A gay indie boy living in suburban South West London recounts his trials and tribulations dealing with sex, sexuality, growing up and getting older

Monday, January 04, 2016

New Year

So it's 2016 and I start the year with a PhD to complete, a new job lecturing at UEL four days a week and a more positive mindset. For many reasons, I decided to start taking citalopram again in November. I came off it in late February and while things were going well towards September, I crashed majorly at the beginning of October and starting getting anxiety symptoms so bad I was having crippling stomach pains and exhausted from worrying.

I also quit my job at Immediate Media. There was a time over the summer where my boss had a very indiscreet conversation with me and said the perception on the floor of me was very negative and I wasn't doing a good job. This was a lie: I was doing a good job – in fact I had been doing her job as well as my job and I was only in 3 days a week. But because there had been some office gossip and 'perceptions are reality', the tide had turned against me. This happened in July and I laboured on until November, but then my boss brought it up again and I decided that I couldn't fight it anymore.

Deciding to let go was so difficult. I had been working at a so-called 'career' for over a decade and to admit that it wasn't working out that well was hard. I had gone to other interviews, but there was always a niggling, chewing doubt at the back of my mind that if I committed to it, then I would be setting the course for my life and I would be leaving my PhD unfinished, which I wasn't prepared to do.

Over Christmas, I had to keep on 'letting go' although at no point did I really think that leaving Immediate was the wrong decision. I might be making a tough move right now, but my main hopes are that it will allow me the room to finish my PhD and that it will allow me the space to take the final step in self-actualising. I remember listening to 'Wicked Little Town' from the Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack shortly after I decided to leave my job and the lyric goes something like, "But with all the changes you've been through, it seems the strange one's always you." And I thought... It actually doesn't matter where I go, I'll probably always stick out so why not be the person you originally set out to be?

When I was a teenager, I think perhaps I may have done some things out of pain or angst, but as an adult I want to take those things back and do them through celebration and love. To celebrate my queerness – and by queer I mean a gender strangeness ratheer than a reference to my sexuality.

I've also tried to stop being so damn awkward in front of adults: when I was younger I was always told to be polite and shut up. But now I just think, I don't care – hate me, but I have an opinion and it is equally valid and justified. I have as much right to exist as anybody else.

Last time I went to my GP, I asked if I could stay on citalopram indefinitely. I feel like it clears all the doubts and worries in my mind and allows me to function as a normal human being. I don't think it's cheating or wrong... I think anxiety is actually a horrible illness that has crippled me for my whole life. Maybe one day I will reach a point where I can function without it, but if I could make someone feel what it's like to think and think without being able to get rid of the worry and stress, be hurt easily by things people say and second guess what they mean, to sometimes not be able to sleep, or to have a mind so clouded with thoughts it's hard to think through the simplest problem, then they might think differently about it too.

I'm very positive about 2016. I can feel myself emerging in a new and beautiful way. And I don't know how long this incarnation of Allan will exist – whether it's a short stint or a permanent metamorphosis – but I sense that the change is something so strong, that not even I can control or stop it and that things will be so wildly different afterwards.

So here we go – into the mysteries together!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Slow Sunday

I'm having one of those days and I feel I've had it for two weeks running now, two Sundays running. In between feeling exhausted, I've been fulfilling travel obligations and doing things other people have planned for me. Then, in a bid to relax, I've been drinking far too much and waking up tired and fuzzy headed, thus invoking a pattern.

I stopped taking citalopram two months ago, but I started tapering myself off at the start of the year. I think this may have been a bit of a mistake. Since coming off the medication, I can see a very clear difference in my thinking, which has forced me to consider whether I have actually been struggling with a problem my whole life and just masking it or finding coping strategies, or whether I am just 'normal' and overthink things.

I definitely think I am hampered by anxiety. I find it hard to relax and sometimes everyday tasks can seem so daunting that I just avoid them or refuse to do them. Household chores, for example, fall into this category. A whole day can be wasted due to lack of focus and energy, or I can write off a whole day based on a bad hour. And, of course, I have thought very hard about my relationship anxiety. I think it's even possible I've 'talked myself out of' doing anything that would ever lead to a relationship because I'm actually scared to death of what might happen if it worked out. I've painted myself as this lone wolf, an unapproachable character, a hard-to-handle, bitten-off-more-than-you-can-chew meanie. But deep inside, I've somehow subconsciously convinced myself that I shouldn't even date, shouldn't even talk to a guy because it will all go horribly wrong and – even if it doesn't – it's going to end one day anyway. So might as well calculate/predict/force the hand of that ending than actually try and work at a lasting relationship. This has now got to the point where I see little point in sexual interactions as they are short-lived and mostly disappointing.

It was more or less ten years ago this week that I dumped the last person I referred to as my boyfriend – the last person I said 'I love you' to and meant it. And though there have been dalliances in between, there has been nothing that has come close to a 'proper' relationship. A decade without someone is not usual.

I fantasise often, and now I think fantasising is a form of anxiety fulfilment. To try and predict what might happen in the future in order to anticipate it and deal with it. What's more is this occupies most of my time, and it's actually a form of procrastinating, as nothing ever gets done. Then I end up punishing myself for not being able to live up to the ideals of my fantasies, ultimately setting the bar to high and setting myself up for failure.

The past couple of weeks, I've noticed how lonely I really am. I live alone, I eat/sleep/watch TV alone... Sometimes I go to movies alone and I spend most of my days alone. And only today did I realise that I have probably chosen this way of life because I just can't handle the status quo: I am unable to negotiate close human interactions and confrontations, so I just avoid them completely. I don't believe I have social anxiety, I think I've just developed this weird method of working because I am desparately afraid of depending on someone else.

Thinking back and trying to pinpoint when it happened is difficult. It seems it was a series of small decisions that has now culminated into a situation that is way out of hand and beyond my control.

I turn 32 in less than 2 weeks' time and I am somewhat bemused and panicked by the situation I find myself in. On one hand, I seem to be this fully grown man with a job... I pay rent and bills regularly. I am working towards a PhD. Others see me as someone who sets his mind to something and goes for it. 

But on the inside, I am still this silly little boy, dreaming of things that could never happen, wanting a success that could never come, scared to death of failure.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

The fog clears...

So after months of therapy and mulling it over, I decided to go to my GP and ask for some anti-anxiety meds. Now I have always been anti-medication as a course of treatment for mental illness, but I honestly thought I would try anything to get to the bottom of the quandary with Vik, with my personal issues and trying to figure out how life moves on going forward.

My GP put me on 10mg of Citalopram – the lowest dose – which I have been taking for 5 days now. Day 1 I experienced something close to mania and a euphoric high. Day 2 I had a panic attack, sickness, nausea and hot flashes. On Day 3, I completely lost my appetite and ate one sandwich. Day 4 I experienced so much anxiety I thought I was making myself more ill…

The thing that kept me going were these 'pockets' of clarity. Like looking in the mirror and finally seeing myself for the first time. I saw this very smart, handsome, strong and gentle man in front of me, and I had no doubts or hesitations about it. In my everyday interactions, I could feel that my previous confidence – confidence that was built to mask my insecurities – was fading and being replaced by a confidence that actually started to come from this place within.

On the evening of day 3, I took a walk and thought to myself, "Where has Allan been all this time?" I've spent my whole life looking after or feeling responsible for other people's emotions, wanting to impress other people or make them proud of me. What did Allan want? How did he get so lost among the world? How did he get so lost in the sea of voices in his own head that he couldn't hear his own clear voice? The voice that, in the past, said the right things, but didn't *feel* those things. I have been living my life 'the wrong way round', I thought to myself – as if I was looking for these feelings to suck in from the outside, instead of projecting myself from the inside. I have got by in my life thinking things were 'luck' or 'chance', allowing myself to be thrown from one rock to the next in the rapids of life and absolving myself of any responsibility of making a decision.

I had to start living life for myself, I thought.

On the evening of day 4, I had a major epiphany about Vik. All my commitment phobia wasn't actually to do with commitment, or even to do with Vik himself. He wasn't the wrong guy… I had just spent so much time single, I had painted myself as this 'love martyr' – as if I had forgone love to wait for the 'perfect guy' and have 'the perfect relationship' and, that the next time I fell in love it would be forever. I became overly critical of other people's relationships: belittling them, criticising them for settling for less or making comments about how it would end eventually.

The fact is there is no such thing as the perfect guy or the perfect relationship, but when Vik and I had a connection I just projected all of those ideals onto him then I put myself under a massive amount of pressure to make it the greatest love story ever told. Then, when I realised there was no substance underneath it, I panicked and ran. Vik then started to fall under my 'push and pull' pattern of previous relationships where I had failed to commit, increasing my anxiety. Then I constantly questioned my feelings – did I love him? Was he the wrong guy? Could I do better? PANIC PANIC PANIC.

Did I love him? Well, I needed time to *know*. Yes, I had feelings but I needed to nurture those and I didn't allow myself any time. I needed to know NOW. But instead of giving myself the time, I just used every opportunity as a way to collect evidence against him about why it wouldn't work out.

Could I do better? Hell, there are six billion people on this planet. Maybe I could do better. Fuck whether or not I could do better — Vik could probably do better. There will always be someone more attractive or smarter or likes more of the same music. But that's not what relationships are about. It's about saying, "We have this connection, we're going to give it a go and make an active choice to see if we can make it work together."

Relationships *do* take work, but by fooling myself into thinking I'd find the perfect guy who'd sweep me off my feet, I was again absolving myself of any responsibility of choosing to be with someone and committing to them. Even in the past, my previous relationships failed because it came to a point where I was bored, or there was a problem and instead of sitting down and talking it out, I just said, "Fuck this – I'm off." That way I could avoid the pain of the perceived inevitability of the relationship ending.

In the interim, I chose people – either consciously or subconsciously – who I knew were unsuitable for me because then I knew I wasn't fully invested in the relationship, and I always had an excuse or a foot out the door. I allayed my guilt by saying I was 'being honest and up front', but really I knew even before we engaged in physical intimacy that I was going to say goodbye eventually.

Since taking the meds, my desire or desperation to find a guy – any guy – has disappeared. I've also been out by myself twice to the cinema and to a cabaret… I feel like I can seize the moment with more confidence. My desire to drink has disappeared. Part of me feels like this was what was always missing – that drinking, drugs and all this other stuff was an empty quest to get this clarity of mind. I feel more rational and in control than I've ever been, like I'm really seeing everything very clearly.

All I have to ask myself show long do I take these meds for before I consider it all 'fixed'?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Saying goodbye

Dear Vik,

Today we were supposed to meet and catch up, but I didn't hear from you so I only have to assume that the idea of meeting me is either a) a chore or b) too much to bear. Since we split up, I had this misguided hope that somehow I would see you again and we would fall in love anew, but now I see that's probably a far-fetched fantasy and whatever feelings you have for me are probably not matched in strength or frequency as the feelings I have had for you since we split on 30 December 2013. I can see that, for you, you were left a bit damaged, had a bit of time to yourself and then just got on with it – got over it. For me, I really had to fundamentally question whether I was able to have a relationship with *anyone*, let alone having a relationship with you. After six months of soul searching, I reluctantly have to let you go. Or, more pertinently, let the idea of you go.

You see, the more I hold onto you, the more I prevent both of us from finding someone. For me, everyone I have met with or had a sexual encounter with has brought with them feelings of guilt: that they couldn't compare to you, or how would I feel if I was with this person and I saw you. Did they match up to you? And, if I continue to pursue you, I am also holding you back from finding the love that you deserve – that all-consuming love of synthesis. To hold onto you is to be selfish, like the dog in Aesop's fable who lay in the hay because he could not eat it. If he could not have it, then none of the other animals would.

I also have to believe that I am capable of finding love, of being in love. And – while that love may not come to me today, tomorrow or in three, six, nine month's time – it is there in the universe. I deserve to be loved too and hungered for in a way I am desired. I am not flawed. Or, I may be flawed but there is someone out there who will love those flaws for what they are and acknowledge how perfectly imperfect I am.

I really wish that, somehow, it could have worked. But it didn't. I need to stop making myself feel so guilty about that. You really are one of the greatest guys I've ever known. If the waters hadn't turned sour – if we could have somehow got to the source of how it all became so poisoned sooner – I know it would have blossomed.

But I guess we can't answer those questions anymore... Just close the chapter and then continue into the flow of the universe.

So to that end I have to say... Goodbye, Vik. If I could pack up my feelings for you and send them in a package for the journey onwards, I would. I hope one day I will see you again, and we can tell each other some stories about what happened since... Then maybe laugh and laugh.

In absence of a guarantee of such a day, I wish you all the best and let us both go into the future with love.

Best wishes,


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Therapy 3

So today I was that person. The person that cries in therapy. OH JESUS! I felt so bad about it.

This week, I decided to be honest about the conflict between my sexual and emotional needs, and how I think they are divided. Instead of shunning it, my therapist actually seemed to 'light up' – was more talkative than in any of the other sessions. I don't know if this is because he is getting to know me more or the topic of conversation.

On fetish:

"It seems like there is a lot of shame involved with sex for you and, at the same time, it also seems like you're only just beginning to develop your own sexual identity. You're punishing yourself for not having it figured out at 30 years old – like you should already know what you do and don't like, and what you're looking to pursue. You've experienced it, now you want to know whether you should close the door and what it means – what you give up – if the door is closed."

On my own high expectations:

"Allan always sets the bar at 110, 115 because Allan sees himself as a person who always gets what he wants. Unless you think you can be the very best at something, you'll often quit before you've given it a go. So even if you got the perfect score of 100, you'd still punish yourself for failing to go that little bit further. Instead of rewarding yourself or enjoying the result of your success, you write it off as a failure, abandon it and then you start another project where the bar is again set at 115. This also goes for your dating practices: you often meet people who meet 80-90% of your requirements, but because they don't score 115, you discard them and pursue someone who will fulfill your very high standards – which inevitably is self-sabotage."

On punishment:

"You often think the universe or the world is punishing you – that there is some task or trial that you have to complete to get what you want. The truth is the only thing punishing yourself is you, often when you fail to meet expectations that you have set yourself up to fail at in the first place."

On Vik... Round 2:

Him: "You used a word that stuck in my throat... Nice."

Me: "Did I? Well, I guess I knew that. I knew that if we stayed together we would have had that middle class life... The mortgage, the kids. Everything. If my head could have chosen a husband, I would have chosen Vik."

Him: "But part of you knew that Vik couldn't fill the hole inside you."

Me: (long pause) "No. He couldn't."

On my patterns of behaviour:

"So the pattern begins when you set a goal for yourself, you aim for it and then if you don't get it or the answers you require immediately, you are disappointed. You want it now. And even if you do have it, you question how much time you can feasibly spend on it or whether it is good enough. Is there something better? You get frustrated with these questions and, instead of giving it time, you leave it. Like with Dan: you fell in love and he was a good match. But not good enough - you thought you could do better. You wondered about the future – how much time can I give to Dan? You decide that you haven't got the time to stick around and find out about these uncertainties. It's much easier to be alone and resolve the question by making a decision for both of you.

And you have to ask, how much time do you ever give people before you've decided they are not worth your time? How much time are you giving me? How much time are you giving yourself?"

On the real Allan:

When the session was closing, we had this exchange... Which was 'the moment'. I guess some might say it was a 'breakthrough', but it felt pretty shitty.

Me: "I'm just so fed up – exhausted... Of this energy, this drive, this constant need to do something. Achieve something."

Him: "But it's become a part of you."

Me: "I know. I just wish I could get rid of it. I just want to draw a line under the whole thing. Get rid of this emptiness inside."

Him: "Can you fill the emptiness?"

Me: "I don't know. I really don't know if I can. And that worries me. Am I always going to be unfulfilled? People think certain things of you and I'm just... So exhausted. I'm so tired."

Him: "Tired of not being the real Allan."

At this point, I am hit pretty hard by that for some reason. I start to waiver a little bit and then I begin to cry.

Me: "Nobody knows. Nobody... But where do you begin? How can you begin?"

Him: "Where do you want to begin?"

Me: (I am in full floods now) "Since I was born... It seemed like my life was doomed. There was no love when I was growing up... Just shouting, screaming, arguing... A lot of anger. My mother left my father when she was 3 months pregnant with me and I lived with my grandparents for 2 years. But we could never behave well enough. We were smacked and punished for doing things normal kids do. Then when my mother moved in with my dad, I never felt like he loved me... Neither of my dads loved me. He used to hit me. And my stepbrother and stepsister used to take drugs. Do you know what it's like to come home as a young boy and see your brother passed out on drugs on the bed? And I was forced to endure this... Forced to live through this for 18 years. And hardly anyone in my London life knows this."

Him: "It sounds very painful, Allan"

After this, I had to compose myself - the session was over. I think I gave my therapist a shock. Up until that point, I bet he was thinking I was just a 'confused middle class white man with white people problems'. So where do we go next? Is it really as ingrained in me as all of this? How does one work it out?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Therapy session 2

My therapist never talks to me until we're in 'the room' and we both sit down. He asks me if there is anything I want to discuss from the last session and I say, "yes... This idea of the hunger. Now it has a name I can't help but see how it has manifested itself in my life but it can't be filled."

We sit in silence for a while and I feel I am testing him. I ask him about the silences and I laugh. He asks if it makes me uncomfortable and what I want from him. "To feel better" I reply.

As before I'm just going to highlight the main relevant points:

On coming out: 

 "It seems like it was a story of secrets and lies. Your family never wanted to actively acknowledge your sexuality, which has had a lasting impact on how you feel about yourself and how you then present yourself. You always keep a little bit back. You know I hear these stories all the time and it never fails to hurt me."

On my teenage years:"We were all boys trying to make the break once, Allan. So you ran away to London so you could be you – it was a good choice"

On approval:"You've always enjoyed academia because it brought the rewards you wanted: to be seen as a 'good boy' or to be graded on your performance and this continues to motivate you. But life can be frustrating because you don't always get grades or validation, and so it has started to manifest itself in other ways.You have high expectations of yourself and others – and often punish yourself and them when you fail to meet them."

On office environments:"You put on a show and boss everyone around – show them that you're competitive and ambitious. Mean while, the queer geeky 14 year old Allan is inside panicking that he is playing with the big heterosexual boys who bullied him all those years ago. You feel like you're back at school and you can't contend with the popular kids in the class, and sometimes you worry they'll find out if you let your façade slip."

On me and my internal energy:Him: "So you direct everything outwards. Who is giving Allan the internal energy he needs?"

Me: (laughing) "There's no point giving any internal energy, is there? How are people ever going to know I'm intelligent if I don't publish a book? How will they know I'm talented if I never release a CD? How will they know I'm a great artist unless I perform live in front of thousands of people?"

Him: "And so approval... Looking to these external strokes is where you get your energy from?"

Me: "Yes. Approval is really very important to me."

He then paused pregnantly for effect. I knew why... He wanted me to think about that, but this is something I know and would readily admit to. Following on from this...

On isolation and ambition:

Me: "And so now I've come really far and realise I don't have as many friends as I would like, or I don't have a partner who loves me... And I feel very alone sometimes."

Him: "And so... Let me guess... When you're feeling lonely, you take on another project."

Me: "Yes."

Him: "Because you think that by being busy you'll get the external validation you need to remove the loneliness."

Back to on approval:Him: "And so you're busy and you fill your life with things to try and feed this hunger. But what happens when you've reached that point? What does success look like?

Me: "I don't know. I guess however much success I had it could never be enough. The love of my friends should be enough but it isn't."

Him: "Should it?"

Me: "Yeah... And maybe that's why things always go wrong with my partners. Because one person's love... It just isn't enough. It never can be."

He actually ENDED THE SESSION there. And I thought... Wow, that's a real stinger to go out on. I suppose he wanted me to think about that statement the most. And that's where I'm left... A bit of a punch in the stomach

Thursday, May 08, 2014


So I decided to see a therapist. God, I feel like I'm at the pinnacle of white middle-class problems, but after still thinking about issues that have been bothering me since December, I thought it was worth a go. I think my therapist was more nervous than me to be honest... I talked a lot *A LOT*... But I wanted to get down some of the things he said to me before I forget them.  

On Vik: "So it seems that as soon as you found the perfect guy, you did everything in your power to push him away."

Wow. That one hit me like a tonne of bricks. I almost burst into tears.  

On me: "I get this nervous energy, this anxiety... But then there is this hunger. A hunger inside you that will never be satisfied. And how are you feeding that hunger?"

This idea of hunger... I knew exactly what he meant. A drive inside me that is always searching for more and more and more. Unquenchable desire for everything.

And spanning from that he said: "Nothing will ever be good enough [for you]."

Strangely, that statement actually makes me feel more relaxed. Is that crazy? I thought, 'He's right.. Nothing will ever be good enough. That's life. There *is* a limit to how much you can experience. A lot of stuff in my artwork even made sense.. Things about over-indulgence and excess... All driven by how far can you 'push it' before pleasure turns to pain?

And more: "Everything you do has to be extreme. Either you're going the whole way or not at all, and it's starting to cause problems."

Hm. Yeah... I think I knew that. Wasn't quite aware of how binary my thinking was.  

On my stage in life: "Most people ask themselves, 'Where will I be in my life when I'm 30?' You never asked yourself that question because you always envisaged that you'd be dead, and so what happens now you're alive? Can you continue having these same extreme experiences indefinitely? Can you continue to be the same Allan?"

He even said about settling down and I said, "Even you saying that makes me instantly reject it. I won't have any more adventures." And he laughed and said, "That's good – no more adventures." Then he wrote it down in his book.  

On love: "You want a fairy tale... That people write about in books. The truth is love doesn't always happen like that."

Well... Not sure how I feel about that, but considering some things he said earlier in the session, perhaps my thinking on these experiences is skewed. Again, he was all about the intensity.

On my PhD "Photographs performing? That's interesting. Do you think everything performs?"

Um... Well, there is an academic argument for that. But I know what he was getting at. He was insinuating that I was performing certain behaviours - going through the motions. I then had to confess to him that certain things I thought I had become purely because I had 'imagined' them for myself and then 'stepped into' that role.

Immediately afterwards, I wasn't sure about it, but then as I thought on these things I said I realised he had got to some core truths about me. Some of these I think I'll talk about next time... This idea of hunger I keep referring back to. It's like I'm pouring stuff on it but nothing will ever satiate it. What is it? Where is it coming from?