By Akash Chat
Coming out alive and now benefiting others
My older brother believed in me, and my mother smothered me (usually in a loving way), but others could see that I was a little “off.” My father was a rage-aholic. I later realized that he loved me in his way and maybe his anger towards me was due to fear that I would suffer because of my awkwardness. I don’t know if it was his violent outbursts or just a fear of living that made me sink further into my inner fantasy world. My mom says I would tolerate other kids for a while and then go hide. In front of any authority figure, I would freeze in fright. I couldn’t get a haircut because I would tremble at the sight of the barber, afraid to ask for his services.
Because I was so helpless, my mom and brother would guess my needs and take care of me. I grew accustomed to this treatment and had even less of a desire to create normal relationships or assert myself. I was afraid to sleep because of the terrifying dreams that haunted me nightly.
My mom went to college, my brother got involved with girls, and I hit puberty. Confused by my newly discovered sexual impulses and the abandonment by my caretakers, my fantasies took a darker turn, and I turned to voyeurism. I also stared off into space for hours while my peers played, studied, and dated.
I won a full scholarship to college, where I blossomed into an alcoholic. I had run-ins with the police, hospitals, and mental institutions, either after cutting my wrists, breaking and entering, or committing arson.
Hard drugs took me to sordid places, and I caught many diseases from prostitutes, but when I was selling drugs, I felt like a man for the first time. People were coming to me and I had what they wanted. My brother died with a needle in his hand, bought by the money I had made selling drugs to others. I, myself, was beaten unconscious and left for dead on the street. Despite losing my sense of smell permanently, I recovered most of my brain function, and then I picked up a book on meditation.
I started attending spiritual and addiction recovery groups, where I was driven by terror, contempt, and infatuation towards the senior members. As a kid, I had a different personality for each family member. I still reverted to a child-like state in front of women and I froze up in front of male authority figures. I had tried therapy but it brought out a rage that I couldn’t contain. Some members of my religious community liked my dedication and wanted me to become a formally ordained member, while others were afraid I’d kill myself at any moment. Amid the chaos around my ordination, relationships shattered and before attacking myself or anyone else, I went to a trauma program at a mental institution.
I wrote down everything I could remember. Until then, I was juggling my memories and couldn’t see the whole picture at once. The doctors asked me if I ever played with other kids growing up, or if I ever dated anyone, and I cried when I realized I was different. I later learned that many people are different in some way, and each person has a unique beauty too.
I started seeing that in addition to all my pain, I was also loved more than I had realized. I learned to appreciate moments of connection with others, and to tolerate the persistent discomfort. People asked me to mentor them, which made me feel special, but after a while I realized that I was putting myself above others instead of making a real connection. I still mentor others, including prisoners, but I try not to take myself too seriously. When I do, someone usually knocks me down and reminds me to chuckle at myself.
I have some happiness today because I’m determined to tolerate the pain of being with others, for the modest benefits that come from it. It’s hard for me to get any help when I’m hurting, because I don’t relate well to people, even when we share the same experiences. But I pick up the phone, pray, attend groups, write, meditate, read, walk, and listen to music, and somehow the support seeps in, even though none of the above are as satisfying as I would like.
I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, schizoid personality disorder, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, sexual disorder N.O.S., impulse control disorder, and chemical dependency; with “rule out” diagnoses for mood disorder N.O.S., dependent personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. I get overwhelmed easily and my mind turns to dark places. I’m also determined, caring, resourceful, and funny. I work as a research scientist. I write and perform skits and songs for kids and adults, which are amusing and educational. I make a difference.