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

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?