“I hopelessly, helplessly, wonder why,
Everything had changed, around me…” – Train (Hopeless)
I have written before I that I have lived in fear my entire life.
This has manifested itself in many ways but there have been a few notable (and ridiculous) milestones of fear that I recall from childhood.
Fear Phase One – Snakes under my bed.
I (for reasons unknown) had a fear that when I slept, snakes would come out from under my bed (because this is where snakes live…duh🙄) and bite my feet if they stuck out from under the blanket.
So, each night I would tuck the bottom foot or so of my Star Wars themed blanket under my feet. This created a snake-proof seal that would (obviously) provide protection from any potential nighttime snake attack.
This fear was irrational. I didn’t live in Western Australia (where this situation is still unlikely). I lived in a townhouse in Western Canada. Notably, I never discussed my fear with anyone.
Fear Phase Two – Hell
I spent time growing up in Edmonton, Alberta. During the second and third grade I lived in a townhouse complex in Millwoods. Across the small field in the middle of our complex lived a brother and sister who were notoriously known to be “Catholic”. They may have well been wizards the way other kids spoke about them – they somehow were different than us, shrouded in esoteric mystery. They didn’t interact with most of the other kids that I recall but they did with me several times.
One time they asked if I believed in God. I wasn’t sure (I didn’t know anything about “God”) but they made sure I was aware that my lack of faith had condemned me to eternal damnation in hell where my soul would burn for all eternity.
This was terrifying. I cried my eyes out and ran home. One of my parents actually walked over to their house and told the parents of the Catholic kids to ask them not to speak to me anymore. They never did.
In retrospect I’m surprised my parents even did anything. I’m surprised they even cared. I would have never told them except they had seen me cry. They certainly didn’t say anything to help with my fear. No words of comfort except, “That isn’t true.”
My very real fear of (maybe not real) hell and my soul burning eternally was enough to keep me wide-awake for many nights.
Fear Phase Three – Death
I can’t recall how this one started although I suspect it’s archetypal enough for the human race to defy any effective root-cause analysis.
I do remember having repetitive dreams of falling from great heights and waking up in terror just before I hit the ground.
In any case, many nights of sleep lost worrying about dying. Like the fear of under-the-bed-snakes, I never mentioned this to anyone.
There was nobody to tell. Nobody to comfort me.
Fear Phase Four – Nuclear War
I wasn’t alive for the Cuban Missile Crisis but the Cold War was alive and well during my childhood.
We heard about ICBM’s and mushroom clouds, presidential briefcases with codes, silos with two sets of keys…this was a nightmare for any kid with an imagination. Movies began to appear on this theme. Before War Games came a movie called The Day After that aired on television.
There was much fanfare about this movie’s terrifying realism. I wanted to see it desperately.
I knew the day and time it was scheduled to air. This was back in day that you needed to consult a printed “TV schedule” applicable to your area and cable provider and actually plan to be around the TV at the correct time.
I knew my Mom was going to watch it. I wasn’t allowed to. I was banished to my room for two hours.
I came downstairs for some reason and saw a mushroom cloud and subsequent shockwave vaporizing people. My Mom urgently told me to leave the room.
Now this made things so much worse. My Mom had clearly forgotten the power of a child’s imagination. Her urgent instruction for me to leave the room only made it that much clearer to me that my terror was justified.
Even this fictional depiction was evidently too much for me to see for even a brief moment.
This fear was justified. I should be scared.
Apparently, the world was on the verge of this being reality.
I lost a lot of sleep.
Fear Phase Five (ongoing) – Monsters and Unnamed Evil Spirits
This one had kind of existed my whole life. Started off as fear of the monster under the bed (lives harmoniously with snakes) or the monster in my closet.
Movies like The Howling, The Exorcist and Poltergeist (and books like The Amityville Horror) really messed me up.
The fear manifested itself mostly with not being comfortable closing my eyes (that’s when evil shit gets you).
I’d be in the shower and the thought would suddenly cross my mind that I must open my eyes to verify nothing malevolent had just appeared.
Perhaps weirdly, this fear kind of persisted into my early teens. Again, totally irrational but there it was.
But one day this fear was no more.
I think I was about thirteen when I began to really experience physical fatigue and also the cynicism and apathy that only an unhappy life (consisting of being ignored and crawling out of my own skin) creates.
One day I was laying in bed. After closing my eyes, the thought crossed my mind that I should open them to make sure I wasn’t being visited by a monster or poltergeist.
Instead of looking, the simple thought occurred to me. Something akin to ‘Ahh fuck it. I don’t care if I die. Any monster who bothers to infiltrate my house has done the work and deserves to kill me.’
Apathy and hopelessness made me no longer fear monsters.
I just didn’t care anymore.
So, where am I even going with this?
I have come to know just how prevalent a coping device that apathy has become for me.
In fact, I believe it saved my life.
Apathy and nothing-left-to lose makes for a convincing stand-in for strength and courage.
This allowed me to front like the “man” I felt I needed to be to fit in…and survive.
I was never strong. I was never fearless.
So, fast forward to January 2019. I begin to experience severe Gender Dysphoria. January 2020, I came out to my wonderful girlfriend.
Both of these events gave way to crippling sadness and grief, the likes of which I had never felt before.
I can’t count how many times I have wanted to end my own life.
I can honestly say that my transition (and a bunch of therapy) has mitigated my Gender Dysphoria to near-manageable levels. I no longer have my mirrors covered with Pride, Trans and Lesbian flags. I still avoid my reflection most of the time but I can at least exist without being haunted by myself like I was.
I also feel fine on the inside. I’m finally truly comfortable with who I am.
I still see no life for me though. There is no hope at all. None.
Recommend you stop reading here – Alli
I still doubt my beautiful girlfriend will be around for anything outside the short-term. I don’t expect anyone to ever date me again.
I don’t expect to come out professionally anymore as I’m just not willing to be unemployed or lose the career I have worked so hard to create for myself.
There is nothing here. Just a suffocating vacuum where hope used to be.
The weight of this hopelessness was killing me. Until one day it just wasn’t.
At first this seemed like recovery. I felt like I was coping. I was accepting things and somehow able to function better than I had for the preceding two years.
My therapist noted that I seemed like a different person. Like I was ready to start living…
This recovery was just an illusion conjured up by my apathy and hopelessness though.
I was no longer burdened by the need to transition, I no longer need funds for surgery, I was no longer bothered by the need to get a better job, I was no longer bothered that my girlfriend won’t go out with me, won’t live with me, isn’t sure if there is a future with me…
Why? Not because of some epic mental health breakthrough.
Simply put – I do not expect to be alive for much longer. So, none of this matters. Nothing.
I am coping because I have literally given up all hope. So, it’s odd that some mysterious force inside keeps pushing me forward in transition.
I fully expect to die by my own hand. I have worked my way up to the point that the prospect of death doesn’t even bother me anymore. I have just accepted my fate.
I fake it like a pro but I have no interest left in continuing life at all. There is no life.
This is my struggle…and it’s a race against time.
Either a few miracles happen (I think I’ve used them all up) or it’s just a matter of working up the courage to do what needs to be done.
I don’t feel even the least bit upset about this. I’m no trembling wreck. I feel fine.
Now I’m just tired. I want it to all be over.
I have spent so much time trying to understand my inner conflict.
This is it. It’s a battle against myself only. I against I. I cope by not giving a shit. Always have and it’s a terrible thing.
Which side wins? This darkness that calls me or the unamed force within that still urges me forward?
I don’t really care anymore.
Once again, my apathy and nothing-left-to-lose masquerades as strength and courage.
I could have used the real stuff this time though.
I’ll enjoy whatever I can while it lasts.
It’ll take another miracle…but I think I’m all out.