I sit on the floor of my bedroom looking out of the window. The sunlight has a golden hue and the breeze is cool on my skin. I like the color of the light and the cool breeze. It feels like a gentle balm to my aching soul.
If there were a Creator to whom we could attribute our gifts and weaknesses (and I am not saying there is), I would say they gave me a lovely animal-like sensuality. I purr or moan or close my eyes or smile when I like the way something tastes or feels. I don’t know that I’m good at translating these experiences into words. It would be nice to be a poet but I like the way my family dog raises his snout when I scratch his neck. It’s pure. It’s simple. It’s lovely. I like the way he communicates his appreciation even more than I like the way Shakespeare expresses his love in a sonnet.
Maybe the moment we use words to liken one thing to another (even if beautifully) we lose as much as we gain. It’s not that I never have words to describe experiences, but I find it so much more relaxing to simply….sip the beer and notice that it makes the sides on the back of my tongue tingle. I suppose those are words. But if you’re in a group of beer tasters the pressure is on to say that the beer has “piney hops” and I just want to say that I liked the sensation on my tongue and that it made my mouth water. I suppose I could never write about food even though I love food so much.
And I could never write erotica or sensual poetry even though I love touch and human bodies so much. I can sit here and remember the microscopic blond hairs on her thighs but can’t for the life of me describe it in an appealing way to anyone else. I can only say that it both excites and relaxes me and…well that probably doesn’t make much sense, does it? I can say how much my eyes enjoy thick, frizzy, feral hair but that wouldn’t make anyone else swoon. I like the geometry of the curve created between foot and ankle when the former dangles. It’s nice and it makes me melt.
I suppose all I’m trying to convey is that this hypothetical creator gave me the ability to see and appreciate these things in a very basic and pure way. But the weakness (well I can’t blame a “Creator” for this but I’m going to do it for the sake of consistency) is that I have a sort of leak inside of me. All of this sensuality and love for life that I have right there in me…it goes to waste amidst all of the pain. The pain is so intense that I forget how much my life force is connected to all of these sensual things. And even writing this now I can feel how my life force is blocked and how my pain is up. It’s like I’m describing someone else and yet…I know it’s me.
I’m so deficit focused that instead of being content with the way I can enjoy things so much I focus on how I have much less to enjoy. Fingernails scratching my head…it’s heaven. It makes me close my eyes like my dog does when I pet him. But I can only think that there are no fingernails to scratch my head. I cry and kick and scream that I adore feeling the softness of another person’s skin but have no skin to really touch. I get so lost in the pain of everything that is missing and in the hopelessness of it ever changing that…it makes it impossible for anything to ever change. I get stuck looking at how someone who loves to touch (and be touched) has had so little in their life. And yet there is this weird irony to it all: sometimes I think that I developed this “gift” precisely because of the deficits. Watching. Looking. Listening. Sensitively noticing everything (when I’m not lost in pain).
The delivery is here. I’m going to go eat a burrito now. And maybe I’ll take some small consolation in the fact that I will enjoy that burrito as simply as my dog enjoys his treats. Maybe I can just be…an animal.
I look at the machine that was supposed to help me feel less tired and fight the impulse to smash it. The noises from outside won’t leave me alone—not even on a Saturday. Big truck beneath my window, incessant loud industrial sounds. It has been thirty minutes. I should leave. Go somewhere. Anywhere. Just drive. Go look at TVs at Best Buy. Do anything. No. If ANYTHING goes wrong, if someone is even slightly discourteous I can’t trust what I will do. Take out the trash. At least do that. I feel paralyzed by fear. I can’t. I don’t feel safe. Fascism is approaching. Must learn to defend myself. Another tomb. Wherever I go I create tombs. Tears. Life is too much. What are minor irritations to others feel like burns to me. Stabbings. I’m bleeding everywhere and my loneliness doesn’t feel like a choice if I am to keep myself from staining others people. More noise. Vacuums? Leaf blowers? And now sirens. I stop writing for a second and place my hands over my ears. More tears. More sirens. Different ones. The kind you can’t trust. Accident? Act of violence? I feel like I’m shaking from the inside. My limbs are steady but my insides keep vibrating. Buzzing.
Set the fire on fire. Burn off the burning feeling with a different burning feeling. Run.
Sprint up the hill. Lungs burning. Heart threatening to exit my chest. All the way. That’s one. Hands on hips. Belly protruding. That’s a hundred yards up the hill. Do it again.
Walk back down the hill and spring back up again. Is that as fast as you can go, old man? Five more times. That makes six. Heat. Dizziness. My skin is turning red from the sun. Options: sit on the curb or pass out. I sit. For a minute. Then walk back down for another. That makes seven. Sit again…eight. Sit again…nine…ten…eleven…twelve. I think I need to vomit.
I walk into the driveway of my father’s house and find the dirt area along the side. Dry heaves. False alarm. Let’s do one more. Thirteen.
I sit on the ground wondering how I will stand back up. My knee is throbbing. Soon it will be stiff. It will lock out on me. It will betray me as I have betrayed it. Sit in the shade. Maybe this will do it. Maybe the sweat will douse the fire.
Then the thoughts come again: I’m a serial number. Nobody was there when the fire was just a spark. The sweat begins to dry and the fire starts up again. At least now I’m too tired to hurt anyone. At least now my body is tired and aching and useless. Now only my words can hurt the world. Cancel all plans. Do not speak. Tape your mouth shut if you must. Protect yourself from the world. Protect the world from you.
I feel nothing save blind rage; complete and total hatred. I must sequester myself from humanity. I must keep myself from adding wretchedness to an already wretched world. I feel ill. In my stomach and in my head. I feel weak save for those moments when I clench my fists and feel something burn in my chest. I am a serial number. But a serial number with fists. I will hide my fists away behind these closed doors. I will sit on them or tie my wrists together if I have to. But give me a good reason–a real one (not the kind my trauma invents but one that is actually righteous)–and I cannot promise I will not make someone bleed.
I am ill today. Or so I told my clients when I canceled their appointments. I lie in bed and, trying to ignore the pain in my neck, stare out my bedroom window onto the street. The steady whoosh of car turbulence puts me in a trance.
I remember now. Monday morning I knew a break was coming. I knew the seams were coming apart. And then love and concern for another made me forget. I went to sleep with my guard down, forgetting that a storm was coming.
Tuesday morning. Jittery. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Five clients coming my way. Electrician with toxic male energy stealing my only break. Even so, I do not recall the awareness that I was already close to breaking. I soldier on the way I do on most work days. Shut out the world, myself included. Focus. That person. That task. And then the work day ends.
I eat without tasting the food. I flip through different shows on the television—all of them increasing the loneliness through their depictions of lives to which I cannot relate. They seem happy. They have spouses and talk about normal things and say funny things that aren’t actually that funny but that most must consider funny.
Walls closing in. Shaking. Denying it. Tears. Not steady tears. Unhinged. Reach out. Minutes feel like hours. Where are they?! Nobody loves me. Or do I not love anyone? How long will this last? It has been hours. Lie down. No, pace around. It has been weeks. Rage. I have been abandoned in this lonely hell. I tell myself I no longer need anyone. That nobody exists. They all left. Every last one of them. Or did I just leave?
I look out the bedroom window. I remember now. Last night…that was the break. I forgot it was coming. And now. Lost income. So much shame that the loneliness is worse. But not unhinged. Sad. Wondering how much damage I left behind. Like a drunkard waking up hungover wondering how bad he was the night before. The Hulk. Mr Hyde. Guilt. about my insanity. Wondering if it’s okay to spend so much time in bed. Wondering if it’s what I need or if it will leave regret. More regret, that is.
Sometimes when I’m in an emotionally self-destructive place I tell myself that I am to blame for my pain or my loneliness. “You are lonely because you are [insert cruel word or phrase]!” But other times the pain is simply there. I feed myself, exercise, clean up and do the things that I sometimes neglect when I’m depressed. But I’m still depressed. Is this depression? Maybe not. It’s a deep well of sadness. It’s a strong physical pain in my chest. It’s the feeling of some invisible hand trying to pull me down to the ground. I’m neither fighting it nor giving into it. It’s simply there.
I sit in the corner and look out over my living room. It looks nice. It’s the nicest home I have created. But what I notice most is that it’s empty. And I begin to cry (again). To sob. Just like I did on my walk. Just like I did when I woke up. I’m lucky to have a nice house but for some reason I haven’t allowed it to feel like home.
As pathetic as this sounds (I’m aware that what I’m about to say is close to being a Smiths’ lyric and for some reason right now I think of all the people who teased me for liking the Smiths in high school) I ache to physically embrace and be embraced. A tight embrace. I want to cry in someone’s arms and lean my head on their shoulder. I want that physical communication that is so much more basic and primal than words. But it’s not a possibility. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not until….well, nobody knows.
Thursday I’m getting a haircut. Someone will wash my hair. The momentary sigh of relief I get at imagining this is interrupted by picturing the person who will wash it. It is not someone I dislike but neither is it someone I like. Not a friend or lover but not a stranger. It’s part of a business exchange. It doesn’t mean it won’t feel good. It’ll be a minute of a nice thing. But it’s not heart-filling.
And this is it. This is why I ache. Sure, my inability to tolerate it is related to my trauma. Yes, the pain is enhanced greatly by it. But I’m also just a human being with or without the trauma. And now I have to gather my inner resources, put ice packs under my eyes (so that my clients won’t see that I’ve been crying for two days) and get ready to help people who are actually more high functioning than I am (with one notable exception).
Fearful of the heat that is to come, I create a dark den by shutting every window and drawing every blind. I am simultaneously struck by sadness and relief. By blocking out the world I have made my isolation official. Yet the weight that burdens me is now more evenly distributed between my heart and my surroundings.
With a sigh I place two fans on either side of my couch and walk into the kitchen to serve myself a cup of coffee. I bring the coffee back to the couch, sit down and let a few tears drop from my eyes. I am sleepy. I lack desire. I want only for this nameless burden to find its way out of me.
I do not know what it is to live, only that I find it difficult to do within the constraints that my survival requires. I must first survive in order to live but surviving sucks the life from me. Suddenly I begin to fantasize. I imagine a year in which I am able to survive despite cutting my work hours by half. There my fantasy becomes cloudy but there is a vague sense that the tension in my spine would lessen, that the weight on my heart would decrease, and that I could start to breath. And from that breath would emerge life. And this life….yes….this life would allow me the time to feel what I feel. It would provide enough structure to ground me and help me feel useful and enough freedom to help me feel, dream, and connect.
I slip out of the fantasy and find myself back on the couch. My coffee is now lukewarm. Reality. Here in reality coffee gets cold. Bills must be paid. I must pay for this dark den alone. Where is the money for which I have worked? Rage.
Here in reality I must make peace with the limitations. Perhaps the act of writing this is an example of creating peace and acceptance. And with that thought I sink into a quiet melancholy and, in another example of living within the restrictions of my life, pick up a book to read.
This has been a busy and stressful week. And it’s not over: I still have four appointments today and one tomorrow. There’s nothing interesting about that to me. It’s such a boring thing to say that I’m tempted to resort to a tautological and platitudinous pet peeve: it is what it is.
The one thing that is interesting about this week is the realization that even when my mental health issues are not entering the picture (no real depressions; no “abandonment triggers”; only one night of poor sleep) life is still challenging. I feel as though my life has consisted of eating, sleeping, walking, checking in on my aunt and working. What little bandwidth remains is used to pack a few things and rest. It’s always just the next task at hand.
I don’t give myself enough credit. It’s like my depressive personality gets in the way of recognizing the fact that I’m a really hard worker. I too often diminish myself by comparing myself to, for example, a manual laborer that has to work 14 hour days to keep their family fed. It is important to stay humble and see my blessings. So far I have not lost my employment. So far I have been able to financially survive the pandemic. But that shouldn’t be mutually exclusive with appreciating myself. I do what some others in my field cannot in order to pay for rent, medical insurance and food. I have love and support and what I have is what I work for. There is a dignity in that. A dignity that I forget at times. I forget that I’m really strong tough and that I come from hardworking ancestral roots. And I do so because I’m also a very sensitive and fragile person and, for some reason, I choose to define myself exclusively by this.
I don’t want to forget this. I’m strong. Resilient. Tough. AND, I’m fragile and extremely sensitive. I don’t want to forget that I’m doing the best I can and that weeks like this are just part of surviving and that I’m not alone in this (certainly not alone in a corporate capitalist economy that is created to benefit only a very small percentage of its citizens).
Okay. Four more. I feel like crawling into bed and avoiding, but I’ve I got this. I’ve gotten through far more. It’s just another day.
Trapped and alone in the silent darkness. Out of sync with the world. Neither dead nor alive. Insomnia leaves you in a liminal place both the night of and the day after. Unable to feel or act. The heavy weight of my head on my useless tired body. Another sick day. More lost wages. Unable to work. Unable to connect. To love. Do I cancel my plans again? Will I even be able to keep my eyes open?
It hurts to write this. To stare at the screen and move my listless fingers. If only I could look forward to sleep tonight. For the living sleepiness is information; it is the body telling them that it is time to sleep. That they will sleep. For the insomniac this information is irrelevant. It is like feeling hunger where there is very little possibility of a meal.
Nothing makes me more suicidal than two or more more nights of insomnia in a row. It can make nihilists out of monks and priests; can turn the kindest people into sadists. All I want right now is to be able to feel…anything. Desire. Sadness. Loneliness. I want to find my pulse. To feel human. Must I grapple with this as well?!
The idea of caffeine sounds so appealing. Perhaps it would give me a temporary jolt. A rush. A momentary feeling of being alive. I understand the temptation to abuse drugs right now. You chase a feeling right now regardless of the consequences. Caffeine and sugar straight into my bloodstream. Mmmm. But I know this is only a fantasy. I would only feel wired and tired which is simply a more frustrating version of what I feel now.
But what about drugs for sleep? Oh my dear reader! If only you know the dozens of drug cocktails I have been put on since the age of 19! Drugs that would put a horse to sleep! Nightly. Regardless of the long term impact on my liver, heart or kidneys. Drugs every night. Anti-depressants for sleep. Hypnotics. Benzos. I have even gone the “natural” route: CBD, Melatonin, Cannabis…nothing. If I keep taking my meds it is only because they sometimes work. And sleeping sometimes is better than never sleeping.
In some ways the most authentic version of me is the one who is in his role as a therapist. It is there that I can love wholly and without fear. I do not worry about being abandoned or disliked by clients. I am very rarely triggered by them. It is the one place in the world where my nerves aren’t exposed; where my skin is intact. I can take in the appreciation I get from clients while at the same time not letting it go to my head. Though I am experienced, I don’t see myself as a very polished therapist. My strength is my presence. Without my fears controlling me I don’t rely on my primitive coping mechanisms and, therefore, my real self shines through.
It’s funny, when I imagine myself in that role I think of myself as lovable. Hell, I even think I’m handsome. I am more confident and joyful. And even when I’m shit…I beat myself up far less about having a shitty session than I do about having a shitty date or hangout.
Of course it makes sense–I was bred to be a caretaker. The boundaries inherent to the work create the safety, not only for the clients, but for me. This protection lets me be more….me. I can love and let go. I can love and not risk anything. I don’t have to ask for anything (other than payment) and whatever I self-disclose is more related to how they impact me rather than about my own pain and suffering and loneliness. Since I don’t have to ask for anything I never feel afraid. I never have to worry that I’m “too much” or wonder if I’m a burden. I don’t have to watch the helplessness in anyone’s eyes as they watch me sink into an abyss.
And yet this role…it wears me out. It can’t directly meet my needs (it would be problematic if it did). But I get a taste…a taste of what a confident and less fearful me looks like. Of what it feels like to be generally okay with myself. Maybe that’s why I return to the work even though I am tired of it. Maybe it’s the place where I suffer the least (while I’m in it) even if I suffer quite a bit because of it.
I was once in a therapy group that was led by this older man who had quite a commanding presence (a little too commanding for my taste but that is another story). He was fairly renowned in town and charged an arm and a leg. In his chair he looked larger than life. One day, I ran across him on the street. He was so small and fragile. Tiny. And when we talked to one another I realized that he almost seemed shy and childlike. That describes how I feel. When I’m in the chair I feel okay with myself. When I’m in my day-to-day life it hurts just to breath and I’m so fucking afraid of so fucking much.
I tell myself that I work a lot to survive financially, and it’s not untrue. It’s a logistical and mathematical fact. But I realize now that in addition to this, at some unconscious level, I need this work in order to get a break from the suffering version of myself. And there is the paradox of it: the very thing that can drain me so badly is also the thing that so often relieves my suffering.
Bah. I’m tired. I’m crying. I don’t want to edit. Fuck it.