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Growing Up, I Guess

I've been going back and forth about whether to post this or not. It's not an easy thing to talk about and I've discussed the whole thing with Matty about whether I should do this. He hasn't tried to influence me one way or the other, but has been incredibly helpful in going over the pros and cons. He also suggested that I write it all out and then decide if I wanted to post it. After I decided, he said I had a lot of courage and he was proud of me.

We haven't posted anything this week (except for some eye candy on Monday) and it's been a while since we wrote about anything terribly personal. I now think I'd like to share a little bit of what's been happening for two reasons. The first is that writing this has helped me get clear in my head about what I'm feeling, and the second is that I thought maybe it might be helpful somehow to somebody reading this who might be going through something similar.

I've written before about my relationship with my dad. We had a rocky relationship when I was a little kid going back as far as I can remember. I don't want to rehash everything I've already written but there's a post I titled My Dad and his Girly-Boy Son where there's a little more detail. There's one sentence in that post that's not true. I said that my dad had never been physically abusive to me when he had been drinking. At the time I wrote that I honestly didn't think his shoving me against the wall or slapping me was considered "abuse." Mainly because I felt like I provoked him and had a part in it.

When he was drinking he turned into somebody I didn't recognize and would say really nasty things. My mom and sister would stay out of his way when he got like that, but yours truly would start arguing with him and start calling him names, which only made things worse.

I would get in his face and start yelling at him, which got me shoved and pushed against the wall. A few times I wasn't quick enough on my feet, or maybe it was stubbornness, but I tried to stand my ground and I got slapped. I never saw it as "abuse" because I felt like if I had kept my mouth shut and just left the room, he might have calmed down. Instead, I felt like I had only made it worse.

Well, my dad finally stopped drinking and started going to A.A. and eventually our whole family started going to see this family counselor. The counseling really helped all of us and we got a lot of things out on the table. My dad and I even talked about times he use to make fun of me for being "girly" when I was a little kid and when he called me his "faggot son" when I came out to them.

He apologized for all that and he and I even saw the counselor by ourselves for maybe 4 or 5 sessions. I got the chance to say everything I was feeling and he took responsibility for what he said and how he acted. It was a major breakthrough in our relationship and we eventually started getting close. When Matt came into the picture, he welcomed him and things finally seemed like they were starting to work out.

At the beginning of this year, one of the Resolutions I made had to do with my dad. I said I was realizing that the family sessions we had really didn't solve all the feelings I was having about what happened. Here's what I wrote:
"So what's the problem? Well, for some reason, getting everything out in the open, telling each other how we really feel, and my dad apologizing, hasn't erased all the bad memories. They're still there and I wish they would go away and stop bothering me."
I'm pretty good at pushing those bad memories away so they don't bother me too much. Every now and then they come back, but I just get my mind on other things and life goes on. The problem is a couple of weeks ago they all came rushing back like one of those high-speed trains that go hundreds of miles an hour down the track. And I haven't been able to slow the train or push anything in the background.

We were visiting my family and I was talking about my decision to eventually go to culinary school after I finished college. I honestly can't remember all the details of the conversation or how it got to the point where my dad made a sarcastic remark about my plans. It took me totally off guard and at first I thought he was just joking or maybe was in a bad mood or something like that. Later in the afternoon when he and I were alone, I knew he wasn't joking.

He set up a college fund for me after I was born, which I guess is something other parents sometimes do. His plan was for me to use the money to get through college (minus any scholarships I might get) and to hopefully be able to pay for a master's degree after college.

He asked me if the culinary training would result in a master's degree and I told him it wouldn't. Some schools offer a master's degree but it's mainly for people who want to study "food science," something called "Human Resource Management in a Hospitality Setting," "Cost Control," etc. None of that is anything I'm interested in. Whatsoever. I want the basic diploma and certification as a Chef. Plus a master's degree takes longer and costs a ton of money. Regardless of that, I'm just not interested in it.

My dad said I would be on my own if I didn't get a master's degree. When he told me that I just listened. I mean, he had already said the deal had always been to help with a master's degree. I got a little confused because getting a basic diploma and certification would cost a hell of a lot less than a master's degree. But it's his money and it was pretty clear he had made up his mind.

Then he made a few more sarcastic remarks about my career choice (or in my mind, my career dream). Let me put it this way. The tone of his remarks was that a culinary career was not a "real" career. He's always hoped I would go into something similar to the kind of work he does. I guess he sees being a lawyer as "real" work and being a chef as something frivolous. I'm beginning to think he sees being a chef as nothing more that "just cooking," which I think in his mind is "women's work." Yeah, I'm beginning to see my dad as more chauvinistic than I thought.

I tried to explain that there were probably more males as professional chefs than women, but I guess when you're talking to somebody with a closed mind, you're wasting your time.

Before we dropped this so-called "conversation" we were having, he made some really vague comments about how maybe it was a "waste" of money for him to be paying for even my college education. I guess because there's no master's degree coming out of it when it's all over, maybe he was thinking my college degree was a "waste." I couldn't even talk about this any more with him, so I dropped it and Matty and I went home.

What's been happening with me after all this is what I mentioned earlier. There's been a high-speed train of emotions running at maximum speed in my mind. Memories of all the crap I've gone through in my life are on that high-speed train and I can't stop thinking about it. I haven't been able to make it go away and every day it's been getting worse.

By this time, I'm not even thinking about what got this high-speed train moving. By that I mean I've been going back and reliving all the bad stuff in the past. I can't stop thinking about it.

I've stayed home from school several times because I couldn't get out of bed. All I seem to want to do is sleep and for everybody to leave me alone. I sometime forget to eat and when I do I have to force myself to swallow and even than I have an upset stomach and get nauseous. I'm tired all the time in spite of all the sleep I get. When I'm awake I'm irritable and on edge, almost like I'm ready to snap or pick a fight. There's been a few times when my heart started pounding and I had trouble breathing. I had this feeling that something really bad was about to happen to me, but I couldn't pinpoint what that bad thing was. And the tears? It doesn't take much for me to just start crying. Sometimes I'm not even aware of thinking about anything and I start crying.

I've yelled at Matty a few times when he's tried to talk to me or give me reassurance or comfort, something I'm really ashamed of. I know he's been worried and when he makes a comment about how little I've been eating or my wanting to sleep all the time, I've gotten mad at him. We've been able to talk about it, and I've apologized, and things are a lot better between us now. I've been able to see that he's just been a ready target for a lot of stuff I feel towards my dad. We're better now and I have no idea how I would be getting through all this without him.

Well, all this has led me to a decision I made to call and get an appointment to see a therapist for myself. There's no way I'm ready to talk to my dad about all this. And I don't feel ready to even talk to him with a therapist present. Since all this has happened, he's not called me and I've not called him.

I'm just not able to pull myself out of this and things seem to be getting worse instead of better. I'm also beginning to wonder if maybe I've been sad or depressed or anxious most of my life and I've just been able to push it back.

Matty's done everything he can to help me with this. I could write a whole post describing how much he's helped me. I've talked to a couple of friends I trust, and they've been incredibly helpful and supportive. I could also write a whole post describing how helpful they've been to me.

The thing is, I don't want to risk bringing them down. So I called student health services on campus and talked to them about how I could see a therapist there. I have an appointment today at 3:00 pm for what they call an intake appointment. I'll be meeting with this woman to answer questions about why I want to begin counseling, and she's apparently going to be asking about my background and history and so forth. They already sent me this 25-page questionnaire with every question you can imagine, all the way from whether I've ever wet my bed, to my sex drive, to questions about suicide, to how I feel about God, and to whether I have pets. Then she said they will assign me somebody to talk to who they think would be a good match for me.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared shitless about this. I worry that talking about all this stuff will just make that high-speed emotional train go faster and will make things worse.

The friends I've talked to said it's normal to feel this but the whole purpose of therapy is to get to the bottom of things and work my feelings out, or learn ways to deal with my feelings and my past. I trust what they say and this is the main reason I haven't cancelled my appointment. I don't think I'd have the strength within me to do this without their support.

It scares me to open up to a stranger and talk about all this. I worry what they'll think of me. Will they think I'm some spoiled brat or some weak immature kid who's trying to act like an adult when he really just needs to "buck up" and quit feeling sorry for himself. Will they think I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill (an expression my dad use to make all the time).

A couple of my friends have said I probably have some kind of depression or anxiety and this recent thing with my dad just brought it all to the surface. I guess that's what I'll be talking about in therapy.

I've been wanting to think all this was just normal "growing up" stuff and I'd get through it on my own. But things aren't getting better with me... they're getting worse. I'm trying really hard to see asking for help as a sign that I'm "growing up," but the kind of growing up that will hopefully help me "be" grown up in the end.

I'm hopeful. At least I have that.
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