Friends, Romulans, Countrymen.. Lend me your ears. I come to bare my soul, not to praise it. I have a few things to get off my chest. Things that have been weighing upon me with varying degrees of pressure. This will not be easy for me, even though I proclaim to be a writer. There will be a lot said here, so please bear with me. Take a seat, grab yourself a bottle. Don’t open it though. I’ll get around to that in a few minutes. I will start this off by going back a bit. Not quite to the beginning. But close enough.
When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot. Tormented. Daily. As if I weren’t already naturally a pretty insecure and introverted kid, this cemented that personality. For the rest of my life, I’d be a rather passive individual. I didn’t like confrontation. I liked for things to be easy, predictable, and convenient. This informed everything from my eating habits to my musical tastes to my relationships to everything in between. It’s not the healthiest way to live one’s life, but it worked. Or at least, it felt like it did. In hindsight, I have often found that I was misdirecting myself more often than I ever realized. Which lead me to spending over a decade in a marriage that I had lost a real interest in years earlier. While I fancied myself a writer, musician, and artist, I jumped from creative project to creative project, out of fear of commitment to the artistic struggle and perceived inevitable failure. I worked a revolving door of entry level day jobs. In my personal life, I let important things slide. Money problems, personal grievances, most adult responsibility. I became complacent, wallowing in procrastination, in nearly every facet of my existence. And while I have attempted to correct some of my mistakes, I now find myself just a few months shy of 38 years old, realizing (not for the first time) that I wasted so much time overthinking things, instead of just doing them. Even now, as my current project (a children’s book titled The Emerald Cat) is dragging on, I feel torn between pushing it harder to completion, and the fear of pushing too hard, and scaring off my creative partner on the book, so I find myself hesitating, as so many times before, until the project fizzles out, to spend the rest of it’s life ALMOST finished, on a shelf, with it’s creative siblings, never to see the light of day. That is not just a dreadful truth of my self-damning creativity, but an analogy for almost everything I have done (or didn’t do) in my life.
Most people struggle with depression. I certainly have. Ever since I was a teenager, even if I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time. The bullying I put up with in adolescence continued into high school. While no longer physical, being picked on regularly still had a damaging effect on me. And it was for many of the same reasons as when I was a kid. People thought I was Mexican. I actually have some Native ancestry, and I had dark hair and darker skin that tanned easily. They would call me a “spic” or a “beaner” or some other derogatory term for anyone whom they percieved as being Mexican or from any other Latinx culture.
Sometimes people said I was gay, and looked down on me, because I was quiet and drew a lot. I read a lot. Short story collections, comic books. I had an action figure in my pocket almost everyday. I was a little nerd. I was soft spoken with a mid-range voice. Combined with that passiveness, I was seen as somewhat effeminate. I was bisexual, of course, but never outwardly indulged my own queerness. I was ashamed of it. Afraid of it. I was afraid of being ostracized even more than I already was.
People thought I was a “devil worshipper,” an assumption which I did sort of embrace for a time, feeling quite edgy and mysterious, finding refuge in studying occult and New Age religious practices, philosophy, and science. I had lost any sort of real connection to spirituality as a kid. I recall getting pummeled by a bully while at church, around the age of 8. This kid, a year or so older than me, had put me on the ground. Punching me in the face and chest. Calling me “faggot” and “pussy.” I remember the church elders just standing there. Just watching. After a few minutes, which to me felt like hours, someone finally pulled him off of me. I prayed for days, asking God why he let these things happen to me, and at church of all places. There was no reply. Ever. When you included the bigotry I heard coming from the mouths of most religious people I knew, family in particular, people who read their bible daily, swore their very hearts to their lord and savior Jesus Christ, yet still spit out words like “nigger” or “queer” as if they were sour milk on their tongues, all I began to see was the hypocrisy of it all. Which pushed me to embrace what I saw was the opposite, and dabbled in the “dark arts,” as superstitious adults would say, but I found those concepts just as irrational, regardless of how interesting and entertaining it all seemed to me.
In my late teens I eventually traded the supernatural for the logical, the skeptical, and discovered I was actually atheist. Well, certainly agnostic, at least. I don’t believe I settled on atheist until later in my 20s. All I am getting at here is that I was often perceived as different from most people around me, so I was singled out. And I made it easy for them. They viewed and treated me as an outsider, so I became one. This did little to counter the stress from bullying and self-doubt. I bottled up so much that for several years as a teenager I broke out in hives, usually prominent on my torso and arms, which made me even more self-conscious and socially awkward. That problem eventually subsided, but there are stress-related compulsions that started then and still effect me to this day, such as chronic cheek biting and biting the skin around the ends of my fingers. Behaviors that as a teenager I didn’t even realize were actually harmful. I don’t know if I would have even stopped if I had known otherwise. I just ignored things like that. I would have denied they actually pertained to me. So I remained passive. Bottled up even more, and just tried not to let the weight of the world crush me.
I have rarely stood up for myself, or even truly pushed myself, in anything. So I bottled up my thoughts. My feelings. My curiosities. My desires. And that did not help with my emotional and psychological issues. In my early twenties, I got married without considering the long term consequences. It was just something that people did, and I didn’t put much more thought into it. In hindsight I know it was an attempt to escape a plethora of personal struggles I was dealing with at that time. Struggles that I may delve into another time. I am not ready for that yet.
I also didn’t care much for speaking into the drive-thru speakers at restaurants, so getting married and having someone there to do that was certainly a positive. But over time, I became disenchanted with the arrangement. I grew depressed and angry more frequently, but I hid it. It was easier to push my depression and anxiety aside as a teenager. I didn’t want to bother people with my personal problems. I had several affairs over the years. I’m not exactly proud of these flings, and not exactly ashamed either. I knew I wanted more than what I had, but I didn’t consider divorce for a long time. I didn’t want my family and friends to look upon me as a failure, nor did I want my children to fall into stereotypical broken family problems.
In my early thirties, I attempted to make the best of the situation, but my depression just became worse. I continued to bottle it all up. Along with all the bottles from years before. Eventually, you become overloaded with those bottles, and you reach a breaking point. I separated from my spouse in 2014, and I was able to throw some of those bottles out. I got over my worries of the stigma of divorce, and for the most part my kids have turned out okay. Not great, of course. But okay. I failed them a lot as a father over the years, retreating to seclusion in my room to write or draw, because I did not want to be around their mother, or her family, people I had grown to despise on even good days. I have personally owned up to my mistakes with my children, and set out to do right by them. Through the divorce, I obtained domiciliary custody of my four kids, and they have improved greatly in school and at home. Having a son who has been diagnosed with ADHD and high-functioning autism (Asperger’s to be precise) sort of helps to keep me on my toes. It’s still a very tough job, and I get complacent and passive still, and let things slide, and bottle up, and then I lose control of situations and discussions and thoughts and feelings. I often feel lost and do not know what to do the majority of the time, but my kids seem to be surviving despite my flaws and I try to use that as determination to keep trying harder. Everyday I have little successes. And everyday I have little failures. Just like everybody else, but it affects me in ways that make me uncomfortable to admit.
I like to think of myself as a good person. But at times, I have been anything but. Everyone has their bad moments, they’ve done things they are not proud of. But these things eat at me. Because they were bottled up so long ago, and never dealt with. I never personally owned up to the vast majority of my mistakes. Little things like smoking pot at school, or breaking into abandoned cabins at the lake as a teenager. Bigger things like adultery and voyeurism and shoplifting. Things I knew were wrong, but I did them anyway, because I was seeking release from the stress of my personal problems. Of course, when people act out, they tend to involve themselves in things more dangerous than what they are trying to distract themselves from.
I was never much of a drinker. I didn’t do drugs (aside from pot, and a few experiences with hallucinogens). I instead chose to do things that I felt I would have to be sneaky about. Secretive. Things that, in their way, still fit my preference for being passive. They were things I could do alone, out of the social spotlight. I was never much for teamwork, so to speak. I regret a lot of that. It was immature, and at times, immoral.
You see, the real point of this is, I have had so much bottled up for so long, and I have begun bottling up new problems, and it’s beginning to weigh me down again. Much harder than ever before. Because the stakes feel higher. I don’t know how my kids are going to turn out in the long run. I don’t want to fail them. I don’t know how my creative endeavors will turn out. I have written three novels, published myself, but never really promoted because of that fear of failure. Even though that creative outlet has always been my saving grace. It’s always been my escape from the world, my happy place. But even that I have tended to poorly. Getting closer to age 40 scares the absolute shit out of me. Because it reminds me to look back and see what little I have actually accomplished with myself. I see old friends who have managed to get their lives on the right path, and some who still struggle, more than myself to be honest, and I still feel jealous of where they are at times.
Please, allow me to continue unbottling for just a bit longer. I feel that if I maintain control of the flow of all of this, right now, I will not ultimately collapse into myself like a black hole.
I find myself very argumentative online. I get into discussions, which turn into debates, which turn into arguments, which turn into vitriolic mudslinging shitstorms all too easily. This, I feel, is completely due to my passive nature in real life. I still avoid confrontation in the regular world, but when I get online I can unleash upon people, sometimes strangers or acquaintances, sometimes unfortunately friends. The problem is I am unleashing my pain and anger over delicate topics, without addressing why they bother me so much. I argue in race discussions because I was taunted as a kid, perceived to be Latinx. I empathize with POC. I was raised in the south, and casual racism was always just part of the cultural landscape. I thought nothing of it as a kid. Jokes about Black people were commonplace. I laughed at them. I told them. It wasn’t until I was a teenager than I began to see things very differently. And I felt ashamed of myself for what I had been a part of. White guilt is something that people laugh about, but for some people it really is a thing.
I still feel guilty for things I said as an ignorant kid. And I go out of my way to try and make up for it to this day. I have even been told that my insistence in researching my family tree, researching the Native American branches, is my way of trying to shed my whiteness. To adopt that “other” that I was taunted for being seen as. It’s a point I find myself unable to really argue with, and that might make me a bad person, but I know there’s more to it than that, and we are all screwed up anyway, right?
I also argue in favor of the LGBTQ+ community, for obvious reasons. Even today, due to the social stigma of growing up in the south, saturated with religious conservatism, and the fear of disrupting the lives of loved ones, even if only temporarily, I have been unable to get a grip on that part of myself. I have never felt comfortable discussing any of that with people outside of a few very close friends. But there it is. Unbottled. And I still don’t really know what to make of it. I haven’t wanted to deal with it, because of my passiveness. Because of my fears.
But please, whenever you can, call me out on my bullshit. Tell me when I am being an asshole. Tell me when I get something right. Tell me when you are concerned I may be making mistakes. I will do everything I can to be better than I was before. Even though somedays I feel absolutely crippled with anxiety. I sometimes don’t even want to talk to friends or acquaintances when I run into them in public. I am working on that.
I still fight depression constantly. But now, I don’t feel so alone. I don’t feel so bottled up. I want people to know who I am. I am a damaged asshole, an internet SJW, bisexual atheist father of four. I am an artist. A writer. A proud geek. A politically-progressive Leftist. I feel more empathy than many I know for people who are struggling in ways I can only imagine. I miss my friends. I love them dearly. I am proud of their accomplishments, even when I am disappointed that they abandoned their dreams long ago (I understand why, of course, but I still miss the dream). I have done bad things. I have done wonderful things. I want to do great things. I want my kids to do great things.
I want everyone to do great things.
I want to enjoy seeing all of these great things. I have more bottles, to be sure. I likely always will. But right now, they are so irrelevant I can’t even read their labels. I think this was enough, for the moment. Thank you for sitting with me. Thank you for letting me unload some of this. Thank you for your patience. To anyone who has an issue with anything I’ve said, either here, or in another conversation at some point over the years, I hope we can discuss it and come to some sort of common ground. I’m not quite the same person I was before I started typing, but I’m not very different either. I am still me. I just want you to know what it’s been like in my head over the years, and how I hope to get to a better place in the years to come.