I never realized getting my hair cut would be such an ordeal, especially because I don’t have much left. Just sip the shaggy parts and let me be on my way. But it hasn’t been that easy. Living in one city, working 6-7 days a week in two other cities, and battling a depression that exhausts the hell out of me has not made it easy to disrupt my binge eating and extended nap sessions in order to sit in a barbershop surrounded by screaming kids so I can get a crooked crew cut.
But I also don’t want to look disheveled so I got up super early Saturday morning (usually my only day to sleep in late) so I could walk into the barbershop as they opened. I thought I’d be one of the first in line but when I opened the door, it was already packed. I almost turned around, my anxiety peaking, but I took a breath, scanned the room, and found the one empty seat next to two older men in Member’s only jackets and retired Navy hats.
The shop is about the size of a refrigerator and there’s 3 barbers and probably only 8 seats for customers, which wouldn’t be much of a problem except lots of little kids get their hair cut at this particular establishment. That means mom and dad and siblings have to tag along, which clogs up the already narrow space of the building.
It’s an old-timey barbershop, complete with a vintage drink machine that dispenses glass bottles. Their sign is hand-painted, their floor a cracked linoleum. Not dirty, just well-loved. Almost charming. Football jerseys representing each of the barber’s high school football teams hang from wire hangers above their stations. Cheap shaving cream and hair gels line the sinks below a giant mirror that extends from one end of the shop to the other. From a customer’s seat, you get a great vantage point of men’s bald spots I always worry people are looking at mine.
As I waited, I noticed a man jiggle the handle through the clear glass door of the shop. He was in his late forties, hunched over with a grizzled unshaven face and tattered tobacco-colored shirt, black Dickie pants and a scuffed pair of black-brown boots. He jiggled the handle some more until one of the barbers stepped over and opened the door for him.
“Musta got stuck,” he said loudly as he shuffled inside. And I mean loudly. He followed it up with a phlegm-filled laugh. And sure enough, he sat down next to me. Then he proceeded to chat up the barbers. “Y’all, I needa good lookin’ haircut so I can find me a good lookin’ woman,” he said with more phlegm laughing.
Within a few breaths, I smelled alcohol on him. Great. Recovering from a late night. Or starting early that day. Maybe both.
He then tried to chat up a nervous 10-year-old in the barber’s chair in front of him and asked him if he was getting a good-looking haircut to find a good-looking girl. The boy shrank into his shoulders and shook his head before scanning the room for the safe familiar face of his mother. Make the man stop talking, Mommy.
Yes, Mommy, please, for all of us.
“I know a little girl, she’s about fourteen. Probably too old for you,” he said with more chuckling and phlegm.
After enduring the loud lush for about fifteen minutes, it was finally my turn. I got in the chair, told the lady what I wanted, and she started to buzz me up. After another few minutes, I noticed what looked like hairspray in the air. And then I noticed more. And then detected a smell.
I turned to my right to see a cloud of smoke hurl toward me.
“Oh, that’s not good,” one of the barbers said.
My barber opened the shop door and the smoke floated out like a patient dog slipping through to have a potty break. “You’d better call the fire department,” one of the barbers said to the shop owner. “Oh, yeah, I’m on it,” she replied as she raced out the door with her phone in her hand.”
“Probably it’s the A/C unit,” another said. “We turned it on this morning but it just kicked in a few minutes ago. I bet it caught on fire.”
And that’s when a few little kids started screaming. And I screamed inside my head. I sat in the chair wanting the barber to get on with the cut. But she was hesitant, fearing if she turned on the clippers, it would cause a spark that would blast us all out of the building. I was willing to take the chance.
“Of course this would happen,” I thought as screams and smoke filled the building, like we were all bits of bread caught aflame in an oven set to broil. We were probably never in any real danger. The only thing on fire was my nose from the acrid smell of smoke. And my patience.
Sirens called in the distance, followed by three firefighters in blue uniforms. They brought some sort of vacuum with them and sat it outside the door to suck up the smoke. And as it cleared, the drunk man who’d sat next me came into view. He was sweeping hair up off the floor.
“Hehe, well, I thought if I could help out, I would,” he said between sweeps. “Sometimes in life, you just gotta do what you gotta do.” A laugh that turned into a cough that sounded like he was gargling buttermilk. He stumbled around my barber’s station, sweeping and swaying. I half-thought he’d fall right over.
“Uh, thanks?” my barber said, confused.
When everything was determined to be all clear, my barber finished me up and my hair actually looked decent, you know, for a balding dude. I’d definitely gone too long without a cut and running my hand over the back of my head felt soft and smooth. I actually felt lighter. Although I wished the morning could have gone better and quicker, it felt good to get it out of the way. I supposed giving up a late morning was worth the shearing. My buzzed buddy with the broom was right. Gotta do what you gotta do.
Every once in a while it’s worth it.
Some days, it’s not the food but the fools that send me into a downward spiral.
As of this writing, I’ve been dieting/exercising for a little over 100 days and have lost a little over 40 pounds. The first week wasn’t too bad once I got over the initial adjustment. I’ve been down this road countless times before so I knew what to expect: hunger pangs, being more obsessed with food than usual, immediate feelings of wanting to give up as soon as a craving craned its neck in my direction. But I didn’t give in and all was well.
And then the second week happened and I hit my first wall. Yeah, that soon. You’d think the longer you do something, the easier it would get. But that’s not the case with Bran Bran. Things always seem to just get harder and more difficult the longer I’m involved in it. Either way, I pushed through and the next couple of months was pretty easy.
But over the past several days, things have gotten harder again. I’ve been craving food more than usual and I can’t seem to get satisfied when I do eat. It didn’t help that I took a 4 day vacation a couple of weeks ago. I just sat around the house and ate food. I didn’t binge but I ate more than I wanted to.
I thought I’d keep myself busy. I’ve got plenty of movies to watch and books to read and I wanted to catch up on some writing but every time I tried to invest in a cheesy slasher film on Netflix, the kitchen would come a-callin’. And most of the time, when I get it in my mind that I want to eat, I can’t concentrate on anything else until I do.
I’m also extremely stressed out. Both my jobs suck and my parents have been getting on my nerves and all the horrible things happening in the world have all gotten to me. I’m always worried about the next massive bout of destruction, whether it be man-made or from mother nature. I’m lonely and hungry and bored and lethargic. And all I want to do is forget about everything and eat. But I can’t.
My last defense mechanism is food and that’s gone so I’m just a raw nerve, constantly hurting and yearning for something that I usually pushed down with pizza.
But I can see my ribs again. So there’s that.
I’m an emotional eater. We all know that. And I’m an emotional person. Well, mostly I’m just an irritated person. So it’s easy for me to eat. It’s natural. It’s comforting. And there are days when I literally feel compelled to eat. Even when I’m not hungry. Even when my stomach hurts. Even when I’ve finished a meal or had a large snack. I want more. I always want more.
People are starting to notice the weight loss. Co-workers are saying my face looks slimmer, that my torso isn’t as rotund as it once was. And these are all nice compliments to hear. And then I had one co-worker tell me not to get too skinny. And it’s just crazy to me that people feel they can comment on my weight and dictate my size. I’m not reshaping my body for anyone but my self. Again, I like the compliments but I’m not fueled by them. And I’m not gonna stop just because someone tells me not to get too skinny.
And it’s hard to talk about food with others because no one seems to understand. It’s not about laziness or just “really liking junk food.” It’s so much deeper than a deep fried doughnut. Sometimes food feels like my last attachment to reality, the only thing that can ground me when I feel like going off the deep end. And that’s not something you can easily bring up to someone when discussing casual dieting. Someone’s just looking for a way to make kale taste good and I’m over here expounding upon my unwavering sadness and need to self-medicate with marzipan.
And because people don’t get it, they think they’re helping out by telling me I should have a cheat day. But because I’ve struggled with my weight for about 20 years now, I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I can’t just have a cheat day. You can’t give an alcoholic just one drink. I can’t just have one slice of cake.
Or people tell me to drink water before a meal or have a handful of nuts when I feel hungry. I’ve never been satisfied by a handful of anything. And I end up getting irritated with people because I’ve seen and done and heard it all. They can’t tell me anything new or effective and I know they’re just trying to help so I feel like an ass and a hypocrite. I’m sure I’ve tossed out those same tidbits to other dieters in the past.
At this point, only a handful of Xanax could probably help me now.
I’m constantly annoyed. The people I work with are honestly batshit and I have to put up with it every day. It really puts a strain on me because I’m also batshit so I can’t keep it together for me and them. It’s too exhausting. And I have many unresolved relationships that I can’t seem to sort out because I keep getting ghosted and I don’t know what’s so wrong with me to warrant that kind of exit. It hurts so much sometimes.
And food always used to soften the blow. When I got irritated at work, I stopped by McDonalds on my way home. When I felt like the last connection with a friend snap, I served myself spaghetti and it all went away. You can chart my depression by my pant size. The sadness has always been there but there have been times I’ve been able to suppress it. It’s in the moments that it becomes unbearable that I become a glutton again.
When you see me gain weight, that’s when you know I’m really suffering.
You’ve heard it before: depression comes in waves or cycles. You see people smile and laugh and tell jokes and you wonder how they could ever be depressed. It doesn’t seem like them. But that’s the tricky part about depression. It’s not always all-consuming. You can have decent days while you’re deteriorating.
Depression circles around you. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the symptoms alleviate themselves and you realize you can get out of bed. And you get this false sense that you can actually endure this. And that’s when it strikes again, just when you’ve become stable or complacent. It slaps you right in the face to remind you that you’re not in control, that it decides when you can be happy and face the world again. And if it wants, it can send you straight back to bed or straight into the arms of an addiction, something to numb the overarching sadness, the void that envelops you, the completion of becoming blank.
I work with a handful of nuts and I’m told to eat a handful of nuts. But food is not the solution. I know that. But what is the solution? I’ve tried different things. I’ve tried it through art and writing and meditation. Nothing has ever worked the way food does. So am I supposed to just continue to suffer or settle for a “healthier” but ineffective alternate form of therapy?
It’s hard to make a compromise when it comes to your physical health. It’s even harder when you’re mental health is also in jeopardy.
Y’all, I’m so behind on my writing. This happened a few months ago and I jotted some notes down but I’m just now getting around to posting this…I mean, I have a book to write but I’ll never get to it if I can’t get all this other mental clutter out first.
A few months ago, I met a high school acquaintance for dinner. We spoke fairly regularly for a few years and then she got married and we drifted apart. I never thought her marriage would last and sure enough, when we started catching up with each other over enchiladas, she told me she had been divorced for about two years.
Ironically, the divorce was the best thing going on in her life. Shortly after she and her husband split, she realized she never loved him the way she should have and wasted nine years of her life with him. But she did get a free house, car, and dog out of the deal so it wasn’t a total bust. But other than that, she felt inadequate and turned to alcohol and random sex partners to ease the hurt of being alive.
The more we talked, the more I realized we were basically the same person, Siamese twins conjoined at our crippling insecurities. I felt bad for her and felt even worse when I had no advice to offer up. Usually I can dole out a few words of wisdom and guidance that soothes whatever aches the person I talk to but with her, I had nothing because I’m going through the same problems.
She doesn’t have a job and lies in bed all day and drinks. She said she stays, at a minimum, buzzed, and at maximum, blacked out drunk. She has one night stands. She has no purpose, no guidance, no one to love her. She thinks she’s disgusting, which she’s not. She’s a very pretty girl but all she can see is the “big girl she used to be.” I also understood that. No matter how much weight I’ve lost or will lose, I’ll always feel like the fat guy.
I wanted to both hug and throttle her but couldn’t because 1) I don’t like touching people and 2) I know I wouldn’t have gotten through to her. I think she’s just going to have to go through whatever she’s going through and either become numb to the whole thing or finally snap out of it somehow. I didn’t think there was a cure for what ailed her. There was only control. She can control her symptoms. She can minimize the hurt but if she’s anything like me, and I believe she is, the pain will never go away.
I always feel I do better when I’m making goals and working toward them. When I wake up with no direction, I usually get nothing accomplished and feel terrible at the end of the day. It’s difficult to make goals sometimes because I am an all-or-nothing type of person. Moderation is a hard concept for me to grasp because if I’m going to do something, especially something I don’t want to do, I want to see fast results. Otherwise, it’s easy to give up.
There are some days when I feel I have to starve myself, work out until I’m dizzy, write ten chapters and read an entire book in a day for me to feel like I actually did something productive. And that’s not healthy because trying to meet such high standards on a daily basis only sets myself up to crash and burn. And I always do. And that makes it harder to get back on track.
But there are other days when it’s like a switch has been flipped and I can understand and utilize the idea of doing and eating and experiencing things in small portions. I can have a slice of cake and not feel guilty. I can do moderate exercise for half an hour and feel like I burned some fat. I can write a chapter in the book I’m writing or read a chapter in a book I’m reading and I feel like I accomplished something. It’s during those times that I do my best and feel my best.
For a time last year, I woke up and made daily goals, usually involving exercising, reading and writing. I’d write during my lunch break at work, exercise when I got off work, then read before bed. Sometimes I wrote a lot and read a little or exercised a little and read a whole lot and didn’t write very much and there were days when I didn’t get around to doing one thing on my list because I got too busy or felt lethargic. That was okay because the majority of the time I accomplished most, if not all, the things I planned to do. When I had a goal to strive for, I had direction. When I had direction, I actually got stuff done. And that felt good.
This is the time to get back into that mode, to make goals and strive toward completing them, to get stuff done. If I fall short on a few things, that’s okay because I can always make it up the next day. It’s a tired expression but every day really is an opportunity to do better. I just have to remember that and not beat myself up if I can’t get it all done in one day.
It’s a one-step program, taking things one day at a time, one goal at a time, one accomplishment at a time. It’s all about patience and persistence. It’s about always reminding yourself of the good your doing, how the small things add up to big changes. And that takes a lot of energy and when you don’t have much to begin with, it can feel overwhelming. But it’s worth it. I just have to keep that in mind.
I’ve done all this before. Not once but twice. And I can do it again.
I was around 19 when I lost 40lbs for the first time. All my old shirts swallowed me up and I needed to get something that would fit my smaller frame.
Even though I looked better than I had in over 5 years, I still felt the pangs of insecurity tap at my spine when I saw all the pretty tanned people walking by with their paper shopping bags in one hand and their partner’s hand in the other. I was still big. And it was at that moment I realized the weight had gone away but the worry hadn’t. I still felt gross, ugly, fat.
And now, nearly 10 years later, having lost and gained those same 40lbs, I know the worry is still there and will never go away. Even at my thinnest, thinner than I was at 19, I hated the way I looked.
It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and know between the ages of 11-13, you ruined your body for good. To be so young and so damaging and so unaware is absolutely frightening. From the first stretch mark, you have damaged yourself beyond repair. When the skin doesn’t bounce back the way it used to, when you do hundreds of crunches and the back fat just won’t go away, you know you are ruined.
But at the time I just needed to dress myself.
“Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.”
-Peter De Vries
“Well, I hate myself. I already have a pint of ice cream, a pizza, and mini eclairs. I don’t need these cookies. I’ll have to put something back. Pizza. I’ll put that back. I have pizza at home. But no, that’s why I came here. I want this kind of pizza, not the kind I have at home.
“I’ll just put back these eclairs. I can do without them. Yes, I feel good about this. Actually, no, these eclairs remind me of the time when I was in college and went to Publix and bought eclairs and ate them all in my car to soothe the pain of being a gigantic loser. Those were good memories and I think I want to re-capture them.
“And I really want this ice cream. And the cookies. I haven’t had the cookies in a long time.
“I’ll make chili dogs when I get home. I don’t need this pizza. But if I bought the pizza, I could have that the day after. That way I could satisfy my cravings for chili dogs and pizza. Yeah, I have to keep the pizza. But I have one at home. But this one has a cheese stuffed crust. I’m definitely keeping the pizza. Nah, the one at home is just as good.
“Okay, pizza is gone. Too many sweets here. Okay, ice cream gone. Just eclairs and cookies. That’s not too bad.
“Okay, the ice cream is back. I know I can do without it but it will literally be on my mind, making me crazy, until I eat it so it’s better to go ahead and get it so I won’t drive myself nuts. But that means I’ll have to, have to, put back the cookies. I’ve got to compromise. I don’t want to spend too much money. Or calories. But my diet is already shot. What’s another weekend binge?
“Damn it. Okay, keeping the eclairs for sure. It’s just…I’m so annoyed right now and these frozen foods, these processed pizzas, is what soothes me. I know I’m hurting myself. This is not normal, healthy behavior. But I’m sad and so I just don’t care.
“Screw it, I’m gonna get the pizza too.”
This is an average conversation I have with myself when I go to the grocery store, except I use a lot more foul language and stand around being indecisive for a longer period of time. People passing by probably think I’m lost. And in a way, I am. Continue reading
“Now that I am opened up, let me do the same to you
I can’t digest your insides but I can still chew
you look so beautiful, you look so sweet to me
you look so edible, it’s time for me to feed…”
-Knife to Meet You, Guts
“I sing for the damned
soulless hand in hand…”
-William Control, Damned
“I am not your friend
I am just a man who knows how it feels…”
-Brand New, Sowing Season (Yeah)
I just don’t know how people see me. I don’t even know how I see myself. I constantly go back and forth between thinking I’m good-looking to thinking I’m ugly. It goes beyond the skin. Sometimes I think I’m an ugly soul as well. And no one understands because they don’t see what I see. They don’t know what I know. I can spot every imperfection on my face and body and mind and I do my best to cover it up with spot spell and sarcasm but I fear if people see me as I see myself, they won’t like me.
People tell me I’m attractive. Smart. Funny. And sure, I can come up with a good joke every now and then and I can clean up well when all the elements combine and I’m having a good hair/skin/body day, which is rare. But most of the time I feel like a mess and it messes with my perceptions of myself.
Another fact that should be pointed out is most of the compliments come from the Internet. I don’t want to negate the positive comments but I wonder how these Internet entities can say such things when I get no interest from anyone in real life. Where’s the disconnect? Am I different person online? Am I some inadvertent catfish? Am I “hooking” people by presenting myself in some falsified manner, some idealized version of a tortured soul, but displaying an uglier, more genuine version of my vexations once the connection gets closer than a tweet or blog post? If anything, I would have guessed the online viewers would think I’m a freak show based on the things I write about. I think I’m actually more subdued with my psychosis in real life.
But I guess that goes back to not knowing how I present myself to others, not knowing what they are picking up despite what I’m putting out.
I spoke with a co-worker several weeks ago and told her about some of my insecurities and she said, “Don’t you see how everyone here gravitates toward you?” It was a simple statement but it was also something I never thought much about. I know I get along well with everyone I work with but I think it mostly has to do with the fact that I don’t do drama. I wouldn’t say anything necessarily “gravitates” toward me, sans work girlfriend. I just don’t get caught up in gossip and backstabbing and when I see it coming my way, I do my best to circumvent such scenarios. People know they can just have a good time with me and a good chat with me and I guess that’s a good quality to possess but I just see myself as a reprieve from all the garbage that goes on at work. I’m a safety spot, a place to stand still among all the whispers and dirty looks.
But so what if I am? That’s still a good thing. It’s still a desirable quality in a co-worker and, yes, even a friend. Does it really matter why people like me? It doesn’t have to be because I’m the best looking guy in the room or the funniest or smartest. Maybe dumb jokes and an open ear is enough. I don’t need to change someone’s life to be good company. I need to know and realize that. I put too much pressure on myself to be this perfect human being, the guy who has it all and knows it all and can fix it all. I don’t have to be everything to everyone and I need to learn that it’s okay not to be.
Several months ago, a high school classmate randomly texted me and we filled each other in on what we had been up to. I told him I didn’t do art anymore and he was shocked because he thought I was so good. I explained that I was good for my tiny town but once I stepped out into the real world, I wasn’t as good as I needed to be. He said he was jealous because I was talented and smart and was friends with everyone. I told him I thought I was a mess and he said he was shocked to hear it because he thought I was so put together. And I was shocked to hear that.
Again, I just don’t know how people see me. I can’t help but to think of all the things and people I missed out on because I thought I was too hideous to participate. All the while, they sit around and think I have it all together and never know the depth of my pain. Kind of tragic to think about.
So I’ll try not to. Continue reading
Since I bought a lot of Adobe products about two years ago and then never touched them, I thought I should probably get some use out of the 2,000 dollars worth of software chilling on my computer. So, I did my first digital painting.
I spent 8 straight hours on it the first day and then several hours over the course of the next several days. I didn’t really keep track of total hours put into it but I’m guessing it took close to 20-30 hours. Eventually, I stopped. Not because I was done but because I wasn’t sure what else I could do to improve it. I feel like I never finish a work because there’s always improvements to make but I’m not at the skill level I need to be to actually make those improvements so I usually just stop before I make it worse by trying to “fix” it.
Here’s the reference picture:
I buzzed my beard off the other night because I was tired of the rough texture. I went to work the next day and was met with audible gasps. Not good audible gasps, either. More like shock and terror.
“What did you do to your face?”
“Where’s the beard?”
“You…you shaved it?”
“Grow it back!”
People acted like I was missing an eye or a nose instead of facial hair. I know they didn’t mean to make me feel bad but they did. I didn’t realize I was some gargoyle and the only thing that kept people from bursting into tears at the site of me was my beard. It was a mask, a filter, a softening lens that cranked down my deformed face.
Or maybe it was just the shock of seeing my face look so different so fast. As I grew the beard, everyone was slowly introduced to bearded Bran, including myself. And taking it all off with a few strokes of the clippers was a bit jarring. I had the beard for nearly three months and it just became a part of me as if it were always there and suddenly it wasn’t. I didn’t recognize the smooth stranger in the bathroom mirror.
I didn’t like everyone’s reaction. I didn’t even like my own. I didn’t regret buzzing it off but I do like the way I look better with a beard. But my face feels so much better without one. When I had the beard, I combed and clipped and conditioned and even through in some argon oil to soften the facial hair but it still felt too rough for my liking. And sometimes when I slept on my side or stomach, the facial hair against the pillow really irritated my cheeks.
I also realized maintaining facial hair was actually more intensive than just shaving it clean off. There’s a lot of maintenance involved. Clipping. Washing. Conditioning. Keeping the neckline even and clean. Trying not to get food or bugs or girls’ fingers caught in it. Serious upkeep.
Yes, the beard will come back but I won’t do it for anyone else but myself. This is kind of a big deal because I’ve always been so used to doing things the way others wanted, living and looking the way others have dictated. But I’m not doing that anymore. In fact, I am thinking about holding off on growing the beard back even longer than I normally would just out of spite! Take that, jerks.
It’s gonna be my choice, no one else’s. And I’m going to rock it either way.
|I think just about every guy has done this at least one time when debearding.|
Several weeks (months?) ago, I spoke with a fellow blogger about some of the things going on in my life and in my head. After giving him a couple of my symptoms, he mentioned a lot of them correlated to the dreaded DIABEETUS. He has it and knows the adverse affects of the disease.
I never thought even thought about having it but it’s always a possibility.
You know, I walk around and do my thing and feel these crazy thoughts and wonder about the source of my psychosis. For the longest time, I thought I was depressed. But I never felt comfortable with that label because it feels like an “easy” diagnosis. Someone has a bad day and they have depression. I have bad days every day. I don’t feel good about anything. I float through life, my nerves pinched to numbness. But I can also get out of bed each day and don’t feel those aches and pains associated with depression.
Diabetes can make you feel bad, too.
So, what’s the deal? Is it diabetes or depression that makes me feel like such a basket case?
Or what if I really do just play the victim? Or what if things are a bit heavier? What if theres’ a third “D” swimming around my gut? What if I really do have a demon inside? Holy crap. I just want to know what’s wrong with me.
How does anyone know what’s wrong with them? Does anyone ever get to the heart of the hurt? Or do we flail around and fudge our way through our frustrations? Depression is an easy answer. Diabetes can be a catchy conclusion. Even possession, while not as practical, is possible.
Writing has been one of the most effective ways of trying to figure myself out, to organize my thoughts and fears and lay them out in an organized manner so I can identify and try to solve my problems. So far, all I’ve managed to do is express how I feel without getting to the heart of why I feel the way I do. I’ve got to figure out the cause before I get to the cure. Is it a creature or is it chemical?
How do we ever know? How do we find out? And how do we go about solving the strain of sugar and spirits?