A funny thing happened on the way to my life: I got lost. The most pathetic confession that I could make is the same sad detail that has defined and controlled my life for the past 29+ years: I don't know what joy feels like. I've had good days, bad days, and in-between days, but mostly I've felt wretched. That is, until recently. Recently, I'm discovering that happiness is not a myth only to be found in the movies.
Before my eye-awakening redemption, I was merely a well-trained dancing monkey who was incredibly good at following orders, keeping my mouth shut, and putting on my game face. Yet, beneath it all lied an unbearable sadness. There was always a voice in the back of my mind telling me that what I essentially was was not good enough; that I had to work harder than anyone else to deserve the very air I breathed. This voice-- which I have now mockingly begun to refer to as my "dark passenger" (a la Dexter- who by the way is a fictional serial killer, so this isn't self-complimentary) began to spread like an infection into every corner of my brain, body, and bone. The arduous process of pulling my own weight became difficult. I was exhausted. I had run out of steam; run out of smiles. Finally, I could not even run from the fact that I hated my life and myself.
I combated this by protecting myself in a formula of daily routine, scheduling every minute of every day of the week so that I was never left with even a split second to look myself in the face. This worked out fine-- except for at night. There, lying in bed [alone], I would be attacked by thoughts of my worthlessness. I would cry myself to sleep at my loneliness, at my personal and professional failures, and at the notion that I had to go to work in the morning at a job for which I felt perfectly unsuited and performed terribly. In typical fashion for the overactive mind, insomnia quickly followed. I never slept. Respite came in brief increments that felt like seconds and included constant tossing, turning, and the resultant frustration at fate's robbery of my peace. With bags under my eyes and an aching head, I would awake from whatever measure of sleep I had had, fight the urge to cry again at the day I knew I had to live-- a fight I almost always lost-- and peel myself out of bed. A born Taurus (if you believe that malarkey), I still made it to work every day and on time. I performed every duty required of me. I didn't apply myself. I did merely what was asked and no more. It was an obligation for money. I would compartmentalize myself like a prostitute, lie back and take it, but I would be damned if I was going to fake an orgasm for it. At 5pm, I returned home to force myself through the rest of my regimen before repeating the process the moment my head hit the pillow. Life-wise, I was there but not there.
The same soon followed in my private life. I began accepting fewer and fewer invitations from friends-- who were the saving grace in my abysmal existence-- and isolating myself in my protective cocoon. If I didn't see anyone, no one could hurt me. Most of my social removal was due to my feelings of inferiority. My friends were all moving on with their lives, evolving, making professional progress, and growing happier and more contented. They earned more money, they had meaningful relationships, and they interacted with other human beings as if it were nothing at all-- and not the fearful and intimidating dilemma that I had always considered it to be. I never understood why these people liked me. I decided that they kept me around as a crutch to lean on when they were bored, because they knew that I was easy, non-argumentative, and most importantly, silent. I made no waves. My personal troubles were my personal troubles. I was drowning, but I did not cry for help. If anything, I clung tighter to the rapidly descending anchor of my morbid self-hatred and let it drag me under.
"So, this is my life," I decided. "F*ck it." My surplus of pride became my BFF. I decided to just coast through the remainder of my [hopefully not too many] days on this earth and demolish the most harmful thing in me: my hope. I stopped planning my future. I stopped trying to be what I wanted to be. There would be no success. There would be no romance. There would never be enough money. "Fine. Now I know. Now I'm prepared." I looked into the future and saw a big black hole swallowing me up. I was terrified to look at it, so I tried not to. My schedule was all. I just had to make it through 24 hours at a time, and 16 if I was lucky and had depleted my energy enough to earn an eight hour coma.
I pondered many a time the benefits of just ending it all. I developed a nasty habit of going into full-throttle panic attacks, usually while driving. I would park my car in the garage, close the door behind me, and start crying hysterically. I would beat my wrists-- against each other, my legs, the armrest, anything. I still have no idea why I did that, but I couldn't stop. My legs would swing manically back and forth as well. The automatic light in the garage would turn out, and I would sit there in the darkness, pounding my wrists, the steering wheel, my head, and wishing that by some sort of magic I could will myself to die.
It doesn't work that way. I considered slashing my wrists, which is perhaps why I was paying so much attention to them. I would fantasize about dying, about my blood slowly leaving my body and taking my spirit with it. As horrible as it sounds, these daydreams served as a relief. The knowledge that I could end it made me feel better-- more in control. I also indulged in attack fantasies. My stress would pile up, and I would entertain myself by imagining that I was going to be jumped by a gang of knife-wielding psychos who would stab me in the back just like Julius Caesar and leave me bleeding on the streets behind my office-- always my office. I would also indulge in visions of a car crash. I would drive rapidly into a wall or another car would hit me head on. I would see myself in slow-motion: my chest hitting the wheel, crushing my rib cage, while glass shattered over the unopened emergency bag, and my seat belt would bust open. Then I'd snap out of it. It was a rush. What I was doing was dreaming of a free pass to the other side. That's what I really wanted.
The only thing that kept me from committing any sort of self-demolishing act was my guilt. I couldn't bear making my parents cry. They loved me, which they did for reasons I had never understood. I didn't want to put my roommate through the ordeal of finding my body covered in blood in the bathtub either. Mostly, I didn't want to run the risk that there actually is a God and that my deeds would earn me a one-way ticket to eternal limbo, which, by the way, is where I was already living. There was no way out. The only thing to do was coast, wait, and die-- probably while working at Denny's in my eighties, because I still couldn't pay my bills. I would have no cats, but I would have a long gray ponytail and be the mole lady in 4B who never spoke to anyone but constantly mumbled to herself. Ah, a future at last...
This was all very, very normal. It was every day stuff in my world. I dealt with it the way you learn to brush your teeth twice a day. I decided that my problem was simple to diagnose: I was weak. Clearly, I was not meant to be born. I was not meant to be given to my parents. This was a case of existential misfiling. I was supposed to wind up the product of a couple of horny teenager's unprotected sex. I was supposed to be aborted by the fools. I was supposed to be a temporary, "recycle" baby. Somehow, I wound up in the wrong place, and I was consequently cursed with a life that I did not deserve. And now it was killing me.
I tell you all this merely to paint a portrait of how ridiculously miserable I was. "Was" being the key word. I learned two weeks ago-- after a bold visit to a psychiatrist and last ditch effort to reclaim my dignity-- that I have been combating some measure of depression my entire life. It turns out, my life wasn't all my fault. I had had a little help from some seriously disproportionate serotonin levels. A weight had been lifted. My problem could be fixed! And not the way it normally fixed itself, where after a crying jag I would receive a burst of energy, which led to a battle plan, which fizzled out again within days. Real change could happen this time. I could find my way back to my life and never get lost, because I would be paving my own way instead of following an already established blue-print for living that was vague at best. I decided that I was going to live on purpose. What a difference a pill makes... (Well two, administered daily, to be taken with food and water).
I was told by my therapist that the reaction I had to my meds has been extraordinary. What do you know? I had actually succeeded at something: allowing myself to heal. Slowly, I was becoming comfortable in my own skin. I no longer cringed looking in the mirror at that boring blond bitch that I saw every day. People, who had once seemed threatening, two-dimensional illustrations, had fleshed out into 3D human beings, whom I miraculously found myself talking to by choice. I was more functional at work and even thriving. I was getting sleep (thanks to another prescription). Most importantly, I was actually feeling happy... just for being me, the same person whom I had hated with everything I had mere days ago. I would hear myself talking, being positive, etc. and this time there was no Hyde in the back of my head, but a chuckling Jekyll wondering, "Where the Hell did that come from?"
This was the most startling fact of all. Growing up a shy wallflower who didn't blossom until well into college, (I got my training bra last week, so that was exciting), I spent most of my life in total introversion. I did not speak. I reacted. I absorbed. I untangled all of life's mysteries and puzzles in my head. Show me a person, and I can size him up in five seconds. Ask me for advice on any subject, and I know the answer. But I did not answer nor talk about any of this. Never. My opinion didn't matter. I was a receptacle not an orator. This is why, obeying the law of opposites, I had previously set such lofty ambitions for myself. I moved to Hollywood. I was going to be the most popular thing any being can be: an actress-- but not an air head movie star. In time, I knew that I would alter the face of film. I was going to do so much for women: write, direct, produce female driven scripts, bring art back to a fading craft, etc. I was going to save the world!
Fast forward to 8 years later, and I had become totally disenchanted with the industry. On the one hand, it produced amazing products of artistry that reminded me of why I made the trip to L.A. in the first place. On the other hand, Hollywood is a land where you have to audition for every 22-year old douche-bag with a camera who says he's a "director" but pretty much just wants you to materialize his sexual fantasies. Story is meaningless; power is everything. Needless to say, an introverted "don't look at me" person such as myself was not suited for the business. I never understood the mechanism of it, and my upbringing of "the cream always rises" did not move mountains the way I assumed it would. For every project I completed that built up my self-esteem, there were 100 more rejections and sketchy characters to send me crashing back to earth, and my mistrust of the system-- which, let's face it, actually is "all about the Benjamins"-- left me with a curious distaste in my mouth. My passion turned to confusion; my dreams deflated like a balloon. I had built my whole life around my future as an actress, yet in my gut, I knew it wasn't what I really wanted. After 6 years of trying and two more of denying that I no longer enjoyed acting-- the most painful transition of my life-- I threw in the towel. It turned out to be prophetic. Sometimes you have to attack the opposite version of yourself to find out who you really are. I was done with being other people. I wanted to be myself.
I turned to writing, which is where I am now, and why I am doing this. This is part of my new process. This is "I" communicating with the universe and saying, indeed I am here, and finally, this is what I have to say. Whether or not anyone will read it remains to be seen, but this page is where I will come to illustrate my steps back into the land of the living. I am dipping my toe into the pool of communication the best way I know how, with my written words. I have not yet come to trust the words out of my mouth, but as I venture into the great unknown and redefine my goals, I will jot down my discoveries for others to interpret and perhaps even use as inspiration for themselves. The result of all future attempts to interact, date, speed date, socialize, party, join groups, mix, and just plain converse, will be recorded. To be clear, I have sucked at all of those things my entire life. My mission is to find my voice aloud. To take my second chance at this life jazz and this time be a real girl and not a wooden one. In essence: I confront life for the first time-- chaos ensues.
Here goes everything...