September 9, 2006 Print version
How coincidental that last month's BSC topic was about relationships, and this month's is about mental wellness... The coincidence comes from the fact that as of last month, I was in a relationship (for almost three years), but now, I'm not... and the death of that relationship has taken its toll on my self - my (self)esteem, my (self)worth, my (self)image. Granted, I was the one who ultimately ended the relationship, but it was certainly not from lack of trying to make it work. After a year (or more) of being the compromiser, a straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back moment happened. I've since been mourning the demise of a relatively long term, long distance relationship, with someone who was - long prior to our coupling - a friend. In my mind, I've not only lost a lover, but I've also lost a friend. So, I find myself struggling to find that "silver lining" in what feels like an otherwise huge waste of my time, energy, money, patience... and mental health.
This situation - also coincidentally - reminds me of the break-up of my only other same-gender-loving relationship about seven years ago. THAT particular ex was a huge proponent of platitudes and sweeping idioms (which he only used to mask an inferiority complex about his own lack of formal education - but that's another story). Anyway, one of his more popular - and true - expressions was: "Nothing should ever come between you and your peace of mind". And because I was such a mess after the dissolution of THAT relationship, I held onto those words stronger than anything else he'd ever uttered. Who knew that such a simple statement would be the best thing to come from such a... deleterious relationship? But now, those same words have become a mantra being chanted in my head, as they certainly apply to my recent break-up.
Although I believe this separation was necessary for mutual growth, I'm still at war with my feelings of inadequacy. After all, it took a ridiculous amount of prodding and pleading to get my (recent) ex to read anything that I'd contributed to Brave Soul Collective. In fact, my own partial autobiography, "Coming Out Twice", was read by hundreds of folks that I didn't know who'd visited the BSC website, AND a magazine editor before he'd actually read it; to put this fact in perspective, he was the first person to whom I'd sent the final draft. Sooo, was my dick too small? Was my waist too big? Was I too demanding, too emotional, too HIV, too passive, too aggressive, too moody, too... gay (he and my other ex were both bisexual - another coincidence?) for him to love/treat me the way I wanted? Such rhetorical questions are moot at this point, but they inevitably lead me to ponder my viability as a potential mate. Am I even cut out for this whole relationship gig or was I simply living out a 'ro (hetero) fantasy in a 'mo (homo) reality? The ambivalence astounds me into stagnation, and eventual depression. I start experiencing the similar feelings of hopelessness that surrounded me not only seven years ago, but also 13 years ago when I, as a 17-year-old, ingested an entire bottle of pain relievers, expecting the pills to live up to their name.
Suicide, under any circumstance, surely seems silly to a rational being - it certainly seemed that way to me during the long stretches of "sanity" that I've experienced since my initial suicide attempt at 17. But even during the "stable" times, I've honestly never been "suicide-free" in thought. Of course, those thoughts were more fleeting during the good times, but they still turned up like the occasional bad penny. And lately, I feel like I could change a dollar with one cent pieces. Suddenly, I feel like queuing Gnarls Barkley's classic, "Crazy"...
Anyway, feelings of inadequacy inevitably catalyze my feelings of loneliness. Most gay men, I think, would understand my fear of growing old alone. In fact, I contend that aside from contracting HIV, loneliness is the biggest fear of gay men. Thus, both inadequacy and loneliness have double-teamed my mind, and I'm laboring to find an effective defensive move.
If only there was a switch neatly nestled in the gray matter of my brain that would, once activated, cease all self-destructive tendencies... nah, on second thought...
Instead of science fictional remedies, I'll choose to call on/remember my faith... it was faith that sustained me during those ephemeral moments of confusion when suicide was an option. It was nothing but faith that has kept me living with HIV - therapy free, more than 13 years after I was diagnosed. Only by faith did a friend make an unannounced visit to my house, find me in drugged stupor, and rush me to a hospital in time to have the pills that were degrading my internal organs pumped from my stomach.
To be a functional, thriving human being, I understand that faith (in God, Allah, Yahweh, or whatever higher power you choose to believe in) is a requirement. It is that faith that gives us "peace of mind" - I get that, finally. And although I've had my own personal beef with Oprah in regards to her handling of the whole "down low" phenomenon, I agree with her contention that there ARE no coincidences. There are NO coincidences. I must believe that there is an imperceptible force larger than anything I can conceive that's working around me, for me, guiding me towards a higher realization of self, and leading me towards the peace that sometimes seems so elusive. I feel that force (of God) instinctually, yet I recognize that I am a co-creator in his/her/our plan, and that my choices - my free will - work in concert with his/her plan. Sounds a bit contradictory, I know. Does that make me crazy? Possibly.