We preach about weight loss and disease prevention and other aspects of physical health but we rarely talk about taking care of our mental health.
While it’s generally accepted that we all struggle from time to time, very few like to admit they might struggle more often or to a greater degree than what might be considered the norm. But if no one talks about their struggles, how can we even define a norm?
I’ve always tried to be transparent with my struggles with depression, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It’s because I want others to know they aren’t going through it alone. One of the worst parts of mental illness is how isolating it can be. I’ve often felt that no one could possibly understand my loneliness, fear of people, the compulsion to binge eat, or my deep-seated self-hatred. But I’m not the only one. So many people deal with it every day. And knowing that doesn’t fix the problem but it does take some of the pressure off it. And it makes you feel a little less alone and a little more understood.
And because we don’t like to talk about it, you never know who’s going through something difficult. Money, class, and religious affiliation does not exclude you from depression. Just think of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and Robin Williams. They have access to the best psychiatric care possible and it didn’t help them (assuming they sought treatment). And through the years I’ve learned the people from high school who I thought had it all were in actuality suffering greatly. One classmate killed himself about a year ago and another, arguably one of the most popular girls in my grade, is currently in treatment for severe anorexia. I’ve even talked to people who said they thought I had it together but I’ve always felt like a huge mess.
You just never know what someone is going through in secret. So why do we make it so hard to tell each other? Why do we make it so difficult on ourselves to reach out, to give a helping hand or to ask for one?
I got to a point where I knew something had to change in my life or I just wasn’t going to have one. So I sought counseling. I’ve been in therapy for about a year now and while none of my problems have been magically erased, I do believe it has helped.
One of the best things about it is just knowing I have a safe zone where I can rant, cry, and ask questions without the fear of being judged or shamed. But really that’s something anyone with a good friend can do. And let me tell you, therapy ain’t cheap. So if you do have a good friend with a willing ear, use it. If you’re in a position to go to therapy, use it. If neither of those are an option, research online resources.
I don’t have as many destructive thoughts anymore. I don’t automatically tear myself down when I make a mistake. I’m insecure and I want positive attention and reassurance and companionship. I want to make a difference, feel like my life has meaning. I’m also scared of being left behind, scared I’m not good enough for people, scared to stand up for myself. I can be aloof or distant because I don’t want to be abandoned again. I let others reach out first because I don’t think anyone wants to talk to me and I don’t wanna be a burden. I have high standards and low self-esteem. I love giving advice but can’t take criticism. I’m hard on others and extremely hard on myself. But it’s only because I know we can all do better.
And all those good intentions and bad habits make me human. And I realized there’s a difference between wanting to be better and beating myself up for not being perfect. I’m never going to get it right every time, whether that comes to people, work, or art. But that doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of the good things life and people have to offer.
One of the things I’ve learned in therapy is to love myself, something I’m not sure I’ve ever done, something I never even thought I should or could do. But it makes sense. When you don’t love yourself, you allow other people to dictate your actions, your mood, and even your self-worth. But the more you love yourself, the less others have control over you and the more you get to have a say in how you live your life.
We make the easiest things in the world so hard for others. And ourselves. We keep affection at a distance because we don’t want to feel vulnerable. We attack others’ choices because it makes us feel superior. Pain begets pain and, well, that’s just not cool. But I get it. I want to lash out at people sometimes too. Not because I want them to hurt like I’m hurting but because a lot of the time I don’t think people realize how badly I am hurting.
But I guess that’s when we need to take a step back from our own pain to recognize other people’s paths. If only we could use our experiences to help guide instead of gun down the hard times of others. Pain isn’t a pissing contest. We all have it crappy in one way or another. And as long as we can keep our crap and everyone else’s crap in some kind of perspective, it might make things easier on all of us.
“Will you ever know that the bitterness and anger
left me long, long ago
Only sadness remains
And it will pass…”
-Sia, You Have Been Loved
Sometimes I feel nothing at all. But when I do feel, I feel deeply.
It might sound odd but I think there is something sweet about quietly aching over someone, whether they stole your heart or broke it. To know that you can come out of the agony to still find a degree of affection.
I could be bitter. I could focus on all the falsehoods I was fed and the eventual foul feelings I felt. But it’s comforting to know that despite the hurt, I can manage to bypass the bad feelings and burned bridges to find memories that soothe and suppress the sadness.
To be hurt by someone establishes I ever existed at all. Look, it’s right here, marked by all this pain. It makes me feel real.
It was short. But you don’t have to know someone very long to leave a mark. I went through a lot of emotions and I definitely felt a lot of anger. Villainizing felt like the only way to make sense of this mess. But that was an emotional place I could never stay in for too long. The anger evaporated but the depression stayed dominant.
But I’m carrying on, mostly because I don’t have a choice. And while I used to fixate on all the frustration, I don’t think about it quite as much anymore. But when I do, I try to focus on the fun, albeit few, times.
Remembering the cool sheets, the off-brand body wash, the expensive clothing. The smiles and the laughter. Making someone feel good, helping someone forget their troubles for a few hours. Helping me forget my own. The gentle hum of a moan, the labored breathing and soft sucking sounds. The parts that slid together in unison and the jarring surprise of friction. Opening a door I thought was long ago locked.
The mundane and the magnificent. Remembering the skin of another hand, the smoothness of another set of lips, looking into another set of blue eyes and seeing myself in them. Another soul in need. And I want to believe that I did help that soul, if only for a little while.
It was never a Disney movie but that didn’t mean it wasn’t magical sometimes. There are memories I play back in my mind that feel like surreal scenes. It was never about finding perfection, just possibility. It was good enough to find someone to share their couch and body and life with me, to let me in, to allow me a glimpse of how human beings live and experience, to see the back and forth struggle of desire vs. despair, longing vs. loneliness, education vs. indoctrination.
Stepping back brings clarity. I can see a little better now, although I can’t say I understand. I just know I don’t want to be bitter. I just want to be better. I still ache, but not necessarily in a bad way.
It’s always been a layer of fat covered by a layer of fabric. People were kept at arm’s length to lengthen their stay. No one could ever get inside my brain or beneath my body. I was closed off from the world because I thought it would be easier for everyone. I shrank down so as not to get in the way. But I only ended up diminishing myself.
It’s like I’ve always been shaking hands while wearing gloves. Only feeling the vaguest sense of shape and grip. Basing all my life lessons on what I’ve learned through leather. I was satisfied enough, knowing that I could come and go with dulled senses, unencumbered, and see others off to continue their journey in the same condition.
And then someone came along and thought it best to slide the glove off my hand. To want to truly touch me. And when it came off, my hand was pale with paper thin skin and nerves still new to the elements. And when we shook hands for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the raw feelings. Like a lightning bolt blasting through me. Tactile information flooded my system, buzzed my brain, and jolted my heart into motion once more. It was the silk of skin, the hills and valleys of veins and wrinkles. The warmth, a soft pulse inside a palm, the quiet buzz of life. It was terrifying and electrifying and once I became accustomed to the feeling, it was addicting.
That’s when I began to understand how other people craved the touch of one another. There is so much more to people than a general shape and perfunctory pressure. There were hidden details, secret sensations, invisible chemicals that danced between skin, signaling something inside me to no longer shrink, but to expand.
It’s like quenching a hidden thirst, feeding a long-dormant hunger. How could I not want to continue when I never knew this kind of nourishment existed? I couldn’t see it as greedy or abnormal. The only oddity here was never knowing this was an option.
But as much as I wanted to continue to consume each sensation, the one who removed the glove decided it was best to slide it on again, unable to cope with the possibility that my skin might be as healing to them as theirs was to me. They only reached out once more, not to wrap their arms around me, but to shake my hand goodbye.
As much as I wanted to shrink again, as much as I wanted to concede to concealing myself, I knew it was no longer a viable option. The glove was suddenly suffocating. The skin-to-skin was too pure, to real to repeal from me.
Still, it hurts to think about what my hand might have to endure to feel skin again. To experience all of the wind and rain, the ache of winter, the burn of summer. The needles of rejection stabbing my fingertips, the jagged edges of a broken heart slicing my knuckles. My skin isn’t tough. My nails aren’t armor plated. But the seasons are changing and I think I should as well.
I don’t want to settle for salutations experienced through stitched fabric. I want to replicate that real feeling over and over again. I want to extend my hand in hopes I can feel human once more, that someone will come along with a firm handshake, see my glove on the ground, and grip me even tighter.
I’ll miss the glow of your cheek when you smiled. The thunder of your voice when you laughed. The rhythm of your moans when you…
The scene sets over me like a picnic blanket gently floating to the ground. Your ocean eyes danced in the light of the television, a hunger haloing your irises. Your grin, so wide and wild, pushed up prescription lenses. Your hand found its way to the underside of my arm, running your finger along the veins at my wrists.
There was the awkwardness of initial attraction and cautious approach. It was the pressure of your lips, the warmth of your saliva, the shield of smoke that clung to your hair. It was the fear of moving upstairs and the safety of the dark when we got there. It was the paralyzing adrenaline the first time you put your hand in my underwear and wrapped your fingers around it.
It was my first time with you, with anyone. Scared as all hell until I felt the soft tug, the slow reveal, the gasp of admiration. You ran your finger through the clear liquid and brought it to your mouth. The undulation of your wrist. The waves of nerves that rolled over me like the tide of the ocean until I felt lightheaded.
The fear, shame, tease, and craving for more swirled inside that one concentrated cluster. The heat of your mouth, your two hands working in unison. An onslaught of feeling until shortcircuiting, going numb before climbing higher, swelled with loaded senses and disbelief unfolding before me.
Trusting you with all I had, putting it forward in your palms and feeling assured you would not harm it. Your fingers all over my chest, your mouth at my belly. Gentle kisses, a tickling tongue. Grabbing hold again, your finger running along another series of veins.
Deepened breath, the smell of exertion seasoning our bodies. Moisture rolling off your forehead, me running my hand along your smooth silhouette. Disconnected from thought and apprehension, diving deeper into the realization of occurrence, laughing at awkward changes in position, focusing again on your smile, the purse of your lips, your eyes scanning every emotion, plunging forward with abandon, tongues tap dancing together between two sets of smooth lips, building up layers of pleasure, growing, trembling, cascading.
Learning to coordinate limbs and lungs, scaling to higher planes. Blocking out the world to concentrate on the slippery sounds, the unparalleled sensations, the rush of breath magnified in my ears, the dizzying throb of my heart.
Perspiration perishing fantasy and rebuilding rapturous stimulation in its stead. I did not imagine it would go like this, a tangle of emotions and movement, a buzz of fear weaving between a heaving chest, my body lit up, my limbs uncoordinated but determined. A rustling of hair against smooth sheets, spread out in the open, locked away from the world and locked into each other. It was both unremarkable and exhilarating, everyday hands doing extraordinary things. There was no crescendo of music, no divine revelation. It was grounded in sweat and scraping teeth and muscles that grew tired and all the wonderful explosions in between.
Feeling the rush of pride from making you shudder with my mouth, your body rising and quivering beneath me. I felt strong, powerful, sensual in the moments when you grabbed my hair and pulled me in further. I never knew I could affect a body and bring about a pleasure that bloomed so beautifully. The soft exhalation, the quiet tremors, the goosebumps that spread along your legs and spread a smile across my glossed face. You closed your eyes and let me take you there with my teeth at your back and my salt on your lips, with my brush and your canvas, filling in the lines I’d fantasized about long ago.
I think I’m damn good at this.
I could be naked with you, red marks along transparent skin under an even swirl of hair. You did not turn away but put your hands everywhere with a tender grace. You nurtured my body, put my mind at ease, and took charge of my curvature, making great effort to fit it all in.
We could examine each other without distraction, comparing and contrasting textures and temperatures, playing doctor about twenty years too late. I’d never seen it up close. It was a scientific study, a once forbidden door you allowed me to open whenever I wanted. And I allowed you to touch me wherever and whenever you wanted. My cheeks reddened each time you marveled at it, molding and shaping me with your lithe fingers.
Falling so far into you, reaching nirvana on a firm mattress, sprawled out with no clothes and no more fear of judgment. My head flying away from the moment with only reflection reeling inside me under the covers, covered up with you wrapped around me in a sleepy encore. More lips, more eyes, resting up and failing to resist round 2. And 3.
My body can achieve miracles.
I think I will miss that freedom the most, the permission we both granted each other to lean in for a kiss, to reach over for a handful, to allow each other to have free reign over our vessels. Because for a while, I thought I belonged to you. And I was happy to give you want you wanted.
It wasn’t just your body but the body of work I wrote in my mind, ideas to tease and excite you, planning scenarios where I could place my hand in yours, where you would lean in and rest on my shoulder. Sensual times when I could perfect the flick of my tongue, to get to know your needs and never take you for granted. Simpler times on your couch with pizza and a remote, sleepy times with slow back massages in your bed. Quietly and wholly just sharing each other, relying on the other one to give not only physical pleasure but emotional support. Not only removing clothes but removing walls, pulling back the cloth and the cage and feeling the pulse of partnership penetrating both of us.
I hate that you closed that door, that I won’t see your bed again, that once I finally found my comfort with you, finally started to feel good about what I could do with you, to you, and for you, you took it all from me. I gave you my body and you only gave me a goodbye. All the plans and excitement and fondness has faded. I can’t imagine giving myself over to another.
I’d easily relinquish each release if it would release you from your own hell. We couldn’t be further away from your bed and I often fear I couldn’t be further from your mind. I’ve waited patiently in hopes that something would change. That maybe you’d see that we could have been good for each other.
But with each passing day, that hope disintegrates and it dawns on me that you don’t want anything to change. You’re perfectly happy not having me in your life. With no explanation. No regret. And no remorse. I want to be strong for you but you must not have realized how weak I always was. I’m too vulnerable, too exposed. I want to cover myself up again but even if I did, I’d still feel utterly and shamefully stripped.
I get very confused about people and how to relate to them. What’s the difference between flirting and just being nice? What’s the difference between standing up for myself and just being a jerk? I haven’t always been so out of sorts. I used to be well-liked. And I used to think I had a grasp on grafting myself onto others. Then depression settled in and I withdrew my social self from the world. And instead of experiencing people, I just observed them. And by the time I wanted to step back into human relations, it seemed too late.
I think the best way to understand humanity is through both research and relation. I only achieved half of that. And that’s why I think I have some knowledge of correct and appropriate behavior but not enough to be successful in having fulfilling relationships with others. It’s that experience I lack, the on-the-ground research of getting to know and love and trust other people.
It’s hard to put myself out there because I’m insecure. I’m 32 with not much to show for it. I know we all have our own timeline for achieving goals in life but I have more potential than what I’ve produced. And this feeling of knowing I’m better, more capable, than what I’ve accomplished makes me very hard on myself.
It’s true that I hate who I am but unfortunately, it’s not self-contained. It seeps into conversations I have with other people. Long-term acquaintances are familiar with the inner insults I hurl at myself. I don’t even think about it. I’m so used to putting myself down as a self-defense mechanism and form of humor that it comes naturally to me. In my fear of being judged, I try to beat others to the judgment, pointing out my flaws in a funny way so we can all relax around my receding hairline or chuckle at my chunky body.
It’s usually when I meet new people that I become aware of how easily, how quickly, and how viciously I tear myself apart. When new acquaintances ask me to tell him about myself, the flogging floodgates open right up. It’s only after the conversation is over and I can reflect on the car ride home or before I go to bed at night the ramifications of my self-flagellation.
I want to be accepted but I also know I have several mental and emotional issues that could be off-putting. So I always have this need to explain away my crazy. But I over explain and end up making things worse. Instead of staying, people scatter and I’m left confused and lonely. I have to wonder if I should start keeping more things to myself. I always find it refreshing when people are open and honest. And so I try to be open and honest as well. And I never realized that other people could find that unattractive.
Should I change who I am and how much I share in order to keep people around? Or should I stay the same and hope that someone accepting will eventually find their way to me? It feels like a balance because you want to better yourself but you also don’t want to bend over for anyone else. How much change is too much? When do you go from improving your relations with others to compromising your personality for them?
I just wonder how I can be charming without charring my character. How can I make jokes without making myself the punchline? I’m sure it would be easier if I liked myself more but how am I supposed to do that? From the outside, it might seem like I’m well-adjusted and have a lot going for me. In some ways, that’s true. But only I can see the real me, the small squishy parts on the inside, the place where all the self-doubt and anger and despondency live and flourish. And it’s hard to like the person those qualities belong to, even when it’s yourself.
But I do understand that doesn’t have to be the case. And I suppose that’s at least one step in the right direction. And maybe one day, if I can get myself aligned with love instead of lashing, I might actually make a friend who will want to stick around.
For the past several months, I’ve been listening to a podcast called Suicide Buddies. It’s about two comedians who research and discuss famous suicides. And they tell a lot of suicide jokes.
It’s crude. It’s not PC. But that’s my kind of humor. And I listen mostly for the great rapport between the two hosts of the podcast. Those guys just crack me up and that in itself can lighten my mood when it goes dark. The podcast is definitely not for everyone and I can see how it can be triggering for some. But they don’t make fun of suicidal people or suicide itself and certainly don’t try to trivialize it. One of their aims is to destigmatize suicide and talk about it in an open, honest, and funny way.
I think it’s safe to say most people have had suicidal thoughts in the past. But no one wants to talk about it. It’s the same reason why people don’t want to go to therapy or even discuss their problems with friends or family. They don’t want to seem crazy. No one wants to feel weird or be shunned for their innermost maladies. That’s understandable. But I’ve just never been that way.
I’ve been pretty open about my suicidal thoughts. Well, maybe suicidal is too severe of a word. I think about dying a lot. I think about being dead. A lot. There’s hardly a week that goes by that I don’t think about having my head bashed in by a heavy object or being riddled with bullets until I’m just a smear on the floor. When I stand back and look at the mess I’ve made of my life, and the mess I’ve made of relationships, I think it would just be easier to be obliterated. But as far as actively taking my life, I haven’t thought much about it. My parents co-signed on my student loans so I’d hate to leave them 50 grand in debt. So for all those who are concerned, don’t be. Not yet anyway. I’ve still got a few years of payment left.
I’ve talked with a few friends and acquaintances about their brushes with suicide. I get it. I empathize. And we talk about it. And I hope they feel better afterward, for being heard and for not being judged. Because I’ve been there too. And I’ve wished someone would have been there to listen to me. So I try to be the listener. I always try to be the listener.
And I make my own jokes about it. I don’t try to hide it or deny it. I think in some ways, it’s just a part of me. There’s a darkness there that has been with me for so long it’s like it’s own limb now. I almost feel like I can’t go about my life without at least addressing it to others. ‘Cause I know they can see it, like a giant lump in my throat.
And I hope my own talk of suicide and wanting to be dead doesn’t get others down but helps them to face their own thoughts of death and dying. That having these thoughts may not be normal or all that healthy but it does happen and it’s doesn’t mean you’re crazy and it’s probably more common than any of us think. But we’ll never know the full scope because no one wants to talk about it. But talking about it could be just what some people need to lessen the severity of their struggle. At least momentarily.
Back to the podcast, the hosts have talked about their fight with mental illness, the years of therapy, medication, and other methods to quell their suicidal tendencies. And through all of that, they still struggle to this day. For the most part, they are better. They still slip up. They relapse. And they are far from cured. But they feel they have a better grasp on it than they used to have and that in itself can feel like a monumental victory. And they aren’t the only ones who continue to struggle. I’ve read about celebrities with access to anything they’d ever need to achieve mental improvement. And some of them have had tremendous success. Some have had moderate. And some haven’t seen much success at all.
And it makes me wonder if these people have access to the best resources and still can’t shake their depression, how am I supposed to get better with nothing more than my diary and a bag of Doritos?
It all feels pretty hopeless a lot of the time. There are degrees of depression. Certain kinds can be treated in certain ways. And maybe some can’t be treated at all. And it’s not always this Lifetime movie madness of staying in bed for weeks at a time or constant crying. Sometimes it’s more subtle. It’s the kind of depression that digs deep and lives inside your bones. It doesn’t disturb your daily functions. It just settles in and lets you know it’s there to stay. It’s like a continuous buzzing in your ear, a lash in your eye, a punch in the face at every step. It’s not an outward curse. It suffocates invisibly.
And until you’ve been there, you’ll never understand. It’s easy to scoff at suicide, to say it’s selfish or a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hate that phrase. It comes from an assumption that depression doesn’t lodge into your lungs and doesn’t stay with you for months, years, decades. But it does. It’s often unyielding. But until you’ve reached that point of complete hopelessness, looking at your life and seeing a landscape of agony as far as your pained mind can imagine, to feel as though death is the only relief to all the pain that courses through you each day, you’ll never understand.
But it would be helpful to try, to not be so quick to condemn but to make an effort to empathize and offer help in the form of listening or just being there as an anchor when everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control.
Again, it differs. It’s a bad day. A horrible week. A tumultuous year. It’s a cranky minute, a desolate week, a half hour of agony. It’s self-harm, crying fits, bad moods, desires to die, cravings for food or sex, binge-watching television and screaming at a loved one. It’s about releasing, pushing the pain out however necessary to feel better. Sometimes it’s about actively killing yourself. And sometimes it’s not about wanting to die but just not wanting to be alive anymore. It could be so easy, like a light switch. How can that not be tempting to some?
I’ve just never seen the harm in talking about self-harm. Sure, it’s not the best topic to bring up at a baby shower or wedding reception but between close friends and family, I think it’s beneficial, might even bring each other closer. It helps for the one listening to get a grasp of what you’re going through and provide a new perspective on your journey. Who knows, they might have been there once too. Might even be there now. It might help for them to know they don’t have to go through it alone. That they don’t have to leave. That they can stick around for a bit longer and talk it out.
My supervisor at my retail job hugs me every time she sees me. I try to dodge her but she seems to hone in on me like some sort of snuggle sniper. She’s a short blonde waif-like lady with a Tinkerbell haircut, frosted eyeshadow, and thick square-framed Coach eyeglasses. She always grabs my arm and throws it over her shoulder, then wraps her arms around my waist.
And it’s uncomfortable. Not Weinstein-level uncomfortable but I’m just not used to being hugged and it feels abnormal to me. Which probably makes me abnormal to everyone else.
My supervisor knows I am not on board with touch but she tells me it’s good for me and I’ll get used to it in time. And maybe that’s why she’s so insistent on tackling me. She thinks she’s helping.
“Hugs are healing,” she told me one time. And it made me think back to all the times I’ve seen people embraced when they were sad or in need of some kind of emotional support. Her statement seemed to ring true…for other people. I can’t think of a time when I was upset and in need of a reassuring squeeze.
Outwardly, I don’t like touch. But sometimes humanity pierces through my robotic veil and… I kinda crave it.
I didn’t grow up being hugged much. My family is not affectionate. And I somehow found myself with a group of friends who were also not affectionate. So, for me, hugs just didn’t happen often. So now, when they do, I clam up. I’m not used to another person’s skin, a firm embrace, a gentle touch on the back or brush of the arm.
It’s all foreign. And most people fear foreign.
A lot of the fear of touch stems from how I feel about myself. Hugging me is like cuddling up to cottage cheese. I’m lumpy. I don’t like touching myself so I can’t imagine anyone else lusting for a handful of my hindquarters. I always think it would be better for everyone if everyone stayed far from me. But does that physical distance manifest into mental ramifications of a lack of physical contact? If hugs are healing, is distance damaging?
I don’t feel human most of the time, for various reasons. It’s nature and nurture. It’s chemical, mental, and physical. I didn’t experience those near-universal milestones. I don’t understand the concept of first kisses and first brushes with other body parts. I can’t relate to or share those experiences with others.
Touch is one of the ways in which people bond, not just to each other, but to something higher than ourselves. Even animals cuddle. They cuddle with each other and with us. It spans across sex and species, blood and brotherhood. It’s not just an every person thing. It’s an every creature thing. It’s universal. It’s how we can belong, provide protection, receive comfort, share safety.
And when you don’t have that, it’s very much alienating. Not to mention, potentially physically harmful.
While I fear it, I’m not totally devoid of the desire to touch and be touched. I see couples holding hands, hugging, kissing. It’s on tv and movies and in books. And what about those “touch porn” Taltz commercials?
But my problem’s not psoriasis. It’s psychosis.
Anyway, I think, “Wow, I want that. How nice would that be?” But since I’m kind of asexual, I’ve never had that in my life. I don’t know the intimacy, the close proximity of sharing a breath, the feel of two sets of lips pressed together.
And that’s where the conflict kicks in. I abhor and admire touch. I rail against it while daydreaming about it. And that sentiment transfers to other people too. I think about those who say, “I’m just a hugger!” Like my supervisor. She has no problem touching people, hugging, pulling in close. And I’m envious of that. It almost looks freeing, to be so open with yourself and others, to be able to express affection in that kind of way.
On the other hand, there’s something very attractive about someone’s cold demeanor, those who don’t want to be touched, who put up a wall against physical adoration.
So where do I fit into the fold of fondling and fleeing far away?
I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. When it comes to food, I’ll either starve myself or binge my face off. And when I think of touch, I either want to fully embrace it or shrug it off completely. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around wanting to wrap my arms around everyone. But who said I had to do that? What if I was just selective about who I touched? And what if that selectability makes touch all the more special?
It certainly looks special. Human. And once I can get over the uncomfortable hump of being hugged, once I can recognize that I am touchable, that I deserve someone else’s hands on me, maybe I can learn to like it. And maybe my supervisor was on to something. Maybe hugs are healing. I just wonder what, and who, it’s going to take to get me to start believing it.
Have you ever just clicked with someone?
When I was visiting my college friend and her husband in Atlanta, I was floored by how open they were to complete strangers. If they had questions, they walked right up to people and asked them. They chatted with our servers, made conversation with our Uber drivers, and did not seem shy with anyone at all. All I could do was stand by and be amazed at their ability to converse.
I wanted to talk. I wanted to share a genuine smile, to give a compliment, ask an open-ended question. I wanted to elicit a laugh, to leave a good impression. I wanted to have that connection with another human being, no matter how small. But despite my best efforts, my mind just doesn’t work fast enough to form a thoughtful word and before I know it, I’ve exchanged greetings and goodbyes and I’m left wondering how I scored.
I really want to be good with people. But the problem is I just don’t like people that much. But I am fascinated by them. They are simultaneously the most basic and the most complex creatures. Most humans want love, connection, safety, and security. That goes across the board. But the way in which they obtain those things is where it gets interesting. And confusing.
I haven’t had that many great experiences with people. I don’t have any long-term friends. Never been in a romantic relationship. I don’t fit in with my family. And I’ve worked in customer service for well over a decade. If that doesn’t sour your view of mankind, nothing will.
I think people have the potential to be great but most of them just suck. Especially me. I don’t give people enough of a chance. I make snap judgments and can be too quick to cut someone out of my life. I know there are good people out there but I’ve been dropped so many times that I just expect people to give 20% before crapping out. But does such an assessment make me an ass?
Maybe I’d be more inclined to have a genial response to a welcoming hand but I just haven’t experienced that alleged human connection, love, dedication, and care.
And I just really want to.
I could learn a lot from people. But I’m put off by them, thus I don’t want to interact with them, thus I never learn proper people skills. So when someone cool does come along, I can’t capture their attention. I can only bumble around like a butthead.
I understand that I need to work on things. I’m flawed and frazzled and often stutter and sweat when nervous. I have trouble continuing conversations, finding interest in others, picking up on social cues and niceties. I’m a huge mess and therefore I can’t always be surprised when I feel left out of the crowd. I know I’m not always a lot of fun to be around. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to fix it.
I’m wondering how I can break the cycle of simultaneously wanting people and pushing them away. I suppose I should just practice. Just talk to people. Ask questions. Show care and concern. Maybe I’ll figure it out. Maybe the skill of learning to connect will come to me. All I know for sure is the connection itself will not. That is something I will have to make happen.
I’ve waited for years for someone to come along, to care, to be in my actual life. I’ve wanted that feeling of finding my people, of discovering my complement. It hasn’t happened. It doesn’t mean it won’t. But with every lost chance at a friend, it does become harder to carry on, to finally experience that immaculate connection I’ve craved for so long.
”Sex is the one thing, more than any others, that makes you feel human.”
”Remember, your children can’t praise the Lord if they’ve got genitals in their mouths.”
-Nudist Colony of the Dead
I remember walking into my first college class, looking at my classmates, and thinking, “I’m probably the only virgin in this room.”
That was over 10 years ago and every time I walk into a new room filled with people, I still think the same thing.
Living in a small, religious town, I learned early on that the true “F” word was fornication. Sex before marriage was about the worst thing that could happen to you, besides being gay. That sentiment echoed through the church pews and school halls. But as I grew up, my friends realized other people’s genitals was about the best thing that could happen to you. Even the most devout got dicked eventually and their stringent sexual views began to relax.
Except for the gay thing. That was non-negotiable.
But it’s easy to change your mind with a hand down your pants. I never got that opportunity so I was able to hang onto my shame over sex for much longer than my peers. And the interesting part was I actually didn’t mind it that much. Although preachers and parents warned of the religious ramifications of sex, they also lauded the beauty of intercourse between two married people. And that was the message I chose to hold close.
I actually wanted to wait until marriage. I’ve always thought of myself as a romantic and the notion of me and my future wife saving ourselves for each other sounded pretty special. We’d be the first to have that intimate connection, to reach that milestone in pulsating unison. And so not having sex was not a big deal because, at the time, marriage was not on my mind, therefore sex was not either. But just because I’d made a no-copulation commitment to a stranger didn’t mean I wasn’t affected by sex.
I used to be a great listener and great friend. My classmates came to me for counseling. I heard all about their relationships and through their confessions, I learned that sex not only changed relationships but changed people. And it didn’t necessarily change anyone for better or worse. But it did feel like there was more at stake. Emotions were either heightened or deadened at the point of penetration. Some people could turn off their heads and hearts while others’ only grew heavier.
And just by growing up and living and being interested in people, I learned more about sex without actually ever experiencing it. It came pieced together from conversations, observations, and, thanks to the power of the Internet, research.
“But words have no meaning when it’s you that says,
‘I really do care, no baby I, I really do care!’”
-Anberlin, Never Take Friendship Personal
I think I can officially say I am not made to mate, date, or relate.
I know I’m not normal. I overanalyze all my relationships and usually come to the conclusion that I’m not well-liked. It doesn’t really affect me anymore as I gave up on friendships a long time ago. But when someone comes along and they make you feel like you want to believe in friendship again, or maybe even believe in something deeper, that’s when my silent alarm goes off:
“Warning! You’re headed for a heartache! Stay away!”
It’s this very weird thing, this anomaly of aortic function and fantasy.
One of the many reasons I’ve stayed away from relationships is because of my fear of rejection. I’ve had a bad track record of decisions in my life. My choice of college didn’t pan out. My choice of jobs haven’t been great. Even my long-term goals and dreams have left me decimated. And almost every friendship I’ve formed has fizzled. So I think my trepidation to enter territory with another person is quite valid.
I’m the guy you call when you’re wasting time in line at McDonalds. It’s reminiscing at the register and goodbyes when you’ve got your fries. Really. It happens all the time. And these reminders of people only giving me their time when they’re trying to kill it.
I used to wonder if I couldn’t make and keep friends because I was just too weird or boring or crazy. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized everyone, from average to abnormal, can find themselves in a relationship and manage just fine. So I can’t let my lack of social skills or bent brain take the blame. Maybe I can’t hold onto anyone ‘cause I’m just a bad person.
But sometimes people make me feel like I’m not a bad person.
And that’s what makes the frequent exits all the more disheartening. All the back-and-forth badgering of being an all around loser that my brain embroils me in goes quiet. I almost feel like a person. But, as always, I started to feel that familiar tug of separation again.
But it’s the whole idea of dangling hope in front of me and snatching it away that hurts the most. It’s not only the loss of another person but the loss of what could have been, the idea of closeness and love, all the experiences of humanity that hold so close to me before darting away. It’s the disappointment draped on top of the despondence, the reminder that I am not worthy of keeping around. And the internal insults rise in volume and frequency.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy their company and still crave it without remorse.
It just sucks that they are not reciprocating that craving.
It’s hurt me a great deal but for some reason, I still feel a great deal of affection for some. Maybe I’m just holding onto the good parts. It’s funny how we forget about the bad stuff when we are lonely, when we are in need of knowing love. It all fades away in the promise of a kind word or caress. And that’s when I need to remind myself that as much good as I’ve experienced, there’s been quite a few times my feelings have been hurt. And it’s not been a playful tease but a cutting remark which, I suspect, was meant to put me down and keep me there.
Well, it worked.
Yet, I still wish they’d come back. I know if I had other loving people in my life, I most likely wouldn’t grip so tight to our tenuous relationships. But it feels like it’s all I have.
I guess I’ll just let this be, this weird relationship where they talk to me in bits and pieces, dipping in and out of my life and in and out of our conversations, fully immersed then consistently distracted. And I’ll be left wondering why I can’t hold onto them or anyone else.