Friday, December 4, 2009

Face of Broken Solitude

I think it's time that I show one of my faces behind the masks. You may have seen the eyes peering from behind, but now I'll let you see the raw flesh. For all intents and purposes my masks have covered and hidden this face of mine to my satisfaction.

You see, my masks are my defenses. They allow me to transform insecurity into confidence, exhaustion into energy, unease into comfort, vulnerability into strength, and sadness into apparent happiness. My masks are as much a part of me as anything else. Perhaps they are more of me than I realized. Perhaps I can no longer tell apart my masks from my faces, as that distinction is blurred. Indeed, this may not even be a face but yet another mask; but if it is, it's not a mask I let others see.

I've learned from a young age to put up walls of emotional defense. If I must, I can attain an almost Vulcan-like clinical mind. As such I've created masks to show you what I feel (and want to feel) and what I want you to see. You may have noticed that the bulk of my posts since August have centered almost exclusively on my life as a med student, under the all-encompassing Mask of Medicine. You may have felt me delve into issues that no one else cares much about, dedicating my Mask of Caring to some purpose that may or may not be greater than myself. And perhaps my posts read like a documentary, as I'm not the most emotional writer, even without my Mask of Stoicism. What's left to hide, I hide under my Mask of Silence. It was all for some purpose, but so that you now see, here is me defenseless, here is me vulnerable. This post may be longer than my usually long novelette posts, but realize my difficulty in articulating that which I can't even stand to see.

To reiterate, you may first want to read this post on Straight as the Arrow Flies. Deep down, beneath the masks and the walls, is a fragile insecurity that's always on the edge of breaking. As true as it was since I started this blog, I am alone in every romantic/sexual sense possible. Though I may have moved on to the next stage in my life and career, that part of me has not matured since perhaps the 7th grade. Dating and seeking a relationship, quite frankly, unsettles me to the point of emotional paralysis. Even thinking about it makes me feel exhausted and heavy. I'm being held back . . . by myself.

It truly is all my own damn fault. I don't make much of an effort to get out and explore. I generally dislike going to clubs or bars, and I certainly will not go alone. But even if I did, I don't know how to approach someone and I'm too shy to express interest. It's so easy to make excuses; after all, the Mask of Medicine pretty much dictates the majority of my life right now.

I am scared that I've become numb to my own feelings, that I wouldn't recognize love even if it were in front of me. What does it feel like? How do I know? How do I act on it? I'm not sure I'm able to separate out love from infatuation from lust. I've spent too long brushing aside such feelings in pursuit of other achievements.

And I am tired. Lately, every now and then, I laugh in the shower. I laugh at my own pathetic-ness and how nice it feels to have water flow over my body, to pretend to have something wash away my unease and hide my tears (in case I have any). And the nights I crawl into bed cold (because it's getting cold here), and alone, and wonder what it must feel like to get into bed with another person and wake up next to him/her.

For the most part I guess I'm too good at hiding this face. I wish just once someone would call me out on it. I wish every now and then someone would hug me, long and sincere, and tell me that things will be okay. I wish I could hug back and not feel awkward. I wish someone would call bullshit on my excuses and drag me out somewhere I've never been (and probably somewhere I'd never be able to find on my own). I wish I were invited to more social events and activities. And I wish I didn't have to initiate and feel pathetic doing so.

Today in anatomy lab, we were having our usual conversations and gossip. But then somewhere along the line it hit a nerve, I felt a crack and felt my face showing. Our conversation drifts, as it often does, towards relationships. And every time I feel alone, left out, unable to contribute - for I have no experience, I've had no relationships. Virginal in all aspects to this subject that my peers were well-versed in.

Perhaps you think I'm silly, or pathetic, or perhaps you haven't even read this far. But this is how it is. And even now, I feel that invisible hand grasping my heart and the dense gravity in my legs. I'm no saint, I'm not some confident med student, I'm not even always on steady ground. But this much you can count on - so long as someone else needs me, so long as others suffer, so long as you have a complaint that I'm willing to hear - I won't tell you my own issues. Because it's my duty to put aside my problems for you, an aspect of medicine that I find relief in. It's my job to care but not yours to reciprocate. My masks and I are for you, even if no one's there for me. There are other people and bloggers who write more emotionally than I, who expose more of their problems than I, and who receive the love and praise of the world. I don't ask for it and I don't expect it because I don't bring it up, but you know what? It does make me sad, and I suppose envious.

I guess med students and doctors are human after all. Time to go to bed, alone and heavy with this broken solitude.


Just said...

Talk about being put to stumble on you blog man.... some thing I don't want out there so will email that to you ... But Ok I first hugging you . Damn dude ... you post oh so move me ... tell what someone told me and your gonna have to do ... sometimes you gonna have to take care of yourself first ... because if you don't you can't be no good to someone else .... I dont think your pathic at all ... thanks for sharing ... I been reading your blog for a while man ... and sorry man ... you hide it well... just know your not alone , and hang in there.... Huggs Lee

. said...

Hey Aek, I am second in line for the huggers sent your way from Alabama to where you are located. I'm sad for you and wish I could give you a real hug and encourage you to go on, find love, find joy, find happiness, find a boyfriend, find good quality people to encourage you and give you hope in the darkest times. I will look for you online to chat soon...hope you're are doing better. Don't give up and stay upbeat!! Things will get better for you...I've been where you have been at your age as well. Things WILL get better!!

tracy said...

Oh Aek,
My heart hurts for write beautifully and almost had me crying there, in you explanation of your loneliness. i'm so sorry. Third in line for many hugs from Virginia.

Much love,

Mike said...

I know it isn't easy to break down the masks. It is easier to just cover it up. I myself am guilty of masking problems and making excuses. I have sort of made it my goal to not make excuses and just deal with stuff this year. I am not saying I'm doing a great job, but I do feel a little better in trying to cure the loneliness and other feelings. :::Hug:::

Anonymous said...

If I were there you'd never go to bed alone. :(

I know it's hard, and I know it gets lonely...God do I know that...but I think sooner or later you're going to get tired of it and do something about it.

Doctors and those in the medical profession are flesh and blood like the rest of us, Aek, and I think it's really silly and pointless to try to deny that or put it aside for your entire life. I hope you can come to terms with what is behind the mask.

El Genio said...

You are not alone in these feelings. I have been following your blog for a few months now and you seem like an awesome person, I think it's just a matter of time before things improve.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts are poignant and universal. You are not alone. You are shaping your future, preparing for the things to come. Here is a verse that may provide some perspective.....

Cherish things while you still have them, before they're gone,

and you realize how precious they really are. Life can only be understood backwards,

but it must be lived forwards. Everything in life is temporary.

So if things are going well, enjoy it because it won't last forever.

And if things are going badly, don't worry because that won't last forever either.

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice;

it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

~~ Author Unknown ~~

Your thoughts are poignant and universal

Anonymous said...

We've talked about this before AEK, and you know that the only person who can change things is YOU.

No one will fault you for your devotion to your professional life/ career. Your achievements and dedication to getting a good education and training to make your patients' lives better is amazing and you know it.

Often things that are important get neglected in the face of things that are urgent. You are smart enough to realize that important things which are neglected don't become less important. In fact, they only become more important and increasingly urgent. It may not be urgent currently - it is easy to sleep over loneliness and drown yourself in work.

I'm going to suggest that your personal development in the realm of intimate, interpersonal relationships is equally important. I am going to further suggest that it is your responsibility to yourself.

It is incredibly tough to make that first step and at the same time incredibly easy to neglect devoting the time/effort/resources that you owe yourself for your personal development.

You know very well that you are the only person in the whole wide world who can effect a change in the direction that you want your personal life to go.

Take that first step. Actively seek opportunities to acquaint yourself with the gay community. Take baby steps. The first is always the hardest, but soon enough you'll be glad you've taken it.

It is a choice and your circumstances are not going to magically change. You have to do something about it.

Like others have said before, and I sincerely believe it, you are an awesome person. Why not share that awesomeness with someone?

(sorry if this posts two times - blogger is acting funky.)

Anonymous said...

Anon MD

Sometimes, the only way to connect with patients is not to do so. Patients expect empathy, not sympathy. Sympathy cures nothing. Empathy allows and facilitates diagnoses and treatments. And when all is said and done, that's all that patients are looking for.

Jason Carwin said...

Wow. That was very powerful writing, and your emotions really came through. I think loneliness scares all of us, but we each deal with it in different ways. Some people overcompensate and become overbearing while others feel paralysis. One reaction is no better than the other, but I think that almost everyone goes through a stage of loneliness.

I have never experienced anything remotely romantic, but I did have a period of loneliness from friends. I know this isn't the same as lacking love, but it does hurt in its own way. I can't explain how that period ended, but eventually, it did, and I know that the time will come when you have found friendship and love and filled that empty place in your heart.


j said...

Dear Masked Man--
I have decided that that the Mask of Caring can't be faked, or masked. If you care, let it show. If you can't (and I don't think this applies), don't try to fake it.
As one professional to another I can assure you that revealing your emotions in important times is, indeed, your armor.

Seth said...

Wow, you must really be feeling down. I know exactly where you're at, and it's not fun. And I share many of the same feelings you have - it's a very interesting way you express and explain them, I can completely understand.

I think you might be way overdue for a "me" day - not sure if you even can finagle the time for one - but seriously take some time and just go do something - well, do "nothing" really - just go relax somewhere and be with yourself, to distract yourself. Go sit in a quiet park or by a lake or something, and just free thoughts for a while. You'll possibly find it will help you center and stabilize things a bit more, or at the very least, have a really big cry to let out some emotions.

When you finish that, I suppose I would say, that you need to determine which, well, which "masks" you want to keep strong, and which ones you want to work on removing, slowly but surely, but not all of them at once, focus on the one that you want to change the most first.

Hmmm. I'm not sure what else to say.


Ron said...

Wow, I really like your writing. The way you present your thoughts and feelings. And yea, not long ago I was behind that mask of medicine as well, and that took up the majority of my daily life.

I just finished 2nd year of medical school (in a 5 year course). On a break now, and I'll be heading back in February for 3rd year, which is our first major clinical year.

Gonna follow your blog :)

- Ron

Randy said...

I liked this post man, havent seen this side of you.

I dont want to tell you that ur holding urself back, or tell you how you can make things better, because i think you are smart enough to figure it out...

love, affection, relationships are not one dimensional beings, and when you are ready all of this will be evident to you. dont get caught up in the societal norms of when, how, or whith whom ur supposed to have a relationship, just let the shit fall in ur lap man. You may not think you have the ability to pursue and have a relationship with someone, but you do, everyone does... so stop worrying about it, focus on ur school. love is everywhere, if u dont find it, it will find you.

btw, you have no problem showing us ur Dork Mask... "Vulcan-like clinical mind" really? damn nerd

Aek said...

Just: I got your email. Thanks for sharing. I'll email you back in the next couple days.

., tracy: Thanks for the hugs. :-)

Mike: It is easier to just cover it up. I've been doing it so long it's become a bad habit I'm not sure how to break. :-/

James: It'd be nice if more people remembered that people in the medical profession are human too - subject to human biases, error, and emotions.

El Genio: Thanks, but sometimes I feel like "a matter of time" is taking its sweet ass time.

Anonymous: Thanks for the poem. :-)

Orange: That first step is the hardest, easier said than done. :-/

Anon MD: I don't see patients (yet), at least not many. I am well aware of the difference between sympathy and empathy. Believe me - that is a non-issue. There are other things going on here.

Jason: Was it? I don't know - I tend to think my writing has a certain . . . clinical tone to it. :-/ I'm well-versed in the essay and little else. I hope you're right about the other stuff though.

j: Doesn't really help me I think . . . o_O

Seth: There's no "me" day in the near-horizon. Finals next week, then the barrenness of break. :-/ The Masks are useful, but sometimes I forget where a Mask ends and I begin.

Ron: I'm glad another med student reads my blog. :-D I'm following your blog now too.

Randy: You haven't seen this side of me because I haven't let you. And normally, why should I when I'm more concerned with how you're doing, or how anyone else is doing? I almost certainly am holding myself back, but I don't know how to break out of it.

I'm tired of letting stuff fall into my lap - I'm one of those people that things NEVER fall into my lap. I have to work my ass off at everything. I feel like I'd have to work at love too, and I don't have the energy to seek it out. FYI, you haven't even SEEN my Dork Mask yet. :-P