I think that I’m an alien. I’m fairly sure that I’m wrong about that. I’m also positive that I’m right. My hypothesis gets both twisted sideways and ultimately confirmed by my faith in Christ. And no, this is not, fundamentally, a Christian post, so don’t flee. Simply, the rampant damage and abject suffering driving my assumption is summarily undone by the Scripture’s proclamation that I am surely a person made in God’s image. Conversely, the very same writings assure me that as a saved follower of the Lord, my true home is the kingdom of heaven, therefore rendering me a resident alien here on this big blue spinning marble. But the brand of alien that I surely am does little to sate my sense that I am the kind of alien that I most probably am not.
The dark place is foreboding. No, not foreboding. I mean, yes foreboding, but foreboding sounds too, like, Victorian or something. The dark place is a living nightmare. It arrives without warning. It arrives not at its ultimate apex, but somewhere further down the mountain. Just far enough below, that it brings about questions; morbid questions. Is it here? Is this it? Is there still time to reverse it? Is it a fait acommpli? In this incarnation, there remains enough light to see vaguely ahead; sort of like driving on a fog-drenched evening; careening down the road, your brights rendered meaningless, wondering constantly if you are heading for a snowbank or a curve in the road. And in too short order, I need to relent and pull over to the side of the road. And I am incapacitated. I am a slave to isolation. I awake, as if from a dream of normalcy, into a land in which the scariest thing I can imagine is to move and the second scariest thing I can imagine is to remain still. I can do nothing but will myself to live for another second; and then another. And what I want most is not to live. It is suicidal ideation without the possibility of a suicidal plan. Jesus gets in the way here, too. I’d never do myself in. It’s not even an option. The inherent sinfulness is only compounded by my wife and children; I’d never abandon them. So I have no way to live and no way to die. And it is excruciating. And I am positive that I don’t belong in this world. There has been a mistake. What I am experiencing must surely be some inherent, subconscious realization that my surroundings are not my natural dwelling place, and my very being is terrified at the prospect of continued survival in this alien land. And, yes, again, the Scriptures. My begotten being does not belong to this sin-filled, broken world and I am simply waiting to ascend to my heavenly home. But, no, that’s not the feeling. The feeling is that I am not, in fact, human.
My med cycle is a bloody traffic accident. 90 mg of Cymbalta; 100 mg. of Trazodone; 30 mg. of Temazapam; 40 mg. of Latuda; 50 mg. of Adderall; 900 mg. of Gabapentin; 3 mg. of Alprazolam. They all come from a competent Psychiatrist and they are all diagnosed based on genuine pathologies which have been professionally diagnosed. But that matters little. It matters some. It would be worse, yes, if I was ordering all this stuff on the internet from some black market underground site or copping them on the street. At the same time, it swings the door wide on potential justification. Can one daily take amphetamines, benzodiazepines, and sleeping pills and still call themselves sober? Am I a fraud? Do I have any business strolling into the rooms of recovery claiming eighteen years of sobriety and sponsoring and counseling others? And forgetting all of that, I spend a good amount of time aware that the general ebb and flow of my med cycle basically determines the ebb and flow of my emotions on any given day. At least I think they do. Because when you are an alcoholic and a drug addict and a compulsive overeater and a bulimic and co-dependent and ADHD and bi-polar and financially unstable and awash in childhood wreckage and your mother has abandoned you and there is a massive spiritual divide between you and your wife and you find yourself at the bottom of a deep emotional well, it is somewhat difficult to target what the problem is. I don’t remember what it was like to not be on meds. Was it better? I don’t have a clue. Should I just go off everything? That sounds terrifying. Would it even be wise? I have no idea. Am I addicted to my meds? No, I don’t think so. But I am assuredly deeply, disconcertingly dependent on them. And, after all, who but an alien from another world dropped on earth as a product of some cosmic mistake would need this much medication just to function on this planet?
I don’t like myself very much. Well, I kind of like myself some of the time, but I don’t love myself. Often, I hate myself. I also think that the psychological, self-help juggernaut that is the United States has put far too much weight on the idea of self-love. I don’t need to love myself. I need to know that God loves me. And I do know that. I never doubt it. And yet, you’d think that the assurance that God loves me would naturally lead me to some semblance of self-love. But it doesn’t. Not really. I am aware that I am lovable. I know this because there are a remarkable number of remarkable people who truly and sincerely love me. And they are neither stupid nor am I willingly trying to pull the wool over their eyes. I would give anything to feel about myself the way some of these folks claim to feel about me. I don’t. And, the thing is, I don’t even really know why I don’t. I just don’t. I know what my assets are. I know what I bring to the table. I know that I have charm and charisma. I know that I am tender and funny and genuine and kind and compassionate and interesting. It doesn’t confuse me that people are easily drawn to me. I get it. I think that I would be drawn to me. That is, if I were not me. But as me, I am not drawn to me. I am drawn to run away from me; I am drawn to get the hell out of me. And if you sense a disconnect here, I would agree with you. Something doesn’t quite add up. If I know that God loves me and I know that people love me and I can see why people love me and I can sense that if I were not me that I would love me, then what stands in the way of me loving myself? This is the sort of circular thinking that speeds through my head like a train whose breaks have failed day in and day out. Somehow, the general way in which love is meant to operate within the human heart hits a snag within me; transforming into an epic fail. The inevitable conclusion is that I am an alien.
It feels as if I have a secret life. Although I don’t have many secrets. Some, yes. But not many. And nothing massive; nothing that would shatter anyone else. Nothing illegal or regarding wrongdoing to others. And yet I feel like I live in secrecy. I feel like a liar. Although I don’t often lie. I lie sometimes, although I generally clean it up rather quickly when I do. But not always. Again, I don’t lie about major things. But I am prone to tell someone that I didn’t receive a message that I know all too well that I did receive and just chose to ignore. All in all, I am honest and relatively transparent (this very blog as a piece of evidence). Nonetheless, I feel like a liar. I think I’m a thief. No, I no longer shoplift from retail stores or steal things from other people. But I take some shortcuts. Or, at the very least, I take some advantage of situations in a manner that, I believe, qualifies as stealing. I think I’m selfish. It’s ironic, this notion. Over the last two decades, I have literally helped thousands of people in tangible ways which have helped them grow, learn and heal. I can’t tell you how many individuals have told me that I changed or bettered their lives. And I don’t show up for others only at my convenience. I have gone to great lengths, sacrificing much, to come alongside others in their time of need. And yet, I think I always think of myself first and I somehow make everything about me. I think I am impulsive, impatient, arrogant, envious, prideful, gluttonous, manipulative, sneaky, condescending, crude, impractical, unyielding, strident and I talk way too much. I’m also not these things. I think, if I looked at it all objectively (which I cannot), I am generally not all these things. Regardless, I think that I am all these things. I think I am a bad person. And, yes, here comes Jesus again, “Of course you are a bad person. You are a sinner. So is everyone else. That’s why I needed to come and die and rise again.” Yes, I am a bad person in that way. But I also think that I am, by earthly standards, a bad person. Maybe another way of saying that is that I think that I am bad at being a person. And maybe that’s because I am not a person. I am an alien.
There are all kinds of things wrong with me. My back aches constantly. My knees are a nightmare. My rotater cuffs are consistently sore. I have flat feet which ache. I have recessive gum disease, which means I will, in time, lose all my teeth. My stomach is testy, which makes my appetite ebb and flow wildly. I don’t sleep well. My immune system is compromised, leading me to get sick far more often than is normal. I have an enlarged prostate. I have Raynaud’s Syndrome, which kills off blood flow to the extremities causing my fingers and toes to go numb in response to cold or stress. My mouth almost always feels dry. I am something of an eighty-five year old man inside of a forty-three year old man’s body. I literally feel like I am falling apart. Maybe because I don’t have a body made for this world. Maybe because I am an alien.
I don’t much like people. But I love them. I deeply want to be left alone. And yet, I long to have a wide cadre of folks available to me. I don’t understand people. Nonetheless, people feel innately understood by me. I never really want to attend gatherings or parties. Still, when I hide from the outside world, I feel tragically alone. I generally don’t answer my phone. But I want people to call me. I don’t want new people to come into my life and add to the responsibility of keeping up with people. Regardless, I make a fantastic first impression and welcome individuals into my space all the time. It’s not a game. It’s more like a Greek tragedy. The last thing that I want to do is hurt anybody. But I do a fantastic job of hurting myself. And, at times, hurting myself, hurts others. And then the shame comes.
Shame is my shadow. Shame is my doppelganger. Shame is my bed partner. Shame is my constant companion. It’s not guilt. I mean, sometimes I feel guilty. But I don’t really do enough outwardly wrong or bad things to feel a steady stream of guilt. I’d happily trade in shame for guilt. At least, with guilt, there is something tangible. Something that can be attended to. Something that can be made right. With shame, nothing can be made right. Because the problem is that I’m not right. Shame is a nefarious monologue. Shame is the concrete evidence that I am not okay and that I am not going to be okay; that everything is not okay and that everything is not going to be okay. Shame is brilliant. It spins these hypotheses without the need for conclusive data. It debates from the podium without a shred of evidence and it wins every time. I throw everything I have up against it and all I come away with is that I’m wrong; it’s all wrong; everything is wrong. Maybe, for me, all would be right on Neptune or Uranus.
I struggle with gratitude. At least in any kind of meaningful way. Don’t get me wrong. At any given time on any given day, I can look in any given direction and be awash in all that I have; all that I have been granted. I see these things and I am thankful. I appreciate the absurd bounty that God has bestowed upon me. But my relationship with all that I have is purely academic. I see it, I acknowledge it, I am aware of it, I can’t deny it; but I don’t really feel it. That is, I can’t seem to take all the wonder that has been so freely given and climb inside and let it soothe my hysterical insides. Instead, I sit at the fringes of all my gifts and look at them and see them for exactly what they are; but they fail to sate my restless spirit; my alien spirit.
Near as I can tell, I have experienced anxiety exactly every day of my time on this earth. That may be an exaggeration, but if it is, it is not a purposeful one. I really believe that. I am stumped to think of a time from my life, which, by the way includes a lot of “good” times, in which I did not feel anxious. Anxiety has been so pervasive in my life, that I did not even spot it as anxiety until about five years ago. I thought it was just the way people were made, as I had never experienced anything else. It undercuts everything, like the laid foundation of a building. And that sort of describes the feeling. I have all these skills and qualities and ways of being that should bring about some semblance of satisfaction, but it is all built on a faulty foundation. They accidentally built me on wetlands or something. And I am slowly sinking back into the earth. And, again, I come back to the original thought. Maybe my foundation is irregular because it is not a human foundation.
Don’t bother arguing or attempting to relax me by stating that I am surely not an alien. Because I will only tell you that you are probably right. I can’t defend my position in any kind of satisfying way. I don’t even know that I really think it. It may very well be a stand-in for some other words that my mind is incapable of forming. But, for now, it’s all I have. I think I might be an alien. And who knows what that could mean. Perhaps I am dangerous in ways that have not yet come to light. Maybe I was sent here to destroy the earth and all the humans populating it. Maybe there is some special timing device built deep within me that will, when the time is right, be triggered from millions of light years away, turning me into the great enemy of all the mortals. Probably not. But, just in case, don’t say I didn’t warn you.