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Lost in Tulgey Wood

"I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge." J.R.R. Tolkein

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Location: Canton, Ohio, United States

The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure --Mikhail Baryshnikov

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

Or so I thought.

I believe my depression started as a result of a very bad breakup during my senior year of high school. I was dating a guy, David, who appeared to be quite a catch. He played guitar in a band, he was our school band president, and he was hot. We started dating when I was a junior and he was a senior. He wasn't really interested in dating one person and I said I was OK with that. We kept hanging out and eventually, we started dating exclusively.

I can't tell you how amazing this experience was. He was so cool and so handsome. He literally made my knees knock. I really was taken with him. Eventually, though, his glamour began to fade. He was very critical. For example, I wrote him a love poem and he critiqued the meter.

Also, he was bitter. He had diabetes and had to take shots for it. He had to manage his diet closely and watch for signs of an insulin overdose. He raged against the unfairness of this affliction. I had a few close calls with him when he had a "reaction", which was what he called it when he had too much insulin and not enough sugar in his system. It had the effect of making him seem drunk. Funny, though, it was the only time he really said sweet things to me.

He was the first pessimist I had ever spent any time with. He expected bad things to happen to him and they did. I was an optimist and the worst case scenarios never crossed my mind and rarely did the worst happen to me. I was lucky, smart, and quick. He was unlucky, smart, and not so quick. I believe he began to resent my good fortune. I know it stung him that, as an underclassman, I sat a chair ahead of him in band.

Eventually, I began to distance myself from him. Being a novice at dating, I wasn't quite sure how to break up with someone because they were being an asshole. I had had only one boyfriend before him and I successfully broke up with him by saying I wanted to see other people (David). It was easy because that boyfriend was going off to college and wouldn't be around anymore. It made sense for us to break up. This time, I didn't know what to do.

So, I started seeing someone else behind his back. Awful, isn't it? Eventually, he found out. The guy I was seeing was in his band (ouch). I told him very bluntly that I wanted my class ring back and that I didn't want to go to homecoming with him. It was a hack and slash break-up.

Afterwards, he made a special trip to return some plate or other that I had left at his house after bringing cookies or something. He wrote me a poem. He brought me flowers. I turned him away. And then he said to me: "I used to think you were a beautiful person and now I know that you're not." And he left. And I believed him.

The remainder of my senior year, he actively tried to spoil my life. He spread rumors that I was a bitch and a whore. He started dating my "best" friend. He went to prom with her and actively made out with her in front of me. My dad made a video at my graduation of all of my friends giving me well-wishes. Here's what he said, "congratulations on graduating high school, which millions of people do every year."

By January of my senior year, I wanted out. The magic of high school was done. But the months dragged out. My parents took me to Florida after graduation and it is when I discovered I had insomnia, a symptom of depression. We shared a room and I cried and cried because I couldn't sleep. I thought it had to do with my dad's snoring, but probably not. We went to Disney World, the happiest place on earth and I was the mopey-est guest there, I'm sure.

I spent the summer working at a hardware store as a cashier, all the time dying to leave. But I was also dying to repair the damage I had done to David. I worked from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on most days. When I got home, I would spend the lonely midnight hours thinking, "If I do this, then it will be better." I even tried to call him a few times but lost my nerve and hung up.

College didn't start for me until late September, the last starting date in the state, I think. It couldn't come fast enough for me. I even considered switching to a school that started sooner, just so I could take my leave sooner. I would have done it, too, except a majority of people from my school were going there and I was done with them. I ended up at an urban university, not too far from home. It was completely different from anything I'd ever experienced before. It was perfect.

I spent the next 6 years or so periodically agonizing over David. I spent many hours kicking myself for what I had done. I was truly repentant. Eventually, I ran into him at a friend's house. He was intoxicated, I believe. He couldn't speak. He just kept smiling and shaking his head in disbelief. I didn't really want to know what was so unbelievable about my presence.

Let me just say, I believe that I was a depression case waiting to happen. Depression doesn't run in my family, it practically gallops...on both sides. I believe he was the catalyst for my depression, though. He was the first real relationship failure I had ever had. I hurt him through inexperience. He hurt me because he was in so much pain and so bitter.

Eventually, my agony diminished. I rarely thought about him. I wished him well and I let him go. I let my need to repair things go. I forgave him for the damage he had done. I tried to remember the good things. But, really, none of my reminiscences are pleasurable. All of them are attached to the shame I feel when I think about what we did to each other. So, I've tried to set him aside and hope for the best.

This all came crashing back on my yesterday, though. I had had a dream about him. He was silent and we were together. It felt weird because I can't forget I'm married to Doc, even in my dreams, and I knew it was not right for me to be around David. But I felt responsible for him, like he needed looking after. I think this is a vestigial feeling of me wanting to make things right with him.

I was off all day yesterday after this dream. I went back and forth. I felt blue. Eventually, I thought to myself, "I'm am a beautiful person, I have tried to be the best person I can be so that I never repeat the mistakes I made with David." And if he still harbors a grudge, then I say, living well is the best revenge. I am married, own a house, have two lovely and bright daughters. So there.

I did do a search for him on the internet. Do you know what I found out? He's working retail and struggling to survive. He has to spend $500 of his $700 a month income on medication for diabetes, thyroid condition, and ADHD. He has to buy food when it's on sale and time his purchases just right. He was featured in a nation-wide news story about prescription drug cards for people who weren't the elderly or children, yet still in need. This card is going to make a great difference in his life.

And then I realized there is no revenge here. I can't blame him for my suffering and I can't take responsibility for his. We were young and dumb. I don't know what would happen if I ever ran into him again. I plan on being nice and wishing him well. But I know that I will never have the chance to explain why I did what I did. I'm not sure I'd want to now.

I have learned from all of this that I have a right to be happy. I must know and protect the truth about myself. I can't depend on others for the truth about themselves or their motives. Sometimes, I must be OK with never repairing the damage and walking away from the burning bridges. Sometimes, I have to rebuild those bridges even if I don't want to.

Either way, it is important to be content in the decision. After all, my depression can be overcome with a decision. I was able to beat it back (for the most part) by deciding I wasn't going to believe the bad things my mind was saying to me. I had to actively decide not to worry at the idea that I could repair things with David. It was hard because it was so satisfying, the idea that I could make things all better by doing this or that. It gave me hope. It was a false hope, though. Eventually, I overcame the pain, but it took some discipline. I had to change my behaviors, and then my attitudes changed. I pretended like what happened didn't bother me, then, eventually, it didn't bother me anymore.

That is, until yesterday. I felt a wave of woe. But I fought it off. I did my job. I came home and played with my babies, talked to my friends and my mom. I hung out with Doc in the lodge and watched America's Next Top Model. At one point, I felt sorry for myself, but I brushed those thoughts away with a well-practiced wave of my hand. It does get easier to do. Maybe I had the dream because it's close to his birthday, which falls in November sometime. Maybe it's random. Maybe it's because there's a contestant on Survivor (above) who reminds me so much of David.

What can I do? Nothing. Move on. Look forward to the lodge meeting this weekend. And above all, do no harm.


Blogger Big Orange said...

I was wonnerin' who the Syssiphus with the giant dungball was... Mebbe there's a metaphor in that picture: the idea that quite a lot of times, where depression is concerned, you roll that big ol' shitball up a hill only to have it roll down 'pon ya.

That was a pretty heavy cake thar, dearie; I'm impressed (and pleased) that you put it on the 'net for all an' sundry (but mostly Lodge Members) to see. Knowing mo' 'bout David I realize how damaging *I* probably was, corn-sidderin' I was (and still am) one o' them nasty bastards, like strong French coffee: murky, dark and bitter.

I sometimes thunk back to a gal I knew in high school nicknamed C.F. We were very close-- rather clingy-in-a-desperate way, the sort of the-world-is-coming-to-an-end sort of way; 2 misfits cast adrift n' all that. She moved off to Maryland and I took up with other partners. She was apparently waiting for me out there, and was rath-ah crushed when I took up w/someone else. To this day, now and then, I can go to great depths of sorrow and sadness and wonder what's become of her. I oft wonder if I have any biz contacting her at all...??

It doesn't surprise me ay-tall that these things should strike you NOW-- this sort of Looking Back is exactly the thing one should do in the early Fall before the season of Christmastide comes. Ties in w/that theme of death and eventual renewal rath-ah well...

12:31 PM  

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