Hopelessly Demoted


Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Lately it feels like hope is a form of insanity, as I do the same things again and again, and try to convince myself that there’s just enough difference that this time, it will work. Hope holds out the football for me, tells me that this time it’s a sure shot, and that bitch pulls it away every time. Only difference is how hard I fall.

I’ve been tenuously involved since last January with a guy in Shanghai, “Dan.” He was couple years behind me in high school and had an unrequited crush on me back then. We shared one awful kiss in college, and then lost touch until he found me on Facebook. I remembered the fun bantering in high school, that terrible kiss, cringed, accepted his friend request, and blew off responding to his “Hey, what’s up?” message for a couple months. I think this was my first mistake, as karma is fat cow with a nasty sense of humor. We made plans to meet up for coffee when we were both home over the holidays, and I told myself that at least he was working as a reporter in Shanghai so that would give us something to talk about. I made sure I looked decent, but I also tried to insure I would not be inspiring a repeat of his entreaties to kiss him. As God hates me and karma is a bitch, I was not totally surprised when I walked into the coffee shop and discovered that little Dan had grown into just the type of intellectual geek hot that makes me an instant gibbering idiot. I immediately wished I’d chosen the quirky dress that hinted at good things underneath instead of the sensible pants that hinted I’d be good at filing.

I babbled, but I must have been at least somewhat entertaining because he laughed, and he still had that crooked smile that I’d always found charming. I’d put off meeting with him until the last moment, so my options on how to proceed were limited. He’d mentioned taking the job in Shanghai in part because of a bad breakup, so hey, chances were he was single! But he was also getting over some bug so just jumping him didn’t seem prudent. I gave him a ride home, and hoped and hoped he’d ask me in, but no such luck. We said the usual “let’s meet up for drinks if we’re in the same town,” and that was that.

But Hope said Hey, he liked you before, and China may be far away, but there’s email, and look at all those couples in the New York Times wedding announcements who fell for each other while on different continents. We started emailing, me more often than him, but he was working crazy hours and I wasn’t. I was having a hard time, not getting any temp work and my depression was amping up, so I was clinging to this tiny bit of happiness. With major depression, you spend a good deal of time feeling hopeless, it’s number one with a bullet on the list of symptoms. Having something to hope for gives you a reason to leave the bed in the afternoon. (Leaving in the morning only happens if there’s a doctor’s appointment or such). Just something to look forward to, the thought that something could be better tomorrow, it’s priceless. I put more stock in my relationship with Dan than it deserved, because it was the flotsam I was clinging to in rough seas. I was elated when I got an email from him, despondent when I didn’t hear from him for days, a week, longer.

I’d also taken a long hiatus from relationships and dating for various reasons, so when I did dive back in, I went straight for the deep end. No easing back in with casual hook ups, crushing on the cute check out guy at Trader Joes. Nope, straight to throwing myself at someone with self professed emotional issues who lived on another continent. Well, I always did like a challenge. And, it seems, men who are emotionally unavailable and unreliable. Dan would make overtures, then fall off the planet. I wrote myself out in emails, thoughts, feelings, reflections, and he’d barely comment on the content. But said he enjoyed getting them, so I continued, trying to feel satisfied with the crumbs he sent in return. I can spin off a long email in no time, so I never understood why he claimed that he spent all day writing for work and didn’t feel up to more writing when he got home, as that, to me, is not an excuse for sporadic communication. The phrase, “He’s Just Not That Into You,” was. But I tried to ignore it. I needed this too much.

I’ve already written about this a few times, so I’m trying not to repeat myself, but rather fill in details that I left out, and ones that I chose to ignore or didn’t realize at the time. Because Dan was so reticent in his emails, I was left to play profiler with what little he did give me, and I know now I spun the wrong man out of those details, the kind of man I wanted rather than the kind he actually was. At least it gives me an idea of what I’m looking for, I guess. I saw this man reading a challenging book on vacation for fun, who had taken a job in a strange foreign country to escape a bad relationship, someone who enjoyed wordplay as much as I did, and made it all into a romantic intellectual ideal. His going to Vienna was proof he was right for me, because it’s one of my favorite cities in the world, and not one many people chose randomly for a vacation. In reality, he was going there not because of a love for the city, or even nostalgia for “Before Sunrise,” (my reason for going, though once there I fell in love with its fin de siecle beauty coupled with a modern soul). He was going to visit a girlfriend, one he’d neglected to ever mention before the trip. And once there, he hated everything I loved about the city. He told me these things after an email from me in which I apologized for some imagined slight I must have done him, as he’d fallen out of touch for a longer time than usual, and I assumed I had done something wrong. I’d done nothing wrong, he was just too busy to write as he’d promised. Between the sudden appearance of a never-mentioned girlfriend and my anger at myself for prostrating myself before him to get a response, I railed at him, and vowed to write no more. Plus, how could anyone get tired of gazing at Klimts? I’d been wrong about him, he wasn’t like me.

But, with some kind of freakish intuition, he emailed about a month later, just as I was relegating the whole thing to the pile of past mistakes. He was contrite, begging forgiveness, offering drinks and food next time we were in the same city, and hoping that would happen. And mentioning that he would be in New York at some point in the future. As I have friends there and legitimate reasons to visit, I tried to co-ordinate a visit with when he’d be there. And never, ever got a response. Even after our relationship had escalated suddenly to graphic, scorching chat sex. Rather than making things clearer, it just muddied the waters. His swings from interest to ignoring became wider, more vivid. I had only initiated one “What is the status of this relationship?” discussion before in my life, after a deeply passionate kiss from someone who had previously claimed to just want to be friends going forward. With Dan, I never knew where I stood, or at least I wasn’t willing to admit it to myself. Even offering to recreate what we’d been doing in chats in real life didn’t get him to say when he’d be in New York. He just ignored all mentions of it.

I got angry about not being answered, and punched him with a link to the blog post about our chat sex. I’d already covered everything I said in it about my feelings and such in emails to him, but somehow, in print, it hit him and had some effect. Rereading his emails, I see how little that effect actually was, but it seemed like something at the time. We’d moved from emails to gchat, both clean and dirty. I’d neglected to tell him about another blog post about him, one that had been cross posted to a group blog. The reasons were many. I didn’t want him knowing how silly I was over him, I didn’t want him to have that kind of power over me. Other than the chat sex post, he’d read some of my other posts and commented on how incredibly emotionally honest they were. I like that I can write here like that, but sometimes, there are people I don’t want reading certain things. He’d never commented on the link I sent out about my first piece being posted, so I assumed he wasn’t reading. And got caught out when he asked in circles around about how much I was writing about him. I hate that approach, it goes hand in hand with my hatred of being lied to, and I got annoyed when I finally discerned he’d read the post and was annoyed, even though he’d said he was fine about my writing about us. Theory is one thing, having strangers comment on you makes it real I suppose. Even though they all liked him. So I said I’d stop, no more posts about him or us.

Clearly, that’s changed, but we’ll get to that later. Things went on as usual, going into summer. I didn’t want him to think I was a loser, so it spurred me to write more, to try and be more. But I was also going through an incredibly hard time with my depression, coming off all my meds completely for the first time in about fifteen years. I was getting worse, and adding more on to the high dose I was already on just added side effects and didn’t make me feel better, so I wanted a fresh start. By the end, I was crying at anything. Just walking down the street and bursting into tears. It was really great, let me tell you. I had a moment on the phone with my dad, crying, trying to decide between going on a planned vacation to New York for a week with my friends and checking into a psych ward. I chose the trip (non-refundable tickets), and it helped. I’d had a ridiculous mess of a situation with the people on the group blog (word of advice: never get into an argument with a gay socialist ex-Mormon about Miley Cyrus’ feminist cred, it just will not end well), and was really hurt. But it was ridiculous, and anytime I tried to bring it up with the dear friend I was staying with, he just looked at me and said, “Girl, I love you, but I’m over it.” And soon I almost was. I met new friends, wandered the city until my feet bled through my Chucks, and just got away from myself. It was wonderful.

Then I came home, and was still without work. Or Dan, really. He’d told me there were other girls, that the one in Vienna was still in the picture somewhat, intimated there could be more. I couldn’t expect exclusivity, and I had joined a dating site and was trying to date people in my time zone. But we got closer. He was always closed off and compartmentalized, but he started cracking open windows, letting me get a glimpse of who he really was. And I kept liking it. Even when he was disparaging himself for not doing what he really wanted to be doing, or for his self-destructive drinking binges. I’m far from perfect, and I’ve always found flaws to be some of the most interesting and revealing parts of people. His made me feel there was an amazing man there, if he’d just stop being afraid. And there were these odd moments of tenderness in the chat sex, moments where we talked about wanting to touch the other person, he wanted to feel my skin, I wanted to run my fingers through his hair. Wanting to lie tangled with each other, worn out. I’d sent him some photos, more Esquire than Playboy, but he liked them. A lot. And then he sent me a poem, saying, “This makes me think of you… in a good way.” And, “The sentiment may be a touch over the top, but … I fucking love this poem.” I should have paid more attention to the bit about “the sentiment may be a bit over the top,” but when a boy you’re falling harder and harder for sends you a love poem like that, even if he didn’t write it, you read so much into it, trying to remain detached becomes impossible. Hope takes flight, even if you’ve tried to clip its wings.

He was going to be in San Francisco in a couple months for a wedding, just up the coast from me, and I so wanted, needed, to see him. To find out if this was real, or just some figment built on words and lust. He tended to balk if I made any mention of meeting up, even in the abstract. But we had grown closer, able to talk about fears and discuss the boundaries of our desires. I risked it, asking if I could come up and see him, saying I had a friend I wanted to see there anyway, trying to make it clear I wasn’t asking to be glued to his side for his entire visit, just to see him, maybe get to see if our passion translated from the written to reality. And I got radio silence. He avoided mentioning it in chats, and so did I, because I’d gotten my answer. I just had to wait for him to say it. When he did, it was that his trip was about spending time with old friends, and that introducing someone new into that would be awkward. That whatever we’d been doing had gone too far, he couldn’t handle another long-distance relationship, and “I feel like I’ve crossed a line that I shouldn’t have and don’t know how to get back across.” And over and over how sorry he was, and how wonderful I was, and how he hoped I could forgive him.

I was shattered, heartbroken. I was his secret shame, not worthy of meeting his friends, even though I had no interest in meeting them. We had a huge fight, his saying he never said anything like that, my saying it was implicit. I lashed out, saying he’d gotten what he wanted from me, without having to actually do anything, lavished in my attention. It was ugly, as it should have been, because he knew how I felt, and hadn’t put the brakes on until he was forced to do so, until he had to act. He didn’t seem to realize how deeply he had wounded me, as he thought we could just go on being bantering friends, like nothing had happened. Maybe just curtail the chat sex. I had to explain that wouldn’t be possible, it was too hard to be the one always wanting more and knowing it would never happen. I’d gotten fed up a few weeks earlier over something and felt I should end it, and had cut off talking to him, but then had a blow out with a best friend and missed him so much, just needed him to make me laugh too much to keep from contacting him. And, oh, how he could make me laugh. We had double entendre banter about economic policy in Africa. Just a few lines of chat with him could give me a high. The idea of losing that was hard, but the pain of going on would be worse. And I reclaimed the right to write about us, trading it for his getting to keep the photos I’d sent.

And the next day I set up my first date with someone from the dating site, a tall cute boy who seemed funny, plus he lived in the same city, which was a huge bonus at that point. It seemed like a sign from the universe. He rode his bike across LA to meet me. After trying to be with someone who refused to let me fly up to spend time with him, such a feat seemed like the height of romance. I couldn’t get a read on him during our date, I was putting out every signal, and just not sure if he was shy or what. I even asked the bartender what she thought when he went to the bathroom. She couldn’t tell either, but we were there for five hours, so she thought that was a good sign. I did too. And he wanted to see me again. I’d mentioned the date on Face Book, full of excitement, so Dan knew about it. I still don’t know why I logged on to gchat when I got home. He was an addiction, a habit, one I was hesitant to break. I wanted him to know that someone did want me. We talked about the date, I thought it was odd to do that with Dan, but he said we could, because we were really friends. Bike-Boy distracted me enough from the pain to be able to play the pretense. For a week, until he canceled on our second date a couple hours before, with only a vague voicemail, and then deleted his profile on the dating site. (When I scare off a boy, I do it thoroughly). I’d thrown myself into this new possibility, not in the way of planning our wedding and how many babies we’d have, but in just letting myself hope, plan, buy new underwear. Looking forward to some small good thing in my life. It was one too many rejections in a week, and I wrote Dan the email I’d put off writing. The one in which I told him how much he’d hurt me, how he’d not even been a good friend. And then he really fell off the planet. I tried to contact him on gchat, and he logged off, ignored emails asking when he’d answer. After a couple days of that shit, I snapped, emailed him I was through, deleted him from Face Book and gchat, and polled my friends for heartbreak songs.

I went out with a couple other people from the dating site, one I wanted to see more of who didn’t seem to agree, one who wanted to see more of me but I had no spark with and tried to set up with a friend. I worked on my writing, kept trying to find work, and started going to concerts again, even if it was alone. I kept trying to get friends to go out and do things, but everyone was always busy. I had my “Fake Book” friends, people I know through the group blog and commenting on other blogs. We may not know each others’ real names, but we’re closer in some ways than people I see every day. And I can hang out with them without leaving my couch or putting on pants. I’d discovered that even though I’d defriended him, I could still see Dan’s Face Book profile, and I’d guiltily check it from time to time, hating myself for caring, but getting to the point where I was wondering what I had been thinking. And then he emailed me, a sincere apology, saying how sorry he was for hurting me, how much of an asshole he’d been, and how he had no expectations that I’d forgive him or contact him. And that he missed me. It had been over four months since I’d emailed him.

I wanted to ignore it. To just gloat over his finally admitting he’d been wrong and continue on without him. But it was a real apology, and those are rare. And I’d missed him, too. So I wrote back, and then contacted him on gchat. Within minutes we were joking again, including my saying how much I hated him because after all he’d done to me I still went straight to naughty comments when he gave me the opening for one. He said a few times how much he’d missed me, even that he’d been miserable without me. I admitted to checking his Face Book page. He said he’d never had anyone be as angry with him as I’d been, except his ex-wife when they were breaking up (which told me so much). He told a story about getting drunk and kissing a guy friend and said, “Don’t tell my girlfriend.” I teased him about the kiss, then said I was happy he had a girlfriend. Oh no, he said, not him, he didn’t have a girlfriend, the friend he kissed had said that. He was going to be back home over Christmas, and even in Los Angeles for a day’s layover on his flight back. I told him he was on probation, we’d see about meeting up. I made some mention of why I’d advocated for our just meeting up to fuck each others’ brains out and get it out of our systems, and he said he was starting to see it might be good. He said in passing that he was still involved with the on-again, off-again girl from Vienna, but as he’d denied having a girlfriend, I didn’t take it that seriously. Especially when we fell right back into chat sex in that first conversation.

He’d deleted the photos, feeling it was wrong to keep them if we weren’t talking. So I sent him new ones, more explicit this time. And a story. He reciprocated with a photo to show how much he’d enjoyed mine. There was some question of video chat capability, but it never came to anything. I made some mentions of hooking up when we were home, then decided to let him make the plans, I didn’t want to be the one controlling everything. Within 72 hours of sending me a photo of how much he enjoyed me, he was telling me we’d have drinks, and that was it. After practically pulling teeth, I got out of him that Vienna had joined him in San Francisco for the wedding, which made it clear why it would have been hard for him to explain to his friends who I was, as they all thought he had a steady girlfriend. One who did not know what he’d been doing with me online. I was livid, as being The Other Woman is a choice I like making myself, not one I want foisted on me. But I didn’t want to tell him to go to hell, as I still had so much curiosity about us, if there was anything there, and I’d likely only have the one chance to spend any time with him and figure it out. I hoped that I would see him and immediately wonder what all the fuss had been about, and I’d be fine.

I met him for a late lunch, and as soon as I saw him, I knew I wouldn’t be fine. I was anything but. I was mooney, and I wanted him so badly I could barely keep my hands off him. I had my hand on his knee, I stroked his beard. I had a cough, so the first vodka was to quell that. The next two were to quell my urge to reach across the table and kiss him until I passed out from lack of oxygen. I get more controlled when drunk, not less, but I hadn’t eaten, and had forgotten my tolerance was low. I still claim that I was walking just fine, it was the heels and a very cracked sidewalk that caused me trouble. But it meant we had our arms around each other, to steady me. He didn’t seem to mind, even though he had said he was trying to make it work with Vienna. But she wasn’t there, I was, so it still didn’t seem real. After getting some coffee in me and making sure I was safe to drive home, he met up with some other friends, and I went home. We had plans to see a movie in a couple days.

Those plans feel apart, but we said we’d just meet for drinks. He got my cell number, we set a time, and I got ready and waited. And waited, on the couch with my parents watching TV. I only had his Chinese cell phone number, and couldn’t get an answer on that or email. So after two hours, I gave up, wrote him a scathing email and went to bed, crying my head off. My father had some choice words to say about his behavior. I didn’t sleep well at home, and woke up in the middle of the night to emails and chat messages from Dan that he had taken a nap and his parents hadn’t got him up as he’d asked, and he’d just woken up and felt awful and was there any way he could still see me? As my dad responded to this story with, “Poor chap,” I deemed it a forgivable mistake, and said we’d have dinner, thinking a side of guilt might not hurt. I picked him up, we went to the same bar, and within ten minutes of our sitting down he’d announced that Vienna was arriving that Saturday to meet his family. It was all I could do not to get up from the table and walk out. Instead I stayed and fought, arguing over his odd definition of not having a girlfriend, over stringing me along, using me to fill an emotional void in his life. I wanted to slap him, but settled for grabbing his face in my hands and insisting that he had a girlfriend and should have been honest so I could have freely chosen what to do.

Things actually got better after that. We both went outside for a cigarette, and ended up opening up, him about his marriage, how it broke up, the divorce, its aftermath of drunken nights out and the choice to take the job in Shanghai. And about starting to date Vienna a couple months before he left, and how they had been on-again, off-again for the two years he’d been out there. I told him about Slugboy, about Jack and Jill, about another friend who had betrayed me. I felt like we were truly friends, and that would last, even if he was choosing to try and make a relationship with Vienna work because he saw his friends settling down and wanted that safety and stability. Oh, and he was scared of me because I reminded him of his ex-wife (I knew something scared him, and as we were being open, I went ahead and asked), and that had ended so badly. I had always hated that scene in Grey’s Anatomy where Meredith begs McDreamy, “Pick me, chose me,” but oh god, confronted with such a moment, it is damn hard not to do just that. But I still hate it because I managed not to, because it’s lazy writing. I’d realized by then that I did love him somehow, and while I stopped short of saying that too, I was painfully open about wanting to be with him, which I will never regret. I also tried to be a friend, and tell him that whoever he ended up with in life, she should be someone he could be fully himself with, and not just someone who made him feel safe and stable and kept him from his fear of being alone. We invited our waitress to sit with us when her shift was over, chatted about her love life. I was happy enough, I hadn’t gotten him like I wanted, but I had something real, a connection based on more than just memories and lust. I asked if we could be like teenagers and go sit in my dad’s car for a while by the lake and listen to music and talk. I don’t know why, whether it was opening up to me, or the stress of the fight, or just some oddness of straight boys I will never understand, but he proceeded to get drunk and strike up a long conversation with someone from our high school both of us barely remembered. I just wanted to get to the car and talk, he was acting the conquering hero returned from exotic lands with a fancy job.

I finally dragged him away right before last call, and we got to the lake. He was floppy drunk. I was wondering why all the music I loved and had wanted to listen to with him suddenly sounded wrong. We talked about high school, I rubbed his shoulders, a promise I had made long before. He rubbed my knee, my neck, the back of my head. I ended up sitting in his lap, joking that it’s something I do when I’m drunk, and my short skirt had kept me from acting on the impulse when we’d gone out the last time. We just leaned into each other. Close. I wasn’t going to use his drunkenness to get what I wanted, it wouldn’t count that way. He had to want me, he had to make the move. I did kiss the nape of his neck as he rested his head against me. Our lips almost brushed as we tried to say why we shouldn’t. Then he did kiss me, and it held all the promise and passion I knew it would. We sat for a minute more, I clambered back into the driver’s seat and dropped him home. He sent me a sweet, drunken email, saying that he’d had an incredible night, and that my awesomeness could help overcome his assholeness, and we could make something work. And that was pretty much the last I heard from my friend Dan.

I wrote back, and didn’t hear, then sent an email to check how bad his hangover was. To that I got a terse reply, all business-like and polite that he’d survived, with a mention about meeting up in LA the next week. I wanted to have dinner, and let him know I had plans for the day he was going to be in town and needed notice of what he wanted to do in case I needed to adjust them. I repeated that request a couple days later, giving a deadline, and saying I knew he didn’t want to deal with me when Vienna was in town but that I needed to know (I really did have plans, doctor’s appointments, and the bit about not wanting to deal with me was a cheap shot, but less than I wanted to say in the circumstances). He finally got back to me a day late, after I had confirmed my doctor’s appointments and said to myself, screw him. We made plans for him to meet me at my house and to walk over to my favorite diner for dinner, then grab drinks at my favorite bar where a friend of his might meet us. He arrived at my house drunk, from having spent the afternoon drinking with said friend. He didn’t even seem like my friend, but some poseur douchebag, making comments about not wanting anything to do with my cats as his ex was so into cats, and jokes about eating my pet rabbit. I tried to talk to him on the walk, but he didn’t want to talk about anything substantial, unless it had to do with my plans for my future and career and possibly moving. I spent the evening wondering where my friend was, and if he’d make an appearance. I drove him back to his hotel, and he slept most of the way. So at least I can say he slept with me.

And that’s how it’s been since. I emailed him about how awful he was about my pets, and how much that hurt as they are an important part of my life, and I got an “I’m sorry you feel that way” fake apology. Then a rant about how I had complained about hating such fake apologies on Face Book rather than saying something to him, and making it clear he wasn’t sorry at all for what he had said or done. The Face Book post was only slightly about him, as his was the third such BS I had gotten in as many months and I’d had it with such flakiness, and told him so when we got on gchat. I’d wanted to ignore him as he was clearly trying to pick a fight, but stupidly logged on thinking he’d be too cowardly to message me, and instead he did, right away. I keep hoping my friend is still there, but I think he’s gone, scared off by his feelings or by having let me see him when he was open and vulnerable. Or something I will never know. I sent him a link to a BBC radio program with Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine, talking about her work and about poetry, which eerily included her reading the Hughes poem, because I knew my friend Dan would enjoy it. Wherever he is now. I read over old chats, and miss him so much. I’ll stop that soon, just like I’ll stop logging on to gchat and hoping he’ll be back, hoping the glib android version will be gone. I tried tonight, and there was a glimmer, but it’s not enough. I’m signing off gchat and won’t let myself get back on, it hurts too much.

I’m left wondering if he ever gave us a chance, or when he decided it wouldn’t work. If I was just a toy to fill his time, part of a Franken-girl composed of me and others to make up what he needed. He told me I was the most open sexually of any girl he’d been with recently, and I wonder how much was just about that for him. I wonder if I ever had a chance of winning him over when we met up back home, or if it was all just a test of will for him, of proving he could resist something he desired. There have been moments of anger, nights of crying myself to sleep, the need for a white blank page to write this all out. I’m trying to not let it ruin me, not let it keep me from trying, not let it make me retreat into fear. As a friend told me, I’m not heartbroken because he rejected me, that’s my pride hurting. I’m heartbroken because he didn’t turn out to be the man I thought the was, the man I’d hoped he’d be. Blowing out that last glimmer of hope is hard, but I have to do it.

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January 31, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. 4 comments.

Clap Your Hands

I’ve started therapy again, with a nice woman on a sliding scale.  After an attack on my emotional state aided and abetted by medication roulette, I’m back down to just one anti-depressant, at a dose that makes doctors raise their eyebrows just a tad.  And I’m still making it to the gym at least a few times a week.  I’m doing all the things you’re supposed to do, so why is it that when my therapist asked me the other week to talk about the most recent time I was happy, I couldn’t think of one?

I don’t spend every day crying hysterically and rending my clothes.  That would actually feel like something.  No, I spend most days feeling like I’m wrapped in blankets, struggling through a lake of molasses.  Everything about me is dulled and slow.  It is a struggle to leave my comfy bed and warm cat, something I put off to the afternoon unless I absolutely have to get up and go somewhere.  As long as I’m in bed, I’m safe, the world hasn’t started.  If it weren’t for my pets, I could easily see myself not leaving the bed for days.  I just don’t have the energy.  It’s like trying to run in knee deep mud, trying with all your might and getting ahead only a few inches at a time.  Few things seem worth that effort.

Being unemployed doesn’t help.  Having a job would get me out of the house, give me something to do, distract me from the loops playing in my mind.  What is wrong with me?  What did I do wrong?  Which thing that I did wrong was it, that brought me to this point?  There are things I could be doing, should be doing.  I have writing to work on, a script to finish.  But when your brain is sluggish the words don’t want to come, and when they do, you’re sure it’s crap.  I should be applying for jobs, sending out resumes.  What’s that old saying, that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?  Hope can seem like a form of insanity at times, when you’ve done something over and over and it hasn’t worked, but you have no option but to try it again.  Having spent a good portion of the last ten years under- or unemployed, I’ve lost track of how many jobs I’ve applied for, how many resumes I’ve sent out, even of where I’ve interviewed.  There was the top producer who thought I was “delightful,” but the choice was really up to his writers.  There was the VP who worried I’d be bored too quickly, in a job a rung above the one I’d been doing well for the past year.  Delightful doesn’t necessarily get you hired, and neither does being able to walk in and do the job from day one.  I’ve run up to kick that football so many times, and have ended up cracking my head on the ground in the fall after it’s not there.

And even though I feel wrapped in blankets, numb to things around me, I can also feel flayed, like every nerve ending is exposed and raw to the slightest nip.  The littlest thing can set me off, even worse is turning my head to look at the things I’m trying to ignore, the problems I just can’t face without wanting to curl up and surrender.  I forced myself to get out of the house the other week, go get some magazines, get a burger at my favorite diner, just remind myself that the world outside my front door is a fine place.  But the diner was closed, something was being filmed there.  I went somewhere else, but the food wasn’t as good, they messed up my order, and they cleared my plate and magazine when I went back inside to get a slice of cake.  Nothing much in the scheme of things, but I was shattered, wanting to cry my head off.  I dragged myself to the gym and sleep walked through my routine.  I don’t buy that exercising gives you an endorphin rush; if I keep pushing myself after I’m wiped on the elliptical all I feel is dizzy and light headed.  But the muscle weariness of the weight machines makes me feel like I’ve done something, honest work, a worthy ache.

I told my therapist the other week about how I’ve been feeling, the lethargy, the lack of motivation, the lack of anything.  She went over what I had said, asked some questions, and told me that that was depression.  Having suffered under it for years now, you’d imagine I’d know that, but hope is a funny thing.  When you’re taking the meds, doing what they tell you, you think it will get better.  I think it will, it’s just going to take more time, maybe another spin of the medication wheel.  In the meantime, I hide when I can, fake it when I can’t, and hope for moments when I feel normal, OK, maybe even happy. Maybe if I clap hard enough, really show I believe, it can last.

May 9, 2010. Tags: , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. Leave a comment.

Woman Who Verged on a Nervous Breakdown

Several years ago, I was working in publicity at a major film studio, and started having trouble with a co-worker.  She was one of those girls who stepped on toes to get ahead, and I somehow got in her way.  We’ll call her Puppy, because she piddled all over other people’s lives and work.  I think it had to do with my getting to go on a better travel junket than the one Puppy did.  That one, I was the only person working on the film involved who didn’t get to go, and I was pretty hurt.  I asked a friend at work if I had done something wrong, she explained these things happen, and I just sucked it up.  When my boss came back from the junket, realizing I really was the only one left behind, he went to bat for me to get to go to the next one.  It meant a trip to New Orleans, almost home for me, but I didn’t gloat.  Puppy pouted, then screwed me over for no reason on a silly work issue.  My boss was the type who thought saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” was enough to manage a problem, so I didn’t really get the support I needed.  I was stressed enough to seek out a therapist and start going once a week.

I had had a bout of depression in college and seen a shrink and been on prozac for a time, but had managed OK in the intervening years.  Well, managed by shoving everything down and not dealing with it.  I’m half British and half old line Yankee WASP, repression is hardwired in my DNA.  But things with Puppy, and knowing my boss wouldn’t do anything to stick up for me when someone clearly piddled all over my job responsibilities, made me think it was time for professional help.  And at first it was good.  With my background, opening up isn’t easy, so I was actually bad at therapy.  It felt like being beaten up, but I thought it was helping.  I did speak up for myself more with my parents, which didn’t go over well at all, and felt better about things in general.

Several months passed, and things at work got weirder and weirder.  There was a change in management structure, with my boss getting a new supervisor.  Then there were closed door meetings between them all.  Something was in the air, the kind of something that makes you think you’re about to get fired, or that you’re being paranoid.  The job was getting to me and just wasn’t fun anymore, so I actually was alright with getting fired.  I was damn good at the work, but not good at playing the games needed to get along with Puppy and her crowd.  My migraines had become worse; one had me suffering from extreme vertigo for a week, though I worked 3 days out of 5.  I was resigned to what I thought was the worst case scenario.  Turns out, it wasn’t.  It was worse than being fired.  My boss called me into his office to tell me I was to be moved to another department, a miserable place where I had no desire to work.  I burst into tears, cried some more in my friend’s office, and even more in therapy.  Then I pulled myself together and stated I wanted to talk to the head of our division to find out what exactly this new job would be, and what would happen if I said no.

I’m still not sure how I kept it so together talking to that man that evening.  Stiff upper lip and WASP training I suppose.  He was a marketing head, so bullshit was his native tongue.  I could not get a straight answer out of him as to what the job would be, or what would happen if I said no.  All I wanted to know was if I would be laid off, and therefore eligible for unemployment, or fired, and so not.  Because I wasn’t going to take the job, I knew that much.  He just kept telling me how good I would be at it.  After hearing this and not a straight answer multiple times, I channeled Dorothy Parker and responded with, “I’d make a great prostitute, too.  Doesn’t mean I want that job either.”  Really, I did.That shut down the BS for a short time, but I never got a straight answer.  I went home, cried until I threw up, talked to my parents, and remembered I was in a union and maybe they could get an answer.

The answer was that I had seniority and couldn’t be moved or laid off.  By that point I was near begging to be laid off.  Who wants to stay somewhere that doesn’t want you?  And I could tell my boss was nervous as he was still trying to have me moved, as much as he had said he was sorry for me to go.  In the end only his wife actually came out and said she was happy I got to stay.  No one in the office did.  Despite having come to work and done my job without complaint or crying at my desk during this whole time, my boss’s supervisor saw fit to lecture me on having to do better.  It was a miserable job environment, but I didn’t want to let them win by quitting.

Things got so bad I was throwing up from the stress, and my depression worsened to thoughts of suicide.  You know it’s bad when you have to call from your desk at work and explain that to someone at your insurance, so you can find a shrink ASAP.  I saw the shrink, and even worked on the phone while driving to my first appointment.  I got put on a cocktail of meds.  My birthday fell in the middle of this, and I spent the time after my office party crying on a co-worker’s shoulder.  The bathroom was my refuge.  My therapist wanted me to start going twice a week, and I kept my boss in the loop and explained everything.  I thought it was fine, until HR called and I was told my doctors’ appointments were interfering with my ability to do my job.  My boss’s supervisor had found a way to finally get rid of me.  I could have fought it, but I was tired of taking the high road.  I signed up for a three month disability leave, and had to fight HR to be able to work a final week to leave things in order.  Another supervisor actually went to bat for me, my boss left me out on a limb and sawed it away behind me.

I was a mess.  Even thinking of working made me ill.  I had had bad work experiences in the past, times where bosses had screamed at me until I had cried, as if that was their goal.  But I’m a tough little bird, and I pulled my boots up and tried to find work.  No one from my job even checked on me, making me think I really didn’t want to go back.  The union told me they would back me, that I couldn’t be treated any differently because of the higher ups trying to move me and being stopped.  But, again, I didn’t want to be where I was unwanted.  I had a job interview, ironically for near the same job I had been doing but at a different studio, and was deemed overqualified.  Figures.

The story I put out was that my migraines were worse and I was taking time to get my meds for them under control.  It wasn’t the whole reason, but it was true.  I’ve had them since I was 18, and every few years they mutate and add new symptoms.  The vertigo was the worst yet.  Headaches I can tough out.  Vertigo felt like that moment at the end of a drunken evening when you’re falling into your bed.  But it lasted for hours, days.  This was on top of the blindness, nausea, lack of muscle co-ordination, speech slurring and general misery.

I’d never been in therapy before, so I didn’t know that things were going badly.  I’ve tossed much of the memories out to make room for better ones, but I do remember how she kept moving my time, as if I had all the free time and didn’t need the good slot I had had.  Then she stopped taking my insurance and charged me, to make me “value” the process more.  She liked to discuss why I was always late, making it about my not wanting to do the work, not believing that I am just late for everything.  It could be judgement day and I’d be late.  Her favorite subject was how I didn’t want to work.  I couldn’t get her off that one.  One day she confronted me about my “issues” with therapy.  I can’t remember exactly what was said, but I know she said something about fully expecting that I could go home from the session and try to kill myself.  I left in copious tears, and, of course, ran into an old friend in the elevator and had to pretend life was fine when, really, I did want to slit my wrists.

Between the therapy and the meds roulette for my migraines, three years passed with no work.  My parents were very kind about taking care of me, though they did try repeatedly to get me to come home.  They came to hate my therapist more and more, as they saw her as the reason I denied them.  There was one visit home for Christmas when I ended up in my bedroom closet crying, my door locked, just wanting to disappear.

And then things got weirder with my therapist.  I had a shrink I really liked, and I was talking to her about how to know if it was time to find a new therapist, as I was ready to try someone new.  I think I pushed my therapist over the edge when I told her, after yet another bout of “you just don’t want to work,” that I wasn’t over what had happened at my last job, that I had just let her think that I was.  That must have been the final straw for her in terms of putting up with me for $120/hr, as she moved up our next session unexpectedly.  At the session, she told me she would no longer see me as a patient, that I wasn’t making progress, but that I definitely needed help.  And she charged me for it.

Any progress I might have made was out the window then.  I was mortified.  I kept thinking of the crazy Olson girl from Wonderfalls, the one who tried to kill her therapist, who was so crazy he told her to find someone new.  I knew I had to be truly a whack job to be fired by a therapist.  Some time passed and, yes, I realized, and had confirmed, that she had handled things very badly.  But I had no desire to find another therapist.

I did finally find another job.  It went pear shaped, but I stuck it out, and then starting temping again at a different studio.  It’s not ideal, but I do like the work.  I finally gave in and tried to find a new therapist last fall.  Because of my ongoing major depressive disorder and, ironically, the issues from being dumped by the awful one, doctors are hesitant to take me on as a patient.  Maybe I’ll find one eventually, maybe not.  In the meantime, I do the best I can, day by day.  Some good, some damn awful.  But I get through it.  I still refuse to let Puppy and her ilk win.

February 5, 2010. Tags: , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. Leave a comment.