By Wes Frisby
If you had asked me at age 4 what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said a paleontologist. At 8, I would have said a superhero. At 14, I knew I was destined to be the next Lady Gaga (except, you know, only a gay black man, but I would have made it work). At 17, I wanted to be a drug and alcohol counselor. If you had told me that almost two decades later my 8 year-old self would have a lot more in common than any other persona, I probably would have gotten really excited and wondered when my powers would manifest and which room I would be sleeping in during my stay at the Xavier’s Mansion as I trained to be an X-Man.
However, I (mostly) do not run around in tights. I cannot lift things with my mind. I cannot run at superhuman speed. Thankfully, I have never been possessed by the actual Phoenix Force. Yet, as I look back on the life I have lived from an 8-year old child from South Jersey to the man in his mid-twenties sitting cute in an apartment that he loves in West Hollywood, California, I sometimes find myself in awe.
Quite a few things were instilled into me during that 18 year gap. The forces were equally external as they were internal. They are also recurring, almost like an arch-nemesis that in completely Batman-esque fashion, I cannot seem to kill.
Through 14, (yes fourteen) trips to rehabs and detoxes in that time gap, I was diagnosed with almost every mental health issue that you could think of. Some of them seemed for a time very believable because of my drug and liquor-induced behavior (borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder), while others seemed like the doctors were basically just tired of my nonsense and wasting their time with my antics (schizophrenia while not having an hallucinations or paranoia, dissociative personality disorder which was portrayed in the M. Night Shyamalan movie Split and antisocial personality disorder which has been shown in just about any horror movie slasher film you could possibly think of). However, as the chemicals left my body, I was able to stay awake for more than 2 hours at a time. The sweating stopped, and I could eat actual food again. Three diagnosis remained very much constant; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (referred to as PTSD), Chronic Depression, and (of course) Alcoholism.
The most recent and also the disorder I will touch on the least in this article will be alcoholism. I feel as though it is not my place to delve too far into the constant argument of will power versus cosmic intervention, but I will further explain why me living with it day in and day out and not throwing myself out of a window some days make me want to slap a cape on my back and fight crime. Simply put, someone like me likes to drink and do drugs more than anything else in this world. It is my top priority. I will choose that before family, money, sex, friends, food, water, shelter and happiness. When I am drinking, for whatever reason, not a single thing on this floating blue rock three planets away from the sun matters and I am not even sure if those macro-scale parameters are even a feasible level to comprehend the magnitude of how much I do not care about myself or anyone else.
However, one day, something stopped me. Some sort of mysterious entity, more powerful than I could ever comprehend, still my drunk nonsense in its tracks. It hit me like a ton of bricks one day in the winter of 2016 and stopped my racing mind just long enough to understand that drinking and drugs were not for me no matter how many different methods I tried. Even beyond that, at this time it has still stopped me. Further beyond that, I found a reason to give a crap about myself and more importantly about the people around me. While I have not been on a rampage attempting to destroy the cosmos so that it can be rebuilt as the Dark Phoenix possessing Jean Grey (the real MVP of the X-Men in my opinion), I do believe that something otherworldly had to have happened in order for me to remotely sober up enough to see there is more to life than Jameson, Jack Daniels and opiates.
My next enemy, that I fight every single day that is not a creature that I created myself, is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Without getting into the gritty details, my enemy creeps up in a lack of connectivity to others. For starters, if I do not know or feel comfortable with people in a platonic or strangers manner, I do not like to be touched. When making new friends, I have resigned myself to giving high fives or handshakes long before hugs and even then you can get a quick side hug and please, keep it moving. PTSD rears its ugly head by me being so unwilling to trust other people that it is almost impossible to get in deeper than a surface level to get to know me. Luckily, because of the friends I have made, the work around the disorder that I have done, and keeping very vigilant on my own personal boundaries, I have been able to curb that.
Now, every single day, I attempt to be a level of authentic and open that used to be an alien option to me. I now have to choose to express my emotions which some days is much easier than others. To keep that enemy at bay, I have had to learn to give myself the option of seeing deeper intricacies instead of keeping literally everybody out of my fortress made from stones of lies, mortar of silence, and towers of pettiness and shade, to ensure that many of those I cared about were far enough away that I could hold them off before they got too close. Not every single person gets the full experience of me because it is a choice now, not because it is a coping mechanism to avoid pain.
The last villain of the Brotherhood of Evil and one of my strongest opponents is chronic depression. From what I have been told and have learned about this little monster is that he naturally sprouts in my mind. After doing a plethora of timeline exercises, dialectic behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma work, and being on so many medications that I am not sure which ones I have and have not taken from a young age, it is safe to say that this baddie has been with me most of, if not all of my life. He makes me not want to get out of bed in the morning, every morning. He drains my energy as soon as I open my eyes by sinking the calamities of the world, both large scale and personal, into a pit in my stomach making me question the point of anything on this Earth.
Depression makes me cry at weddings when I was 10-years-old because it snuck into my psyche to ensure that I knew I was not good enough to ever be at an alter one day. He also makes me numb enough to stand over that casket of a loved one and feel nothing, but still have my heart wrench when I hear that a friend dies on the other side of the country because I could not be there to say goodbye and that I was a terrible friend because I may have been able to save him when he was in Los Angeles, if I had only spent more time with him.
Chronic Depression has the ability to creep into my head and make me feel fat with a size 31 waist, question every single action I take throughout the day since it was not to just go home and get back in bed, and ensures that I know he is always there right beside me waiting for a way to jump in. Every day, I find a way to hold up a sword and shield to my disease because I have to. It starts by waking up in the morning and getting out of bed as soon as possible. The days I do not, two hours can go by in seemingly five minutes without me realizing I am losing out on the day. To fight my foe, I make sure to take care of myself when everything in my head is telling me not to. My mind will tell me not to call the doctors when I have a bad cold, that dental hygiene is not important, that going to the gym makes me look like a tool, that even the memes I share on Facebook are not that funny and I should just delete my account and throw out my phone. I have been given the option today to ignore all of these thoughts. When the fatigue hits, (even though it is not necessarily the healthiest option) I know that Red Bull and Espresso were both created for a reason, even if it is to synthetically get through a day that I see others getting through without issue. I fight and do whatever it takes to keep my longest adversary in the dark corners of my mind since I know that I will never fully get rid of him.
While I am on the winning side of this fight, not every battle ends in victory. Some days I do stay in bed, looking at the ceiling for way too long contemplating the meaning of life (which my head tells me I already know [fun fact: it is apparently “nothing” in those moments, very nihilistic I know]). Sometimes instead of doing my regular routine for keeping my alcoholism in check, I will spend far too much time at the gym, counting reps to quiet my head instead of doing any of the things suggested to me and wondering why I stay miserable until I do. Often times, friends would come up behind me unexpectedly to give me a “good game” butt slap and it takes everything in me not the throw a quick elbow while my blood boils beneath my skin and my eyes well with tears as I try to explain to them through gritted teeth that for whatever reason and for however long, I cannot handle that. Even with all of this, I know in my heart of hearts that I am on the right track. I fully understand and most importantly am willing to put the work into making my insane, chaotic state of mind into one that much more resembles the Garden of Eden. I have also been incredibly blessed enough to find people more than available and happy to help me and granted the ability of doing the same with others. It is nice that at 25, I can say that with all I go up against, I am most certainly a goddamn superhero.