Hi. My name may or may not be Leif and I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to men.
But not the good men. No, the good men terrify me. I’m addicted to the addicts, the alcoholics, the emotionally abusive, the eternally confused, the self-loathing, narcissistic, nihilistic boys for whom I come second. Or last. Or never.
I am addicted to the boys who don’t want me, who ignore me, who say “I love you,” then “get the fuck away from me.” To men like Jeter who relapse continuously, who need caretakers, who are more fucked up than I am and always will be, no matter how many stitches I administer, how much antiseptic I apply, how many liters of blood drain from my own gaping wounds as I try to save their lives.
I want the broken boys. I want the emotionally wounded boys who emotionally wound me as a result. I want to repeat the patterns I’m familiar with — the constant oscillation between chaos and stability, the unpredictability.
Oh, broken men, please distract me.
Dustin wasn’t the problem. If anything, the problem was that he loved me “too much” and I wasn’t willing to accept it. He brought me too close to my personal darkness and I was afraid of falling in and never coming out. I was afraid to say, “I am damaged and in impossible amounts of pain and part of me still wants to die sometimes.”
He heard me sobbing in the bathroom with the lights off and the door locked. He watched me slip in and out of consciousness, lost in panic attacks and dissociative episodes. He woke me from nightmares. He massaged me when I left my body. He loved me thoroughly.
And, with his begrudging consent, I slept with another man.
I was afraid to acknowledge the damage that’s been done to me and that which I have inflicted upon myself. I have treated myself in horrible ways. I have made extremely dangerous decisions out of impulsivity — a desperate need to feel better right. now. I have pumped myself full of amphetamines, poisoned my liver with liquor, and allowed strangers free range over my body.
I fell into another downward spiral as soon as the relationship ended, creating more trauma that I now have to deal with in addition to everything else. It’s a contradictory way of living, this obsessive quest for constant chaos and self-destruction as a mode of survival, but it’s not atypical. In fact, it’s one of the most common responses to trauma.
Reality is starting to hit me all at once. I feel myself approaching the things I so desperately try to run from…
And part of me wants to run back.
Part of me wants to collapse in Dustin’s arms, to bury my face in his chest, to beg beg beg for his love. I want to speak to a priest. I want to shower forever in scolding hot water, or at least until the dirty, mindless, shameful sex is burned off my body.
Part of me wants to sob along to Perfume Genius as I wait in this crowded airport. Part of me wants to do this audibly — to make a huge scene. Part of me wants a strange old woman to come up and hug me so I can feel her warmth and electricity and pretend she is my mother or an aunt or maybe a saint or an angel or a God in lipstick.
I am all alone. Some would say it’s the human condition — the closest thing we have to truth.
I am all alone, but not at all.
I spent half of yesterday watching Bob’s Burgers next to my new lady friend in my hostel bed. In Corsica, I sat on the bathroom floor while Sage sat on the toilet, crying and telling me she believes in me and knows I’ll be okay. The next morning, she stopped me on the dirt path and said she woke up at 7 am and talked to God. He told her to tell me that I am loved. Before the car pulled away to bring her to the airport, I gave her a red lipstick kiss on the mouth.
In Florence, I sat with Tofu on a rocky ledge. He challenged my use of the word “insanity.”
“What does that even mean?”
He said I’m not insane. I have demons, but so does everyone. So does he. If anything, I’m a product of our broken society. He said I don’t have to please everyone. I don’t have to like everyone. I can care about what my friends think, but if my values don’t align with someone else’s, then who gives a shit?
I spent four days thinking Tofu was overwhelmed and frightened by me, once again projecting my own feelings about myself onto someone else. My last night in Florence, I showed him the blog post about him. He pointed to the section where I detailed the stupidity of asking someone to hold me without the expectation of sex.
“I disagree with this,” he said. “I don’t know what your friends are like, but it’s not a stupid question.”
We held hands. I curled up next to him. I asked him to hug me tight. And then we went our separate ways and slept. For me, it was far more intimate and vulnerable than sex because sex is my disappearing act. Sex is the opposite of vulnerability. With Tofu, I remained in my body. I felt the warmth I was looking for.
In Corsica, I shared part of my story with strangers — two girls from Austria. At the end, the taller of the two stood up and asked if she could hug me. The next night, we had a massage chain in my bed and snuggled under the comforter, sharing stories about the struggles of womanhood. I felt safe and loved. I felt understood by people who I would generally consider “normal” and, thus, unapproachable. We’re all connected in some way, so long as we don’t close ourselves off from the possibility of relating to one another.
On my last day in Corsica, Momo said, “I have some advice for you,” as we ate lunch by the Mediterranean Sea. “You can’t accept love from others until you love yourself. My advice for you is to spend a month volunteering in the Philippines. You won’t fall in love with a man. You will experience a different kind of love — a real kind of love. It will be difficult and you will want to go home at first, but you will learn to love yourself. Stay away from the Internet. Just sit with yourself.”
I plan to do this. I have reached out to a number of organizations and am waiting to hear back, which means I will soon jump off yet another cliff and free fall. Cue Tom Petty.
It’s not about a man. There is no perfect boy, no reincarnation of Jesus Christ, no magical sexual act that can heal me.
But try telling me that at nightfall. Try telling me that when I attempt to fall asleep sober, lost in a wide-awake nightmare of my own death. Try telling me that when by brain disconnects from the rest of my body and I can’t feel my arms or legs or slow my heart rate until I’m held — until my heartbeat aligns with his, whoever he is.
I live through the image you have of me. If you think I am beautiful, I am beautiful. If you think I am ugly, I am hideous. It you think I’m a walking disaster, I’ll get sloppy drunk and start a fight. If you think I’m strong, I’ll dead lift a semi. (Okay, that last one is a stretch).
DBT would say I have no skin, meaning anything anyone says or does in regards to my existence is taken as truth. I am an unanchored ship, drifting across the Atlantic. (Actually, I’m in Prague, recovering from a food coma. Holy gnocchi.)
For example, I tried to buy a bus ticket at the airport when I got to Prague this afternoon.
“Can I pay with euros?”
“You are now in the Czech Republic. In the Czech Republic, we use Czech crowns. You can pay with Czech crowns.”
And then I walked off, chastising myself all the way to the bus stop. I dwelled over the fact that she was probably laughing to her coworker about the idiot American tourist. BUT I countered this by catching myself every time the negative self-talk arose and repeating the mantra, “who gives a shit? who gives a shit? who gives a shit?”
I can feel myself trying to get healthy again. I have been meditating on a daily basis. I have cut back on cigarettes. I have slept alone most nights. I don’t feel compelled to have one night stands. When I really think about it, polyamory is generally just my excuse to feed my sexual addiction, which is a response to fear and my supposed inability to face it.
I am able to face it. I am. I really really really am. I am not where I was three years ago. I have the skills to make it. I have the will to stay alive.
I also have the ability to forgive myself for the damaging things I have done in the past few months, but that may take a while.
And hey, brain, do me a favor and shut the fuck up for once. Seriously, I would really appreciate a break.
Time to frolic. Here are some pictures of Prague. The weather feels much more midwestern and I feel my creative energy returning, however this hostel is sort of killing it right now because some dude is repeatedly hocking loogies in the bathroom. Is that how you spell loogie?