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Life as Pagliacci ((aka A Caricature of Myself (aka Life in the 3rd Person))

“Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But doctor…I am Pagliacci.’ Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.”

I don’t know if Alan Moore made this up or wrote it for Watchmen, but it’s always stuck with me. Yes, it’s become a meme at this point about mental health and yes, it comes from a character who, despite what Zack Snyder and Ted Cruz think, was dreadful in every way. But the story hits home.

I recently opened up to a large group of friends about my mental health. For 20 minutes I typed, retyped, deleted, typed, deleted, and eventually hit send on a long, but all-encompassing State of the Bradley address that I felt needed to be given. I hit send not knowing what to expect.

Now, opening up is something new to me. My penchant for putting on a mask to become the version of myself that I think people want to see makes it an easy, albeit harmful thing to do. It also means that while many people think they know for my petty sports quarrels, tendency to turn anything into a joke (Hell, Pagliacci!), or turn a very real concern about Subject A into a micro-aggression about Subject B because I immediately swept A under the rug and I didn’t want to offend someone with my being offended. That’s the story of my adult life in general. The same anxiety that made me lie for many years… probably at least two-thirds of my life… gave me an internal identity crisis that remains to this day. I don’t think I give people a made up version of myself so much as I let the worst version of myself come out because I think it’s what the people want to see. It’s, perhaps, my only fully-realized creative project.

After several minutes of silence after the State of the Bradley address and two thumbs up from friends who have always been there for me, the next message was about sports. Of course, I swept any offense I took to this under the rug and just joined into the ensuing sports conversation. However, the moment folks disagreed with something I said, the energy folks didn’t have about mental health was suddenly aimed directly at my sports takes. No biggie. I make a lot of dumb and brash statements when it comes to sports.

However, opening up a big moment to me — a step in the right direction. I still don’t know if they know what they did to hurt me, how it wore on me, or the burden it took on me. Hell, I could open up about it to them, but these same fears are keeping me from doing so. Others noticed the strange lack of response, as well, so I know I’m not entirely crazy, either. Right or wrong, having my bad sports takes given more energy than my mental health didn’t knock the wind out of me right away. If you’re like me, you know this feeling. Offense is taken, you hide that offense and move on, then something less important offends you and the feelings you should had toward the original offense come out for something else. It’s a vicious cycle of emotional gymnastics that I don’t recommend to anyone, although I’ve become quite adept at it.

In my mind, it sometimes seems like people don’t want Bradley Geiser. They want the character he’s created. When he breaks that character and actually shows some human emotion, they’re far from interested. After all, it’s easier to tell someone that they are wrong about something like sports or movies than it is to deal with actual problems in the actual world. Do I think I am special in this regard? Hell no. Do I think I have a role in creating this mess? Absolutely. Does this also show how much society has failed with regards to people opening up about their mental health? You know it!

My anxiety journey has already been covered here, but if I am going to give a state of the Bradley when things are looking up, I also have to do so when it is looking down. In recent weeks I rediscovered my creative self. This is when I am most at piece. It’s a two-way street in which I am always in a better move when I feel creatively fulfilled but feel worse about myself when I am not. During these times, the microaggressions shoot out like I’m Tony Montana. And, quite frankly, I hate it.

I hate what my own barriers make me do, I hate how society has wired us to respond to the needs for others, and I hate the way I let reactions dictate my actions, which causes that vicious cycle all over again. That dreaded fog is coming back. I feel like a helpless child. I feel like I have a lot to say but nobody who wants to hear it. Best and worst of all, I know that a lot of this is just me in my own head, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.

Writing is my escape. For years I didn’t know what to write because I didn’t know what to think. I became trapped in this fictionalized persona I created that I thought was a bit but was actually a coping mechanism. Now that I am trying to death of the author myself in my own story (read the link if you’re unaware… it’s not as dramatic as it sounds), it’s helped me regain my individuality but also makes me realize the harm it does.

I have been working on a novel for five years off and on. I have probably written several novels worth of information besides never getting beyond the first act. For years I wondered why this was, but as I said in my previous post, I now realize that it’s because it’s hard to write a passion project when the person writing it is fictional, himself. Just like I need to stop trying to write, tweet, sing, draw, act, or otherwise make a fool of myself based on what I think the people want from me, I also need to do so for my own mental health.

This isn’t one of those essays where I am going to close it with some heartwarming realization. To be honest, I am struggling right now. Not in ways that people have to worry about, but in ways that hold me back, nonetheless. I guess if there’s one takeaway, it’s this. I don’t blame people for not wanting to discuss mental health. I am guilty of many of the same things that now hurt me with regards to my own. However, if I can’t count on folks to be there for you in your time of need, be it big or strong, I think it’s best to distance myself and worry about those who are there for me.

To all I have mistreated on this journey, I apologize. Hopefully, my next post will either be my backlog of WandaVision reviews I am waiting to write, my thoughts on Judas and the Black Messiah, or one of many poems or short stories I have started to cope with all of this. The character of Bradley Geiser is mercifully dying, but I hope the real one brings more positivity, openness, and yes, ridiculousness that cause you all to read these heavy-handed posts, tweets, artworks, podcasts, or whatever outlet I choose to put on makeup and a red nose for and dance around. Hopefully, in the future, the nose is coming off.



The last few months I tried to tap into my creative self. Unfortunately, this also meant tapping into my actual self, as well. Whether this becomes a constant blog or one off post, these are the results.

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