Monday, August 9, 2010

Rob of the Past: Part 1

You know, there are times when I'm forced to recognize the person that I once was. It's part of knowing the person that I am today. My friends on GitP think I'm one of the greatest things since the invention of sliced bread. Maybe I am. But I certainly didn't come out of the box this way. There was once a guy who had my exact name, my exact birthday (down to the second), living in my shoes who was not such a great guy. It pains me to acknowledge this "other me," but to refuse to do so is to ignore how I came to be the person that I am today.

So I was on GitP today, and was replying to someone on the Depression Thread, when one of my "favorite" stories came up. It involves Mush, his girlfriend Liz (who would later become his wife), Perlin, and myself.

It starts with Perlin and her inability to be sexually satisfied by one man. I would later learn that she didn't just cheat on me with the guy I caught her with, but at least two others, bringing the total to three. I'd thought I was in love. It turns out I was in lust. I mean, "going at it like a pair of bunnies in heat" was practically a daily thing for her and I. And recent studies reveal that humans become addicted to the endorphins that are released when we're in love/lust. When the relationship came undone in an instant, the withdrawals had me giving new meaning to the term "mentally ill."

If you go back in my blog, you'll see my post on 18 October 2008, "Suicidal History: Part 1." I mentioned there that I'd alienated all of my old friends, including Mush and his girlfriend. Well, this is how I managed to do that.

I drove out to Stonybrook University where Mush was working on his MD PhD. During that visit, Liz started up on one of her hypochondriac routines. I'm not even sure what the problem was, but she was suddenly demanding that Mush, still only a med student, do something ridiculous to end her discomfort.

It's hard for me to fully understand how I'd become such a person as I was, but catching Perlin in the arms of another man had sent me up and over the edge. I'd gone from absolutely adoring women to a complete misogynist. In my mind at the time, women should be barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen, and silent.

It was that last that pushed me to become extremely rude while visiting Mush. I DEMANDED that Liz shut up already. I then appealed to Mush, asking why he wouldn't silence his woman. I think I went as far as to say, "The men are talking. Why is she interrupting with her nonsense?"

It's not hard to see how I lost friends that night. Liz forgot about whatever was bothering her and became so enraged that she demanded I leave and NEVER return. Amazingly, I still hadn't altered my behavior as Mush escorted me to the door. Instead, my damaged brain couldn't understand why I was actually being kicked out. I was right. Liz was wrong. Mush was "whipped."

I didn't talk to Mush again until many years later, when my father was facing open-heart surgery. Dad was facing a triple bypass with a mitral valve replacement. I needed some kind of reassurance, and the only doctor I knew personally was Mush. I didn't know where to find him, so I located his brother and called him. His brother passed on the message to Mush, who called me at my father's house.

During that conversation, I was distressed to learn that Mush had to talk to me in secret. If Liz knew he was talking to me, there would be a fight. It was only a few years later, and she was still angry about my shenanigans that night in Stonybrook. Marshal was able to quell my fears about the surgery, and then he was gone again. Gone for many years.

I didn't get to talk to him until I went to Florida to see my father. Mush had married Liz, and they had a son. Liz had become a general practitioner, and all was seemingly well. She'd even converted to Judaism so they could marry. And I don't know why, but I was suddenly permitted to not only see Mush, but his entire family.

By this time, I was a completely different person. Robin had been in and permanently out of my life. I was filing for disability. My life was a greater wreck than ever. But now I had an understanding of myself and my body. I knew that when I'd alienated Mush and Liz, I'd been walking around with untreated severe recurring depression exacerbated by the recent messy breakup with Perlin. I'd also been living with the complications of diabetes, which made me feel infinitely more empathic with those who suffered from illnesses of their own.

Once again, I located Mush through his brother, and Mush was thrilled to talk to me. I was able to spend some time with the entire family, including a few minutes alone with Liz. In that time, we had a conversation that went something like this...

Me: Liz...About what happened years ago...I'm sorry. I had no idea that I was walking around with untreated depression.
Liz: It's okay, Rob.
Me: No, it's not okay. You and Mush are doctors, which means you understand the biology behind the problem, but not necessarily the psychology. It's important for you to understand my need to explain what happened, as well as the fact that I'm not looking to have my behavior excused. There is NO EXCUSE for what happened.
Liz: I understand, Rob, and I forgive you anyway.
Me: Okay. So we're good?
Liz: We're good.

I was then able to give her a brief hug, and that was the end of it.

But what also stands out is a discussion I had with Mush. I'm not sure if it happened before or after my apology to Liz, but it broke my heart. Mush explained to me that I was going to be the best man at his wedding. That was how he'd always had it planned in his head. Of all his friends, I was the one that was around the most, following his every move and there to advise him when he needed counsel.

For example, when he was offered the opportunity to enroll in the MD PhD program, he asked if I thought the extra three years of med school was worth it. I pointed out that he was always striving to be the best at whatever it was he engaged in. If he didn't at least TRY the program, he would wonder for the rest of his life whether he would have been able to make it. Rather than live with regret, he should tackle the program head-on and make the most of it. He did. And while he would later claim that being "a doctor of doctors" wasn't worth it, I know he doesn't have the regret of having skipped that once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But back to Mush's wedding...I obviously wasn't the best man. I wasn't welcome in his life at the time. I wasn't around for that...or the birth of his son...or the death of his father. I missed an entire decade of Mush moving forward in his life, with mine moving backwards all the while.

That was "Rob of the Past." "Rob of the Present" knows better than to vent his anger of people and things on those who weren't involved. In fact, I persist on making sure people DON'T take the blame for certain things.

When I'm in exceptional pain, the thing I hear most often is, "I'm sorry." I know the full sentiment is, "I'm sorry that you're suffering." Still, I find myself asking them, "Why are you sorry? Did you cause me this pain?" It then turns into a comedy shtick. "You DID, didn't you! You bastard!" It makes the entire thing silly, and people end up smiling when they hear my exaggerated anger. It's not their fault, and I don't want people being sorry of feeling sorry for me.

And then there's my beloved Becky, who was recently sorry for the fact that she wasn't here to "bring me soup and sammiches" during my surgical recovery. It's only a joke when I "blame" her for living so far away. It's not her fault that we both fell in love while my body was awaiting various surgeries. And so I am left to tell her, "It's okay, baby. I've been getting by a long time without you. I think I'll manage a bit longer."

But only "a bit." Each day without Becky within touching distance is an emotionally painful one. On our Skype accounts, Becky and I are now counting the days until we see one another.

And that misogynist who believed those horrible things about women...? Becky and I wouldn't be building the future we envision if he still existed. Becky will be the bread-winner in our home. I'll be the stay st home dad, keeping house as best I can and rearing our children. Either we will have equal say in what happens under our roof, or we will discuss it until we are in agreement of what should be what. We will be king and queen of our home, not king and slave.

Okay...the story is told, with critiquing included. This is labeled "part 1," but I don't know when other parts will follow. Unlike my "Suicidal History" and "Therapeutic History," this will not be a continuous tale. Instead, it'll come in drips and drabs as they come to my head. And the main point of such posts is to point out that I am not a "saint-out-of-the-box" as some would like to believe. I was far from a nice guy, even if it's a nice guy that I eventually became.

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