What are you looking for?
What I Want
1 year ago · · Panic attacks, · Explicit
You recently asked me what I wanted, and the question sort of caught me off guard.
Not because I've never been asked, but because I'm not sure that I have ever answered the question honestly.
The answer is not proportionate to the question.
For the last year, one simple thought has become an ongoing source of hope and fear;
"I want to live a portion of my life outside of the closet."
The simplicity of the thought initially brought an energizing, warm comfort over me. It is not only something that I want, but maybe even something that I need. Simultaneously, the complexity of the thought brings me into an anxious and panicked excitement. This is something that will impact not only my life, but the lives of many people around me. The decision will have permanent consequences. Once I'm out, I don't think I'm allowed to go back in.
I have no idea what life outside of the closet will look like. Will it be worth it? Will it be easier for me? Or, will it just make everything worse? I really don't know.
I do know how it feels to be inside the closet, though. It's lonely, cold and dark. It's unhealthy and messy. It's a phantom chamber growing on the back side of my heart. From here, I watch as all of my hopes and dreams are pumped in. Without any oxygen to breathe, they grapple each other into snarled knots of fear and uncertainty. The walls of this chamber swell with malignant anger and confusion, until valves give way and recirculate pure, refined chaos throughout my veins, over and over again.
There is some comfort in the confinement of a closet, but it's too easy to get lost in here.
There is an enormous amount of possible outcomes for me, if and when I start living my life openly and freely. I've stressed and obsessed over, and played out every imaginable possibility, hundreds of times in my head. They range from understanding and acceptance, to the more plausible pain and isolation.
It's the fear that I will land on the darker side of this spectrum, that keeps me from taking those first few steps.
So, why now, after a lifetime of hiding? I'm not entirely sure. For the last five years, sobriety hasn't necessarily changed who I am, but it has changed my emotional response to everything around me.
I've developed a little bit of self esteem. I've got a clearer image of the world. I feel more comfortable trusting my instincts, and I no longer compare them to the transgressions of my father. I can identify my own faults without completely denying them, but I'm still not great at acknowledging them out loud. I still internalize far too much.
It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep a straight face. I'm too repressed to function.
What do I want?
The question makes me uncomfortable, because it puts too much focus on me. I know that I'm selfish and self-obsessed. I've spent the majority of my life living inside of my head. I keep myself locked away. I don't allow anyone to see the real me, because if they look too closely, there will be far too many imperfections for them to ignore.
I rationalize my self-inflicted solitude by telling myself that I'm doing it to protect the people that I love. That it's okay for me to suffer silently for the rest of my life, if it means an easier life for my family. Like I'm some sort of hero, sacrificing my life for their comfort; a silent survivor of self-suppression, a martyr for marital compromise… Although I do believe in the motivation behind these thoughts, they are deranged notions of self justification, and I know it.
I'm only protecting myself. I crave an honest life, but it scares me more than anything ever has. I don't want to do it alone.
The day that I come out, and reveal my true self, everyone will begin to question their relationship with me. Every perception and memory of me will be overshadowed by doubt. Trust is going to be nonexistent.
I'm going to hurt so many of the people that I love. It's going to make their lives harder. I'm not going to be able to explain myself or justify all of my choices. I'm not going to be able to fix all of the damage. I'm going to lose friends, and family too.
Up to now, it's always seemed easier to remain silent. The pain used to be bearable. The happiness on my kids' faces was enough to justify the suffering. Life seemed shorter when I started my family. My commitment to silence seemed manageable.
Time seems to be expanding, though. The little pains have stretched out into endless discomfort. The stronger pains are slowing me down, making it harder and harder to move forward.
The silence isn't healing me.
I need to start saying things out loud. I need to let people know that I'm struggling. I need to be open and vulnerable. I need to give people a chance to help me.
But, how do I explain how unhappy I am, without causing too much more damage? It's an awful thing to tell your family;
"Our current life together isn't bringing me enough happiness…"
It's going to sound harsh no matter how I put it, and I hate the thought of saying it out loud. I'm not sure that I could ever be so callous.
I feel defeated. I'm disappointed in myself. Why can't I just be happy? I love my family, and cherish every moment that I have with them, why isn't that enough? I feel selfish for being sad all of the time.
I'm accumulating guilt at an obscene rate. The weight of it is dragging me deeper into madness and depression. I'm cycling through different degrees of anxiety. My flirtation with insanity has me vacillating between chaotic confusion and seemingly lucid stability.
My depression is constant, but takes many forms. As I adjust and adapt to each new layer, another phase of sadness blankets over its predecessor. Having a somewhat stable routine helps me stay self-aware of any changes in my mood and behavior.
Every once in a while, a new form of mania sneaks in, and exacerbates my anxiety, until I am able to identify and understand it. Understanding doesn't make me immune or free from these manic episodes, but the frequency in which they occur dulls their impact on me.
I'm usually able to put on a friendly, energetic face in public, but when I'm at home with my family, I'm not pleasant to be around. My demeanor is seeping with tense silence. I can feel them trying to communicate with me, but they aren't able to. I'm never trying to be rude or dismissive, but I know that it seems that way. I'm terse, impatient and easily bothered. I hate that they are only getting this cold, wearied version of me.
I know that I'm not the only person in this house who feels lonely. I'm not the only one struggling. I've put so much distance between myself and the ones that I love, I've made it difficult for anyone to reach me. It baffles me that they haven't stopped trying.
I hardly ever feel present, no matter how hard I try. I feel like I'm forcing every interaction. I'm sure that I'm horrible at conversations, because my mind just wanders as soon as someone starts talking to me. Frequently, I'm unable to answer simple questions. I only have one word responses, or, I unintentionally change the subject and start mumbling about something nonsensical and random.
My focus and memory seem to be evaporating. I have difficulty remembering entire portions of my life. I can remember details, but everything in between is blank. Some of that can be blamed on the years of alcohol, but even the sober moments are fading from my memory.
I've been dissociating in more troubling ways as well… At random moments, nothing seems real. I'm outside of my body. I'm not sure if I exist. I'm not sure if anyone does. I'm continuously drifting further from reality. My most recent memories are in some sort of third-person perspective.
And I'm embarrassed to admit it, but there have been moments where I cannot remember what my loved ones look like. I don't know how to explain it... I recognize them when I'm with them, but every so often, I struggle through recent memories in a panic, trying to put faces on my family members. I have to flip through pictures on my phone to calm myself down and get back into reality.
I've got these bizarre images in my head. Surreal family photographs, where everyone is in vivid color, and bold, cheerful definition, except for me. I'm foggy, faded and faceless. A living ghost, haunting family memories.
Or, I'm a blank shape in the background. An empty, Me-shaped hole, surrounded by a Morse code border… A distress signal, dotted and dashed through the static of my unnoticed absence, their instructions simple, and clear:
"To remove, cut along the dotted lines."
I'm exactly where I want to be, but I don't belong here. The contradictions outnumber the logic. My mind, body and soul are all out of sync. I'm exhausted, completely fucking broken.
I'm already gone.
I'm not a person anymore. I'm just the sum of several self-defense mechanisms. An automated illusion of happiness, concealing the chaos and discomfort of my existence.
Every time that I feel like I'm making progress away from my depression, it comes back stronger than ever. The impending and indefinite emptiness of it entangles me, and chokes all hope from my lungs.
I'm not sure why the panic attacks happen at night, when I am relaxed, and close to sleep.
Out of nowhere, they wash over me.
I'm immediately sitting up straight, my arms are heavy and numb. I'm struggling to control my breathing, my heart is pounding on the wrong side of my chest. An infinite pressure pushes all of the air out of my lungs. Everything gets blurry. There's an electric warmth traveling from my spine into my chest, a dark sensation that comes in waves, threatening to consume me. A silent earthquake, followed by sporadic tremors. Aftershocks of confusion, vibrating the walls of my ribcage.
I can only describe the attacks as a physical manifestation of fear… Terror possessing my bones, hijacking my flesh, wreaking havoc on and in my heart.
I've gotten better at resolving them, though. I can assure myself that I'm not dying, that the distress is only temporary. I take deep breaths, I think "happy thoughts" and I try to focus on my surroundings. I try forcing myself to relax.
I don't think you can die from a panic attack, but it's the worst thing that I've ever felt. It's happened numerous times; and yet, in the morning I always wonder if it even really happened…
Is pain real, if you're the only one who can feel it?
Now, the attacks have been gradually sneaking into the daylight, seemingly unprovoked. These diurnal attacks have been less intense, but harder to hide. My anxiety is on full display, palpable and unsettling.
My thoughts begin racing, and I start to feel dizzy. My legs are weak, they shake and tremble in distress. My arms are not my arms. They float around me, responding to commands, but with no strength or tactility. I'm flushed with embarrassment and paranoia. I feel like everyone is staring at me. I feel faint, like I am going to pass out at any moment. I try to focus on an escape plan, an exit from public view. I retreat to the safety of my car and wait for it all to dissipate. The panic never truly subsides, though…
It just withdraws into a muted, dull humming, slightly under the surface, waiting to re-emerge when I'm not expecting it.
I need help. More than a two-pills-a-day kind of help. Existing shouldn't hurt this much.
I'm constantly surprised and intrigued by my increasing capacity for darkness. How much more damage will I be able to withstand? How broken can I be? How many fragments does my mind need to be in before it stops functioning? Am I trying to find out?
On my darkest days, I wonder how much longer I can trust myself. How much longer I can keep going. I'm not always worried about the suicidal urges; I can usually dismiss them, I just can't silence them. They've always been there. Intrusive thoughts; whispering, waiting for me to listen, waiting for me to give in… But they haven't gotten me yet, and they aren't going to.
Most days, the whispers are just white noise.
Other days, they burst my eardrums with their sudden screams of inner violence, endlessly echoing in rhythm to every step that I take... A hypnotic cadence that I've been marching to for far too long.
It's been this way for as long as I can remember, but I know how to ignore the whispers, how to move through them. They have no power over me.
I haven't always been able to rise above them, though. There are little reminders of past attempts all around me. Awful memories, that I've mostly kept to myself:
The scratches in the bathroom door, where I started carving "goodbye" with a razor blade; the night I woke up in a sudden panic, vomiting and unable to silence my endless confusion.
Or, the bleachers at the ball field next to my house; where I used a sharpie to write, "I am so sorry, I didn't mean for this to happen. I love you all" before giving into a pill-induced panic attack, certain that I was going to die.
And especially, the tiny little red car that I drive to work everyday, that replaced the one that I totaled, the night of my "accident," when I was literally racing away from my family, and all of my problems. I remember the numb composure that I maintained as I decided that I wouldn't be making it home that night, or ever again. I patiently shuffled through music, curating the soundtrack to my final moments. When I finally found the right song, I turned the stereo to full volume, took off my seatbelt, and accelerated into darkness...
I'm not sure if it's fate, luck, or drunken ineptitude, but I'm still here. I'm alive, sober now, and more stable than I've ever been.
I'm disappointed in myself, though. One suicidal episode is too many to ignore. Yet, I've kept several of them a secret; ignoring them myself, and not giving anybody else the opportunity to help me. Traumatic, painful memories that I've never admitted to before… I guess that's my way of avoiding responsibility for my actions.
And FUCK, I hate that I have to bring the darker elements of my depression into this… It feels manipulative, like a threat, but that is not my intention at all. I only bring these things up, because they are significant to the conversation. These ugly details are part of my secret sadness, and I think that I need to start sharing them.
I am proud to say that it has been years since any of those impulses have made the leap from thoughts into actions. However, the unfortunate reality is that I'm hurting just as much today, as I was the night that I gave into the hopeless whispers, and crashed into nothingness.
I've been to too many funerals lately. I've seen how fragile life is. I've seen the impacts of suicide crush families. I've seen the extra layers of grief that it causes. It's not the ending that I want for my life.
I want to be alive. I want to be a part of my kids' lives. I want to watch them grow, and I want to grow too, but this current situation does not seem sustainable.
I don't feel healthy, physically or mentally. My mind and body are withering away. I'm thinning out. I'm a skeleton of a person. The bare bones of my internal struggles are visible for everyone to see.
I'm not the person that anyone needs or deserves. I need to start rebuilding myself. I need to step away from despondency, and start dissolving the guilt of my existence. I have to allow myself the opportunity to heal.
Before I go any further, let me clarify something about my guilt. It does not translate into regret. Although I've never felt completely genuine, I know that the love and connections that I feel for everyone in my life are authentic. I've been blessed deeply with an abundance of beauty in my life. Wonderful things have come to me, and filled me with more love and light than I deserve. I've had the honor of sharing many of these blessings with the people around me.
If anything, I do wish that I had the courage and self-confidence to be more open and truthful at a younger age...
Even though I may not want to change anything, it wouldn't be fair for me to assume the same for the people in my life. If I had offered up more of myself earlier, they may have been able to make different choices, and avoid some of the pain that I am causing them. Maybe our lives could have had similar outcomes, without all of the messes I've made?
I see now, that all of this time, I've been trying to take a shortcut into happiness. Instead, I've just been wandering in circles, lost in the endless wilderness of my expanding insecurities and dishonesty. It has been a very long, and very lonely journey.
I'm ready to get back on the main trail now. I'm ready to climb up the mountains that I've been avoiding, as well as the ones I've built along the way.
I'm anxious to start healing into a complete version of myself, but I'm in no rush to turn my world upside down. I know that it's going to take time. I do need to start taking those first few steps though. I need to start by opening up to the people closest to me, and giving them the time and opportunity to understand what I am going through. They deserve the chance to hear these truths, and to process them in their own way. It isn't fair of me to assume that everyone is going to react negatively to all of this, but I have trouble resisting my instincts to expect the worst.
What do I want?
The answer is not proportionate to the question:
I want more time, with the people that I love. I don't want to lose any of it. I want to be here for everything. I want to be a part of their lives, even if it has to be from a distance.
I want freedom. Not from my responsibilities, or the repercussions from all of this. I just want to breathe easy, honest breaths. I want to walk through life without an enormous shadow weighing me down. I want to be able to stand up for myself. I want to know how it feels to be truly proud of myself.
I want to be out of the way... I don't want anyone to plan their futures around my anxieties. If they find easier paths that don't involve me, I'll understand if they take them; I'm sure that their lives might be happier without me.
I want full responsibility. If anything negative must be said, I want it to be said about me. My family does not deserve to be ridiculed or alienated because of the choices that I've made. They need to be surrounded by love and support, not by judgment and rumors.
I want everyone to get through this at their own pace. It is not my intention to force any of my burdens onto other people. I know that most people will need time to adjust. I know everyone will have different reactions, and different ways of getting through this. I just don't want any more silence. All amounts of anger and frustration should be expressed, loudly.
I want to be forgotten. I'm not going to expect forgiveness or acceptance from everyone. For those who feel the most hurt, the most angry… I hope that they can eventually erase me from their thoughts, so that they don't have to carry all of that pain around with them. I'm not trying to hide from the consequences, I'm ready for those. I just don't want anyone to waste their time here on earth in pain and anger, especially for me. I want peace for everyone.
I want to be remembered. I've existed on this earth for 35 years. There is no difference in who I was before, and who I am now. I don't want to lose my identity to all of this. I do not want to "start over" or erase any of my history. I am not willing to forget all of the beauty and happiness I've had in my life, in exchange for a clean slate. I need to remember the bad times, because they allow me appreciate the good. I understand that I need to be held accountable for all of the pain and sadness that I have caused in my life, but I hope that everyone can remember at least some of the good... The fun we've had, the happiness that we've shared; that was all real. I'm still the same person.
I want stability, not for myself, but for my family. I know that we don't have much, but we are comfortable. I never want my children to lose that comfort. I want to minimize the impact that I have on their daily routines. I want them to always have a safe space that they can come home to. I want this house to remain a home.
Most of all, though, I want happiness. I've had my fair share of it, and I don't want to be greedy, but I would like more of it… Especially for the people in my life. If that means that I'm a little less involved in their lives, I understand. If there is anything that I can do to make this easier on anybody, I'm ready to help. Whatever it takes for them to continue their lives in happiness, I will not hold them back anymore.
I've been told in the past that I'm too hard on myself, but I've never been able to believe that. I've lived huge portions of my life in an unforgivable way. There are no excuses or explanations that will justify my actions.
I can't ask everyone for forgiveness, but I can offer my sincere apologies. I'm sorry that I'm not the person I wanted to be, and that I let you all believe that person was real. I'm sorry that I've hurt you. I'm sorry that I let it get this far. I'm sorry for the hurt that this will continue to cause in the future.
I am so sorry. I didn't mean for it to be like this. BUT, I look forward to growing away from this. I look forward to strengthening and rebuilding relationships with as many of you as possible. I love you all.