eyes-up

Stigma Fighters : Matthew Perkins

Etymology and Shoes.

Sabotage: deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage.

The word sabotage derives from the French for wooden shoe. Its original derivative is from the word sabotor, which means to work carelessly. In the 15th century Dutch workers were so afraid that machines would replace humans in the textile mills that they would throw their wooden shoes into the looms. We eventually used to it to describe a methodology, a deliberate way to break things for our own advantage. I was a perpetual saboteur of self and relationships, the Jason Bourne of human interaction.

In every conversation, interaction, look that you may give me a “Top 5 List” of the worst possible scenarios comes into my head. They’re completely irrational but serve as a safeguard against possible attacks. If I could think of the worst thing you could throw my way then I can always hit it and won’t be caught off-guard. I think it comes from a lifetime of playing and watching baseball. Always be expecting the curve ball in an 0-2 count, and it’s always an 0-2 count.

Let me give you a shining example of this disturbing scenario:

Two days ago I was out at a birthday party for my niece, cute kid. On the way home my ex-wife in her attempt to understand me a bit says “hey, I read an article on mental illness and creative people.” Seems innocent enough, right? I ask that she share with me so I can read. She says, “no I’ll share it with you when you get home and we can talk about it. There are some disturbing things in there about suicide rates.” Makes sense to most people, no sense upsetting someone if you don’t have to.

Now for how someone like me reads that:

Ex Wife: Hey myself and some other people were discussing how much of a burden your mental illness is. One of them shared this article about how mental illness suicide rates are high among creative people. This reassured me that at some point I won’t have to deal with you any more. I’m going to wait until you get home to read it because you have the kids in the car and I don’t want them dead, just you. (There are 4 other scenarios, but this one is the one that I’m using)

Perfectly fucking logical adaptation, no?

So what’s a boy to do? Well he could stand there completely vulnerable to another human being, any human being, and wait for the verbal stabbing to occur. Or, he could pull out his gun and shoot anyone standing too close. I was so good at the latter. Like Jason Bourne, I had the innate ability to see all the exits, pick out the killers in the crowd, and have an escape route planned the moment I entered a room. Out of fear of what others were thinking, planning, feeling about me I would throw my shoe into their loom and wait for it to break. Then I could say to them “ha, see, I knew you would break.” I could be validated by their decision to walk away and believe it was their fault for hurting me.

The problem lies in the 19th century adaptation of this word sabotor. I got careless. I didn’t pick out the people who were so easily broken. Those weak enough to simply prove me right on the first, second, thirty-fifth, or ten thousandth try. This carelessness lead to one of my greatest self discoveries of all time. This isn’t necessary. The reality is, that there are simply these people who give no fucks who I think I am, they see me. Those unfortunate bastards are also tasked with loving me unconditionally as well. They’re not impervious to hurting. I mean something to them so of course they hurt deeply when I attempt a shoe-throwing-full-frontal assault on their psyche. The problem is they care so deep that they say seven words that completely fuck with my head.

I love you. I’m not going anywhere.

There I stood, with my gun to their head on the ship, (See Bourne Identity) but I couldn’t pull the trigger. I dropped the gun. I dropped the shoe. I dropped to my knees and said to humanity as a whole, “enough.” At first it was an, I lose, you all win, scenario in my mind. But I had more to lose when I had the shoe in my hand than they did. In my desire to inflict pain so that I didn’t have to feel any I ended up inflicting far more to myself. In the years of wandering through life looking for weakness and vulnerabilities in others that I could attack, I had lost friends, lovers, important people in my life that only wanted to do one thing: love me.

It was after an AA meeting that I had this epiphany. I was driving home in the quiet after sharing this little tidbit of information with the group. But the banality of this existence, the loneliness and emptiness that I once filled with a liquid lover had to end. The finality of this decision was met with, as expected, a few open arms. No one attacked immediately, no stabbings to my newly armorless body.

Now like many other aspects of my brain, I have to “Beautiful Mind” it. I know it’s there. I know the sentiments and Top 5’s are lurking, popping up, and generally attempting to steal the joy from me. But for the first time in perhaps my life I can see them for what they are, figments of my imagination. It’s a choice however, I can chose to listen now or not. That’s real power. The old way felt powerful at the time. I thought I was in charge of how the relationship went, but I was wrong. I was stripping myself of all the power over true emotion and that made me powerless to my own mind.

*   *   *

eyes-upMatthew is a 33 year old father of three. He’s dances daily bipolar disorder and its impacts on 10 years of alcoholism that he’s recently kicked. When he’s not writing in his blog about the daily joys and struggles of both he’s painting, photographing, writing music.

Matthew can be found on his blog and Twitter

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  • Julia1wolfe

    Anonymity?? At the level of press, radio and film.