Yearly Archives: 2015

laying low

At some point, the most I could do was sit by the window and face the lawn. It’s hard to say how many hours were spent looking outward, interrupted every now and then by food I could barely taste or swallow. For a person who needs to stay active to cultivate a sense of worth, it was a sign I was beyond her reach, and at a point where I was no longer able to help myself.

When she began to cry, I asked what was wrong. “I didn’t think you’d give up”, she explained, something made apparent when I couldn’t manage a veneer of pleasantness for the sake of being polite to friends or strangers alike. I once told her I would stick around for her sake, but in that moment we both understood it was a promise I couldn’t keep.

Self-portrait

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to. It’s hard to remember what life was like before I was so emotionally exhausted. Even when the external sources of stress are far away and my head is above water, it still feels like I’m drowning. When that generically redolent scent of taxi leather hit my nose, it used to mean I had a plane to catch, a flight to take me out of the country, an adventure awaiting; now it’s a portent of deafeningly silent waiting rooms, and psychiatrists who know too little and talk too much.

I keep my fretting fingers trim but the calluses keep healing over, cause I can’t concentrate long enough to improve (also why it’s taken me so many months to write this). The house is a barely contained mess. My phone is overflowing with notes, texts, voice mails, things I can’t keep on top of. It’s been forever since I talked to Darren, even longer since I made a trip out of town. I’ve grown sensitive to loud noises. I barely recognize my own face.

That’s how I know I’m not ready to process parts of the past yet. Going so many years without a reprieve has left me drained of coping resources, and when I’m barely managing my needs for safety and survival, there isn’t any room left for growth or improvement. I need more time to heal, to replace upsetting memories with new experiences, to be in a stable place before revisiting the most traumatic parts.

Heather by the window

For the moment, that means working with my natural energy patterns and momentum as I try to develop healthy habits. It’s left me up at odd hours, eating irregular meals, and largely house-bound. Heather tends to my needs and never leaves my side for more than 15 minutes. I’m fortunate to have a small support group helping me look after things — dropping off groceries, bringing my car for maintenance, paying the bills, driving me to appointments — small tasks that seem daunting when so unsure of myself. Misun even offered to help sell the house and fly me to France so I could live under her care indefinitely; if only one could be carried by the love of one’s friends alone.

It pains me to be here waiting, feeling like I’m missing opportunities for happiness every day, but I’ve learned that progress can’t be rushed. Not just cause I have to tread so carefully through the past, but because I’ve been down for so long that it feels like it’ll never be up again. That’s why I have to trust her when she tells me things will eventually be okay. Until then, I spend my time lost in the Dark Tower, appreciating a sobriety I wasn’t prepared for, looking for duels in the borderlands, trying to feel normal again.

sweet surrender

All his life he had been active, doing things about the house, looking after patients, thinking, studying, writing. How good it was to stop doing, struggling, thinking, to leave it all for a time to nature, to become her thing, her concern, the work of her merciful, wonderful, beauty-lavishing hands.

—Doctor Zhivago

Time is giving me the chance to feel hurt without hate. If only the process didn’t make the indivisible moments so overwhelmingly painful. The idea of being normal seems like a modest goal, now that an act as simple as washing the dishes becomes a burden I can’t bear. It’s the reason I don’t trust myself behind the wheel of a car, the reason song and film do nothing to help me retreat.

As a result, our lives have been reduced to the simplest means of survival. I play my games like a full-time job, slowly processing things I’ve kept in the back of my head as a means of staying safe from myself. We eat, we sleep, we start over again. My responsibility is to myself now, and it’s a good day if I can get one productive thing done, from a simple shower to a step outside. And if even that proves too much, I’m learning to be okay with that too, as time is measured across experiences and lives, not by the moments in which we stumble and fall.

Heather

When she sees me trying to shake the thoughts loose, looking for support on cold tile, I’m told to take as much time as I need to get better, and reminded she won’t leave if I never do. I don’t have to hide my feelings or moods, cause she doesn’t judge me for the depth of my sadness, nor hold my anger against me. Every day she grows more tender than the last, even as I fall and break apart, and I’m learning to understand how, when I have such a hard time accepting the shade of a person I am right now. It’s such boundless affection that finally makes me feel loved because of who I am, and not what I do or offer or represent.

After so many years living at arms-length with everyone around me, it’s a feeling that’s impossible for me to take for granted. I can’t help but internalize every way her grace brings me joy. Every time she thanks me for letting her take care of my needs and wants.

And with this foundation, I learn how to be a person again, as I try to write my way out of this hole.

to start with an end

The breaking point happened one night, when an acquaintance I’ll call Thomas chided me for not getting back to him sooner about a dinner invitation. Thomas was upset enough that he needed some time off from hanging out. I didn’t understand, as he never expressed his concern, so I had no idea there was a problem in the first place. I apologized for hurting him, and pleaded with him to let me know next time so it wouldn’t happen again. Still, the situation didn’t sit well with me; my belated reply was due to the fact that I was in a difficult place of my own, about which he never asked or considered. I was left confused, and sad that I’d unwittingly hurt someone so much as to need a break.

So I called my best friend at the time, looking for support. “Avail?” was my usual code-word by text, to let him know I could wait until he had taken care of everything else, as I never took his time for granted. But this time, I was shaken enough that I needed more than just an ear, and told him, instead of asking. When I finally got him on the phone, he dismissed everything I tried to say, overriding it with, “This is what you need to do. Mark three months from now on your calendar, and call him then. He’ll forget by that time”. I tried to explain my feelings over and over, that I wasn’t looking to make amends but trying to understand the situation, and this was the most meaningful answer he could offer. I broke down when I knew I wasn’t getting through, when I realized he wasn’t an ally at a time I truly needed it, and that he never was.

Continue reading “to start with an end”…

in the absence of light

It’s been weeks since I left the house for anything but a doctor’s appointment, maybe three times since November. I miss the win­ter, even though it’s right out­side my door. I miss my friends, even though they’re rarely more than a short trip away. It’s especially hard not being able to explain the distance. All I can do is hope they trust me when I don’t feel comfortable explaining, and try not to feel insecure about being so out of touch.

Sometimes, the thought of being away from my safety zone fills me with dread. Other times it’s just easier to not do anything. I barely manage the effort to wash my hair once a week, and the only reason I shave is to more easily wipe off the viscid sadness that so often visits my face. I suspect I wouldn’t even be eating if it weren’t for the fact that Heather enjoys taking care of people to fulfill her own need for security. She’s lived here a few months, and she’s already making sure the cats have their teeth brushed every day and all the bills are paid. I’ve barely known her for twice that time, and I’ve never been more dependent on anyone in my life.

It feels like I’ve taken two steps back, but I’m at this point cause it means I’m safe enough to start processing and understanding the things that led to me trying to hang myself from the railing of my staircase a year ago. I haven’t figured out what it means to keep going, when for so long I believed my life was leading up to that moment, and sticking around wasn’t a choice I made for myself. Just figuring out how to write about such a large and complex experience is often too much. I’m left broken when I simply want to understand.

I’m learning that recovery isn’t a binary process, but a journey with struggles and triumphs. I still suffer the trauma of being moments away from dying. I’m still haunted by the guilt of survival. With so many hair-triggers that lead to wholly consuming breakdowns, I can’t deny I’m not the person I used to be. Right now, it’s hard enough just trying to be okay with that.