Not going so well with the brains. Alternating total despair with impotent rage on about a 2 day schedule for the last month. Bad thoughts running constantly: I’m fucked, I can’t be what anyone wants, it’s over, I’m waiting to die, I hate myself, I hate this, I’m unacceptable, it’s not okay to be me.

As we’ve tried to deal more directly with the problems in therapy, things have become worse. Attempts at EMDR today mostly failed. I was just too upset to make use of the technique, and the couple of times it “took” I was straight back into the shit two minutes later.

She’s considering sending me for a neurofeedback evaluation, which would mean an EEG and some other stuff, and possibly the neurofeedback therapy itself. I’ll try it if she thinks it’s a good idea but it’s hard to muster much enthusiasm. I have been through roughly 25 different medical and therapeutic combinations since 1986 and the pattern has been: either failure, or success followed by a short honeymoon followed by decay into failure. I am skeptical in the extreme of new great and desperate cures.

A recurring nightmare is that I’m being forced to finish out some huge public personal failure: finishing a musical performance that’s been botched, turning in a school assignment that’s clearly an F, or playing out every turn of a game which I have already lost. That’s how I’ve felt about psychotherapy lately, and my life.

Not sure why I feel impelled to communicate about it, but probably because the way things have gone is incomprehensible. An unfortunate collision between genetics and infancy and childhood experience and a chaotic puberty and social failure and bad family relationships and years of failure in school and at jobs and in relationships has left me with broken brain chemistry and bad habits of thought and action, and it’s resistant to solution. There’s an illusion that if I hash it over and explain things to myself and others, it’ll make more sense, or there will be some opening in the sheer smooth wall of the problem that I can pry loose and start to fix things. In the end, though I just repeat myself.

Interacting with others is almost entirely painful. Everyone seems ahead of me, more competent and mature even when they’re 20 years younger, better organized, more attractive. I watch them play the game confidently and win eventually, and move up to the next league, leaving me behind. I resent people whom I have no right to resent, and desire people who have no reason to reciprocate, and envy people who are just ordinary and normal. It gets worse as I get older and the gap between my stage in life and everyone else’s gets clearer and larger. At 20 I was one of the gang; at 40, I’m a mysterious neurotic failure.

The shame of being a total sexual failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy of assured rejection. The people I’m interested in have never had any good reason to reciprocate, and there’s no reason for that to change. I know now that I’ll die unwanted, but I can’t swallow that. Intimate connection with others is necessary to my life and impossible. Everything is tied up in one big knot: “success”, money, beauty, power, maturity, youth, experience, independence, and every other currency we buy each other’s love with. I have none. Only rich people think there’s no such currency.

I’ve already become a personal worst-case scenario; I’m exactly the person I promised myself 25 years ago I’d never be. Looking ahead at 45, 50, 55, 60… There’s not anything there for me. The race has clearly been lost and I’m just puffing around the track because I’m told to.

Why do I share this with the low three figures of people who may read this, and in theory with the world? Because I have nothing to lose. And because putting this laughable mess into paragraphs and launching it into space feels remarkably better than pretending I’m the friendly local permanent uncle, here to serve everyone with amusing stories. I’m the walking dead, not more than the sum of my handicaps and errors, and all I have is my witness.

33 thoughts on “

  1. You seem very much attached to the idea that it’s now too late for you to become the person you want to be (whatever that image might look like to you — intimate relationship appears to be part, if not most, of it).
    I can certainly relate to the despair that rides in tandem with the habit of measuring your own development against your estimation of your peers’ personal and professional accomplishments (and increasingly, those of people younger than yourself).
    An unendurable pressure settled on me after I turned 30. I looked back at my decisons, and around me at the lives of other people I considered comparable in age and background to myself, and I found myself increasingly overcome with regret and blame and self-hatred and envy and despair.
    If I hadn’t found the will and the courage to toss aside the rulebook that told me everyone’s lifecycle benchmarks were valid except for my own, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to uproot my entire life halfway through my thirties and head back to school. A lot of hard work was required before I could allow myself to view what I’m doing now as something larger and more meaningful than just some desperate last-ditch attempt to undo the bad decisions I’d made in my 20s. That was the only way I knew how to think about it at first. It was hard to give myself credit for the risk I was taking, to see what I was doing as a culmination instead of a re-take.
    Considering that you probably have 40 — maybe even 50 — years of natural life ahead of you, what, objectively, is it really too late for you to achieve? A more satisfactory infancy, to be sure. And the puberty ship has certainly sailed. No do-overs for any of us there, alas. But in your adult life? Can you really be so certain that there’s no possible way to have your present needs met? Nothing in your power at all?
    I can’t believe that could be so. You employ language with considerable power and skill in the service of selling the point (to whom?) that it’s too late, that you’re a lost cause. For me anyway, your efforts have the perhaps unintended effect of demonstrating the sheer quality of the resources you actually have at your disposal.
    I wonder whether the fear of approaching what you long for the most might be as powerful — if not moreso — than your certainty of failure. And I must say, I wish you’d write sometime about who and what you’d want to become if the “cures” would only take. Without using other people as points of reference. I feel as though I’ve heard so much about who you aren’t, can’t be, won’t ever be. I find myself curious to learn about what is present in you. Nobody is made entirely out of absences.

    1. Wow. Loved your response. Wish I’d written it.
      I, too, finally found a way to throw out the yardstick with which I’d been alternately measuring and flagellating myself. It was important to finally see the pointlessness of both activities.

    2. I really appreciate your detailed reply to what must be a pretty boring plaint at this point.
      You’re quite right that I am attached to failure and that I fear success. There are all sorts of reasons for this, some of which are probably at the physiological level at this point and hard to access. On levels I can see, it’s more like this: I’ve had lots of fake turnarounds, honeymoons, and unwarranted optimism, and the blowback from failure has unfortunately been worse each time. It’s got to the point that “getting better” is something I perceive as what I pretend to do in order to make other people feel better, and that actual improvement is impossible. This is possibly unreasonable and certainly unhelpful, but it’s almost impossible to avoid learned helplessness after literally fifty or so “bear went over the mountain” experiences like that.
      I think also that I appear to be “selling the point” because when I communicate my feelings a lot of people can’t connect at all and think it’s like a bad week they might have had, or a dry spell in their lives. In my case it’s all I’ve known since I was a child, and it’s pretty severe. It’s not just that I’m messy and disorganized like that guy you know, or socially a bit behind like that geeky gal you knew in college who didn’t date much. I’m a pathologically immature 40-year-old virgin who can’t maintain his life and never got past being a bright 12-year-old.
      Nobody is made out of absences, and I don’t think that I’m without value to others, or useless to society, or any of that. I’m just miserable and angry because the absences won’t budge, and my life has gone by without me.
      I am afraid to talk much about who I’d like to be or what I’d like to have because it seems ludicrous and makes me angry at myself for fantasizing about impossibilities.

      1. I would submit that no matter how true these things may seem to you, you’re doing yourself an enormous disservice simply by repeating over & over the incantation of all the horrible things you are and the numerous ways in which you’ve failed.
        You are who you are, and that’s the material you’ve got to work with — and as you very correctly point out, it’s not all bad. Continually reminding yourself of what you don’t like about it probably isn’t going to solve anything. You’re already painfully aware of your own shortcomings, so you’re not going to reach any new conclusions by reviewing them.
        If you can step outside yourself for a moment, if you can imagine someone who’s being constantly and mercilessly berated by another person, then maybe you can see more easily how that probably wouldn’t inspire dramatic change, improvement and renewal in the victim.

      2. You’re probably right that it’s not therapeutically helpful for me to go off like this. I’m just very upset, almost all the time, and I have to scream it out sometimes. “Dramatic change, improvement, and renewal” haven’t seemed real for over a decade. I just don’t have anything honest to say that sounds like an affirmation lately.

    1. Re: Try it:)
      Nice cartoon. 🙂
      I certainly empathize with the feeling of trepidation and resignation about a new treatment — I’ve been around the block a few times myself, with some success and some failure. But I have to agree that neurofeedback is pretty cool stuff. I haven’t had a chance to try it myself yet, but I’m actually writing some software for a neurofeedback application, so I’ve been doing a fair amount of research about it. That said, it’s not going to fix your bad cognitive habits or anything, but maybe it’ll help give you enough general well-being to work on the other things.
      You’re a cool person, and I’m glad I know you. I’m sorry things feel so bleak right now.

  2. I’m sorry.
    I don’t believe all is lost. I hope you find a therapy that will allow you to see that.
    You’re in my thoughts. Hang in there. HUGS.

    1. Re: I’m sorry.
      This is off-topic but I wanna say, that icon always makes me giggle like I haven’t giggled since the days of Saturday morning cartoons. I showed my girlfriend recently. It’s hard to feel despair and hopelessness looking at that.

  3. re
    Thanks, you just reminded me of everything that is wrong with the world again. I had just beaten back reality with heaping doses of San Andreas, booze & sleep.
    Define success. You parenthesized it, so I’m curious what that means.

    1. Get dressed try to be a suck cess
      I dunno, for me personally it’s someday having my own place and not fucking it up, or not being ankle deep in my own mess, or having an actual girlfriend who actually wanted to be with me, or not being completely possessed with self-hatred and rage and despair almost all the time.
      “Success” for other people is having power and money and status commensurate with my age and social class, and because I don’t have that “success” I have to have other things people want as coin for their affections, like beauty or style or coolness or some other dumbass shit. I find that the only people who think those things are unimportant are the ones who have them.

      1. Re: Get dressed try to be a suck cess
        Good point.
        I try not to measure myself up to the people streaming off Opulence Hill that overlooks crumbling Middle-Class-Ville where I am.
        I try to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

  4. You know, you really are an artist. If you were a musician and put these feelings into a musical piece, people would cry and applaud. Same with a painting, sculpture, etc.
    Your current art is with words, which have the unfortunate quality of being immediately decipherable by anyone who reads. I wish for you a new interest in an artform where words are not so easily transferred into direct reference. Something more subjective. Maybe it’s time for you to write the great american novel.

    1. I don’t want to write the Great American Novel. I want to live on my own, handle my own shit, and get laid. Pretty tired of being entertaining to others at this point.

      1. What I think I’m reading here is that the person you want to be is someone who lives on his own, handles his own shit, and gets laid.
        These seem like very concrete goals. Not easy, to be sure, but certainly not impossible. You can do these things. Taking steps to make these things happen for you is not unrealistic, not simply feeding a pipe dream. And from what I gather, you’ll have a great deal of support from a lot of people.
        And you’re right — attaining these things seems to promise far greater peace and fulfillent than putting so much of your energy into being the entertainment for others.

  5. these posts are really hard. you spend a tremendous amount of time detailing the manifold ways in which you are a failure, but… they’re always so well written. you’re contradicting yourself. there’s just no way i can believe that you’re a stupid jerk with no prospects when i read them.
    i dunno you know the Real Life, of course, but i think you’re a fabulous brain genius. i can’t figure out what the problem is. you feel socially stunted? a worst-case scenario? so what’s the reason? which ingredient is spoiled? you’re smart, you’re funny, you’re charismatic (or you seem like it online), you’re a talented writer/artistically inclined, you have lots of friends. you have a good job and don’t live in poverty, which is nice. what’s fucking everything up and keeping you from getting what you want? are you Really a failure, or is it some kinda optical illusion virgin-mary hallucination that only you can see? sorry if i’m being dense or obtuse, but i think you’re great and it seems like maybe all you need is confidence. (but what do i know, right.)
    i guess being fantastically smart isn’t always the answer, but it does mean that you’re equipped to figure the answer out. or maybe you know it and have known it forever and i’m the one who doesn’t. but. i think you’re tops.

    1. Thanks. I feel similarly appreciative about your brain, reading your writing and seeing your frustrations at getting somewhere as a writer. I keep thinking “why isn’t she FAMOUS?”
      I’m both a failure and a victim of the illusion than I’m a failure. Objectively a lot of things are totally fucked: I can’t manage my own living space properly, I’ve never had a girlfriend and the only times I got close turned out to be horrible lies and disasters, and my emotional state is almost constantly a flood of shit. It’s kind of a train wreck, and because the effects of these problems ar socially unacceptable and humiliating, it has a nasty-ass feedback loop.
      And because of that feedback loop and whatever problems started all this, I’ve spent my life beating myself up over my problems and piling them higher. It’s harder than it looks to stop doing that.
      The simplified version is probably some combination of genetics, bad luck, shitty parenting, crappy social adjustment as a child, and most fatally my inability to grow out of any of this when I hit 18 and went to college. It’s fairly hard to avoid beating myself up for this one, especially since my nightmare vision of becoming that lonely geek guy in a messy room at his mom’s house came true against all expectation.
      At 40 with no apparent forward motion on any of this in more than a decade, I am freaking out badly.

      1. yeah, OK. i do this sometimes–clearly, i am a talentless charlatan who will never be successful in the field of writing, and then people will see it and say FUCK YOU YOU’RE AWESOME and refuse to accept it. but maybe we should listen to them. i bet i could finally fucking get somewhere as a writer if i started listening and presenting myself in a confident fashion and quit worrying about rejection. after all, if you feel all neurotic, your perception of yourself is going to be at least a little warped. you know it is.
        so fuck you–you’re awesome. and i do know, it’s hard when you’re stuck in a loop, but please try believing me. you are great, and i know so many actual fucked-up motherfuckers who have nothing and really ARE hopeless, and. you have heaps of talents and qualities and reasons to like yourself. it’s like you’re aspiring to suck, all for naught.
        “people on the internet think i’m cool.” it counts. i bet real people think so too.
        PS: age doesn’t matter. i worry about it too, but it’s stupid and i’m trying to quit. starting now, you are 30. you are 22. everything is fresh and new and there is no ticking clock or expiration date for potential success. OK?

      2. and another thing
        Motion like many things are relative.
        If everything in our immediate vicinity is moving the same as us it will appear as if we’ve gone nowhere at all.
        Perhaps looking behind at what/who you’ve passed may give you a better perpective?

      3. relativity
        Bah, from your posts I suspect you make an adequate living delving far too deeply than I appreciate into what the guys in tan pants call ‘back-end’. I know what kind of compensation you types fetch. You live in one of the most clean & affluent areas (costa mesa.. sort of clean). Probably own a house? Acute intelligence. A modicum of wit. Hardly stuck in the mud from my perspective, but then, I hardly know ya!
        I guess my reptilian point was that by looking at the misery/misfortune of my contemporaries I feel better about myself.
        Have you no friends who fail worse than you? Look to them for consolation.
        Note:My humour is often misplaced.

      4. Re: relativity
        I do in fact make good money and live in a nice neighborhood. I’m currently living with my mother and sleeping in the same room I grew up, which has some difficult resonance at times.
        By any reasonable global measure I am fortunate. I’m just a stunted mess rather than an adult male.
        Humor is never misplaced. Without it I would have been dead 25 years ago. As dark as possible, please, hold the sugar.

  6. re: pseudo science
    Is neuro-feedback that personality meter next to the cigarette vending machine in the back of Chris&Pitts that spits out that card with the line graph on it?
    As an ex-psych major, I don’t like it. I’m with Sigmund that everyone is broken… so how can a another broken robot fix me?
    Not to mention they are all just drug peddlers anymore.
    Tell me how you can measure the fluids in my car without examining the dipstick?
    So how can somene tell me I need a drug to correct a brain chemical imbalance/shortage when there is no test to determine exactly what I am short of and by what amount. Without removing some of my brain fluid and testing it, no one is throwing seratonin-reuptake-inhibiting darts at my dome until one sticks… I don’t care what degree they hold or what school of thought they fancy that year.
    The best is my friends Mom who is a drug&alcohol family therapist (was head of Pheonix house, no doubt) who chain smokes like wildfire. If my therapist can’t set the piddly ciga-grits down how can she help me with my $200/day coke habit?
    Just my $0.02, whatever it’s worth.

    1. Re: pseudo science
      Is neuro-feedback that personality meter next to the cigarette vending machine in the back of Chris&Pitts that spits out that card with the line graph on it?
      Haha! No, that’s biorhythms, which I remember from my 1970s childhood. Biofeedback and neurofeedback are legitimate methods for reducing pain and anxiety by linking sensations or thoughts to physical phenomena.
      I can testify that the drugs sometimes work, too.
      We’re still premodern in psychiatry, though. It’s just a step up from phrenology. Some of the failures are still spectacular and spectacularly funny in a very grim way.

      1. Re: pseudo science
        Both methods work really well but require a real commitment to treatment. Adults have an even harder time becuase they are so used to being miswired. I wish you a lot of luck. Let me know where you end up for eval- although I think I know. Being that I worked in the field for awhile, I know a lot of the doctors in your area who do these treatments, and I can give you the low down on most of them good and bad.

      2. Re: pseudo science
        My sillyness aside, I’d like to add that while I appreciate the theories of psychology and firmly believe in their usefullness, I’m not too fond of the current way it’s being clinically practiced, by and large.
        Heck, I can hardly swing a dead cat around without hitting someone on Zoloft or Paxil.
        There has to be a better way without resorting to becoming permanent chemistry experiments.

      3. On the other hand, …
        “I had an operation
        With no adverse reaction
        They tampered with my brain some
        It helped me see the reason
        For living in the system…”

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