Saturday, July 14, 2012

What I learned on my birthday this year

Chris Britt & Farnsworth on Lake Willoughby, VT July 2012
Chris Britt & Farnsworth on Lake Willoughby, VT July 2012
A lot has happened to me in the past five or six years. I acquired notoriety, success, confidence, and more money than a twenty-something year-old should have at such a young age. I was always mature for my age, or so I was told. But as quickly as those things I acquired appeared, they all disappeared; some with dire consequences.

I realized a few days ago, my birthday is in the first week of July for those that are wondering, that I had become hardened, bitter, and most of all very very angry. I had an anger brewing inside of me for years that occasionally erupted like a volcano. I was raised in a family where we did not show our emotions. From a young age I always pushed my emotions deep down inside and forgot about them. This proved tragic in my mid-twenties. The girls I dated treated me poorly. I had an affinity for finding girls or women that were manipulative. They would cheat on me and somehow make me feel it was my fault. They would lie to me and take advantage of my loyalty and good nature. I never cheated. I never strayed. Love was everything to me. I was loyal to the end...usually until they left me.

That process repeated itself time and time again. All of that anger surrounded my heart and hardened my soul. I met someone knew five years ago. We were acquaintances at first and then friends. Timing was never right as we were both seeing other people. Then one day, out of nowhere, we both pulled up to the same red light in Boston. I was in my oblivious "Boston" driving mode where you do not ever make eye contact with any other driver as that is a sign of weakness. I heard a horn honking repeatedly and a "Hey!!" yelling from the car besides me. I figured I must have cut someone off in traffic or some other moronic Bostonian driving thing. The honking continued until I looked over and much to my surprise, it was her. I smiled, waived, and said "Hello!"... The light turned green and we both smiled and parted our separate ways.

I texted her later that night or the next. At this time I was fairly depressed. I had just broken up with my current girlfriend and my heart was broken. Let me rephrase, she broke up with me...like the others. I took some time off of work and stayed home for two weeks on my couch watching old movies on television and keeping myself in a euphoric Vicodin coma. I quickly discovered that if I chose not to eat, the euphoria and effects from the Vicodin lasted longer. For almost a month I did not emerge from my condo. I found it hard to sleep in my bed...the bed that my former girlfriend and I shared. It still smelled like her. Instead, I stayed on the couch. I cried a lot. My day consisted of waking up, taking some Vicodin and then showering. I showered a lot. It relieved anxiety and since my bathroom was soundproof, none of my neighbors could hear my cry no matter how loud I was. I drank lots of water during this time and stopped drinking soda, coffee, and tea. I lost a lot of weight. I was about 20 pounds overweight anyway so I had the weight to loose.

Somewhere in to the third or fourth week I resumed texting with the girl from the traffic light. She must have known I wasn't in a good place, though we never discussed it. I had fasted for two weeks at a time before so it was not unusual for me. She insisted on taking me out to dinner for sushi because as she put it, sushi is a "clean" food. I agreed after some hesitation and she picked me up from my condo. I'll never forget her smile. She made me feel better. We talked and she introduced me to sushi. Time stood still and we practically closed the placed. It was not the first time we had been out together, but it was the first time we were out together and both single and enjoyed our time together. She drove me home and as we pulled in front of my condo building we talked for a few moments. It's that awkward "first date" conversation...or was it even a first date? I'm the chivalrous type and am never forward with women. As we said our goodbyes and I decided to exit the car, I leaned over to give her a hug and instead she extended her right hand. She thanked me for the time (though she had paid for dinner, which was a first for me and allow me to pay) and shook my hand as if we had concluded a business meeting. I smiled, shook her hand, and closed the door. I chuckled to myself and scratched my head as she drove away down the street. I didn't know what had just happened but I knew I was smiling for the first time in a month and felt good. That was one of the few times where I truly believe she had saved me.

I feel I am a bit off track here but the history was necessarily I think. Time passed and we began dating exclusively. A year went by. It was clear that she had fallen for me...quickly and hard. That always happens to me. Girls I date fall for me quickly and hard...usually within months. The same happened with her. It took me a year to reciprocate and say "I love you" even though she had said it a month before. I didn't realize how much it hurt her. I regret that. Because of all the anger and hurt that I had bottled up deep inside me from all the other women in my life before her, I guarded my heart and soul. No one was getting in. It cursed me. She wrote me a letter and an excerpt from some country song lyrics. It made me cry. I realized I had hurt her...and that I did indeed having feelings for her. Strong feelings. Love.

Then followed a series of traumatic and horrible events in my life that caused me and her much pain and embarrassment. Most of it was out of my control. The things I was alleged to have done and were charged with were untrue. In fact, the allegations were well before she and I had known each other and began dating. It stemmed from a series of poor business decisions and working with unscrupulous clients who lied to cover up their own fraud. She helped me realize that there were more important things in life than money, a huge waterfront office downtown, a 2005 Aston Martin Vanquish, Range Rover, BMW 7 Series, Dolce & Gabana suits, Prada shoes, a 12,500 square foot estate for a home, and fractional ownership of a G550 (bonus kudos to you if you figure out what I am referring to and what one of those costs)... She taught me love and happiness...things I had trouble grasping and understanding; let alone feeling. I struggled with that and loosing those things and with loosing the respect of my friends, family, employees, clients, and the local community that I served.

Titans and giants, including Ephialtes on the left, in Gustave Doré's illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy.
Titans & Giants - Dante's Divine Comedy.
She loved me for me, not like the others that may have loved me for my things I had or what I could provide. It was true love for once, plain and simple. I should be a better man for it, but instead I am damaged goods. I suffered a major identity crisis and was very angry.  I blamed others. I became blinded by anger. I yelled at everyone. Took shots at people that didn't deserve it. I became impatient, upset, anxious, depressed, and quick to anger. I would explode at a moments notice. My mood swings were horrible. She felt she had to walk on eggshells and watched her words very careful to avoid upsetting me or setting me off. She was scared to speak sometimes. I would never touch her in anger but I would be angry or upset and yell. She would panic, bringing up painful childhood memories. She would cry. I would apologize when I calmed down... but it felt like the waves of anxiety and depression kept coming and I could not stop them. It felt like I was being attacked on all sides from people that were supposed to be friends, from people that were supposed to be loyal clients, and from people that I thought were family. My world was turning upside down and I was falling apart. I was drowning and gasping for air...being sucked down a vortex that I couldn't fight. Everyone turned on me, except her. She endured quite a bit, though it wasn't her fault. I often blamed her for her unhappiness. I blamed others for my unhappiness. I was blind to see that maybe I was the problem. I didn't yet realize that my actions years before had consequences that were just beginning to surface and that the road ahead was a slow descent into the ninth circle of hell.

This all hit me like a ton of bricks this July. I was the reason I was unhappy. I allowed outside influences to hurt and change me. I had to find a way to release this anger and hatred that was buried deep within me from years of hurt, depression, and anger. I was afraid and scared that I had done too much damage to myself, to her, and to our relationship. I had been depressed, majorly, for the past two years because of the aforementioned fallout and events. I tried every medication under the sun for depression. Nothing worked. I tried psychiatry and therapy. It helped, but only scratched the surface. But around 1PM on a sunny afternoon on July in a remote cabin in Vermont by the lake, it all made sense. I was the problem. I was to blame. I needed to take responsibility. She was not the one making me unhappy. I was. I wasn't making her happy because of my depression. I blamed others for my life falling apart. I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my actions or inaction. It is no one's fault but my own. Yes, there were some instances that were out of my control but I could have handled them better. I could have changed the outcome. I could have stopped wallowing in this self-pity where I had given up on myself, my work, and others. I was in control of my life, my destiny, and my future. No one else was to blame.

 I shared this and my thoughts/realizations above when she came back with our dog from a walk. She listened intently, almost as if in disbelief. She didn't say much but said she was glad I realized these things and the hurriedly said she had to take the dog for a walk... I was confused because they had just come from a walk but I let it go and prepared lunch. She was there to support and love me...and I ignored that. I took it for granted. I took a lot of things for granted. I realized it was easy for me to blame others for my problems but in reality, I just had to look in the mirror. I can't rely on others or her to fix it and make it better. I had to help myself or I knew I would never recover from this. She returned thirty or sixty minutes later in a good mood and apologized. When I inquired why she was apologizing, she said that she needed to take a walk because she was in shock. She was in disbelief. She said it was a good thing, but never expected I would realize that I needed to take responsibility for my life and my actions and was truly happy for me because she said she was not sure how much longer she could endure the way things were going and my negativity. She hugged me and thanked me and said we would get through this.

 The prior month I spent two weeks in bed, depressed. What did that do? Nothing. It was time for me to do something and change the direction I was going and grab hold of my life. She told me I wasn't the same person the last two years and she begged me to wake up. She wanted her best friend back. She said I was saying and doing things that weren't me and things that I would have never done years before. Depression and these medications had changed me. I allowed that to happen. I am to blame for hurting her and hurting our relationship and my life. I allowed myself to stop caring. I didn't care about anything anymore, let alone myself. I loved her and cared for her, but I often wonder if I did care for her as I did things to seriously jeopardize our relationship and hurt her that I normally would not have ever done. I'm not blaming depression wholly for that, but believe it was part of why I stopped caring about things that I was once passionate about. I realized I needed to fix this and regain control of my life. She said the Chris she knew and loved was still in there...and she was right. I had been sticking my head in the sand and ignoring everything going on around me for the past two years and expecting things to change without doing anything. I was an idiot clouded by depression. I was mean to her, my family, and others. My spirit broke and I fear I broke her spirit, warmth, and happiness. I simply could not handle the idea that I broke her spirit or happiness. She was a beacon of light and the happiest person I have ever met...and being responsible for breaking her or ruining that crushed me. I isolated myself from her, everything, and everyone that cared for me. My friends (both new and old) no longer speak to me. My family did not even call on my birthday. I had succeeded. I successfully isolated myself from everyone. I was alone and was pushing her farther and farther away from me. I was mean, angry, and having horrible mood swings.  I can't believe I was being so selfish. My self-fulfilling prophecy was coming true...I am so foolish.  I am deeply sorry for that. That ends here and now. I realized the error of my ways and how to take charge and fix it going forward. Dr. Keith Ablow, my former psychiatrist said something very powerful a few months prior but it didn't sink in until that morning: 
Chris, you are a very smart and brilliant guy. There is nothing you cannot do. We need to find something to motivate you in the right direction. Some awful things have happened to you, but you have survived and are hopefully wiser for it. But you have to understand people's perception of you now. You used to be able to operate in the 'gray' successfully with no ramifications. Now, you simply can't do that or bend the rules as you may find yourself subject to the same troubles time and time again. You will always be under scrutiny now: Black or white...your choice; no gray my friend. That's just how it is...
I may still continue to struggle along the way but I am waking up and changing and fixing my life while picking up the pieces. I am human after all, right? I owe that to her and I owe that to myself. I know without her, my life would be a lot less meaningful. I'll write more about that and her later. She may never know how I truly feel for her, even though I have tried time and time again to tell her...but I fumble with the words and emotions. I am "misunderstood" by her family, at least that's what her father said. I hope they see how truly and deeply I care for her some day. I would give anything for her and would pay the ultimate price and lay down my life for her if the opportunity arose. There is nothing I would not do for her to keep her safe, happy, and loved. That is what I also realized on that day in July. I may still struggle with relationships, given what I have been through in the past, but I know that she always stuck by me through the darkest hours of my life. I made two promises to her mother: one was to do the same and do my best to always do right by her. The other I won't share now. Those that know me know that I never break a promise nor make a promise that I know I cannot keep. I am a work in progress and change will not be overnight. I am trying to be realistic but I have made progress thus far that she would be proud of and that my family would be proud of...but I feel I have pushed her away. More to follow....

2 comments:

  1. I tried calling you and couldn't get through. Instead I sent you an email wishing you "a Happy Birthday". It was a tough day for me not to see or talk to my beloved Son. I love you with all my heart but I guess it isn't enough. I have tried to be loving and understanding but the hurt keeps happening. I don't know what to do anymore.

    Love, Mom

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  2. This brought me back to my own feelings of self-hatred for my behavior and how angry I was at everyone for so long...this especially:

    "I had succeeded. I successfully isolated myself from everyone."

    Oh, yes. That is exactly what we do - cut everyone else out before we allow one more person to hurt us. I still have a lot of shame and guilt over it. I attempted one relationship in the midst of it - against my better judgment - and it went down badly. I acted terribly. By no means am I in the clear, but is anyone ever? I just do the best that I can: today.

    Thanks for stopping by DFTL, I look forward to reading more of your blog. Bri

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