So… it’s been about a week since I wrote Part One of this series. That one, if you missed it… is pretty much required reading for understanding this one. Part Two will take that same subject in a new direction, addressing something that I found to help me through the struggles and how that little distraction has become something new entirely.
BUT… this is not the same kind of post. Part One was a chance to examine what’s gone wrong in my brain… and it helped me, a great deal, to sort it out into words. Since so many people read it and responded, I did want to carve out a moment here to give a bit of an update.
Addendum to Part One
I’m feeling better most of the time. The days over the last week or so have been a mixed bag, with some feeling fairly stable and calm, others featuring returns to the heart-pounding, brain-drowning sensations. Sleep has been a little easier to come by, with only two major nighttime implosions. But… I go back to work tomorrow, so… of course, today has been the worst day in the last few. The transition back to routine and ritual may, in fact, be exactly what I need… but at the moment it comes cloaked in dread.
I would be remiss–and mostly a jerk–if I did not mention the EXTRAORDINARY kindness of so many of my friends, family, and colleagues. Every message, text, reply, or comment was received and valued, even if I was too far into my own head to write you a thoughtful response. I have never doubted that I am fortunate to have an amazing tribe in my corner… and though distance and safety have taken you from my proximity, you have made it clear that you should never be far from my heart.
I have doctor stuff coming up later this week. We’ll see what comes from that. Other supports are under investigation. It’s all moving very slowly… because moving any faster scares the crap out of me.
OK. Let’s shift gears and talk about something that has a bit of an upbeat energy to it, shall we? Still serious. Still important. But… different.
Distract, Obsess, Annoy
You may or may not know this, but I have a *highly* obsessive personality. I’m not carrying any proper OCD or anything like that, but I get very, very attached to things (people, universes, ideas, whatever). This has been going on for as long as I can remember, but was especially prevalent in what we could colloquially refer to as my personal Dark Ages (Summer 1998 through Summer 2000). That was when I was deep in the process, and trauma, of coming out… first relationships… broken hearts… failed friendships… all of it. Those two years were the loneliest years of my life, coming after high school ended but before I settled into who I was going to actually be as a college student and adult.
During that time, my fixations took on a larger than life significance–the comic book The New Warriors led to me making friends and family out of an internet mailing list, for instance, and soon consumed hours and hours of every single day of my life. I took solace in fiction especially (this is no surprise, I am sure), and it became my security blanket. Whether it was comics or novels or TV shows or movies (Did anyone REALLY need to go see the first X-Men movie 11 times in the theater while unemployed in the summer of 2000? NO THEY DID NOT. Yet I did), there was always someplace else to be.
Escapism is VERY important to me. My passion for games, especially tabletop RPGs, is rooted in that same need.
You see… it wasn’t until much, much later in my life when I started to envision my life as a place I wanted to be. Too often before, for vast stretches of time, I needed to believe in those better worlds… because the world in which I found myself on a daily basis was not always a kind place. For instance…
The first day I showed up to teach in my school district, as a student teacher, I was told by my well-meaning and kind-hearted cooperating teacher that I needed to under no circumstances let anyone else in the building know that I was gay.
The first year that I worked at one of our high schools where I taught reading–for the entire first year–I was asked on a regular basis by colleagues who I was subbing for. I… had worked there all year, and yet they couldn’t even remember that they had seen me before.
The first time Tom and I ever went to dinner together on Valentine’s Day, the restaurant sat us in the exact center of the dining room, while all of the other couples were seated around the outside edge. Staring at us.
Three little examples of what I mean… not that life was massively unfair to me or any such thing. Just… ways in which I found the universe in which I lived to be… short. Unworthy. So escapism kept playing a key part in my life.
In recent years… things have gotten so much better. I’m completely out at work–I never even consider the possibility that someone might *not* know about me. I interact on a regular basis with hundreds of people who know who I am, and I never feel like I don’t belong in the work of my school district. Tom and I are a singular unit that never feels unwelcome or out of place at the wonderful restaurants we frequent… even if these days that’s all curbside and carry out.
So my affection for escapism had become less… urgent. Less vital. I was reading less, and even watching less TV right before the pandemic hit. As the decision to stay at home 24-7 came to pass, I brought those hobbies back as sanity measures and as things to do to help pass the time that would have otherwise been spent out shopping, or playing games at other peoples’ houses, or just driving places.
Man, I miss driving places.
Escapism started to regain some appeal, at first as a way to stay busy… but as the months ticked by, it started to become more urgent and vital again.
I resumed the world’s slowest chronological/release-order rewatch of the Star Trek franchise. After years of slowly rolling through TOS and TAS and TNG, I watched all of DS9 and am barreling through Voyager at practically warp speeds. They don’t really do all that much for me, but… they give me a way to just sort of unhook my brain and be somewhere else. That’s nice.
I returned to Farscape and watched the whole thing–that show is very important to me, very affecting, and it stirred some serious energy in my brain and my heart… but it was all wrapped up in November… and I needed something else that I was a little more invested in. That brings us to the Distraction… the Obsession… the Annoyance that maybe, sort of, kind of, saved my life.
The Main Reason We’re Here
In September, we watched the Emmys. They were *so bad*. Virtual awards shows are a disaster and should be stopped. But the one thing that was not bad was getting to hear the lovely speeches from the cast and crew of a little show called Schitt’s Creek.
Now, many of you are probably old hands in the Schitt’s Creek game–early adopters. I… don’t do early adoption. I do STUPIDLY EARLY ADOPTION (where I know about it before it ever takes off–like with Love, Simon) or I do AFTER THE FACT ADOPTION (where I wait til you all stop talking about something before I bother to try it–like with Game of Thrones and Walking Dead). I just… don’t like to feel like I jumped on a bandwagon, I guess. So I had heard many people talk, and many internet people rave, about the show… but I filed it away as something to deal with later… after the world moved on.
But listening to the speeches of the cast and crew–especially Dan Levy–and their messages of what the show stood for… something clicked for me. Something crawled in my brain and said, “This. This. This.”
I told Tom that I wanted to watch it, and I thought it would be a good thing for us to watch together. He relented–he’s a sucker for award-winners just like I am–and we started a nice, casual watch in October or so. We watched an episode or two a week, sometimes as many as 4 in a week, and…
And honestly? I didn’t really feel it. The first season is stiff… but I have lived through stiff first seasons before (my favorite show of all time is Babylon 5, so… yeah) and we stuck with it. We marched through season 2 at the same pace (so it was something like late November when that wrapped up) and found it improving, but still not setting my world on fire.
Season 3 is much stronger. The show starts to BE what it wants to BE (instead of just the setup for what it wants to be) in Season 3. As we move forward here, I will try to limit spoilers, but… *shrug*
My mental problems first manifested as an inability to sleep because of awful, awful shadows in my brain. Whenever I would settle in to sleep, my brain would conduct a sort of horror audit of my failings and my failures and play those out in agonizing detail. Those first few nights of this phenomenon were some of the scariest nights of my life… not because of the vividness of my imagination so much as of how easily those nights tore away my sense of self. I didn’t know what I was going to do.
About five days into that hellscape, we watched the season 3 finale of Schitt’s Creek. If you have seen the show but don’t remember details, it’s the episode “Grad Night” and the ending of the episode involves a car ride after dinner.
Without giving too much away, I will say that Patrick Brewer (a character on the show who has a significant moment in that episode) saved my life. Or at least my brain.
Like a drowning person thrown a life preserver, I grabbed on to that character, and the show in general from that point on, HARD. I had found a distraction that would occupy enough of my mind that I could drown out the ugly stuff. I still stayed up all night… but I was watching YouTube clips of scenes and interviews and analysis and such… I was wallowing in a genuine kindness, affection, love, and acceptance that this show unspooled in steady, comedic spoonfuls episode after episode for its entire back half. I devoured the final three seasons, forcing Tom to adopt a watching rhythm that he despises (full-on binges of whole seasons at a time) because I was so scared that my 4+ hours of YouTube every night was going to eventually spoil something for myself.
You should have seen how careful I was to not ruin things… how many interviews I watched only until I caught the wiff of a reference to an episode we had not yet watched, before I nearly jammed my finger tapping the pause button on my ipad. I knew there were scared milestones that I dare not spoil… Open Mic, Olive Branch, Meet the Parents, The Hike, etc. I needed them. I needed to see them, to feel them, to let that world and those moments wash over me.
But then… we got to the end. It was my fault we got there so fast, of course… I ruined it by making us rush. The ending of the show is pretty much perfect, and I have no complaints. Other than, you know… it ended.
It was all over. There was no more. Nothing more new. I had seen everything the internet had to offer (even that amazing post-Season 6 graduation Zoom call video. Oh my gosh.) and… it was done. Early adopters had had six years to get ready for the end. Or three-ish years if, like me, you only really invested in the Patrick era. I… had only a matter of days.
I had found this new security blanket that had kept me warm and safe, and now it was torn back away from me. (Again, I know it’s my fault. But it was still a strange kind of trauma.)
We actually watched the last season on the day AFTER my breakdown. That was what we spent all day doing… indulging me in bundling up my heart with laughs and tears as I watched Patrick and David navigating the most wonderful life I could imagine. A life where people just cared, innately, for one another. Where they grow past their flaws. I smile and cry (mostly happy tears) just thinking about it.
I mentioned in Part One that there was this idea of “Hyper-Capable” that really resonated with me. When Dan Levy, one of the stars and creators of the show, won a GLAAD award in 2019, the cast introduced him, and their own characters, at the ceremony. Patrick Brewer is played by an awesome human named Noah Reid, and Noah introduced Patrick on that stage as “David’s hyper-capable boyfriend.”
I liked that idea. I, in fact, like everything about Patrick. I like that he just… makes everything OK. He always figures it out. He keeps David level. He makes David better. He finds contentment and joy in being the take-charge guy, the one who, in spite of being new to everything in his life, always finds the right way to say, or show, the people he loves how much he loves them. I want to be that guy so bad that it hurts.
I kind of want to marry him too, but only in an alternate universe where I never met Tom. I’m not a crazy person. Besides… the best thing about Patrick is how he makes David feel and grow.
The show started as a distraction. It became an obsession. To those of you in my closest orbit (Tom, especially) it’s become an annoyance (as in, JEREMY STOP TALKING ABOUT IT)… but it was also my life preserver.
It still is. I’ll be rewatching it… for a long time, I think. Like Love, Simon before it, it brings an energy into my universe that I never knew I needed until I saw it, felt it, breathed it… and suddenly felt the absence that predated it.
In the nights that have come since the finale… and the nights that I know will still come, as we work to figure out how to best treat my issues and mend my wounds, I’ll cue up a parade of Patrick and David clips and just… feel love that exists without reservation in a world where people want one another to be happy.
That’s the one prescription I’ve written for myself in this process, and even when it gets to be more obsession than distraction (for example, the actor who plays Patrick has two albums of music. I bought them. I am listening to them right now. They make me happy)… even when it gets to be more annoyance than obsession (apologies to the handful of people who I have decided to only communicate with via a series of adorable Schitt’s Creek GIFs)…
Fiction can heal us. All of us. Us as in the whole damned world.
I know that it can heal me. Or, at the very least, play a part in that healing.
So… let me have my distractions, my obsessions, and my annoyances. And I promise to always, ALWAYS, let you have yours.
And… if you ever need a reason to strike up a conversation with me, watch some Schitt’s Creek and tell me you want to talk about it. It’s the world’s most perfect bait for catching a Jeremy-fish right now. 🙂
Only one more of these to come. Part Three is all about… well… Responsibility.