I was at Whataburger buying a burger that I really didn’t want. While I was waiting for my food, two people sitting at a table started laughing.
I should know that they’re not laughing at me. The logical side of my brain knows that it’s just a bunch of friends hanging out, having a good time, laughing at some inside joke or something funny that one of their friends said. But the emotional side of my brain is putting a knot in my stomach and an intense desire to get out of there so that I won’t hear them laughing at me.
When these moments happen, the song “People Are Strange” plays in my head. It forces its way into my consciousness like an old friend that barges into your house without being invited. I’ve never heard or read anything in my life that captures the way that I experience that moment of isolation, sadness and anxiety as the words that Jim Morrison sings on that track. I wonder if he felt it too.
There are two shields that I have to protect myself from this world: humor and work. At work, I have a purpose. I have a reason to be there. I have a role to play and a job to do. When that is taken away at the end of my shift, all that’s left is me - with no purpose and no reason why anyone would want me to be there. On good days, I muddle through with awkward silence and eventually disguise myself as a normal person. Other times, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, where I say or do something stupid and everyone present thinks that I’m an idiot.
My other shield is humor. It’s usually self-depreciating humor, cheesy puns or old man jokes that come to mind. These are like laughter absorption shields. It’s as if my subconscious is saying that as long as I keep them laughing with me, they won’t start laughing at me. I wonder if that’s why so many comedians seem to be clinically depressed and turn to self-destructive behavior or suicide. Did they just get to be so good at being funny to protect themselves that they were able to turn it into a career? I wish I could have met Robin Williams over a cup of coffee to talk to him about this.
So, if you’re someone who knows me and you’ve cared enough to read this far, please know that I am trying. If I act strange, or I look down, or I rant about something stupid, it’s not deliberate. I am trying every day that I leave my house to just be normal and to get along with people and fit in, and it hurts like hell when I feel like I’m not, but please know that I am trying. And if you don’t know me and you’ve stumbled across this little collection of thoughts and you feel the same, please know that you are not alone and that you can’t give up. You just fucking can’t. Fight through it and move on, and do what you can to help others. You may be the only person that someone else can relate to about this. It’s like being able to speak a secret language. You can help someone who isn’t coping as well with this and keep them from giving up.