Surprisingly, all of this had an affect on my mental well-being. I was always a bit of a depressive. I was not a strong person who had a big social net to fall back on. I had me. But I cracked. First, in college. Then, before law school started.
One morning, I believe it was the fall, which was the hardest time of year for me because cross country season ended. I woke up early on a Sunday morning like I usually did. I would go for a walk outside and just enjoy the stillness as my roommate slept. When I opened the door, on our whiteboard, someone wrote FAGGOT and there was a rope that looked like a noose tied around my door handle. I flipped out and got very scared. I erased the board and pulled the rope off the door as fast as I could. At this point, I was wondering if that was what I was anyways since I didn’t seem to have any feelings for a member of the opposite sex during a time where everyone was trying to get into someone’s pants. I wondered who knew this about me or if it was true or what it was. But I went for my walk. When I returned, I sat at my computer and I didn’t move.
I remember being like a statue – with hands on the keyboard, readied to write whatever paper I was going to write that afternoon. But I could not move. My roommate eventually awoke and tried to get me to respond. Much of this is very foggy to me and is pieced together from what other people told me. He called our RA down, who was a mutual friend, because he didn’t know what to do. They tried to get me to respond and I wouldn’t. Eventually, they called my brother, who was a freshman at the time, and got me to the hospital. I had a panic attack. And they called my parents who took me home to take me to a doctor and try to get straightened out in the head. I was put on a lot of pills but none of them helped. I later found out that the rope on the door was not a noose. As a prank, someone tied our door handle to the door across the hall, which would make exiting impossible without cutting the rope. It was just a coincidence that it looks like a noose once someone else cut it. I’m also assuming the word on the white board was not directed at me. It was just the actions of a drunk idiot.
I had a lot of bad days between then and the end of college. I had another panic attack where I felt crippled in my basement a month before I started law school. Eventually, my dad carried me up the stairs after yelling and screaming to get me to move. FYI: if you have a family member who is having a panic attack, don’t yell at the person panicking because it doesn’t help. But again I went to the doctor and was given the name of a therapist. This guy ruined my first semester of law school by putting me on a lot of anti-depressants and social anxiety pills. When it didn’t seem like they were working, he told me to stop taking them, but didn’t wean me off of them correctly. Instead of studying for finals, I watched The OC on DVD. I couldn’t focus as my head was a mess.
Hulk Gets Help
But that December, I met my current therapist, who helped me get as prepared as I could for finals and how to deal with the stresses. She has been with me for almost 8.5 years. We dealt mainly with social anxiety and my fears. And then we got to relationships. Rauch wrote, “I saw that no one noticed me, no one desired me, that my position in life was always to be admiring and never admired.” I don’t remember getting hit on. I knew there were a few girls who liked me, but overall, I have never felt desired. But I admired so many people. Strangely, it was not in a sexual nature, which is why I was so confused by it. I admired the ability to love. I wanted to have someone to talk to on an intimate level, someone to hold their hand, tell them that things will be okay, share all the good and bad moments with. I admired everyone around me who had that.
“I could not love, I could not kiss, I had no passion, only resentment and a kind of childish longing and a fetishistic fascination, and I knew that other people did not suffer those disabilities.” I kissed two girls before I turned 27 years old. Once when I was 18 and once when I was 21. For the years that followed, again, while many are trying to kiss as many people as possible, I was untouched. It didn’t bother me one bit though.
I did not understand the process of growing up. I didn’t have older friends or an older brother to guide me through those tough years — not like I was much help to my little brother. But I never knew how to talk about any of the thoughts in my head. I would write them down or tell them to my stuffed dog and eventually my real dog. I didn’t get much of a response as you can imagine.
Yet, I remember when I had to change my word choice to seem less “gay,” even when I had no idea what that word meant. I would call friends on Saturdays to “play” but I remember being teased on the playground that play had a sexual connotation that was silly for a 9 year old boy to say to another 9 year old boy. It was around the same time that someone did the condo/condom joke that tripped up Grandpa Simpson. Instead, I would ask if they wanted to hang out. Over time, very few people did. I would imagine my hit rate was near 20%. Instead, I read and watched a lot of TV.
When I was in sixth grade, my dad made me join cross country to get out of the house and to stop watching cartoons. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t like it and I didn’t make any friends doing it. Instead, I got bullied there, just like I got bullied everywhere else. One day, I remember running home. I was crying, which was not rare for me returning home from a day at Lincoln Middle School. My dad was doing something to the car in the garage and he saw me come up the driveway crying and he asked what was bothering me. I said that the kids on the teams were calling me names and I didn’t know what the words meant. My dad asked what the words were and I said I didn’t want to say. I considered them profane, even though I had no idea what they meant. He prodded me and prodded me and eventually I said the word: fag. He didn’t explain what it meant to me and I think it caught him as a surprise. I just remember him saying that I wasn’t one, so I shouldn’t let it bother me.
I don’t think that middle schoolers have some insight into someone or saw something in me that I did not see. If anything, it is just a word that people throw around without knowing what it means. Like serendipity. Nonetheless, it proved to me that I had to fall deeper into the shadows and just do my best to be normal. Or if nothing else, to not think about relationships or dating or girls or boys or really anything. I focused on something else – anything else.
Life is hard in high school if you don’t talk about girls. I have lots of memories of people (generally, teammates) trying to get inside my head to figure out who I liked. And honestly, there were girls I liked. A lot. I remember three in particular that I would have done anything for them to talk to me. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with one. But I didn’t want to kiss or touch or any of that. I just would imagine a sitcom like lifestyle where I would come home and she would be there and we would live a very Disney life. I imagined that a lot. I wanted that so much. I wanted to be a husband. I wanted to be a father. I wanted to be all of those things that a normal person is.
When the relationship I was in at the beginning of college ended, I knew why. I was not providing the care that she deserved and I regret ever putting her in a situation where she was not cared for. I have no idea if she suspected anything or was curious why I wasn’t that person for her. So, I convinced myself of something. Ironically, so did Rauch: “I had no sexual feelings, but instead was madly obsessive. I could not be a homosexual: I was not effeminate, I had no desire to be touched sexually by a man…But I was not behaving the way heterosexuals behaved.” Therefore, I was some sort of asexual creature – a monster, in all honesty, that was going to spend the rest of his life alone and in solitary confinement.
I thought that with time, I would transform into a normal person. This was not the first instance of such thoughts. I remember looking at pictures of models in magazines with huge pectoral muscles and looking my my concave body in the mirror and imagining when that would happen to me. I assumed like a girl, one day, I would just wake up and they would start growing. I had no idea that I needed to bench press my body weight or be able to do more than a handful of pushups. But for a 21 year old to assume that his body will activate and everything will work out is silly. That one day, a woman would walk by and I would have the feelings that everyone else I knew was having. Instead, I was back to imagining the long life I would have on my own. But I would be successful: law school and all of that, so who would question me? I had the best excuse: I’m too busy to think about a serious relationship. “I was childlike, responding with no response at all except to change the subject.”
It is a strange position to be in where you want to fit in completely and just hide in the shadows, but at the same time, you want to excel to take any glare off of another part of your life that you don’t understand. In a recent New York Times editorial, Adam D. Chandler wrote about this article as a coming out of sorts to millions of readers. He described how he wanted to fit in. “I copied how the boys at school sat in their desks, with their knees apart. I observed how they wore their backpacks, using only one of the shoulder straps.” But he was also an overachiever – a Harvard law graduate who grew up trying to distract with good report cards and success.
Rauch made a similar point that I believe was even more true for me regarding being normal: “[l]ittle boys and teenagers want many things, but most of all they want to be normal. The desire not to be strange is not, I think, the callous invention of a capitalist or racist or sexist or whateverist culture which seeks to repress human beings’ explosively variegated diversity. It is, for people, an indivisible part of the socializing instinct.” I didn’t want to be abnormal in another form. Everyone told me I was smarter than the average bear. I was far weaker, shorter, thinner than most boys my age. I did not have a large circle of friends and I never felt normal socially. I felt like an outcast in almost every fashion of my life.
Chandler wrote at the end of his piece, “The flip slide of discovering you’re not alone is the melting of your presumed snowflake uniqueness. Now I’m a statistic, another data point, just an ordinary overachieving closet case.” He is right – that feels bad. There are fears that my drive will reduce. There are fears that I will still end up alone. But instead of having excuses, it does feel nice to be a statistic for once, where my actions and reactions were more normal than not. A little normalcy can go a long way.
Yeah, I wasn’t unique at all in my reaction. And strangely enough, that doesn’t bother me one bit now. It feels good to know that I am not unique or strange or abnormal – at least in how an adolescent reacted to figuring out his differences. I just wish I could go back in time and tell 11 year old Dan just that.
In the beginning of Denial, Rauch explains that, at a young age, he was practicing the piano and realized out of the blue that he would not be getting married. He didn’t know why, but it was something that he just felt. He describes it as “otherworldly blandness of a realization which is as certain as it is apparently baseless.” Though I didn’t have a similar thought on marriage at ten (that thought came a bit later), I remember writing short stories and telling people that I would adopt children. It never crossed my mind that I would have children the old fashioned way. When I look back, I would link it to my love of superheroes, specifically Bruce Wayne, who got a new ward whenever the last Robin got tired of him and his controlling personality. I also would tell myself that it was better for the world if I took care of children that were already here without a home, instead of creating more. It seemed very noble. I knew at the time it was weird for me to think these thoughts, but I figured, like Rauch, it would go away. Eventually, I would have a switch that goes off that makes me understand fifth grade sex ed and the feelings I was being warned that would come my way.
It would be easy to say that my thoughts on my sexuality, at this age, were defined as right or wrong as defined by the Church.
I grew up a Catholic, I was an altar server, and for a long time, I wanted to be a priest. But it wasn’t a right or wrong dichotomy that was in my head. It was all about wanting to just feel the same way everyone else felt. I didn’t know how they felt before they decided to pursue a girl or boy. Did a switch turn on that told you what to feel? How did you feel the day before? What were you to do next? All that I knew that I wanted was the white picket fence and to be loved. I wanted to have a family and I wanted to grow up like everyone else. And I would pray that I would. I didn’t pray to change who I was – I had no idea who that was. I just prayed for the life that TV and movies define as a the good life.
These feelings never came. And I was ashamed that I didn’t have those feelings. I really didn’t have any feelings. I pretended that I did. I did whatever I could to be what I envisioned the person everyone else wanted me to be. At my core, I felt, like Rauch, “sexually retarded.” As other boys and girls began having feelings for each other, I would develop them at a time to be determined later. When they didn’t come, I just figured, I was incapable of loving someone like that and therefore was incapable of being loved. I became envious.
I remember listening to the lyrics of I’m A Believer and understanding one line (and not much else of the song): “I thought love was only true in fairy tales. Meant for someone else but not for me.” Instead of thinking that I was just like everyone else (just slightly different). I turned myself into the best kid I could be, so no one would see my differences. Or if they did, it didn’t bother them because I was such a good guy.
Jonathan Rauch has graced this blog before. Maybe, not in name, butinspirit. Ever since I read this article Caring for Your Introvert, I felt more confident in who I am as a person. I get more energy from being alone than I do from other people. A few weeks ago, he published a new book called Denial. For a second time, I have to thank Mr. Rauch for writing something that will shape the rest of my life (besides his many political pieces, which I find interesting and thoughtful). It will shape who I am today and who I will try to be in the future.
I have never written these words. They aren’t news to many people in my life. But here they are…I’m gay.
It’s a hard thing to write, even at thirty years of age. It isn’t shame or embarrassment that makes it difficult. My family and many other people have known for over three years now. But I’m a genuinely private person (even for someone who has a personal blog that he likes to write in). And I think I also still have a bit of shame about being different. And part of writing this is to stop with that shame, or at least slow it down.
When I first began to accept this part of me, I wasn’t liberated. I was a bit more scared than I was the day before. Rauch described it like this: “Imagine being born and raised in a dark dungeon cell, where you hear of an outside world but cannot conceive of a path to it; and then imagine the one day you put your fingers to the brick and push a bit, just the slightest bit of pressure, and all four walls of the cell simple collapse into the ground, and all traces of captivity are gone except the ones inscribed on yourself.” I have inscribed so much on myself that it is painful to think about. I put myself in captivity. I assumed that I could not be loved, that I was different, that I was a depressive who should be on his own, and that I don’t deserve to be happy. I felt safe in my surroundings. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song, I Am A Rock, I had my books and poetry to protect me.
It was easy to stay safe in the womb I built if I didn’t put myself out there. And eventually, I decided I needed to leave my safety net. And so I did. This is that story.
I bought a fish- a blue Gourami- about five years ago. It started off as a few inches big and grew to probably be too small for the ten gallon tank that he called home. I named him after my dog, who was sick at the time, but added an umlaut over the u in Buster and pronounced it Booster. He died over the weekend and it is a bit sad. He was my last living animal connection to my dog. I would look at him everyday and think of Buster. He was such a big fish and I had no idea how he got like that but he was always entertaining. I have no idea how long such fish live and if five or six years, since I really don’t remember when I got him – it was when I decided to restock the fish tank after I moved home – but he seemed to live a good life.
Fish are hard though. It is a lot of water changing and cleaning. Nonetheless, I only have three small fish left in there, which is probably better for the health of the tank. But it looks lonely without this massive blue fish floating around scaring the other fish with its little tentacles. I wish I took a picture of it…
My head hurts. My legs are sore. My stomach gurgles a few times every couple of minutes. All of this is just from fasting on this first Friday of Lent. I haven’t fasted for a few years like this, but wanted to try again because it seemed like a good way to think about a few things. Though it is harder than I remember, so far I am not upset by it. Nevertheless, I don’t know how Muslims can do this for the whole month of Ramadan. I just have to get through every Friday for forty days on two small meals (with no meat). Tuna and cheese pizzas for all!
When I went to church today, the priest talked about Lent and how instead of giving something up like chocolate, that we should work on self-reflection and do something to make us a better person. So, instead of giving something up, I will try to write every day for the next forty days and hopefully continue writing past that. I will edit the entry from yesterday to include pictures and start from here. See you on the other side.
On my way home today, I needed a pick-me-up. I needed to feel a little better. I put on my Smokey Robinson and the Miracles Pandora channel and drove home. Motown always makes me feel better. But the last song I heard before arriving in my driveway was Just My Imagination by The Temptations.
I have been househunting for about a month now. My mom’s cousin is a realtor and has been graciously helping me view houses. When I started the process, I had talked to a mortgage broker who told me I had approximately $110,000 in buying power. He recommended I pay off a few of my student loans in full to increase my buying power. I did. I paid off a $1,500 loan and a $6,500 loan. It felt good and I got excited. I set up several viewings for houses under $150,000 to get a sense of what I could buy. None of them really made the grade, but it was a start. A week later, I viewed 9 more with my parents. Two seemed good. But I didn’t think I could afford them.
So, I called the mortgage guy to rerun my numbers with the loans I paid off no longer on my credit report. He told me earlier that that would get me to $150,000. I was incredibly proud. But when I talked to him, he told me I was not yet to $160,000, but that I was in a good position. And I had 9 more to view with John. They were a little more expensive but they seemed in the realm of possibility. I had about $4500 that I could spend on another loan to push me even higher.
We got to the first house that was listed at $169,000. It was great. I was excited, John was excited, and it seemed like I could move out of my parents’ house. The second one was not so great. None of us liked it. We were in and out in a few minutes. When we got back into the car, my realtor told me he talked to the mortgage guy and he told my realtor that I was about $300 per month short of being able to afford a house listed at $140,000. My heart dropped. We went to several more houses but all I could think about was how I couldn’t afford any of this and I don’t know if I could ever afford it.
John picked up my spirits a little. And we completed the rest of the tour. We ended up seeing three places we really liked. But I was still heart broken. I have been working really hard to pay off my student loans. In the last five years, I have lowered my debt by over $60,000. I have saved and stopped buying lots of things. I don’t buy expensive clothes or shoes. I don’t pay rent since I live at home and my parents don’t ask for rent. I watch my budget very closely and have even dropped my comic book haul by about half in the past few months to help prepare me for a mortgage. But as we sat at Boston Market and reviewed the houses, all I could think about was how none of this was going to happen anytime soon. It was just my imagination running away with me.
The next day, my realtor had contacted the mortgage guy who gave me the exact details. I could afford a house at $140,000 with $5,000 per year in taxes. If I cut my monthly debt by $128, I could afford a $160K house with $5,000 per year in taxes. I lit back up. The house we liked the best was $140,000. Back to being a reality.
Today, I was scheduling a second viewing of that house to look more closely and if it all looked good, we would put in an offer. I emailed my realtor and he was going to schedule me for a time on Wednesday. I was excited, but heading to lunch, so I didn’t respond. I had a nice lunch but got back to my desk to see a new email from my realtor entitled “great…”
The house was under contract as of that morning. Just my imagination once again…
I’m not doing well. It is not easy for a depressive to have these ups and downs all in three days. I started with an up on Friday, a down on Saturday, an up on Sunday and back down on Monday. I emailed my realtor and told him that I need a break. I don’t know if that is the best idea, but I physically cannot take anymore right now.
I’m fatigued and sad. Each day, I began thinking what my life could be becoming. I saw the beginning of a life. I saw happiness and joy. I saw excitement and new adventures. I would close my eyes and see how things are going to be.