21 September 2016

Not Fade Away



Prelude: my ‘discipline’ handed down to me today was a written reprimand which is 1-2 steps away from a firing. After all the star-chamber proceedings all they had was what I said in jest originally to another co-worker. I’m going to make an oral appeal to the Director but I was warned by the union rep it would probably not change things. My union rep felt it wasn’t the institution that was trying to get rid of me but my co-workers. Conveniently forgotten was the incident of July 8, 2015 which started it all – they day that due to the actions of my employer, I was almost killed in front of my wife.

I’m at a crossroads in my life.

Everyone reaches a moment in time where they are faced with their own mortality as well as the mistakes they have made in life. They have a choice whether to pack it in and retreat into themselves or continue to fight for some unknown and unrevealed personal triumph.

Earlier in this week, my last psychologist and I got into what was almost a shouting match. This is a person who I felt finally ‘got me.’ She understood, even though she didn’t say much. As I’ve done so many times in my life, I made a tragic miscalculation.

She believed I was trying to get away with ‘something.’ I told her I merely wanted to be judged by the same standards everyone else is. We were both a little right and a little wrong. But I had the distinct impression that she had grown to, if not despise, at least have a strong dislike for me personally.

This isn’t anything new for me. I’ve mentioned that a big reason I have shied away from trying to make friends in later life (even though there is a part of me that desperately needs them) is that there is something about me, probably linked to my bipolar, that eventually drives people away. Give me enough time, and I’ll say or do something that will fuck it up.

In the wee small hours . . . staring at the ceiling cursing your life's decisions
To me what happened felt like the final blow. I left feeling I was too old and too fucked up for this shit to even have a chance anymore. I grew old, my therapists grew younger and there seemed to be a gulf between us – we didn’t share mutual experiences or grow up in the same time and place. I think another tragic miscalculation was my long-held belief that therapy would be easier with a woman – they listen. Yes, and with many men they make judgments. I would suggest that with any therapist, you make sure what their background and politics are before you say too much. They are not impartial saints. 

There’s a strong feeling I’m fighting now to close up shop. Shut down Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and stop writing this blog. Very few people read it, I doubt I have really helped anyone suffering to understand and it’s not going to turn into a book deal so I can quit my job because it’s just not that marketable. I’m not some celebrity, nor am I young and pretty. I’m some middle-aged schmuck whose been trying to get my shit together all my life. Who wants to read about that?

Who wants to read the ruminations of a loser? Every single story or request for stories from all of the websites dealing with depression or bipolar want tales of people who have ‘overcome’ their illness. You don’t ‘overcome’ mental illness in the same way you don’t ever ‘overcome’ alcoholism. You only overcome it when you die. This fight has gone on all my life and it will go on until I am dead.
For the most part, I have failed. My vaunted introspection turned out to be navel gazing. I was missing the big picture.

What has happened to me at my current employer has happened before. Not in the same way but the result was the same; strained work relationships, job loss and failed marriages.

If there was no psychologist that could help me because I could not help myself, then I am going to have to be my own psychologist. No one will ever know me better than myself. The trick is, you have to be tough and honest with yourself. 

My last post received one comment. I’m not sure why. But I did mention in that post that the one constant string in all the negative things that had happened to me was me. So it’s kind of a misnomer to say they ‘happened to me.’ 

Because of my inability to control some deep yearnings and inner urges, I stepped into minefields I’d laid myself. 

It is correct to argue that had I gotten a diagnosis earlier and understood what the illness could do, then I could take steps to control some of the nastier problems that cropped up. But that only goes so far. 

The realization that a big part of me is a hurt little kid still lashing out at the world for all its unfairness to me was a hard one to make. The hurt little kid is still inside of me. I don’t know what to do about him yet. He's up there as the main photo of this blog.

The hurt little kid grew up misplaced in a school environment where he was one of the fat, middle class kids in an upper middle class school. His mom didn’t have time for him, his father emotionally disowned him and his sister was (and still is) bitterly resentful that he was the so-called ‘favored child’ which I never felt.

He retreated to his room, with his books, his TV, fish, scratchpads and imagination. He kept trying to come out of that room and re-enter a world which seemed to him, held so much promise if only he could keep his shit together.

The hurt kid just wanted some friends, some compadres he could run with and trust. He wanted to be loved by women to let him know he had worth as a man. He wanted this coterie of people to follow him around repeating a mantra that he wasn’t so bad after all and that he was worthy of being liked. 

But he couldn’t keep his shit together. Whatever he got, it was never enough. The goalposts always moved just a little out of reach. He had something to prove to everybody – the nuns from his elementary school, the kids in school, his parents, society.

I bought into a lot of mythology about American life: church, state, success, appearances. I seemed to be searching for some place or person that would allow me to fit in. I wanted so much to fit in.

Without a real plan and without the necessary self-control, he thrashed about for decades. Only his ability to escape from the messes he helped create got him this far. And now all trust, even hope for decency in people I can identify with, is gone. I can’t be myself because ‘myself’ is like battery acid to forming lasting relationships.

The room, though, my room, is always beckoning back. “Come back,” it says. “No one will hurt you here and you won’t hurt anyone. All your books, diversions and memories are here. Retreat and lick your wounds and never let the world in again. Everything you need is right here.”

Right now, ‘the room’ is calling very strongly. It’s in the basement, which I have furnished like I always wanted my bedroom to be. I didn’t realize that I had done that until it was nearly finished, but there it is -- not just a TV, but a 55-inch flat screen. Not just a portable radio but a home theater system. Not just library books, but a whole library. And a fully stocked bar and refrigerator (“you know if that kid had a fridge up there, we’d never see him,” my dad would say). But most of all, I have created my museum – pictures, movies, scrapbooks; things that have gone to make up a life.  All surrounding me like a soft cocoon, beckoning me.

It’s easy to say to someone else ‘don’t go in there; you’ve got so much to give.’ It’s another thing when you’re the person who feels he’s given all he can for nothing and just wants to retreat into a familiar, nurturing womb that, unfortunately, has only one exit. 

Hit it Blue Eyes:

But I'll keep my head up high
Although I'm kinda tired
My gal just up and left last week
Friday I got fired
You know it's almost funny
But things can't get worse than now
So I'll keep on tryin' to sing
But please, just don't ask me how
                                     -- Frank Sinatra