“Who’s John?”

I read this play called John by Annie Baker.

It has triggered an anxiety attack in me. It is a type of anxiety attack that I only have had once before. It was when I wrote this blog. The stories are entirely different and the characters bear no outward similarities. What these stories do share in common though is that the character that I have the most trouble with is the character I relate the most to at the end of the story.

In this blog, you will not find a summary of the work. Instead, you will find my immediate and visceral reactions. I read this play because it was recommended to me by someone whose opinion on plays I hold very dearly. It is a three act play by a playwright I have already experienced work from. She is a very accomplished playwright and I have yet to read something of hers that I do not enjoy. This is the first time that I have read something since that previous work that taps into a fear of mine that isn’t even expressed during therapy.

I will not be sharing this fear on a public platform. At least, not for awhile. If you read both works, you may be able to understand what that fear is, but, if it is not a fear of yours, then you may not have the same reaction I have.

My stomach is a pit of despair and my anxiety is through the roof right now. I am shaking while writing this because even being reminded that my fear exists is enough to put me into shambles. Trust evaporates and calm slits its throat when this fear is present in my mind. I truly do not know how to handle this without going to my therapist about it.

It may not be a solution, but it is a step towards one. It amazes me that writing about something can trigger this level of pain within a person.

That is the kind of writer I strive to be.

To make someone feel as much as possible.

 

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An Open Letter to Alexander Hamilton

Dearest Colo. Hamilton,

 

As I did last year, I am writing you on your birthday. I understand how this could be seen as an exercise in futility, as you have been dead for over two hundred years, but I believe spending a few moments out of the year to vocalize and take down the specific reason I dedicate time to the task is worth the endeavor itself.

In the time since the last letter, a great deal has occurred in my life. This includes getting the date July 11th, 1804 tattooed on my left shoulder. This, being the date of the due between you and Aaron Burr, was important to me as I see it as the day you gave your life entirely to the cause for which you lived.

Perhaps I am mistaken in using the word ‘dedication’ when describing your entire life. The mistake rising from your infidelity. Albeit brief, it is certainly your worst mistake. Although I have not fallen prey to the same temptations that ruined your political career and marred your personal life, I understand them. Perhaps one day I will write you and delve into the specifics, but for now I will remain silent.

If there is one thing I think you would want for me, dearest sir, it would be that I endure in my life as a better and happier man than you. I do not say this lightly or vainly. I say this because I believe that is what any good man would want. For his successor, spiritually and not in the literal political sense, to be a far more capable and joyous person.

The issue is simple though. Am I enough to be your successor? If I am to believe what those around me say about me in front of me or away from me, yes. If I am to believe myself is a different matter however. I am in a rare mood of clarity at the present moment. I just wasted away a day due to medical issues that plagued my mind and, even though that lingers, I do believe I have the conviction. I might even have the drive, if the wind carries fair and the stars are not misaligned.

Yes, dearest friend, I do have the temerity to believe in myself. Something you did as well. I would even go so far to say that if you still walked the Earth in this day and age and saw what I have done and knew what I was to do…Well, I would say that even you would be proud of me.

For that, among everything, is why I thank you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for helping me believe in myself.

Your obedient servant,

J. Fiene

Two For One

Inside are spoilers for Doki Doki Literature Club of all fucking things, Jesus…

So, I have seen every episode of the online show Game Grumps. There are literally thousands of videos of two dudes playing through hundreds of different video games. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite show online. It is not complex, and with that, I feel that it earns that spot. I feel like a third party inside the room they’re in. Privy to the hilarity that ensues from their conversation and always welcomed.

They have always been a remedy to my depression and anxiety. In all honesty, I tell my friends that if I am not up for watching Game Grumps that I am in a scarily deep depressive episode that need immediate attention. They started playing a game called Doki Doki Literature Club. It looked like your basic dating sim and the first 20 or so episodes were indicative of that.

Unfortunately, someone close to me had a twist spoiled for them and they let me know that something was coming. Not what it was, but that something was on the horizon. I reached the episode before the twist and I felt a pit in my stomach.

I watch Game Grumps everywhere I go, including the bath. Sometimes I stay in the bath until all the bubbles pop and the water gets cold. This rarely happens for one particular reason, staying in the bath until all the bubbles pop and the water gets cold was the exact same situation where I had my first suicidal thought. So, it does not bode well when I relive that experience in an environment that is normally safe. There was a trigger warning in front of the episode.

One of the characters killed herself. I held off from watching the next episode for a few days. I made the mistake of watching it before bed. The episode ended with someone beginning to self harm and write about it.

Then, I had my first anxiety attack of the year AND the worst one I have had in a long time. It was one so bad that I contemplated the awful alternative to put a stop to it. I cried and screamed and barely got a hold of myself. I hopped in the shower, breathed, and counted to one hundred. Then I got back in bed and turned on a completely different episode of Game Grumps to fall asleep to.

Then, about four hours later, I woke up and had another anxiety attack.

My normal solution to ending an anxiety attack is an odd one, but one that helps nonetheless. I move my things to the floor and sleep there. It works to get me to sleep, then a few hours afterwards I will wake up and move back onto the bed. So, as usual, a few hours later I woke up and moved back onto the bed.

It isn’t quite sunrise yet. I hope to get back to bed.

Welcome to 2018

Let’s Talk About Death

Most of the people who are going to be reading this will be in the morning when it glides across their timelines on various social media websites. To have the most minimal control over what people read over their morning coffee is the sole reason I write. Not actually, but could you imagine the power trip that someone gets from writing daily editorials that are skimmed over ritually every day of the week? I would not be the least bit surprised if someone out there found it intoxicatingly addicting.

I have written about Death on this website several times before. I’m also using a big “D” because personification of the unknowable is an easy way to combat fear of it. That is why I refer to the amalgamation of my depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety as “The Enemy”. Unfortunately, The Enemy is the thing I hate most in the world and it is wholly and completely a part of me.

I have barely glided through these past few days without a singular thought that everyone that even barely knows me is afraid of. Unfortunately for, well, everyone, the best way I can pull this thought’s greasy fangs off of me is to write candidly about it. It is a compound thought that has been haunting me for years and has been the reason for many a departure in my life. Purely and simply, Nobody loves me and I want to die.

‘But Jeffrey!,’ scream the not-so hoi polloi, “After the last scare where everyone freaked the fuck out, you swore you would talk to someone about it.”

Yes, dear masses, and that I did. I reached out every single time there was even an inkling of pain. Even the smallest detection of The Enemy set off every alarm bell. The size did not matter, I was to totally exterminate every single trace of it. Not only for the comfort and ease of my loved ones, but for my own happiness.  I started being frank with people. I started doing things that I wanted to do. I was even half attempting to dress myself nicely.

I allowed conversation to flow freely and continually asked everyone I associated with the same question. What do you see when you look at me? I finally had my weapons to fight The Enemy. There was only one thing I needed to do. Regenerate.

When I use the word ‘regenerate’ I refer to its meaning in the show Doctor Who. In the show, The Doctor, an alien, can prevent death by total cellular regeneration. Unfortunately, it changes his face and personality. So, in an essence, The Doctor ‘dies’, but continues on as a different person. Same memories and beliefs for the most part, just different.

The trigger of a regeneration is often time traumatic. For example, the first time I consider myself to have regenerated was the first time I had sex. For most of my life I believed in abstinence, but when it came down to the wire I went ahead with it anyway and it changed me. My outlook on everything skewed. It was not a bad thing by any means, but it changed things. The second time I regenerated was the first time I ever thought about killing myself. I sat alone in a cold bathtub and considered ending my life. Once more, it changed me permanently.

I foresaw the third and most recent regeneration and ran from it. I refused to accept it as fact and tried to ignore it. In my ignoring it, The Enemy built up a massive offensive against me and I began to lose my grip on juts about everything. School and work crashed and burned. My social life stagnated. I gained far more weight than I would like to admit.

I will not go into the specifics of what happened, but I will give you the simplified version. I said goodbye to someone I loved more than anyone I had ever met. It was not a nice sendoff nor was this a sudden occurrence. It just so happened that the second person I put my full trust and faith into, for there own reasons, no longer was a part of my life. My acceptance of that regenerated me.

So, what has changed? My outlook on trust, happiness, friendship and love have all altered. Not for the worse mind you. I would sooner die (Ha) than become a cynic. Life is a grand and beautiful exploration of each other and I believe that trust, happiness, friendship, and love are the inseparable pillars that hold the whole damn thing together.

Where does Death play into this? Well, Death and The Enemy are two wholly and separate entities. Death is not inherently vengeful. Death is natural and should only be feared as it is a total unknown. The Enemy knows my weaknesses. The Enemy knows my vices. The Enemy knows my anger and uses it against me to drive me into the always welcoming arms of Death. Unfortunately, The Enemy is a part of me and often time that part of me can become so overwhelming that Death seems easier than ever.

But the regeneration helped me combat The Enemy. I had more tools in my arsenal. I could weaponize my anger and siphon it into creativity. I could blog and vlog and write and run. How did I get to where I am now though? Well, maybe I should be more specific as to where I am at.

A few weeks ago I was in Nashville with my brother and two of my greatest friends in the world. Two loyal and trustworthy companions whom I love to such an extent that I have immortalized both of them in my private journals. I was saying the word “bro” over and over. Ad nauseum does not even scratch the surface. In the span of ten minutes, I must have said it out loud closer to 500 times. I then realized how annoying I was and become despondent (on the inside, I only showed a mild perturbation against myself outwardly) over the fact that I was being a jerk and not the Better Man I swore to be.

Over the following weeks I noticed more and more things I hated about myself in the company of others and would often compensate for my inner turmoil by being far more needy and dramatic outwardly. I continually messaged people I barely talked to. I referred to long past events as if they were still relevant. I stoked not the fires of revolution and love, but the blaze of compassionless vitriol.

Very few moments of fun and clarity have marked my waking hours these past few weeks. They included watching two sub-par animated movies with my brother, making friends with a black cat, and listening to ten different versions of Carol of the Bells sitting in a car. The fear of people leaving my life kept creeping in so I foolishly tried to hold onto every tighter.

All of this was new to me though, I was acting far more paradoxical than ever. I was being needy but reclusive. I was being loud with a short fuse. I was creating insurmountable evidence in the case against me. The past few weeks I have put myself on trial for crimes against my very nature. The verdict was guilty. What happened though?

I fell right into The Enemy’s trap. The bevy of mental health issues had done something that my years of therapy (which I have avoided like the plague for over a month now because of the overwhelming desire for death) did not prepare me for. It evolved. It changed its plan of attack. Simply: It regenerated. Right alongside me.

Suddenly people I trusted became pariahs. Suddenly loneliness with a blade was an open invitation for a slit wrist. I went from annoying prep and backflipped into greaser lightning fast. I wanted to fight. I wanted to spark conflict.

Worst of all, I stayed angry. I began to dwell on those that I believed wronged me. I began to despise the very thought of the people I loved the most. The Enemy was revoking my trust, dissolving my happiness, burning my friendships, and souring my love.

Subconsciously, I noticed this and did the only thing I have ever done in situations of severe crisis. I cried out for help. Not in the usual video or blog format however. One night. One terrible awful night, of the few people that I had decided could still stand my presence. I contacted each and every one of them for company. I needed someone, anyone to just come and distract me through the night. I KNEW that something terrible was going to happen.

No one came.

My greatest fear in regard to my friendships and relationships with other people is misjudging where I stand with them. Hell, for all I know, this misjudgment was the impetus for my last regeneration. I feared that I was about to live my last night on Earth until my brother relented from his routine and stayed up to watch a few movies with me.

Unfortunately, the ever present desire to welcome Death has not gone away. The lack of love for myself is almost palpable. It seems that all my progress has reversed and I am further behind in emotional maturity and intelligence than I was when I had that first suicidal thought. I feel that I have retrogressed.

My best friend, my favorite coworker, and practically any theater friend I made last semester are no longer players on the overly long board game that is my life. I miss them all dearly, but how can I ask someone to return if I want to leave myself?

 

I welcome any and all discussion.

Alone in the Theater

I am a part of a generation that sees going to the movies as a very social event. One night out with friends or a significant other to see a movie is the most basic way to spend a night with people my age.

 

I love movies. I love seeing movies. I love hanging out too, so I have traditionally delayed seeing something in theaters until I had at least one other person to go see it with. In my Freshman year of college, when I was in a relationship and all my friends had the same schedule as me I saw a new movie every week. I saw everything I wanted to see in theaters during that time. The good, the bad, and the ugly (Looking at you The Identical) were all seen by me and my gaggle of pals.

Then things changed. The relationship ended, some friendships faded, and schedules changed. Suddenly going to see movies with my friends went from a weekly thing to maybe once every few months. A part of my life basically disintegrated and I didn’t realize until recently.

Now, I have always been a big proponent of doing things by yourself.  It is very easy for someone who has a girlfriend and sees their friends everyday to say things like, “You can always do things by yourself”, “Being alone doesn’t mean you have to stop having fun”, or “You don’t need friends/a significant other to treat yourself”. When all of that stopped I felt like I had to eat my own words.

I didn’t do things by myself. I couldn’t do things by myself. Isolation put chains around me and the idea of having fun with no one else around became myth. Something I could entertain in my thoughts, but could never aspire to reach.

Then the story, as a tragic number of stories do, took a darker turn. My depression got worse, my anxiety attacks became more frequent, and my bipolar disorder swung harder. It became difficult to even go to bed without suffering from some sort of attack. And I continued to do nothing different in my life. I kept the same habits, I kept the same everything. So, I kept the same conditions.

Then something in me, as many things have, broke. Guardians of the Galaxy VOL. 2 came out. It wasn’t like I was counting down the days to this movie. I’d only seen the original in theaters once and haven’t seen it since. I asked the usual group of people and they had plans with other people to see it, I asked another group and they had already seen it, I finally asked people I had never seen a movie with and I was met with either no response or something that the first two groups had given me. I went to see it by myself. I bought my ticket and drink. Sat my lonely ass down in a theater seat and watched Chris Pratt fight Kurt Russell.

Then, a week later, I saw it again with one of my closest friends.

Last night, I asked less people if they wanted to see Wonder Woman and all of them had their reasons not to. So I went to see it alone. Earlier that day I asked my friend and former film teacher how often he sees movies by himself and it gave me a resolve not to make myself wait so much anymore. I don’t need other people to do what I want and seeing movies by myself is the first step to doing many other things.

I Almost Killed Myself on May 19th

All year I have really been ignoring my mood. I have allowed myself bad days, but the worst days I would weather without trying to talk to anyone about them. I would simply ask a friend over and distract myself until I fell asleep.

I began self-harming in very small ways a few months ago to break the overwhelming depression and, for a time, it worked.

Today I went outside, listened to music, decided to kill myself, hugged my Mom goodbye and went into my room and was numb for hours. The reason I am typing this is because I was unable to say it on video or write it in a journal.

I have people constantly asking me if I am okay and I have been lying to all of them. There is a reason this semester was the worst one I ever had. There is a reason I stopped writing anything outside of small journal entries. There is a reason I have spent the last week trying to talk to everyone I can.

I am not okay.

This is an admission and an apology. I do not know how to help myself. I am sorry for lying to you.

I Miss Acting

I am an actor. I have no current evidence to present that can substantiate that claim, but I believe truly an empirically that I am an actor. Like many artists, I am afflicted with a terrifying variety of mental health issues that make functioning even in the simplest of ways difficult. Actors must be able to function in ways far less simple than those that reality pushes onto us. I have always refused to use these diseases as an excuse however.

I have a great deal of friends who are actors as well. A few of them have even seen me act and continue to push me towards what I ultimately miss. I have the support of friends and family. Most importantly, I have the desire to continue. It is a burning desire that, when properly recognized, makes any and all anxieties paltry piles of ash and soot.

When I see a show, I let my mind wonder how I could have fit into it if I had auditioned. Even when I force myself to audition, I let the disease outweigh the desire and become a nervous wreck. I have self-sabotaged so many attempts at participating within shows around my community because of my lack of belief in myself.

I have let this disease take root and create cavities in my talent. I have let is gnaw at the very infrastructure of my dreams. The disease has maintained me where it wants me.

No more.

No more stopping myself. No more ruining my chances before I can even take a shot. I am starved of the adrenaline. I crave acting like I crave moonlight. I love acting like I love the stars. It surrounds me. It drives me.  It focuses me.

I will miss it no longer. I will join it again.

I Wander to Wonder

Have I ever written about how old I feel? No, that’s not entirely right. I feel worn out. I feel that I’ve been alive for years beyond my actual age because I struggle, on some days at least, to remind myself exactly what my purpose is.

I try to keep my tools sharp. I heat the forge of my personality and make sure than everything from my charisma to my wit is battle ready. I polish my charm and tighten my intellect so that I may use them as I need them. Then, I drop myself in situations where they are handy weapons. Not to endanger or attack, but to entertain and enthrall. But still, through the great days and tormented nights, I cannot find what my reason for being is.

This is a classical crisis. One where the young man feels drained and useless in a world that is simultaneously filled with the great passions he is without and about to burn to the ground. His actions feel empty. Increased purposeless activity defines every thought that breezes through his curly haired mind. The young man takes of his glasses and stretches and sings and screams and dances to change the way he sees the world.

He doesn’t need to change how he sees the world, however. The young man needs to change how he sees himself. How he treats himself.

Then it hits him, or me. I don’t see myself. I am blind to my own wants and ambitions. Transparency in my mind’s eye. I can see others so vividly. A bird’s nest of tangled hair being swept by the sea breeze or two ruby red lips curving to a smile revealing far more than just white teeth or a genuine chuckle in regard to a small forgotten statement made by me. I see people. I see everyone I love so clearly, but I do not see myself.

My mind, in response to this terrifying notion, struggles to create a facsimile of what I am supposed to be and what others have said they see in me. I try to warp and stretch my words to fit to hole I am.

Months go by without me ever even thinking of myself. Not in a heroic unselfish way, but in a plain way. I simply do not think of myself when I think of people. I do not meet whatever mark I preset. What qualifies a person in my eyes and why do I not meet these qualifications? 

Maybe that is the purpose of me writing today.

A person must have life. A person must have joy and anger and sorrow and passion. I have no more complex ideas of what a person should be. So, why am I not seen? I have my joys. I love my friends and family. I immerse myself in reading and writing and acting. I know my anger is something I do not readily admit to, but it certainly exists. Sorrow is a near constant companion when I want the unobtainable.

Passion.

I find passion in my joy, anger and sorrow. I am passionate about little things, but I am at a loss in one glaring regard. I have no passion for myself. I do not see what others see in me because I simply do not see anything.

Even now, these words I type are meaningless to me. They come off as a jumbled mess and confuse my senses. I fear that my memory betrays me. I wonder, what do other people see?  Who is Jeffrey Fiene to them?

Who is Jeffrey Fiene to me?

Jeffrey Fiene feels old some days. Impossibly old and filled up. Jeffrey Fiene has extraordinary stamina and only tires when his body needs to. Jeffrey Fiene incarcerates himself in steely abandoned recesses in the dark parts of his mind so regularly that he forgets himself.

This past month I did just that. Jeffrey Fiene loves and cares and fights everyday. Jeffrey Fiene could learn to be a little more confident and a little more selfish. Jeffrey Fiene can accomplish whatever he wants.

I just need to remember that I am Jeffrey Fiene. I switch perspective to find a rope to grasp so I can pull myself back to the reality that is Jeffrey Fiene. I still struggle to see who that is. Perhaps because he is not anyone, not yet.

Jeffrey Fiene can be whoever I make him. The endless possibility of who I am and what I do is seen by me. I can pick the best parts and create myself.

I already have a few pieces, but why not take away what I despise and add what I can love? Why not create Jeffrey Fiene? I can make him real. I can give him substance. I can make him…I can make me who I want to be.

 

Spring Broke: Why I Can’t Drink

It has been awhile hasn’t it, dear reader? Today I am going to discuss something that I have only intimated at with other posts and discussion in my regular life.

Why I can’t get drunk is something that I am not particularly ashamed of, but never openly share because part of me sees it as a social weakness. I have been around the inebriated, the intoxicated, the buzzed, and the sloshed countless times. I did not have my first drink until well after my 21st birthday. My intake is slow and metered. I drink water with every alcoholic drink I have. I over prepare to prevent anything from altering my state of being.

I am part of a family where alcohol is a major issue. I have relatives who have drank themselves to death, become abusive alcoholics, borderline abusive alcoholics, and dry alcoholics. The genetic lottery points in every direction that once I throw myself into the watery depths of drunkenness, I could very well be there for the rest of my life.

My mental state now is one of dangerous clarity so I can make this statement without hesitation even though, when I read back on it in a moment of crisis, I will disagree with it: I am worth more than any drink on this damn planet. I am too important and unique to allow any kind of alcohol to put me at risk.

I have avoided certain parties and Spring Break trips because I knew that, at one point or another, I would be the only sober one in a group of friends. I do not say this out of animosity towards them, they were never told the two reasons I refuse to get drunk.

Number one being the slippery slope of the genetic lottery that is addiction. Number two being a simpler reason, but still more concrete than the first.

It is known to many that I suffer from Bipolar Disorder, Severe Anxiety, and Major Depression. I have to take medicine daily to make sure the chemicals in my brain are in a semi-controlled state. If I drink too much, all of that goes out the window. I have a very high likelihood of being a dangerous drunk to others or too myself. In my experience there are four types of drunk. There are the people who get violent, there are the people who get sad, there are the people who get funny, and there are the people who get stupid. They are not mutually exclusive to one another.

I have been bullied, chided, and made fun of for not choosing to drink. I have been pressured to drink by people who just want to see Jeffrey shit faced. I have even been pressured to drink by people who just want to see me falter, as if I live such a perfect life anyway.

These are the choices I make, not only for your safety, but for mine.

This is not meant to be a derision on those who choose to drink. This is meant as a general explanation why I choose not to.

John Hurt

On John Hurt

By Jeffrey Fiene

 

The first film I saw with John Hurt in it was Ridley Scott’s terrifying Alien. He played the poor sap who gets the egg laid in his chest. The scene everyone knows from the movie. The chestburster scene. It terrified people for decades. Because he sold it. His talent was so massive that the audience, any audience, believed that an alien parasite was burrowing its way through his body. He did such a good job that when Mel Brooks made Spaceballs he repeated the action of dying for a gag. That was who John Hurt was. He took his work seriously in every way one can. He never saw himself so importantly that he couldn’t joke. He was truly multifaceted.

The next film I saw him in was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. He played Olivander and gave Harry his first wand. He would later reprise this role as well, after a decade of being absent from the franchise, and flawlessly ease back into a minor part as if he had been playing it every day for every year since his first lines.

He could play contradictions as well. Winston Smith in 1984 was the direct antithesis of his character in V for Vendetta. He lent his voice to Watership Down and the incomparable Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings animated feature.

The role that cemented him as my idol though wasn’t Elephant Man or Caligula or, my own personal guilty pleasure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He played the War Doctor in Doctor Who. For the fiftieth anniversary, they created an incarnation of the main character that was so complex and dark that he was locked away in the Doctor’s psyche. A character that had no full backstory aside from the occasional cryptic mentions of the Last Great Time War. A version of the Doctor that did the most terrible thing the Doctor ever did. The character was created to give the anniversary special, Day of the Doctor, an inside look at the Doctor’s secret shame. John Hurt, in the span of seventy some odd minutes, the shortest amount of time an actor has ever been given to have a begging an end to his time as the Doctor, established a full-fledged and entirely believable answer to the question of what the Doctor’s secret shame is.

The War Doctor was given the chance to see what would become of him. The War Doctor saw atrocity after atrocity, even some committed by him. The War Doctor could bounce from utter despondency to joy in such subtle ways. This is due to John Hurt. He incredibly gave this performance far more than any other actor coming into that role could. A man who acted for the sake of acting. A man who stood with giants and could have any role he wanted. He gave it his all. He gave every role his all.

If I can have a quarter of the body of work he had when I die, then I will pass satisfied.

Thank you for everything.