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    Anita and TeaK-

    You are so perceptive and so wise- I feel lucky to have found you.

    I went through a brief down-cycle over the past few days. It seems that even minor stress can invade every corner of my mind and reduce me to a cowering, trembling lump. I received a couple of voicemails about financial matters that I’m worried about, and not only could I not listen to them, I couldn’t even look at my phone or have it near me. I do the same thing with paper mail- I’ll often throw it away, unopened. I can’t bring myself to look at it, and then I can’t look at myself. I’m so ashamed of my cowardice.

    Anita, I like your pixel analogy because it describes how and why I feel so overwhelmed. So much feels wrong that I no longer have an idea of what “right” looks like. I’ve been staring at this broken screen forever and it’s all that I know.

    TeaK, I’ll try to describe what I consider to be my most fundamental flaw: I am not the man that I’m supposed to be. I am supposed to be assertive and confident. I’m supposed to be able to solve problems with grace and to be a reassuring presence. Instead, I’m afraid of opening the mail and I can’t even say No to someone. I feel like a scared kid, not a grown man, and I hate it.

    I fear that, even when I feel good, it’s only because I’m ignoring and burying everything that’s bad.


    What on earth am I going to do?


    Up to this point, you’ve guided me toward a simple yet pivotal realization about myself: I may not have some fundamental genetic flaw that makes me incapable of having appropriate feelings and managing my life. There may be a logical explanation for why I feel the way that I do. My first reaction to that was joy and relief.

    My second reaction is, What do I do now? My stress and fear are still here, as are all of my oddities and inhibitions. I used to blame those things on a broken brain. Lacking that excuse, it’s just me out here, a grown man who doesn’t know how to manage his feelings.

    It’s hard to pin down exactly what I’m searching for. I know that there’s more in my past that can explain my present. But explaining it and actually fixing it are two different things. I’m having an anxious morning today, and it has brought with it a strong dose of “nothing can fix you”.

    I should pause until this mood passes. I have to make a phone call this morning to cancel an appointment, and it’s a call I could have made two weeks ago. But I didn’t, and now we’re approaching short-notice territory and I’m afraid that they’ll be mad. I do this kind of thing all the time. I’d say that I feel an inappropriate level of anxiety because of it and a thousand other tiny things just like it.

    Off to work.


    For as long as I can remember, I have taken it for granted that I was simply a weird and unloveable kid, who became a weird and dysfunctional adult. I’ve gone so far as to suspect that I’m autistic, because although many of the symptoms aren’t there, how else could I explain my complete lack of an emotional bond with my parents? And what about my paralyzing fear of confrontation? Why is it hard for me to love and be loved? These issues are so fundamental to who I am that I assumed they were genetic. I assumed that I was born broken.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>You’re both telling me that I could be wrong about that. I don’t know if I can internalize that yet. We’re talking about the foundation of my self, decades of knowing that I was sick and less-than.

    I need to chew on this for a bit- I’ll write more soon.


    Thank you



    This forum has already helped me in a very significant way- I want you guys to know that. You listen and you ask questions, and the questions are opening doors that I didn’t realize I had locked and boarded up. I signed up with an online therapist yesterday. You inspired me to do that. I want more of this.

    Anita, thank you for complementing my writing. It is by far my most comfortable form of communication. I’ve had relationship troubles in the past because of this: when there are words I can’t say, I’ll simply write them. I don’t understand why, but some people have considered this to be less honest or less forthright than verbal communication. I just like having some time to think about what I’m saying, having the ability to refine it, and not having to listen to my own emotion-filled voice searching for words to say.

    In answer to both of you, my relationship with my parents is/was confusing. The word “confusing” doesn’t actually cover all that I feel and don’t feel about them, but it’s the best I can do. I’m going to try and describe them and our relationships, but I don’t know if I can make sense of it yet. I’m 42 years old and I still don’t understand them.

    My dad lived with us until I was 14. I don’t know what he did for a living- something for the local government. He wasn’t a spy or anything, I don’t think- he just never talked about anything of substance, including his job. He drank a lot of beer and fell asleep in his chair most nights. Mom would do mean things to him to make him stop storing while we watched TV.

    Dad and I lost touch pretty quickly after he moved away, after the divorce. Years later, about 7 years ago now, he got sick from his alcoholism and died. Neither of us tried to contact the other. I didn’t attend his funeral. I never hated him- I just didn’t know him. What I did know what that he looked like a bum to me. He was missing teeth, was small and unhealthy. Bald on top with a fringe of long hair. I guess I was ashamed of him.

    My mother is a religious fundamentalist. I don’t talk to her either, unless she reaches out first, which she does on occasion. I wouldn’t mind just disappearing from her life, but I think that it  would hurt her feelings and I don’t want to do that. But she wants me to share her religion and I don’t. It hurts to be seen as “sinful”. She’s a nice enough lady but she lives in a reality that is different from mine. I’m afraid to introduce her to people- she’s likely to ask them about their souls. Maybe I’m ashamed of her, too.

    Dad was present but absent. Mom is passive-aggressive and weird. The first time I saw them fight, it resulted in divorce. I don’t know what to make of any of this.

    I don’t know how to tell whether it is them or my perception of them that is broken. That’s the scary part. That’s where I start to question what’s real and to doubt myself.

    Thank you again, TeaK and Anita and anyone else taking the time to read this stuff.




    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Hi, TeaK-</p>
    It is so kind of you to ask- I’ll do my best to answer.

    One obstacle that I face in talking about these feelings is that I fear I’m not justified in having them. I haven’t been shot at, haven’t witnessed atrocities. I’m a veteran and I was taught about PTSD in that context- that it happens to heroes in combat. I haven’t “earned” that label, a voice inside me insists, and I feel guilty about my own feelings as a result.

    My parents divorced, loudly and hatefully, when I was a child. It’s something I’ve never faced down or fully processed. If my pain were stored in a container, you could say that my container has been 95% full since I was just a kid. It doesn’t take much for it to overflow and ruin everything.

    I’ve been subject to a seemingly endless series  of traumatic events over the past three years- natural disasters (yes, plural) have destroyed many of the things that were important to me. I lost a loved one. I lost my life savings, trying to start a business and make everything right again. I ended up in rehab- alcohol had helped, until it didn’t. It’s just been one failure after another, with the planet itself taking shots at me for good measure.

    I don’t have anywhere to put all of the pain that I feel. There’s no room. I can’t face these events. I can’t look at them. I can’t live in reality- I’m just some shattered thing wearing a Ben costume and acting my way through the day.


    This is the first time that I’ve tried to write about it. I’ll reiterate, with sincerity: thank you for asking.




    Hello, Sparky-

    I’d like you to know that I created an account here because of your post. You have described with great clarity the feelings that I myself am having. I feel a little less alone this morning, because of you, and I’m so grateful.

    I also suffer from PTSD. I’m just now learning to talk about it and to express how, like a shard of glass in my mind, it is ever-present and ever-painful. It’s an infection which has spread into every minute of every day. I am not myself anymore.

    Nothing has helped me so far. Maybe engaging with an online community will do me some good. I will follow your example and try.

    Thank you so much for posting.







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