who’ve made me want to die. I’ve thought over and over again about what I would say in a suicide note.

And you know, this kind of stuff, it’s really easy to look at and say “There’s someone who needs help. This person needs therapy, this person is a danger to themselves.” But when you’re really there, inside your own head, and you can’t control these thoughts and this awful, awful hopelessness, it’s a crisis. You’re in the middle of a hurricane and just thinking “How do I survive?” The wind is whipping all around you and you become acutely aware that you really might actually die. And you grab onto something and think just survive, just for ten more seconds, just for twenty more seconds, just for thirty more seconds.

Some days are unbearable. Sometimes you lie to yourself to survive. Sometimes you tell the truth and it feels good, but then the truth is unbearable and it hurts even more. I think you have to try every road to understand what it is to be alive. You have to experience the breadth of being human. You have to feel love and compassion, and also anger and rage and lust and the capacity for evil within yourself. You have to see that part of yourself and understand it, and approach it with compassion and say “I see you. I understand you. I love you.”

You can’t chain your demons up in the attic. Because then they’re just up there wailing and struggling against their chains. You have to go up there and sit down in front of the demons and hold out your arms and say “It’s okay, sweetie. I still love you.”

Being alive is a terrible, difficult business. When you really get down to the core of everything, you have to face uncomfortable truths about yourself and about the world, and you don’t get to see things the same way you did before.

I don’t know if I’ll ever truly get over the things that I’m afraid of, the things I’m ashamed of, the things that I carry with me. But I believe that I have the capacity to do good in the world, and to help people see things in a more fulfilling way, and that I can make good music or write in a way that makes people feel something profound for a moment, and that all of the people throughout my life who have told me that I’m special are right in some way, and that I actually am special.

I don’t know the meaning to any of it. I don’t know why life happens the way it does. I don’t think anything happens after we die. But I also know that I’ve got to make this life work somehow, for me.

So as I approach the end of this year, I’m trying, like always, to shed my skin, and to love the past and it’s miseries and accept them as a part of myself, without being chained to them and sinking into hopelessness.

And I keep searching for a place where I’m loved, where I feel complete, and where I can do good, for myself and for others.

It’s a scary, dangerous, dirty thing, being alive. But it’s what we are. We didn’t have any choice in the matter. And we can’t decide how long we’re going to live. I’ve been sick for about five days. I’ve got a ton of cold/flu medicines and vitamin C and antibiotics coursing through me. I’m swimming around in my head. My fingers are moving so fast they don’t feel like they’re attached to me.

I’m alive. This is who I am. I’m gonna try to love me for who and what I am, to accept the sick parts and the well parts, to be better than I was yesterday.

Yesterday is over. No matter if it was a triumph or a failure, today is another chance, and tomorrow is another. If you don’t believe it, wait until tomorrow. Eventually you will.

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.