As always, it’s a fight between putting up the bluff tough guy appearance and being honest with my feelings. Outwardly, I’m a 6’6″, 300 lb ex-bouncer with plenty of experience with armed attackers. Inwardly, I’m still the scared 9 year old cowering in the corner. But I’m getting ahead of myself, giving the wrong impression entirely and going in two many directions at once. Seems thatâ€™s my way.
Let me start again. I was diagnosed with a fractured personality disorder a while back. I can thank my degree in Psychology which hangs unused on the wall to fill in the blanks the cheap psych profiler missed. Essentially it means my personality is split up into fragments, and my behavior is governed by which fragment is dominant at any time. So, Iâ€™m a man of a thousand different masks, each one of them me and yet only one fragment of the whole. Iâ€™m intensely logical when in the field of academia, open and friendly when socializing, able to tailor my speech and personal interests at will to fit in with most any company, and able to let loose a red raging monster when the time comes to hurt peopleâ€¦ once. Plenty of folks knew me as the friendly big guy who tends to be a little quiet, but is decent when you get to know him. Thing is, I donâ€™t think anyone ever really knew me. Iâ€™m not even sure I know me.
But, as is my way, Iâ€™ve got a couple stories to tell, each true and just a fragment. The fractured personality disorder is probably the least of my worries. And, as for people not knowing me, thatâ€™s because understanding must be mutual, and I donâ€™t understand people. I watch what they do as if they were a different species altogether. No clue why they act like they do in the slightest. So I study, I watch, and I emulate to fit in; sort of a social camouflage. By my reckoning, I donâ€™t know people because I stopped growing emotionally around the age of 9. Iâ€™ll get to why in a second.
I was born with a slight irregularity in the thalamus, a part of the brain that governs the endocrine system. It doesnâ€™t work so well, or maybe too well depending on your viewpoint. When I feel emotions, they hit me so hard that I canâ€™t function. When I donâ€™t, the world is dead and grey. I feel nothing. Hard to tell which is worse. Tend to wish for one when Iâ€™m feeling the other and vice versa. So, being emotionally unstable is a bit of an understatement for me. The really problematic part is that when I become slightly anxious or worried, the thalamus responds in a manner disproportionate to the situation. It dumps a ton of stimulants and adrenaline into my system, resulting in a full-on fight-or-flight reaction. The feeling is not unlike being in a car, seeing a semi in your lane and barreling for you, and knowing thereâ€™s not a damn thing you can do to stop whatâ€™s coming. Makes sitting in an office, classroom, or going to a job interview nearly unbearable, not that thatâ€™s something I can manage anymore.
That leads me back to the age of 9. In a nutshell, I got sick. No one knows why. No family history. Just had a stomach cramp one day that wouldnâ€™t go away. When it got bad enough to send me to the emergency room, mom started to take notice. Dad was one of those assholes who was never sick a day in his life, so he didnâ€™t understand. I wonâ€™t go into the gory details, but I spend about 45-50 hours a week in the bathroom and in intense pain. Being so housebound doesnâ€™t lend itself to much of a social life, what with all the kids looking at you like youâ€™re some sort of new addition to the zoo when they learn youâ€™re different in some way. I learned to keep my own company after that. Did most of my own schooling because public schools werenâ€™t worth a damn and I couldnâ€™t attend most days. Iâ€™m proud to say I taught myself all the way through high school. Managed to land a few scholarships and did college mostly online too. But Iâ€™m getting ahead of myself.
Bottom line is, my gutâ€™s broke. Canâ€™t leave the house for more than a few hours a week and I couldnâ€™t plan for any of this because Dad refused to let me. The last 15 years with him was a lesson in propaganda. If he said something often enough, he began to believe it. And he said I wasnâ€™t sick, so I wasnâ€™t allowed to try to find ways around my mobility and attendance problems while he was around. It was ludicrous, like telling a man with one leg he can walk unaided. Tell it to him often enough and the poor bastard might even believe it. But imagine how badly it screws with his head when he tries to take his first step and falls flat on his face. So, I fell flat on my face more times than I could count. Head full of traumatic moments where I fell ill, had to leave whatever function I was supposed to be a part of, and then felt like somebodyâ€™s science experiment gone awry. Plenty of phobias now for my thalamus problem to prey on. Certain words, images, sounds and smells trigger panic attacks that last for hours, and by the time theyâ€™re over Iâ€™m more than ready to kill myself if it means the sickening fear will just go away. Not to mention the adrenaline stimulates my gut and makes it worse.
So thatâ€™s part of my problem, but not all of it. Iâ€™ve been fighting cancer the last 2 years. Surgery, chemo, more surgery, thatâ€™s me. Got cut open from crotch to sternum, had all my intestines pulled out, then lost about five pounds of flesh before they packed it all back in and stapled me closed. Iâ€™m a walking zipper these days. Racked up medical debts well into six figures by now. Iâ€™d have been on the street and starved to death years ago if it werenâ€™t for mom. Sheâ€™s given me free room and board, and I feel lower than snakeshit in a wagon rut for taking it. See, she came down with the same gut problems I had around the same time. Disabled, living on a fixed income, and now sheâ€™s fighting cancer too. So I have to watch the people I care about slowly rotting to death around me, knowing thereâ€™s not a damn thing I can do about it to help them because I canâ€™t get out of the house and earn a living for us.
But wait, thereâ€™s more. Chemo caused an odd reaction with my immune system. Something called superior limbal keratoconjunctivitis, which is a big phrase for my immune system mistaking my eyes for foreign objects and attacking them. Iâ€™m not going blind because they heal at about the same rate theyâ€™re damaged, but the pain is constant and endless. On bad days, itâ€™s like having a set of red hot coals shoved into my skull. On good days, itâ€™s just like getting onion juice in your eye. Keeping them closed helps a little, icing them down to numb the nerve endings helps more. Iâ€™m either blindfolded or applying ice packs to my eyelids all day long. It can be fixed with surgery, but I canâ€™t pay for it and because itâ€™s not life-threatening, no surgeon will consider doing it for charityâ€™s sake.
So thereâ€™s not much I can do for work. Canâ€™t leave the house most days, but I was always pretty good with a pen. Loved to read. Thought Iâ€™d get a book published one day. About 2 years ago, same time I was diagnosed with the big C, I thought the time had come to give it a try. Couldnâ€™t be that hard if Twilight got published, right? Iâ€™ve worked at it every day since. No matter the pain. Reading, writing, critiquing, editing, submitting. Thereâ€™s been some minor success. Got a few short stories published in anthologies and such. Doesnâ€™t even pay the cost of the paper and pens though, let alone the postage for the thousands of submissions and rejection letters Iâ€™ve received in the meantime.
Iâ€™ve applied for disability and Medicaid as well. Never thought Iâ€™d ask the government for anything, but I figure it would help cover the bills until I got the writing career going. Iâ€™m legitimately sick, right? Itâ€™s been 2 years on that front as well. Had to lawyer up and go to court in October, and now Iâ€™ll know the final decision come Christmas time. Thatâ€™s when the money will run out too. So either I can get a book written and published in less than a month with a fat advance, be accepted for disability, or end up homeless before the new year.
Now, Iâ€™ve gotten into some pretty dark holes. Not in one now, else I wouldnâ€™t be bothered to write this, but I can usually see them coming. They come when I get backed into a corner, and this is one I donâ€™t see any way out of if worst comes to worst. Iâ€™ll be honest, Iâ€™m a very religious person, if mostly regarding the fire and brimstone parts of the Bible. Donâ€™t see a lot of forgiveness or mercy on earth, so I donâ€™t figure I can expect much on the other side if I go against Godâ€™s instructions. (The stick always seemed more prominent in my life than the carrot). And thatâ€™s probably why I havenâ€™t killed myself yet. Sure, thereâ€™s the family to consider, but Iâ€™m just a burden to them as it is. Better they were without me.
But I canâ€™t go killing myself without ending up in Hell. Sure, people tell themselves theyâ€™re not afraid of Hell. Iâ€™ve met plenty of the tough types. Let me say, theyâ€™re not tough. Theyâ€™ve never known real pain before. The sort of pain that turns an atheist into a believer and a man into a pathetic heap, both uncaring so long as please for the love of God let it stop!
That pain. Thatâ€™s not the scary part. The scary part is realizing itâ€™s only the beginning. Realizing so much more could happen. That pain is a precursor to something else entirely, a new hellish vista the likes of which no one can look upon and walk away sane. Just a hint of it pulls all sorts of new ways to hurt from the corners of the imagination. And from that point on, youâ€™re haunted. Itâ€™s always in the back of your mind, always governing every action you make, because from then on, youâ€™re changed. Youâ€™re kinder. Youâ€™re gentler, no matter how tough you try to be, because you wouldnâ€™t want to hurt, so how could you possibly hurt others? You wouldnâ€™t wish that sort of thing on your worst enemy. Simple equivalent exchange.
Thatâ€™s the sort of Hell waiting on the other side, the one we get a glimpse of occasionally and fervently wish we hadnâ€™t. At least I think so.
So here I am. Iâ€™ve rambled on, misspelled things, havenâ€™t even bothered to edit my work. Just let it flow from my hands in hopes that somehow makes it more poignant to the reader rather than being some polished, rehearsed speech. Iâ€™m not looking for sympathy. I donâ€™t even know why Iâ€™m writing this except that thereâ€™s no one else to speak to and itâ€™s eating me inside like acid. I donâ€™t even want to die. Not in the way many folks on this site do. Maybe that makes me unique, maybe plenty of people feel the way I do. I donâ€™t know. What Iâ€™m saying is, though I want to live, I donâ€™t see how I can.
Right now, barring the aforesaid miracles, thereâ€™s just the two choices. Thereâ€™s homelessness and the inevitable decline into starvation, malnutrition and the like, probably for me and mine to drown in our fluids, dead from pneumonia or some such. And then thereâ€™s the quicker way out, by my own hand, the contents of my brainpan decorating whatever wall my corpse slides down with the aid of my trusty 45 caliber paintbrush.
And therein is my dilemma. Do I have the courage to face the pain and hardship until I finally die of natural causes, or am I so weak that I end it myself, freeing myself of one pain only to condemn myself to far worse pains in the hereafter?
It seems that, as I said earlier, I do not know myself. And I sincerely hope that I do not find enlightenment, whatever that particular aspect of my character may be.