My life seems to come in chunks, good and bad. I think I live more in my dreams than anything. It hasn’t happened in quite a while but I used to dream about teenage crushes. Two of them in particular, I can’t name them here, but if they read this they would know who they were. One of them sat behind me in what became my worst year of school, unless you count my last year when I went completely insane and was arrested in my school hallway and taken to a mental hospital.
The first one was really something. Funny enough, I saw a young woman recently who reminded me of her a lot. She was Asian and had the same cute face and smile the original crush did. Aside from that, I know very little about this first crush. All I really know is that she will go to the ends of the earth to not even talk to me. I can understand, I was never much to her other than a few shared moments in class. There was this one time, years after that horrible year when I ran into her and she commented on how good I looked loud enough so I could overhear. I didn’t know what to say that time and walked away, and by the time I got back and had decided to talk to her she was necking with another guy from our high school that I didn’t particularly like.
The second crush was a girl I met at summer camp one year. She seemed to suffer from depression or something like that but was very attractive and intelligent. Her and I did see each other a few times, just as friends. Then one day an overwhelming wave of self-guilt made me decide to stop talking to her. She never called me back.
Years later I called her up when I was drunk and just about suicidal. It was after I had gone to the hospital and I was feeling even worse about myself. But I called her and we talked for a long time. Then I didn’t call her again for over a year. When I did call her I was on the verge of another breakdown and as we talked I slowly slid over to the other side of that fine line between insanity and normalcy. The last communication we had was me writing a letter to her asking if she wanted to marry me. I was so sick and deluded I thought there was all kinds of money and potential job offers and scholarships. In fact I did qualify for one scholarship, I would have gotten a degree paid for by the US Army if I enlisted. I had even written a test and was making arrangements to join. Trouble was I had destroyed my knees the year before running too much while I was in training to join the Canadian Military—who wouldn’t take me because of my psychiatric record. All of these things—the delusions, the messed up ideas plus whatever horrible pain and depression was boiling up underneath must have scared her. She changed her phone number and refused to return calls or letters.
What really gets me is somehow when I feel really depressed, I want to contact those two women, the second one especially since we had an actual friendship. I have never had the desire to stalk either of these women, I just somehow feel that they are a connection to times that I didn’t fully understand. I think the biggest part of all that is when I was severely mentally ill and in a hospital, I got very few visitors and less phone calls. Part of me, perhaps the unconscious part of me that still battles my demons underneath a layer of normalcy wants to think they cared, that someone cared. But the truth is when I honestly look at the past, I was almost a ghost as a teenager.
I did have a few friends in school, the best of them were the people I had met in Air Cadets. Trouble was, when I was finished grade ten I was convinced I wasn’t that kind of person anymore and quit cadets just when I started to really make friends and advance in rank. I decided to cut all ties with cadets, I wouldn’t even sit with people that had been my friends for three of my most critical teen years.
And so, after grade ten I focused mostly on my studies and jobs. The thing I keep thinking about was how I went out and found a job and saved money to buy a car, then I got a pizza delivery job which wore out my car and cost most of what I earned, and it all seemed so useless. Work for money for a car. Get a car. Get a job where your car is essential. Wear out your car working and drive so much you get sick of driving. It didn’t help that at this time I was suffering from crippling depression and the early symptoms of schizophrenia.
When grade 12 ended and I didn’t have the grades for University or the money for tuition, or a place to live if I had either, I found myself feeling pretty lost. To think of spending 12 years with all those people growing up, learning, developing. I hadn’t had one girlfriend among them or was even allowed to go to my own Grade 12 Graduation ceremony since I was a few credits shy of a diploma. I think a lot about the people I wanted to have as friends. There was one guy, a bit of a mama’s boy who I shared an interest in Star Wars and football with and was on a few winning teams with. I had known him since grade two but despite all of those things he was pretty cruel to me at times. Still, he was a huge part of my life, as much so as my brother but school ended, and I never saw him again and I feel a sense of loss over it. I often wonder if everyone faces friends who are cruel sometimes. I often think about being taunted and teased and wonder if it was my reaction to it rather than how it made me feel that made it all worse.
There were other people, high school friends who I’ve tried to keep in touch with. One of them has a habit of trying to say things that will hurt me. This one particular guy was my closest friend in school, we hung out together a lot. We took trips together, knew all the same people. But there was some kind of clash between us. All I could really describe it as would be some kind of alpha male conflict. I think there were times when I was cruel to him as well. One time he played his head games with the wrong person, a close friend of my brothers and he got beaten up pretty bad over it. He came to me and said basically that my brother could be one of his witnesses in court for the assault and I told him plainly that my brother hated his guts and wanted to see him get beaten up. I guess I kind of did too and there really was nothing he could say or do about it. From what I understand he is still living in our old home town and working for one of our friends whose dad left him an insulation business. Haven’t talked to any of them in years but I have been featured in our home town newspaper a number of times. I would call him up and offer to buy him lunch some time, but I just know he will say or do anything he can to knock me down.
And so, the life of a writer continues. As Tennyson wrote so beautifully (I paraphrase) “I go on with a deep sense of longing and regret, among new faces and different minds.” What I have found is amazing is that I have shed the shallow friendships and relationships of school days and have not only found friends among some of the most wonderful and intelligent people in Edmonton, but I have been able to keep my family relationships going and they have expanded to include cousins and far off relations I have now only met over the Internet. It isn’t easy to live with schizoaffective disorder and anxiety, but I have been getting back from this world what I’ve been putting into it. I also learned something new from Canada’s favourite astronaut Chris Hadfield. “Everyone you see, all of them, are struggling in some way.” This has been a huge revelation to me and is helping me not to hate or judge those who have shunned me for my mental illness or simply have a desire to hurt or ‘cut me down to size’ with comments. It also really makes me want to get back into meditation. In meditation, one clears their mind of all thoughts (though this seems impossible, with practise it can be done) and one learns to train their mind to think more clearly, act more kindly, and much more. The truth is, I have a pretty vivid memory and I spend a lot of time going over in my head people who have hurt me intentionally or no, out of necessity or not, and I can get stuck in feeling bad about myself, about my body image, about how worthy I am to have friends and a nice place to live. It all comes down to just finding a comfortable place, clearing your mind then breathing gently in and out to the count of ‘in-one’ ‘out-two’ if your mind starts to wander, just gently go back to the start and try to get to ten. The amazing thing is there is no goal, no right or wrong way to do it, at least in the simple ways I have been learning about. It’s just a great way to unclutter your mind and put yourself back in control. I would like to talk more about decluttering your home when you have started to declutter your mind, but that I will leave for another time.