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Wellness

When I Was A Teen, I Stood In My Room At Night, Staring At The Wall

I would stare at a wall for hours. And when I’d get up, there was something wrong. I couldn’t write or draw or speak for hours. I had to get up, go into some space, get my bearings, and see if I can make sense of what was happening out there in the world.

I would stare at a wall for hours. And when I’dget up, there was something wrong. I couldn’t write or draw or speak for hours. I had to get up, go into some space, get my bearings, and see if I can make sense of what was happening out there in the world.

I used to wonder if I could ever have relationships. I imagined myself having to be with someone else or else be alone or something like that. A boy I knew would stare at me and I’d look up, and he’d stare right back at me, and that was nice. But then, I’d get angry and say to myself, “Oh no, I’ll never get to be with you.” And then I’d stare at the wall again.

Then my father died. I was nineteen and I’d been through a lot. For a while, I could only watch television and read the paper. For a while I could only read books. For a while it was harder than usual. When I turned on my father’s favorite program, the first thing I would think was, “I couldn’t be alive if he was alive!”

Then, my dad died. I don’t know if that was why I was staring at a wall; I was too hurt and emotional to know. If anything, I think I felt like I had to get myself together, to be a better person, to show my dad that I’d changed. I don’t know why, but I did.

And then, I was a teen and, if I remember correctly, I spent a year in New York and took care of an aunt, so I wasn’t doing any of that weird, drug-addled stuff, like watching porn, or getting high, or drinking, or being weird. I was going to school—I remember the days when I lived right down the street from the Stuyvesant High School. I had to walk down the road to school, and there were so many people I didn’t know in the way. I’d just look in their eyes and tell myself, no, I can’t do that. I can’t be that person. I can’t.

I think I was staring at a wall at night at that point, too. My mother thought I had been trying to stay away from her and we’d fought a lot. One time when I was sixteen or seventeen, I sat on the bathroom floor at the bottom of the basement stairs, thinking about what had happened, and I was in the bathtub, the water was running cold, and I was thinking how I felt so alone when my father died. He’d never said the words, “Dad, I’m sorry, I’d miss my stupid, stupid dog,” and I was so angry: I felt like I couldn’t possibly be in any relationship and I would not be able to hold anyone. So I was sitting on an empty bathtub because that’s what I did, and I was in the tub thinking about what I had to do to keep from falling apart.

I used to think that maybe what happened with my father was a big, great, awful mistake that I would not pay for with my life.