I invited Nate Southard to do a guest blog for this week.  I knew I could count on him to have a story or two on this topic.  As always, Nate doesn’t disappoint.

NSouthardWebBioGuest Blog by Nate Southard

July 11th, 2012.

It was a Wednesday, and I had a plan. I’d made it through the first couple of hours at work, but I really didn’t want to be there. My boss had already told me it was okay to leave early, and I planned to head straight home. Once there, I would set up my cat’s automatic feeder. I’d run hot water in the bath. While it was filling, I would send an email to my ex-girlfriend’s home account, the one I knew she only checked once every few days, that would tell her I was sorry, to please take the cat that had once been ours, and that she was listed as the sole beneficiary on my life insurance. The door to my apartment would be left unlocked. Then, I would take a kitchen knife, shut myself in the bathroom, climb into the warm bath, and slit both my wrists. It was a scenario that I’d thought about a lot over the previous few years, but I was done thinking about it. I was ready to do it.

My reasons were pure. I wasn’t trying to lash out at anyone or make anybody feel sorry for me. I just wanted to stop. Not stop hurting, exactly. Just…stop.

I sat at my desk, putting my things in my backpack for what I was sure would be the last time, and I had this small flash of clarity. Maybe I needed to talk to somebody. If there was some chance I could avoid this, no matter how remote, I had to take it.

So I called my best friend, Lee Thomas. Through recent years, I’ve learned I can talk to him about anything and everything. I begged him to let me come over for coffee, and he happily obliged. Yeah, we drank a little coffee that day. We even ate pizza at a Target snackbar. Mostly though, I cried. I cried for hours, and he held me and told me it was okay and that everything would pass. He gave me the best advice of my life, telling me I could kill myself metaphorically, just ditch the bad stuff I didn’t want and become a new person. A better person. I’ll always be thankful to him for that. To this day, I’m not sure he knows he saved my life. Because maybe I didn’t tell him everything. I know I never told him about my plan.

Nine months later, I can look back on that day with some degree of rational thought. I was on Wellbutrin at the time, and one of the side effects can be suicidal thoughts. I’d only been on that drug for a month, though. Suicide was something I’d considered for years. Often, it was a go-to joke of mine. “I should really exercise today…or maybe I could just kill myself!” A few times, people had asked me if I ever wondered how I would die, and I always said I knew how. I’d kill myself. In a lot of ways, I still believe that. I don’t want to get sick and die slowly, the way both my parents died. If that starts to happen, I plan on beating it to the punch.

But what led me to that day? Well, there were a lot of things. I have a history of depression, co-dependency, social anxiety, and low self-esteem. At last year’s Mo*Con, Maurice showed me a room I could go hide in whenever I wanted. That was the very first thing he did when I showed up, because he knows how much crowds and social interaction scare me. Two years ago at KillerCon, somebody came up to me and said, “I’ve read everything you’ve ever written!” My response? I laughed and asked, “Why?” The idea of somebody liking me or my work still seems incredibly foreign to me. The idea that others find some sort of value in my work makes no sense. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. Throw in the rest and it just gets worse. How does it feel to constantly need affection, yet constantly be terrified of social interaction? Just within the last six months, I screwed up what could have been a great relationship because my social anxiety led to me cancelling several dates at the last minute.

A lot of these behaviors I learned from my mother. Or maybe you could say I was trained. For as long as I can remember, she had two basic emotional states: crying her eyes out because her kids didn’t love her enough and being angry as the Kraken because her kids didn’t love her enough. My brother Matt and I are the only two of six children that she never disowned for any reason. The other four were booted from the family for such offenses as meeting my step-mother and spending Christmas morning with their wives and children instead of her. When my sister was accepted into graduate school and had to move out of state, my mother hospitalized herself the day before she was set to move, hoping to keep my sister nearby.

A few years ago, my mother died. She made it one year longer than my father. A few months after her death, my brother and I were told that we were both products of a twelve year affair my mother had with her therapist, who later served as our pediatrician and performed my father’s vasectomy. I acted like I handled the news well, and I honestly thought I was okay with it. The news was more than a little entertaining in a macabre sort of way. That didn’t change the fact that she’d never told us who are biological father was or that she’d sued the man I still consider my dad for more child support when he was living in a pickup truck and my biological father was a doctor. My therapist often said it helped to think of my mother as a little girl, that her emotions had never progressed beyond that state. In a lot of ways, that does help, but depression was taking hold in a bad way, regardless.

Making things harder was a prolonged period of self-discovery. As a straight man, I was learning that my sexuality was more complex. In BDSM communities, I’m what’s known as a Switch. I have both dominant and submissive tendencies. While I do think vanilla sex and making love is amazing and a wonderful thing to share with a partner, I was finding that I not only wanted more, but I needed more. For years, I’d try to deny these things. The things I enjoyed were the kind of things movies showed folks enjoying for either comedic effect or to prove they were some sort of monster.

Look, I’ve never shared this part of myself on a grand scale. I’ve been more than a little afraid. I know a few people who are very open about sex, but the idea of that kind of honesty scares me to death. It scared me a lot more last year, when I was suddenly single and trying to navigate these new, kinkier waters. If a first date is dinner and a movie, and maybe the third date is the sex date, then which date is the “Maybe this time you slap and insult me during sex” date? Which date is the “I think you’d look great tied up and gagged” date? Today, I still don’t know. It’s not like I’ve figured all this stuff out yet.
At this point, maybe you’re wondering why I’m telling you this. First off, I’m trying to show you a certain part of my personality that caused conflict and added to my various emotional problems. Secondly, maybe there’s somebody reading this with a similar issue and my coming out as it were will help show them that there’s nothing wrong with the kinkier side of sex.

So there was a lot going on in my life. I needed help for all of these things, so I bit the bullet, swallowed my pride, and started therapy.

I began therapy because I was depressed over my parents. I stayed because I slipped into clinical depression. Others have described the feeling of real, deep depression better than I can, but I have a comparison I’d like to make. To me, depression is like The Nothing in The Neverending Story. There’s this emptiness that you just can’t beat. You can’t fill it with anything. You can’t do anything. I spent hours and then days and then weeks on the couch, just wanting to do something, do anything. I couldn’t, though. I can’t even describe why I couldn’t except to say I was filled with nothing. In the movie, The Rock Biter has this great line: “A hole would be something. This was nothing.” That’s clinical depression. It’s nothing, and it’s everywhere, and it destroys you one day at a time.

My therapist helped me with a lot of things. She helped me navigate the breakup of an eleven year relationship. She taught me coping mechanisms for dealing with depression. She showed me that I tend to decide how things will end before I reach the end (she calls this “telling myself stories,” which I find to be a good metaphor). She gave me the courage to try standup comedy. She even did research outside of office hours and helped me find local BDSM groups. Later, I had to switch therapists when she moved, but we still keep in touch. I’m not allowed to be one of her best friends, but I consider her one of mine.

Here’s the thing: life is anything but easy. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. There is no reason to be prideful about your feelings or those mental and emotional crises that happen to all of us (and they do happen to all of us).

If you need to, talk to somebody. It can be a friend, family member, or therapist. If they care, they won’t be judgmental. People are amazing things. We’re all different, go through different experiences. We like different things, and it took me a long time to learn that depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is your past. Neither is kink. There’s no such thing as abnormal, because there’s no such thing as normal.

It’s been nine months since July 11th. I consider it my second birthday. That’s the day I started shedding the bad. Really shedding it. In those nine months, I’ve gotten off antidepressants. I’ve grown strong enough that I was able to leave therapy. I’m better in every way. Things are looking up. They can look up for everybody. Just…look.

Mo*Con VIII: The Mind and Spirit of the Artist

May 3 – 5, 2013.  Indianapolis, IN

Previous Guest Blogs:

Maurice Broaddus – Being Crazy, Christian, and Creative

Lucy Snyder

Doug Warrick

Jim C. Hines

Gary A. Braunbeck

Nate Southard

Delilah Dawson

Michelle Pendergrass

Steven Saus

Janet Harriett