The Puzzle Maker and the Melodramatist

I find myself often feeling like a caricature. I carry in me a certain kind of sadness that seems to crop up again and again which touches and mutates even love and joy. It’s a dappling of shadow even in bright light. It feels ridiculous, like a put-on, even though I know it’s sincere. So I go through these elaborate convoluted maneuvers to disguise, disrupt and disarm my own inherent melodrama. At a certain point, I feel too smug and detached and inhuman, and so I self-destruct these mechanisms and lay myself bare, which makes me look ridiculous and overly emotional and melodramatic and insincere in a different way. And so it rotates in these cycles. The puzzle maker and the melodramatist.

This is partly born from my confusion of being. We all share this; as per the too-true cliche, life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and often the only references we have to go off of for what normal, sane human emotions look like are novels and movies and songs, especially for things we haven’t been through before. And what we perform once, twice, three times quickly becomes habit, and those ways in which we align ourselves more with fiction than reality soon becomes our reality, whether others believe it or find it tolerable or not. We all find ourselves trapped in these ridiculous self-parodic cycles, whether in love and lust or ambition and desire or rage and motivation or sorrow and depression.

It is this sense that we are not at one with the world, that we have more in common with novels and movies and songs, that precisely drives us back into the arms of those more intense and melodramatic things which more directly portray the ridiculousness of our hearts. We sneer at it in others as it is sneered at in us, but in art we find a solace and a release, even if it is one marked with shame.

My bipolar almost certainly plays a role in this, those self-intensifications of emotion, even intensification of numb non-emotion that the numbness becomes overwhelming emptiness. My mother was born before proper tests for autism and an understanding of its nature as a spectrum, and so she’s nursed a lifelong question that perhaps she has a mild form or perhaps a high-functioning form of autism that she passed down to my brother and me, who each were also never tested. There’s also the question of social isolation, neglect at home, the way I used books and films and albums to connect with a world that I didn’t ever really see trapped in my home by my abusive controlling brother as I was. It’s a senseless series of questions. This is how I feel. I’m only 27, which means there is much time for my feelings to change, but also I am 27, which means I’ve lived in myself long enough to know what it is I feel whether they are the emotions or versions of emotions I’d like to have.

It is what it is. I loathe myself, but I see in myself this… budding seed. I’m not yet germinated. I think everyone says this, that their best years are still ahead of them, but I can feel it, I can measure it. I look at my writing now versus last year and it is better. I look at my actions, as a friend and as a man, and they are better. I look at my understanding of the world and the people around me and I’m not as empathetic or intuitive as I was a year or two ago, but only because I’ve been… for lack of a better term going away, taking a much-needed leave from the world for a while to sit inside of myself and witness certain things.

I lost my last grandparent in 2015. I lost another connection to my dad just this past week. It wasn’t just social dissolution, which I’ve been deliberately vague about. There has been death, and death, and death, and loss and loss and loss, and guilt, and shame, and fear. I needed to sit inside my sorrow. I don’t like to deny sorrow or suffering. I’ve spent too much of my life, over 20 years of it now, in and out of AA and AlAnon and group therapy for self-harm and suicidality and in solo therapy to feel comfortable attempting to ignore or simply put away my sorrow.

It leaves me wondering if perhaps I have been left bereft of certain skills to avoid becoming a caricature of myself, however. This is something I don’t have an answer to.