New Year, Old Habits

A year ago, I was writing about being celibate and ringing in the new year sober. I saw a wide range of reactions as 2014 drew to a close, including romance, ambivalence and desperation. I watched, alone, as people clutched to their loves and lovers, as others desperately turned in circles trying to find a physical connection as the clock wound down, as others contententedly gulped their drinks, finishing off the year with the same liquid courage that got them through most of it.

A month later, I wrote at length about my views on sex and sexuality, on promiscuity, on having fun on a physical  level. It was a post that carried over from New Year’s Day, one that touched back on the reasons I stopped sleeping around and why I was cutting back on drinking: because as much fun as casual sex was and is, I’m starting to reach an age where finding a genuine connection was more important to me. I even tried – briefly and hardly enthusiastically – trying online dating. It didn’t really pan out.

I went through the most of the year is this perpetual state of “lonely but determined” up through May. When I went to Montana to visit my grandparent’s old home and began clearing through their old things and began reliving old memories, it began to trigger a manic break. Which of course meant it was perfect timing to come back and use that break to help ruin a relationship and friendship with someone I trusted implicitly and had been close with the better part of two years.

And if 2014 taught me that I was finding solace in sex in an emotionally unhealthy way, I guess 2015 taught me I’m just emotionally unhealthy in general. I feel things in extremes and I’ve barely managed to figure out a way to manage it. I can actively choose not to engage with someone! That’s the fucking easy part. I can walk away from anyone and just not give a shit about the conversation. Or the friendship, really. I’m close with a very select few people that have really weathered a lot of intense periods of my life, things that most people would or even have run away from.

Even when it comes to sex, though I’d say 95% of the women I’ve been with I’ve cared about, that affection is usually limited to a friendly minimum. Don’t get me wrong: I would bend over backwards and do tricks and do anything for any friend that needed something or someone. I do my best to be strong for someone when they can’t be strong for themselves. And sometimes that means a physical connection. And sometimes a physical connection is just born of it. But for the most part, as much as I care and/or worry about them, however the sex turns out, I can still just write it off as one of those nights. You know? Maybe not. I mean, it’s an intimate act. More intimate than pretty much anything. But there’s an understanding going in that the act is limited to physicality involving two people who trust each other but don’t necessarily need to rely on each other. There’s no need for real attachment.

And that’s good for me, I thought, because when I find someone I want to attach myself to, it typically goes poorly, for any number of reasons. In 2015, I ended my whole “save yourself, find a healthy connection” at a time when I was – albeit mostly unaware – at my unhealthiest. I was in the middle of a manic break. It ruined that friendship and it left me hurt and feeling damaged and pathetic. And there were deeper, unrelated, more intensive and intimate reasons for all of that, but I still felt low.

So I got into my head that I just genuinely cannot make a relationship work. I’m not good enough to take a chance on or not to cheat on or to take seriously. And if I am good enough for those things, I find a way to screw it up somewhere down the line just by being myself. That wouldn’t be a problem if I just didn’t give a shit, but I do.

Here’s the thing: I can detach myself from people. I can avoid investing large chunks of myself in people. But it isn’t because I want to, it’s because I’m used to being used and being left and being hurt, and I’m used to being disappointing and to letting people down and to hurting others unintentionally. I always try to keep a shoulder open to lean on and an ear to talk to, but there are days when I can hardly keep myself going, much less anyone else.

I am a hard person to be a close friend to, and I’m even harder to be in a relationship with. I’m a lot of work and that embarrasses me, especially in light of what I learned about myself. So I shut a good part of myself away and keep it out of harm’s distance from people, and I thought that was a good idea. And when I start catching feelings for someone, I tend to just ignore it or turn away from it, and let it pass me by.

And when I don’t ignore it, I’m fucked. Because everything I’ve refused to let myself fear gives way to hope and love and an enjoyment of affection and romance and feeling valued, and I let myself feel it so intensely because I feel it so rarely. I soak up every bit of it because I never know how long it will last and I put stock in every. Single. Second of it.

It bleeds into every aspect of things. The sex is more passionate, the dates more romantic, my writing is better, my patience is higher. And because I’m a writer and because I’m in love with love, I make huge, sweeping gestures. I don’t give a little. I give it all. I pour my heart all over the table and let it spill onto the floor.

And when it doesn’t work out, I’m crushed. All those old insecurities come back to gnaw on my tired bones. And if I’m the one responsible, I hate myself as passionately as I’ve loved the other person. And if there is a goodbye, it has to be another sweeping gesture. As memorable and (hopefully) positive and (hopefully) passionate a moment as any other during the relationship. I have to get all of my feeeelings and wooorrrds out there because there will never be another chance, and if she thinks of me, I want her to think of those good moments and those last thoughts because the same things will fucking haunt my entire life.

Of course, it never works out that way. I have plans and I imagine conversations, the final things I want to say, the way a conversation or encounter may pan out. That’s delusional. I am literally mentally ill.

And the funny thing about it all, if there is something that can be quantified as funny, is that when it comes to the things I’m passionate about outside of writing – love, romance, sex, intimacy – I am completely ineffective as a writer. When I’m disengaged, I can speak smoothly, act confidently. I can charm. When I’m really interested, when I’m nervous, when I’m in love, I overthink everything. I run something over in my mind so many times that whatever I actually say or write is usually a mangled mess of the original intent and comes out as something horrible and easily misinterpreted. I am easily overwhelmed and become tremendously overwhelming.

I sat in a bar last night packed with happy revelers, cavorting about, kissing and touching each other. A former passionate love of mine (one of the handful that I didn’t screw up) was around. We were able to have a conversation in person for the first time in three years. I saw new relationships and new passion around me. I sat, alone again, with a glowing blue tiara I stole from a different bar crowned upon my brow. I didn’t feel like drinking but someone was buying shots and I don’t like to turn down free things and that always leads to trouble quickly.

And I’m sitting. And I’m thinking. And I’m lonely. And I’m stressing. What did I do? Did I say something wrong? Why couldn’t I just have let everything ride? Why do I always fucking feel so much? Why can’t I stop wishing for more? And I’m drinking. And it’s 2016.

I don’t start my new year on the first of January. I start my new year on my birthday. Those are my years of life in which to consider the things I’ve accomplished during 12 more months of being here. But January 1st is at least an event that reminds me I have five more months before my year is over.

In those five months, I need to seriously begin to evaluate my emotions and reactions and try to find a healthy method of regulating them. I don’t know how to do that. I have a hard time asking for help. But I’ll figure it out. Right? Of course I will.

I’m always okay, even when I’m not.

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If I Only Had a (Proper) Brain

This, hopefully, will be the last post I write about anxiety and depression for a little bit. I would like to get back to writing about writing, about stories I like, and ideas I have to make things better. I’ve just been having trouble with my words lately, and I think it’s because my mind has been so frantic and crazy.

It’s always sort of a mixed bag when I reach a point where I break down entirely. What’s amazing – and not in a good way – to me is that there seldom seems to be a specific source for it. I have excuses: I miss my family, I feel abandoned, I don’t feel good enough for people, either friends or otherwise, I feel like a piece of trash.

But a lot of those things aren’t my fault. I was adopted and loved, it wasn’t my choice for my parents to leave or for past girlfriends to cheat. I do my best to build up and support the people I come across. I know I have positive qualities like creativity and empathy and an ambitious sex drive.

I suppose that last one depends on your point of view.

Still, unpredictable and unreliable dick game and slam poetry skills aside, those kinds of thoughts are the thoughts of a rational, logical mind. I’m not a religious man by any means, but I used to recite the Serenity Prayer to try and get through difficult times all the same.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

If that’s a little too religiousy for you, it basically breaks down to this: you can only control what you say, what you do, and even if you can’t necessarily control your emotions, you can control how you react to them. The world around you and the people in your life and outside of it do their own thing. That’s a good lesson, an important one, and yet still one that is hard to accept and live by.

See, deep down I know my life isn’t that shitty. I make decent money. I have a talent. I’m not sexy by any means, but women seem to like me well enough. I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on. I have incredible friends and all four limbs and decent wit.

Yet mood swings, including deep, nearly crippling depression will hit me hard. Hard, and out of nowhere, and the resulting surge of emotions drive every rational thought into the gutter and through the grate for Pennywise. Suddenly, I hate myself for no reason. I’m grieving for memories from long ago. I’m lamenting the relationships I never had with family members. I’m upset about things I’m not really upset about. It is an intense whirlwind of emotion and desperation not for anything specifically, but just to feel something positive. My fear of failure and my loneliness amplifies to uncontrollable levels and I flail about trying to find someone to tell me it’s going to be okay. Friends become targets of this turbulent storm and begin to think it’s about them, that it’s about irrational love or irrational hate, and frankly, the more I try to explain what’s going on, the less people believe me.

This has happened several times before. It’s ruined relationships. It has ruined friendships. It has contributed to the loss of at least one job. I get to the point where I don’t even want to get out of bed, just because I lose track of who I am. Or was, I guess.

Though I’ve struggled with depression my whole life, this cyclical self-destructive implosion has really only been coming around maybe the last seven years. A woman has been involved a couple times, sure: the older girl who left me right after my birthday, the girlfriend who told me she didn’t believe in my writing. But there have been so many other instances: financial stress, work stress, deaths of friends and family, loss of personal pride. All those things build up and explode inside me and outwards because I can never quite figure out where to get started in coming to terms with it.

This latest instance wasn’t about a woman, though one became involved. It wasn’t about being in love. In an absolutely horrendous case of timing, I began to spiral out of control sometime between my return from my grandparents’ family home in Montana and the anniversary of my grandmother’s passing away, and she took the brunt or it, unfairly. Despite my best efforts to distance myself from her and others, to try and get my mind back on a positive track, I’ve absolutely annihilated that friendship. I put in my worst results ever at work and got reamed for it, and I stopped being able to look my reflection in the eyes.

And I’m tired of that. I’m tired of pushing people away and wanting to fuck or fight just to get some feeling that isn’t emotional hurt or personal resentment. I’m tired of not being the guy I was. That guy was awesome.

I woke up one day and came to a really unsettling conclusion about myself, something I didn’t want to face because I have a hard time making friends and being in relationships as it is (and I’m by no means saying I’m ready for or should be in a relationship), something I didn’t want to say to myself, because I don’t know how to say it to someone else:

I’m mentally ill.

Actually, I was still in the middle of a bender, so I think my actual words to myself were, “I’m goddamn fucking crazy, fucking crazy, and I can’t even make my WORDS WORK ANYMORE. Shitwriterhackfuckingnutjob.”

Something close to that, I didn’t write it down at the time.

For the first time ever, I’m pursuing therapy seriously. The two sessions so far have been good to me, and I like my doctor. “Crazy,” he tells me, “isn’t really a word we like to use,” which is nice and probably accurate, but who’s the word guy here?

Hypomanic bipolarism and depression, exacerbated by extreme anxiety which often will lead to minor panic attacks. I sob-laughed at that. Seemed appropriate. He offered to recommend me towards some doctors for a medical prescription. I can’t afford it without insurance, and I’ve got a while to go before I can enroll in that, so I got some black-market (read: a friend of mine) xanax to help tide me over. I don’t take them every day, or even a full pill. I never take them before going in to the therapist.

When I do take them, on days I wake up and I feel like my sternum is trying to turn itself inside me like a steering wheel, it curbs the attack. For the first time, I feel like I can function normally.

The treatment is coming too little, too late to save some relationships with people close to me, I fear. I’ve been too erratic, too intense, and left so poorly an impression that it’s tainted whatever positivity had come before. However, I’m hoping it isn’t too late for me to learn about myself, improve my control, manage my life and generally be a better person.

It’s hard. I’ve never been one to trust easily, and it always seems like those I finally do are the ones who leave the quickest, because they’re the ones who I burst out at the most regularly and overwhelmingly,  so even as I find time to talk to a professional and find proper medication, some days are just a struggle to get through. I wish I had someone to be a partner with me and help me, sometimes.

Though I’ve lost some people this time, again, important people to me and people I care very much about, I’ve also found a support from a number of surprising sources. I freely admit I have been in shambles this last month. I sleep terribly, I weep sometimes at night, when it’s quiet in my home and I can’t keep my mind from racing.

Yet, I’ve received phone calls at 4 in the morning, text messages during the day, and woken up to messages on Facebook checking up on me, talking me down from dark places,  building me up into stronger places. These are not always close friends. Some are friends I haven’t spoken to in quite some time. Others are people I barely know or have almost never spoken to. I can’t put into words how important and helpful that has been for me, and how appreciative I am.

If there is a silver lining to this, I guess this is it: this morning I received a message of appreciation in return. A very talented woman that I don’t know well reached out to me to let me know she enjoys following me on various social media formats,  not just for humor (which, my words, is obviously often used as a coping mechanism), but the deeper ones, such as the ones relating to depression and heartache, which tend to hit home for her. She ended her message with an offer to always be an ear and a shoulder.

I have always let my intentions be known from day one. It’s difficult for me to trust, but I’m an open book, at least here, at least in my writing. It’s rare I find someone I can express myself in person to face to face, but I have and will always be honest, regardless of how I’m relating my life. My feelings on something or with someone are no mystery, and almost never is. I don’t like to mislead anyone. I will never lie, nor will I exaggerate an event in my life, the lives of my friends or my family.

I am an intense person. I am emotional. I am, for fuck’s sake…mentally ill. I am not always proud of the things I do or say.

But I will be true to myself. I will be true to you, my friends, my family, and my readers. My cards are on the table, fully. I apologize to those I’ve hurt or pushed away or stressed out during this period or any previous period where I’ve been down like this. I am so grateful to those of you who have shared your strength and support to help me get through it.

Lastly, if any of you, friends, family, strangers, readers, ever need someone to talk to, you can always reach out to me as well. My e-mail is kjeredmayer@gmail.com.