Zek J. Evets on his journey from Problem to Poster; why his story doesn’t fit inside society’s man-box.
*Guest Post* – by Zek J. Evets
I’ve been struggling with my mental health since the age of 6. Like an entire generation of 90’s boys, that year I was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. It wasn’t that we were hyper, or off-task, or had a harder time learning than the girls. It wasn’t even that our parents couldn’t understand why we needed so much more parenting. It was just the fad at the time. It was a response from some otherworldly zeitgeist which prescribed that boys shouldn’t be rambunctious.
So they made us into zombies.
That was how I felt. Every. Single. Day. From ages 6 to 13. Like a zombie, moaning, “braaaaaaaiiiiiins!” Even George A. Romero would be scared. I know I was. I felt like I had no control over my body. My mind was literally imprisoned. Wanted to play but couldn’t. Wanted to ask a thousand million questions but my lips just sagged at the corners. Wanted to be a kid. But instead I was zombified. It was my own personal World War Z, struggling to fight against this inexorable turn into apathy so deeply entrenched that I took extreme measures to feel alive again.
At 8 years old I made my first suicide attempt. Went into the kitchen around 2 AM. Grabbed my mother’s butcher knife she used on Taco Thursday. Small fingers gripping the wooden handle I pressed the blade right against my throat and froze. I was so scared. I had no idea what death meant. I stayed in that position, sobbing silently, till morning when my mother walked into the kitchen to make breakfast and found me. Slowly, she crouched down towards me, took the knife from my now stiff hands and carefully placed it back into the chopping block. As she raised me up from off the floor her hand slapped me so hard I almost blacked-out. The whole time neither of us said a word. And we never mentioned it, ever.
Eventually I managed to crawl from my personal hell, fooling a legion of counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists to letting me back into public school. I did it by pretending to be exactly what everyone wanted me to be. The truth was though, that I put on such a good pretense I couldn’t even be sure if it was real.
But even then, even after I’d escaped, I still had to deal with the volcanic explosions that internalizing everything had done created in me. I turned into an asshole. I smart-talked. I called people on everything, even the small stuff. I took the bullying, the anti-Semitism, the insanity of growing up and turned it back on everyone without anyone noticing. I was like a ninja assassin trained in mental jujitsu. And I liked it.
But then came more pain. My mother died when I was 15 and my father took me in even though he was barely involved in my life. We fought like crazy. He didn’t know what to do with a son who didn’t just do what he said. Couple dozen times a week I was kicked out onto the street, threatened to be shipped off like old furniture to random relatives.
I remember falling deep into the world of gaming then. I transformed my pain and my loneliness into an obsession within a totally fictional world with people who didn’t care if I still rode my bicycle to school or listening to Jazz music. (Funny enough, the people who did care in high school became hipsters and townies. Go figure.)
Then came love. God, how I loved. I loved so deep it hurt. So much it was difficult to function. And every time it was misplaced. Abusive girls. Cheating girls. Lying girls. Insecure girls. Girls who, as it turned out, didn’t like me at all but felt so comfortable using me when it was convenient. I was the biggest emotional whore on the block. I knew the intimate details of dozens of ladies. They called me their best-friend, the best guy they knew. But I couldn’t get a date to save my life. I tried telling them and they laughed at me like it was cute that I just bared my soul and got crushed in response. Still they wondered why they couldn’t just find a guy like me instead of their boyfriend. Oh, how I was a glutton for their small cuts, which always seem to hurt the most.
If this feels rushed it’s because my life has been rushed. It moved faster than thought, faster than memories can be focused. I sucked the marrow out of life and was poisoned in return.
Each and every day I have at least one crazy, inappropriate thought. I think about things I hardly admit to even myself. And every day is a struggle not to scream in the middle of a crowded room or run away from everything and everyone I know into the wilderness. It’s not that I want to. It’s just that my impulses never went away, my hurt never got smaller. I just got better at controlling myself. I learned how to wind myself like a string and play the goddamn blues on it.
Nowadays I’m as much crazy as I am compassionate. I shrug my shoulders at each obstacle and try madly, desperately, to dance a fine balance between honesty and appearances. Too much and people look at me strangely. Too little and people call me cold, distant, closed-off. I can never be truly myself because, trust me, truly myself would frighten you and make you fall in love at the same time.
So what does this have to do with being a man? Hell if I know. But I do know that so many men I’ve befriended over the years, men I feel no shame in calling my brothers, have experienced the exact same thing I have. And it’s killing them. Not by halves either, but all at once. Suddenly. You could blink and miss it. We’re not allowed to feel. Not allowed to open up. Not allowed to be ourselves. But if we keep it tight, if we keep it close to the chest, we’re branded as weirdos, creeps, losers, nerds, lamsters, and even worse: retarded, crazy, assholes, rapey. It’s a clear-cut case of rock and hard place; damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
It wasn’t until I met the first guy who told me his story that was just like mine that I realized how much of a problem this is. Nobody talks about how being a man is hard. Nobody seems to care that being a man by society’s standards is impossible. Add a history of neglect, abuse, and pain, and you’ve got the recipe for this maladjusted individual now writing to you. And I’m proud of it.
But let me tell you something: the next time someone tells you that you’re privileged. I suggest you laugh, laugh and tell them your life story. If it’s anything like mine, their head will probably explode. Most people can’t understand how someone’s life doesn’t fit neatly into their little theoretical paradigm. Most people can’t even comprehend a man who is neither knight nor beast. But then again, most people are just as confused as we are. As I am. They just don’t admit it.
Anyhoo, this has been my journey but it’s not over yet. I’ve still got a lot more left in the tank, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting!
Flickr image via JD Hancock