The Outside Is Always Perfect, No. 1

“I’ve seen you here several times. My thought of you has always been Why does that man in the corner look like he’s about to kill himself?” He was ignorant as to how close to correct he was. This is the question he’d been asking people for nearly a year. We’d seen each other in passing from going to the same bar, but had never officially met. This was his time to shine. The opportunity to ask me after officially being introduced to me had finally come.

At that point, I was unsure of an appropriate reaction. I played it off as a joke. Who wouldn’t? Mentally, the broken parts of me were ashamed. There were aspects that seemed to want to take control over my actions. My fight-or-flight instincts had kicked in and I started arguing with myself. Perhaps I did so in order to protect myself, or possibly just to find an escape route. What should I change to keep anyone else from finding out? Then, as if a wave of ice-cold water swept over me, I remembered all the reasons I’d lately had to feel this way.

Normally I’m not brought down by life’s hard circumstances. This was failing to be the case at this point in my life.

“So, why change anything? How does it matter if someone else knows?” I asked myself softly when I wasn’t being watched. I was assuming nothing would come of the conversation with Andrew. That cold, water-like wave was still lingering on my skin. So what if I were to live fighting against freezing waves?

I’d been significantly more morose lately than I normally was. The bar that Andrew and I met at was an hour drive for me. I didn’t particularly like the place. I went just to be unknown – mysterious, if you will. It wasn’t that I was looking for any attention. It was more so a desperate attempt at centering myself – at finding some balance in my life that I’d previously been unable to obtain. It was never the alcohol that brought me to that place. I didn’t have to introduce myself to anyone there. The bartender knew me; and for the longest time she was comfortable telling everyone I was antisocial. I was friendly with her, but she eventually started trying to break me out of my shell by introducing me to people.

Going forward a short time, that once-stranger had managed to forge a friendship with me. Maybe because we’re a lot alike. Or, we’ve both got forms of mental illness. It could have been the alcohol in the start of it all. However, I feel as if we’d acquired something we could build upon to sustain a friendship. I’m intimidated by the daunting thought of new friendships. In the past I’ve always been very reserved about forming new relationships in my life. I’d held onto the same two friends for over half of my life: Kristen and Evelyn. They’re both mentally ill, as well. Even still, I’d had my ups-and-downs with the both of them. We’ve come a long way, and I’ve grown to accept them as the closest people in my life. With Andrew, my exact fear was that we were going to discover there is some underlying reason to explain why we’d developed our friendship. Could this be paranoia, or the basis of something I needed to do some mulling over? And why does this feel like dating to me? At what point did making new friends become so much like dating?

We’ve all got to take in many factors. Could this person become a mass shooter in the future? Are they vengeful? We’re not living in the 1940s anymore, folks. Your Tinder swipes are sex offenders and your UBER driver is likely consumed in sinful thoughts while taking your drunk ass home. Finding new friends isn’t the stroll down Easy Street it once was. When I think of the horror stories I hear from other people in passing, I’m astonished more people don’t take up my unhealthy aversion to people. I know it’s not the best mindset, but it’s a protected and (more importantly) secluded way of living. Develop a strong core of relationships in your life and tend to them.

With Evelyn it’s not always been easy. In fact, the friendship has been challenging, and at times experimental. We pushed each other and we made mistakes. However, we were both incredibly self-aware. So, when it came to those rare mistakes, we strove to hash out the core problem. Our doing this has benefited to having only had a single fight in twelve years of knowing one another. We don’t let problems escalate, and therefore I’m unsure these can be called ‘problems.’ We both had a healthy way of sustaining our friendship. She’d become such an integral part of my life. Maybe we were both intrinsically the same person at heart. I’d never had a reason to look too far into why the friendship seemed to make sense. At my core, I knew then and know now the benefits she has always brought to my life and what I have brought to hers. There is neither guess work nor pretense.

The relationships I’ve had force me to wonder if my way is unhealthy. I know that my reservations cause me to overanalyze the situations in my life – more specifically relationships.   After all, if you believe that the quality of a friendship is more important than quantity of friendships you have, what’s wrong with being reserved? In this day and age, where so many of our stupid, drunken acts are captured by the nearest smart phone. Why wouldn’t you be reserved? Rather than being swept away with every person who could turn into a friend, I analyze the person. I sat down and allowed my mind to flood with thoughts. Taking into account how this person can be a healthy person to have in my life and vice versa, as to be expected. As one could imagine, in life I’ve been forced to end several potential friendships. Believe me,this is a practice that doesn’t get easier with time. However, for the sake of the long term, this is often a necessary path to follow.

I suppose now would be an appropriate time to introduce myself to you. I’m Brent. Age, race, and such are not important. I’d like you to get to know me aside from my physicality. I can tell you that I’m mentally ill, as previously mentioned. My diagnosis can be brought to light over time. I will never dismiss the symptoms, but I’m going to explore the hardships of associated with it. The side effects and hardships of having any form of a mental illness. While the symptoms are often the first things people are willing to bring up, I’m going to focus on the side most people are uncomfortable discussing

As anyone with a mental illness knows, diagnoses are a fluid … art. In the LGBTQ community, we’re demonized already. We’re even demonized to a point by people we identify with. We’re one community; and it’s time we bring mental illness out from the bottom shelf. We’ve all seen great strides in acceptance in our way of life. Should we start working on furthering the understanding of our community, in all the aspects?

I’ve been writing since I was in the 5th grade. A never ending saga of a boy stuck on a sinking ship. My teacher, Mrs. Mullen, quickly understood that homework and I didn’t mix. She encouraged my writing by accepting it in lieu of my homework. Looking back, I had two teachers encourage me to write. My heart is in poetry, and that will likely always be where my heart resides. Either listening to it read or writing my own, it has always been highly therapeutic. You can often find me at a poetry reading, I can be spotted by my martini and unwavering attention to the person doing the reading.  I’m also known to read some of my own, or hire someone to read it for me. I don’t mind not being in the spotlight, but I’ve always had a driving desire to share what I’ve created.

Let’s get back to that abnormally outgoing bartender. Over time, she got it in her mind that (and I’m guessing here) I need more people in my life. Perhaps to fill a void from a loved one recently lost. Or maybe I was actually driving away business by sitting alone in the corner. I’m unsure really, the matter still pends.

Andrew is, out of many, one of those new people in my life. As I touched on lightly, we first bonded by way of drinking. However, even in the beginning there have been moments of extreme clarity. This could actually turn out to be a healthy friendship. There are, of course, moments when we could be immature and blow off light responsibilities; but at the core, we both want to make something of our lives. We’re both writers and have common goals. However, it doesn’t feel competitive. That’s something I’ve always avoided in any type of relationship. We’re both supportive, and while both wanting to be successful, we are able to put that aside. I guess the both of us saw and continue to see the benefits of developing this friendship further. This was a very mature and healthy relationship. I suppose my lingering feelings to naturally doubt him were  irrational and instinctual.

Looking back, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t weary of a person in the start. It had nothing to do with Andrew, personally. This is just a part of my personal mental illness. It’s taken many years to be able to compartmentalize my symptoms with my reality. Even still, I can fail to do so. But in this instance, I was certain that I hadn’t missed my mark. I’ve never considered myself a strong judge of character but we’re continuing to spend time together, even now. While I’m still unsure of the of what the future holds, most of the reservations I’ve had no longer feel as pressing as they once did.

I will always relentlessly analyze the people in my life. Probably more so in the start. I can’t say whether it’s good or bad or either. It’s just my way. In the end, you’ve got to make lasting relationships your own way. I can’t tell you that you’re doing it wrong and that I’m doing it right. However, if you have lasting and healthy people to surround yourself with, I can tell you that part you’ve done correctly. Think about what makes those people good for you. Find that in more people. Provide that to more people. We should strive to provide the best of ourselves to our friends, and receive the best of them for us.

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