On Depression, pt. 8: Lonely People

My therapist says I’m hyper intelligent. She also says I’m bipolar. You take the sweet with the spicy.

There was a stretch of my life when I was at some party or another every weekend (and often also many weekdays). College is an especially strange time to look back on. I’d been so strictly under the thumbs of others my entire life to that point, given a single worldview which was “good” while all others were “wicked,” and now suddenly I was being given the tools to cut those strings and begin to to think thoughts I’d never been allowed to think before. Now that I look back on those years, I mostly remember feeling so confused and, though I didn’t recognize it at the time, sad. And nowhere did I feel those things more than when at a party.

I hated going to parties. Hated it, hated them. Parties are loud, chaotic, social and sensory nightmares. But I’d always done what I was “supposed” to do, and now that I was without some of the old constraints I’d lived under, I adopted new ones. Plus, they were the perfect excuse to buy alcohol, and my cup was never empty. God, I loved drinking then. I wish it still made me feel the same way now. Newfound salience on why I loved it so much has taken a bit of the fun out of it.

I always felt so deeply alone, for as far back as I can remember, from long before I knew I felt that way. It’s been what, a year? since my last post. Imagine me bothering to go back and look. But I know this blog is littered with laments to that lifelong condition. I was always too weird, too “gay,” too easy a target for those who sought to climb through cruelty. It confused me so much when I was younger: I didn’t know why everyone (teachers, students, family, friends) seemed to hate me so much. And those who didn’t always hate me, seemed at least to always be disappointed in me. Of course, there were exceptions—my sister, my grandmother. Maybe one or two friends. But still, when those are largely the only sorts of emotions you feel being projected towards you, you learn that there must be something wrong with you. Otherwise, how could you ever deserve such treatment? And surely, you must deserve it.

I remember walking through school halls and being so bewildered by the people around me, my “peers.” They always seemed to be on a different wavelength, one which I clearly didn’t know the station numbers for. And always I felt they saw me in my strangeness, some sort of fae to ridicule. Or ignore.

Memories with my family really feel no different now, which makes me very sad to look back on. I remember sitting in my grandmother’s living room, or my papaw’s, or some family reunion or another, and it’s like everyone was moving around in a world just outside my own. They would sit and talk and talk, laughing at this or that, and there I would be—in the corner, playing my gameboy. Or reading a book. Or listening to a CD with over loud volume bleeding from cheap headphones. People don’t have to tell you that they think you’re a bit different for you to know they see you as such.

Because of these experiences, I eventually became uncannily good at picking up on exactly what I needed to be in order to make people like me well enough to not hurt me. This, of course, did not occur overnight; it was a craft which had to be honed over the course of many years. I was so pleasant around some, cutting around others. I learned how to talk about sports, how to work on cars. I read the Bible every night. Every person I met represented new data for me to collect, so that I might be spared the bullying that had so plagued me in my younger years. Or the anger and disappointment I’d felt toward me anytime I said that broke the red state orthodoxy under which I lived.

But none of this ever made me feel less lonely. Less a social outcast, less a target—sure. But never less lonely. I was still never like them. And it was no one’s fault that that was the case. No one asks to be a changeling, or to have to deal with one.

I believe I’ve confessed this somewhere in these digital pages once before, but I was 14 when I started drinking. Cheap merlot in a field at night—it seems an especially appropriate backdrop for my rural queer coming-of-age story, which at 32 should surely be concluding any day now. It’s hard for me to remember how I felt about it those first drinks. I know it tasted like shit, but obviously I could never tell anyone that. From there, I moved on to straight bourbon, by which point I had begun to realize alcohol’s most magical property—simultaneously, it allowed me better act in a way that was pleasing to “them” while also allowing me to get so lost in the swirling thoughts in my own head that I didn’t even have to be wherever I was. Perfect escape.

Oblivion is a feeling I’ve been chasing ever since. At 18, I drank a fifth of Wild Turkey in an hour or two and became the most violently ill I’d ever been. It would take another 10 years before I could even be around an open whiskey bottle again. So from there it was rum and coke, followed by vodka sprite (and I believe, briefly, screwdrivers), and then back to rum and coke before finally settling for many years on beer.

Since transitioning, I can hardly choke one down anymore, so now it’s wine at home and rum and coke when I’m out. Seltzers, too. I’m a cliché.

There is, admittedly, a part of me that does really miss the party years. I wasn’t any less sad than I am now, in fact I was likely significantly moreso in many ways. But I miss the naïveté and ignorance. The possibility that seemed to stretch before me. And the oblivion. God, I miss that brand of oblivion.

I was a visibly miserable person. I have many memories of my father, when it was just the two of us, from nowhere and in a very concerned voice asking me if I was okay. If I was happy. What was wrong. And occasionally, when they weren’t waist-deep in their own concerns, friends. The way people looked at me in those conversations—I could never tell if it was pity, sympathy, confusion, concern, or something else entirely.

*I*, however, was certainly confused. “Uh, I’m okay.” That look. “Are you sure?” I would laugh it off, as I did all things. “I’m fine! What are you talking about? I promise I’m okay. I’m happy now :)” That look. And then silence.

Parties were such a double-edged sword. On one edge sat that sweet, sweet oblivion. But hard as I might try to keep myself wrapped within it, I could not help but drink too much of it. And a few hours into every party, as my head would get heavy and the cacophony began to swell, I would look around me and see only misery. Other willful delusionals, clearly so mired in their own lonesome sufferings.

And I would hate them for it.

Couldn’t they see?! Everyone there was clearly so miserable! No, of course they saw. No one is unaware of their own misery. They just try to drink it away, to be among others so that they can feel less lonely, at least for a while. And every week, we gather together, all us strangers. Faces changing and faces staying the same. No one cares. They’re all just choosing to play pretend! And I hate it here.

It took me many years to realize that because I do not understand the human realm, and only ever learned to mimic the requisite actions, that I have a tremendously difficult time understanding the minds of others. Surely, on some level, this is a universal experience. But for me, I think, it goes a bit further than most. One of my greatest, recurring follies is assuming everyone thinks with a brain that is roughly comparable to my own. When I have a new experience, or insight, or feeling, I subconsciously just take it that everyone else has done the same. Therefore, if I was miserable at parties, if I attended only to drink to oblivion, if I was beset by crushing loneliness, so, too, must everyone else there. And the fact that no one was saying it, the fact that we were all playing this strange game with arbitrary rules, the fact that I had to feel so alone despite their being the same as me—that is what made me hate them.

It’s a bizarre hypocrisy, at once thinking both you are so strange and different while also thinking everyone else thinks the same things you do. Stranger still that alcohol intensified both. I felt so lonely at every party I ever went to.

In more recent years, I have made an intense effort to understand myself better and to work through the issues that have plagued me my whole life. I’ve acquired diagnoses, and meds, and professional listeners I pay money I don’t have to tell me things I already know. I’m not sure any of it has made me “better,” just more painfully aware of my patterns, against which I am still powerless.

Everything I do, and likely have ever done, is some sort of rage against the loneliness. And the older I’ve gotten, the more outrageous the acts. I’ve entered into territory where I’ve developed my skills to such a degree that people don’t just not hate me, but actually listen to and respect me. Lots of people, really. It’s bewildering—I don’t even know all their names.

In the last couple of years, I even finally cracked the code on acquiring romantic and physical affections from others. At 25, I was a virgin. At 32, I’ve had a whole array of experiences with a swath of partners (at least by my standards). I did learn that I liked be choked, or slapped. Hurt. There’s nothing to read into there, I’m sure.

But it doesn’t matter. At 32, I have to learn to accept my condition, to sit with it indefinitely. Like the sadness, the attention deficit, the brief, cyclical hypomania. The weirdness. The fucking suicidality. It’s either that, or to willingly give in to the delusions so many others choose to submit to. Because it doesn’t matter what anyone tells me, everyone is lonely, and all our actions are futile attempts at outrunning that loneliness.

Or maybe, in lieu of religion, or a spouse, or any sense of hope whatsoever, that is the delusion I have chosen to embrace. That they are also lonely, but it is they who are delusional, not I.

If you accept that not all others chase the same oblivion you do, that is the loneliness that is almost too much to bare.

Looks like I finished just in time. Happy New Year.

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