I have so many pieces that don’t fit together.
I spoke to my counselor on Thursday. His thought? There’s definitely a dissociative aspect to the past life thing but that’s not a neat explanation for the whole thing. He pointed out similarities with other cases like mine in the annals of psychology that had no clear explanation. In this age of relative certainty we can be spoiled for knowledge, and take for granted how much we still don’t know about our lives, our minds, and our condition. I was right to try to make peace with it and I needed to be reminded.
Long story short I’m a classic trauma case. A fractured mirror reflecting parts of myself and those I’ve interacted with. I don’t fit the criteria for any given personality disorder but the personality traits I have tell a story of everyone who’s crossed my path in any significant way, and it’s telling. I’ve clearly had some extremely sick, toxic people get hold of me.
To that end, it may actually be beneficial to go back to the old battlefields after all. Inasmuch as all of this is tied up in a knot of everything that’s happened to me in the last 33 years, maybe I can finally fit another piece of that mirror back together. I saw myself in Jack, strung together in some weird way with some inaccessible part of who I am now. Closure is closure even if it’s done vicariously. Maybe it’ll finally come to me what I’m really burying when I finally say my goodbyes to that unlucky Tommy whose life I saw flashing before my eyes.
I don’t know if I’ve lived before. I’ll never be sure of that. But I need to stop trashing myself for working through it this way. I’ve had a lot of bad breaks and it won’t be easy piecing it all together.
You want to know what’s going on?
I want to be seriously ill because the alternative is being something I don’t want to be. That’s all there is.
The last thing I want to be is an unanchored person. Someone who understands the true desolation of total freedom. A loopy “special snowflake” who’s too weird to survive. That’s what I fear.
That’s why I want my constant religious conversions, odd ideations, and aberrant identifications to be pathological because if they’re not, then I have to integrate them. And I already tried that. People treated me with fear and suspicion. Even if I wasn’t insane, people surely believed I was! After a while it’s a strong disincentive to continue with something when people are actively spreading rumors about your mental health behind your back.
The only alternative would be to suppress these things and put on a public face and basically go back to the very worst of my pre-transition life. But I don’t want that. I hate hiding behind something false. I just want to be real, open, and authentic with no secrets. I’m sick of having to choose between being miserable for the sake of mitigating fear and rejection, or being myself and driving people away.
More and more I’ve been thinking, there has to be an illness there. This has to be wrong. I’m starting to hope the people talking about me behind my back are right. After all, mentally healthy people don’t get shunned for being “crazy,” do they? If I’m crazy then that’s a great relief of responsibility. If my weirdness is just madness, it can be fixed.
So that’s what I want. I want to be cured of these things that drive people away from me. These things that get people talking about how I supposedly have schizophrenia or a personality disorder (though I haven’t been diagnosed with either of these things… yet). Clearly the big picture isn’t just the state of my mind but how the state of my mind has impaired my ability to be accepted by peers. And to that end I yield to social pressure. I’m going to keep trying to get diagnosed with something that can be isolated, identified, and treated. I’ve been trying for years. I’m frustrated. I just want to be treated like something other than a biohazard.
I’ve had enough.
I’m going to do my damnedest to try to find a pathological explanation for all of this. You don’t simply undergo the kinds of personality/perceptual shifts I’ve undergone in the last decade unless you either are endowed with some extraordinary gift or are seriously unwell.
Considering the misery that everything since 2012 has brought me, I would much rather believe that there is something seriously wrong with me. I wish they’d told me I was psychotic because that’s at least treatable. But that’s been ruled out. I’m never fortunate enough to get an easy answer.
I want this to be treatable. I wish I’d written off these memories as just some artifact of stress instead of actively trying to disprove them to myself. Really, it would be OK with me if I found out that this whole mess was caused by Geschwind syndrome and could be managed with anticonvulsants. I would rather be well, but I’d rather be sick than for all of this fantastical garbage to be true.
In a whirlwind change of fortunes, I’ve been made a member of the marketing team in a small publishing company.
I have published a short story with this company before so I know they’re legit. However I also know they’re small and I can’t expect to see much money right away.
But being on the marketing team means I have some say in how well the company does. I’m having to think realistically about the responsibility I shoulder: much of the company’s growth depends on me.
More importantly, this is probably the most prestigious job I’ve held in about ten years. I’ve had mostly dead-end jobs throughout most of the decade, doing menial tasks like delivering pizza or cleaning toilets. I had always assumed that I could never break out of that because of my lack of experience but now, I have the opportunity to gain valuable experience and get my foot in the door in the publishing industry. If you think about it, this is about the best “day job” a writer could break into.
I have to say this is a twist I didn’t see coming. It came to my attention via Twitter less than a week ago, I contacted the owner, we chatted, he gave me a quick task to see what I was up to, and I made the grade.
Well then… it’s time to get serious. I’ve got my first assignments and I’ve just received my company e-mail address and some resources I’ll need, so after Thanksgiving I’ve got my work cut out for me.
I was watching this documentary about the last day of WWI and I came across the story of the last soldier to die in the war.
Pte. George Edwin Ellison of Leeds served in the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He died on patrol at the outskirts of Mons on 11 November 1918. His life is largely a mystery. He was born in 1878. Served in the army before WWI but had left the army by 1912. Went into a working class civilian job. Recalled into the army in his late 30s at the outbreak of war. Served at Mons and Ypres. Died an hour and a half before the Armistice. He’s buried at St. Symphorien Military Cemetery. His Wikipedia article cites Michael Palin who was also the presenter in this documentary.
The most glaring difference between us is that Pte. Ellison survived four years at the front. I lasted five months. But we were both experienced soldiers recalled into the army, laborers, close to the same age, fought at Ypres and Armentieres (albeit at different times), and didn’t die in a major action but as one of those random casualties picked off on patrol (in my case I suspect I was laying wire but it’s the same principle). I suppose it’s sobering to think that even if I hadn’t been killed that night, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have made it home. Every battle, every night laying wire, every day I wasn’t resting behind lines raised the stakes just a little. I can’t say my luck was any worse than his in the grand scheme of things and in some ways, perhaps mine was a little better in that I didn’t have to see as much of the war as he did.
I wonder if he’s surfaced anywhere, remembers who he was, or has any recollection at all? Or is he just living an ordinary life with no memory and no worries? Some of us have that baggage stick to us longer than others. Isn’t that the way though? I’ve healed a lot since that first memory broke but I’m still haunted by it. I think I always will be. And I’ll always be haunted by the men who lived lives just like mine and fared no better.
For the last several months, being unable to work and thankfully getting support from family while I try to get disability sorted (I finally got my complex PTSD recognized but that’s only the first step in a long slog), I’ve been trying to make some good faith gesture to show my father I’m not being lazy.
I’ve been treating this book like an overtime job. I haven’t had a weekend off in many months. I’ve spent many long nights trying to get every detail of this book as close to perfection as I could.
Now I’m in the home stretch. I’m waiting for some shipping supplies I ordered to arrive, and making small last-minute changes. But I promised myself that I wouldn’t weave Penelope’s Web here. The manuscript has no pressing issues that I can think of. I could continue refining it indefinitely (I’m constantly improving) but there comes a point where you have to trust that you’ve said all you need to say and put the project to bed. Once those shipping supplies arrive, I’m going to send it off to a major SF publisher I’ve found that still has open sumissions thankfully. Soon I’ll see if I can turn everything that’s happened to me to this point into art that others will enjoy.
I regret that I’m not a musician or a visual artist. I’ve tried my hand at both and I’m mediocre at one and a complete amateur at the other. I envy the instant gratification musicians and visual artists are able to provide. I’m a writer, and part of the reason building any sort of recognition as a writer is difficult is because people have to want to spend 5-18 hours actually processing your work. But those that have bothered to read it tell me it’s exquisite. I have a knack for writing from life experiences, and a good head for complex plots that work neatly and don’t confuse the reader. Trying to compare my present style to anyone is difficult, so it’s distinctive.
Still, I harbor many doubts. My lack of success so far in getting the readership I’d like to see or the attention of literary critics has been immensely frustrating and discouraging. I only write because it’s the only halfway useful skill I have. I’ve seen myself for most of my adult life as an earnest loser. I don’t see myself as a person who could ever have a meaningful or fulfilling life doing something I love for a living because for most of my life, earning a buck meant subjecting myself to meaningless jobs that could easily be replaced by robots in the next 20 years. And yet, I have a small cult following who actually admires what I do. I’ve met a few people who owned my books but didn’t know I was the author. And I have people who believe in me enough to help me in whatever modest way they can. And I have people willing to support me while I cope with my problems. Maybe I can turn my luck around before my support system collapses.
When I mail off this book, I hope that the editors who read it won’t be disappointed. I’ve worked so hard. I need a break. I need it so bad.