Day 11 : Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
(Note: I started writing this two months ago)
This prompt could not have come at a better possible time.
In my real life, there isn’t much I get complimented on. In fact, I just asked my husband his thoughts on this prompt. His response? A poor joke, followed by a, “I don’t know.” CoF, seriously, I think C.S. needs some husband boot camp.
All of the little girls at work love my hair. An elder creeper, insisting to talk to me despite me clearly wearing earphone and typing on WordPress for Blackberry, told me that I had pretty eyes. I was pretty glad the bus pulled up to the curb moments later.
Otherwise, I get quite the opposite of compliments. It’s okay, I’m used to it.
Here on WordPress, and especially everyone involved with the dialogue happening here on Pendulum, and on our local mental health blog A Canvas of the Minds, compliments are plentiful. I will spare details, mostly because I am embarrassed to talk about myself. And secondly, because I’m not sure I can completely believe it. I sit here and think, “If you only knew me.”
I find that I am most complimented on my writing. Believe me, I am ambivalent to share that for a number of reasons. First, I know that once a person reveals what appears to be a strength, it is preyed upon. In my youth, I was eager to display my intelligence and talents. There was always at least one person who was eager to take me down, either out of jealousy or just to prove a point of fallibility. Next, I am often unsure of how much truth there is in identifying a strength or talent. There is always some doubt and question of the validity of such a claim. What is the measure? Is it a popular opinion?
And finally, there is the self-doubt / humility aspect. I do not make any claim that I am better than anyone else. I am by no means a brilliant writer, and clearly not in the league of literary greats. Hardly by the standard of journalist and even fellow blog authors. I am not making an attempt to solicit compliments by saying these things. I am only stating that I have serious doubts as to the claims made of any talent I possess. However, I will not refute any opinion, favorable or unfavorable.
However, if there is one literary strength I have, I do know of it. I have always possessed an uncanny ability to find a verbal expression for emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Most often, I have had people approach me and say, “You grabbed it right out of my head, as if you lived in there with me.” Some ask, “How do you find the words?” To which I reply, “I really don’t know. It just comes out.”
The answer is absolutely honest when I provide it. I am unable to identify the mechanisms that produce the detailed emotions and internal experience. Imagination? Experience with the experience / emotion / thought itself? Education? Really, it is just something that was always there. But, I will admit that it is a craft that I’ve unconsciously refined throughout the years, just by practicing what has been just a hobby throughout my life.
I’ve mentioned this before. My poor eyesight has always been kind of a handicap for me. Back in my youth, my family could not afford to provide me with glasses more than once a year, or once every other year. Often times, I would have to wear an outdated prescription for an extended period of time, as my eyesight deteriorated. Sometimes, I would break a pair by accident, and I wouldn’t be able to get a new pair for upwards of a year. I learned to see and identify things by shape and color, rather than fine detail. I could identify people by voice alone. And one of the only hobbies I could really do without any difficulty was reading and writing, because I could only see about as far as my hand could go in front of my face. (Note: My vision has deteriorated so badly now that I can’t even see my hand as far as my face. In fact, I can’t even see a book at a normal distance. But, I have the means to correct my vision on my own now.)
I suppose I could consider it a talent, although I’m not sure how I stack up. I guess I should worry less about a basis for comparison and just do what I do, the best way I know how.
Finally, I’d like to thank the readers for their encouragement to write. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of necessity for my mental health. There are other times, like these projects, where it is a matter of a pleasurable hobby. And other times, most of the time, it is a way for me to get my message out and have a sense of purpose when it comes to my own mental health. I do not want to feel as if my suffering is in vain. I do not want anyone to ever have the feeling that they are alone in their own struggle with mental health. That is the worst feeling in the world, the loneliness, isolation, and fear that accompanies it.
Thanks for giving me a place to do this, encouragement to keep on, and an audience to hear me.
- Blog for Mental Health 2012 Official Blogroll Summons (asthependulumswings.wordpress.com)
- Language and Mental Health (lifeofaschizophrenic.wordpress.com)
- writing habits (shortlittlebits.com)
- 11 Tips & Tricks for Mindful Writers. (elephantjournal.com)
I have always felt like I had a “base mood”, which is the state I’m in. Depressive, hypomanic, stable. I noticed that there was kind of an “atmospheric mood”, which was a wispy, temporary mood state that would come through. I’ve always characterized this as weather.
This emotional weather is just about as predictable as meteorological weather. Forecasts can go out based on current information and predictable outcomes. But, things can change quickly, and suddenly, storms crop up. Unfortunately, they don’t make an emotional barometer. There are no external instruments to sound an alarm on the emotional accuweather forecast.
I considered the weather to be just regular “moods”. I know one thing that is difficult for all people who have bipolar disorder is to draw the line between typical and symptomatic. It becomes a nearly impossible task when a person is actually symptomatic. That’s why it’s considered a disorder.
Over the last three years, I’ve become pretty familiar with episodic behavior. I cannot always identify it straight away. But, eventually, I tease it out. What I encountered in January was genuine symptoms, starting with an ultradian cycle I wasn’t even aware of until I reviewed my logs.
What I started to experience toward the end of that depressive episode was uncharacteristic. I hadn’t experienced those types of symptoms in some time. It didn’t look as if it was a coincidence that my mood chart started jumping at the same time my marriage got thrown on the rocks. And now, two months later, I’ve seem to hit some semblance of a period of stability coinciding with the start of my husband’s admissions and treatment.
He broke the silence. Now, I’m breaking it too.
Criteria 1: Fear of abandonment:
My fear of abandonment isn’t typically characterized, because of the keen awareness of the consequences. My fear is very real. The frantic efforts are a little unusual. It’s not outwardly frantic, because I know that behavior actually drives people away. Instead, I take huge strides to make myself more appealing. That feeds into the destabilization of self-image.
There’s a hidden switch, though. At some point, when I’m overloaded with anxiety, I shut down. I will shut down on a person, and it will be over. It will be difficult for me to feel anything for them until they have been out of my life for awhile, or they take a big leap of faith to me.
This disrupts my ability to make friends. I keep everyone at a distance, because I know that I will drive them away. I know that I am intense and strange. And I know that most people are passing ships in my life.
Criteria 2: Unstable Relationships and intense relationships:
I’ve been in a serious relationship with two different psychopaths, one diagnosed (Avi, the abusive one), and I’m now in a marriage with a man with MI. I always swore that these men found me. I think it was a little bit of both.
But, the catch about my marriage is however intense it is, it is stable. Go outside my romantic relationships. Looking at the intense dysfunction between my parents and me tells the tale.
Those people hurt me. And yet, I still love them. I hate them for everything, but I still vacillate between pandering for their affections and shutting them out. I know that they had their hand in this. And still, I blame it exclusively on myself.
Criteria 3: Identity Disturbance:
I used to dye my hair everytime I had a serious mood shift. When my first ex and I broke up, it shattered my whole world. And I said “F*ck the world.” At that point, I let go of everything. It was at that point in time that I started partying my life away.
That wasn’t me. I was a control freak. I always wanted control of my reality. I wanted control of the direction of my life and was always goal oriented.
My ex, Avi, was the worst agitation. I let him tell me who I was, what I should and shouldn’t be doing, and how I should live my life. I let him victimize me, because he told me I was a victim.
C.S. helped me find my way back to me. The me that I liked and was used to. The me that read, wrote, played music, and enjoyed artistic expression, not mindless video games. He helped me find my way back to goal-orientation and showed me that he could love me. That was the only reason I could even be me. Because that’s what he loved.
Criteria 4: Impulsivity:
After I had experienced sexual assault for the first time, I had come to the conclusion that I was a slut. So, I started to act like a slut by having sex with any man who looked at me sideways. I wanted to convince myself that I was at least good for something.
I have alcoholism. It is mostly controlled now. That’s no secret.
Now, here’s the big secret. I likely have an eating disorder. In times of serious distress, I deny myself food. I don’t deserve to eat. I’m a fatass. No one loves a fatass.
I have pindged and purged. It’s not often. In times of depression and self-depreciating behavior, I will binge to feel good. And then I’ll purge, because I worry about my weight. But worse than that. I’ll purge, because getting rid of that overstuffed feeling feels good. There is no better feeling than an empty belly.
I would excessively spend. But, you can’t spend without money in the bank. As a teen, I used to shoplift. And I got caught and got in the worst trouble of my life with my parents. I get the impulse now and again, but the fear and embarrassment is enough to keep me from doing it.
Criteria 5: Recurrent Suicidal / Self-Injurious Behavior:
Admittedly, as a teen, I was more satisfied with cutting with a steak knife than a razor. A razor was too easy, and the cuts were always thin, sleek, and healed without incident. The serrated knife left jagged cuts that never healed right.
I used to pick at the scabs. I only recently started scraping them with a luffa.
I take scalding showers for two reasons. First, there is the whole germ part. But, secondly, sensitive skin burns easily. Scrub it with a luffa, and it flakes and peels. It hurts so nicely, I can’t think about anything else.
I don’t ever threaten. I warn. Because I know certain stressors will set it off.
I used to attempt suicide. I have probably a dozen serious attempts under my belt. I probably have about a dozen more half-assed attempts where I hoped I’d die of alcohol poisoning. Or, if I let an infection go long enough, I’d cause organ failure. (I almost did that with my kidneys that started as a UTI).
I don’t anymore. It’s pointless. I have never come close to succeeding. And I’m convinced that there is a reason for that. Besides, I’m not so cruel as to leave my husband and son like that. Not now. My son is old enough to remember me. My husband might actually go down with me, although he’s never indicated as much.
Criteria 6: Affective Instability
Rage. I’m almost always irritable. I’ve always thought that irritability and reactivity were hallmarks of bipolar disorder. I was wrong.
I have bouts of intense anxiety. Especially when I feel like I’m not in control. It is expressed in OCD-like symptoms when it goes critical. I start hoarding. Or purging items. I check constantly. I do mental checks. I fear contamination.
Dysphoric moods. It’s always been suicidal ideation in the past. It’s only recently that I’ve had homicidal ideation, and it’s enough to scare me. But, I don’t imagine harming loved ones. No, I imagine harming people who are a perceived threat to my family and me.
That emotional weather, that was affective instability. When it produces serious storms, it becomes separate from bipolar disorder completely. Layered moods.
Criteria 7: Chronic Feelings of Emptiness:
Curiously, I don’t have the typical definition of this. Most of the time, I feel too full. I’m full of emotion, turmoil, life. I’m bursting at the seams.
But, if you examine the criteria a little closer, it can be characterized by never feeling good enough. I’m bad. I have never achieved anything noteworthy. No one really loves me. I feel as if I am worthless, rather than empty.
Criteria 8: Inappropriate Anger / Difficulty Controlling Anger
Sometimes, yes. I have a temper. I try to be careful at expressing this anger. It’s usually restricted to times when I am alone. I scream. I break things.
I don’t want to scare my family. I don’t want the shame and guilt I would suffer from such impulsive, inappropriate behavior. I don’t want anyone to leave me, because they fear me. I try so hard to practice restraint. I’m not always very successful.
Criteria 9: Transient, Stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions, or severe dissociation symptoms
This was the key to finally prove the potential for BPD to me. I’ve always had delusions. I’ve always had the berating voice. But, my paranoia has always turned out to be justified in the end.
When C.S. and I were very rocky, I was convinced that a man, who I would never otherwise suspect, was cheating on me. The voice separated into a an auditory hallucination, free of any rational mind, feeding me horrible things. I had my first real break from reality.
But, it was in fits that never lasted longer than a few hours to maybe a few days. And it could be broken by immediate distraction.
I’m nowhere near as volatile as I used to be. Medication has tamed my symptoms, and nearly domesticated me. There are a lot of behaviors that I don’t engage in anymore.
But, I am a far cry from ridding myself of all of them. And if I keep going on this course of alienating people, disabling my supports, and self-sabatoging, I’m going to end up in a very bad place.
So, I made an impulsive move yesterday morning. Finally, a good one. I called and made an appointment to start meeting with a qualified professional with an objective eye. I could’ve gotten in today, but my hours are restricted right now due to work.
So, next Thursday. In one week, I will take my first baby steps back into the world of therapy. Honestly, I don’t have high hopes. Thankfully, I have a number of therapists to choose from. And if it doesn’t work out, at least I gave it a try.
I want to keep trying and not get discouraged. But, I’m so picky about my professionals. I know there has to be some hope for recovery.
I have always thought of myself as a pretty open book. I don’t flat out lie. If I am asked a question, I will always try to answer it honestly and to the best of my ability. Any misinformation is either from a miscommunication or an accidental omission.
I have been having symptoms far enough outside of the scope of BP II that it made me start challenging my diagnosis.
A diagnosis is a label. A label is just a label, and it shouldn’t make much of a difference, right? The point is that I’m gulping down pills of every color that should apply to every disorder under the sun.
At first, I didn’t want to question it, and I prayed that the extreme symptoms would subside. I had hoped they were circumstantial and as soon as the situation was resolved, the symptoms would resolve. Somehow, I forgot a key element of disorder. It doesn’t resolve when a situation resolves. That’s why it’s termed “disorder” instead of “moodiness”.
C.S’s appointment came and went without change. No relief came for either of us. In fact, we were both more distraught than ever with the news that we would be waiting another five weeks until there was a definitive diagnosis. And even then, that’s just the start a treatment. It could be years before things start to turn around.
In the meantime, I’ve found myself in agony, like a person huddled in a cold cave, waiting out the storm. I have always been in the habit of putting others first, because they rely on me in times of need. I know what it’s like to have the rug pulled out from under me when I’m in the most desperate of need. I’d never leave a person near and dear to me to fend for themselves. Especially when they have explicitly asked for my help.
Things get better. Things get worse. It is rollercoaster of daily twists and turns, ups and downs. And I couldn’t understand why my mood and behavior were so unstable. The medication works when I’m not particularly sensitive to external stressors. The inner turmoil doesn’t exist without it. But once a person has stirred the pot, it puts things in motion.
I started my excavation. I started reading old journals, some as far back as twelve years ago. Certain recurring symptoms emerged, and these were exactly the ones plaguing me now. The ones I find exist somewhere outside of BP II.
I examined my mood chart that I began in the tail end of my most recent depressive episode. Consistently low scores. And then, suddenly, the points were very high one day, and very low the next. I am careful to chart at the same time each day, so that the scores can be considered consistent.
When I noticed the trend as it was happening, I termed it “dysphoric hypomania”. The lows weren’t sadness, it was rage and anxiety. That was, until it went beyond the definition of “hypomania”.
Energetic despair. That’s the only way I can describe it in retrospect. I started running to burn off some energy, anxiety, and emotion. I clung so hard to anger, because I couldn’t cry. And when I did cry, it was in unpredictable bouts. I would start, and everything would come flooding out.
Then, there were the fits of rage. I would find myself beyond irritable – extremely agitated is closer to the term. I became more obsessive than usual. Things had to be a certain way. My anxiety was so far through the roof that I found myself trembling at times. Chunks of memory started to fall away, and I began frequently misplacing important items. It was a recipe for recurring explosions and tantrums.
Then, I began terming what I was seeing as a “mixed episode”. Impossible for BP II, right? So, BP I? It shouldn’t matter.
The question plagued me again. Why has my medicine afforded me shorter episodes and longer stability if I’m “getting worse”? Why all of a sudden?
It didn’t add up. Obsessions and compulsions, as they were happening, were not within the criteria for anything on the BP spectrum. I started having full-blown psychotic episodes in short bursts. But, I still didn’t quite meet the criteria for a full blown “manic” episode, required in a mixed state.
As things became rockier between C.S. and I, old, very painful memories started emerging. I’d feel the pang of the emotional reaction to a situation that was “familiar”, and then I’d have the flashback. But, the flash wasn’t always strong enough for me to pin it down completely. For a millisecond, I was in that moment in my past. Not always long enough to identify it.
But, they were plaguing me at times unprovoked. Times that I allowed my mind to wander. Awful feelings would come out of acts that hardly pinged me in the past. But then again, I had been drunk and numb.
That’s not BP anything. Not even close.
I had been wanting so desperately to solve this on my own. There are so many things I can’t imagine speaking out loud to anyone. Even harboring the flicker of the memory and the attached emotion is hard enough.
I took some inventories online. I started to put labels on things.
OCD – for the obsessions, the thoughts that kept recurring, the compulsive need to check, wash, count, have certain items on my person, etc.
PTSD – for all of the flickers and flashes of things in that dark closet. For all of the things rattling the inside of the Pandora’s box that has been dormant for so long. For all of the hurt, neglect, and abuse I had never spoken a word to any professional about.
BP I – to cover the “mixed” behavior and paranoid delusions, and auditory hallucinations.
Then, there was a label for the jar that shocked me.
Borderline Personality Disorder???? What?
Tuesday was a big day. The Blackberry – now dubbed BB4, because I’ve determined I’ve doomed any inanimate (and potentially animate) object I name, arrived. And I struggled at every step getting the damn information transferred.
A compulsion dragged me into two different pharmacies in town, in search of a replacement Sharpie pen. I obsessed about it. I couldn’t continue writing in my journal without it. The writing wouldn’t look right. I saw the hideous tag of $9 and change for two. And I decided that day that my sanity had a price.
I continued with my regression therapy experiment by listening to The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. The album as a whole. Still nothing but lyrics. I can’t ever remember where I put my phone and my cigarettes. But, I’ll never forget a single lyric from any of those 14 songs.
All day, obsessions. These obsessive, intrusive thoughts snagged and snapped at me.
You lose everything remotely important. Check your bag for your pens. Your cigarettes. Your phone. Check again and make sure you see it. Did you put it back in there? Check again.
The world whizzed by me. And the music blared:
C L I C K .
– – – – –
“Fine-ally!” I seriously thought my bladder was going to literally burst inside of me. I pulled myself to sitting on the beige bench seat, all the way in the back. My heavy sandal fell off of my foot and landed directly on my copy of The Downward Spiral. I plummeted at freefall speeds. And upon impact, BANG! I was fiercely sobbing, van door open to a busy, boiling hot highway.
I rustled myself out of that van, and into that rest stop. I lit up a cigarette in a stall (back when you could smoke almost everywhere), and continued to sob.
“What the hell are you causing so much fuss about?” I heard from the stall next to me, “Me and your dad will buy you a new one when we get there.”
– – – – –
My father wouldn’t let me have anything that held any value. I didn’t even carry a wallet until I was 18. I didn’t carry a purse until I was 21. Why have these things without valuables. He insisted that I’d lose it.
When I did lose something, I’d never hear the end of it. Things I’ve come to realize can be easily replaced. A pen. A hat. The trouble is that these things never were replaced. If I lost something, and I loved it, it was gone forever.
“Everyone I know, goes away, in the end.” Trent purred.
I was eager to get the key into the lock. I couldn’t remember the last time I had to go so urgently. I threw my bags on the sofa as I rushed through. I shedded my coat onto a kitchen chair and turned the corner to the bathroom. I walked up to the toilet and –
The seat was up.
Why was the seat up? I was the last one in the house.
A cloud descended upon me. A dark, nasty, vile cloud filled my head with heavy, smokey noise. It seemed a man had been in my house. And seeing as how only two men have a key to this house, and know the odd work hours I keep, that narrowed it down.
I take my father at his word. The man doesn’t lie. He would just avoid the subject.
That knocks it down to one.
“Wait! Don’t! Confronting a potential liar gets you nothing but more lies. Provoke him into exposing himself.”
I fired off a text, “Someone is busted.”
Normally, there is a lag time between fifteen minutes to three hours between texts. “I’m just so busy with everything going on! I’ll go to text you back and something will come up.”
More excuses. I don’t expect to take precedence every day. Just one day would be enough.
Immediately, a call shot to my cell. I nonchalantly answered the phone. At first, he carefully poked around. “Who? What do you mean? What happened?”
We didn’t speak while he was coming home. Unusual. He was only quiet when he was either alienating someone or plotting. I had him cornered.
When he arrived home, he put on a great show. He anxiously scoured the house looking for clues. In paranoia, he wedged himself between the fridge and the wall to boost himself above the drop ceiling. It was quite the farce.
He made a mistake. My husband, a man who is not guilty of anything and deeply crippled by anxiety, would not have given up so easily.
He was chipper when asking, “Would you like to take a walk over to the store for freezer pizza?”
I was bitter and suspicious. He hadn’t regarded me in that way in nearly a month. Each revision of behaviors became more noticeable. He eagerly set up the stroller. He made a pass of the exterior of the house for good measure. Only a pass. It was anything but thorough.
“So who do you think it could have been?” he uneasily questioned me.
“Everyone and anyone who could gain access to our house. Whether it be by force or key.”
Some more silence.
He rattled off a few very unlikely people. Forced. Any shift away from focusing on him. The insinuation was nowhere near vague. If there was something to hide, I’d find out. I made that unmistakably clear.
He trotted through the store. Suddenly, necessary items considered to be superfluous became important. I begged him for toothpaste when I had thrush. I knew it would clear faster. But, though we had just gotten paid, there was no money available.
He was overly enthusiastic about everything. At one point, he went to the Digiorno pizzas, and exclaimed what a great price they were. I had done so three months ago, and was shot down, claims they were still “too expensive'”, and returned to the same nasty, three, overcooked Tombstones.
Fake. Appeasing me. Buying my distractions.
I glared as he rushed through our taxes without complaint. We have never done our taxes so late. Never down to the wire like this.
Irresponsible. Careless. Uncharacteristic.
I fished through his cell phone for clues. He’s clever. He would have erased any tracks. He’s too paranoid to let anything revealing slip.
I have my reasons.
For years, the end of March and the beginning of April have always been rather catastrophic times for me. Since before I can really remember, this has been a terrible time of year. As I grew older, I started to notice certain patterns.
Some of the worst things that happened in my life have always happened during this time of year.
As a child, I recall my father was often hospitalized at this time. For a long time, I didn’t understand what my father was so sick with that he’d be gone in the hospital for weeks at a time. It scared me. I was scared he’d never come back. That he would die there.
Our worst fights happened at this time. It didn’t help that my final progress report for the year would come in.
Standardized tests always rattled my nerves. I knew that these tests didn’t affect my grades. It was just implied that these tests prove how smart a person was. I knew a bad score would label me an idiot. The only thing I had going for me, intelligence, would be wiped off the slate. I’d be nothing, and regarded as more of a child than I was already treated.
Then there was Easter break. For me, there was always something disturbing and disappointing about Easter. First, Easter is not exactly a pleasant holiday in the Christian religion. Yeah, I know, it is about celebrating the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
But, before that was good Friday. The day that Jesus died on the cross, after a gruesome and vividly detailed crucifixion. I don’t even know how the church justifies recounting this horrific story to children.
I know this one thing. Because of an exercise we did in Sunday School, peppermints are now revolting. I will spare you.
The closest friend I’ve ever had betrayed me in late March. She told my parents about a shoplifting incident that happened in January, complete with a fine that I was trying to pay off. She sabotaged my friendships with everyone else. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she had made it a very public falling out. She humiliated me.
And my father went off the deep end. No door on my room. Indefinitely grounded. No phone. No computer. No pager. No one in. And for a week, there was no school, and limited freedom within the house.
My ex Beck used my trip to Florida as time to gather support from our friends to backstab me, and destroy life as I knew it. April 1st, he dumped me. April 2nd, he moved his new girlfriend in.
April 8th, my ex Avi and I started dating. The following year, April 1st, we took what was a regrettable step into a year long lease together. A contract that legally obligated is to live together, in a small one bedroom apartment, in the worst of conflicts.
A year after that? We lost the apartment. We went flat broke and had to move into my house, which was then a complete shit shack. We ran a power cord over and lived in one room. Electricity in one room, and still living out of boxes and bags.
In late March, almost a year later, he made the admission that he cheated on me a year and a half ago. It consumed me so much that I was a woman possessed. It was all I could think about. I poured over the details. The emotion of anger, betrayal, guilt, and resentment was so much that it felt like it bled from every pore.
And on April 9th, three years after that first date, I decided that I wanted out. But, I was trapped.
Late March, before my wedding, I was tormented by my family. “You gained 5lbs!”
“Of course. I’m pregnant, right?”
“We can’t afford more alterations and it’s too late! We spent so much money on this, and you have to go and get knocked up! How irresponsible can you possibly be?”
After I had my son, this is the point in time where I started to show aggression and become violent. I was scared of myself. It was at this point that I knew I needed mental help.
A year after that, I started to have significant problems at my job. Even the thought of going there was agonizing.
Last year? The stress of putting together a children’s musical sent me flying into the ER with severe migraines. After that, I had a serious hypomanic episode. The first serious one I can remember.
And this year? Depression. Serious depression and self-harm. Marital issues. A lawsuit. A whole mishmash of events and looming threats that heap into a twitching shadow of depression and dreadful anxiety.
I have been reading references to research that has linked the turn of the season with mental health issues. March has the highest admissions into hospitals for those with mental illness. Different researchers have drawn different conclusions.
Today, I cracked it.
Today was my Pappap’s birthday when he was among the living. If he were with us today, we’d be celebrating his 96th birthday.
He has long since passed, almost 16 years ago. I was still young. He had been fighting a losing battle against prostate cancer for ten years. I was lucky to have had him in my life at all. When he was diagnosed, they only gave him a year.
My father was in and out of the VA hospital a lot when I was a child. My Pappap really stood up to be my father figure. And was he!
He was an amazing man. As a strapping young man, he and his brothers helped my church dig out their undercroft, by hand. It was the 40’s and wartime. Many men were called out to duty. My Pappap couldn’t go, on account of his severe hearing loss. It was mostly a result of working on the railroad. So, he, and other remaining parishioners took their shovels, and created a place where they could meet after mass.
He was always a man you could ask for help. He’d deny no one. And he was a jack of all trades. Plumbing, heating, electrical, building, anything. And if he didn’t know how to do it, he’d figure it out.
He had so many friends. Everyone who had ever spent any time with him was deeply touched by him. He treated everyone like family, and he treated his family like gold.
In times of need, he had offered everything he could to his extended family. Various family members had lived with him throughout his life. He was a faithful and dedicated man. My grandmother was his wife for fifty years before his passing.
He visited my mother every morning at 10AM for coffee after his morning walk. He knew that she needed him most. She was mostly alone with a severely autistic son and a deeply troubled husband, scarred by the war.
He came to every one of my school functions. I remember riding in the back of his station wagon. The only thing that ever made him angry were bad drivers. He always gave me $2 bills for my good report cards, and bragged to everyone about how smart and beautiful his granddaughter was.
I remember the first time I got a card from him with a $2 bill in it. He liked to tease people, so I thought it was fake. I got really mad at him. And he showed me his whole collection of $2 bills. And then he joked that I was a “brat kid” for disbelieving him.
I’d go to church every week, just to see him. He was an usher, and took collection. My Pappap was a devout Episcopalian, and so was I. He threw me a party when I reached my First Holy Communion.
We were very poor growing up. He often volunteered at charity events. The church had a flea market, and I fell in love with this little purple bunny. I was four, and the bunny warmed my heart. She made me happy and safe. He bought it for me, even after my mother lambasted me for begging for the bunny, as if I was trying to embarrass her in front of the other parishioners.
I named her Furry. Some kids had imaginary friends. I had her. She was imaginary in some ways. We talked. She always made me feel better. We shared a bed, and talked late into the night. I was less scared of life with her.
She still exists, and lives on shelf in my bedroom. She has been well loved, with patches of fur missing, dingy ears, paint chipped eyes, and a few obvious seams where she was sewn. Most of the time, I forget she’s there. She’s a relic, the only thing that survived my childhood. But, sometimes, I know she’s watching over me.
I remember the year that followed my Pappap’s death. We celebrated my uncle’s birthday, but it was somber. They shared a party every year. And he wasn’t there anymore.
Really, nothing was the same. Christmas. My birthday. Anytime I got a report card. My mother had removed the dining room table entirely. That’s the same dining room table in my house now. The same one I sit with during meals with my family. The very same that my friends gather around.
And, I never made the connection. I have only started considering a connection between a childhood amnesia and his passing. I never realized that it could have such a profound subconscious affect on my life as an adult.
I miss him. And most of all, I believe I mourn the time we missed most. I mourn the loss of the role in my life he could have taken.
When I joined the showband, I knew he’d be thrilled. His own granddaughter, so talented in music that she would be invited to travel the country each year to compete. I knew he’d be even more proud when I joined choir. All of those years watching me sing in church paid off in solos and special choir assignments.
When I graduated high school, I wondered if he’d be proud of me. I graduated with honors. The choir needed me and a friend so badly at graduation that we actually had to run back and forth from the stage to the other stage!
What would he think of my husband? I know he’d adore my son. My son loves cars and trains, just like him. They’d play with his model train sets all day.
If I ever do have a daughter, she’d be the light of his life. He cherished his girls most of all. He had always told me that girls were God’s gift to the world, and children were life’s best blessing.
He’d just be tickled about my job. He always believed in public service, and thought the people who did it were saints in disguise as ordinary people. Yes, he was a little bigoted, so he might have made a remark or two about it being in a city neighborhood. But, anyone in need – it didn’t matter who they were. He always believed that people were people. No less, no more.
He’d make a joke about me getting a report card. And I’d tell him that I do, every year in May. And he’d probably still slip me a card with some odd currency in there. A JFK silver half dollar. Oh god, a couple of Saqaguia’s! How he would have been so tickled by that!
He played piano. My parents both sing. I know where the talent came from.
Would he have said anything about the bipolar disorder? Maybe one thing. “You were always sensitive and moody. It’s a sign that you’re human.” That would have been that. I am who I am, and that’s more than special to him.
If he were alive, I’d join him and my mother for coffee in the morning, even if I don’t drink coffee. I know he’d pick up my prescriptions if I asked. He might poke fun and call them “crazy meds”. Just for a giggle.
He was the light in my chaotic childhood. He was the rock in my life. He was the father my dad could not be at the time. I was lucky to have my Pappap at all.
I do hope he rests peacefully and happily. And I hope he knows, that even after all of these years, and although I was young, I still remember him and everything he was to me.
Day 10 (Part Three) : Someone you need to let go of, or wish you didn’t know.
Lea and Liz, the first entry, started to describe the nature of relationships I had with my three high school friends. It is the preface for this. In summation, we were a group of best friends, entangled in each others’ lives. Mistakes, grudges, and other forces created huge divides between us, leaving lingering hatreds spanning years.
Liz and the In Between, focused on my relationship with Liz. It detailed all of the significant events within our friendship, and how it had turned ugly at times. These were the years in between the first entry and this one.
Kat and I eventually buried the hatchet about five years later. We were both adults who had done a great deal of growing since. We did attempt reconciliation, but mutually decided that we were too different to have a friendship. We grew out of each other. That’s life.
It took Lea and I much longer.
I recall a Fourth of July party I was invited to many years after the incident. A mutual friend of many years invited me, and his sister, best friend to Lea, naturally invited her.
Before I knew it, only a large patio table separated us. We inspected each other, sizing one another up. She still had the same snow white skin, but now she donned raven hair in place of her usual highlight job. Also, she had become much larger than me, at least fifty pounds or more. It was a little more intimidating, but I didn’t care. I’d tussled with men twice my size.
I don’t know what she saw, but she looked fairly intimidated. I was that same, fiery haired, piercing eyes girl she had known then. I hadn’t aged yet, though many of the girls at that table already had. The only differences were these. I wasn’t staring her down behind a pair of Buddy Holly glasses. I was 1/3 less than girl I was. And, we were no longer surrounded by brick and mortar that was the all-seeing, all-knowing, completely crooked system that was our public school.
Yes, we were in the real world. Where there were real consequences to actions. If one of us did one thing out of turn, we’d face something that didn’t include losing two perfectly good school days to absolute intense boredom of a desk with blinders, essentially.
So, we were deadlocked, powerless to make each others’ lives hell. We were adults, not children thrust together in the same place at the same time. We had the freedom of escape, to be free from the tangled web of the high school social society. As much trash as we could talk, it didn’t matter. Too much space and too few connections let those words fall on indifferent, rather deaf ears.
So, it dissipated throughout years of silence. I was already married with a child. We were truly adults, lives so far separated from those emotions and the petty grudges generated from them. What did it matter anymore? Through the power of Facebook, we put it to rest through humor over the incident.
Liz and I had settled old scores. That was, until I started getting serious with C.S. I remember driving around our neighborhood, the one we grew up in, yelling at each other. I wasn’t making time for her at her demand.
She retorted coldly, “You’ve been engaged so many times, I can’t even take you seriously anymore.”
There was no birthday reconciliation that year. Months droned on. It seemed to be over, and I was distraught, but infuriated. How dare she judge my relationship?!
I invited her to the wedding as an obligatory gesture. I knew she’d never attend. She should have been a bridesmaid, and yet, she would have rather carry on a grudge over my priorities changing.
Mid-summer, mid-pregnancy, I received a card in a letter in the mail. It contained a wedding gift and a phone number. I hesitated, but mustered up the courage to accept the olive branch. I announced my pregnancy. A boy. He even had a name.
She came to visit, and it was the first time I saw her in about a year. She seemed overjoyed, but deeply troubled. Liz, Liz, always something brewing under the surface.
She came the day after I had my son. Later in the week, she brought us dinner, on the house. And that was the last time I saw her face to face. It was almost three and a half years ago.
In that time, her relationship with Fox deteriorated. There was always some contingency on him leaving his wife. When you graduate college. When you get a good job. When…
They were fiercely fighting, and rarely seeing each other anymore. They had opposing schedules, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for Fox to steal time away from his wife. One day, he left his email open on his laptop, sitting on her kitchen table. She flipped through it, and discovered a few very old, very intimate exchanges between Fox an I on the MUD.
We talked. “I know it was years ago, but why would he even save this?” she ranted.
Time passed, things changed. That was pretty much the end of their relationship. Well, that, and when she got a confirmation that he and his wife just got a new lease on their house. It wasn’t my fault. She jumped into bed with their mutual married boss and ditched Fox.
I’ve actually searched and searched for the goodbye letter I wrote her in one of my journals. I’m thinking our biggest falling out was in 2010. Liz was always one of those people who insisted that she came first. She randomly called and announced that she was back in town. She wanted for me and her to go out. I explained to her that a person couldn’t just drop by on me. I have obligations to my family, plans that I’ve made, and things that just need done. She was furious, insisting that I never made time for her. All of these years, she made time for me, and the least I could do was see her during the few days in the year that she was in town.
Finally, I fought back.
“In all of this time, I listened to you prattle for hours about a miserable relationship with a married man, the same one that I urged you not to turn your life upside down for. You defiled his marriage, and he still didn’t leave his wife for you. Then, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, you jumped into bed with his married boss, your boss too.
Meanwhile, I am being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my marriage – to a man who fathered my son, is falling apart, and my son is showing signs of developmental delay. The moment I tried to open up my mouth to share my troubles, was always the moment you had to go. I’m tired of being on standby and being expected to be here at your beckon. I’m tired of you leading me around by the nose. So, if you’re going to get pissed off and walk out of my life, it better be for good this time. Because I’m not taking you back.”
We didn’t speak for about a year or so. That was, until a random birthday card for my son appeared in the mail, containing a gift card. I let it sit in my nightstand for a month, pondering what I should do with it. And finally, I broke down and emailed her.
Back to the status that rubbed me the wrong way. Lea is pregnant, after several years of marriage. And Liz, who I haven’t heard a word from in at least six months, made a comment. “I’ll definitely be there! I’m so excited to see you!” I know she’ll be in town; she lives far away. And I also know that she won’t make any attempt to stop by, or even contact me.
I invited her, holiday after holiday, to stop by the house. She always said she’d try, but there was so much going on. I never did see her, not once.
I stumbled upon what may be one of the most heartbreaking revelations I’ve ever had. Liz and I were never friends. We were frienemies. Not from my end, but from hers.
I was a pace car. I was not a concept to admire, but envy. When I actually married the man she truly desired, and had the family she secretly longed for, I had unknowingly won. She couldn’t come around, because she couldn’t bear the sight of it. I had become her superior in every way, and that is a fact she can never reconcile, nor bring to the surface. It’s too juvenile. But wasn’t all of it?
Clearly, she’s not an active part of my life. Her absence has not made a bit of difference. In a way, I wish I could have ignored that birthday card. She would simply no longer exist, and I could retain all of our funny, powerful, intimate, and warm moments. Instead, I am in some friend limbo.
So, instead, I think I’m going to start hiding both Lea and Liz’s feeds. I don’t need it. Sometimes a friendship is beyond salvageable. The remnants are too few. I don’t want to remain friends for nostalgia’s sake. I am not a keepsake. I am a human. If we really remained friends, wouldn’t she at least message me from time to time.
I place this in the sea and wave goodbye. For the last time.
(Originally dated January 31, 2012)
Day 10: Someone you need to let go of or wish you didn’t know.
Originally, I read this prompt and blanked. It wasn’t until I read Gypsy’s Day 10 Post that I came to this realization.
Facebook is toxic. Cosmo did an article in the December issue about a study revealing just that. That article confirmed certain suspicions, so I started taking statuses with a grain of salt. Yeah, I bet you’re happy about your drunken single life in your late 20’s, since you brag about it so much.
But, a couple of nights ago, a status rubbed me the wrong way.
Bear with me. This gets a little complicated.
I had a huge group of best friends in middle school. One by one, they dropped off for various petty reasons. Kat and I were inseparable. Until a boy came between us. Of course, that left a huge schism between them and me. Lea took on the grudge personally. But, Liz stayed neutral.
Kat pretended like I didn’t exist. Lea campaigned for my social public execution, setting up shop right across the hall from me, and Liz ghosted between.
Eventually, Kat and Lea started dating brothers, one who I dated years ago (of course, that was Lea’s boyfriend). I had my first public scrap happened with Lea in that very hallway.
Moe and I were still really good friends. Of course we were! I was the only one who stood by him and spent countless hours on the phone with him when he was in the hospital for chemo treatment. I stayed with him, even though I knew that it was incredibly possible that he could die. But, it was too late to turn back then.
We walked through the hall talking, cutting up as usual. As he met her in the hallway, I passed him and said to him, ignoring her, “Later whore!” A whole fourty-one minutes passed, and my head was filled with Biology before 10AM. I walked down the stairs and met with my gay guy friend to head to the music wing. Lea passed me and snarled, “Fuck you, you white trash slutbag. You’ll regret fucking with me.”
It was only audible to the immediate vicinity, all music kids. I flew, screaming after her, “Are you threatening me, you fat fucking bitch!?”
“What if I am?” she turned and sneered, “What are you going to do about it? Cry and cut yourself?” She continued walking, headed up the stairs.
Check had already grabbed me, and held me in a full nelson as I raged at her. A teacher from the third floor came down at that point and lambasted me without even asking what happened. I spouted off, “Fuck you too, Pistol Pete.” And Check had to drag me away. We were unbelievably late and it was still a walk to the music wing.
I told him, “Go in before me. I don’t want you getting mixed up in this.” I stood outside the room for a couple of minutes, listening to the melodies and harmonies of warm-ups bounce off of the tiled halls and wooden doors.
Calmly, I walked in. I turned the corner, and the whole room rose to applaud me! I was beyond shocked, and no words could come. I expected a slow, painful, icy death by silence. Instead, I was congratulated for my absolutely outrageous outburst! By everyone except Liz, who gave me this disgusted and pained look.
It was no surprise when I was called to the principals office by noon. She was coming out as I was headed in. Lea glared and mouthed, “Fuck you, whore,” as we passed one another. I growled under my breath. If we weren’t surrounded by a room full of elderly secretaries, I would’ve jumped on her and ripped her face off.
I sat across the desk from the principal in her little interrogation room. This wasn’t the first time. Hell, it wasn’t even the first time in that school year! But, I had never been in there for fighting. I knew protocol for a search. “Let’s dump your bookbag here, and we’ll have the constable walk you to your locker to watch you dump that all over the hall.” But I didn’t care. I was actually pretty satisfied with myself.
“So Em, would you like to tell me what happened between you and Lea?”
“Why should I? Lea already told you what you’ll believe anyway. I won’t waste our time.”
And that was it. No, “I want to hear your side.” What was there to say in my defense? The tattletale always wins. And I already had a record.
I knew only hell awaited me at home. It always did after there was an incident at school. Going home and facing the wrath of my parents was worse than any punishment they could deal me at school.
My mother’s head was poking out to look down the street as I approached. I considered turning and running. No, that would make it worse. Then she’d send my father after me, who would literally drag me kicking and screaming back up the street.
Fighting had been the worst offense I had ever committed. And the worst part is that I didn’t even actually hit her. I only threatened it, while verbally assaulting her in front of about half of the student body.
“So, the principal called today,” my mother announced in front of my father. She must have meant business. Usually, she at least attempted to break the news gently to my father.
“Yep, what did you talk about?” I asked candidly.
“You tell me.”
I sighed, and recounted the tale, uncensored, complete with swears and acts.
There was a long pause. I wondered how long it was going to take before she slapped me in the face for using that language, berated me for embarrassing the whole family, and let my father actually kill me. Dad stood in the background and just started clapping. My mother smiled. Was this some sort of sick torture? Get on with it!
“We are so proud of you!” she exclaimed.
“She got what was comin’ to her,” he noted.
I was so confused that I was terrified that I had actually lost my mind. “What?”
My mother explained, “That girl has been torturing you for three years now. I’ve wanted to kick her ass myself. And you finally stood up to her.”
“I don’t care what that idiot principal has to say. You did right today,” my father confirmed.
“Next time be a little more subtle and don’t get caught,” my mother mentioned.
“You’re serious?” I questioned. She nodded.
I almost died. If I was caught smoking, I’d get grounded for a month. If I was admittedly fighting, I’d get rewarded? What the hell kind of backwards world was this?
After that, it returned to the cold war. The lines had clearly been drawn, with a no-man’s-land in between. Moe made his decision – all men led around by their second head. Kat had already made hers. But Liz still had to chutzpah to traverse the DMZ.
It wasn’t until Moe and Lea had broken up that more lines were drawn. Lea thought it was insensitive that Kat was still dating Moe’s brother. Kat wasn’t about to give up a good relationship because her friend was too petty to get over it. And it was over in less than a summer.
Lea League, Club Kat, and Team Em. And somewhere where those borders met, Liz sat and slowly seethed.
To be continued. . .
Warning: This post has controversial and potentially disturbing content surrounding suicide, psychic trauma, and child abuse. Reader’s discretion is strongly advised.
It started as a whimpering, jaw tight with a lip curled over. Soft, pattering, high pitched little noises, not much to even notice over the ambient noise. The realities of what played out in front of these oceanic colored eyes, glistening with anticipating tears, struck hard, and relentlessly roared inward and outward. The sheer force gusted forth a sharp wail, the same violently held hostage in the same dusty box of voices moments earlier.
Thoughts, voices, dialogues, monologues, scenes, words, swamped and overwhelmed this consciousness. Bits swarming together and fashioning a patchwork quilt for the minds eye to finally behold. Nowhere to turn, the newly formed blanket enveloped every last portion. Inescapable, imprisoned in truths, half-truths, past, present, and future. Sobs and tears erupted like a furious geyser, spattered with guttural words.
I can’t make you happy.
Please, stop crying.
Mommy cries too.
The tiny voice murmured indistinguishable speech, only heard through the hitches. His presence shifted, but only once removing himself to procure a gift. Eyes squeezed shut, tears slithering though hands to fall where they may. Again, he joined the wailing, wolves howling in the night. He fashioned himself as a koala, and held tight.
– – –
Curled on the bed in sullen agony, with lead curling in tendrils up and down each limb. The tiny voice said, “Juice?” A raw, numb voice replied, “Go get your cup.” “My cup, my cup,” he repeated for a scant few moments.
A frustrated cry, and a strike on the back. Another. Laying there, absorbing the blows in hopes they would soon cease for good. Another, then a few in succession. A pause. A warm circle in the direct center of the back, a scrape of teeth.
A memory flashed, and I shot right up. Without thought, I slapped him on his right cheek, but in a nanosecond held back, but couldn’t entirely stop the motion. His face pucked, tears welled and spilled from his eyes, and he screamed. I pounced.
“We do not bite! We do not bite! We do not bite! We do not bite! No bite! No biting! No! We do not bite!” I belted until I ran out of air.
Stop! Before you hit the X in the corner, and do your mandated reporting, read this. This is an isolated incident. I has never occurred before. I had no malice or ill intention for my child. This was a snap reaction that I am now extremely cognizant of. So please, at least read the rest of it before you contact authorities.
We both were there, staring at one another, gasping for breath. He threw himself into my arms. I enbraced him for a second, only a second, and put him on his bed. I stood and sighed, “We both need a time out.”
I started for the door, and his screams grew wilder. I turned to look, and he was now curled in the bed, hysterical. Poisonous daggers jammed deep into my heart. His pain was mine, but the urgency for me to abandon him was too great. Stay and harm him, or leave and harm him?
I sat down at my desk, and lit a cigarette. As I exhaled, I choked back more tears. Sinking, cigarette smoke swirling around me, all of the menacing thoughts rose to prey on my guilt to intensify my pain.
I am a bad mother.
I am. Another monster in a history of monsters. What was the flash in my mind that drove me to these horrific actions?
He was enraged, tearing through the house, screeching. I became smaller than small, for I already was small. I clutched my plastic cup, hoping I could disappear. I was in the basement, and the elephants trumpeted and stampeded back and forth, trampling throughout the house.
When his feet hit the cement floor, his eyes fixed on me. He made a run for me, and I dashed for the stairs, for the safety of my parents, a room with a lock, anything. And in that stairwell, he lunged on me. He sunk his teeth hard into the center of my back and I let out a blood curdling scream.
I screamed and screamed, tears pouring out. It had been the worst pain I had ever experienced up until that point. My parents were removing him from my back before even addressing me or my wound.
My father helped me to my feet and my mother was nowhere to be found. The pain intensified anytime I moved.
And all he could say was: “It doesn’t hurt that bad.”
I made a painful realization. I cannot remember a childhood before eleven for a reason: My parents let my autistic brother brutalize me.
It’s no excuse. None. This is no feasible And as I furiously dragged on that cigarette, I determined that my son, my family, would be better off without me.
It could be done with ease. I would call into work and tell my boss I couldn’t make it in. I’d neglect to tell my parents, and my son could be safe with them. And, I’d empty the Vicodin bottle with the Wellbutrin bottle into my mouth, and wash it down in one big gulp.
Then, I’d prepare my note. I would not want to leave this world without at least a few words to as a testament to my own failures, not anyone else’s.
My sister called, before that train of thought could steam along into action. Sometimes, there is a such thing as divine intervention. She rarely calls that late in the morning. While idly listening, I mustered the courage to face my son. I nervously peeked into his room.
My little boy was sleeping, with the angelic, peaceful look all children have while slumbering. Eased for a moment, but then sinking again. I knew I would not be able to apologize before I left for work.
He may never know how incredibly ashamed, guilty, monstrous, and sorry I feel. He may never know how much I hate myself for seemingly not loving him enough to stop myself. I won’t try to justify it. The only thing I can see is the traumatized look on his face, the tears glistening as they poured down. And all I want to do is to walk to a bridge, any bridge in Pittsburgh will do, and leap from that great height to plunge into water that would guarantee near instantaneous death if the fall didn’t do it first.
This is not a testament. I am miserably, but safely at work. This is my aching, broken heart pouring out. This is my confession.
Note: There was a lot of hesitation about posting this once it was written. If you have harsh reprimands, please keep them to yourself. I’m in a very fragile state right now.