Love and the Boogeymen

Winter held one last hurrah here in the Twin Cities, unceremoniously dumping a sorry coating of soggy slush over the area yesterday. It was just enough to gnarl the highways, as everyone has apparently forgotten how to drive after a month of cleaned streets. Today I went to a diagnostic evaluation so I can begin regular therapy sessions. Exhausted, and running on only three hours of sleep after working into the early morning, I stumbled into the office fifteen minutes late. Hair unkempt, bottom lip raw from chewing and picking, a dark grease stain on my jeans from dropping a hamburger in my lap while eating and driving the night before — this is my messy life now. Two diverging tracks of growing professional success, while my personal life lurches around me.

Everyone I meet treats me so kindly. I can’t be that bad.

“What do you feel your problem is, exactly?” my therapist asked.

“I’m an asshole,” I replied.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not always an asshole. Last year was a gauntlet of intense self-examination and development, with the focus on improving social skills and personal relationships. I am doing well in this regard. You have to know me intimately before the monsters rear their ghastly heads; before the fears of abandonment and insecurities come out to play. I struggle to respect boundaries. I am so hungry for approval that I will subjugate my own desires and needs until I explode. The anxiety feeds spiralling thought patterns that press me into doing and saying — often hurtful — things I do not really mean. I can be selfishly relentless in pursuit of targets I desire. There is more, but it all boils down to an inability to completely see other people as separate from myself in the context of close relationships. In my opinion, anyway.

Two hours of background and my abridged personal story later.

“What do you hope to achieve with therapy?” I was asked before leaving.

“To not be an asshole anymore,” I answered.

Generalized anxiety disorder with elements of depression. I am highly functional. I am no danger to myself or others. Never a cutter, never a self-harmer, never violent, and loathe to raise my voice. Paradoxically, self-aware. I understand what is wrong but I lack the knowledge to fix it on my own. I need help.

I’m afraid you’re going to leave, so I fight hard to hold you closer.

You’re afraid I’m going to leave, so you distance me away.

For years, I have known a particular couple that is obnoxiously adorable, and no less crazy about each other than the night we met. Their synergy and joie de vivre is infectious, and I would be a liar if I denied it was a variable in the equation that eventually led me here. I want that. Barely a handful of men in my life have ever rendered me starry-eyed and breathless; face burning, and blushed, and tongue-tied. I want that. Each in turn has left me heartbroken. I wonder, for how long will I be doomed to repeat this cycle? Where is the man who sets my heart on fire; with the ambition and drive and strength of self to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with me? Who makes me laugh like no other? Who forges his own path in the face of adversity, and will go down fighting?

I looked at you and thought for the first time — this is what I want. Forever.

What have I done? What have I done? What have I done?

Going about the business of my life, surrounded by the thundering drumbeat of humanity — I catch a glimpse of pudgy cheeks damp with tears, topped up with blonde ringlets and wedged underneath a mother’s chin. I want that. My body is rebelling against me. Regardless of this situation, my clock is running down; perhaps earlier than expected. Volatile moods and symptoms that only recently have enabled me to connect the dots. I no longer have a palatable reason why I chose to deny myself this fundamental part of existence. What for — piles of paper and paint smeared on canvases? A haughty notion about lives devoted to the pursuit of art? Nothing endures in the end. These things were never mutually exclusive. My heart agonizes with a previously-unknown emptiness, and the shaky uncertainty that it can ever be rectified.

I want that. What have I done? I’m an asshole.

I see the therapist again next week.

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