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The American Caliban

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[Sep. 7th, 2005|01:17 am]
The American Caliban
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.

[User Picture]From: rance
2005-09-07 10:29 am (UTC)
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.
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[User Picture]From: marm0t
2005-09-07 05:40 pm (UTC)
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.

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From: hersheyjumper
2005-09-07 02:02 pm (UTC)

Try it:)

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Neurofeedback therapy rocks!
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[User Picture]From: fimmtiu
2005-09-08 05:40 am (UTC)

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.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-09-07 02:26 pm (UTC)
Please route health improvements here. Thank you. Fragment Swift-Tuttle and
Michael T. Ffocher.
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From: amorpoeta
2005-09-07 03:24 pm (UTC)

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.
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From: threepunchstuff
2005-09-08 06:15 pm (UTC)

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.
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From: alienhand
2005-09-07 03:57 pm (UTC)


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.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2005-09-07 07:37 pm (UTC)

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.
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From: besskeloid
2005-09-07 04:11 pm (UTC)
I had to blink back a tear when I reached the last paragraph.
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[User Picture]From: changeng
2005-09-07 04:36 pm (UTC)
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.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2005-09-07 07:38 pm (UTC)
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.
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[User Picture]From: hydrozoa
2005-09-07 05:14 pm (UTC)
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.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2005-09-07 07:52 pm (UTC)
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.
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From: alienhand
2005-09-07 11:12 pm (UTC)

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.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2005-09-08 12:08 am (UTC)

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.
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