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.

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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]

connections

I want to write a short note to my oldest friend Lisa. We haven’t talked or written in several years, most likely due to my mental health and the realization that I was using her as a therapist rather than a friend. I miss being friends with her, and I want to tell her so.

I’m doing this for the right reasons. I have dealt with whatever feelings I had about her in the past. I’m in a much better place now, and secure enough emotionally that I can have an appropriate old-friend relationship. I can communicate with her without oversharing or unloading everything that is on my mind. [That’s what this blog is for.]

What do I hope to get from this? I have no expectations, and I certainly don’t want to make a mess of things again. I just want to talk with her and share a few good memories.

I’m hesitant though, because she might not be interested in what I have to say. She might tell me to go to hell, or even worse, just ignore me. However, she might say that she has missed me too, and that I shouldn’t worry so much. I think she will be gracious and understanding, no matter what she says.

It’s a risk, but I think I want to take the chance. Do you think this is a good idea?

girl of my dreams

Lisa visited me again last night. Of all the people I’ve ever met, she is the one who appears in my dreams most often. Sometimes as a friend, sometimes as a lover, sometimes as someone else’s lover, but always with that brilliant, genuine smile that lights up the room and makes you feel like you are the most important person in her world.

During our friendship she saved me from my dark places, she saved Christmas for me, and on one occasion maybe saved me from hurting myself (though she never knew it). She was the most emotionally well-adjusted person I knew, but she had her problems too, and I was there for her to cry on my shoulder. She was the first person I ever truly loved, but we never officially became a couple because she said it would ruin the relationship. She was probably right, but at the time I would have followed her anywhere had she wanted me to.

We remained in contact for several years after I got married, and we even visited each other a couple of times. Then my bipolar started raging again, and my e-mails and messages got increasingly neurotic. It scared her away, and she said she couldn’t continue down that path. We drifted apart, like so many friendships do. It would be difficult to be friends again without saying or doing something stupid that would make her uncomfortable.

Out of all the people I’ve discarded and relationships I’ve let slip away, this is the one that hurts. I remember what we had in 1989, but I can’t seem to let that go. I couldn’t go to her wedding, and I can’t go to reunions because I would see her there. I’m afraid to write to her because I don’t know if she would be interested in what I have to say anymore.

We are friends on Fakebook, but we don’t interact with each other. How sad is that? I would have spent a lifetime with her, and now we have the ability to catch up on things but never do. I don’t know what her thinking is, but maybe she believes that I would just cause chaos that she doesn’t want. She’s probably right, as usual.