black box warning

Relationships should be a positive thing, but I feel like they cause pressure and bring a sense of obligation to be an equal partner in the relationship.

It’s not being selfish when I don’t fully participate in the give-and-take, but it is being protective of my own psyche. Sometimes I just don’t have enough spoons for anyone besides myself. I don’t always have the mental or emotional capability to give everything that is expected of me, and I feel guilty because I’m not contributing enough.

If I were single right now, there is no way I would try to develop a romantic relationship with someone. I wouldn’t want to spare enough mental energy to put the effort into being a good partner. In addition, the other person would find too many faults and would run away as fast as they could. I guess this says something about my wife’s love for me, as well as her loyalty and perseverance. This also is an indicator of my being unable to see myself as worthy of someone’s love.

I guess it has become a thing to give out personal business cards when meeting other people. People like me should have a black-box warning on the back of the card:

WARNING: This person is damaged, and will disappoint you in myriad ways.

we could be heroes

Who do you look up to, who do you want to be like? Whose example do you want to follow in your professional or personal life? Who do you look at and see as someone we should all strive to emulate? Who is your hero?

I think there are everyday people who choose to do extraordinary acts, and they deserve recognition for it, but I have no heroes. There are no individuals who I would want to be like just because of who they are or what they have done. There is no one who I would want to pattern my career after, and there is no one in particular who I would want to live my life by their example.

I have such a hard time relating to people who have done great things and serve as examples for the rest of us. I don’t feel like I have the tools that make other people successful. I don’t even know what it takes to be a success. I don’t really have dreams or goals, so it seems futile to try to be like someone when I know I could never reach their level.

I could read a bunch of motivational books, biographies of successful people, or go to seminars to learn some tools for personal growth. Maybe I could find someone to pattern my life after. Maybe I could find a life coach to help me. Maybe I just need lots of therapy.

You can read all the self-help books you want, but at some point you just have to accept what you are. I’m not someone who will do heroic things in my life. As a wise philosopher once said, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.”

broken

You can only beat your head against the wall so many times before you crack, spilling your hopes onto the floor. You struggle to pay the price of existence, and the costs are staggering. Damaged and broken, you barely survive the day, and get no relief from a fitful sleep before waking up again. The cycle of hopelessness is not a circle but a downward spiral, a black hole from which positive things never escape. Your carefully constructed life is shattered by a disease with no empathy. The beast is not satisfied until its victims lie on the floor, crushed by its destructive power.

inadequate

I don’t feel like I’m good enough for anyone – not as a husband, a father, a son, a friend, or a worker. I’m not good enough for my own standards of what I want my life to be. I feel like I let everyone down on a consistent basis, and that I’m not trying hard enough. I’m just a substitute until the right person comes to replace me, and they will do everything better.

I define my self-worth by how useful or helpful I am to others, and right now it seems like I’m not useful or helpful to anyone.

Sometimes you just have to face reality, and my reality is that no matter what meds I take, they can’t change the fact that I’m just not wired to be a happy, successful person. I want to be that guy, but I can only fake being that guy until I can’t fool anyone anymore.

somewhere else

No matter what I’m doing, I often find myself wishing I was somewhere else. I’ve been this way since I was a young kid. When I was at school, I would stare out the window and wish I was in the forest. When I lived in the woods, I wished I could live in town. When I lived in town, I wished I was back out of town again.

When I’m around people, I usually wish I was alone. Sometimes when I’m alone, I wish I could share the moment with someone. When I’m stuck at work, I wish I was driving somewhere, but sometimes when I’m driving I wish I could sit still. Sometimes when I’m away from home, I miss my people and wish I could be with them. But sometimes when I’m home, I wish I was by myself again. At first being a long-haul trucker satisfied my need for seeing new places, but it soon became just a difficult job that kept me away from home too much.

When I’m working (and no one is looking over my shoulder), I might open Google Maps for something, and then my mind starts drifting and I start looking for places I want to explore by myself: hiking in nature, seeing new cities, finding waterfalls, and planning road trips. When I’m done working, sometimes I go on a random drive just to see something new, but it’s getting harder to find new and interesting things within a couple of hours from home.

I don’t get bored easily, but I need something new all the time. I drift through museums faster than most people, looking at each painting or artifact just enough to enjoy it, but not long enough that I get bored with it. I can spend an hour where other people might spend all day. I’m still enjoying myself, but my enjoyment of the moment ends very quickly. I used to enjoy my work, but now it’s just a job, and sometimes it sucks the life out of me.

My life is not normal, but it’s not bad like it used to be. Even so, Sometimes I want to run away from it all – abandon my problems, hide somewhere off the beaten path, scratch out a living in isolation, and be alone in my misery. Unfortunately when you’re running away from yourself, you can’t run far. Maybe what I’m asking for is a final escape from myself, but there are too many places I haven’t visited yet for me to give in and finally end it all.

Maybe what I want is freedom – to come and go as I please, to see new things when I feel like it, and go back to my comfortable chair when I am done. I guess that’s what retirement is for, but I don’t see myself having a long time to enjoy freedom from having to work. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be very fortunate if I even make it to retirement age.

a very sad dream

I had a heart-wrenchingly sad dream a few nights ago. I was in charge of resistance fighters in a Star Wars-like scenario, with spaceships and lasers. I don’t remember who or what we were resisting, but there were maybe several dozen of us remaining. An attack by the enemy was imminent, but we were defending our home base, so spirits were high. Unfortunately we had few weapons, so some people hid while others awaited the attack from above. I had miscalculated though, because the enemy had tricked us by landing out of sight and hiking to the rear of the base. They walked in and captured everyone in hiding, and to save their lives, the people with weapons surrendered. Everyone except me and two other leaders were loaded into a transport ship, while I was being held on the command bridge of the enemy leader’s ship. We took off first, and I could look down toward the surface as the laser cannons targeted the transport ship and fired. The transport exploded, taking the lives of everyone I was supposed to care for and protect. I had caused their destruction; it was a crushing feeling, as all hope was lost.

I woke up at about 4am feeling incredibly sad, to the point of tears as I returned to reality. I’m still struck by how much it affected me that day.

The dream involved mostly anonymous dream-people, and some off-planet creatures, but several people I know in real life were in the dream and were among those who died; one real-life person was on the enemy command ship with me and survived.

don’t talk about it

When I was a kid, life at home was pretty messed up, and I was aware of it from about age 8 or 9. I didn’t want anyone to know what my home life was like, and I never talked about home to any of my friends. I never invited any kids over to my house, even though I wanted to. I always went to other kids’ houses instead so no one would know what it was like in my home. I was ashamed of my life, and for not being able to deal with it; this was the start of my depression.

Fear and suspicion of other people was drilled into me from an early age. What went on at home was “none of their business”, they being people at church, teachers, kids at school, the government, or the neighbor lady who listened in on the telephone party line. School counselors were off limits because they might tell someone else who would interfere in “our business”. I would feel immense guilt if I wanted to talk to anyone I knew about my problems. There was no safe place for me to vent. I didn’t know what a hotline was or that you could call to talk to someone anonymously.

I was taught to avoid all forms of outside help. Counselors and therapists and shrinks were not to be trusted. I was depressed all the time, and most of the time I felt like I needed to fake being okay. I felt like a fraud, and like I was divided between two existences. On the outside I had to pretend that everything was fine, and on the inside I suffered. I knew things weren’t right, but I had been taught that admitting mental illness meant you were weak and vulnerable and stupid, and I couldn’t admit those things to myself or anyone else.

I didn’t feel like any of my friendships meant anything, so I pushed everyone out to the farthest circle of my defenses as if they would hurt me like so many people had before. I was being fake with them because I couldn’t trust anyone. By 7th grade I had no real friends, just acquaintances who thought they were friends.

My friend Lisa was the first person I let myself get close to in a genuine way. She was caring, intelligent, wise for her years, and she valued me for myself rather than as the “smart kid”. I felt safe with her, like I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else. I finally allowed her inside my defenses and let her see into my life. I shared way too much of course, but she was supportive and comforting. She returned the favor, letting me know some of her secrets that she couldn’t share with other people.

Since that time I have grown emotionally, but I still struggle to trust anyone. It is difficult to be honest and genuine with people for fear they will hurt me somehow. I have several acquaintances, and a few next level “work friends”, but really only a few friendships that I value enough to where I can have some level of trust. Then I have you, my blog friends, who I trust with almost everything.

saving christmas

Everyone seems more sentimental or reflective during the holidays. Many people have warm, fuzzy memories of Christmases full of snow and fun and family time. Of course too many people have bad memories, or just sadness; maybe that just proves that most families are more messed up than people want to admit. I’ve always thought it is strange to put such an emphasis on family and giving and feasting during this time, when the rest of the year should be equally important.

I’ve always had mixed emotions during this season. When I was little, my Christmases seemed pretty good. I got lots of presents, not knowing or caring at the time how much of a financial strain it was for A-Mom. As I got older and realized how much she sacrificed to save up the money to buy me things, it became a lot less fun. That, and the Old Bitch screaming insults and telling us how everything we did was shit, and dodging the 20-year-old stacks of newspapers that couldn’t be moved or thrown away.

The biggest thing missing for me was the fact I had no brothers or sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins, and especially a father to share Christmas with. All we had was our dysfunctional fighting unit: me, A-Mom, and the Old Bitch (no one wanted her, especially her family). Later on when “the foster kid” lived with us, it brought jealousy and competition to the holiday. I wanted to have a house filled with warmth and love and lots of family, not bitterness and hate and anxiety.

My best friend saved Christmas for me when I was 16. Lisa invited me to come over to her house on Christmas Eve, and A-Mom let me go (because she liked Lisa too). It was like something out of a dream for me: a warm fire, lots of family in the house, music, games, happiness, love, no anger or yelling or fighting. They made me feel like part of their family for the evening.

I was almost overwhelmed, and a little emotional. Lisa took me to her room to talk about it, and I tried to explain how it was just what I had wanted for so long, and it all seemed so perfect. “Perfect,” she laughed, “you think this is perfect?” She told me both grandparents and her mom were already drunk off their ass as usual, her dad had broken something in anger in the garage, and her brother was pissed off at dad and spending the night at someone else’s house. I didn’t care, I said, and it was true.

[recycled from 2011, but refreshed and edited for your pleasure]

thankful

I have a lot to be thankful for. There are always negative things to deal with and problems to solve, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are a lot of positives in my life right now. I occasionally need to take time and remember that. I hope everyone reading has something to be thankful for this holiday.

out of touch

I have been so busy in the past couple of months that I haven’t had time to think. Maybe that is a good thing, but I feel like I’m out of touch with myself. I’m not taking my emotional temperature, thinking deep thoughts, or working on feeling better. I’m not doing anything to improve my state of being. I’m just standing in place, waiting for the next storm to come through and buffet me with fear and self-loathing.

I don’t like my house anymore, but there’s nothing wrong with it. I don’t like my conservative friends or family, but they aren’t bad people. I don’t like my job, but it’s the best one I’ve had. There comes a point where I start hating everything and everyone and I start making changes just for the sake of changing things. I move to a new place, change houses, change cars, change jobs, change clothes, discard some people and meet others. When the dust settles, I realize I’ve changed nothing, because the one constant in my life is me.

I feel so damaged and defective right now. I am unable to solve my problems, or even some of them, and therapy isn’t helping. I can’t solve other people’s problems either, even though I keep trying. There is no one here who can cast a spell to keep the dementors away.

Ugh. Excuse me while I wallow for a while.

too

I’ve never been comfortable being myself. I’ve always struggled with defining my self-worth by the way I perceive that others see me. I look at myself as though I am a judgemental outside observer, constantly criticizing my faults and shortcomings. I suppose this comes from a severe lack of self-esteem, something I learned at home and had reinforced at school when I was a kid.

My hair was too messy. My braces were too geeky. My face was too dorky. I was too slow. I was too nerdy. I was too “husky”. I was too quiet, too depressed, too clingy, too intense, too creepy, too naïve, too introverted. I was too smart. I was too boring.

I wasn’t outgoing. I wasn’t down-to-earth. I wasn’t cool to be around. I wasn’t athletic enough. I wasn’t happy enough. I wasn’t interesting. I wasn’t dateable.

Ugh. Enough memories.

I still feel my flaws as much as ever, but now I suppose there is more of a reluctant acceptance of my flaws. Some of those perceived flaws are imaginary, a function of my own insecurities projected onto what I believe others see in me. Some of those shortcomings are realistic, and I just have to accept them and work around them. I don’t have much faith that therapy can fix this mindset.

I don’t like who I am on some days, but sometimes I’m okay with myself. For a perennial depressive, that’s good enough. On very few days, I get to feel more positive, and that is always welcome.

father time

It’s time for my annual episode of mixed feelings about Father’s Day.

When my son was born on Fathers Day, I had this feeling that life would never be the same, and it has been true. It seems cliché to say, but when I sat in the hospital room, holding my son while watching a baseball game, I had a feeling of unconditional love which I had never known before that day. I had similar feelings when my daughter was born, but at that time it was mixed with relief and thankfulness that I had survived a bad car accident to reach that point in life.

I have never thought I was a great parent, mostly because my bipolar disorder caused me to ruminate about mistakes, elevated my anger and emotional instability, and caused me to be mentally absent for long periods of time. Looking back though, I realize I did the best I could, that all parents make mistakes, and that the kids don’t hate me. The conversation at Thanksgiving made me feel so much better about myself, and I don’t think the kids realize it.

The negative emotions surrounding the day stem from the fact I have never had a father. I didn’t have that influence on my life, someone to play ball with, someone I could pattern myself after or enjoy being his son. Because I was adopted by a single woman who never got married, I saw poor examples shown by imperfect people with problems of their own, and I didn’t really understand how there is no such thing as the perfect dad. I knew I didn’t want to emulate those men, but I didn’t have a healthy idea of who I could emulate.

When I found my birth father’s family in 2019, I was a little bit sad to learn he had died several years previously. I also found out I have three half-brothers, but they got to spend time with my father. I wish I had been able to meet him, because he sounds like a good guy at heart, but part of me would always remember that he left me behind. I’m not good with new relationships anyway, as evidenced by how much difficulty I have had maintaining a relationship with my birth mother.

Enough rambling. If you are doing something nice for your father, maybe let him know if he was a good parent. That would make a great present.

blog soup – stir well

I have a busy week ahead. I have three field days at work this week, two of which are unnecessary; I have an appointment with both my therapist and my sleep doctor; and it’s my father-in-laws birthday. My wife has no idea what to get him other than a gift card to the hardware store. It’s difficult because his birthday and Father’s Day are so close together, and he doesn’t need anything except carpal tunnel surgery. Fortunately he will get that at the VA hospital, because it’s hard to get medical procedures from Amazon (for now).

My daughter needed to replace a broken phone, and our other two were glitchy, so we finally ditched our old prepaid cell plan and went with a major carrier (the pink one) to get discounted phones. The red carrier is too expensive even though they have better coverage; I hate the blue carrier and I think their bundling prices are predatory. I’m happy with the service, but my brand new phone has problems reading the SD card.

The thought occurred to me that everyone I went to high school with is at or near 50 years old, and their parents are getting older to the point where funerals are becoming more common. That’s depressing in several ways. Maybe seeing your parents getting older is part of the mid-life crisis experience because it makes you think about your own mortality. Nothing lasts forever, so go nuts while you still can, or something like that. My idea of going nuts is completely different, but even I fall victim to the urge to buy expensive things to make myself feel alive. For example, I bought pricey brioche buns for my grilled hamburgers instead of the cheaper plain buns. Living on the edge, that’s me.

abusive memories

I started writing a different post, and it triggered a memory. It’s really important that I write this first.

I just heard a voice from the distant past saying, “don’t get too big for your pants.” That was always a code phrase for whenever this person was telling me I was too arrogant or full of myself; in other words, she was trying to tear me down anytime I felt a little bit of confidence.

Another one of her greatest hits was, “you’re breeding a scab on your nose,” which to me meant that I was setting myself up for embarrassment and failure. When I heard that code phrase, I would stop what I was doing because I was afraid to be seen as a failure. If she saw me as a failure, everyone else would too. This also made me want to succeed at things to spite her, and I’ve been told that spite is an ugly emotion.

I repeat those phrases in my head, and all I feel is negative emotions from the memory: anger at her for pulling a child into her bitter negativity; sadness for myself, who never learned to shake off the power her words had over me; and frustration at how badly this damaged my psyche to the point I would rarely have confidence in anything I do.

I can’t stress enough the effect this has had on me as a child, as a teen, and as an adult. My entire life has been filled with instances where I could have tried something new, but I didn’t have the fearlessness to try whatever it was because I thought it was predetermined that I would fail. I can’t count the times I might have been really good at something, but I was afraid to give it a shot for fear of embarrassment or ridicule.

I was a really smart kid, but I had no answer for the verbal abuse that was inflicted on me every day. I was book smart, but I had no emotional intelligence. I say that as if I’m blaming myself, but how could I lean and grow emotionally when I was stifled by the pressure-cooker environment I lived in? I knew my life was messed up, but not once did it occur to me that I wasn’t at fault somehow. A lifetime of emotional depression was caused by one mentally ill person constantly abusing a child, passing that mental illness down as if it were genetic, and morphing it to fit my specific weaknesses.

Failure, shame, embarrassment, sadness, anger. It has taken me many, many years to attempt to put these thoughts behind me and move on with life. I haven’t succeeded yet.