Swimming at last
October 28, 2013 by Thomas Wictor
Dave, The Best Therapist in the World, told me that my situation was similar to a person afraid of learning to swim. It wasn’t water that scared me but emotion. Feeling deep emotions was terrifying. I was raised to think that genuine emotions were dangerous. This was a tradition on both sides of the family.
Mom taught me to concentrate on the trivial. Everything had to be light, sweet, and untroubled. Dad taught me to never express anything. I was to sit quietly at all times. If I expressed joy, he’d ask, “Are you all right, Tommy?” When I was upset, he’d say, “Are you complainin’?” His favorite response to anything other than a complete flatness of affect was, “Rest, Tommy.”
Essentially, I was trained that feeling intense emotions would kill me. What Dave had to do as a therapist, he said, was to lessen my fear of emotion. He used the swimming analogy: First we would stand on the shore of the lake and look at it. Then I would stick a toe into the water. Once I got used to that, I’d put both feet in the water and stand there up to my ankles. Next I would move forward until I was up to my knees, my thighs, my waist, and finally—if I worked really hard at it—I might someday learn how to swim.
“I don’t know if that’ll ever be possible for you,” Dave said. “I think the damage may be too great.”
My problem was that I didn’t want to become like Rod Steiger, a great actor who suffered from depression that inhibited his emotions. During the filming of The January Man, he suddenly began feeling, and he lost control. He ad-libbed this scene, shocking the other actors and the crew, but they kept it in the movie.
After that, Steiger developed emotional lability. He had constant breakdowns, virtually every time he went on a talk show to discuss his depression. I felt badly for him. To me he became a spectacle. His eyes were always watery, and his voice always quavered.
Today, October 28, 2013, I’m suddenly feeling the incredible rottenness of the past ten months. I’m swimming at last. It’s not fun. I tried to help my publicists begin the process of migrating my Website to yet a third hosting company, but I couldn’t do it. Then my doctor called and said the pharmacy wasn’t answering the phone. Since this is medication I need to live, I had to go down and ask the pharmacists to please call my doctor.
It took every ounce of willpower to not do this as I spoke to the smiling, indifferent, dull, empty pharmacist.
It’s amazing outside, weatherwise. Dramatic storm clouds have been hanging over my head all day.
As I swim I listen to Gary Numan. Here’s a song that my parents might have written to Tim and me.
Though swimming is torture, I have to do it.
It’s not the swimming that’ll kill me, but the inability to swim. Still, this is the worst day of my life so far. It’s odd that I was the only person I knew who liked Gary Numan. People couldn’t believe that someone who loved Led Zeppelin, the Clash, and the Who could like that…whatever he was.
This song always choked me up.
At the time I didn’t know why.
Well, I’ve never been quite the same
Little white lies like “I was there”
I’ll never be quite the same. And it’s true: It was only a little white lie for them to tell me that they were here.
Wherever they are I hope someone teaches them to swim.
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