This is a story about anger, domestic violence, suicide attempts, denial, and guilt.
Every word of it is true.
When I was a child, I got into fights a lot. Though I should explain that “got into fights” really means I was verbally and psychologically bullied constantly by other kids until I snapped and lashed out physically. They teased me for my weight, my clothes, my speech impediment (difficulty with extended-R sounds, mostly in words like girl and earth where the sound is stressed), and just about anything else you can think of. There were no anti-bullying rules at my school, so the other kids never got into trouble for teasing me, no matter how merciless it was, and no matter how many of them ganged up on me. I was unable to manage the situation with verbal responses due to a communication disorder (one as yet undiagnosed) that prevents me from expressing my thoughts in a clear manner. This condition is at its worst when I am stressed out or upset. So when I was unable to get the bullies to stop, and unable to express my pain to the teachers, I responded by lashing out. I spent a lot of time down at the principal’s office because I was seen as the bad guy.
Incidents included me chasing down other kids, shoving them, and occasionally hitting them because it was the only way I knew to make them leave me alone. Due to my superior size and strength most of the other kids would simply run away, and due to my weight and asthma I rarely caught them. However, there were a few pretty bad incidents, such as the time I grabbed one kid by his throat and lifted him two feet off the ground. It took three others to get me off of him.
I never hit any girls. My mother drilled it into me from the youngest age that a boy never hits a girl on any occasion. As a result, there was at least one incident where I allowed a girl to beat me up because I was unable to hit her back after the incident started. I laid on the ground and covered my head with my arms until she was removed from the scene.
I ended up in ultimately useless psychotherapy where I drank hot chocolate and played with wooden blocks. I attended therapy for about two years from ages 12-14 or so, then stopped. Since therapy had done me no good, I began suppressing my emotions. Kids continued to bully me, and I responded by simply not talking. They didn’t exist. I wouldn’t look at them, I wouldn’t answer their questions, I wouldn’t say “Thank you” when they said “God Bless You” after I sneezed. I existed in a world where other human beings were obstacles to be avoided as I walked from one class to another. This continued until I graduated high school.
After six years or so of suppressing emotions, I became quite good at it. So good, in fact, that I’ve managed to go most of my life without anyone knowing the issues that plague me on a daily basis. I can divide these issues into two categories: self-diagnosis and professional diagnosis.
Professional diagnosis: The only therapist I’ve seen as an adult, at age 32, diagnosed me with episodic bouts of depression. He said that any “upswings” I experienced were perceived as “up” only by comparison to how low I get on downswings. He advised me to treat my bouts of depression as “moods,” and remember that a bad mood only passes, and I shouldn’t dwell on it.
Self-diagnosis: I suffer from clinical depression, symptoms including lack of energy, loss of interest in friends and activities, poor social interaction, and periods where I simply sit in a chair and stare while contemplating everything I’ve ever done wrong in my life. These periods are compounded with thoughts of suicide. I also have extreme periods of rage that I consider to be indicative of bipolar disorder. I snap into a berserk rage wherein I become violent, after which I slump into a serious downswing that usually involves hiding in a corner somewhere and crying (for example, after most of the childhood rage incidents listed above, I ran into the woods behind the school, sat under a tree, and cried). I also suffer from occasional seizures, obsessive paranoia, mild hallucinations, the inability to distinguish between dreamed vs actual events in my life, outbursts of incoherent behavior and ranting, and periods where I hear voices. I’m convinced that there is a woman living inside my head who may or may not be a stray soul that latched onto my soul during my childhood and became “stuck,” leaving me living in a dual-soul state (see Ruth Montgomery, Strangers Among Us, for more information on “walk-in” souls inhabiting another person’s body).
When people make jokes online about the NSA spying on us or they pretend to have planted cameras in my apartment, I have to check every air vent and closet because I honestly don’t know whether it’s true or not. When people start major arguments with me, I tend to shut down verbally, my right hand starts shaking and convulsing (never the left; don’t ask me why). I don’t understand human interaction, emotions, or communication in the way normal people do.
I also have strong urges (either due to the theoretical woman living inside my head or other unresolved issues) towards a feminine lifestyle. This isn’t cross-dressing or tranvestiteism; it is a gender-identity crisis that has manifested since before puberty (see also: transgender and transsexualism). It most commonly manifests in the outward expression of the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of the alternate persona previously mentioned (who goes by the name “Jenny”).
I have attempted suicide exactly one time.
From 2007-2011, I was romantically involved with and living with a girl named Rachel. The myriad details of our relationship are mostly irrelevant to the topic at hand, but suffice to say she was cheating on me and she was, quite often, the cause of my seizures and episodes of depression and communicative shutdowns. Our frequent arguments usually involved two-sided screaming, insults, and other verbal abuse.
On one occasion, the screaming and insults reached a point where I began, as I had frequently at a younger age, to feel uncontrollable rage boiling inside of me. It became clear to me that if Rachel continued screaming at me as she was, I would most likely be unable to restrain my anger and keep the situation from getting violent. In order to vent these urges, I directed my physical efforts against the environment around me. I broke a closet door, threw something (I think it was a bottle of windex) and broke a fan, and I smashed a mirror against the floor. Rachel continued to yell and scolded me for smashing things, then retreated into the bedroom.
A short time later I overheard her on the telephone with a friend of mine, wherein she explained what happened and used the words, “I was really scared of him.”
At that moment I realized that my rage had become a threat to Rachel, and I proceeded to swallow most of a full bottle of advil.
Rachel emerged a short time later and found me sitting on the floor in the kitchen with the bottle still in hand. She asked me, “How many of these did you take?”
I responded, “I don’t know. A lot.”
The friend Rachel was on the phone with has extensive emergency training (he was planning to pursue a career in law enforcement at the time). Under his direction, I was led to swallow a glass of salt water in order to induce vomiting. Following this, I was taken to the hospital where I was made to drink charcoal. I was there for several hours while tests were performed to ensure that the vomiting had purged my system of toxins quickly enough. I was then forced to speak with a crisis counselor before I was granted permission to leave.
None of the individuals involved ever spoke of the incident again. Denial seems to be the name of the game. It’s unlikely that it would ever be brought up again (Rachel and I are no longer together due to unrelated incidents [she cheated on me with a drug dealer], and my friend is the sort not to bring it up unless I did first). There are most likely medical records related to this incident, which may or may not prevent me from every buying a firearm in the future, were I inclined to do so.
I haven’t experienced any urges towards violence since that one.
Comments are welcome but it is unlikely that I will directly reply to any that are expressions of sympathy and/or commendations for the supposed “bravery” involved in writing this. That doesn’t mean such comments are unwanted, but merely that I will consider myself unable to properly address them. Please excuse the unusually cold and academic tone of this writing; it’s a side effect of the emotional detachment required to address this issue.
I frequently make comments on Twitter about my paranoia, depression, psychological issues, identity crises, and schizophrenia. These are most commonly treated by others as jokes, wherein other individuals respond that they’re “crazy too” and that “we all are.” Most of them don’t seem to realize that there is a difference between crazy and crazy. The latter is very easy to disguise as the former. It’s an effective way to blend in. It’s camouflage. You can go online and say, “I had such a bad day,” and other people sympathize. You can say “I’m so stressed out,” and other people say they are, too. You can say, “I’m thinking about packing up my whole life and moving to Canada,” and they jokingly offer you advice on vacation spots. You can say, “My brain just cannot today,” and no one realizes what that actually really means.
You can’t say, “I can’t stop my hand from shaking or hitting myself in the head,” because people can’t see the theoretical joke in that. You can’t say, “I just spent twenty minutes curled up in the corner, crying and ripping my hair out,” because people will look at you funny. And you REALLY can’t say, “Sometimes I think the girl living inside my head is winning,” because then you’ve really lost them.
Fortunately, camouflage is really easy after a lifetime of experience. You just observe people’s reactions to the things you’ve said, and file away for later which ones are acceptable to repeat in the future, and which ones are not. Which, more or less, is what “human interaction” is to me. Fake it til you make it. Learn what is acceptable. Project the front that will serve the purpose you desire, vis-a-vis being left alone and treated like you’re an ordinary person.
And above all else, never give an honest answer to the question, “How are you?”