“His manliness also requires that he refuse to go to a doctor or a hospital unless it can be demonstrated to him that he has, in fact, been clinically dead for six months. ‘No sense going to the hospital, honey, I don’t seem to be in a coma’. Therefore, he must learn to ignore pain. ‘It doesn’t really hurt. Bleeding from six holes in the head doesn’t really hurt. Just gimme the remote, and get me a beer, and get the fuck outta here’. […] The poor fuck. The poor stupid fuck.”– George Carlin
Remember that kid in the back of class that got frequent nosebleeds? Yeah, that was me. I got them so often, that I was, and am, very casual about it. One instance sticks in my brain that an adult (nurse? Teacher? Don’t remember) saw it and was extremely serious, like she had never seen blood outside of a human. Relating the story to my parents (who were equally casual about the sudden river of blood that night – usually, the right nostril, oddly enough), my dad said “Any time there’s blood, it’s an emergency”. In the above quote from “When Will Jesus Bring the Porkchops?”, Carlin attributes this passing down of forced manliness (now called Toxic Masculinity© by the yout’s) to being something sons learn from their dads. My dad is, admittedly, not like most. He’s pretty extraordinary and makes it his business to embarrass anyone he happens to be out in public with. Okay, in that way he’s like most. But has never passed down the “Don’t admit to pain” philosophy like is often seen in men. He is very much of the school of thought that if something hurts, it’s okay to say it hurts, and sit down and cry if you need to. So, the question is; where did I get the idea that I cannot show pain?
TL;DR: I still don’t know.
But I can tell you what I figured out in talking to myself the other day – after all, somebody has to talk to me. Might as well be an expert. This past Wednesday, I hurt my back at work. Moving a box in a way I shouldn’t, I felt a POPand I got light-headed, saw white, and had to sit down – ironically(?) on the box I had just moved. Apparently, I turned grey, as pale was already taken. At the clinic, the doctor said I likely pulled a tendon in my lower back, just above the ass (my words). I finished work, saw Joker, and carried on with the end of the day as best I could. My boss said I could text her if I couldn’t come into work if the pain was too bad.
Ahhh, I’ll be in. No worries.
At 6am the next morning, I couldn’t bend over to change into my uniform which I had strategically placed on the bathroom floor. And riding the bus and going to work naked are frowned upon, so I stayed home and went back to bed. Trying to get ready a couple hours later, Emily yelled at me for trying to go to work again and just stay home and to not leave after she left for work. I don’t know how she knew that’s what I was planning on doing. I’ve never had a job I really loved doing; the people are great, but I’m rarely stimulated at a job, but I still feel tremendous guilt about doing less than I think I ought. The last time I took a day off that wasn’t vacation, I was vomiting and couldn’t get out of bed. This was a stiff back! And sharp intakes of air and a buckling of the knees when the pain struck at random.
Almost a week later, still a bit stiff, the pain is mostly gone, and I’m still annoyed when anybody asks me how I am.
I’m fine! Let me just work! Just because I can’t bend normally doesn’t mean I’m injured!
In the last few years, and particularly in therapy, I realized that I’ve always done this. Ever since I was a kid, I had somehow come up with the idea that if I was having a hard time, I couldn’t let it show, because I couldn’t let it affect other people. In five years of high school, which I haaaaaated, I did not miss one day. Even if sometimes I’d wake up at 5 in the morning just to puke. Had to go in! Couldn’t be sick! I had to be granite; a solid bedrock, a foundation upon which anybody could build their troubled homes. Bring whatever you got, this shit is straight igneous! Just look at that compression strength! Giorgio Vasari described me in the 16thcentury: my “hardness and solidity have nothing to fear from fire or sword, and time itself, that drives everything to ruin, not only has not destroyed them but has not even altered their colour.” Depression since ten? Pfft, whatever. Suicidal thoughts beginning two years later? That’s life! Family deterioration? What family! Parents divorce? I gotta be strong for them – they can’t be bothered with me, because I’m fine!
And it continues. Girlfriend’s having troubles? I need to be her rock! You gotta be 100% all. The. Time. You’re granite, remember? Constant. You have to be on point, always. Don’t let up, don’t unwind. You don’t need to! Does a mountain ever let up? Does it ever back down?
No! Never! You’re big, cold, and inscrutable.
But it does get washed away by the ocean. It does weather into dust from stinging winds.
It fades away.
That’s how I thought I’d go most recently. Pull out of everything, break off relationships, no more comedy, no more music, sell the gear, move home. No grandiose statements, no jockeying for attention on social media. Closed door. Note: “Don’t open. Just call 911.”
It’s such a stupid, strange impulse. And I’m still no clearer on its origin. Only a few years ago did I start taking painkillers for a headache, or meds for a cold. I couldn’t rely on anything outside of myself! But did you know this shit works?! Goddamn! Pretty well, I must say. There might really be a market for this… what did you call it? Ad…vil? Apparently, it even works on granite.
But I’m not granite. I’m a human.
And a fairly squishy one, at that.
Oddly, it might have helped me in a way. Staying away from drugs and alcohol was probably the right call, all things considered.
I still get angry when I’m not at 100%, because I want to always be operating at that, and I don’t unwind like a lot of people do. Writing, recording, producing, creating are how I feel comfortable. They’re how I fit my weird puzzle piece into the universe. Man colds, to me, are not a thing. I get pissy because my stupid body didn’t adequately defend itself, and now I can’t do everything at 100%. Nose bleeds are less frequent, and those teeny-tiny OB tampons are a god-send. Just stuff one in, and it leaves both my hands free! When I bailed off my bike earlier this year, I tore up my elbow pretty bad – first scars, woo! I was also off my meds, which my doctor would only find out about a month later. They made me throw up on an empty stomach, which took a while to figure out. I went out on the bike ride specifically because I had been feeling so shitty, and I thought ‘Hey, exercise!’ but did not think ‘Hey, you’ve been off your meds for three months, you big, dumb idiot!’ I ended up losing all of May, I repeat – all of it – to depression.
Just FYI, I am back on my meds; 10mg of escitalopram and 5mg of Trintellix, and doing pretty well.
And I’m also beginning to learn to accept that sometimes, you have to say it hurts, sit down, and cry. Very slowly.
Like, slow as balls.
Another tangentially-related thing I’m learning, is that it’s only ever too late when you’re dead, and not before. For anything. I just watched Lady Bird, and it was a really great movie. Made me kinda wistful for those teenage years in which I had no wild oats to sew. It never felt like growing pains, just… pain. But I feel like I’m finally, finally hitting some kind of stride and I can be on a path that I like, and that is of my own construction. And part of making that path is putting down your… path-maker? Sitting, having some water, and looking at the progress you’ve made, and acknowledging that, yes, you’re a little sore.
Hey, that was pretty good. When I brought up Lady Bird, I had no idea how I was going to tie into the bigger picture. I just liked the movie. Oh, El Camino was pretty good too. And for the all hullabaloo, I quite liked Joker.
Just watch a nice movie, listen to some music, write something, have a little snack, write a rambling essay and hope you get a Robaxacet endorsement.
Be kinder, be smarter, be funnier.
“Push and believe!”
-Steven Brody Stevens
-Steven Brody Stevens
PS I wrote this back in October