Friday, September 6, 2013

The Fear-of-Living Asylum

Photo Credit: Pam Hawkins
September 1, 2013. Sunday afternoon.

It's been a very long time since my spirit has been this low. I have no drive, no motivation. My home hasn't quite become a prison, but it's no longer a sanctuary used for recharging life’s batteries. It's become more of a hideout--the only place I feel completely safe and free. Freedom while hiding out? What kind of freedom is that? Freedom is living without confinement. I’m living in self-imposed confinement as if I’ve checked myself into the Fear-of-Living Asylum. There is no human contact. There's loneliness. That kind of “freedom” is more paralyzing than freeing.  

Do you ever find yourself excited at the prospect of hanging out with friends? Then as the rendezvous time approaches you wish only to be at home--alone? So you make an excuse and go home. Then an hour later (if you even make it an hour) you're filled with regret for not hanging out? You wanted to, but something inside of you just couldn’t? Desire and Reluctance battle it out inside of me, the Big Money prize almost always given to Reluctance. I hide. I need to be around people; I need human contact; I need to nourish my soul, but I feel that my mood and energy is so negative that subjecting another person to it would be worse than sitting home alone. Okay, I can hear the thoughts going through your head right now. You're thinking that my mood might actually lift if I was hanging out with my friends and to that I respond, “You're probably right.” I just can't seem to see that through the murk because I'm living too deeply in my head. Is slight depression at play here?

I'm reminded of a time in my adolescence. I used to love to play in the closet (insert gay joke here). My bedroom was the first door on the right as you walked down the hallway in the house where I grew up. It had wall-to-wall rust-colored carpet that extended into the closet. Not that you could see it for all the bags of clothes and junk. I can picture it clearly in my mind even now. That shallow closet was a good hiding place--for things and for me. It was a place to be alone. I used to part the hanging clothes down the center and push them to either end of the rod so that the string from the overhead light was exposed, hanging down, easily accessible should I want to pull it and plunge myself into darkness. I would sit inside that confined space on a black garbage bag filled with outgrown clothes. It was like it was a beanbag. I was separate and alone, while the goings on inside the rest of the house continued without me. Concealed, hidden, shut away from view behind that door I felt safe. I paid no attention to the idea that someone might be just outside the door listening--a trait that didn't carry into my adulthood. Now I’m constantly concerned about who can hear what.

My apartment is like a larger version of that closet. I’m surrounded; enclosed. I feel safe from the world behind its closed doors. I feel untouchable. I feel like anything is possible for me. I’m on my turf. I reign supreme. It's a place where I dream of what I want, but I never fully set those dreams into motion. Once I cross the threshold into the outside world, the concrete walls that house my home are replaced by imaginary walls that I allow to quench the flames of my desires. Inside my false-sense-of-happy self-confinement, I use my keyboard to write about my life, but I’m not breathing in the life that I want to be living, should be living.

Later that evening I was watching the film Les Misérables. I hadn’t seen it since opening day at the Ziegfeld Theatre here in New York. Sitting in the back of that movie theatre alone my tears were hidden by the darkness as I began to cry like I knew I would. The score, at times, sweeps me away. There are moments when I do get bored with the story, but its themes of redemption, love, and forgiveness always suck me back in. I admit that sometimes all I need to hear is a chord or musical motif and I start to cry. 

On this night, alone in my living room, my spirit particularly low, there was more behind the tears that flowed from my eyes than the storyline or musical themes evoked. I needed to cry. We’ve all been in that place where a good cry is all we need in order to feel better. We open those flood gates and let the tears pour out and then the weight in our chest begins to lift and life doesn’t seem so bad. With this particular cry, I was heaving. I was crying aloud; moaning. I remember pulling the dishtowel that was in my lap to my mouth to muffle the sounds. The tears were dripping from my cheeks and chin. My body shook. I turned to look at a recently purchased photograph hanging on my wall and its words “Help me” connected with my eyes, filtered through my brain, and came out of my mouth. I sat in my chair, heaving and moaning, crying out “Help me” to no one in particular and to the Universe as a whole. 

I did feel better after releasing that deluge of tears, but I was still heavyhearted. Part of my self-confinement stems from the dredging up of feelings and stories that I’ve been experiencing for almost a year in therapy. Most recently said dredging seems to have me constantly aware of how I’m feeling and trying to figure out what’s causing the feelings. I am living in an awareness that for most of my life I’ve tried to ignore. Well, I can’t ignore it anymore. 

I’m living in fear of being me. I admit it. I’m afraid to make mistakes. I’m afraid to not be perfect. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m always looking for the punishment. I’m a pessimist. It’s never “I’ve got four days of vacation left,” it’s, “I’ve only got four days of vacation left.” I desire to change this. I am getting help to achieve this desire. I don’t want my life to be hidden behind walls. I want my life to be lived in the open.

I realize that I’m isolating myself. I’m searching for answers. I’m trying to find courage instead of just having courage. When people used to say to me, “I’ll try.” I used to always respond with, “Don’t try. Do it or don’t.” I need to start practicing what I used to preach. I need to face my fears. I need to face myself. I need to accept that I’m not perfect, and that I make mistakes. I need to admit those mistakes and learn from them. That scares the shit out of me. I never dreamed I would become a person so scared of success, failure, living. I need to sign myself out of the Fear-of-Living Asylum and step into the world where the word “hide” is merely a word followed by the words “and seek” and nothing more. 

“Seek and you will find.” Hide and you will wither away.