These early days of 2008 have found me negotiating the exiguous division between apathetic nihilism and fecund endeavors of one sort or another. Robust mental health eludes me, despite my best efforts, and on many levels I've begun to accept that I'm never going to be better. A recent encounter with political activism provided an experience that whispered clearly in my ear, "You can't do this, go home."
But why couldn't I do easy volunteer work for a couple of hours? What is wrong with me? Aside from the names of my various and sundry diagnoses, what is happening in my brain is sad and complex. A feeling of loneliness envelopes me when in public, followed by a nauseating anxiety that includes dizzy spells, stomach pain and tightness, jumpiness, and suicidal thoughts. After a few minutes, I begin to develop paranoia. My psychiatrist tells me that this comes from my intellect. When a person like myself (with "crippling social phobia and avoidant tendencies") feels this kind of anxiety, the mind tries to reconcile what you are feeling with what is actually happening. Unfortunately, that means that the mind manifests a suspicious disposition. I start to see people around me as cruel, vastly superior to me, and laughing at me behind my back. Sometimes even worse, although it's rare. On those occasions I think that I'm being followed by a cop (that happened on the "T" the other day).
Needless to say, I'm tired of it. I desperately need some relief from this constant self-loathing and anxiety when in the company of others. Every once in a while I find myself feeling and acting pretty normally when in the company of others, it's very rare, though. It happens enough to make me crave more. In the abstract, I love people, but this social phobia is whithering. It also makes it impossible to be normal in any sense. There is a small group of people with whom I can and usually do feel totally comfortable; my father, brother, Linda, and a couple of others.
If only I could fashion a functioning human being out of my past, to be used in the future. In order to do that, however, I need to clear the aperture of the present so that preceding lessons from experience can be used to fit and fill the job ahead. But that is starting to look impossible. Unsteadily, I move into the future and only think of the past in such a way that it's not just useless, it's dangerous. Thoughts of attending UMass Boston, volunteering for political campaigns, working different jobs and generally feeling comfortable around people are all there. When I try to use them, however, as a guide into the future, the scheme backfires. For me, remembering the past leads to regret, embarrassment, humiliation, and a strong desire to kill myself.
If I can't use past experience to move into the future, then I'm walking blind and deaf into new territory. There's no growth because I'm stifled, petrified that my past mindset will return and I'll put my loved ones through the wringer again. Carefully, I try to glean lessons, and sometimes succeed, but usually I get sucked into a memory that puts my stomach in knots and has my mind hard at work on the question of how to off myself. Only a few months ago I began stockpiling a heart medication in the hopes that I could collect enough to overdose on. I threw them out, but it's damn near impossible to re-build a life when every set back has you trying to kill yourself.
It's a cruel affliction, but I'm lucky to have so many close friends who care about me and are eager to help. I'm alive today because of that fact. And my girlfriend Linda has sometimes seen a side of me that I would have liked to kept hidden, but even with her I've lost control a few times. And I feel totally comfortable with her, and love her deeply. The thought that I may have upset her after one of my breakdowns consumes me, and I feel as if I'm driving her away. It's madness. An agonizing circle that I cannot break. And with her I try my hardest to be a loving, supporting partner, a man whom she can lean on. That's what she deserves and that is what I strive to be.
In an effort to escape my mind I've turned to drugs; marijuana, Vicodin and others. They help me drown out the cruel inner monologue. On the plus side, I've also been reading copiously, as that provides another escape from myself. Movies and music less so, because the mind can wander a bit. So the problem I have is that I need to make peace with my mind, to stop being so nasty to myself, and to finally stop seeing suicide as an elegant solution.