To feel seen, to feel heard, to feel acknowledged by the most important people in our lives is one of the most important needs and feelings in a human being’s life.
Throughout my mental decline, increased drinking, down fall, and the further I dove into depression I constantly referred to myself as “Mr. Invisible”. I am not exactly sure where this idea came from to begin with, but it was a feeling that I had a lot. Sitting here now, I think the root of it began in my childhood. I think it stemmed from the fact that I always felt so voiceless, and “in the way”. I also think that it came from the fact that I had never really bonded with anyone on a deep level. I lacked so badly any form of deep human or emotional connection. From the time I was old enough to comprehend most things until recently in my life I felt very much alone. Lonely, even in rooms full of people.
I think that the way the human mind responds to things is really fascinating. When I first began this journey of mine that I am on now, when the first book dropped and things were taking off for me I felt really acknowledged for the first time in my life. People were reaching out to congratulate me, ask me questions, and pick my brain. I felt like I mattered. I felt seen. This would actually be one of the first tumbling blocks in my mental decline, looking back. Because what once was an unheard and unseen little boy, was now the same but in a grown man’s body, and garnering all sorts of attention and adulation. I had seemingly been shoved into the lime light. One lady at a book signing of mine told me I was “the talk of the town”. And that felt really foreign and uncomfortable, because I had never really experienced the feeling of true visibility before. It was awkward and I would just smile and say thank you.
The reason why this ultimately ended up becoming a negative force in my life, is that it left me with this need and desire for acknowledgement. In my first book there is a chapter called “just say yes” and it talks about how I would constantly say yes to new opportunities and new experiences that I would have previously declined. Although that was a great idea at the time, I had no comprehension of boundaries and certainly lacked the ability to enforce them; so the more and more I said yes for the sake of feeling needed the emptier and emptier my “cup” grew. It wasn’t long until I was basically dependent on that need to be needed for my own validation and fulfillment. And when I wasn’t receiving it, it reinforced my “old story” self, that no one wanted me around. It was kind of like this double edge for me, especially once the company was up and running. I love what I do, I love helping people who struggle with addiction. I believe it is my life’s work. My purpose. But I really lost my sense of true self in it all. If I wasn’t working and helping, then I felt empty inside, like no one needed me. So I continued to push and push to fit myself into the front lines, and stay visible. I pushed and chased and fought tooth and nail to make this company and this new life a reality so hard and so often that I completely neglected myself.
I became a martyr. This was my hill to die on. I did everything I could to “earn” people. My family included. I gave and gave and gave. And when I wasn’t getting the feedback that I wanted or thought I should, I felt slighted. I felt invisible again. Expectations are a lot more dangerous than we give them credit for. And they can often lead to very dangerous and ugly resentments. When I do not receive the feedback that I thought I deserved, the acknowledgement from friends, or family it reinforced that no one actually loved or cared about me, but that people were only using me for their own gain. And though I do have much evidence to support the latter, especially professionally, it does not apply to all people. This was the way that my brain had been wired since child hood, isolated incident + isolated incident = people and the world are bad. So I continued my quest for external validation. Even though my internal needs were growing and growing, and my own mental health required attention, there were suffering people out there who needed help and a family at home that needed me to provide for them. I could wait. I would deal with me later, as long as I took care of everyone else, I could manage. I was a full blown people pleaser. Something that is very common with those of us who have PTSD. The feeling that I need to earn love and acceptance with my family and society. But I mean, who could not understand that? I went from quite possibly the most chaotic childhood ever, to a decade + strung out on heroin and living on the streets, where no one would care if I lived or died; to suddenly being this important success story. It was the first time in almost 40 years that I actually felt like I mattered.
For what shall it profit a man, to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
I never really seemed to have any kind of authentic Identity. I just kind of seemed to get along as best as I could. So when I fell into this new world and felt like I finally had this opportunity to be someone, I went all in. I knew that I wouldn’t have a chance like this again, and I sacrificed my own well being in the process. I poured and I poured from a cup that had long since been empty. And the more I did this, the worse my mental health declined. The more the resentments grew. The more and more invisible I felt. I felt taken advantage of by everyone. And I was the culprit all along. It was because I lacked boundaries that I allowed myself to get eaten up like this. And the more and more the stress grew, the less I was capable to practice boundaries, and the more I resorted to just numbing it away. One beer at a time.
The less I was able to practice boundaries, the more I felt used. And the more I felt used, the more it reinforced my “old story” victim mentality. It was a very unhealthy lifestyle and feedback loop. If we live for people’s acceptance, we will die by their rejection. Even the thought that I was being rejected or that I was no longer needed hurt me deeply. I was spiraling so badly in my head.
So with all of the up and down craziness of 2020; the new home, Covid, Josh’s death, and all of the drinking and poor mental health, I was fucked. I didn’t stand a chance. I had already been hanging by a thread and losing my big brother was the final Kerplunk stick to be pulled. All the marbles came crashing down. It fully knocked me back into the old victim mentality. It was so interesting and scary. The trauma of my entire life had now been fully reactivated and it was like I was living the entire nightmare and shittiness of my life all over again and all at once. I was once again the old story Herb. The broken, bitter victim. I was hurt all over again, and hurt people hurt people. I was very unpleasant to be around. I couldn’t take another day inside my head. I was through even trying to be this success story. I had given it a solid run, but I was so exhausted and beaten down that I was ready to just finally check out. I was going to do it. I was gonna hang myself in the basement of our dream home. I had to write some letters to say my final goodbyes.
All I wanted was some relief. I don’t know if it’s delusion, or if it is part of this whole mental decline I was on, but I always felt like no one cared. I remember being on this hypervigilance trip where I was suspicious and paranoid about everyone. I couldn’t trust a soul. I was losing my mind, and growing more and more depressed by the day. In my own mind I was already this hypocrite fraud. I had already crossed a line I shouldn’t have when I started drinking, so that made me a piece of shit. I constantly felt invisible, in society, at home, with friends, and within myself. This depression I was under would not go away, and the only thing that helped was drinking and that was making it all worse. I was totally fucked. I had never in my life as an adult actually felt so lost, lonely, invisible, used, broken, afraid, and unwanted. And the one person who had always been there for me my entire life no matter what had just died. Josh could always see me. He could always hear me. He always made me feel acknowledged, like I was special. And now he was gone. So what was the point?
I sat there in our dream home, day in and day out. Doing my best to help people, being a husband and father, cutting the grass, trying everything I could to make sure no one else would ever have to feel like I have my entire life- completely unhealed, completely relapsed in my mental health; and ended up causing all kinds of pain and grief when all I wanted was to be a helper. And that furthermore reinforced that I was no good. That no matter what I do or how hard I try, I was always gonna be a piece of shit white trash, dope fiend, no good loser that people should have written off long ago.
So I started brain storming how and when I was going to do it. I wrote out my goodbye letters to my family and i began to muster up the courage to finally pull it off. I had decided that I was going to hang myself from the rafters in the basement ceiling with a couple doubled up dog leashes.
I simply couldn’t go on like this. I was so sick of hurting people.
No one would even miss me if I was gone. I was invisible, right?