Chapter 2 – Sorry Teresa
I wrote the majority of my first book America’s Finest Ambassador in 2011 and 2012 when I was twenty-three and twenty-four years old. That book is told from the perspective of someone who’s decided to make a big joke of their alcoholism and immaturity which I suppose is fine and dandy from a reader’s perspective. A lot of people seemed to enjoy the buffoon that I am in that book. But the truth is that I wasn’t really happy with the person I was writing about. In fact, I was kind of ashamed. The careless alcoholic idiot I publicized myself as in those stories for the enjoyment of others was privately depressing the shit outta me – like one of those Smokey Robinson “Tears of a Clown” type deals. During that time I started reading a bunch of self-help books, psychology articles and spiritual texts in an attempt to gain an understanding of all the things I feel and to learn of healthy ways to deal with these feelings. I don’t know at what point I discovered some articles about research done by a social psychologist named James W. Pennebaker investigating the therapeutic benefits of writing about emotional trauma, but I figured I’d give it a shot. Right from the start I knew I’d discovered a very powerful way of processing a bunch of confusing, painful, fragmented emotions I’d never been able to make sense of that’d been pent-up in my body and mind since childhood. It gave me a deeper understanding of who I am and how I fit into the world around me. And in doing so it made my inner-world seem a little bit less chaotic.
By the time spring of 2014 rolled around, I had another book’s worth of drunken travel stories I could use as the basis for my sophomore writing effort, but as a 26-year-old man I was at a crossroads. I figured I could make another book that followed the exact same format as America’s Finest Ambassador with almost every story following the Tucker Max “I got super drunk here or there, acted like an asshole in this way or that way, did X, Y or Z and ha ha ha ha ha end of story” formula, but doing so felt really inauthentic to me. I didn’t wanna again put a positive spin on behavior that I felt was ruining my life. I wanted to make a book that was like the therapeutic writing I was fucking around with on the side. I wanted to be real. I wanted to talk about the way I really feel about things. I wanted to do a book that looked into how the emotional trauma from the alcoholic home I grew up in led me to be this sad drunk guy, this slave to all his vices who feels empty and desperate all the time while traveling from country to country, living an apparently carefree life that friends and family back home admire and are jealous of – the theme being that no matter how many countries you go to or bottles of vodka you consume or prostitutes you sleep with or how cool your life may look to other people on the outside, you’ll never be able to run away from the unaddressed trauma that rages on in your head. I wanted to show that whereas I may outwardly appear to be a grown-ass man, inwardly I’m just some wounded little bitch of a kid – an adult male emotionally trapped in his childhood. I wanted to call it Life of a Manchild. That’s what I really wanted to do. And I wanted to do it because I figured diving deeper into my problems and issues was gonna help me become a better, stronger person. And I was pretty confident I could do it. But at the same time, I didn’t really realize how very much inner-resistance I was up against.
Ya see, denial is a very sick thing to live in. In the Afterword I wrote for Life of a Manchild, I described it like this:
“Collective familial denial is a bitch. It’s a total mindfuck. It’s the twisted spin an addict puts on reality that everyone under his sphere of influence is implicitly required to adapt to so he or she can keep getting away with what is objectively considered totally unacceptable behavior. It’s a shared invisible pathology reinforced on its subjects primarily by anger and violence at the hands of the addict and secondarily by the subjects’ internalized fear of anger and violence. The terms of each unspoken agreement may vary but they’re universally guaranteed to cause a whole lot of confusion, isolation and silent suffering. As it was in my house, anytime anyone had anything to say about my dad’s drinking or the way he acted towards my mom, he was indignant. How dare you tell him what he can and can’t do in his house that he paid for with his hard-earned money? He didn’t wanna hear it. And to deter us from questioning him in the future, we were shut down by his anger as he growled that he didn’t have a problem, that everything’s perfectly fine and that if we thought otherwise, then something was wrong with us.”
As a twenty-six-year-old man that’s at least forty pounds heavier than my dad as I got to work on that book up in my childhood bedroom, my dad’s anger itself was no longer a deterring factor in my stepping out of denial. What years and years of exposure to this did do to me however was cause me to question the validity of my emotions. It made me question my interpretation of reality. It made me feel like no one was going to believe the things I was writing. It made me feel like a horrible person for slandering the name of a good man with lies I made up in my head. Allow me another excerpt from that Afterword to illustrate my point:
“Over the years, I’ve doubted myself so deeply thinking that maybe, as my acquiescence to my father’s version of reality had always indicated, that none of these things ever even happened. Like I’m a very sick person who made all these things up in my head and was clinically insane and needed to check myself into a mental institution. Because it’s always seemed that way. I remember trying to talk about it to my friends in grade school one time when we were walking around the neighborhood and they just shrugged it off as, ‘Nah, your house doesn’t seem that bad.’ End of discussion. Or when I was an emotional teenager working with my dad washing windows and feeling the need to cry out in pain but unable to articulate the situation as it was and blurting out to his fireman friends/coworkers that ‘My dad’s a fuckin’ drunken piece of shit asshole’ – an assertion to which they’d responded with austerity, treating me like some kind of ingrate and telling me not to talk that way about my dad because without him, I wouldn’t have a home or food or the job I was working or an education.”
Another problem I faced resulting from my dad’s denial was my internalized fear of rejection for being such a fag. In the hard-headed blue-collar culture championed by my father, men aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings. It’s just something that’s not done. Ever. With anyone. For any reason. Because that’s what faggots do. Real men fuckin’ drink. Real men work hard and watch sports and ogle bartenders’ tits and talk about who got promoted on the fire department while putting bottles to their heads and pulling the trigger. They swallow until they got no faggy feelings left to feel. And that’s life. Then you die. I felt like no one was going to understand why I felt the need to write those stories. I felt like everyone would just say, “I don’t wanna read this depressing shit. Why couldn’t you have just made another book like America’s Finest Ambassador telling fun drunken stories? Now this shit’s got me questioning my own drinking habits and personal relationships and I don’t wanna do that. Cuz then I’ll be a fag too. No. Fuck you, Tim Lally. You get outta here with this fucking feeling-filled faggot shit. No one cares. Life is much better left unexamined. Shoo! Shoo!”
These were very difficult obstacles for me to overcome. And then the ultimate challenge was working up the balls to present the final product to my dad face-to-face. Towards the end of 2015, about a year after I’d finished writing the book, I finally summoned the courage and gave him a copy with a heartfelt message scribbled on the inside cover about how much I love him and wished he’d learn to love himself as much as I love him and stop punishing himself with all the booze and cigarettes and pills and how there’re gonna be some parts in there that’ll probably be as difficult for him to read as they were for me to write and in spite of what his denial over the years may have suggested, these were all real events with real consequences on my emotional well-being. He read the book but the only thing he had to say about it was that it was all bullshit and that everything is and always has been A-OK in our house. And I’m not gonna lie, I was blown away. I was floored when he looked me in the face and said that after I laid it all on the line like that. It was pretty fuckin’ painful but…but at least now I know for certain that our fractured relationship is not my fault and I can stop blaming myself. We’re not distant because I’m holding a grudge against him and being an ice-cold bastard as my guilt has always led me to believe, we’re distant because he doesn’t wanna live in reality. We’re not close and never will be close because he doesn’t wanna join me in discussing real things that actually matter and working together to build an authentic bond between us. He’s totally fine with the fantasy bond – the image we projected for so many years of the happy father and son team that washes windows and cleans gutters together like they were best friends. He wants nothing more than to talk about superficial shit like work or sports or the weather. And I accept it. It sucks, and I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I accept it. I get that at this point in his life he’s just too far gone down the path of escapism and running and denial to ever come back and meet me where I’m at on the plane of reality where I’m over here with sword in hand facing demons head-on, trying to deal with all this bullshit before it spins outta control and my life gets beyond repair.
That was, as mentioned, the denial system set in place by my father and was imposed on everyone in the household. My mom’s system was a little bit different than that of my dad. She’s always been in what – for lack of a better term – I’m gonna refer to here as “denial limbo.” Unlike dad’s system which reinforced his lies on everyone by the force of rage and the threat of violence towards his wife, mom’s system was reinforced on me – the oldest child of three – with the weapons of guilt and shame. She’s always known that the situation she lives in is extremely unhealthy for her and her children but at the same time has always been too weak to leave. And she’s deeply ashamed of this weakness. She knows that her relationship is fubar but because she can’t summon the strength to walk away from it, she’d prefer that no one outside our house knows how fucked up it really is here because of how poorly she feels that reflects on her for sticking around and letting her children bear witness to and get fucked up by their dog-shit marriage. That means that, unlike my dad who’ll say that everything is A-OK all the time and actually believe what he’s saying, ever since I was a little kid my mom has always readily acknowledged and taken the time to explain to me and often complained, using me as a shoulder to cry on about how what we live in is not okay. When I was a toddler and began emulating my dad’s disgusting behavior, my mom would always do her best to correct it telling me that it’s not okay to yell and spit in mommy’s face or call her filthy names or to hit her. So, it’s thanks to her and those efforts that I’m only a little bit fucked up and not a complete fucking sociopath. At the same time however, because of the aforementioned reasons, when I went to grade school and high school, I was fully expected to keep our secret to preserve the image of a functioning family so she wouldn’t have to A) face the shame of having decided to stick around in an abusive marriage which may very well be compromising the mental health of her children and B) wouldn’t have to face her fear of making any big scary life changes.
So, throughout much of the writing process, I was often faced with the moral dilemma of, “You know that what you’re writing is really gonna upset your mom. Is this project really worth causing her pain? Couldn’t you maybe just write the book and then treat it like a diary or a journal and hide it away in your dresser drawers where no one will ever read it? That psychologist Pennebaker’s studies said you still get all the benefits of writing about emotional trauma regardless of who ends up reading what you wrote. So, is this pain you’re undoubtedly gonna cause your mother from sharing it with the world really worth it?”
This was a really difficult problem for me to face but ultimately I decided that, yes, yes it is worth it. It’s worth it for a number of reasons – the most important of them being that it’s an action that rids myself of the shame and confusion of having had to carry a secret. Like a closet homosexual who never comes out because he fears rejection from his family, I’d hid what goes on in my house for years and years as to not upset and embarrass my mother. It was a heavy, heavy cross for me to bear. And I didn’t wanna carry it anymore. My shouting of my story to the world was my taking of that cross and handing it back over to my mother saying, “I love you and firmly believe that you never deserved to get treated as shittily as you did by a man who’s supposed to love and cherish you, but it’s time for you to carry your own shit. Quit outsourcing your shame to me. Unlike you, I didn’t choose to be and stay in this situation. This is just what I happened to be born into. I never had any say in any of this. I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Another reason is – have you ever seen in the movies when two black guys from the ‘hood who’ve never met each other before find themselves in an all-white neighborhood or at a fancy party with only white people around and they feel so fucking uncomfortable the entire time because they know they’re different and they can’t relate to anyone and they feel like everyone is staring at them and people keep saying a bunch of ignorant shit to ‘em and then unexpectedly the two black guys see each other from across the room and their eyes meet and light up and they’re like, “Shit man, it’s good to see another one of us around here. Thought I was goin’ crazy up in here with all these white folks!”? You know what I’m talkin’ about? Yeah, its’ kinda like that. Obviously my situation is different because I have white skin and don’t understand the African American experience and have never been stared at or whispered about or discriminated against just because of my physical appearance, but at the same time I feel my situation is similar to that experienced by the characters in such a scene insofar as my entire life I’ve always felt like I’m surrounded by people who’ll never be able to understand me because they don’t know what it’s like to grow up in the craziness that I grew up in – to see the world through my eyes.
I remember sophomore year of high school sitting at my desk one morning waiting for class to start and hearing these girls behind me talking about their weekend and one of ‘em is telling the other how they went downtown as a family and did all this really wholesome shit together and I’m sitting there like, “Should I turn around and tell them what my weekend was like? Should I tell them how my parents were shouting in each other’s faces and shoving each other around and how I smashed a bunch of shit in the living room with a baseball bat and then slashed my dad across the belly with a knife and then slammed the door in the faces of two responding Chicago police officers and told ‘em to fuck off after they’d showed up on my porch to check out the situation? Should I do that? Should I make them feel my pain? Or should I just keep quiet and let them remain stupid and innocent? Eh, fuck it. They wouldn’t understand. They’d probably start crying. No one understands you, Tim. It’s just you. It’s you against the world. Forever and always.”
So, what I’m getting at here is that unlike black skin, what separates my people from the crowd is invisible. I don’t know who my people are. Unlike the two hood-ass black guys in that scene at a fancy white party, I’ve never been able to look around a room and see another person who I know has shared my experience – who I know is feeling as uncomfortable as I am trying to live a “normal” life when both of us got all this crazy shit goin’ on at home. And that’s why, even though I’ve always longed to, I’ve never been in a classroom or at a party or in a job environment when I’m all distraught and suffering from shame and anxiety because I feel different from everyone else and feel like everyone’s judging me and thinks I’m a bad person who doesn’t belong anywhere, I’ve never been able to look across the room, meet eyes with that kindred spirit then walk over there and say, “Damn dude, it’s good to see another one of us here. Thought I was goin’ crazy up in here surrounded by all these normal folks who’ve never put a knife to their drunk-ass dad or saw him punch their mom in the face or heard him call her an ugly fatass cunt thousands of times or tell her her cooking sucks at least three or four times a week. What up wit’ it, my brutha!?”
So, in sharing my writing with the world I was hoping to connect with some people on that level. I wanted to let other people out there who may have gone through something similar know that they’re not alone in the world because feeling alone in emotional suffering caused by the totally senseless, totally unnecessary childish behavior and drunken bullshit of your parents is a truly horrible thing and for me, has been the most isolating experience I’ve ever known. And on top of all that, on top of connecting with kindred spirits, I just wanted my “normal” friends to know who I am. I just wanted to be understood and felt for once in my life. I wanted the people close to me to really fucking get me.
When I was real young, I never questioned the way things were. I just blindly accepted that dad’s mean to mom and I’m not supposed to act like him. But then when I was around ten or eleven years old and knew what a divorce was and could mentally apply that concept to our own situation and would play it out in my mind and would inevitably arrive at the conclusion that life would be much better for everyone involved if my parents were to part ways, I’d start asking my mom, “How come you don’t just get a divorce?” And I’ll get to how that conversation normally played out between us in a just a second. But first…
In the summer of 2014, when it came to my mom’s attention that I’d written a piece for Life of a Manchild called “Chapter 10 – Somethin’ I Don’t Wanna Be a Part Of” and published it on my website and shared it on Facebook, she was fucking outraged. The chapter didn’t get as deep into our shit the way “Chapter 1 – What Makes Me Tick” does in this book, but it did nonetheless explore the volatile nature of the way things were in my childhood home. Of all the chapters from Life of a Manchild, that was the most painful one for me to write. That was the one I was bawling my eyes out and wiping snots away from my nose the entire time I was writing it, questioning whether or not it all really happened or if I was just crazy, feeling like Benedict fucking Arnold sitting there trying to put all my previously unaddressed hurt and pain into words. As soon as it was done and up on my site, I sent my mom a link and braced for the backlash.
“How could you do this to me?” she said after having read it. “After all I’ve done for you? Now everyone who reads your book is gonna think I’m a big asshole for staying with your father all these years. Now I can’t face my family. Why would you do this to me?”
And I was like, “I’m sorry, but like, what the fuck – ya know? It’s the truth. Why have I always been forced to hide the truth from the world? It makes me feel like some sort of fuckin’ freak that I can’t talk about something that’s played such a huge role in shaping who I am. Why do we have to be so scared of the truth? Why are we trying to preserve this image of being a happy family? We’re not a happy family. It’s a lie. And I don’t wanna tell it anymore. It’s not fair to me. It’s fucking sick and it’s weird and it’s wrong. It’s no different than what you’ve always said grandma did to dad making him and his siblings keep their family secret which happens to be one of the main reasons you always cite for why he’s so fucked up. You ever think about that? You ever think that you’re doing the exact same thing to me? And like, I’m sorry if you’re hurt by what I did but there’s no reason to be ashamed of staying with an abusive husband. It happens to a lot of women. There’s a lot of psychological literature out there talking about what makes women stick around even though their husbands treat them like shit. You’re not a bad person, I swear. I mean, look – dad’s never gonna change so maybe people knowing is a good thing. Maybe these negative feelings you’re experiencing about people knowing and your fear of them thinking less of you is the push you need to finally file for divorce so you can enjoy whatever life you have left in front of you.”
“Well,” she always counters with this non sequitur, “if I never stayed with your father after he abused me, then your sister never would’ve been born. And she’s an angel from heaven.”
“Well,” I always respond, “I too am glad that Teresa was born but that was like twenty years ago already. And even if you never got beat as bad as you did that one time before her birth, how can you pretend – and expect me to pretend – that during these past twenty years, all the filth he’s called you, all the times he’s said you’re a stupid ugly fatass cunt who never gives him blow jobs and a shitty fuckin’ cook and threw your dinner in the garbage in front of you and even the time he punched you in the face in front of us after getting wasted with Mike Hoffman all day…how can you act like these past twenty years haven’t also been full of abuse? They have been, mom. This shit is real. And it’s had a very real effect on me. I’m not okay. And I can’t pretend I am either. I’m fucked up. And so are you. I really think it’s time to look into getting a divorce.”
“I can’t leave your father now, Tim! It’s too late! He’s a fucking retard with all those pills he’s on! He needs to be taken care of! He can’t feed himself! He’ll die! And how am I supposed to live with that on my conscience!? Everyone will think I’m a horrible person for abandoning him like that!”
“Dude, no one will think that – especially if they know what you’ve been through. I mean, I think he’ll survive just fine eating bar food. Besides, the guy’s probably gonna get sick and die pretty soon anyway from all the drinking and smoking over the years. There’s nothing you can do to stop his self-destructive bullshit. Nor is it your job to try. It’s not your responsibility to continue taking care of someone who doesn’t give a shit if you’re alive or dead. You have no moral obligation to do so. Just please…please spend the rest of your life learning to take care of yourself. I don’t wanna see or hear about you getting put down anymore. I just wanna see you happy. Please talk to a divorce attorney.”
“How am I supposed to hire a lawyer? With what money, huh? Who’s gonna pay for Teresa’s college? And where am I supposed to live? Both my parents are dead, Tim! Who in the world is gonna help me out? I live paycheck to paycheck. All the money my dad left me I put into getting the basement finished for you kids to have a place to hang out before your dad took it over and made it his bedroom. This is my home. I worked hard over the years to get everything the way I want it to be. And he’s never gonna leave here. Why should I have to go live in some shitty neighborhood and work shitty jobs until the day I die to pay to live in some small shitty apartment when he gets to stay here, huh Tim? Huh?”
“You don’t even have any idea what your options would actually be until you’ve gone and talked to a lawyer. You have Polaroid pictures of yourself with a swollen, beat-up face and a chipped cheekbone. I’d testify on your behalf. And if it came down to it, I bet Danny and Teresa would too. With all that shit, I’m almost certain you could get half his retirement and probably even the house. Why don’t you just go talk to a lawyer? You don’t have to commit to anything. I know you’re really fucking scared. I get it. It’s not easy. But like, anything is better than to continue living this lie. Your anxiety is outta control. It’s fuckin’ killing you. Just go talk to a lawyer and see what your options are. See what’s out there.”
“Uhh,” she sighed and shook her head. “I just wish…I just really wish you wouldn’t have done that, Tim.”
At the time, I was certain that I’d done the right thing in freeing myself from the chains of denial that’d kept me shackled all those years. I thought my writing of our truth would save my mom from further abuse and the low self-esteem she’s always suffered from by serving as the catalyst for her separation from the toxic relationship with my father. And I also hoped my writing would prompt my dad to repent and change his ways the way Pat Conroy’s writing of The Great Santini prompted his abusive old man – after his wife had left him – to dedicate the rest of his life to being the best possible dude he could be in all his remaining relationships. But as “Chapter 10” began circulating around my mom’s side of the family it got everyone extra pissed off at my dad (they already didn’t like him) for being such a piece of shit and angry at my mom for not having “saved” me. Some people were sending me these Facebook messages saying shit like, “Oh, poor you Tim – you’re so brave,” and other ones about how they wanna punch my parents in the face for what they did to me and it all made me feel so fucked up. I was like, “No! Stop! This is not what I wanted! I’m not a victim to be pitied and I don’t wanna cause any more problems for my parents! No! My writing of this stuff is not meant to be a vengeful, ‘Fuck you, mom and dad!’ because I love my parents and I don’t wanna hurt them. I feel their pain very deeply. Their pain is my own pain. We are after all reflections of our parents. I know my mom and dad love me very much but they suffer very greatly. What happened to me is just an unfortunate consequence of two people who were never able to get over the pain from their own childhoods coming together and subconsciously recreating it all in their adult lives. They never intentionally would’ve done this shit to me if they had the self-awareness to realize what they were doing. They’re not bad people. They don’t deserve to be labeled or shamed. They’re tortured. They’re sick. They’re fuckin’ miserable. They need support and understanding. They need help. Don’t be mad at them and cast aspersions. Noooooooooo!!!!!”
I couldn’t cope with the guilt of it all. I was so god damn ashamed of myself for what I’d done. I felt like the world’s biggest piece of shit. I mean, how the fuck could I do that to my mom? I get to emotionally unburden myself by telling my story and what does she get out of it? She gets publically humiliated. The woman already gets treated like shit by my dad and now her family’s mad at her for staying with him because I’m emotionally fucked up. My mom gave me everything and this is how I repay her? She doesn’t deserve this. I am such a stupid fucking selfish dickhead. I’m the biggest piece of shit in the world. I am such a fucking loser. I am a stupid, stupid fucking asshole. I am truly fucking worthless. I hate myself so fucking much. I just wanna fucking kill myself.
One day the chastisements of my inner-voice became too much for me to bear. I’d been sober for several months at that point but couldn’t stand to be in my own head another minute. Following an afternoon writing session, I walked a couple blocks over to the liquor store from where I picked up a fifth of whiskey and a pack o’ smokes, brought ‘em back to my house and got to work. Once I finished the bottle of whiskey, I called up my cousin and met him at a bar near his house called The Windsor. We closed that bar then went over to a 4am place called Teasers which, despite drinking whiskey the whole night, I remember closing. What I don’t remember is what happened after the bar closed. It’s like I blacked out as soon as I stepped out the door of the place. I don’t know if I passed out on someone’s lawn or if someone just called an ambulance for me because I was too drunk to walk but next thing I’m consciously able to remember, I’m physically fighting with these two paramedics trying to get away from them, shouting, “Let me go!” as they wrestle me down, strap me to a gurney at my wrists and ankles and then proceed to make fun of me, telling me I shit my pants. I’m screaming and yelling and crying, saying that I did not shit my pants and that they’re liars. They continue to torment me, telling me I did in fact shit my pants. So naturally, the first thing I did when I was discharged from the hospital about five hours later was go into the bathroom and check my pants. There was no shit. Those guys were just doing that to get me riled up knowing I could do nothing about it because I was strapped to that bed.
Objectively, I can see the humor in such a thing. Objectively, I can understand that as paramedics you’re upset that you got woken up in response to a call I didn’t ask someone else to make on my behalf and that in adherence to city policy, once you’ve shown up on the scene, in spite of my refusal of treatment, you’re legally required to put me in your ambulance so you can’t be held liable if something bad were to happen to me. I understand that you think I’m an asshole for making your life more difficult by resisting your agenda because I don’t wanna hafta pay thousands of dollars for medical treatment I don’t need. And because of that, once you’ve wrestled me into submission after having received however many blows from me in the process, I understand why you wanna say things that you know are gonna upset me and then laugh as you watch me squirm around tied up to that bed, crying and shouting. You’re doing it because it kinda makes it worth your while, having had to get up and go. You now got a nice little story you can tell your buddies over a few beers about some drunk-ass crybaby sissy you had to go pick up at five in the morning who you “convinced” he shit himself. Ha ha ha ha ha. Objectively, I can understand that. But as seen from the perspective of the person who was going through what I was going through at the time – some poor bastard oppressed by the self-hatred he feels resulting from the most honest attempt he’s ever made to step out of denial and come to terms with the emotional trauma from which he’d suffered his entire life – what you did to me is unimaginably cruel.
After I was dumped off at the hospital, I was wheeled into a room where I was interviewed by a pair of nurses and some dude named Doctor Bordo, all of whom I yelled at and called names for holding me there against my will. I said that I just wanted to go home – that I didn’t have the money for this treatment because I had a ton of student loans to pay. And I’m shouting and crying, “Why are you doing this to me? Why won’t you let me leave? What law did I break? If I did something so wrong, why was I not brought to the police station? I’d gladly pay a ticket for public intoxication if that’s the issue, but this I don’t understand. What are you doing to me? Why have I been kidnapped? Why are you holding me here? Just let me go! I don’t understand what I did. Just let me go. I just wanna go home. I don’t know what I did. What did I ever do to deserve this? Just let me go. Just let me go. Just let me go.”
There were two nurses dealing with me. One wasn’t as bad as the other and I thought she’d have some mercy on me. I begged her to let me go. She told me she couldn’t do that. The other nurse I had was no better than the paramedics. She was a total fucking cunt who talked to me like I was some fuckin’ piece of shit criminal she’d just caught stuffing a newborn into a microwave. Her condescending, judgmental tone was deeply, deeply insulting. Like, I get it. You too think I’m an asshole and don’t wanna deal with me. But if we’re being honest here, you’re no prize yourself. I don’t wanna hafta deal with you or your fuckin’ sourpuss either. The only thing you have to do is let me go and then we both get what we want. But no, they had no intention of letting me go. And at the same time, they had no intention of treating me either. They didn’t even give me a glass of water to counter the dehydrating symptoms of the “acute alcohol intoxication” for which they officially claimed to be treating me. The nurse just walked out of the room and left me strapped to that bed shouting and crying then came back a minute or two later to shut the door so she wouldn’t have to listen to me. I think she figured I’d eventually calm down and go to sleep but in a situation like that, my mind is way too fucking stubborn to shut down even if that’s what my body is telling me it wants it to do. So after about twenty minutes of shouting about how I want a lawyer and passive-aggressively spitting loogies at the computer screen the nurse used to enter my patient information so the next time she goes to touch it she’ll get my cigarette goobers on her fingers, I stopped yelling and went back to crying. After crying I just laid there in silence with my eyes wide open ready to bite the head off of whoever the next person was to walk in that door. Eventually, maybe an hour or so later, the bitchy nurse came back into the room.
“Oh, hey, look, it’s Nurse Ratched. Where’s the big Indian? I wanna see the big Indian throw the drinking fountain through the window and get away before you lobotomize me.”
“Okay Timothy,” she responded while beginning to fidget with the strap around my right ankle, “we’re gonna undo your feet now and see how you behave with those free before we consider unstrapping your hands.”
“Oh really? God’s gift to the world is actually gonna grant me usage of my feet again? Tell me, what have I done to be so deserving of this great privilege that you’ve decided to bestow upon me?”
“Y’know what?” she began.
“No, what? Tell me. What?”
“If you wanna act like that,” she yanked the thing as tight as she could, “then you can stay strapped to the bed.”
“Yeah, well fuck you too,” I spat as she left the room, “you god damn fuckin’ bitch!”
My heart raced as I panted in the minutes following the angry outburst. After another couple hours of alternating between crying and shouting to be let go and demanding a lawyer, sometime between 10 and 11am, Doctor Bordo – whom I accused of being a kidnapper and having a god complex – finally granted me permission to walk home and go to bed. They didn’t unstrap me until they’d brought two security guards into the room and I was escorted out of the hospital immediately after popping in the bathroom just so I could check my underwear for poop.
A week or so after the incident, my drunk-ass dad drove over to this bar called the Iron Horse Ale House for one of his drunk-ass fireman buddy’s big drunk-ass retirement parties. Like the hospital I was taken to and the firehouse from where the responding ambulance had been dispatched, this bar’s not more than a couple miles away from our house. As the story goes, dad has way more than his fill at this party. He’s falling off his barstool and is going to walk to his car to drive home but before he has the chance to do so, someone intervenes and calls 9-1-1. The same ambulance that I was abducted by against my will the week before comes to get my dad from the bar. When the ambulance shows up, someone tells the paramedics – I don’t know if it was the same two paramedics, but wouldn’t it be a trip if it was? – that my dad’s a retired Chicago firefighter and that he needs a ride home from the bar. The paramedics are more than happy to provide him with one. They don’t wrestle him down and torment him and drag him to a hospital where he’ll be held captive by Nurse Ratched and Doctor Dickhead. Nah. He’s fuckin’ given a free ride home and a nice little pat on the back and told that he can just go pick up his car from the bar the following day.
“This is fuckin’ bullshit!” I shouted at my mom and sister. “I get picked up and thrown in the hospital like a piece of shit and this fucking asshole – the reason why I’m fucked up – gets a free ride home? The fucking guy was gonna get behind the wheel and drive home like that. What’d I do? Who was I bothering? I wasn’t gonna get in a car and fucking kill someone. I was staggering around drunk. What’s the big fuckin’ problem!?”
And they just didn’t say anything. I could tell they didn’t agree with me but didn’t wanna further upset me by saying so. So I just went up to sit by myself in my room, trying to wrap my mind around the situation. I literally couldn’t comprehend it. It seemed like the world’s greatest injustice.
My sister Teresa is seven years younger than me. She’s a nurse. She was 19 at the time and was home on summer break, having just finished her freshman year studying up in Milwaukee. She had some experience doing some internship shit at some hospitals and like – I don’t think her experience as a nurse had anything to do with it, actually. I think it’s because me and her are pretty close and I trusted her more than anyone else at the time. And so in the weeks after the incident, I’d plead my case to her over and over, just begging her to recognize my innocence in the situation. I needed her to tell me I didn’t do anything wrong. I fucking needed it. It was driving me insane. I really really needed to hear it from her. But she wouldn’t give it to me. And after a while, she got sick of my hounding her.
“No, Tim. No. I’m really sorry but I don’t agree with you. I don’t believe what you did is okay.”
“Sooooo…what? I don’t get it. You think I’m a bad person?”
“No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that I don’t think what you did is right.”
“What’s not right? I don’t get it.”
“You shouldn’t be fighting paramedics and swearing and spitting at nurses. It’s not okay.”
“Well, what other option did I really have? They fucking abducted me off the street against my will and held me captive like a prisoner. Am I supposed to just lay down and accept that? I think that stuff is really sick. I don’t think they should’ve done that stuff to me.”
“You were probably laying unconscious on someone’s front lawn. That’s not okay, Tim. Someone was probably worried you were gonna die on their property so they called an ambulance to help you.”
“I don’t need help. I get blackout drunk like that and pass out on people’s lawns all the time. Nothing bad has ever happened to me every other time I’ve done it. I’ve never needed any stupid asshole Good Samaritans to jump in and rescue me before. Fuck them. They screwed me. I don’t wanna hafta pay these fucking bills now. This is total fucking bullshit.”
“Look, I don’t know what to tell you. But you shouldn’t have done it.”
“I felt like killing myself! What the fuck else was I supposed to do!?”
“I don’t know, Tim. I don’t know. But you just shouldn’t have gotten blackout drunk about it. That’s all I’m saying.”
So then a week or so after that conversation the mail comes and I get the bills from the hospital and the City of Chicago for the ambulance ride. I didn’t have my own insurance policy at the time. My mom had taken one out in my name against my will not too long beforehand and had been making monthly payments for it which angered me to no end, but I guess it worked out for me in this situation. After the insurance company chipped in whatever they were gonna chip in, I still owed about a thousand to each of those fuckers on top of the twenty-five thousand I still owed for the student loans my stupid bitch-ass mom made me take out to go to a college she signed me up for against my will and made me go to. I was so fucking angry with her and announced:
“Ya know what? No. This is too much. I’m not paying these bills. I never wanted any of this. I’m not paying my student loans back either. I’ve never had any say in my own life. You’ve controlled me since Day 1. I’ve always been your puppet on a string. I’ve never been allowed to do what I want or what I feel is right in my own life because ‘mama knows best.’ My life wouldn’t be so fucked up right now if you’d just gotten a fucking divorce when I was a kid instead of making me keep a secret to hide your fucking cowardice from the world. Fuck you, mom, you stupid fucking bitch. I’m not paying any of these fucking bills. I’m dropping out of society and becoming a fucking homeless drifter. Go fuck yourself!”
“You are gonna pay those bills god damn it! Because if you don’t pay ‘em they’re gonna come looking for me and it’s gonna ruin my credit score!”
“Fuck you – that’s not how it works. Your name’s not on any of the release forms they made me sign. You can’t be held responsible for my delinquent bills. You’re a fuckin’ idiot!”
“Fine, Tim. Y’know what? I’ll just pay the bills for you. Just gimme ‘em. I’ll use my money to pay for your hospital bills.”
“No! I don’t want you to pay for any more of my shit so I’m further indebted to you and feel guilty and then feel obligated to do whatever you tell me to do with my life because I feel so sorry for you with your shitty life and your shitty marriage you’re always complaining to me about but have never taken any action to do anything about to fix. Fuck you, you stupid fuckin’ cunt! I know how your game works! Stop trying to manipulate me!”
“Just shut the fuck up, Tim. Are you gonna pay your bills or am I gonna hafta pay ‘em for you?”
“No one’s paying the fucking bills!” I shouted before running upstairs to hide ‘em from her in my bedroom. “I’m not gonna let you win this time, you fuckin’ bitch!”
I was so enraged with her. And I was so fucking angry with my dad too. And I was so fucking angry at my sister for not taking my side. And with the paramedics for kidnapping and harassing me. “Fuck everybody,” I said to myself. “I just wanted to feel safe from these feelings I feel. Can’t write about ‘em. Can’t get blackout drunk about ‘em in peace without getting violated by some dickhead first responders. Fuck them. And fuck that nurse and that doctor too. Fuck Presence Health Care for sending me this bill. Fuck you City of Chicago for having such a stupid law that says people aren’t allowed to resist treatment if they don’t wanna be treated. And fuck you America, with your fuckin’ stupid student loan system. You made a debt slave outta me. You’re the reason I can’t grow up and physically and emotionally leave my parents in the past. And ya know what – while we’re at it – fuck existence itself. Fuck it all. I hate everyone and everything and I just wanna watch it all burn.”
I was in an exceptionally dark place. The next couple weeks I felt like I was teetering on the brink of suicide. It was all so fucking traumatizing for me. I couldn’t comprehend any of it. Nevertheless, I eventually calmed down, got back to working with my dad, apologized to my mom for having acted like my dad towards her, just paid the fucking bills I owed (medical and eventually even the rest of my student loans), got back to writing, started going back to the taekwondo classes I’d been taking at the time and – like it always had every other time after something totally fucked-up happened around here – things went back to normal. What I thought this “return to normal” had meant was that I’d finally “gotten over” that trip to the hospital. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Since I never truly made peace with the incident because no matter how much I’d thought about it I still couldn’t understand it, that shit just went deep underground where it began to fester and contaminate my psyche.
Three years later, in the late spring/early summer of 2017, my sister graduated from college and moved back into my parents’ house. I was still here too. She got a nursing job at a hospital downtown. Sometimes when she comes home from working a shift I ask her and she’ll tell me about her day. She tells me stories of asshole patients. Fat disgusting middle-aged drug addicts making sexualized comments at her. Deranged psychopaths yelling and flailing about, needing to be restrained by security guards and tied to beds. Overly-anxious family members of patients accusing her of incompetence and neglect. So much bullshit she faces every day on top of having to clean up piss and diarrhea and barf off the floor and walls and wipe the asses of four-hundred-pound people while another nurse uses the Jaws of Life to keep their big flabby cheeks spread and, fuck, it makes my head spin listening to all the shit she has to deal with. It makes me angry and sad knowing my little sister has to put up with such things that aren’t in her job description. But she also would tell me about jaded coworkers who’ve been on the job longer than she saying unnecessarily rude things to patients and then telling stories of and laughing about their snottiness back at the nurses’ station. This made me feel really uncomfortable. It’d make me feel angry and indignant as if every story she’s ever told me about the aforementioned asshole patients had suddenly taken on the form of accusations against me of being a horrible person that doesn’t deserve to be alive. I couldn’t figure out how to verbalize what I was feeling nor did I wanna try. My sister had made it clear three years beforehand how she felt on the issue and I didn’t really wanna bring it up again so sometimes I’d just excuse myself and go up to sit alone in my bedroom. Sometimes I’d just lay there taking deep breaths trying to alleviate my anxiety. Sometimes I’d break down and cry. Then I’d just forget about it. And again think I’d gotten over it.
This was a weird time for me. I often tried to avoid reading the newspaper because every time I’d check it out while eating my lunch or breakfast, I would get this terrible head-pounding, gut-wrenching anxiety that made me feel like I just needed to lay the fuck down. This might be hard to comprehend because it’s such a bizarre concept, but every story I’d read about criminals doing horrible shit to people made me feel (on an emotional level, this is not conscious thinking) that the entire world was accusing me personally of committing those crimes. This lasted for months and months. All the Hollywood sexual misconduct allegations were especially hard for me to hear because each and every one was received on my end like a personal attack. It made me feel so fucking horrible. I was paranoid as fuck. And so when I’d read in the paper about some drug dealer getting life in prison for shooting some rival gang members or hear about new career-ruining sexual allegations from the TV when my mom’s got Access Hollywood droning on in the background and this anxiety would take over my body and mind, I’d suddenly feel this need to defend everyone no matter what they did. If that emotion had a voice, it’d have been saying in my head, “No one knows what they’ve been through. It’s not fair to judge them like that.”
And then this other voice would go, “But they’re scumbags, Tim. That drug dealer killed two people. He took their lives from them. And Harvey Weinstein is a disgusting piece of shit that has no respect for women.”
“Yeah but you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes. That drug dealer was a systematically oppressed black man who grew up in the projects and never had the same access to quality education as most white folks. And only god knows how desperate his home life was as a kid. No money. No food. An apartment full of cockroaches. Parents on drugs. Perhaps a mother selling her body to other drug addicts just so she can get her next fix. The stress of it all probably had him with his back against the wall. He probably felt like he literally had no other option but to turn to the streets and start slangin’. Maybe he has kids of his own and he’s only out there grindin’ so they can have a better life than he did – who knows? And Harvey Weinstein – you think it’s been easy for that guy to walk around his whole life being as ugly as he is? If it wasn’t for that power he attained that he’s so often accused of abusing – well, that or date rape – that guy would never get laid. Who would ever voluntarily wanna touch that guy’s dick? No one. Ever. For any amount of money. The guy looks like a fuckin’ science experiment gone wrong. He’s so fuckin’ gross. I get the chills just looking at him. His entire existence – grade school, high school, college – those must’ve been desperately lonely times for him. And even with his success as a producer, I don’t think his adult life proved to be any better. He’s probably suffered his entire life.”
“Yeah, he’s uglier than sin. I can’t argue with you there. He truly has been cursed to that effect. But I must remind you that we in this brain have decided that whatever suffering of your own you may have gone through is never a valid excuse for begetting the suffering of others, remember? Sure, he may have finally gotten some pussy by using the hopes and dreams of some young bright-eyed wannabe starlets as tools to manipulate them into spreading their legs for him, but at what cost to the mental well-being of those women? Does that goo on his dick justify the pain in those women’s hearts they feel for having been relentlessly harassed at all hours of the night, having had the bait of a potential role in an upcoming blockbuster dangled in front of their hungry eyes but then ultimately being used as nothing more than a hole for this hideous monster to ram his rod into? Did the sex that he tricked and pressured those women into begrudgingly having with him make up for all the years of pain during which a woman wouldn’t even look in his direction? Or after he blows his wad and rolls over does a teardrop slide down his cheek as he’s once-again consumed by the same nagging emptiness and isolation that he’s always felt? Think about that for a minute. And the disadvantages of the African American community in poor inner-city neighborhoods is without a doubt one of the worst problems faced by this country, but dealing drugs is not the answer. It doesn’t solve anything. Even if it lifts one man out of poverty, look at the all the destruction it brings to the lives of so many others. No amount of money, big booty bitches, spinning rims on your Dodge Charger or monster-ass cribs full of designer furniture and Scarface posters on the wall in every room is worth poisoning your community with the distribution of crack cocaine – not to mention all the subsequent mental illness and crime such an action propagates. Nor is the rationalization that he’s doing it for his kids a valid excuse. One desperate person trying to get ahead by selling escape in the form of a psycho-sodomizing rock to people he knows – since they all come from the same place – are just as vulnerable and just as desperate as he is to leave their ghetto nightmare behind is an unjustifiable act of selfishness that only worsens an already-bad situation.”
“Yeah, yeah – you’re right. You got a good point there. I just feel really horrible for what these guys have been through though. No one ever takes the time to understand how much suffering these people must’ve endured to get to these low, low points they’re at when they commit these crimes. Cuz like, these guys weren’t born that way. They were a blank slate born into some bullshit they didn’t have any control over. They just never stood a chance. Their souls were tarnished over the years from all the rejection and lack of understanding and then they became cold and hard to protect themselves. And everyone just wants to point their fingers and condemn and shame and punish. It just makes me feel really…I dunno. Bad. I just feel so bad all the time because these guys get no justice for their own suffering. It’s just more shame and suffering thrown on top of the shame and suffering they’d already been suffering from that drove them to do the shitty things that everyone hates them for.”
“Yeah, that’s true. In that sense justice doesn’t exist. Nothing in the world can ever atone for the suffering endured by an individual or a marginalized group of people – neither vengeance on the streets nor verdicts in a courtroom. It might not seem fair, but that’s just the way it is. Their pain and suffering is theirs and theirs alone to deal with and make peace with. You see, Tim, there’s a deep psychological reason that no one ever wants to understand murderers and rapists. It’s because it’s really scary for them to do so. Because we all secretly fear that their logic might actually make sense to us. We might come to realize that had we found ourselves in similarly unfortunate circumstances, having shared similar life experiences at the school of hard knocks and all that, that we too are just as capable of committing such horrible crimes. And to most good, law-abiding citizens that thought is absolutely unacceptable. Because they view themselves as ‘good people.’ So instead of threatening that image they have of themselves as ‘good people’ by attempting to understand quote unquote ‘bad people’ or ‘crazy people,’ they just rationalize that criminals are fundamentally different than themselves. It makes it that much easier to label these people as ‘scumbags’ and ‘lowlifes’ and for them to say, ‘Toss those criminals in jail and throw away the key!’ as they then go about living their daily lives.”
“Hmm. I see.”
“Empathy is a very powerful trait, Tim, that most people don’t possess or at least don’t possess to the degree that you do from having grown up in the household that you did where you’ve spent decades searching for viable justifications for you parents’ drunken behavior so you can let them back into your heart and forgive them all the pain they’ve caused you because you love them and never wanted anything more than for everyone to be well and to get along. It’s not a weakness. It’s a strength. It’s great to understand people. But don’t let your empathy lead you astray. You mustn’t forget that in our society we have rules. And these rules are set in place for a reason. Laws and social norms exist for the good and safety of all. These people you’re defending, they did something wrong. They violated laws and social norms. And in doing so, caused a bunch of unnecessary pain and suffering to a lot of other people. What they did was selfish and inconsiderate and they should be held accountable. They need to learn to respect their fellow man. Life isn’t just about them and the suffering that they’ve gone through. There’s much more to it than that. Everyone suffers in one way or another. There’s always gonna be unavoidable suffering in life that you have no control over. It’s in the very nature of our existence as human beings. It’s on you to deal with it. It’s your responsibility to accept the hand you were dealt and then go out in the world and be the best person you can be. Because the world is not made a better place by throwing blame around and perpetuating victimization. The world is made a better place by you taking the time and making the effort to ask yourself if you truly believe that you’re doing everything in your power to root out all unnecessary suffering you may be causing yourself and others in your own life. If you don’t accept that responsibility and instead choose to act like the world owes you something for whatever suffering you may have endured in the past, when the consequences of your shitty actions inevitably come your way you’re gonna feel like you’ve been screwed over and you’re gonna get bitter and nihilistic and your life, as well as the lives of those around you, are gonna turn into hell on earth. Do you get me, Tim? Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”
“Yeah, yeah. I get it. And I agree. But I’m scared and I’m lost and I’m confused. I honestly don’t have any fucking idea why I feel akin to these pieces of shit. I don’t know what the fuck’s goin’ on with me – why I feel this way.”
One evening in November 2017, my sister was in the living room and I think my mom was upstairs at the time. I was reading the newspaper at the kitchen table and I freaked the fuck out. I had a full-blown flashback of being tied to that bed shouting and crying and wriggling around. I felt like everyone in the world was trying to stuff me back into the denial I was trying so fucking hard to break free from by writing Life of a Manchild back in 2014. My whole body started shaking. I got up and went over to the living room where I started shouting at my sister.
“I didn’t do anything wrong! Those fucking nurses at the hospital! Why’d they do that to me!? It’s not fair!”
“What the fuck are you talking about!? This is my day off! I deal with psychos all week at my job! I don’t need this shit from you on my day off!”
I burst out crying. I was standing there shaking with tears running down my cheeks as I seemingly involuntarily mumbled, “What’d I do? I don’t understand what I did. What’d I do? What’d I do? What’d I do? What’d I do? What’d I do? What’d I do?” And Teresa is just sitting there in the chair staring at me, stunned, having no idea what the fuck is going on. I started shouting and ran to the back of the house and collapsed on the couch in the TV room where I continued wailing and bawling my eyes out. Teresa came in to try and comfort me and my mom did the same minutes later when she learned what was going on. I laid there crying and mumbling about how I don’t know what I did for like twenty minutes. Eventually, in between sobs I started saying, “I’m sorry you have to put up with me. I’m sorry I can’t get over this thing that happened to me three-and-a-half years ago. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for who I am. I wish I wasn’t this way. I’m sorry. I know I’m a burden on everybody. I’m sorry.” And they’re holding my hands and telling me that it’s okay, that I’m not a burden, that I’ve had a very traumatizing experience and that it’s good for me to let it all out. It was cathartic to finally feel that someone was actually trying to see the incident from my perspective – to understand what the fuck I’ve gone through that led me to act in such a way instead of just telling me that I fucked up and need to pay my hospital bills. The compassion of my sister and mother was a huge push forward for me in the healing process. It relieved me of shame. It took me out the mental state of the irredeemable scum-of-the-earth criminal I felt like I was made out to be that night and had subconsciously been locked in ever since.
In the weeks to come, I started to think very deeply about that ugly incident back in 2014 and what my stance on it really means. I didn’t think I did anything wrong. What are the implications of that? Well, let’s start off by asking what it is that upsets me about the stories my sister comes home and tells me about her day at the hospital. That’s easy. I don’t like when patients and family members of patients are unnecessarily rude to my sister when she’s trying to do her job. Why do I think that? I think that’s uncalled for. Just because you or your family member is suffering from some illness doesn’t give you the right to treat other people like shit. Okay. Good. What else? Well, I also don’t like the stories about desensitized nurses being snotty to patients. I don’t think that stuff’s funny. Why not? Well, because I’ve been in that position. They don’t understand what the patients are going through and they don’t make any effort to do so. They’re self-righteous insensitive jerks. Okay. Very good. And what exactly did I do on that fateful night I can’t forget about, the one that fucking haunts me over and over? Hmm. Well, I dunno. I do fucking know what I did! Don’t lie to myself! Be honest! Uhhhhh. Well, I got blackout drunk. I threw punches at paramedics. I cussed out some nurses. I insulted a doctor. And I was spitting all over the emergency room. I see, I see. And do those actions meet the standards that society holds for me? No, no they don’t. Do those actions meet the standards that I hold for myself? No. Definitely not. Then how is it that I’m under the impression that I did nothing wrong? What am I trying to say? Am I trying to say that since I suffered as a kid, as an adult I should be able to do whatever I want to whoever I want whenever I want without having to pay the consequences? Am I saying that just because my parents had a really bad relationship and I got hurt by it I should be allowed to get disgustingly drunk, punch paramedics (how big of assholes they may be is irrelevant) and call nurses (how jaded or cunty they may be is irrelevant) filthy names and spit on the computer (how outdated of a model it may be is irrelevant) in the emergency room? Is that what I’m saying here? Am I avoiding taking responsibility for my own shitty actions and putting the blame on my mom and dad, saying it’s their fault I was a huge asshole because I wasn’t man enough to handle my own emotions that resulted from things that are out of my control that are my responsibility to learn to accept and make peace with? Hmm. Sure sounds like it. That’s a victim mentality. I’m perpetuating victimization. That’s no different than my dad’s subconscious ideology in his assumed role as the unquestionable drunken denial tyrant of my childhood home. That’s no different than my mom martyring herself around the house and then drunkenly taking her resentments out on everyone around her. Do I wanna be like them? No, I don’t wanna be like them. I’m better than that. Do I wanna be classified in the same group as all these scumbag motherfuckers that treat my sister like shit at the hospital? No, I don’t wanna be classified in the same group as all these scumbag motherfuckers that treat my sister like shit at the hospital. That’s not me either. So what’s the conclusion here? What have we learned about that early morning in the summer of 2014? I learned that I was fucking wrong. And I need to apologize.
One night in January 2018 I came downstairs from my bedroom and found my sister sitting in the living room.
“There’s something I need to say to you.”
“I’m sorry I tried convincing you that I was right in being abusive towards nurses and acting like a huge asshole in the emergency room. What I did is not justifiable. There’s no excuse for it,” she started crying. “You were right,” I continued, “I should’ve found a better way to deal with my pain than getting blackout drunk about it. If I would’ve done that, I wouldn’t have had all those extra problems compounded on top of the original problem. I was wrong. And I’m sorry.”
“That must be really hard for you to say. Because I look at patients who are being assholes and I think of you laying there and try to understand what they must be going through and try to have some patience with them and…”
“By all means, continue being assertive and standing up for yourself. I’m proud of you. You’ve come a long way in being strong and learning to stand your ground and not letting people walk all over you and I think that’s great. In that respect I think your job is saving you from turning into a passive-aggressive caretaker doormat. And I think you’re doing a great job in trying to understand where people are coming from. Right now you’re in that sweet spot between pushover and defensive jerk. But don’t go overboard. Just know where to draw the line in how much leeway you give to people for their suffering. Don’t stop trying to understand people, but at the same time set the limits of what you’re willing to tolerate and stick to ‘em. Cuz you’re a great person and I don’t wanna see you turn into a jaded bitch from having tried to lend too much understanding to inconsiderate manipulative assholes who, whether they’re consciously aware of it or not, wanna drag you and everyone else around them down to their level of misery.”
After having taken responsibility for what happened back in 2014 and apologizing to my sister, I’m again able to objectively read stories in the newspaper without feeling like the whole world is accusing me of something. In fact, in general, I just feel more at peace with myself.