Tag Archives: bearing witness

Home in 4 hours.. I miss my own bed.

Friday… Finally.. This week has been exhausting, physically, mentally and emotionally. I’m going against medical advice and chasing two 9oz glasses of Moscato with a Klonopin. There’s a good chance that I’ll be sleeping on the plane ride home.

It’s slowly been creeping into my psyche that I’m somewhere around middle-aged now. Aside from the increasing amount of gray hairs atop my head any my hairline in full retreat of my forehead, skin is getting a little loose here and there. Luckily for men, aging isn’t necessarily put under scrutiny, so I don’t have social pressure telling me that I need to defy aging entirely. So, what am I getting at, here? I still feel like someone in his 20’s. When I look at my wife or some attractive female, I feel the approximate mental and chemical reaction of that of a 13 year old boy. I guess I’m simple to please in that way. Anyway, mentally and physically I don’t feel like I match up. Emotionally I feel younger, but physically it’s a roll of the dice depending on the day.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one that feels like this. I wonder if transitioning to the next stage of life feels the same for everyone, and if so, if this is a continuing trend well into old age. I know my father struggles with the fact that he’s simply not able to do the things he was once able to do, and it’s rather distressing for him. H’s always working on several projects, some home improvement, some rebuilding engines or whatever. I know I feel this in other areas of my life, I need more than 4 hours of sleep per night, which is something new within the last couple of years. To function now I need a minimum of 6, ideally 7-8. My body aches, too, but usually in the areas of previous injuries, so I guess I’m lucky there. My wife is younger than me by nearly a decade, and luckily her energy level is about the same as mine, though as many men discover in middle age, or those on psychotropic medications, the mind may be willing and eager, but the lower plumbing certainly isn’t on the same page sometimes.

I’ve reached a point in my life that I can do the things I’d like to do. My working life is such that opportunities present themselves for me to go to a city and do something I’ve wanted to do, mostly because I’m already there and usually can afford to do whatever it is. The thing is though, I tend to sit alone in my hotel room and not venture out. I have my kinda-sorta friend at the hotel I frequent in Pittsburgh who runs the restaurant there, but I rank that friendship slightly above that of a working relationship with a therapist. A therapist is someone you pay to sit in a room and listen to you for approximately 44 minutes, followed by a minute of scheduling and payment. They are in essence, a paid friend. Non-paid friends can bolt at any time if they so choose, hence part of the reason you pay someone to listen to you speak of your inner demons and such. So, my hotel friend, she’s paid to be there, and as a customer she has to interact with me to some degree, but she does go out of her way to chat when I’m there. So, at least in one city, I don’t feel completely isolated.

If you could do essentially what you’d like to do, what would you do? I used to have lofty ideas about photographing all over the place, meeting people of different cultures and such, making friends in different cities and places and overall be more social. What I think I want to do and what I actually do are clearly two different things.

I’ve found that overall, people, myself included, don’t have a clue as to what we really want and don’t actually know ourselves too well. This usually plays out in romantic relationships, as you or someone you know falls deeply and madly in love with someone who’s totally not right for them. I had one ex whom was absolutely stunning – modeling stunning. She practically oozed sexuality. The way she dressed was provocative, she was highly intelligent with sharp, quick wit and was a f’ing force of nature. What guy wouldn’t fall for such a woman? Thing is, I wasn’t nearly as secure as I thought I was, we didn’t have much in common and I seemed perplexed that when she didn’t change how she dressed or carried herself once we were a couple, the same things that drew me to her were unsettling later. I’m far more secure now than I was then, but still, attraction aside, that’s a relationship that would never work.

As far as lifestyles go, I’ve tried on many skins over the years. I’ve been “open minded about everything” guy, “earthy/outdoors” guy, “artist” guy, “free-spirited” guy, “asshole” guy (this comes more naturally to some than others, but I was tired of being treated like a doormat), and the list goes on. I’m comfortable with whoever the hell I am now, but scarcely know myself. Approaching 40, I guess it’s time to stop trying to fit into some other skin and learn what my own looks like and go with it. The older I get though, the less I think I understand about the world around me. I’m learning, mind you, but many of my previously held thoughts and beliefs I’m challenging. That’s either a sign of maturity or neurological decline.

I think I spend too much time in my own head… Time to get ready to board.

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“I’m good. You?”

The standard greeting that we present to each other usually consists of a passive and insincere variation of “Hey. How are you?” Our reflexive answer is always always one form or another of “fine.” They don’t really want to know and we know that. Chances are we don’t want to get into it, anyway.

Some people are easier to read than others. Regardless of how well we wear it, we each put on our mask and slip into the skin of whomever it is we present to the world. For some that skin is pretty thin and fits rather nicely. These are the types that are as close to being their authentic self for the world to see. For others, that skin is really thick, doesn’t always fit well in places and you can’t even begin to imagine what the person underneath looks like. Some are in between, which is where I’d like to think I fall.

Some days I’m the real me; no mask or skin needed. These moments are rare in the presence of another human being, most often my wife. Other days I have to put on the emotional equivalent of body armor just to get out the front door. I’m not even completely honest on this blog, though it is my personal diary shared anonymously so I’m at least sharing with someone; someone whom I’ll likely never meet, nor know much about. This blog is to be the opposite of the mask and persona that we slip into each day. I want this part to be out there, but not have to worry about any number of ways that could alter my social or professional life.

This week I have to be in character for 5 days straight, less at night for the few hours I get to sleep. I’m wilting inside, rapidly at that. The last three days I’ve spent a tremendous amount of energy in just keeping my composure. I’ve been on the edge of tears off and on, have been irritable and short-tempered. So, I smile, make nice, play the role of a happy well-adjusted person and give my “I’m fine, thank you. Yourself?” responses, taking slight comfort in the fact that the other person may be doing the same. Somewhere behind the space shared between our masks there could very well be two people who’s souls are bleeding out and neither of us can see it. That’s how I feel right now, anyway. I feel like me, the real me is bleeding out, soon to only leave this hollow shell of a persona walking around not realizing that the show ended a long time ago. Sometimes our biology doesn’t match up with what is really going on inside. I suppose that those dying of terminal illness that have every desire to live for years if not decades to come feel the opposite. The really f’d up part with me specifically? When I found out that I had liver disease and it initially looked like my lifespan would be significantly shorter, I was relieved. I’d later find out that it will likely only shave a few years off, though. The look of confusion that the doctor gave me must have been a reaction to my rather raw and sincere disappointment.

How am I? A type of terrible that I can’t find words for. I’m conflicted as well. I want to end this madness. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I care enough about myself that I don’t want to go on needlessly suffering like this. I’ve done as much for pets. There are parts of my life that I really like; love even. My wife and I love each other dearly and enjoy the time we have together. We laugh a lot. In late 2012 I begged her to let me go. Letters were written and were in the glovebox of the car. They were each to those closest to me trying to express that there’s nothing they could have done. They were both thank you and goodbye letters. I’m nowhere near where I was at that time, but my wife made it clear that she didn’t want to lose me. I wasn’t playing some manipulation game or anything. She’d have a right to know. She’d need to hear that it wasn’t her or anything about our current situation at the time. We were having some serious problems then. Go figure.

I’ve lost someone I loved dearly to suicide. That’s a hellish thing to experience, and no matter what the person says, or doesn’t say, there’s always that lingering question of if you could have prevented it somehow. I’ll not put anyone through that. Do I want to right now? Yes – with every fiber of my being, yes. Will I? Absolutely not. When I was at the very edge – right down to the split second before crossing the threshold of no return, I checked into a hospital. Will tomorrow be any better? I don’t know. My depressive cycles go like this. They start hard and fast and leave just about the same. Such is the experience of one with bipolar. How am I, you ask? I’m screaming inside and you’ll never know.

May 20, 2013 – Thoughts

For the last while I’ve been struggling to find words for what’s been going through my mind… I’ve a very dear friend who’s been struggling a lot of late, and though my contact with them has been minimal, I’ve mostly been trying to figure out how best to help them. From what I’ve learned about trying to help people is to listen – listen far more than you talk. To truly help, you need to be able to join them in that dark place. Not as an outsider who’s observing and waiting to catch them falling, but to free-fall with them and not know where the bottom is.. To not even be certain anymore that there is a bottom. That’s what it’s like when you fall into these dark places.. When you think it can’t get any worse, it can. I know every time I’ve hit that threshold with my own struggles – what I believed to be the worst of it, I’ve been proven wrong every single time. Not to sound bleak – it can get better. I’m still alive and enjoy nearly every day now and appreciate being here even on the bad days now. It wasn’t always so, though. My friend is in that dark place, struggling to come to grips with the reality that there may be hope – that it’s not to late to stagger back to their feet and get back into the fight. Hollywood does such an injustice to those that struggle deeply.. A movie or documentary at longest will summarize what put a person in that dark place, examine it for literally a few minutes, then spend at least a few minutes at the end tidying up progress in some way. That’s not all programs or movies – just the vast majority. I do know the place that my friend is in, though. I know the years upon years of feeling the way they do right now.

I feel so guilty and selfish for the hell I put him through for several months last year. He was in the same place, but still had the energy to keep picking himself up time and again. I was in such a bad place then. Our exchanges via email were long enough to be put into a novel – truly, a novel’s worth. I was arguing my position – my place with it. I wanted to end things, and he argued against it. It wasn’t the hollow arguments that most people give when pleading with someone to not do something. His arguments were thoughtful and realistic. They were personal. I know I drained so much energy from him for those few months.. I recognize the pattern that he’s in right now, and there’s no amount of reasoning that’s going to pull him out of that place. So, instead of trying to drag him to his feet, I’ll sit down next to him and keep him company until he asks for help standing up again. We can do damage control later.

I know when I was at my worst, I was pressing for him to say it was okay to give up. I wanted validation that the fight had been fought with every fiber of my being and that continuing was cruelty. I wanted it to somehow be okay with at least one other person – for someone to truly accept my decision and to give me permission. My God, the stellar attempts on his part literally kept blood in my veins for months.. At my lowest point though, I’d not hear it anymore. I won’t get into the details of exactly how things went here at home, but I didn’t say exactly what was about to happen when I went for the door, but my wife knew me well enough to grab my arm and try to keep me there. I’m physically much larger and stronger than her. Her trying to physcially force me to do anything is more of a gesture. She sobbed and begged me to stay. I had been cold and rigid to that point. For a split second, I put myself in her shoes, not being able to physically stop the person I love from leaving to die by their own free will. I asked myself if I’d be able to live with that. I walked back in a few steps and sat down on the floor. I lost it.. It takes so much to work yourself up the point where you can actually go through with it. Emotions are so charged up, but lay just under the surface. You need to remain calm enough to actually go through with the physical process – whatever that may be. To override instinct and go through with the act takes true commitment and resolve. Emotionally you’re like a volcano just waiting to explode from under the surface of the frozen mountaintop. So, there I sat on the floor with all of that charge and nowhere for it to go. It’s been at least 15 years since I’ve sobbed like that. Not shedding a few tears, or crying, or weeping – sobbing. I still feel so guilty for the things I said to my wife during the couple of hours that followed. I put myself in her shoes now and imagine what it would be like for her to say that she wants to die. Not in a cry for help sort of way, but to say it with true conviction. Then to say it’s pointless, that she loves me dearly and doesn’t want to hurt me, but she needs to end her own suffering. Then I imagine what it would be like for her to ask me to let her go… Then for her to ask me to forgive her for what she’s about to do. . . I imagine this and it shakes me pretty badly inside – to truly imagine her saying any of those things. She doesn’t have to imagine though. My friend doesn’t have to imagine either. I put them through that. For the last few weeks I’ve been hearing these arguments more and more from my friend. I do understand that place that he’s in. I know it well. It’s like revisiting an old apartment.

Tonight I saw something that really shook me. I didn’t expect it, nor did I see it coming. I’m largely unaffected by the things I see and hear, but this was something in a television series I was watching on Netflix. For anyone familiar with psychology, this was a trauma-related trigger. For many years, my triggers have been entirely physical, and very specific at that. I need to find balance. My friend needs me right now, and I’m not going to bail on him. I am drained right now, mostly from that given that it brings up so much of my own things. I need to keep myself a little more guarded for awhile. I’m also going to do something nice for my wife – something to honor her. I need to thank her. In spite of her own struggle which was tremendous at that time, she joined me in my horrible place. I was so blinded by my own bullshit that I didn’t even see how badly she was suffering. I owe her an apology for that. I’m not apologizing for my being the way that I was. Even as self-critical as I am at times, I don’t see where I was as being avoidable.

I know there’s a whole set of words that psychologists and therapists tell someone not to use, but I find it to only be useful to an extent. Yes, certain words aren’t exactly empowering, but to omit them is to omit the truth sometimes. I’ve been broken and weak at times. Some of those times I had no one to help, and other times I’ve had amazing people in my life to help me back up. I’m left wondering tonight if we aren’t all somewhat bruised or broken and that we can’t wait until we feel strong enough sometimes to help each other out. If you happen to be reading this and want to parrot the whole “you can’t help someone else before you help yourself” speech, save it. I did put on my oxygen mask first, just not very well, apparently. It’s so fucking hard to reach out when you’re in the thick of it, I’m not going to stomp on his fingers telling him to seek help elsewhere. I’ve had that happen – I didn’t reach out after that. I just need to find some balance. And rest.

Sorry for the infrequent updates/entries. My health has been stable, but I’ve been so incredibly tired lately. I can’t believe how much I’ve been sleeping. I’ve terrible pain that started tonight around my kidneys and liver. It’s sharp pain. If it gets any worse tonight or is still as bad as it is right now I’ll go to the ER. One of these days I’ll need to take a couple of actual vacation days from work that don’t involve staying in the hospital. On that note – it’s time to get some sleep.

…Sometimes it’s harder to accept that it’s going to be alright..

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Just because someone has physically removed themselves from an abusive situation doesn’t mean that everything is automatically better. I’m 17 years older than when I moved out and some days the feeling of safety and knowing that things are going to be ok are terrifying. That’s often hard for people to understand. It feels safer to stay in that guarded place than to let go. The fear of things somehow going back to the way they were from a better place causes a visceral terror. This is why it’s hard for some to let go and move on. I know it’s going to be ok. And it scares the hell out of me. Some days, that is. It takes time.

March 6, 2013 – A mix of things.. Time to get off of my butt.

So, the last couple of weeks have been interesting. Continue reading March 6, 2013 – A mix of things.. Time to get off of my butt.