I had tried with everything I had to be good. I tried not to be selfish and it lead everyone to not care about my feelings. I tried not excuse negative behavior in the name of friendship and it cost me my friends. I wanted a job that didn’t make life hopeless and I couldn’t keep a job.
The conclusion I came to in my journal that got me not to kill myself was not an overtly positive one. I decided that if no one cared about me I didn’t have to care about anyone. I had tried to be good and failed miserably, this must mean I’m bad. My despair, all my troubles, came from trying to be something I’m not. With this new found self-awareness I re-entered the world.
Trying not to be selfish, trying not to hurt people’s feelings was the root of the problem so I might as well be selfish and not spare anyone’s feelings for a while since I’m already a ghost anyway.
I decided not to work, to take advantage of anyone I wanted, and to just the truth on everyone. Because nothing hurts like the truth.
Simone was on the front line of this. My two vivid memories of that time are when I was telling her how I don’t care about life and I don’t care about anyone, she said “Except me.” and I said no. She cried and I felt nothing. My self-image was a wire frame of person. Nothing on the inside, nothing on the outside. I felt like a sociopath, when I tried to look inside myself there was no inside.
A few days later we were out for lunch and had a more complete conversation. I was still openly talking about dying, feeling betrayed by everyone, having no anchor. And there was a moment when she saw the depth of how much I hurt and I felt for her, I felt for the first time in weeks.
A similar thing happened with Rob but it took 8 hours of drinking. At one point he said “how many times do you want me to apologize?” Which is a phrase I hate anyway. I pointed out that he hadn’t actually apologized once yet. He had implied he felt bad and he had excused himself pretty diligently by saying he only went because Ty went and he only stayed because he was talking to a girl.
At a point in my life when I was incredibly upset, suicidal even, everyone was acting as if I had nothing to be upset about. Rob was the only one to offer any support. Then he took it away and fell into the “Not that big of deal” line with everyone else. That’s when the same thing happened where he saw how bad I really felt and he said he didn’t know, that he couldn’t apologize enough but that he really was sorry.
I learned a lot about apologies and forgiveness during that time. A lot of people apologize reflexively, even assuming they have apologized already, without really meaning it because they’ve learned apologies male problems go away. Someone’s not allowed to be mad at you after you say sorry even if you don’t know what you’re saying sorry for and can’t possibly mean it. I consider that lying. It’s one thing to see that an apology will get you what you want and another to actually feel empathy.
I felt like I had painstakingly rebuilt my connection to Simone and to Rob. With Simone it took a couple lunches, with Rob 8 hours of drinking and breakfast and finally with Towelie it took two days and for a little while it looked like it was getting worse but in the end I said all the things I needed to say and he made it clear that he does care about me.
The most significant moment for me was when I said “it’s not that I really wanted anyone to be on my side or anything I was just hurt that my life was so obviously falling apart and no one cared enough to even say ‘it seems like this is a rough time for you, are you okay?'”
Towelie spends a lot of energy trying not to have empathy. It’s a tough wall to break through and even if you do it’s back up the next time you talk.
There was an enlightening exchange for me when I said I was on the verge of suicide and no one even tried to help me. He said “Then you should have communicated that.”
“How does it make sense to put that responsibility, that pressure, on someone who’s a suicidal wreck? I didn’t know what help to possibly ask for until weeks later when my head cleared a bit. And when you feel like someone doesn’t cares about you it sort of crushes the instinct to talk to them about serious issues.”
It’s all explored a bit more in a post from that time.
He got my point and we talked a little more. With Towelie I realize that in all the years we’ve known each other he’s never asked me to be something I’m not and I have to give him that same respect. It’s enough for me to take him at his word that underneath he cares about me even if he never acts on it.
And with that Towelie lent me the latest Frank Turner album and I flew out to BC for a week.
Which is exactly what I really needed. Both the asylum of the beautiful country out there and a new record to find myself in.
I came home from that trip feeling a bit stronger which is good because Simone and came back to the news that our apartment building got bedbugs while we were gone. We had to pack up all our stuff during spraying anyways so I figured we might as well move.
The tiny bit of emotional resilience I built up quickly wore down to dust. I desperately wanted things to feel normal again but I had no choice but to soldier through.
Meanwhile the reopening of the gateway was underway and I was really counting on the community there to give me back some sense of belonging. Which it did and which is why I’m protective of the people there.
There was an incident a couple weeks into the year where Mikey was assaulted by a new coworker. I was there and so were a few others and as always happens in things like this everyone was at a loss for what to do.
I thought about how Mikey was certainly feeling a lot of different things and it wouldn’t be fair to put the responsibility on him of asking him what he wanted to do about it. Part of him would want to be seen as the bigger man and let it go, part of him would want to seem like an even bigger man and act like it didn’t bother him at all, and part of him would be just be angry.
I knew I had to do what I thought was right and not make any excuses. Otherwise I’d be a hypocrite. I went to that person’s boss and later to the boss’s boss to get that person punished appropriately.
In my mind I had still done those things out of badness. Out of a hatred of cowardice in others. But my self image did start to shift and I wrote a post exploring that shift.
There was another incident while Simone’s brother was in town where I knew I could have stayed out of it but I had a moral obligation to help as much as I could as soon as I could.
It was then that I finally felt I’d learned the hard lesson of the summer and grown into a better person because of it. All that darkness made me into a protective friend and a passionately honest person.
I know I’m still, and always will be, at risk of going into a hopeless spiral but all I can do is keep building relationships with trustworthy people and fostering a sense of belonging.
I’ve got the Gateway, I’ve got Greystone Gardens, I’ve got Ben and Jay and my life long friends, and I’ve got my fledgling little family with Simone and the kittens.
I’m not happy in any traditional way but I’m productive and balanced for the time being, I’m back to feeling like life is a work-in-progress. That’s as close to walking into the sunset as I’m ever gonna get.