Friday, September 1, 2017

The Enemy is Me

There's an old joke that gets told around a number of peer-to-peer recovery groups like AA, NA, and on various websites.  It's been passed around for decades.

"My head would kill me if it didn't need me for transportation."  

It's something that's been said for a long time.  What it means is this:  My brain runs on emotions that are powerful, strong, and painful.  And that's a big problem.

It's not supposed to run on emotions.  A mind is supposed to run on logic and rational thought.  But mine has been filled with conflicting emotions that are building in intensity.  This has been going on for the past couple of years and this winter they began to grow exponentially.  I can't stop it.

My rational mind is screaming at me about how this is pointless.  My rational mind, well educated, logical, and looking out for my best interests, is fighting a war.  It is struggling to not get put in a corner, bound and gagged, while emotions run riot.

The emotional side is rampant and deafening over issues it shouldn't be even bothered with.

It's like being upset that you didn't get a job that involves touching shit with your bare fingers for minimum wage.  Who would want such a job?  Who would apply for such a job?  Getting turned down for that job would be a blessing.  But the fact that it's a rejection is enough to spin emotions into a tornado.

The rational mind screams out, "But it's a job touching shit with your bare fingers!  Why in the fuck would you want such a thing?  Why?  Why would you be upset that you didn't get that job?  Why be upset that you were rejected?  That's a blessing!  You dodged a bullet!  A gross, nasty, unhealthy bullet!  You should be thankful you're not doing that job right now!"

This is the war that goes on inside my head every day, several times a day, with a handful of choices, decisions, outcomes, and interactions.  Over and over again.

It happens with relationships that don't work out, or even take hold.  It happens when the past comes up.  It happens when somebody doesn't get back to me after I send them a text message, a PM on Facebook, or an e-mail.  It happens when somebody needs time on their own because they're an introvert and need that quiet time.  It happens when a short story gets rejected.  Life is full of small disappointments but my brain turns these into soul-shattering, life-changing events.

This is why my depression has been growing and worsening to a level I have not encountered in almost twenty-five years.

This is why I have been so miserable for the past few months.  Ever since this winter, I have been out of control and I just haven't been able to reign things in no matter how hard I try.

I'm losing this war.

Emotionally, the chorus chants all kinds of awful things like the Strophe and Antistrophe of Greek theater.  They never shut up.

I do what I can to silence them.

I'm eating myself to death.  I'm addicted to things I can't shake.  I can barely walk down the block before my hips hurt too much.  Soon, I won't be able to walk at all.  But then again, I might not make it that long, because my blood pressure is so bad, my legs are massive and ripe for a terminal infection like the one that killed my friend, Derek.

Because of this, I haven't gotten much done this year.  This entire year has been spent having daily battles to survive.  And while I win the battles, I'm losing the war.  I don't have much time left, either. If I don't figure out a way to knock this shit off, I'm going to be dead.

This is not a suicide letter.  This is not a suicide threat.  This is not suicidal ideation.

For all the reasons listed above, it has taken so many years off my life, that coupled with how isolated I am, and how little human interaction I have, the odds of me lasting another year are slim.

In January, I was driving down the road, self-talking myself into making better choices and having a better attitude about things that had happened in my life.  I was angry, heartbroken, depressed, and confused.  I tried to come up with reasons to keep going and I couldn't think of any.

I couldn't come up with a reason to live.  I tried and tried only to fail.  The impact of that was so powerful I had to pull over because I just couldn't stop crying.  I had no reason to wake up in the morning and despite all of my efforts, I couldn't think of one.  Not a single one.

Up until two months ago, I was perfectly content to die.  Heart attack, stroke, diabetic coma, or more self-propelled methods.  I didn't care.  I was ready to go.  I couldn't keep doing this.  It felt as if my life had run its full course and there was nothing left for me.  There was nothing out there for me and I was going to die alone.  The only question was how old I would be when it happened.  I was convinced I would die alone in an apartment full of books.  And I was okay with it.

Two months ago, friends talked me into staying.  They talked me into making another go of it.  They told me it's not too late and that I can pull out of this nosedive.

I often use the allegory of my life as a story told in mythological terms.  What lessons would somebody learn?  What could I pass on to somebody else?  When you do that to yourself, when you look at your life as something of value that will teach a lesson to another, you realize it can't end with a guy giving up and just letting death come collect his soul.

It can't end like that.  It just can't.  There are rules here and the rules clearly state that Our Hero can't just give up and die.  He has to get up and even though there is absolutely no hope whatsoever that tomorrow will be any better than today, he has to at least be around to see it.  He has to make the effort to make tomorrow better despite all the odds being against it.

I have no faith that my life will be better.  In fact, I'm almost certain it won't.  I will continue to lose.  I will continue to have things just out of my grasp.  I will continue to have everything I earned or was given taken away from me by powers beyond my control.  I will still die alone.

But that's not the point.  The point is, I need to be alive just in case, by some miracle, I find happiness again.  I'm told that it's possible.  I'm told that happiness might actually be possible.  So is winning the lottery, but I doubt I'll win that, either.

But yes, I chose to live.

It was a hard choice for me to make.   Last week, I asked people on Facebook, "What's your reason for living?"  Those who answered said things like family or their children.  As you know, I'm alone.  It's just me.  In fact, I'll go almost an entire week without seeing another human being, much less speak to them.

So I had to choose to live for me.  I had to do it for myself and I really have issues with self-esteem and self-worth.  It stems from being raised to believe I was stupid, lazy, worthless, thoughtless, careless, and just not a good person.  It also stems from something else I won't get into right now.  As I've said before, I didn't even consider myself to be human until I was in college.  I thought I was something less than human, something lower, and not one of you.

I'll never forget the look on my therapist's face when I told him of my epiphany.  I was genuinely happy and excited to tell him.

"Andy," I said.  "Guess what I learned this week!"

"What's that?"

"I'm a human being!"

That's when he finally realized how far gone I was.  It was at that moment he realized that we had a lot of work to do and a long ways to go.

So doing this for myself isn't easy.  Doing this because I'm somehow worth it just doesn't compute to me.  If you pay me a compliment, I will tell you a dozen things wrong with me in just a few seconds.  I know me, and I'm not that great.  It took me years and years before I could accept a compliment and simply say, "thank you."

But when you decide to do something big like this, and do it for yourself, because you're worth it, I'm learning you don't need to quantify it.  Instead of telling myself why I'm worth it, I'm simply accepting that I am and the reasons why are just not that important.

There are a lot of things that go along with making that choice.  When you choose to live, you have to do certain things, like take care of yourself.   I've never taken care of myself.  I've never eaten right or gotten the sleep I needed or did anything just because I like myself.  I've never done something for my health because I'm worth it.

In the past, I took steps to take care of myself just because to do otherwise would make things more difficult the next day at work or if I had plans, like to see a concert.  It was a means to an end, not just because.

Today, a friend came around, and she told me that I was worth it.  She told me I had a lot to offer people because I was smart and a kind soul with a good heart.  And I broke down.  I don't know why, but it got to me.  Being told I'm a person of value has always been an emotional thing for me.  Being told that I'm worth keeping around has always hit me hard.

I felt so bad breaking down on her like that but I couldn't help it.  These past few weeks have been so emotional for me.  Friends have reached out to tell me they care and to tell me I can do this, that I can pull out of this nose-dive and live.  That I can drop this weight, fix my head, clean up my act, and find some kind of happiness.

To me, happiness has always been the same as telling yourself over and over again the shit sandwich you're eating tastes good.  I already have diminished expectations on life, I don't need to lower them further just so I can continue to be here in a miserable existence.

There has to be more to life than this shit.  There just has to be.  But if I'm dead, I'll never know.

Plus, as I've mentioned before, I honestly think my soul is here on this plane of existence, in this situation, so I can learn a valuable lesson of some kind.  If I don't learn this lesson then I'm going to be spun into another trip around the block reliving all of this misery again.  So I need to solve the puzzle this time around.

Two days ago, while working, I had an itch on my leg, so I moved my hand down to check it out.  I never scratch my legs because of how swollen they are--especially the right one.  So, I put my hand down and it came back wet.  I had a blister on my leg that had popped, and puss was running down it.  It's been oozing ever since.

Today, my friend had a look.  She was a nurse for many years.  "Yup," she said.  "That's a textbook diabetic leg.  And that ulcer you have will multiply if you don't see somebody."

There's not a doubt in my mind that I am now a diabetic.  It's been a long time coming, really, and I've been on this path for a while.  As I said, I honestly didn't give a shit for a long, long time.  But now I do and it bothers me.

But I also think it's the best thing that could have happened to me.  This is the furthest I will allow it to go.  I've hit my bottom.  There's nowhere else to go for me but up.

I'll end this by saying I don't really want to live but I'm going to anyways.  A few weeks ago, a friend called me, crying, and telling me I can't kill myself.  She forbids it.  I'm not allowed.  And she wasn't talking about me eating my gun and painting the walls with cherry pie.  She was referring to death by indifference.

I care now.  And I know what to do to pull up and out of this nose-dive.  It's been hard for me to implement these changes because it is totally alien to me but I'm working on it.  I'm trying.  Because the story can't end like this.  My story can't end like this.  And right now, that's good enough for me.    

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