So, our friends over at lappingthecouch.uk have done us one better in the quest to make mental illness more understandable to everyone. I’d say how irritated that made me, but the author is a friend of mine whom I’ve not seen in roughly a decade and a half, and also, her post was amazingly well written. I just hate it when anyone is more articulate than me. I’m including the link to her post “Sunday was not a fun day” so that you guys can go and check it out. It’s worth the time. Go. Do it. I’ll wait here. Back? Cool.
I’m not going to write a counterpoint, going in-depth about Bi-Polar, as that would take away some of your attention from what she had to say. Also, a while ago, I posted “The Midnight Hour”, which, despite being eighteen years old, is still a fairly accurate, if metaphorical, take on my illness. Some day I may have to sit down and dole out some examples, but I’ll tell you right now that I probably won’t do justice to the swings of mania, as to me, they just seem like I’ve finally gotten back to normal. But, again, that’s not why I’m plugging Tiffany’s blog. Maybe someday in the future when we’re both writer-types with massive egos we can totally start an international feud (Actually, that sounds like a lot of fun, and a great way to spend the summer!), but for now I will just say that I think the writing is excellent, and I’m enjoying reading what she’s got to say.
But the thing about her blog, is that it actually serves a purpose. She wants to not only have a record of her goals, a written self-proclamation of all which she might hope to (reasonably) accomplish, but wants to offer up a human face to problems that others may also have come to endure. That is one of the most important things to remember, not just if you’re suffering from a mental malady, but as a human being in general: You are not alone. As we grow more interconnected with the world through the use of information technology, we substitute digital interactions for face to face time with actual people. More and more gets taken out of context as the nuance of language is rapidly being lost, and people are letting basic social niceties fall into disuse, as the implied anonymity of the internet divests the user of any sense of repercussion, and encourages less filtering of one’s behavior. This leads to more truth, I believe, hidden among the teenaged bravado, as even in one’s fantasies do his prejudices shine. But it also robs of us of our evolved ability to actually function in the real world.
I use Facebook, and before that, I was rocking MySpace. I don’t know that I’ve made more than a couple of friends on social media, but the point for me was to stay in touch with people I had once known, and allow myself moments of nostalgia. But now if I want to see how someone is doing, I just scan through their posts to make sure they’re still around. I can’t actually remember the last time when I called someone up just to shoot the breeze, outside of my family or Bad Leon. As for meeting up with folks and doing the whole hanging out in person thing? I think it was the wedding which my wife and I attended in mid-November. I’m not going to be too tough on myself for that one, though, as making friends is hard, and I’m separated from both of my best friends by hundreds of miles and a couple states. And even if I do make a friend, it’s not like I’ll really make the time for them. I mean, sure, at the beginning of the friendship, I’ll stop doing something else, and this new buddy and I will be practically inseparable. But then I will come to notice that I’ve been letting other things go to pasture, and soon enough this new friend will join the pile of old friends whom I have discarded in a pile over in the corner. Note: I do not actually have a pile of people in the corner. This was a metaphor.
Okay, I might not be the poster boy for social interaction. Still, I must admit that when I’ve spent some time in the company of people whom I don’t entirely despise, I come back feeling better for the effort. The echoes bouncing around this head of mine hit a little softer when there’s someone there to cushion the blow.
Looking back at everything I’ve written today, I realize that I allowed myself to drift off the topic I had originally planned to tackle: Making goals. I am horrible at laying out a plan as I have most likely shared with you too many times too count. I like to be prepared for every eventuality, but only in a general sense. I think the one thing that Tiffany is doing which I could never do (besides being a good spouse to her significant other), is letting other people in on my secret hopes and dreams. I can lay out a grand plan with broad strokes and hype it up with obfuscation and bravado, but I’m terrified to share the simple steps I’m too paralyzed by fear to take. You may have noticed I use humor, or indignation, or humorous indignation, to get at what I’m trying to say. I developed this writing for a reason. Inside my head, I’m a drastically different person than the meatbag which is typing.
In here, I’m all confidence and swagger, the master of my domain. But put me in a room with anybody else, and all I can think of is, “What if I’m wrong? What if I sound stupid? What if they laugh at me?” It’s easier to handle a sudden chortle if that was your intention. To lay yourself out bare before the world and receive back only ridicule? Hence the snarky outrage.
“What if they laugh at me?” Since I was old enough to shave (you know, like 12-13), I’ve been professing to the world that I don’t care what other people think, all the while checking their reactions to see if they think my outburst somehow made me cooler. Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I can honestly say that I’m less concerned with what other people believe about me, and more worried with what they believe about almost anything else. I’m bald. I’m fat. I’m not entirely sure why anyone has ever bedded me, but they’ve all said it was because I’ve made them laugh (which causes me to worry that they’re all using the same euphemism to belittle my- well, you get the idea). I’ve almost accepted who I am. At least, I’ve realized that I’m too stubborn to really change. And yet… And yet the notion that someone might single me out for ridicule chills my very blood. I’m going to share something ridiculous with all of you:
I cannot make phone calls to people I don’t know. Just can’t. No cold calls for Tex Batmart. My brain just freaks out any time I have to speak to someone that I haven’t met. I used to think this only applied to when I used to call up girls in high school (let me reiterate that I was also in high school when I was calling high school girls), and the fear seemed justified, as not only could they reject me, but they could mock me to their friends, ensuring that no one would ever want to be my girlfriend. Even worse, her father could pick up the phone, and demand to know who I was and where I lived and what my intentions with his daughter were. Fear just seemed like the most appropriate response. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the fortune to be liberated from the need to speak my girlfriends’ fathers, but now the terror encompasses every other telephonic interaction. Thank god for online ordering, or I’d never get a pizza delivered. And online bill payment? The best thing since Betty White. I seriously have to work myself up into a lather (of anger- it’s not like I’m phoning from the shower) just to call up Comcast and ask them why I can’t watch BBC America. I apologize to the Customer Service reps at Amazon on the rare occasions that I’ve had to call them! And don’t make me tell you what happens when my wife passes me the phone when she’s chatting with her mother.
I know that there is literally nothing that the people on the other end of the line can do to me. I mean, they can hang up, or if they become abusive, I can. All they can say is “no.” So why am I terrified every time the phone rings from a number that I don’t know? No, seriously tell me. I let every number with which I am unfamiliar go to voice mail. And half the time I hold the phone away from my ear like I’m afraid of the recording! It may seem like I am making light of the suffering of others, using a ridiculous example to garner laughs. And that is why I don’t share my inner feelings with other people. Look how much rambling on it took to get to the root of it. Seriously, scroll up! And this is why I’m drawing attention to my friend, Tiffany’s blog, Transformation in Progress: from caterpillar to butterfly… I hope. With a courage that I cannot hope to emulate, she just jumped right in and laid it on the table. No filler. No hedging. No dissembling. She wrote about what she felt she needed to in the hopes that writing it would lessen its hold on her, and maybe help someone else who didn’t know where to turn.
Thank you, Tiffany. You’ve reminded me of all that I have yet to do. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, and I hope that I might borrow a little of your courage, from time to time.
Also, in case you are wondering about the title, it comes from an experience in high school. I was directing a play for Drama class, and at a rehearsal, Fed had to sit in and read for one of my actors. One of the lines was about using roses for inspiration, but Fed decided to substitute wrenches. I could have told this story better, but I might want to save it for a later post.