Depression

Dating in New York City: The Rat Race Redefined.

rat-AP

Months before I moved to New York City I made the mistake of watching a documentary about rats in the city.  I learned rats could chew right through cement and squeeze their entire bodies through holes no bigger than the size of their skulls. Rats must constantly gnaw on anything in order to keep their always-growing teeth a manageable size.  Their jaw muscles exert a shocking 12 tons of pressure per square inch.  Rats spread disease, fleas and cause fires from chewing through electrical wiring.  In moments of extreme stress they attack each other and will even resort to cannibalism.   After that film, the mere sight of a battle-scarred super-sized rodent with a flesh tail would cause my heartbeat to quicken and stomach to churn.  I found myself in fits of panic if they got more than a few feet from me.

When my ex and I moved from Brooklyn to Washington Heights we discovered a fairly developed rat nest in the roots of a tree in the sidewalk.   In the rats would scurry from their nest across the sidewalk and into the alley of a building two doors down from our own.  We’d hear screams of people who had made the mistake of walking on our side of the street night after night.  My ex-husband counted as many as 20 rats at a time in the courtyard of our neighboring building.  We’d watch in despair as they would chew perfect tunnels through solid concrete the city poured over their nest..  Animal control repeatedly set poison traps, and laid wife mesh over the concrete and nothing seemed to stop them.

Then one night, out of nowhere my reaction towards the monstrous creatures changed.  I was coming home late at night after a comedy gig and saw one, all by himself sniffing around the subway platform searching for food.  He had half of a tail and large patches of baldness along with matted fur.  This rat wasn’t doing so well, and for the first time I saw desperation in his movements.  He just didn’t run around like every other rat I’d ever seen before, he seemed panicked and fearful.

I couldn’t help but see a part of myself in this poor dying creature.  When I first moved here, I was one half of a couple.  I had dreams and ambitions that always included the man I thought was the love of my life.  Fourteen years later after the terrorist attack on 9-11, a city-wide blackout, Hurricane Sandy, a devastating divorce, the premature death of too many friends, suicidal thoughts and crippling depression I found myself alone.  I’m not as young as I once was, my reproductive capacity shrinks by the minute and I’m deeply damaged.   In order to pay my bills I work constantly.  Some weeks I might get one day off, or work nonstop without a break for days on end.

There are those who criticize me for choices I’ve made, things I’ve written or said, and my “bad” attitude.  Of course they have no idea what goes on in my head, or how difficult it might be to come back after such a devastating loss.  Things haven’t completely healed and in the past six years I’ve rarely felt strong emotion towards a man for any extended period of time.  I don’t know if I’ll live the rest of my days alone.  In many ways surviving after the breakup has been harder than the split itself.  One day turns into another and nothing changes.

I get harassed on a daily basis with men leering at me, shouting out filth, blocking my path or even grabbing me on the street.   Most of the guys who express interest in me only want sex, and will literally not even touch me after the fact.  It’s as if I’ve left the room and might as well leave, which is usually what I do anyway.  I’ve numbed myself enough to stand it, and swallowed pride and emotions with the increasing dexterity.  If that’s what I need to do to survive then so be it., I survive, but only barely.

So when I looked at that rat, desperately hunting for food, doing nothing more but trying to make it to the next day I felt empathy for his plight.  I didn’t want to go near the poor animal, and I’m not kidding myself about wild urban rats. They’re a dangerous scourge, the city is right to try to eradicate them and control their numbers.  Regardless he was still a little life who never did anything but try to make it to the next day.  For reasons beyond his control he was born into a crowded metropolis and will probably die of starvation, poison, or at the teeth of another rat soon enough.  For the first time in my life, I had compassion for something I had once reviled.  Chances are he never ate another rat, or attacked a human, he was probably just an average rat living off a garbage and dodging subway cars.   I sat down on a bench a safe distance away from him and watched his darting and scheming until the next train came.

As much as I’ve been through, and as hard as things get, my struggles and pain have been a gift.  Had I stayed married and enjoyed the success of my ex-husband’s thriving career I might have never found empathy and compassion for that sad little animal.  I would take what I had for granted, and failed to see that every new day is truly a blessing.  I had to lose everything to become more human.  My life might not get easier for many years to come, or it could change in an instant. I’m just happy I’m still here and I don’t fear the rats anymore.

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Dear Rick Perry, Being Gay is not a Disease

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Rick Perry, you really don’t understand homosexuality.  To quote you directly.

Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that,” Perry said. “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.

You also advocated for the widely discredited, reparative therapy for homosexuals.  To quote the Southern Poverty Law Center 

Conversion therapy – sometimes known as reparative or “sexual reorientation” therapy – is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation, literally “converting” from gay to straight. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

You might also think that homosexuality is a disease, but the medical community would strongly disagree with you.  To quote psychiatrytoday.com 

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association’s Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition (DSM II). The action was taken following a review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts in the field. The experts found that homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness.

I hate to break this to you but, gay men and women have existed in every culture on the planet, long before a few scant condemnations in the Old and New testaments of the Christian bible  Despite the importance some Christians have placed on the evils of homosexuality, Jesus Christ didn’t think it was worthy of discussion.

Rick, do you ever wonder what happens to gay men and women when they try to force themselves to live a lie?  Do you think that it’s just a matter of self-control?  Do you think once they get married, settle down and have a few kids that those urges and attractions will vanish?

Well Rick, I’ve got news for you.  Most mixed orientation marriages end catastrophically with both partners greatly damaged.  I was in one of those marriages.  I had no idea my husband was gay when I married him.  He was full of so much self-hate about his sexual orientation he thought he could change himself.  He was basically lying to me and everyone else close to him in his life for years.  He tried desperately to change, but realized he couldn’t.  He is gay.  He was gay before we got married, he was gay during our marriage and he’s gay now.  It’s a fundamental part him.  It’s not a weakness of moral character, it’s not a lifestyle choice and it’s not an addiction.  He lived in misery because he was desperately trying to be something he wasn’t.  Now that he is out and proud, he’s a much happier person.

His self-loathing and shame came from the false belief that being gay is a fault or shortcoming.  When I first confronted my ex-husband about his sexual orientation he would have given anything to change it.  Luckily for both of us, he has grown to accept and love himself.  We are both better off now living authentic lives and not trapped in a sham marriage.

There are millions of other straight spouses like me all over the country.  Most of these marriages leave a path of destruction in their wake.  I know women who have buried their husbands with full-blown AIDS, others who have contracted the virus from their spouse. I have heard of suicides and even homicides when these marriages disintegrate  Parents who lose access to their children, and children who now have to split time between two homes.  I’ve met damaged and broken men and women on both sides of these doomed partnerships.  I suffered from a massive depression, I was nearly financially destroyed, I’ve had to accept that I’ll probably never have my own children and at my worst I was suicidal.  It’s hardly been an easy road for me, and I know it’s a daily struggle for many of my straight spouse counterparts.

If our spouses were happier in their own skin, if they could envision a happy and healthy life for themselves, they never would have entered into these fraud marriages.  If you claim to champion family values, you would never encourage a gay person to try to force themselves to be straight.  You would never expect someone to try to change something so fundamental about themselves.  Rick, do you think you could force yourself to live as a gay man?  Do you think you would be happy if every day you had to live a lie?

Your words have consequences.  You lead a state with over 26 million people.  Every time you condemn homosexuality you reinforce the bullying, the discrimination and hate that leads to misery, self-destructive behavior and even suicide.  LGTB youth are more than twice as likely to try to commit suicide than their straight peers.  When you call for medical quackery like reparative therapy you cause more suffering.   Homophobia affects more than just the gay people you target.  The hate splinters out like broken shards of glass cutting into everyone around the intended target.  Relationships between parents and children are destroyed and families are torn apart, and all for something that cannot be changed.  My own life was greatly harmed by this nonsense and I’m not going to be silent when you perpetuate myths and misinformation.

Homosexuality is just another way of being human, and there are a lot of beautiful LGTB human beings in your state.  They just want to live their lives authentically and without shame.  They want to raise families and grow old with their partners.  They just want to live like any other Texan.  You can remain in the dark ages as states around the country legalize same-sex marriage and end discrimination against LGTB people.  I know not every Texan agrees with you.  Hopefully more and more of them will speak out against this bigotry.  Which side of history do you want to be on?

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10 Tips for Managing Depression

 I’ve written about this topic before, but I decided to revisit it, since it’s one of the most popular things people search for on my blog.

Anyone who has suffered through a major depressive episode or clinical depression knows the feeling – a few things go badly, some misfortune piles up and you start to feel the dread.  Dark thoughts creep in and anxiety seems to hang around like an unwanted party guest.  You think to yourself, “Is this just a brief spell of mood swings, or will this snowball into a full-blown episode?”  I’ve struggled with mood problems my entire life, but after a difficult divorce I spiraled into a massive depression.  I never really understood how overwhelming the disease could be until I faced it myself.

Treating depression requires medical treatment in the form of therapy, medication or a combination of both.  A quick top 10 list is not going to cure a mental illness. But if you need something to help keep your demons at bay, these tips might help.  I know they’ve helped me prevent a few bad days from snowballing out of control.  They might seem like common sense, but it’s good to have a reminder.

1.  Reach out to Friends, Family or Loved ones – For some of us, our families might be the most toxic people in our lives.  If that’s true for you, then by all means just try to connect with someone who is loving and supportive.  Face time is a million times better than social media. Liking posts on Facebook and tweeting a buddy is not going to cut it.  Get up and leave your house, have lunch with a friend, or hang out with a buddy after work. If nothing else call a friend.  As much as we think we are alone, everyone has people who love and cherish them.  If it helps, make a list of those people and put it in a place where you can find it easily, complete with phone numbers, emails, and other contact information.  Avoid Isolation – When we’re alone we can control our environment, avoid negative people and focus on work.  The downside is we are social creatures who function best around other human beings.  Even if you can’t find a friend or loved one to hang out with, just sitting in a library or coffee shop with other people can help.

2.  Volunteer or Help Others – Helping others always helps get you out of your head and you’ll probably get to interact with more people, which is another way of avoiding isolation.  Again don’t just click a link on a website or sign a petition.  Get out of your house or apartment and physically get involved. Studies have shown that volunteering can actually reduce depression symptoms.

3.  Exercise – Physical exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise can help increase endorphins and other powerful chemicals in your brain.  It won’t even cost a cent if you just decide to go for a walk, or do some yoga by yourself at home.  Deep breathing can also help.

4.  Eat – I completely lose my appetite, others might eat to try to fill the void.  Know your tendencies and do what you can to try to stay on a healthy regime.  I literally will write “Eat Lunch” on my ‘To Do List’ because otherwise I might actually forget to have a meal.

5.  Hang out with a friendly animal – If you don’t have a pet, then find a friend who does.  If you are allergic to the furry variety, even watching fish swimming around in a tank at pet store can help calm your mind.   If you don’t like animals then go to a park, getting out and around nature can do wonders for your mood.

6.  Find a Creative Outlook – Draw, write, paint, craft, bake, cook, sew, knit, play an instrument, whatever you love to do or make – do it.  Musical instruments seem to help me more than anything, as does this blog.  Surfing the internet, watching television and playing video games are passive activities.  It’s really best to try to make something out of nothing.  Creativity is one of the best ways to boost your brain.  Some studies have shown links between creative people and higher rates of depression, but don’t let that discourage you.  Creating something will give you a sense of accomplishment.  Just be careful about how you spend that creative energy.  If you’re feeling especially low, you might want to avoid work on that memoir about your divorce.  Baking cupcakes might cheer you up instead.  🙂

7.  Avoid Crazy-makers – Sometimes negative and destructive people are impossible to remove from your life.  If your boss pushes you to the limit every day, there is little you can do about it.  But if you are struggling with an ex-partner or spouse, then by all means try to give yourself distance.

8.  Practice whatever therapy has worked for you in the past –  For me its Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.   I write it all out, my fears, the deep voices of dread and doubt that live inside of me and then I have to cognitively and logically destroy those voices.  It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t work for everyone.  Others might use meditation, acupuncture, aromatheraphy, biofeedback, massage therapy, yoga or any number of other alternative methods to help manage their depression.  If something doesn’t work, then try something else.  Don’t give up.

9. Avoid self-destructive behavior – Your well-meaning friends might encourage drug or alcohol use when you’re down.  Substances are just a crutch that will exacerbate a depressed person’s symptoms.  Getting loaded might make you feel better momentarily, but if you’re suffering from depression, the high won’t last.   Other self-destructive behaviors could be gambling, binge eating, reckless behavior or a string of sexual encounters with virtual strangers.  None of these are inherently bad, but anything done to excess can ultimately slow recovery.

10.  Ask for Help – Probably the hardest one on the list, because if you have recovered from depression, the last thing you want to admit is that it’s back.  But if you are having thoughts of self-harm, losing hope, or finding it difficult to simply feel joy, don’t be afraid to seek medical help. Depression is not a weakness of character, it’s a disease.  Triggers for depression vary from person to person and some struggle with it for most of their lives, while others will have one brief episode and then never go through it again.  You are NOT ALONE, and you are not a bad person because you are suffering.  The reasons behind your depression are complex but it’s not your fault.  If your first doctor or therapist doesn’t work out, keep searching.  If CBT doesn’t work for you, then try any number of alternative therapies.  If an anti-depressant doesn’t work out for you, then ask for a different prescription.  If you think you are being over medicated, then tell your doctor.  For many patients treating this disease involves a lot of trial and error.  NEVER GIVE UP!

As a person who has suffered through this myself, you have my empathy.  You’ll have times when you might lose hope, but so many of us have been there.  It will get better. No one is fortunate all of the time, and no one lives in misery all of the time.  We’ve all had our ups and downs and millions of us have also suffered from this horrible disease and recovered.  It’s going to be OK.  Hang in there.  🙂  I’ve included some other articles of mine on the subject and other links to use as resources.  There is a lot of help out there, don’t be afraid to ask for it. 🙂

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Dating After Divorce: Becoming Comfortably Numb

 

I wondered when it would happen, then a few months ago, it hit me.  After countless bad dates and a dating scene that feels like a wasteland, I’ve finally become comfortably numb.  It’s not what I expected.  I thought I would be more negative and more jaded, but it’s honestly somewhat comfortable.  My expectations have just hit rock bottom.

When I first left my marriage I was completely unprotected.  My heart was overly sensitive, my mind ravaged with depression and my instincts set at high alert. I needed to calm the beast, or I never would have survived. I used to cry after bad dates, usually on the subway home.  As soon as I would just sit down, I’d mildly lose it.  I don’t think I had unrealistic expectations.  Multiple bad dates had trained me not to think beyond the first encounter.  Then on the rare occasions I had a second date, I taught myself not to get too excited.  I’ve only made it to three dates with one man.  We had hardly gotten serious, we hadn’t had sex yet when he had a slight meltdown.  In his case, I don’t think it had anything to do with me.  From what he told me, he had some seriously unresolved issues with his ex.  Unresolved issues with exes is just a reality for people over 35.

Some guys would rather remain virtual.  I sort of “dated”  a guy who just wanted to email.  He claimed he wanted to see me, but then created countless obstacles.  I lived in Brooklyn and he lived in Manhattan, so it shouldn’t have been that difficult.  He also wasn’t over his ex, and I suspect was still trying to get back together with her.  I’ll never understand why I kept talking to him, or what was going on in his head.  I found out months after I gave up, he found a good match and they are inseparable.

I’ve had a few casual flings.  I forced every jealous atom inside of me to stay cool.  Hooking up with guys when I knew they had other women in their lives, wasn’t easy.  It really took Herculean strength to not react, to tell myself that it didn’t matter, we weren’t serious, this won’t lead to anything. I managed to stay calm, but inside I was miserable.

They haven’t all been bad.  I had a strong connection with one guy.  We found out on the date we were both straight spouses.  His wife left him for a woman, and I thought that maybe our shared experience might work to our advantage.  Despite obvious warning signs that he was clearly not over his ex-wife, we made out in his car for over an hour.  It was highly unusual for me, as I usually don’t even kiss a guy on a first date. Then he completely blew me off.   I guess the situation was too much for him, I don’t know.  I can’t remember his name or face.

Now I still have a few men who hover but do little else. They might send a dick pic, or a request for sexting that will lead absolutely nowhere.  I’ve learned I’m not the only recipient for their x-rated self-portraits.   If I say I’m interested in something more, they tend to bolt.  Of course I still get harassed on the street by any number of men of all ages.  I guess that might end when I have to use a walker or cane to get around.

The worst was my rebound relationship, something I never should have gotten myself into.  It was completely exhilarating, but ultimately soul crushing.  I had so many conflicted feelings towards him, at least two years after the fact.  Now I don’t see him.  I have no idea what’s going on in his life, and I have no desire to find out.  I harbor no ill will, but I also don’t want any contact with him.

I’ve become someone I would have never recognized five years ago.  But in a way it’s not completely awful.  It’s not what I thought it would be.  I’m not angry or bitter, just numb.   I take everything men say and do with a grain of salt.  So what if the guy sent me several texts in a row – It doesn’t mean anything until he backs it up with actions.  I rarely text anyone because I can’t stand being blanked back.  I would rather just have nothing than the feeling of being ignored.

I just stopped caring.  So what if the guy from OKCupid sends me eight emails only to cancel the same night as our date.  I don’t even blink if some man rants about his “bitch ex-wife” for half the date.  It no longer surprises me, if he insults what I do for a living, or complains about my crappy neighborhood. This is dating after 35 in a city where only the strong survive, and you’ll be judged on everything your job, neighborhood, past relationships, pets, hobbies even your hometown.

Some of my dates have been so rude and so horrible that if I recreated them in a movie, I would be accused of being too fantastical.  I try to keep an open mind, stay positive and keep moving forward.  My horrible experiences have given me armor.  I rarely have crying fits on the subway anymore.  I’ve just learned to block the disappointments out.   Most divorced people never think they are going to end up like this.  Few of us expect this as our future.  If we learn more from our failures, I’ll be a genius by the time I finally meet a compatible match.  🙂

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When Saying “Smile” is the rudest thing a person could do

Teen Angst

On the day after Christmas, I sat in the airport and tried to keep myself occupied before my flight.  I was trying to play the NYTimes Crosswords app on my phone, but I just couldn’t focus.  My carry-on had a couple of books I knew I had to read, and a frivolous magazine.  Nothing sparked my interest.  The TV screens suspended from the ceiling were broadcasting CNN and it was some inane story about the economy.  No matter how hard I tried, I could only think of one thing – her face.  It was the face of a woman who was far too young to die.

On Christmas day a year earlier my cousin dropped dead of a massive heart attack.   She was in her late forties, unmarried, and was only in town for the holiday.  Multiple underlying medical conditions contributed to her unexpected death, but it was still a huge shock to everyone that she was gone.  Two days after Christmas her funeral was hastily arranged to allow as many relatives from out-of-town to pay our respects.  She was twice divorced with no children, but had three beloved cats.  On that side of the family I have 16 cousins, and she was the first of our generation to die.

Divorced and childless myself, I couldn’t help but think of my face in that casket.  Would I suffer a similar fate?  I also felt horrible that I didn’t get a chance to see her one last time and I worried for my aunt.  My Aunt was the oldest five and had already buried her husband and daughter-in-law.  Sitting alone in the airport on the anniversary of my cousin’s death caused me to grieve all over again.  As I sat there staring off into vacant space, tears started to roll down my eyes.  And then I heard him – a booming voice with a thick Southern twang.

“Hey pretty lady, you know you ain’t got nothing to cry to be sad about.  Come on and show me a SMILE.”  He was an average looking white man in his mid-thirties with messy hair and coveralls pushing a large piece of equipment.

“Why don’t you mind your fucking business!  Asshole!” I snapped back, giving him some New York City attitude.

I could tell by the look in his eye and his attitude he didn’t care at all about my emotions or what I might be going through.  This was his feeble and pathetic attempt to try to get me to talk or engage with him.  As if a woman couldn’t just sit there and have sad thought.  With that one phrase he wasn’t actually telling me to cheer up he was negating my feelings.  I was just sitting there completely minding my business.  I wasn’t dressed in anything garish or attention seeking.  A black down coat, black jeans and a sweater, minimal makeup and my hair wadded up in Saint Louis cardinals baseball cap.  Why wasn’t I allowed one moment of solitude?  Would he had dared to snap out such an order to a man sitting by himself?

I had a completely opposite situation once while riding the subway.  A man I now refer to as rebound #2 had just abruptly broken up with me.  My post-divorce depression was crippling, and I really shouldn’t have tried to date anyone.  I had just started treatment and was on medication but I was nowhere near recovery.  So that day on the Q train I just couldn’t hold it in anymore and had a total meltdown.  As I sat there sobbing, a woman sitting across from me simply said,

“Are you OK?”

She was tall, well dressed, close to my age, with dark skin and beautiful long braids.  I was so taken aback by her reaction.  I hadn’t even realized I was crying like that in public.  My depression had completely taken over me, and here was this total stranger expressing real empathy. At first I tried to get it together and said,

“I’m fine.”

She looked and me and responded,

“You don’t look fine.  It’s OK.  We’ve all been there.”

Then it all came spilling out,

“I just got a divorce, and I can’t date anyone.  No one wants me.  No one will ever want me. I’m damaged goods.”

The woman came over and sat next to me.  She told me about her own traumatic breakup, and how she had recently met a great guy and had renewed hope in life.  I realized quickly, she didn’t want anything from me, she didn’t ask for my card or information and she didn’t give me hers.  She put her arm around me and told me it was going to be OK and I wiped my tears and we just shared about 10 minutes of a real human connection.  I got off the train and waved goodbye.  It was one of the nicest moments I’ve ever had with a stranger.  She didn’t negate my pain, she acknowledged it.  We all have suffering sometimes and just hearing another person say,

“I’ve hurt too.  I’m sorry you’re in pain.”

It was enough to stop the spiral if for only a second.  Having a stranger scream, “Stop crying you don’t have any problems” is the exact opposite.  We all fall down.  We all go through rough times and we should mourn and give ourselves time to grieve.

When I recently found out that a friend of mine died suddenly at the age of 45 I was on a sidewalk in Union Square.  I literally fell down and had to brace myself on a fence to keep myself from completely collapsing.  As I struggled to make it to the train, get home and keep myself together all I could think of was…please don’t say anything to me…please leave me alone….I just want to get home.  Luckily for me that day, I was given peace.  I worry I might have physically assaulted a man who shouted “Smile honey you don’t have anything to cry about” Luckily no one was that rude or stupid.  Sadness is a perfectly healthy emotion and sometimes it doesn’t come in nice and neat ways.  We will find ourselves breaking down in public.

Making the decision to approach a total stranger in distress is a tricky one.  It’s sort of like going up to a wounded animal.  Will they try to attack back?  Will they go into shock?  Will we make things worse?  As I’ve said multiple times on this blog, the best thing anyone can do for another person in crisis is simply listen.  Don’t tell them what to do, don’t try to fix their problems just hear them out.  But whatever you do, don’t scream “Smile.”

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Life After Divorce – Do you feel Worthy of Love?

Broken Glass at Work-6

Broken Glass at Work-6 (Photo credit: akeg)

As in all my blog posts, I have changed a few details and left some things vague to protect the identity of others.  If you think I’m blogging about you, I’m probably not!  There is a lot to my personal life that I don’t share on this blog or with anyone.  I’ll just let that be a mystery to everyone but me.

A man I was casually dating made a comment that stuck in my brain a few months ago.  He is dealing with his own major breakup, one that I suspect also has elements of fraud.  He lamented that one of his other lovers might be falling in love with him to which I responded, “Well you have nothing to worry about with me, I’m not.” and then he bemoaned “Why not?  Am I not loveable?” and I thought, “No it’s because you have multiple lovers, why would I bother investing in you.”  I knew enough to not get too attached to him, but my heart broke a bit for both of us when he said it.

His comment haunted me.  Not because I was really in love with him, but because on a very primal level I feel that way about myself.  Even though I don’t want to admit it, and I try to suppress it, I still feel – I am not worthy of love.  My actions only feed the beast of self-doubt and insecurity.  For whatever reason since leaving my husband, I have fallen into a pattern of dating men who aren’t really there.

Most of my partners are deeply in love with someone else, and it’s extremely painful to go through this again and again. It just supports my fears of not being good enough, maybe if I was younger, taller, thinner, made more money, had a more traditional job, didn’t write this blog, lived in a better neighborhood….someone would cling to the hope that I might return their devotion. I almost feel like these women have something magical about them that makes men become obsessed, or maybe they are masters of manipulation.  It doesn’t really matter, as I seem to have the opposite qualities.

There was the intellectual who secretly pined away for the woman who broke up his marriage.  He was beyond emotionally distant with me and I found out the truth through basic cyber sleuthing.  Then there was the man I met online who was also a straight spouse, who was still madly in love with his now openly lesbian wife.  He basically vanished after an intense date with me.  Another man who cursed his cruel and manipulative former spouse yet also openly worshiped and praised her for her beauty.  Even during my most intense post-divorce affair, my boyfriend would openly talk about a woman who had dropped him unceremoniously.  I resembled her so much we could have been sisters, yet she was the one who still had his heart.

In all of these relationships, I am never enough.  My body is always used as some sort of band-aid until they can get their true love back, and so far none of them have succeeded. Why do they get so hung up on women they can’t have?  And why do I keep falling into this pattern?

Do I feel that I am not worthy of love?  I think deep down I must.  I try every day to quiet these monsters in my head who reinforce this.  The number one question I’m asked since my breakup with my husband is, “Is he seeing anyone?” and I always respond with “Hell if I know, it’s not my business.”  I honestly don’t want to find out.  One of the tragedies of mixed orientation marriages is that although these splits are quite hard on both spouses, one half deals with a deep betrayal.  The betrayal erodes self-confidence and trust, so we are left somewhat shattered at the end of it.  Many straight spouses have problems forming bonds and relationships post-divorce.  We are so damaged we can’t have anything but superficial connections.

Am I unworthy of a loving relationship?  I don’t think so, but why can’t I make anything work? Why do I waste my time on lost causes?  Why do I run from nearly every possible scenario that might lead to a stability?  How can I lie down next to a person and feel absolutely nothing?  Why do I become fixated on men who don’t really want me?

My relationships aren’t real, they are just slivers of human connection that I build up in my mind.  I’m stuck in this horrible repetition that doesn’t seem to end. Things have improved. At least I know I have a problem with this.  I no longer kid myself that is always the man’s problem.  It’s my problem, as I’m the one wasting time on them.  Over four years and I’m still trapped by these circumstances.  I focus on what I have – amazing friends, a loving family, and my health.  I hope I won’t become one of the permanently single.  I don’t want to live alone for the rest of my life. This will not always be the new normal. I am worthy of a loving relationship.  With the exception of a few demented souls or sociopathic personalities we are all worthy of a loving relationship.  I’ve got to break this cycle…I’m just not sure yet how to do it.  I know I’m broken, I just have no idea how to fix myself.

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Surviving Tragedy: Do we become a Hero or a Villain?

English: Helen Keller. Français : Helen Keller.

English: Helen Keller. Français : Helen Keller. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend recently remarked that several popular comic book characters all seem to have a common thread in their origins – both villains and heroes have backgrounds filled with tragedy. Admittedly I don’t know a great deal about the biographies of most comic book characters but the archetype of the villain with a wounded past, or hero with a tragic childhood are common throughout western literature.  It is so pervasive I wanted to find real life examples of both.

  • Lincoln – Came from humble means, suffered many setbacks early in his career, lost nearly all of his children to disease, his wife suffered from mental illness and Lincoln himself may have struggled with depression – yet is still considered one of our greatest presidents
  • FDR – Although crippled by polio he was arguably one of our most successful and celebrated presidents, while going to great lengths to conceal the extent of his disability.
  • Helen Keller – Facing almost insurmountable physical disabilities she obtained a bachelor’s degree and dedicated her life to increasing awareness and understanding for the disabled.

All three of these real life heroes could have easily given up and few would have criticized them for it.   And much like literary or comic book characters they all made mistakes, had flaws and shortcomings, but they managed to overcome extremely difficult circumstances. Would Lincoln have been as successful if his life wasn’t constantly filled with obstacles?  Would FDR been able to lead our country through World War II had he been a spoiled wealthy investor from a well-connected family who never faced physical challenges?   If Helen Keller had both sight and hearing would she had been a simple housewife or teacher?  It’s hard to say, but I would argue that in these three cases the obstacles they overcame strengthened their character and resolve.  The trauma they endured may have scarred them up a bit, but they grew stronger as a result.

I can’t help but think of a friend I knew in college.  She was someone who had known more death before age 22 than most of us will know before we are 80.  Three of her best friends died while she was still in high school.  The first friend died in an accident, the second from a suicide and the third died from a gunman on the street.  This same young woman watched as her father died in front of her of cancer and then just a few years later lost her mother to a heart attack.   You might think it would make her bitter, angry and hateful of the world, but she was one of the most empathetic people I have ever met.  She definitely had dark moments, but she valued life more than most.  Her loss caused her to take nothing for granted.

The best known quote about this is from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

The quote is true to a point.  For some the tragedies we endure do in fact make us better people, but there are those who simply grow hateful and bitter from difficult experiences.

How different would our world be right now if a young man in Austria with a troubled childhood, a failed artistic career, and post traumatic stress disorder chose a different way to channel his anger.  Hitler directed his disappointments into hatred and bitterness and the entire world still pays the cost of his pathology.  Most serial killers and mass murderers have had horribly traumatic childhoods filled with profound abuse and neglect.   Are sociopaths made or born?  Does trauma cause some to gain empathy, while others lose it?

From my experience I have found in some ways I have grown emotionally and have much more compassion and empathy.  Yet at the same time, I am more guarded and can emotionally cut people off without much thought.  My self-protective instincts kick in and I disengage any perceived threat.  So I struggle, to become a better person from what I have endured.  Some days it feels like a never-ending battle in my head to avoid bitterness and negativity.  My main coping mechanism is my sense of humor and this blog. At least I know and accept that I have challenges, and I don’t kid myself that it’s easy.

Most of us aren’t as extreme as a Hitler, or a Lincoln.  We aren’t serial killers or saints.  But for those of us without sociopathic tendencies the choices we make after a traumatic experience can help us from becoming bitter and jaded from the experience.  It’s a struggle as old as time itself.  Very few of us make it to age 30, 40 or 50 without going through some major losses, deaths and disappointments.  We didn’t choose our parents, childhoods or our socioeconomic backgrounds but we can make some positive choices once we are adults.  We can learn for the examples of others and try to grow from what nearly killed us, rather than letting the darkness consume us.

Dating in NYC – Damaged Goods

Damaged buildings

Damaged buildings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think I might be beginning to snap.   Not actually have an emotional break down, I am healthier than I have been in years.  I am just so tired of living in New York, but I love New York.  My entire being has become conformed to this strange reality of subway commuting, 3 am evenings, manic intensity and creativity overflowing in every direction.  How could I go back to a more mundane existence?   Not that there is anything wrong with a mundane existence.  There are days I downright envy it.  I have waking dreams of just falling into friend’s photos on Facebook and melding into their lives.

My friends have diapers, school schedules and mortgages to worry about while  I am struggling to keep a float.  It’s like I am watching everyone else grow up around me.  Proud parents showing off their babies with stories of first words and tears.  Why can’t I seem to get anything together?  Why do I snap and run at the slightest provocation?  Have I been burned so badly that the sight of the first sign of flame causes me to bolt?  Why am I surrounded by so many stuck in a permanent state of adolescence?  Those who refuse to live beyond their 19-year-old ambitions.

A few of my friends who got divorced around the same time I did are already getting re-married.  I can’t even go out with the same person for more than two or three times.  I was a serial monogamist but now I just drift around, scared to get too close to anyone.  And I am constantly hunted by the predatory types.  New York is never at a shortage of people who would love to get to know you really well for an evening and nothing more. I have given up on the notion of children, completely abandoned the idea of a second marriage.  I just want to hang out with someone on a semi-regular basis.  I couldn’t really handle a polyamorous lifestyle and I dread sleeping with more perfect strangers.  I want off this ride.

Is it different somewhere else?  I think its worse here but I have gotten emails from people all over the country who confirm my fears that things aren’t much better elsewhere.  Yet I see happy couples all the time here.  All I can think of is “How did they manage that?”

When I first got divorced I fell back on my usual habits.  I would do my borderline co-dependent, nurturing routine – which was too much and I freaked out pretty much every guy I tried to date.  Now I am hesitant, somewhat cold and distant.  I don’t ask a lot of questions, or get too personal because I figure I’ll never hear from the person again anyway.  Why bother opening myself up to more disappointment.  Months ago, one young man from another city who tried to seduce me looked almost astonished at the detached way I dealt with him.  He was so excited, and I was so matter of fact.  Yet none of this matters, I tell myself, they will find an excuse.  Too clingy or too self-involved -they can always find someone new.

Then I go out with perfectly nice men who I feel absolutely nothing for, other than the fact that they seem like decent people.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  The fissures and scars that are still deep down in my bones won’t seem to heal.   And the words echo through my skull that I have heard so many times.

“Well you had an EASY divorce, at least your husband was gay”

Yeah, the primary relationship in my life, the one man I would have given my life for…was a fraud.  Not exactly an “easy” divorce.

Dating In New York: Anatomy of a Hook-up

bed

bed (Photo credit: Quiet Here)

I have been meaning to write this one for months now.  So please don’t anyone get concerned, I am doing fine.  I just wanted to capture in a slightly different writing style than my usual.  Also this is not in reference to any one specific person.  This is a piece of fiction based on my life…the incident that inspired it actually happened several months ago.  So please don’t anyone think I am writing about them again…for the love of Pete! 

I always tell myself – I’m never going to do it again.  It is a poor substitute for what I really need.  I go for months without physical contact from another human – skin touching skin, the warmth of another body, the sound of another heartbeat.  When I was younger it seemed so much easier.  Everyone was so willing to fall so quickly.  Now every man I meet is so jaded, too guarded to let anyone in.  I’m skittish myself, no matter how hard I try it’s difficult to feeling anything.  The men become little more than a body.

I keep hoping that I will find another partner and become entwined with them in every way possible.  The wait lasts forever and nothing seems to change.  When I finally succumb to my carnal desires, not so much desires as a basic human need, I know I am not going to find anything more than a fleeting moment.  All of the bottled up longing and loneliness suddenly explodes.  My body unable to stand it one day longer.

This one seems harmless I think to myself.  I doubt this guy will give me a hard time, stalk me, make my life difficult, hate me or curse my name into infinity, send me hateful emails, dramatically kick me off his Facebook profile or dump me from his twitter,  so I give in.  What is normally a fortress – difficult for most to enter, the lucky devil is given the key to the front door.  I get so sick of always saying no. I am not interested.  You’re too young.  You’re just a player.  I have trust issues.  I don’t do casual things well.

I finally connect and let someone close but it always feels like a faded facsimile of the real thing.  Memories swirl in my head of the last time it meant so much more.  The last time this actually felt real.

As we go through the motions I can still see his face, and smell his skin.  I hear his voice with words so sweet they were like a million sugar cubes dissolving in my mouth all at once dripping down my throat and filling me up in an instant.   Were they lies or was it the truth?  Does it matter? I believed them.

Don’t make me look at you, don’t make me look into your eyes, that’s asking too much.  I’ll do nearly anything you’ll ask, I’ll put up with your sexual theatrics, but don’t ask that of me.  Reenact your pornos, turn me into your sexual doll, but don’t make me try to care about you.  I’m not your true love, I’m not your dream girl, I’m just a hit of drug you so desperately need.  Tomorrow another woman will soothe your demons, calm your soul and get your rocks off.

Your hands replace his hands, your eyes his eyes, your breath his breath.  The ghost of what I once had wraps itself around me, while I kid myself with a stranger.  I wonder who do you think of as you kiss my lips, stokes my hair, and hold the small of my back?  Who is the one still burned in your brain?  I know it’s not me, but I grind away anyway hoping for a savior, or at least a release.

Please don’t cuddle up to me afterward.  Please don’t go on about you day, or tell me your troubles, and by all means don’t tell me about your other women.  Whatever you do just tell me anything about her.  Don’t remind me how insignificant I am.  She doesn’t want you, she has moved on and she is so cruel she shoves it right in your face, yet you can’t let go of her.  You’re a slave to a dead dream.

I get so tired of playing this same game over and over again.  My defenses come back.   I teach myself to become numb again.  Give him no ammunition – I tell myself.  Give him no reason to reject you, reject him first, blow him off, cut them off, do not care or at least pretend to not care.  It is not that he doesn’t  want you.   You don’t want him.

The euphoria lasts sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes hours.  Maybe if I am lucky I get a day or two.  The indifference returns.  In an instant the spaces between hundreds of bricks built on disappointments and broken promises fill with defensive mortar and solidify around me.  The great wall of self-protection is back.   Until the next time when I just can’t take it anymore, and what seems like a bad idea, what I know is a mistake, suddenly has to happen.

I remember when it was so different, when a sigh or touch could melt away the fears and pain.   The glimpse of someone’s eyes could warm my heart and for a moment I could feel something.  I don’t know if I will ever get back there, or if this is the new normal.

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