Interior Wounds and Exterior Smiles

I hurt.

I have just come from a psychotherapy appointment where I laid bare my latest problems. I’m hyper-sexual, and I’m spending money.

I can’t remember whether I’ve written about this or whether that even matters, but bipolar disorder has many seasonal symptoms. I have first-hand knowledge that when the seasons change, my illness demonstrates its hold on me. I often don’t realize it, until it’s almost over or completely over. I’m in one of those periods now, or perhaps I’m coming out of it.

Hyper-sexuality and spending money are symptoms of mania, and I’m manic. My decisions are sometimes flawed now.

However, I have a resolve not to feel shame or guilt. I spoke openly about my recent sexual forays to my therapist, and I will continue to do so. Next, I have to gain the courage to call my nurse and report my mania to her. Sometimes her bedside manner is lacking, and I’m reluctant to talk openly. I am thankful to have friends, old and new. The healing began after my last post here when a correspondent wrote me offering to listen. I wrote back about my troubles. That opening allowed me to chat with my best friend without fear, and then today, I spoke at depth to my therapist.

My money situation is not a problem to my mind. I budgeted some large purchases very recently. All my bills are covered. I will not accept negative looks and judgement about my actions there.

Outside, I’m all smiles.

It’s a mask, and I’m not ready to write about it.

Capable Incapacities

Sailing off into the sunset on a placid sea is not for me as yet.  I remain on the path to employment as a Certified Peer Specialist. My internship was successful, and now, I wait. The man in charge of such things at the state level called me himself to congratulate me on a job well done, and he said he would like to hire me on a contract basis to lead groups in WRAP and Seeking Safety. That was 3 weeks ago. I’m still waiting.

It’s the government, and they are not known for working at high speed. To be fair, they are currently reorganizing their workforce, and adding a new employee, even just a contracted one, is not high on their priority list. Thankfully, I’m dealing with state government and not the federal one, which is shut down at the moment. I also have to state that the man in charge works alone. He has no secretary to help him at his job. He has no staff. What’s more, I’m patient. I am not worried. It will come.

In the meantime, I am involved with theatre, co-directing a play at the local university here where I live. It’s thrilling, and it brings a smile to my face and a flutter to my heart thinking about the theatrical process.

I am very organized. I have the rehearsal times all intertwined with the many actors’ individual schedules, no easy feat. I studied the script diligently to learn the proper motivations and their actions for the various pieces I’m responsible for directing. I wrote solid notes about salient points. I subtly questioned each actor, eliciting their own ideas about why certain words are uttered by certain characters. I offered my thoughts as well and let the actors choose how best to proceed with the growth of their work.

I’m maintaining an excellent work ethic with my group. They really are coming along fine, and the other director, a much more experienced one, complimented my actors, which I passed along to them.

All is well?

No.

I am haunted by my own incapacity to protect my most vulnerable core. In the quiet of my being, people come and use me. I allow it. I participate in it. I want it.

I tell no one. Revelation brings judgement, and I’m sick of it.

After waiting more than two months, I was finally paid for the hours I worked during my internship. It was a large sum for me, but small compared to my past earnings before my illness began. I used a good chunk to pay past medical bills, and then I spent the remainder on toys. I bought a computer tablet and a new TV and Blu-Ray DVD player.

I have the Kindle app on the tablet, and I downloaded a vast number of free Kindle books, all classics. I bought a few select new books as well. I have spent long hours reading, and that is a positive accomplishment. For many years, my illness robbed me of reading. I couldn’t concentrate, and it was beyond frustrating. It was debilitating. Getting the right medicine helped remedy that, and I can report that I enjoy a good book now. Reading on the tablet is very easy. The screen size is perfect, and my eyes flit over the lines rapidly. A finger flick turns the page. It’s brilliant.

The new TV and Blu-Ray player was a frivolous purchase. I don’t watch TV. I can’t. My daughters watch it, and I do occasionally watch movies. I like serious drama and period pieces. Some comedies are good, too.

But the machine bothers me. It throws a switch in my brain that hurts. If I really want to sit and enjoy watching a show or movie, I generally have to take a very low dose of the anti-anxiety medicine prescribe for me. Isn’t that ridiculous? I have to sedate myself to enjoy TV.

Finally, and this pains me to write, a man is using me in the worst possible way. I can’t think about it. I haven’t told anyone. I haven’t told my therapist or my nurse or my doctor or my best friend. I can write no more about it. It’s too upsetting. All is moving so well in my life, yet I allow a man to abuse me. My sleep has been disturbed. It sickens me.

Overbearing Emotions

It’s a sad day for many. A massacre occurred at an elementary school in Connecticut in the U.S. Many small children lost their lives, and many brave adults did, too. As soon as I heard, I shut off the news on my computer and limited my intake. I am sensitive to these tragedies, and they have a way of needling into my thoughts and taking center stage.

Despite the measures, I wept for a long while and felt anguish and helplessness. My mind returned again and again to the unbearable loss.

Thankfully, I had an appointment scheduled with my psychiatric nurse practitioner, so I knew I would have an opportunity to discuss my emotions regarding the horrifying news. I arrived early and asked if she’d heard the story. She had.

***

I don’t trust my emotions. I’m unable at times to distinguish how I feel, if anything at all. I’m fighting back tears as I write this, and I don’t know what the tears are for or why I’m fighting.

***

The nurse informed me that people with a mental illness like mine will often repress emotions. “Little incidents,” she said, “that I wouldn’t even spend a split second thinking about become mountainous obstacles in the lives of my bipolar, depressed, and schizophrenic patients.” Due to this, we often shut emotions off only to have them resurface in odd ways.

I found myself pacing my little house several days this past week. On several occasions, I wandered back and forth along a worn path from room to room. When it dawned on me I was walking aimlessly, I didn’t stop. I tried to remember what my thoughts were while pacing, but it was no good. The thoughts had vanished. My memory was faulty. The nurse informed me this was a classic example of repression.

My sleep has been troubled, too. I wake after a few hours and then can’t get back to sleep until several more hours pass.

And there are the dreams. One I call “The Actor’s Nightmare,” in which I find myself on a bare stage where someone is just about to raise the curtain. I don’t know my lines. There is no set. I’m wearing no costume. There are no props or even other performers. No one else is backstage with me, but I can hear people in front of the curtain talking to the audience announcing the beginning of the show. I can’t get their attention to tell them about the emptiness they’re about to expose the audience to. I find a kind of bag full of papers that I begin to fling about so that I can take the empty bag on as a prop.

Emptiness. Lack of control.

There’s the dream of which I only remember the ending. I have lit a cigarette lighter, and I’m inhaling the flame to burn away the rotten parts of me. My lungs are engulfed by the blaze. I have a desperate need to burn what is unworthy.

Self-loathing.

I saw my therapist yesterday, and we discussed the dreams. We talked more about the sexual healing I’ve been working on. She mentioned love.

“How far back do you have to go to an age when you know you were loved?”

“The cradle,” I replied.

She displayed no surprise, but I was. My answer was quick and certain, so we spent time imagining caring for a “baby me.” I held the baby close. I cooed to him. I rocked him. I cuddled him.

We went through the steps of changing a messy diaper, and I got to express love in all circumstances with a baby’s needs.

***

Healing is slow.

***

I cried today for the lost children in Connecticut. My heart aches now for them, but then my heart aches much of the time. I sent out a prayer to whatever it was that set this universe whirling, asking for healing and solace for their families and me.

A New World

I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m starting fresh. I’m dusting off my dancing shoes. I’m starting over.

“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life for me, and I’m feelin’ good.”

Wait. Those are cliches and the lyrics of a song.

And they are exactly how I feel. I did something life-altering today. I cleaned out a little corner of my Internet. I deleted all my accounts on dating sites. They were bringing me nothing but worry. I was using them as a way to reach out and getting nothing in return but confusion and heartache.

There is a man I started emailing more than 8 months ago. We then began talking on the phone. We met for coffee. We had a meal together at a restaurant. We’ve been taking things very slowly. We have not yet visited each others’ houses. I have no idea where this will lead.

I told him after we’d known each other for about 2 months that I was a recovered alcoholic. He took it in stride.

After another month, I let it be known that I was bipolar. He did not run screaming from the room.

Is he a good mate for me? Only time will tell the answer to that question.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about sex a lot lately. We’ve also talked about my dating habits and men I’ve been attracted to. In the past, I’ve felt lust strongly for men who were unavailable either by marriage or emotionally. I’ve also fallen heavily for men with some kind of defect, especially emotional ones.

This new man is healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, which scares me to death. A friend and I laughed about that last bit. We are both in the throes of potentially healthy relationships, and we’re both scared by it. It’s exhilarating to know that I’m not alone.

It’s also good to know I have the assistance of friends to talk to. I can open my closets to them, and they can dust out the cobwebs and the skeletons. I’ve spoken to my caseworker about my budding relationship, and he’s asked pointed questions and is supportive. My best friend knows and is happy for me. My therapist steers me in healthy directions.

As far as having a relationship is concerned, I’m a youngster. I’m new at it. Yes, I was married, but I was drunk. Without the veil of alcohol, I’m growing up and experiencing things that most gay men do in their teens. In some ways, I feel like I haven’t had my first kiss yet. The anticipation is electric.

Mania 3

Sigh.

Here I sit at my computer in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping.

My mind is racing.

Everything I touch is magical, and colors have meaning.

The tapping of the typing speaks to me in secret code.

I’ve been pacing through the rooms of my very small house.

I’ve overeaten.

I sat in front of the TV long enough to run from the lowest channels to the highest.

And then I paced some more.

I’ve taken my medication.

I should be sleepy.

I’m groggy, but I feel agitated.

If you go to the right side of this blog and click the word “mania” in the tag cloud, you’ll find a lot of entries about this subject.

I want to sing. Shout. Dance. But not in a healthy way. I want to flail and thrash.

I had a change in my medication recently. I’ll be calling my psychiatric prescribing nurse practitioner in the morning to ask if it could trigger mania.

I know a lot of people with bipolar disorder who actually look forward to this high, but for me, it’s devastating. I spend money I don’t have. I act out sexually in unhealthy ways. I have delusions. I talk to trees.

I’m angry and anxious.

I feel vulnerable.

I feel sick.

Healing the Unmentionables

I saw my psychotherapist today, and we had one topic to cover: sexual healing. I recently had a short affair with a man. It was short, because I ended it. Honestly, I should have never started it. The red flags jumped into plain sight right at the very beginning.

  • He disliked kissing. What? But how can a hunk dislike something so sensual?
  • He was often unavailable. We had to meet on his schedule, and I had to be ready at a moment’s notice to jump in the car and race to him or receive him at my place.
  • He was emotionally needy. Our interaction revolved around meeting his emotional needs.
  • He smoked a lot of weed, and he asked me to join. I declined.

In the end, it became apparent through discussing it with a very close friend that he was using me. He was self-medicating negative emotions with weed and sex. I was tolerating the former and providing the latter. He has some serious problems with self-loathing, and I was part of his stress release.

I broke up with him quickly, when he lied about me to another person, and because he needed help with emotional issues that I felt unable to give, and because he needed to make up his mind about his sexuality. He tried to get in touch with me a few times afterward and told me he’d come clean with the other person about the lie.

Today with my therapist, I jumped right to the heart of the matter: with this short relationship and with a longer one many years ago, I let myself be used. In fact, I allow myself to be used in most of my sexual relationships.

In A.A., it’s said that a person stops growing emotionally when they start drinking, and the growth restarts with sobriety. Using that analogy with my sexuality, I can say that I never grew as a sexual being at all, until I got sober. I grew up in a house devoid of sex and intimacy. I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog that to this day, I have only ever seen my parents hold hands once. They never showed affection for each other. Sex was an evil subject.

So, I’m thirteen years old. I’m just starting adolescence. Great. Oh boy. Crap.

My therapist had me do an exercise we’ve done in the past. I imagined my younger self, the thirteen-year-old adolescent, sitting next to me, and I got to talk to him. I don’t hold back in therapy sessions. I learned a long time ago that talk therapy works for me, so I dove in head first. I told my adolescent self, first, that everything was going to be okay. I was going to survive the homophobic bullying in junior high and high school. I told my younger self that my lust for boys was okay and healthy and good. I told this boy it was okay to fantasize about other boys.

I told my thirteen-year-old self many things today, all positive things. I showed my younger self caring. I explained some of the facts of my gay life. I gave love and understanding in a way that I did not receive at the time.

I grew a few years today in my one-hour therapy session. My psychologist encouraged me to keep talking to the young me. I’ve done a bit of that. It feels right.

I don’t have to open my heart and my body to every man who asks. I can be particular in sharing intimacy.

It’s okay to be me.

Talking about Unmentionables

I’ve been in therapy for 25 years. On and off. I’ve had periods without a therapist, but most of the time has been spent keeping appointments with one. I started when I was 23, and now I’m 48. My how time flies when you’re having fun.

I’ve been seeing my present therapist for almost ten years all together. I say “all together,” because I moved away for a time and then moved back again. When you put the two times together it’s just shy of ten years. We have an excellent relationship. I can tell her anything. Well, almost anything. There are certain things I’ve kept from her.

I’m talking about sexual things. I’m completely open about my sexuality with her and have been for a long time, but after all these years — years of different therapists in different countries actually — we’re just getting to the good stuff. At my last session, I said I wanted to start talking about sex in a meaningful and thoughtful way. I want to get down to the nitty-gritty of the matter. I want to delve deep into the past and dig up long-buried skeletons.

I have unhealthy views about sex, and I want to change that. My sexual practices are less than uplifting, and I definitely want to change that.

To be blunt, it involves a lot of self-loathing and shame from years of being raised in a home devoid of sexual expression. In all my years of knowing them, I’ve seen my parents hold hands once. Only once. I’ve never seen them express any affection for one another at all. Never.

Being dragged to a soul-eating church three times each week only made matters worse. It was there I first heard the words that defined my self-hatred. I heard words like “abomination” in relation to homosexuality. I heard directly from the pulpit that homosexuals were irredeemable in the eyes of God. I also heard that homosexuals were unlovable. I learned to feel myself as subhuman.

Needless to say, all this hate directed at homosexuals was reinforced by my parents. Parents whom I still love, but with whom I cannot talk about many things. Some things are unmentionable.

In my first counselling session talking about sex, I had to admit learning to masturbate at what I imagined was a very young age only to be told that it wasn’t unusual at all. Decades of shame surrounding it have all been for naught. Decades of shame built up within me revolted at my therapist’s words, and mine came rushing out.

“How could it be right for a boy to learn that so young?”

“How could such a young boy know himself to be gay or at least to know he was different?”

“How could that young boy protect himself from the fiery words of preachers damning his soul to an eternal hell?”

“How could that young gay boy do anything but hate his very soul?”

My therapist said a simple thing. “You didn’t cause your self-loathing.” I was dumbstruck. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around that notion ever since she said it. I have built a fortress out of words like abomination, irredeemable, unlovable, and subhuman. I erected walls in my soul to keep out the pain. Instead, they nourished it. Like a seething cauldron, the walls have retained decades of poison.

I’ve been so accustomed to the poison it has seeped into all areas of my life. It stunted my voice. When I wanted to speak out as an adolescent, I didn’t for fear that my high, effeminate voice would bring ridicule as it so often did.

The poison kept me from pursuing my passion for acting. I have never taken an acting class in my entire life, yet I act in plays every chance I get now. I act, direct, and produce plays fervently. I work hard at acting in any role I’m given.

The poison even led my to believe I’d brought on my own bipolar disorder. For the longest time, I convinced myself my illness was my own fault.

I’m learning to say “I didn’t cause it.”

Lessons that come later in life have one advantage for me. I can learn them with more speed than may have been required had I confronted them at the normal ages others do. The floodgates of my sexual health have been opened, and the poison will gush forth. I hope it will never return. I pray it will be replaced by love and acceptance.