midnight malcontent

I’m tired of being a disappointment to everyone. People would be better off if they had never met me.

I’m tired of having a mediocre existence, always accepting my fate and going through life wishing I had made different choices.

I’m tired of worrying about things I can’t control, and being too inept to do something about the things I can control.

I’m tired of being anxious and paranoid all the time. I don’t want to be in a cage, on display to be an object of ridicule or disgust.

I’m tired of working to make profits for other people who don’t understand me and don’t care about what I am struggling with.

I’m tired of feeling impotent, physically and mentally, unable to reach whatever meaningless goals I might have had.

I’m tired of having other people rely on me for anything, forcing me to take care of their needs and ignore my own.

I’m tired of being trapped in a life I don’t want to live, and having to search for reasons to stay alive while constantly undermining my health.

I’m just tired.

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Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere, not today at least. Maybe some other day when I grow a pair.

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a difficult session

I had a rough meeting with my therapist yesterday. I appreciated that rather than the inane “how are you doing?”, she started by asking “how have the last few weeks been for you?” I started saying the first words that came to mind: “Turbulent. Draining. Stressful.” I could have added “painful”, but I moved on instead.

I talked disjointedly about recent events, and how I didn’t want to talk about things because I’m tired of thinking about them; somehow this led to the idea that maybe I’m overstating all of my issues. Maybe life wasn’t as bad as I have imagined it to be, or maybe I’ve exaggerated and magnified everything to the point where I’ve created my own distorted thought patterns. I told her about my desire to interview and interrogate people from my past who might know the answers I seek: what did I do to hurt you, was I really a terrible person, was my home life as damaging as I think. I want the unvarnished truth from everyone to confirm the worst things I think about myself and everything I remember about my past.

She said there are several problems with that line of reasoning. First, everyone’s “truth” is different based on their perception, their biases, and their memory of what really happened. In addition, even if they had the information I seek, these people may not want to be 100% honest with me (who among us is completely honest, after all?). Finally, if they told me I wasn’t a bad person, or that they liked me and I was a positive presence in their life, I am so deeply programmed in my thought patterns that I wouldn’t believe what they say. I would throw away their evidence because it didn’t fit my narrative. The only conclusion I can make is that things must have been bad enough at an early age that my sense of self was badly damaged, which caused me to remember my entire experience through the filter of distorted thinking. I think the way I do because I was in a bad situation, and my memories of my life may not be entirely accurate.

We went on to discuss the difficulties with my daughter’s current situation and the negative effects on the entire family. I told her about how I went unfiltered for a few minutes and said things which I believe to be true, but were very hurtful for my daughter, which my wife sat by and didn’t say a word during or afterward. That pretty much sums up the family dynamic in our house for the past several years: Nicole is the victim, I’m the control-freak bad guy, and Annie won’t tell me what she thinks. Instead we paper over things with conversations about unimportant things, and distract ourselves with fish or Fakebook or videos of cats. We can discuss the most inane things, but meaningful things get ignored. Annie won’t tell me what she’s really thinking, whether she agrees with me or if she thinks I’m full of crap. Right now we can’t even sell an item on Fakebook because I think she disagrees with me and just can’t say so.

Sometimes I wonder if I have misled my therapist into thinking the current situation is worse than it really is. Her opinions about my family’s actions and words are filtered through what I choose to tell her, and this leads me to question some of her statements. She wants a more complete picture though, and she has asked a couple of times if I might bring Annie in for a session or two to talk about the situation. I scoffed a little, because I don’t think that would be successful at all.

Stay tuned, for I fear worse times are ahead.

mind reader

I hate having to be a psychic, but I do it all the time. How else would I find out what horrible things my friends and loved ones feel about me, let alone what the barbarians in public think? It’s all about me of course, and while people won’t tell me what they’re actually thinking, with just a glance I can read people’s minds and know how they really feel about me.

This is ludicrous, of course. While I can pick up on non-verbal communication as well as the next person, there’s no way I know what they are thinking. What I’m really doing is making an assumption based on my interpretation of what is said and those non-verbal cues, and usually my assumption is incorrect.

I define my self-worth based in part on what I believe others think about me, because it is difficult for me to believe that I am worthy of someone’s love or friendship. I am constantly trying to get a real-time gauge on where I stand with a person, which is impossible if the person isn’t explicitly telling me their honest feelings. People very rarely do that of course; sometimes they filter their thoughts, sometimes they lie, and sometimes they say nothing.

I assume the worst when people don’t speak to me, whether due to physical distance (I’m too far away to hear), social norms (people don’t often speak to strangers), or by choice (someone could speak but is choosing to ignore me). In each of those cases, I feel like I have to fill in the blanks with what I believe their thoughts are at a given moment. Then I interpret those invented thoughts through the “I’m not worthy” filter, and reach the illogical conclusion that everyone is thinking negatively toward me in some way. This black-and-white thinking is clearly distorted, but I fall into the trap every time.

When I can look at things logically, I can see things from a less judgemental perspective. Strangers are probably not thinking about me very often, and possibly not at all. Acquaintances may have a nuanced opinion about me, while friends apparently like me despite my flaws. Loved ones care about me for my positive qualities. I don’t have to be on-guard against others’ negative thoughts all the time; that’s just an artificial defense mechanism that I learned during childhood.

However, thinking logically is difficult when your spouse is giving you the silent treatment, and you can’t figure out why. It’s easy to be emotionally insecure when a social interaction doesn’t go as you think it should. Fears of rejection, awkwardness around people, and feelings of inadequacy cause me to fall back into the pattern of self-centered, black-and-white thinking. I spend a lot of mental energy in this way, and it detracts from my well-being.

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.