Yesterday was one day where everything seemed to go wrong, from the second I got up until the moment I shut my eyes again. I could bore you senseless with all the stuff that went on, but I’m going to focus on my counseling yesterday and my recovery from depersonalization.
(Nothing too heavy then!)
In my sessions this year, I feel like we are getting to the bottom of some of the coping mechanisms I use so automatically now that helped spur on the depersonalization, or even depersonalization-like symptoms. These are deeply embedded in me. Some developed due to bullying and some developed due to editing myself early in my life, trying to purge those parts of me others seemed to believe were unacceptable in order to make myself more likeable to them.
We first went back in time to some of the first memories I had of that “editing”. My counselor Michael had a strong feeling that something happened early in my life that caused me to have the trust issues I have now, and that those trust issues have compounded with time and distance.
Two memories stood out right away, one from each parent.
The first memory surrounded my toys as a child. I had a pretty active imagination, and I loved toys. I loved Star Wars, and Legos, and Matchbox cars, and really loved trains, but I also loved Barbie dolls and pretty things like that.
One day, I got home from school or maybe I woke up from a nap — that part of the memory was hazy — and my dolls were gone. The hunt began to find them, but they were nowhere. I asked my Mom where they were, and she said something along the lines that they were gone. I remember later going into the front closet and finding them, and proudly announcing that to Mom, and her bouncing between perturbed and upset. It was a victory in the battle for me, but she would win the war.
I’m not sure if it was days or months, but my dolls were gone soon after that. I never found them. I did look.
But deep down, that hurt. It came from someone I love and trusted the most. I learned that that part of me, the liking dolls part, the gay part, for a lack of a better descriptor, was bad. My Mom seemed to not like that part of me, so I edited it out. And that total trust I had eroded into mostly trust, both towards Mom and towards me.
The lesson I learned was I can’t trust that part of me, the gay part.
(I need to add here that Mom and I have since spoken about this, and I told her how much it confused me and hurt me as a child. She explained that humanity didn’t know as much about sexual orientation and gender when I was growing up as they do now, and even if I had been born 10 years later, it would have been handled much differently. I understand, and I accept that, but it still had an impact on my life.)
When Michael and I spoke about this, there was not a lot of emotional response. Part of this was due to me being three steps ahead and thinking about my Dad and me, and the other part was because I felt I had resolved this in my mind by speaking with my Mom about it. As I said to Michael, I’m 40 years older and half a world away from where it all happened, and that distance sometimes gives me emotional distance too.
Even typing it now, there’s very little emotional response. It feels like serenity: what happened, happened. I can’t go back in time, and I can’t change it. I can only focus on now and undo the harm it caused me.
We shifted to my memories of my Dad from that time too. My Dad worked really long hours at Carson’s downtown Chicago when I was a young boy. This involved him leaving early in the morning and coming back in the evenings.
So our time when he was home was precious. I remember him cuddling me while we watched TV, calling me Tiger, and being a really caring, loving father.
Something changed. I don’t know when or how, and when I was a child, I didn’t know why. A distance grew between us. I blamed it on the gay part, but as an adult, I see it could be any given thing: stresses of work, not liking work, personal things that happened I wasn’t aware of at the time, a whole slew of things. But I think, as a child, you are inwardly focused and of course, you don’t know about the adult stuff.
That was a harder thing to discuss, and I did get sad then. I have a close relationship with my Mom, and I always have, but my Dad and I always seem to have a distance between us after whatever that was happened. He didn’t have the best relationship with his father, but I am a strong believer that his relationship with his father is not his relationship with me, and I have told him that. I know he knows I love him, but I do wish our relationship was closer sometimes.
So those were two examples of how I lost some of my trust, not only with two of the people I am the closest to in my life but also with myself. If my parents, two of the people I love the most, had issues (real or perceived) with that gay part of me, then I couldn’t trust it either, could I? And then I started to edit myself to conform.
As a side note: this isn’t a blamefest. My parents did what they thought was the best thing for me. As my Mom says, kids don’t come with an instruction manual. I am not angry with them, and I do love them, warts and all, just like they love me the same way. But what I am trying to do in counselling is unravel these learned maladaptive coping mechanisms to move forward to have a happier, healthier, more whole life.
We also spoke about being gay and how that editing and those trust issues affect me — and many other queer people, don’t get me wrong — in my adult life. I opened up a lot about how I felt like there was this double life with The Man I Once Loved, and how that first relationship (for a lack of a better word) affected me and my trust in myself deeply going forward in my life. There was how things were behind closed doors (and sometimes in the open, too), where there was kindness, compassion, closeness, tenderness, and there was how things were in the public, where there could be denial, distance, ridicule, and deflection. It became very much a guessing game of, “which Man am I going to get in this moment”?
This flowed into other relationships with other men. Is he flirting with me? What does he want from me? Am I reading the signs wrong? And then the denial or pushing back to provide distance so I don’t get hurt, so I don’t get rejected. But then I am not putting trust in myself and my gut feelings, and there I go, not trusting myself again.
And it also becomes transactional too, in a way. What does he want from me? That’s another area of trust where I have problems. Somewhere in my mind, something from my past has made me suspicious of another person’s motives. Perhaps a subject for another blog sometime.
We moved through a lot of these trust issues and how I chiseled away parts of myself to conform in the last counselling session. At the end of the session, we rehash what we spoke about, and what I take away from the session. This time I spoke about the obvious, but I also felt that we were breaking this down into more manageable issues that had their own labels, and when each issue seems to have its own shape, mechanism, and name, I feel like I can tackle it a lot better.
Dismantling the beast is something I can cope with. If I’m honest, how many separate pieces I’ll have to deal with gives me pause. But if I have any shot of getting back to a happier, healthier, emotionally whole me, I really have to work on regaining trust in myself, my emotions, and my gut instincts.