Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The End of Fighting

I awoke from a long and difficult battle drained of hope. I had lost. The morning greeting me without sun or blue skies or even gray-clouded ones. It was still night and I had to be to work in a half hour. I dreaded my job, ignored the piles of homework that would await me when I returned to my apartment after classes, and felt more alone than ever. I hadn't hung out with friends in a long time. My roommates were always busy hanging out with friends and leaving me alone in the apartment. One of the few people I called almost daily was my mom but those conversations lasted only a few minutes and I could tell by now that it was the mere bonds of child-parent that kept her answering the phone. She had nothing to say to me really. Our conversations had long been shallow and empty.

After work and my first class, I went to the counseling center on campus. I did not run or click my heels in relief when I requested an appointment with one of their counselors. I had given up. This was my final attempt to stave off the darkness that had been slowly closing in over the past years and recent months. My face and my body held a weariness I had never felt so deeply. It transcended muscle and bone and went straight to the soul. I had fought for so long to keep the stress, panic, and fear at bay. But after two weeks of the deepest depression I had ever faced, I knew I had lost the battle. Keeping on as I had been, would result in nothing but more defeats and a sorrow I would not be able to bear.

Admitting defeat was the best I could do. It meant that I no longer had to wage war against my emotions and that I no longer had to see me as the enemy. I could no longer fight on. My enemy, an enemy I had succeeded in forgetting even who or what it was, had won. A nameless, empty victory.

The first time I met with the counselor, a short few days after, I was attempting to once more convince myself I could be happy again. The woman that sat down in front of me was middle-aged with red hair. She spoke with a professional tone, measured and cool in tone. A thin veneer of friendship could be garnished from her words, but it was the friendship a professional offers to a client and nothing more. With pen and pad in hand, she asked me to talk about myself. So I did, I shared all the details of what brought me here in a tired tone. I had slept very little the night before. Not that it mattered, even when I had a full night's sleep, the weariness was still there.

I talk about the depression I had been feeling for nearly five months now. How I had left my parents to come back to school just to avoid the pain and fear I was feeling. I talked about the job I had, a custodian in the morning, and my classes. The stress nightmare that fed my depression and the simple admission that I was gay.

"I would kill myself if I believed it would take me somewhere better," I told her at one point. It was not intended to shock but to explain my beliefs. She asked me what I meant. "I wish I didn't believe in an afterlife. I don't want to die and go someplace else and keep on existing. I just don't want to be anything anymore." I felt trapped. I was tired of living. Tired of existing with everything I felt. Death was no comfort to me. It meant that I would have to do more. Work. Work. Work. There was no rest in death from what my religion taught me. She offered no comment but wrote down more notes. I was too exhausted on all levels to wonder or ask her why she didn't say anything.

The next visit she offered repairative therapy. A cure for my attractions. After all, she was trained in such counseling and could, if I were willing, help me suppress my feelings for other men. This was not the first time I'd been offered such a strange thing. I imagined being asked to surrender a piece of my soul. A piece, however tarnished or ugly, that had formed my struggle for over ten years. I knew it well: those feelings. I had resisted them in almost every imaginative way. Yet through all my struggles I had learned one important lesson: I did not fight some stranger or some alien part of me. I had fought me. This ugly, pathetic, and vile thing still bore a piece of my soul, was still me in the mirror. It was wrong, sinful, and I would never embrace it, but I would never surrender that aspect of me.

I gave no grand speech to her. I simply told her I didn't think it would be a good idea right now. She respected my decision and our session ended.

I never realized, walking away to my next class, I had done the right thing. It would take months before I would come to understand what I had done and the path I had begun to walk. But even then I knew I had a spark of hope again. I would need it.

That was the lesson I gained. Gay, straight, or bi, I was still me. I may not have liked me then, but it was me. I could not escape it. I only wanted at the time to find a way to live in peace with it. I was done with fighting. Fighting only brought more pain. It gave no healing and that was what I needed more than anything. On that day, I turned from hating me to wanting to sympathetically and truly know who I was.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jeremy, thanks for this post. I find your understanding of this experience really compelling--while you rejected reparative therapy, you felt (feel?) that what it might suppress (as it so claims) is wrong and sinful. It's an interesting sort of conundrum, but I just love it. It begs so many questions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    P.S. I'm not a fan of reparative therapy, either.