Author:Paul Gilmartin

Guest Blog: My Dark & Anxious Thoughts by “E” – a female listener

Thoughts I harbour when I am at my worst:

When I sleep with people, they are pretending to enjoy it. They are playing a role, and not in a sexy way, but role-playing being “normal.” They are faking intimacy.

I suspect this to be true with sexual encounters that fall under the umbrella of one-night stand and mistake, but at my worst, my most cynical, or maybe just deep down, all the way down, I believe that even the sex I have with men I date or actually like are like this.

I think sex is terrifying and absurd. In terms of unwinding and escaping from your own skin it is the worst.

The worst distraction, the worst way to lose yourself, the hardest way you can disconnect from everyone and everything. It makes no sense. You’re meant to be at your raw-est, ready to disappear, forget your name but you still have a duty to perform and someone to impress. Eye contact during sex is ridiculous. Eye contact in everyday life is a tad awkward, especially the moment you become aware of it, but during sex it loses all its naturalism and suddenly you’re aware of every single one of your pre-programmed functions. How did you ever breathe without thinking? If you’re prone to panic attacks, as I once was, this is hell. But during sex. Oh God. You want to be alone in the moment so you can actually enjoy the moment but someone else is there, (how inconsiderate of them!) and you just can’t. You can’t.

Well you can, but in tiny little bursts, a peak here and there and then you have to squeeze your eyes shut and forget what is actually taking place, so you can truly “lose yourself.”

All this. And you’re naked.

Your most vulnerable with varicose veins and breasts that failed the pencil test when you were 15, and whatever face your pulling is undoubtedly horrific. It is all far too personal to be shared with anyone you haven’t known for twenty-five years. At least. But you are meant to be look past the logistics of the act straight to the carnal nature of it? I can’t focus. I can’t get out of myself, and sometimes I find myself thinking that we are both robots and are just ticking boxes so we appear human.

I am paranoid that people are always role playing, pretending to be business people, dressing up as office workers and teachers but they are just kids pushing fake tins of beans on you from a shop counter they’re mother bought them or listening to your heart with a plastic stethoscope. Proving something to the elusive person they still have to prove things too.

I realise this is all self-reflective. You see people the way you see yourself or how you feel you should be operating. But I think that’s the problem. I have a hard time distinguishing between what I should be doing and what I want to be doing and I am still learning who I am. I know 52% of what makes me tick.

I guess that’s the reason for experimentation, for attending things deemed “cultural” and functioning and engaging but my should’s and my wants frequently blur into one, and I often don’t know what’s a should and what’s a want. How can I have free will when I make myself a prisoner?

Without boundaries I can be the laziest person who ever existed. If I don’t put strict boundaries on myself I will just lie in bed all the livelong day. I am a pro-active lazy person who is doing everything a million miles an hour so I won’t think. I haven’t laid down in a while, but the fear of laying down and not being able to get back up terrifies me. I would drown. I would no longer wash my clothes, because it never ends. You never get to finish. You never get to do that last run. That last hair wash. You have to run four times a week, wash your clothes all the time, wash your hair every other day (thank you dry shampoo) and it’s exhausting. I hate routine.

Routine is going to kill us all.

Routine keeps me sane, but every fibre in my being fights against it, it doesn’t understand why you do the same things over and over and over again. It is not the definition of insanity, because it is an essential part of existing, but I sometimes wish things had an ending. Do you not (imagine me on at speakers corner, I’m wearing the green hoody I spilt my dinner on) find it exhausting to think about the patterns in your life and how they will carry on again and again and again? That we will repeat ourselves again and again until our hearts stop, and nothing will change other then the fact we have nice smelling clothes, clean hair and a lower resting heart rate then someone who doesn’t run four times a week? Repeating so nothing changes.

But back to role-playing.

When I am at my most anxious I rehearse conversations with friends so I come across as… less anxious. I think issues lose their power when you talk about them. If you explain your feelings then nothing is an issue. Which is bullshit. Talking about anxieties and bleak feelings is just a means to control how other people see you. I talk in safe terms about what is going on in my head, get comfort from the kind eyes but it is so I appear to have a handle on it (whatever it may be.)

I finish the conversation with a bookend about how it is going to be okay because… sometimes it has to be.

It seems like positive thinking, believing in the power of narrative, that fate will find a way. That I am not a bad person, I hope, so everything has to work out. But it’s all bullshit. I fear they, my friends, will find me out; know something is wrong, or that I don’t know how to be with people, or even like it at times. Have you ever really disliked a friend for caring about you? Really resented another human being for wanting to spend time with you? How dare they make you carry on this façade? The five minutes before I meet people I have the most aggressive dark dissections of their personality.

I think every meeting or contact with humans is a test to show your normal, successful, or on the right path. It should be easier then that. It’s getting easier. I am learning that other people feel the same, that anxiety is all around us (which is weirdly reassuring), and sometimes fear of being alone is worse then fear of company. But I calm panic by ticking boxes, with routine, by role-playing. I have seen friends, I have gone to the gym, I didn’t enjoy some of the things I did. I didn’t want to do them, but at least it felt normal, it felt soothing to prove to this elusive person I am trying to prove myself to that I am popular and healthy. It was the thing to do.

I look at people who make decisions based on instinct or laziness, or just their own god dam thoughts and opinions and I feel this envy. I have my own thoughts and opinions but I only share them with people I feel safe with. People I have known for years who won’t tell me why I am wrong, wrong, wrong.

I am aware this makes me a pussy.

I just wish I could make eye contact with people who are nice to me. I want that as a bumper sticker. My therapist use to make us hold hands and stare at each other. It made me feel a little bit sick. I associated contact with sex, you don’t touch people you aren’t sleeping with and we were NOT sleeping with each other. I couldn’t stand it. But it felt like an obvious defect within me that I then had to counter, I had to stare into her eyes, because that would make me “normal”.

Didn’t mean I accepted the process, or didn’t rebel against it, or wasn’t actually taking it seriously. You set the boundaries and I will follow you where I am not comfortable, because I want you to tell me what is wrong and what is right. In relationships I will match your intensity, your nonchalance, beyond my comfort zone because I assume you know best.

Saying goodbye is not normal.

I hate saying goodbye or hello to people. I hate leaving. I was told I didn’t know to leave places before. I couldn’t exit properly. I came off as rude. I hate the fakeness of the goodbye with the mild acquaintance. You person you barely spoke to, I don’t want to waste their time or mine by making false promises and pronouncing how sad it is we never spoke. I would rather just disappear. And if we did speak, and we did connect, I don’t want to acknowledge that with eye contact and a hand shake. I would rather just disappear. And if we barely connected then why do we have to touch? I would always rather just disappear, because the conversation is so small.

I hate the smallest of small talk.

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Karen Kilgariff Live in Portland

The actress (Mr. Show), comedian (Behind You),  and writer (The Ellen DeGeneres Show) shares about struggling to fit in, body shame, her alcoholism, her mother’s Alzheimers, learning to accept her body and become vulnerable and her experiences in therapy.  Recorded 4/20/13 at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival.

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Greg Behrendt Returns

The podcaster (Walking the Room), author (He’s Just Not That Into You) and guitarist (The Reigning Monarchs) returns to discuss the mania, depression and paranoia that left him considering suicide in a Montreal hotel room, and his subsequent decision to go on medication. They also discuss passion versus obsession, finding a sense of purpose, therapy, and the fluidity and dynamics of suicidal ideation.

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Listener Claire Laffar

Claire shares about her bullied, asthmatic childhood outside London with a neurotic mom and a mysterious, stoic dad prone to explosive fits of rage and how escaping into fantasy worlds, especially books, became her way of coping.  They also talk about her sometimes crippling social anxiety, her fear of commitment, not being married, not having kids or owning a home as well as coming to grips with her bisexuality and a seminal event at 14 while travelling in Turkey that still affects her.

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Greg Fitzsimmons

The talented writer (The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Lucky Louie) comedian (Comedy Central, Letterman, Conan, KimmelThe Howard Stern Show) and podcaster (Fitzdog Radio) opens up about his tumultuous relationship with his late father, his temper, his body shame, ADHD and alcohol.  He also authored the critically acclaimed book Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons.

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I Tried a Support Group Because My Partner is BiPolar: Guest Blog by KJ

Never in a million years did I ever think I’d say, “Hi. My name is KJ and my partner has bipolar disorder.” And no, it’s not the bipolar partner part that surprises me- it’s that I would share this information with a bunch of strangers in a support group.  How did I get here???

I struggle with what to tell, if anything, of my partner’s story because it’s not mine to tell.  But her story is why I sought support, so I think it’s important to share some of it.  My girlfriend told me early into our relationship that she is bipolar.  She asked if we could have a cocktail before giving me all of the gory details.  And they were gory.  Seven years ago, she slipped way, way down in to a dark place and did the unthinkable- took a bunch of pills, slit her wrists and tried to stab herself in the heart.  She got as close to death as you can get.  Thankfully, she survived; the doctors patched up her severed mammary artery and reworked her med plan.  She describes it as a detachment where she wasn’t herself.  She wasn’t in control.  That part terrifies me.  I’m planning on a life with this woman…  What if it happens again? What if I don’t see it coming? I don’t want to burden my friends these horrific details and she, understandably, doesn’t want to rehash it.  So, where do I go to discuss my fears? Where can I go and not be judged for loving her completely? Say it with me, kids: a support group!

I signed up for the NAMI Family to Family class a couple of months ago.  It’s a 12-week course where we go through every mental illness, its symptoms and treatments and share personal experiences and advice.  My goal was to learn more about bipolar disorder and, hopefully, meet some other people who are dealing with similar issues.  I’ve spent my fair share of time in therapy, but never considered anything outside of one-on-one help until now.

The first couple of times I went to class, I felt like I was intruding.  My situation isn’t that extreme, so I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. I don’t have a son who is schizophrenic and have to manage calls from the police on a regular basis.  I don’t have a sister who refuses to take her meds and has lost her job, her home, and her touch with reality.  I don’t have terrible first hand experiences to share.  What I have is fear of the unknown and the struggle to rectify that horrible image from that horrible day.  I know what is possible and I never want to see it.  Regardless, I stuck with the group and came to realize that just being there lightens the load a little- like magic.  It’s amazing to be in a circle of acceptance and unconditional support.  There is no judgment and I am welcome.  I am also reminded of how well my girlfriend manages her illness.  I hope I never need a shoulder to cry on, but I’m glad to know it’s there.  I’m also happy to know that I can provide one, too.

Every member of that group wrestles with the stigma around mental illness.  If she was in a ghastly car accident or had battled cancer, nobody would question my desire for a future with her.  But add a mental illness into the mix and your friends might be a little more concerned.  My best friend asked if I was sure I wanted to go down this road.  I told her that I’ve dated a lot of crazy girls- at least this one’s got a diagnosis and medication.  And, honestly, she’s amazing.  She has that light in her eye and love of life that is infectious.  Everybody loves her.  You would never guess she’s bipolar.

I’m doing my part to make sure she’s safe, loved, and supported no matter what.  This means learning the warning signs, keeping notes, knowing what’s necessary for her to be healthy.  Fortunately, she is incredibly self-aware and is able to catch herself when she’s drifting up or down.  Her disorder is hardly an issue in our lives.  I am grateful she’s so on top of it!  On the other hand, she has the scars to remind us both of what can go horribly wrong.

She fell into the pit at 21… then deeper, near the point of no return, at 31.  I’m a little worried about what 41 has in store for us.  And if the shit does hit the fan, at least I know I won’t be alone.

 

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Sara Benincasa (Voted #9 ep of 2013)

The writer (Agorafabulous!, XOJane.com, Vice.com) and performer (Comedy Central, MTV) talks about a popular friend’s suicide in high school that informed much of her later life, having a nervous breakdown during college, her families history of depression and anxiety and her Agoraphobia.   They also share tips to avoid isolating and talk in depth about everybody’s favorite topic; catheters!

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From Listener Pamela

The height of enlightenment- is the release of ego. That is what we all strive towards, in our own way. And I think we probably achieve it in moments only- but when we do- that’s it. That’s a fucking human being- no matter whether you ever thought you could be. The second point is that sometimes losing everything you use to make yourself feel ‘worthy’ is the best thing that could ever happen to you. Lose the money, lose the husband, gain 30 lbs- you have to deal with what is left over. And that changes the world. Thanks, Pamela

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