I’ve been more reflective (and prolific) this week. Today I am turning to some things from my past. When I logged on to this laptop for the first time in a while, I found a group of browser tabs from some months ago that I’d saved. Among them, I found a post from Panic Monster, someone who hasn’t posted much recently. We all have back stories, but hers is a lot more complex than most (I’ll be interested to see if anyone disagrees with me on this point).
Unlike Panic Monster, I’ve never been molested (*1*) or raped, addicted to drugs (*2*), diagnosed with a personality disorder, been an exotic dancer (*3), or experienced agoraphobia with obsessive compulsive tendencies. I’ve had a much easier life.
When I was a kid, I was about 12 years old and started delivering newspapers most days of the week. In Melbourne, in those days, there was a morning and an evening newspaper. I got lucky and had the afternoon shift. One day, an older gentleman asked me if I wanted to make some extra money. Of course! He wanted to know if he could use my body for $5. I had absolutely no idea what he wanted me for. I am still not completely sure, to be honest. I was a busy boy, with lots of newspapers to deliver, and declined graciously. MANY YEARS LATER, I was back in Melbourne and something someone else said triggered a memory of this day. Holy shit! I suddenly realized exactly what kind of person he was. He was a child molester! I happened to be with my brother at the time and told him about it. My brother said the old guy had asked him the same thing (and got the same rejection). What?! I drove around to his house right away and found his wife (yes, he was married the whole time — nice, huh?) out the front in a chair, enjoying the warm Australian evening. I asked if her husband was home. I didn’t add that, if she said he was home, I intended to get back in my car and haul the police out to arrest him. Fortunately for him, he had died a few years before. I’ve no idea if he ever successfully abused any boys, but someone like that makes my blood boil…
My experience with drugs is laughably non-existent. I’m not sure if I mentioned this limited experience in another post or an e-mail to someone a few months ago. Bear with me if it’s a repetition. Occasionally, when I was with friends at the Thursday night drive-in movie theater, someone would bring along some marijuana and not stop nagging me until I tried it (why do drug users think everyone else needs to try their habit??). Like a number of other things in life, I didn’t get it. I had no interest because I couldn’t see how enjoying it would help me. I’m oddly rational about some things like that. Lucky me.
On a trip to Sydney, after a long night at a bar, the guys with whom I was driving back to Melbourne overnight decided to see a friend of theirs. He was a minor drug dealer. Lucky me. Again with the insisting. Despite my complete lack of interest, he wasn’t going to be put off until I tried some hashish. I still don’t know exactly what it is or why people like it. I only had a few puffs. It didn’t agree with me. Combining it with alcohol is, I learned, not a great idea. In his expansive bathroom, I couldn’t help myself: I threw up everywhere. Copiously. Oops. I started to think about how to clean the mess up, when it occurred to me that (a) it was his fault not mine, as I told him a half-dozen times that I didn’t want to try his stupid drugs, and (b) we really ought to be getting started on our 10-hour drive back to Melbourne. I hurried my friends out into the car and we set off south (only to run out of gas 100 miles later, but that’s another, funnier story). The advantage of living in a time without cell phones and texting is that I never heard what happened when he found the need to visit his bathroom. I’ve always wondered if he slipped and fell in the mess, and maybe hurt his head, drawing the attention of the kind of authorities that would see his ‘grocery store’ and get the police involved. Hee-hee.
(*3*) Exotic Dancer.
Social Security was designed specifically so that, if someone like me decided to become an exotic dancer, there would be a financial safety net to assist me in my improverished state until I picked another, more suitable career.
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I do have … experience with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, although only a mild form of it. Exposure to violent deaths (not my own, you’ll already have noted) left a black mark on my soul and memories that took a long time to fade to background noise. In fact, I didn’t know what was wrong at the time PTSD affected me, nor how to deal with it. I was offered psychological help at the time, but rejected it because I was a ‘tough guy’ and *obviously* didn’t need help. It wasn’t disabling enough to stop me from doing my job and living a mostly-normal life. It was many years before I heard the term “PTSD” and had a major ‘aha’ moment. I’d already long got past the problem in my own way. C’est la vie.
I do have … divorced parents, but they held off on the hostilities until I was a young man. When they did decide to get divorced, they made up for the calmer, sullen years and brought on my first experience with clinical stress and anxiety. My father tried to argue that my mother — who earned practically nothing — deserved only half of the family assets and no support. Negotiating the property settlement agreement between them (because lawyers would have drained all of the funds in dispute) took a toll. I also had to quit my regular job and become a consultant just to help out my mum, so she could buy her own house (actually, in Australia, it was smaller and called a “unit”).
I do have … experience with anxiety and panic attacks. For a while, about seven years ago, they were infrequent but, sometimes, severe. I participated in a study at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is a few miles from my house. The extremely comprehensive physical and mental examinations as part of the study served to confirm in my own mind what was wrong with me and this allowed to me to build my own mental walls around the problem and eventually tame the condition completely. Over time, the symptoms vanished, although the subconscious mind is very creative and doesn’t let go easily.
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What I find interesting about meeting people is that I make broad and bold comments about how most of us don’t have a very interesting back story and then realize that, no, I might be very wrong about this. After all, I am just Mr. Ordinary Guy and have horrible and exhilarating tales to tell. Just the near-death experiences would fill more than a half-dozen blog posts. If you ever need to drive with me, you’ll be pleased to know that, of the 4 near-death experiences involving vehicles, I wasn’t driving any of the vehicles!!