Daily Authenticity Day 8 - Give it a Voice

Trigger Warning: This is a post about suicide, depression, and mental health.

I never used the word depressed, the first time I tried to kill myself it was Jason Bourne’s fault.

"Matt Damon is so hot!", she said.
"he is so hot!", I said.
"yeah. Wait, what?!!", she said.

At this moment time stopped. My mouth stopped moving and sound could no longer travel between me and others. The water molecules in the air begin to collect and float slowly through the air. I repositioned the chair and table that sat nearby, that was totally going to freak out people when time started again. Man, I should have positioned it so would fall over when time starts again. dangit. I wonder if I still have time. I could feel my heart beating faster to compensate for the time dilation. I worried if some alien race had done this.

"you like guys?!", she asked.

Time had not stopped. Blood rushed out of my head and I felt faint. fuck, I shouldn’t have gone silent. All I needed to have done was chuckle, say a haha or two and things would have been fine. fuck. Why did I pause in silence.

Jason Bourne isn’t even that hot. This is how I end up coming out, accidentally revealing I think Matt Damon is hot? Why couldn’t it have been Heath Ledger. Now if I’m out, people are going to be like "Kenny thinks Matt Damon is hot". No matter though, I’m going to kill myself anyway.

"haha. I was messing with you. Matt Damon is so ugly. haha", I say.

I was terrified that this would get around. When you are closeted and your community and culture is evangelical christianity, you develop a constant paranoia that you are about to be found out and that if you were disaster would strike. You hear about people shunned by their families, people bullied, even peopled with violent acts committed against them. Eventually your brain becomes constantly on guard, monitoring your body language, the things you say, the things you like, how you act. You become paranoid that some little slip up, some small thing will reveal you like guys and your life will be over.

I never used the word bisexual.

I always told myself I was perverted. I liked guys because I was a massive pervert. If I just got over my perversion, then I would be straight, no problem.

Bisexuality is easy to erase in yourself. If you want you can practically will it away, it ceases to exist and becomes buried some deep place inside.

I’m almost certain that girl went home thinking this was just an awkward social incident. I went home thinking my life was now over. The next day my mom left to a social gathering at a park, I knew she’d encounter homeschool and church humans from our community. I was certain that by now I was the talk of the community and before long there would be sit downs with pastors, then shunning, maybe violence and bullying; who knows what would happen. This was the day I would kill myself, while my mom and siblings were gone. Whatever problems might result from my sexuality I’d already be dead by then.

I didn’t get very far in my suicide attempts that day. It wasn’t easy to kill myself, we had no guns and not enough pills. I could have slit my wrists or hung myself; but the thought of the pain those two could cause was greater than the psychological pain I felt.

I was 15 the first time I seriously thought about killing myself. I never used the word suicidal. I just liked thinking up ways to kill myself. Figuring out ways to kill oneself is just how one passes time. I needed help passing the time, I was bored a lot.

Sometimes I would get really bored for a few months. Usually in the winter, but the winter is so stressful! There is all this snow falling and it is almost impossible to dodge it. Winter is so boring! I just wanted to sleep through it.

I never used the word depressed.

When things are good, usually in the summer, for months at a time I will be on the top of world. Sometimes I would have a lot more energy than other times. Sometimes I got so energized I wouldn’t sleep for weeks and would hallucinate. Too much energy will do that.

I never used the word bipolar.

I was five the first time I felt like jumping out of a car. I was in the back of a car with my brother on the way to my father’s apartment. My dad was driving. I hated visits with my dad. I don’t remember much about those visits; just that there were punched walls, shitty food that came in boxes or cans, and lots of swearing. I apparently pissed myself out of fear a lot.

I felt the biggest pit in my stomach I had ever felt. All I could think was that anything would be better than dad’s house. I knew that if I jumped out of the car on this street that they could stop and come get me so I waited for the freeway. My memory makes it feel like ages between the time I decided I was going to jump out of the car and the time we reached the freeway but I know it was only moments.

I unbuckled and opened the door. I looked down at the asphalt zooming past and my brain finally processed how fast the car was going, but by then it was too late, they’d be stopping me in moments. I had to go now!

Then hands on my arms, screams, shouts, and swearing, lots of swearing. The car pulled to the side of the freeway. More swearing. More shouts. “GOD DAMNIT YOU FUCKING LITTLE SHIT! WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING?!” My brain losing connection with reality, going to my happy place. MORE SCREAMING. Please please no more screaming. STOP SCREAMING. I just want my mom. More swearing. Me crying.

Sometimes I feel like jumping out of cars.

I never used the words "childhood trauma". I never used the word anxiety.

The last time I felt like jumping out of a car it is two years ago. It feels like only 7pm but it is already dark. I’m 1700 miles from home.

I have no idea what I am doing. I’m somewhere in O’Hare in what feels like the middle of a terminal but I’m pretty sure I’m near the edge. It looks like all the other terminals but it has a number so you’d know it was the one that wasn’t the other one. My phone is nearly dead and the charging stations are crowded with waiting humans. Airports are full of humans waiting; on cabs, on family, on rides, on life.

I feel so much anxiety deep in stomach. I feel like jumping out of car but I’m not even in a car yet.

If there was a guide for how to recover from being a shut-in, getting on a plane and flying 1700 miles to a city you have never been to, would be somewhere in an anecdote about a patient that ended up in the psyche ward. When the last time you talked to another human that wasn’t family or a grocery clerk was three months ago, the last place you want to find yourself in is O’Hare at what feels like 7pm.

It felt like 7pm and I had no idea how to get a cab. Hailing a cab seems simple, you just find one of the human loading/unloading zones, talk to one of the humans keeping the cattle flowing and voila a taxi pulls up. But when you feel like jumping out of cars nothing is simple.

I’m going to Wheelling, IL. Wont that be astronomically pricey? Wheeling might as well be in another galaxy. I’d probably need a fucking multipass to go that far without breaking the bank.

What I need is a suburban taxi service. Can I hail one of those or do I have to like call a number?

I hate phone calls.

Is there an app for suburban taxis?

I’ll just pay the extra cash to take a city cab, it cant be priced that bad.

I walk outside.

All these humans speaking and all these cars.

Okay, I got this! Just say you need a cab to that guy with the walkie over there.

“What if I anger him? What if he shouts at me? What if I get arrested for being irritating? My god being irritating at an airport is probably considered an act of terrorism!!”

“WAIT OMG I HAVE READ THERE ARE FAKE CABS. How do I know if cabs are fake? Do the walkie guys check? Shit, this isn’t safe! I cant just hail a cab without doing some research first. I could end up dead or worse like a sparkly zombie vampire or something, or like a sex slave in some basement. Yep, cabs are definitely not safe! I better go back into the airport”

I’m just gonna get an Uber or a Lyft. But where the fuck in the airport am I? What terminal even is this? Where does the GPS think I am? Oh, I’m in Terminal 2 somewhere! Thanks GPS! Accurate within inches of a 2 block radius I guess.

Maybe I should rent a car? How much extra fees do they charge when you are 23 anyway? Oh shit, I forgot, I still don’t have my license.

What are all those things over there and what are all these humans doing and why is that one staring at me and why are some colliding into me. Did I walk into the middle of a game of human bumper tag? Is human bumper tag a thing? If not, it should be, like football but just the collisions.

They are still bumping into me! Maybe, I am it? Oh, I’m standing in the middle of human cattle traveling lane — they should have yellow lines in airports.

How did Tom Hanks survive sixteen years in a place like this. I only landed 25 minutes ago and I already wanted to have a breakdown and start talking to volleyballs. A deserted island sounds good right about now.

I can hear my sister angrily telling me “THOSE ARE TWO DIFFERENT GOD DAMN MOVIES”. She’d probably wouldn’t have said “god damn”, I don’t think I have ever heard my sister cuss. She’d probably use an ironic catchphrase like “BAZINGA!” or “GAZORPLOOP”, or a “dosh garnit” or two; nothing like an ironic catchphrase to express nerd anger. Man, I really need to talk to people besides my sister.

What the hell am I doing in this airport. I feel like jumping out of cars. I start to have an anxiety attack in O’Hare. People start to stare and watch me. I worry about drawing the suspicions of TSA which hightens my anxiety, and makes it worse.

Spend enough time in the same routine and even normal things can become completely overwhelming. Up until 8 hours before what felt like 7pm I had been living as practically a shut-in since high-school. Five years spent doing the same thing every day. Wake, read, code, exercise, eat, sleep — repeat. My comfort zone was limited to Walmart, Subway, and my room.

Anxiety is remarkable, give your brain time to adjust and even life threatening situations can be anxiety free. But land in an airport 1700 miles away after living for five years as a shut-in and your brain will freak out over hailing a taxi. Hailing a taxi is a simple thing but have you ever tried it on anxiety?

Then I realized it, I’m anxious. This is anxiety, I’m having an anxiety attack.

I sat down and relaxed for a moment. Then I started to figure out what was making me anxious. Uber app wasn’t working properly. Okay, I’ll get a Lyft instead. First anxiety solved. What else was making me anxious? I’m worried the driver wont be able to find me. When he gets close, I’ll call him.

My anxiety started to go away. I had spent 40 minutes panicking in the airport over something that took me a few minutes of self-awareness to solve. All I had to do was admit the anxiety was there.

All my life I have had a knack for dissociation. I was a closeted bisexual depressed suicidal teen that had convinced himself he was a asexual that liked to sleep a lot and had a morbid fascination with how you can kill yourself. I am bisexual. I was depressed. I was suicidal.

Three years ago I wrote FightTheUrgetoFade, a blog post about being a shut-in. It was one of the first times I acknowledged my issues. I didn’t acknowledge all of my issues but that first step was huge, it was life changing.

I had unlocked a new super power, authenticity. I was no longer terrified of sharing who I was, of talking openly about the fact I rarely left my house, about the fact I suffered from depression, about the fact I’m likely on the autism spectrum.

I have received hundreds of emails from humans around the world. People just like me; people shut off from the world, living in their parents houses, bullied and broken, adulthood delayed by a depression and mental illnesses that wouldn’t let go.

But for every email from someone with the same story, I got five from people whose stories were different. Old hippies, borderlines, bi-polars, obsessive compulsives, schizophrenics, schizoids, weirdos, freaks, geeks, and the mentally ill of all variety, from all countries, from all sorts of backgrounds. A failed child-prodigy from Germany, a blind college student from midwest, a PTSD sufferer from Canada, an autistic lesbian from Florida, a borderline environmentalist from Latin America…

I expected other people with different life stories to relate, it wasn’t surprising to me that they related to elements of my story. What surprised me is what they related to; by far the most common thing people related to was "being fake". There were countless people that wrote to me suffering from an unrelenting fear of being open about their issues. They felt like frauds constantly being crushed by the weight of hiding their issues. They were silently struggling and it was gradually killing them.

I used to go through massive effort to hide all elements of my situation and who I am. I once quit a biz partnership by claiming to get another job when really I just didn’t want them to know I worked out of a garage. They started wanting to Skype so I quit.

I also once quit a project by claiming to have moral issues with using Amazon Turk when I was going through the middle of bipolar breakdown. I didn’t want to tell them I wasn’t working because I was spending most of my days depressed and in bed, so I told them I didn’t want to use Amazon Turk and that it was a deal breaker. I think to this day they believe that I went all Richard Stallman on them. I’m that loony developer that thought Amazon Turk was evil. Sorry guys, really I was just going through some bad shit.

Three years ago I realized this had to stop. I had to let go of the shame and stop being terrified of who I was. Being fake was killing me, almost literally. I started opening up, and talking about my issues. Sometimes there was negative fall out, but most of the time things were totally fine. I learned to be comfortable with who I was.

A tiny bit of acknowledgment of my issues, who I am and openness about it gave me the means to start to change. I went on trips, I started working on my social skills, I met old internet friends and I made new friends, I started tackling triggers of my depression. I started practicing interview skills. I started pursuing opportunities I was too scared to take. I started facing things instead of avoiding them.

I had given voice to my issues and acknowledged their existence. Acknowledging them was the first step in fighting them.

If you want to fight your anxieties you have to first give them a voice, acknowledge that they exist and be brave enough to ask what causes them. For the longest time I was depressed but never let myself ask why. Once I starting asking why, the depression started to fall away with ease. For the longest time I have suffered from a tremendous amount of anxiety but never asked why or even acknowledged it as anxiety.

Once you give your anxieties a voice, the solutions to them start to stare you in the face. It is no longer this mystical force ruining your life when you least expect it. It becomes predictable, understandable, something you can do something about.

I haven’t been giving a voice to an anxiety the last week and never have; phone calls make me anxious, anxiety attack levels of anxious. Phone calls make me feel like jumping out of cars. I’m terrified people will be angry without me knowing it. If I cant see there faces I will never know. If I had called someone before, I’m fine. But if I don’t know them, I freak out. I wish everyone used Skype or google hangouts.

I have wasted probably 30-40 hours this week panicking about a few phone calls I have procrastinated over making. It is Thursday and I have yet to make a single one of them. I’m gradually letting people down and I’m sorry (you know who you are).

Anxiety acknowledged. Now that the anxiety has a voice, I can take the steps to resolve it.

Give it a voice