256. amaranthine


Apologies for the gap in posting. I’ve started so many drafts the last couple of weeks, and then a project or an emergency comes along, or I simply don’t have the energy to write, or I start something and then lose the train of thought.

A few months ago I started with a EMDR therapist, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

The goal of EMDR is to reduce the long-lasting effects of distressing memories by developing more adaptive coping mechanisms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements. EMDR was originally developed to treat adults with PTSD; however, it is also used to treat other conditions and children.

It’s supposed to be helpful for individuals who have experienced a trauma of some kind, and growing up gay in a fundamentalist household probably counts as some kind of traumatic event. My regular therapist suggested a course of sessions (typically 8-12 in number) after events in December made it clear that triggers from early childhood are really preventing me from moving forward.

The challenge is doing all of this while in school and working full-time. Good thing I’m not dating anyone right now, eh?

Speaking of dating, I’ve been keeping an eye on the calendar, and this Thursday will be three years since I broke up with Jay, my last boyfriend. Singleness is one thing I seem to be obsessed with at present. Although I’m bracing myself for the worst case scenario of never meeting anyone, whenever I encounter a nice guy there’s a part of me that still thinks, “Maybe this guy, somehow, is the one.”

Then, in the span of several minutes, I go through the entire process of imagining our life together until the inevitable realization or discovery that he’s hetero, not available, not suitable, or (the more likely scenario) not into me.

At heart, I’m still a relentless optimist and romantic.

It’s the quiet, intimate moments with another person that I’m envious of. I’ve observed many such moments with other couples, moments that come after years of knowing a person, of learning about their foibles and faults and loving them in spite of and for it.

Thinking back over my nine-month relationship with Jay, and with every other guy I’ve dated, I tried to feel or find those moments, but it always felt forced and unnatural, like I was in rehearsal and just not getting the truth of a scene.

The underlying fear I’m beginning to unpack in EMDR is this feeling of being dead inside. I know, that’s cliche. But at last session a few days ago, I talked about the sense of there being a firm dividing line on my birthday in 2011 between my life prior to that moment and life afterwards. It’s like the moment when a star collapses and a black hole forms.

The fear is that I’m a emotional singularity.

Growing up in a household that was judgmentally religious forced me to create a fortress of walls, retreating to and hiding at the center in order to survive. If I’d been any other kind of person, or lacked resiliency, I probably would’ve caved long ago and become just another fundamentalist Christian drone, obediently following the marching orders of my pastors and the Bible, and being a good citizen of the church and of Heaven.

As it is, I fought to keep those secret, private parts of myself, doing whatever necessary to stay alive and safe. I kept my desire for men, along with rational doubts about the faith I’d been handed, hidden.

It did not leave me without deep wounds and scars.

Now that I’ve been out for five years, I’m worried that my lifestyle of privacy and seclusion became something of a habit, one that may take a long time to unlearn, if ever. There’s safety in being reticent and reclusive. I can observe everyone safely from the parapets and ramparts without the risk of having to leave.

Trouble with security is that it’s  also very lonely.

The sense of feeling old at 33 is not so much about age as it is about being 33 at this point in my life, when I’m effectively starting over and having to learn how to be “human.” It’s a sense that if my development hadn’t been artificially suspended for 28 years by my parents and upbringing, I could be so much further along right now.

Perhaps I could’ve learned how to flirt and properly date; had a number of relationships that taught me what it is, realistically, what I want in a partner; and probably been with a decent spouse for a couple of years by now.

… that is, if I hadn’t been fucked up by my parents and their hateful religion that teaches people to think of themselves as evil and worthless unless they say the proper magic words to an imaginary friend who is always watching and taking notes for your permanent record to determine whether you’ll burn forever in Hell when you die.

It’s all so cosmically unfair because I never asked to be born in the first place, let alone to neo-Puritans who fear sexuality, sensuality, and true intellectual freedom.

I’d like to be able to see couples (male couples, especially) without feeling a surge of hatred, jealousy, and resentment.

I’d like to be able to truly believe that I’m loveable, worthy of love, and that I’m capable of both giving and receiving it.

I’d like to think that the gay male community (with exceptions) isn’t comprised of mostly lost boys (the Neverland variety, not the Kiefer Sutherland) while any decent guys paired off years ago.

As much as the resiliency that kept me going and alive keeps me hopeful (albeit cautiously), I can’t blind myself to the reality that the situation doesn’t look good. I can keep myself busy and productive, but it won’t render me any less lonely.

7 thoughts on “256. amaranthine

  1. Paul Douglas

    Keep talking. You are doing just fine! You were only just “born again” 5 years ago. Give yourself a break, relax, and find some guys to hang out with and simply have fun. As you learn to develop and cultivate close male friends, and as you pursue becoming yourself (vocation and avocations), you are preparing yourself to meet someone worthy enough to share your life with. It takes time.
    Growing pains.

  2. David

    “Will I ever decide that I am truly good enough?”

    I think that is the one dark thought that continues to rob many of us in this community of joy—that we simply aren’t good enough. We weren’t good enough for our parents, good enough for God, good enough to earn the approval of other Christians (which I guess on some level was kind of the same thing as God’s approval). I’ve never been able to enjoy any success or achievement because almost right away the thought of what I could’ve done better or differently, or all the ways that I failed, or how there’s just another hurdle or mountain ahead. It’s all or nothing, right?

    • Paul Douglas

      I’ve been a perfectionist from as far back as I can remember and I so relate to your inability to “enjoy any success or achievement because almost right away the thought of what I could have done better or differently….” . That is my absolute, lived experience. I don’t know where my perfectionism came from or what it is rooted in, as my younger siblings don’t seem to be imbued with it. Hardwiring? I was also the only one who was particularly religious growing up, but was I attracted to religion because of my perfectionistic tendencies? I dunno.
      Food for thought.

  3. Thanks as always for your honestly, David. I know I’m part of the community you left behind, but I learn SO MUCH from you, friend, about how to be a better person. I relate to a lot of this post (sigh. Single and 34.). I hope you’ll write more about EMDR in the future. I looked into that at one point.

    • David

      One of the blessing of losing one community is that it’s allowed me to redefine community in more universal terms. I get to make my own community and family with people who value friendship and love over ideology, and that’s really neat! So even though we connect mainly online these days, I consider you part of my community, Jav. 🙂

  4. Charity

    I know. I know the second guessing. I know the loneliness. I also know the constant nagging feeling that I’m being judged, even if I may not be. Growing up in an overtly religious home overshadowed everything in my life. Four years out of Christianity and I have finally found a live in person therapist to help me with religious trauma. She also uses EMDR therapy. My intitial consult with her is the end of this month. She’s only 30 miles away. I’m looking forward to it.

    I wish you the very best. It’s difficult but not impossible. You’re doing all you can to take care of you.

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