Chris Lanphear A thirty-something trying to find my way.

The final moments of 2016 are dwindling down, and I couldn’t be happier to see it go.

This past year has been beset with the mourning of transgressive icons of culture, the near-death of American discourse, and an ungodly amount of personal turmoil on the part of yours truly. It hasn’t just been me, either. I’ve seen friends and family be forced to cope with an almost unbearable amount of strife that seems quite unnecessary and cruel.

This has not been a good year — not by a long shot. I’m looking forward to something — anything — better in 2017.

Onward and upward.

A plastic coat hanger.

Simple, cheap, and durable. Easy to twist and mangle, even for a young child. The inside edges of the hanger were rough and sharp; so sharp, in fact, that if you ran your finger across the edge quickly enough, you would likely end up with a somewhat nasty cut. It was what I had access to, and, not having taken a physics course yet, I thought it would work.

I bent the plastic to my will, warping it ever so slightly, so I could fit the simple little device around my neck.

Ha! Cheap, indeed. It snapped before it could serve the purpose I had intended for it.

I was ten years old, and that was the first time that I tried to kill myself.

* * *

No one ever found out about the hanger incident.

At that point, I had been in therapy for about a year. John was my therapist. He was kind, gentle, and easy to talk to. I was told that talking to someone would help. So far, it hadn’t been. The more I spoke, the more that I was forced to face the demons that had put me there, the more I resented myself for something I had been repeatedly told was, “not my fault.”

I was in therapy for about four years. As the treatment progressed, I eventually found other ways to cope, and as I was on the verge of entering middle school (or as it was called at the time, junior high), my sessions came to an end.

The choice to stop treatment was probably a mistake. I could have used a sounding board during my teenage years. Looking back, I now realize that this period of my life was when I started developing the first symptoms of what I would later come to know as social anxiety disorder.

At first, things weren’t that bad. I was awkward around girls; but what teenage boy isn’t? I began to spend very large amounts of time alone; but what teenager doesn’t feel a sense of isolation at some point? I told myself that these feelings were normal. By the time I had graduated to the real world, I had learned to suppress an increasing sense of anxiety with alcohol, sex and just about any other distraction I could find. Life wasn’t good, but it was managable. I had moments of what I believed happiness to be, and I thought that was good enough.

* * *

For the last several weeks, I have been physically ill. Originally taking the form of a skin rash, it quickly spread throughout most of my body. Doctors at the emergency room were of little help, offering a hodgepodge cocktail of corticosteroids, Benadryl, and Zantac, and telling me that it was likely an allergic reaction, though they could not say to what, if anything, I was reacting to. They suggested that it could be caused by stress. It could also be depression. It could be fucking anything.

The skin issue notwithstanding, I’ve become acutely aware of many other symptoms that suggest that I am, in a word, unwell. The last year of my life has been a turbulent one, and I haven’t handled it well. And if I’m being brutally honest and self-aware, the issues go back much further than that.

Unchecked, my anxiety has continued its development into a completely debilitating disorder. I avoid all social situations that I anticipate could possibly be awkward, which is most of them. I’ve missed birthdays, celebrations, and other gatherings of people that I care for because I worry about a range of minute details that most likely cross the minds of no one but myself.

Sometimes, this anxiety manifests itself as paranoia. I worry that people are making fun of me behind my back, that they secretly criticize me or judge me when I’m not around, that they only act friendly toward me because it’s easier to be nice than to be honest. I obsess over small details about my character or behavior. I get angry and hurt when I’m not invited to an event and I take it personally. I tend to perceive the reasoning as an intentional slight, and ultimately, I blame myself.

This creates a loop that strips away all of my energy and self-worth. I feel down because I’m lonely and lonely because I’m down. As my depression has worsened, I’ve lost the ability to reach out to people and my relationships with others are mostly nonexistent. In the last year, I’ve pushed away nearly everyone that cares about me. I’ve damaged my relationships and I fear that much of that damage may be irreparable.

* * *

The last time I attempted suicide was in 2009, on the eve of my 27th birthday. On good days, I tell myself that while that was a truly low period in my life, it was ultimately good for me because it taught me what rock bottom really was. Armed with that knowledge, I would never let myself get to that point again.

On good days, I tell myself that everything is fine … that I am fine. I have a good, well-paying job. I have a cat that’s mostly well-behaved. I live in a nice townhouse. I’m able to pay my bills every month and have extra money left over. Sure, I may be lonely, but that’s normal, right? Everything is nice and normal, right? This is just the way things are.

On good days, I’m particularly adept at lying to myself.

I am not okay, and I haven’t been for some time.

I don’t enjoy activities anymore. Things that used to excite me now do nothing. I overeat out of boredom or loneliness. Panic attacks come out of nowhere. I think about committing suicide every day. I get overly emotional about things that don’t merit it. I shy away from people and tell myself that they’re better off without my presence. I feel as if in a void that nothing can fill, numb to just about everything that the world has to offer.

I am alive, but I am not living.

I say these things not as a cry for help nor a plea for sympathy, but rather because I need to. I need to cope with the fact that things are most certainly not alright, and sometimes that takes staring at the cold, unforgiving words on a screen as a constant reminder; evidence that I cannot deny.

The “good” days happen less and less frequently now. My poor attempts at coping have resulted in cutting myself off from the world even further, fracturing the remaining relationships I have left, and chipping away at what remains of my psyche.

I need help.

A friend who’s dealt with his own mental health struggles asked me what I was afraid of. As I told him, I don’t want to be labeled. I fear being dependent on chemicals. I don’t want to experience the loss of control that typically comes with treatment. But I also need to accept the truth of the situation. Is my fear of a label worth dying for? Am I really “in control” now? Not in the slightest.

I am scared. Terrified, even. But I’m slowly beginning to realize that these concerns are not nearly as important as the knowledge that I can’t keep going like this if I want to see my 31st birthday. I have very real problems, and they need to be addressed. And while it pains me to admit it, I can’t do this alone. I don’t want to do this anymore.

They say that the first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one. Done. This is a very real problem and it will not go away on its own.

The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves. So, this is me holding myself accountable. Here’s to no more lies.

It’s been nearly 48 hours since I’ve seen my cat, Lennie. The search was begun in earnest yesterday once I realized that he was gone. I’ve put up flyers, walked rounds of the surrounding neighborhood, talked to the Humane Society, and put up Craigslist ads.

And I’ve cried.

I feel frozen, as if in a chrysalis. I hurt, and I’m sad.

I’ve had Lennie since he was four days old. He’s quite literally grown up with me, and since the day I brought him home, he’s only been outside of home once. I can only imagine how scared he must be. I know this because I am scared — scared that he may never come home.

Over the last several months, I’ve lost many things: close friends, a relationship — at certain points, I feel like I’ve lost my mind. I feel alone. Worse, I feel scared that I will remain so. Some of this is self-imposed. I chose to end a relationship that had been the single largest thing in my life over the last several years. However, the fact that the end of the relationship was my choice doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t make me okay.

At particularly sad times, I’d throw a movie on the TV, get under a blanket and cuddle with Lennie — and now, he’s gone, too. I may never get to do that again. All of the important things in my life, either by choice or by chance, are no longer here.

And yet, I have hope. I have hope that things will get better. I have hope that my trusted companion will return home one day, soon. I have hope that this period of, what should I call it — transition — will end. I don’t expect my life to go back to the cozy, comfortable way that it was, but something different than this would be a step in the right direction.

Hope can be a powerful tool. It can also be a dangerous one. Many people look to hope as a way of coping, something to keep them going. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing at all. Unfortunately, some people are able to lean on hope so much as to create a crutch for themselves and eventually use it as a way of ignoring reality, thinking that if they have enough hope, they’ll be able to outsmart the way that the world works. In many cases, as more time passes, the less likely our wished-for result becomes feasible — but that doesn’t stop people from holding on to hope.

* * *

As much as this hurts, I can’t help but feel as if this is just a bit petty, a bit small. I’ve lost a beloved pet, but I can’t help but be thankful that that’s all that I’ve lost. The day that I was searching for a lost cat is the same day that the Sandy Hook school shooting occurred, and, well, there’s loss, and then there’s tragic, unconscionable loss.

Twenty eight people dead — 20 of them children. The mind reels at what could compel a person, no matter how sad, lonely or uncaring, to take the lives of people who never even had the chance to be anything but innocent. I’m lucky in that I can take solace in hope. Lennie could return home, and life would pick up where it left off. The parents of these children don’t have that. Their children will never be alive again, and the sheer enormity of that grief saddens and sickens me. It’s been said that the worst thing that can happen to a parent is to be faced with outliving their child, and one doesn’t need to have children of their own to empathize with the utter sadness that someone has to endure to be in that position. It’s unimaginable. It’s horrible.

Worse still and equally as horrible is the speed at which certain of us jump to making tragedy into political agenda. Both sides of the relevant issues are guilty of this, and it’s no less disgusting from either side. I really don’t care what side of an issue you’re on: whether you’re for or against gun control, for or against the separation of church and state, you need to recognize that not only is the discussion necessary, which is what everyone keeps saying, but that there is a time and a place for the discussion. That time is not now. People need to have time to grieve for the dead, comfort the living, and hug their children.

I don’t care how righteous you think your issue is — it isn’t, at least not right now. You know what’s righteous? Give people some space. Give them time. Show them compassion, empathy and concern. Not only is it righteous. It’s just plain right.

Please: don’t be so callous as to disregard the utter horror that some are going through just to advance your own cause. You’re not honoring the memory of the dead — you’re perverting it, and they deserve better than that. Yesterday was a sad day for all of us, for humanity. As humans, we need to be there for each other. First, we need to grieve, we need to process, we need to heal. Once we do that, we can start working together to figure the rest out.

In the mean time? Hug your children, your pets, your family and friends. Let them know how much they mean to you. It’s never too late. Until it is.

Well, it’s been a month.

Things got off to a hefty start, what with working dragon*con and all. I’ve given anyone who asked about the experience some version of the same response: “It was fun, but tiring.” When I returned home from Atlanta, I very quickly came down with a case of the ‘con crud, which wreaked havoc throughout my lungs for the better part of two weeks.

2011-09-21 at 17.34.34


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I’ve been home from Dragon*Con for a little more than a week now, and I’m still trying to figure out how to describe this year. Like so many things, it was a hodge-podge of awesome and infuriating.

The ‘con is many things to many people. To me, it represents more of a family reunion than anything else. I’ve always been an “outsider” in that I live states away from some of the best people I’ve come to know over the last decade.

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Today would have been your forty-third birthday.

In our family, we tend to celebrate birthdays in groups: my grandmother, mother and uncle in March; the twins and a cousin in July; and then you and I in August.

I’ve never been particularly fond of birthdays, and not for the superficial reason many give of being reminded that they’re older. Being the center of attention is something I’ve never been fully comfortable with, and one thing that’s made it more bearable in the past is that you were there to share it with me. Like clockwork, even if we hadn’t seen each other in a while, we’d pick up and talk during the August birthday gathering and all would be well.

I’m going to miss that this year, and I miss you. It doesn’t feel right to know that you won’t be here to share the tradition with me this year, or ever again.

* * *

You died on a Sunday, on Halloween. I remember thinking that I wished I’d seen you one last time, wanting the ‘proper’ goodbye that many wish for but never get. We were out of time, and though I was devastated, a part of me was smiling because that’s the last memory I have of you: lying in a hospital bed, obviously in excruciating pain, doing your best to not show it, and smiling. You had no regrets, no delusions about how your life would end, or how soon. You weren’t scared or angry or bitter; you were happy.

In a way, maybe it’s best that we never said goodbye, because that’s how I always want to remember you: with a smile on your face.


Today was like any other. I woke up somewhat early (after sleeping way too much yesterday and last nite), had some toast and got ready for work. I minded my own business.

Then, via my friend Cali on Facebook, I learned of this:

Suspected child abuser Bradley Harlan Boda was arrested at his parents’ home Wednesday on felony and misdemeanor charges relating to sex assault on a child. [More…]

It took my brain a few minutes to register, and then I saw a post on Twitter from the local paper that spelled it out a little more clearly:

Rocky Mountain High School counselor arrested on charges of multiple child sex assaults

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I would write about myself on that day: where I was, what I was doing, how I found out, my reactions … but those aren’t important, because this isn’t about me.

This is about them: 3,000 people whose voices were permanently silenced on that fateful day. We will never forget, in New York and all over the world. And we will not let it happen again. May you rest in peace. May your souls be happy and free.

I’ve been struggling to find the right words since that night. I’m not sure I have any more now. I feel much like a drowning victim — gasping for air, fighting and clawing for something, anything — and yet, finding nothing.

I could spend the next several hours writing, rewriting, erasing and yet still rewriting, but then it becomes less about the message and more about the syntax. Something would get lost, so it’s best that I save further words for a time when I have a better ability to say them. For now, I should focus on the most important thing, which is to simply say this:

Thank you for saving me. I love you.

You know that you care for someone … so much so that sometimes you feel that your heart, your soul, perhaps even your entire being will explode from this thing, this feeling that seems as if it’s too big for you to hold.

You know that you have done things for her that have forced you to step outside of your comfort zone. You know that this will, with all likelihood, continue to be the case. You’re okay with this, you really are, because you realize that ultimately, this is a good thing. She should push your limits, she should challenge you. In a way, it excites you — exhilarates you, even. You know that you don’t regret this.

You know that you would gladly step in front of traffic for her, that you would do anything to ensure that she never feels a moment of sadness, of doubt, of unhappiness. You know that nothing that’s worth doing is easy or painless.

You know that you trust her. You weren’t entirely sure of this before, but you know why that is now. You know that there’s no doubt in your mind. You know that trust is a two-way street. You know that you have to trust to love, and that without this, you’re doomed.

You know that you’re not perfect — never were, never will be. You know that you make mistakes, that sometimes you’re scared. You know this better than most. You also know that you can’t go through life afraid of yourself, your feelings or others. You know that you’re tired of letting fear dictate your feelings and your actions. You know that you can’t stand for this any longer. You know that you gave her a chance, and you can’t go back on that now just because you were afraid. You know that’s part of the gamble, part of how it goes. You know that she deserves a chance. And so do you. You know that it’s time to trust someone.

You know that you hurt her, and you hurt for it. You know that hearing her cry and knowing that you caused it is quite possibly the worst feeling in the world. You know that’s why you couldn’t sleep last nite. You know there’s nothing that can take that sting back. You know that you’ve made it more difficult for her to trust you. But you also know that you’re committed to make this right, to show her that the whole of you is much more than the snippets of you that have brought you to this situation.

You hope that she sees this, and that when she does, she’ll know what you know, and know that it’s for her. (And for you.)