“The WF thing,” I said, sounding disgusted, “that’s a fucking joke.”
“What happened there?”
“So we’ve been sending messages back and forth for months, right, and toward the end they were getting long and we were basically trading anecdotes, stories about our lives. It was pretty harmless, but she knew I liked her and I was getting a sense she liked me, too, and I wasn’t trying to discourage those feelings, you know, because it was all in line with what I wanted anyway.”
“First time you’ve admitted that, though.”
* * *
“I guess I’m at the point now where my anger has become apathy.”
“Which fits a lot of that list.” Doctor K was quiet a moment, then continued. “How much of her severing contact—”
“—is responsible for the rest of this shit?” I indicated the notebook in my hand. It was folded open to a page where, a day earlier, I had made a list of my concerns and feelings. Where I’m Coming From (10/30), is the title I’d given it. The list went to twenty.
“Not responsible as much as related to a lot of that stuff—the apathy, the, you know, you got a job—which is awesome, you finally broke into the workforce, even though the guy may not be the greatest trainer in the world—then not showing up for work, feeling the loneliness—”
“—I think the WF thing, my response to it—I had a couple moments, a couple days, in the wake of all that where I thought about this therapy and just the general idea that changing your behavior changes your thoughts, so I began to look for things to fill up my days. That’s why I volunteered at Habitat for Humanity. I registered for the winter semester, and in January—because it’s the next available time, not because I wanted to postpone it to January—I decided to go for my CNA. I just think if I have that certification it opens up some opportunities for me.”
* * *
“So howabout this … depression, meds, suicidal thoughts thing?”
“It’s funny because I talked to CF about this yesterday when we had our big conversation and I made her cry, she noted how we had gone to all these different places, were talking about suicide and getting my CNA, all across the spectrum like that. I tried to communicate to her then that I am able to occupy both of those spheres at the same time. It’s not like I’m mopey and wanting to O.D. all the time. I’m discussing the CNA thing and that’s all very positive, looking toward the future and whatever, but when I go home, after I make dinner and the hours stretch into the night, I feel like kind of not being around anymore. It’s possible to be in both those places. It’s like the difference between the heart and the mind. Intellectually, I am aware of the warning signs. I have read enough about suicide to know what the warning signs are, like giving stuff away, I see this stuff. So, intellectually I realize these are all signs I’m seeing, and I start thinking, ‘Okay, behavior changes thoughts, I’m gonna go and volunteer, I’m going to fill up my day with all this positive junk.’ But my heart is like, ‘I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I don’t find anything enjoyable. There’s no joy in my life anymore.’”
“That makes me nervous. So, intellectually, physically, you’re doing some things because you know it should change your thoughts and perceptions but it’s not changing your thoughts and perceptions the way you want. You’re doing the right thing by volunteering, expecting it to feel good—but it doesn’t.”
“You know the sad fact is I think if I just, if I just had a friend. You know? Just someone else in my life. But it’s so hard to find friends in this world, in this particular world, today, this modern time. And getting older isn’t making things any easier, it is hard as hell to find a friend now. And that’s what bothers me about WF, through our correspondence I don’t get a sense she actually understands that, how difficult it is—”
“She has her world, her husband, her friends.”
“Yeah. I guess so. But I’m over here, and I haven’t had a strong connection in any sense of the word for a long time, years, and all of a sudden I find it with WF. And even if it’s just a friendship, I’m trying to understand why the hell you would squander that, and that’s the word I chose, too—squander, waste that—why would you waste that, why would you throw that away, why would you push me away.”
* * *
“What I struggle with, I guess going out and finding a friend wouldn’t be tough, it’d be okay, it’s more the depth I’m talking about here, the depth I achieved in this friendship with WF. Suddenly now everything in the real world seems dull by comparison. I told you before I was looking at profiles on a dating site, well women have sent me messages from time to time, and the conversations are so dull. I’ve been chatting with one woman since August and at first it started okay, she asked me about photography which is basically like winding me up and watching me go—I love photography—but after a while the messages were just the same thing over and over: How was your weekend? I had to work. I always have to work. Work work work work. And now I’m tired and must sleep. And, I mean, how do you respond to stuff like that?
It’s rare that you find somebody—in the real world—who you trade stories with and get to know on that level. Yeah, I could meet somebody and be a friend, and I’ve had friendships that lasted ten years, six years, but when we hung out we weren’t sitting around talking about our lives, who we were then and are now, not in any lasting, substantial way like that. It’s buddies, it’s ‘Let’s catch a concert or a movie, let’s drink and fuck around’, which is all external, it’s all supposed to get us out of our minds for a little while.”
“I get what you’re saying. I think of value to you is, you learned someone can care and love you at that level, and I know how that feels. You might be able to make ten friends with hopes that one can develop into that, there’s no guarantees, but the value you felt from that—I don’t want you to forget that part of it.”
* * *
“The more supports you have—whether it be exercise, family, being part of some type of group, eating healthy, the whole thing—each additional support is like adding a bungee cord to you. If you’re going through life and you have one support, like a spouse or a significant other or WF or something like that—and you have CF, too—but if you’re going around on one leg and someone comes and knocks that one leg out from underneath you,” Doctor K smacked his hands together suddenly, “you’re going to fall and fall hard, because you had no other supports. That’s not too unlike what happened between me and Tracy. My whole fucking world got rocked because I put too much on that one support.
Now, for each additional support you have—let’s say you have two or three bungee cords tied to you and someone knocks the legs from under you, boom boom boom, you’re going to pitch but eventually settle in. If you have a bunch of supports, you’re going to get a vfffffbbt, a very quick correction.”
“But don’t you think in some ways that can be interpreted as, like—you have all these supports, right? So when something happens, like you said—you settle down. Can’t you say, though, that nothing fazes you after a while, nothing really knocks the wind out of you anymore because of all these supports? You can’t fall down anymore. And what I’m saying is, maybe—”
“—you can’t crash and burn.”
“And I’m saying maybe for something that is important to you, that you care about, maybe it is good and maybe it is preferable to crash and burn. In my warped head that’s what I’m thinking. Maybe crashing and burning is an affirmation of the value of this other thing.”
Doctor K nodded, looked at the ceiling. “I’ll give you that. The thing I went through with Tracy, it did rock my world, not immediately, but after a while I felt like I really had to get my shit straight, and it helped change who I am—for the better.”
“Yeah, and I’m wondering if that period, isn’t it good in some twisted way to be that vulnerable and get that messed up over something because it speaks to the importance of that thing.”
“It does, it speaks to the value, and also the value of finding that connection in other places, having more supports and so forth.”
“I guess I’m just asking. I’m not trying to argue for—because I know crashing and burning is not healthy, not good. I don’t want to feel that way. So I don’t really know why I’m arguing for it,” I said, laughing.
“Where I think you may be going is: how valuable WF was. Yes, WF was that valuable.”
“Yeah. So, if I had all these supports and all of a sudden WF severs contact and it doesn’t bother me, in some ways it feels like maybe she wasn’t important, didn’t mean much to me.”
“And that’s not the route I’m intending to go where it cheapens the relationship, I’m not saying that at all. Thank God I did have supports, it didn’t cheapen who Tracy was to me, how I felt about her all those years. But it allowed my recovery to be easier, not take as long. It wasn’t like a switch got flipped in my head and I was all better—no, no way in hell could I have lied and pretended. It’s not meant to cheapen, or deaden, or numb what the relationship was.
It still hurts and it still sucks you have to go through that.”
* * *
“Are you going to be all right, you going to be safe?”
“I don’t know. It’s never a strong impulse with me. It’s more just a gradual wearing away. It feels like erosion. I get images sometimes when I think about it. And in that way it almost seems kind of inevitable.”
“Hope not, man. Really do.”