Well, it’s time to get back to the story of my life. Any good memoir really needs to cover the plot, and recent additions have sort of gone off the rails talking about things that, well. Got ahead of our protagonist. See, as I haven’t yet explained on this memoir blog very clearly, the memoir is organized in three sections. These are Part I: Nobody, Part II: Somebody, and Part III: Everybody.
The approach of roughly following my life’s chronology meant telling only the Nobody years for the past couple years or so that I’ve been writing the memoir in public. This covers roughly the first 28 years of my life, during which, subjectively, I was NOBODY. I was a loser, worthless, hated and shunned, and just struggling to keep my head down and get by. Genius boy, yeah sure. Loved by first love (and a series of less notable partners), yes. Accomplished in ways unseen by himself, yeah.
But in those nowhere years, one tends to not be aware of the impact on those around them much as they are unaware of the world actually *seeing* them. When we are a Nobody, people are strange, and we feel … Well, Marsha Linehan really got it well, a closet Borderline Personality Disorder herself, who created the wildly successful Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, based on Buddhism and her studies in psychology. We need to find the middle way, to realize we are neither Nobody nor Somebody. We are something else…
Anyway. Around my late 20s I was forced finally out of the safe nest of academia and stipends from my distant parents to help pay my bills (in fairness I had been working on and off since age 14), and out into the “real world”, where people stop being polite and so on. I was forced to be Somebody.
Of course, in the chronology, I may have skipped over my actual college years, which were many. That was a period of exploration, of my lack of sexuality, my befuddled musicianship, my deep abiding love of drugs and meds, and also trying to get to know my father. I will come back to all these things. But this chapter is about becoming Somebody.
Like anybody, when I found myself out in the larger world for the first time, I grabbed a copy of the script and did the best I could to improvise until I could get the lines down right. It was hard because the script was torn and coffee stained and written in a foreign language and, frankly my dear, was not written by the best writer. Coulda used Cheyenne’s help all those years, or any sort of family to ever explain ANYTHING to me.
But so I did the best I could. According to Friends and Family Ties and my parents’ ill-fated marriage, I knew that step one was, Get a Job. More importantly than just getting any job, said my subconscious, was to get an important job making a lot of money, since my shadow said that mom and dad said that “no musician ever made any money!!” and that going to a trade school was blue collar and beneath (my? their?) dignity. I had been working as a carpenter for a while after college but, sadly, as I LOVED that work, was failing to see the dollar bills rolling in.
So I quit (well, more to that story, but basically I quit yeah). I heard through Dave Berdnt, an old friend of my parents and I suppose in some way a friend of mine, about a gig at Boston University helping build out the then fledgling BU web presence. This was the late 90s, an era of speakeasies and flappers, for you young’uns, when the internet was basically the wild, wild, west. You had to manually type instructions into the telepad in order to call up blue cross-referenced listings of other institutions that also had blue listings of other listings and I think Yahoo! was what Google is now. Except without the giant hive mind AI running us all, and with pretty much no free porn unless you count America online.
Anyway so I taught myself HTML and built a little website of art and music I had created, which so impressed the hiring manager that I was hired. I always go overboard like that, thinking who would ever hire/date/marry/fuck a Nobody like me? The irony being that I always get the job.
SO okay, great, I had a grown up, real job, making money. And as Pacino had taught me, next I needed to get.. Um. I wasn’t sure. I certainly didn’t want the women, because at this point my blackened heart was so scarred that I really preferred to just go home to momma (where I was temporarily living having returned from college without much money or a job, even though, PATHETICALLY, I was 27 years old). I would try to learn the ropes of being a grown-up employed career real person, while watching TV in the basement and letting mom cook dinners and clean, as it should be. Or, as kinda sorta maybe a LITTLE funny Jen Kirkman wrote in her scathing critique of modern society book of comedy, I hung out in mom’s basement doing too much acid and saw the devil!!!
But also I was learning about the LAMP stack and teaching little seminar classes on creating web sites. I built an interactive campus map linking to course selections and so on, using Flash, way before someone got the idea for Mapquest and Google maps. I LOVED front end development. I loved using technology to obscure the technology and allow creatives and intuitives to create and intuit. I loved translating between layers — from the execs to the Perl module to the “end user” as the geeks like to say. I loved multimedia, interactive art, museum installations. Planetariums. Love love love.
I showed up to work everyday, much as in middle school, wearing a couple of shirts I owned and barely able to hold myself together from the crippling panic attacks and anxiety I felt at being exposed among real, grown-up, not loser nobody people. The therapists said it was generalized anxiety disorder. The psychiatrists smugly said as they gazed out the window thinking about their golf this coming weekend or fucking their trophy wives, “we really don’t fully understand the brain… It’s a mystery. But with proper medication, many people can…” Shut up you charlatan do so much harm snake oil fuckers.
I would sometimes freak out and get suicidal while at work. One time I called my friend Liz to please come get me at the BU Beach (a long strip of grass looking out at Storrow Drive traffic, which is what passes for a beach I guess to people who also think the Mass Turnpike and some stores and clubs is a “campus”). I was freaking out. She did come get me, as Liz, despite being such a beauty that she could attract much more real men than I could ever imagine or hope to be, loved me the way real friends do. She took me to her place and made us food and showed me this Italian movie she loved about a guy stalking some woman until she breaks down and kisses him. I was a bit confused about all this, but thanks Liz! Liz also was kind of a hero to me as she taught by example that you could just *leave* your grown-up job and go back to school and do something you really felt passionate about and you might even end up settling down with a family.
But our stories just wind so much that no one ever really *knows* what we are going through. Peering in the basement window and seeing me jerking off or listening to Floyd or whatever does not actually constitute full operational awareness. Just as recruiters may have been thrown off by my excessive candor and honesty and I may not officially have matriculated at Harvard, I still got the same training. Class blinds people to the fact that even the janitor might be smarter than you think, and classifying people is… well.
But I was not not a total mess in my late 20s. Entering the working world, scared of people a couple years older than me buying half million dollar homes and having babies with their spouses. So I struggled mightily to figure out the script.
It says here in the margins, get a wife. That can’t be right?! Women hate me and abandon me, I’m a Nobody…
But the Director said, Jason, we need you to be married.
So, okay. I mean I was not really holding my life together that well. I upgraded my Job to an even more impressive one, where I was getting to visit other universities to discuss linguistics and databases and user interfaces (I was now designing software to study sign language, despite being ridiculously underqualified to do so. All I know in ASL is Fuck You, which is just a one finger gesture.)
But also I became suidical when that job either ended or began again, depending how you look at it — they told me at end of first 3 years they had procured more grant money to pay me another 3 years and all hell broke loose as I revealed I’d been looking forward to the job ending. Lawyers got involved. My dad at this time told me he’d love to chat, as we did every few months, but could not right now as he had to watch a documentary about the Kennedy assassination and Anne was in Italy.. It made no sense to me but the next day he wrote me a 10 page email about JFK, no mention of my saying I was losing my job.
Around this same time, my girlfriend Aimee and I were getting into high conflict. We lived together and I had somewhat funded her daring escape from her neverending PhD program — bought her a car, helped her as she landed her first Job — and I was losing my mind from working long hours and also taking graduate night classes in computer science, as she kept pressuring me to make MORE money.
And my lying cheating psychiatrist, whom I had been telling for months, could we pleeeease give me some drug that will make me able to focus but is NOT a stimulant and does NOT have risks associated with suicidality, prescribed that December (7th) a cocktail of Celexa and Concerta. She lied and told me they were new to the market. She lied and told me they weren’t stimulants. She lied and told me there was no risk associated with suicidality. So I took the pills, needed to believe to fill the hollow inside me.
That December, as my grant contract ended under antagonistic conditions, my father was disappearing from my life for unknown reasons (I would barely know him after this year, and had not seen him in person since age 27 a few years earlier), my live in girlfriend of past few years moved out and 6 months later moved on (though, in truth, the relationship and sex were way better in those 6 months as we both found other outlets and I wasn’t subsidizing her and she made a 100% first year bonus at her job which had exploded to become TripAdvisor)…
I ended up calling who I thought was a good friend to tell her and her husband, also a good friend, that I was not going to make it to the New Years’ Eve gathering, as i was feeling suicidal.
Now, whether you are a Nobody or a Somebody, may I offer you some advice about being suicidal? This could save your life, so pay attention. Especially you, Matthew, Karen, Paul, Greg, etc. etc.
Everyone says, we need to educate ourselves/each other about suicidality and depression. Much like everyone says I love you. It’s bullshit.
Everyone says, be aware that dark depression can look happy on the outside, make sure you… what? Make sure you grill all your happy looking friends to see if they might hang themselves with a belt any moment? I don’t understand the common advice there.
But certainly people say, when a friend is in crisis or obviously depressed, make sure you let them know you care, show up a little more, bring them a casserole. Because to someone who is suicidal — and I’ve learned this from meeting hundreds of people through support groups, doing crisis line work, and also from being alive quite a while — almost 100% of the time, that person thinks they are all alone and no one cares about them, and maybe no one ever did and therefore maybe no one ever will.
So pretty much the worst thing you can do is shun the person, hoping their mental illness cooties don’t infect you or whatevr the fuck is wrong with you judging, condescending, momma’s boys and daddy’s girls who mistakenly believe your own keeping it together is because you are a superior specimen.
[Ed: You see how cleverly I mask my deep resentment and rage at this bunch of fucking Indiana Goshen Mennonite privieged hypocrites? I know it’s subtle, but if you read closely, it’s in there.]
But sorry, reader. This story is not about me, it’s about all of us. And suicidality is not a joke. People LOVE to post memes about how distraught they are that a friend of THEIRS recently offed themselves, how there was nothing anyone could do. Please.
The advice is this:
If you turn away from a friend who is expressing the level of hopelessness that major depression or suicidality is, you are not their friend. You never were. You are a Somebody, living by your own script, in which you are the protagonist, the hero, and there is room only for a limited cast of characters that support your romcom or whatever genre you are. You have a lot of growing up to do to recognize that, well. Everybody hurts. Not just you. And sometimes people slice their wrists open and fill the tub with crimson. ANd sometimes people experience bizarre mixes of psychotic voices and telepathy and spiritual revelation (not just in your silly TV shows based on comic books, but in REAL LIFE). And sometimes people need everyone around them to drop the kids stuff, drop the ego-driven pursuit of your own life in progress, and pay attention, show them that you REALLY CARE.
My advice to those who find themselves suicidal (typically on a repeated loop over the years, as traumatic imprints don’t tend to show up once and never again):
Kill yourself if you must. You’ll regret it but will get over it. I have. But also hang on, keep breathing. When you have lost all possible options for ever surviving this Hell, for ever having a future, for ever being loved or cared for… Do nothing. Lay on the floor drooling and crying. Run aimlesslessly into traffic in your bare nakedness. Yell and start a scene, let your tears fall and burn. DO NOTHING. What I am saying is, give up all hope, stop trying. But you will keep breathing. The universe isn’t going to kill yourself for you.
And if you do this, in time, you will find that you’re still alive. And you deserve to be. And the suffering you have endured will endear you to others trying to find their own way. You will find that the best people in this world get their through enormous suffering. No one is taught growing up how to be great. The have to grow up on their own to learn this, and it is fucking HARD.
Robin Williams committed suicide. Some say the Illuminati killed him with an ironic twist, as his method was used in a movie he was in a few years’ prior. So that they could feed of the frenzy of people buying his entire catalog of life’s work. That’s conspiracy theory craziness, whether true or not. But he did commit suicide. And he struggled his whole life with addictions and depression and his own terrible childhood. So he became a clown, and a mensch, and a mentor, and a fine actor, and dedicated himself increasingly to helping others, as he had known so much suffering.
If you just stay alive, one day more, you will be amazed eventually how this new dawn’s light will change your life forever. Someday, you will discover that not only are you not Nobody, and not only is your tiny dream of being Somebody really a very limited script that, ironically, nobody else really likes as much as you think they do, but that you are Everybody. You are not alone. Life is fucking hard, and we all go through Hell sometimes.
Don’t give up.
But so yeah, I lost my girlfriend, my real grown up job, and most significantly, lost my dad, who had grown increasingly distant since I left the college town where he lived, having run out my time to get to know him which was why I transferred down to UGA in the first place. Well that and the beautiful woman, music scene, spiritual nexus, bohemians, and $0.10 wings. But now I found myself back in Boston, unemployed, my friends all shunning me (as Matthew said, and I quote, “Jason, if you tell people you are suicidal, of COURSE they are going to shun you.”), and back in the soul-sucking vortex of … mother.
My aforementioned psychiatrist terminated me as a patient because I missed an appointment, saying that she felt I was not taking my own treatment seriously. I subsequently asked the pharmacist some questions about these meds, and he pointed out that it said on the fine print label that BOTH drugs were stimulants, had been around quite a while, and should be used with caution with anyone with history of suicidality as they could cause obsessive thinking and suicidality. Perhaps my text processing disorder and aversion to fine print was to blame for never reading the label. Perhaps.
I was so depressed, because, you see. I had totally mangled the script. For How to Be Somebody. I had lost the girl, lost the job, lost my Friends. It wasn’t my year. And I had lost my dad. He was elusive. Didn’t pick up or return calls.
The world was gone, I was just one. Again.
So I went home to mother. Who gaslit me and ignored my pleas that she consider my staying with her temporary. She in fact spend a fair amount of money turning her bungalow basement into a bachelor pad of sorts, entrapping me. I was so depressed because, this woman who had spent years telling I was an impossible burden but also her lover and partner and so much FUCKED UP CRAZY SHIT — was still on top. Making the big money, with church community and friends, whom she told over the years what a burden it was to have a mentally ill son. Same shit my dad did over in Georgia actually, but that was never in front of my direct awareness.
I was now 31 years old, and had accomplished NOTHING with my life, was a loser and told so by my circle of friends, who were all disappearing now that I wasn’t Somebody. Now that I had been fired entirely for flubbing the part. And mom fed me good food and got me a TV and so on.
The good news is, this chapter was only another chapter. You can keep reading and I will keep writing. Everybody is in this story, so I hope you also Like, share, subscribe, comment, and beware. I am legion and do not appreciate the haters.
This is my life and I’ll do what I want with it. Just like my momma told me. Keep writing your book, she says. Keep weaving. Keep doing your dark/light magic. Keep looking for me, Jason, I love you and miss you.
Coming soon: Drugs, part 2; Educashun’; How Not to Date; On Terror, Mind Control, and Sheep; Once Upon a Time in Futureland…