Friends who call out your bullshit while it falls off your lips are the only kind I can have right now. The delivery can vary—one can listen until you’re done then break it down, another might chant oxymoron while you keep verbally angling around your self-destructive plans—but they are treasured the same and what I need.
My therapist is like this—THANK GOD—and today I’m a mess.
We’ve been sick over here since Monday, and now my son and I are on the mend. The apartment looks like a dead battlefield. We really fucked some shit up, and I haven’t gone outside our front door in over 72 hours. I scrubbed my face today, though, and that helps. My bedroom window is open even though it’s cold outside; the sound of passing cars and breeze are a good warm-up for this afternoon when I drive to ___________. It won’t feel as abrupt.
This weekend, I leave for ________ to see my daughters for the first time since they moved back down there during the holidays. I’m dying, dyyyyying to hug my babies and have some eye contact with them.
I need to drink a smoothie. Nothing nutritious has gone inside me in days, because prior to The Plague, we had a birthday party. I’m eating Pringles and potato salad as I type.
All of this fuels my gratitude that in about an hour, I’m going to be sitting across from a woman who gets paid to have the patience to help me talk through my shit. My friends do it all the time, but it gets old for them. Now is about finding patterns and disrupting them, tracing behavior to root causes and recognizing them for what they are.
Today might be a doozy of a session. Wish my therapist and me strength and humor.
I found this meme on Instagram today that said something like: Mental wellness is not Fight Club. We can talk about it. (I don’t remember the precise words, and I couldn’t find it again because I’m still pretty lost on that platform. Signed, I’m 43)
It made me think of this album of selfies I took in 2010 when I impromptu dressed up as Marla Singer from Fight Club on Halloween and met my fresh-from-jail, married boyfriend at a frog pond in Kentucky to make Adderall-love on the dock next to a car I probably didn’t have permission to drive that night (I’m sorry, Nancy and Joan). I took the pictures first. In some of them, my daughter is smiling in the background.
So we can talk about it. Mental health, mental wellness, sadness, addiction, recovery, sexual assault and abuse. We can and should. If we talk about people we love who hurt us, awful things we’ve done to other humans, and all the ways we try to forget or heal it, we make a sound. We howl to our pack, call to our tribe. We stop being Alone.
Alone is when suicide comes like cancer. It’s a shadow that shows up, the dark spot that takes some people out. I wish those kinds of thoughts on no one, and I don’t fancy myself unique for having them.
We also need to laugh. One of my favorite lessons I learned while spectacularly failing out of a great undergrad creative writing program (I stopped wearing shoes for the most part at some point during my schooling) is: There are no sacred cows. None, fuckers. So if you don’t think a drug overdose can ever be funny (or if you’re related to me), maybe you don’t want to read my blog.
My mission is to hold cyber-hands and laugh whenever we need to.
In other news: therapy starts Monday, I still hate washing dishes, and I don’t really want to go to work today. But I’m going.
Over and out. See you—hopefully—on the sunny side.
I like it here. Despite the See You Next Tuesday I don’t even share walls or a hall with who told the police she smells weed coming from my apartment, I like it. (As an aside, I wish I knew what word she used. Was it “reefer?” Please baby Jesus let it have been that. I suspect it was plain old “marijuana,” but Chicagoans can nasal that word up good enough to make it fun too. This makes me think, though, of the time Old Best Friend kicked her feet up on her mother’s dining room table and declared, “There’s nothing wrong with blowing a little grass, Mom.” It was like The Universe whispered a dare into her mind to do it, and she rose like a maniacal champion to the challenge. So much of why I loved her.)
I like how this place feels, and I want to stay a while. My son can run here (we just left a second floor apartment where I not only had to ask/tell All Children Who Entered to be Calm, Quiet Things, but in order for them to go outside to play, an adult had to be willing to stop what they were doing and go with them the whole time because distance and traffic demanded it). Imagine how much we both love the giant first-floor windows that let him play in the courtyard on his own or with friends while I watch from a couch or table.
Once I had most of my stuff here, I knocked on all of your doors—the ones across and above, whose entryways and stairs connect with/are mine too—so I could introduce myself and deliver the following awkward address:
Hi, I’m your new neighbor. I just moved in with my son. He’s four and energetic, so if we’re ever too noisy, please let me know. Also, if I park in the wrong spot, or if my boyfriend needs to move his car for you, please just knock and tell us. He sleeps over sometimes. Additionally, this is my medical cannabis card. Please please please tell me if the smoke is coming through a vent or in the hall so I can adjust something in my place to prevent that.
I only got to say it to one of you, a gentleman above me who mostly made no words and stared at me while I just kept talking. No one else answered.
Since then, I’ve been burning incense, lighting candles, white saging the shit out of my living room and kitchen (the two rooms with doors going to our shared halls) every time I smoke, and I even was using an eighth-grade-dryer-sheet blow tube to try to reduce the smell. (No joke. I tried to get friends to do it too. No bueno. No dice except for a few uncomfortable sessions in my bedroom.)
Although I still desire to be a Good Neighbor (and I really do—I have OVERWHELMING LOVE for other humans. It’s probably part of my mental illness—which is why I have the card that made the police not give a damn that someone/anyone/everyone smells weed coming from my apartment—to love like that. My instinct is to nestle into the soul of every person I meet, and I try to bring you all inside me. I totally want to be a nice person to live next door to.), I won’t be jumping through any more incense-hoops to spare your sensibilities or your noses.
Because cannabis is my medicine. One of them. And it’s as legal, less risky, and more effective for anxiety-ridden-addict-brained-artsy-creative-types like me who might accidentally or intentionally die from Other Things Doctors Give Out For Kickbacks. (It’s great, too, for cancer patients, chronic pain sufferers, and anyone who wants it, because New World Order, bitc— I mean, it’s real medicine. And it works. It has a long history of working, and our country’s nasty, racist laws have prevented our scientists from doing real research into modern benefits and methods of terpene extraction for way too long.) And after cartwheeling courtesy at you, it stung (despite the dark humor) when I thought I was dying and called 911 and one of you took time out of your day to tell the police officer that you smelled weed.
So by all means, let me know if Boyfriend or I have parked in the wrong place. Please tell me when my kid and his friends are being too loud (they will be—I promise—because they’re an awesome troop of bandits with loud voices and big hearts. They have dance parties and play hide-and-seek. Sometimes I let them play my synthesizer.). But I’m not going broke on room spray or candles so I can take my medicine.
Drive your children 400 miles away because they want to go back to their fathers. You understand and want it for them, too. Flames have licked through the plaster walls you’ve all been living between, and it’s time to go.
So you drive down Saturday morning. Leave late to avoid the rain, and because none of you can really get your shit together. You make it, though, and you still know this is right. But you sob when you leave the first daughter. Fucking bawl but not in front of her.
Number two is easier, because you’ve been slow-drip delivering a telephone soliloquy to that one’s other parent for months.
I’m not sure this is good for her. I want it to be, but it might not.
I’m trying. I think she hates me, and I get it.
You’re better at this with her than I am.
This one has complications, but there’s less fear in it. Because you’ve been to court for her, and you know the steps to How We Got Here This Time. This goodbye is like dancing. She hugs you and hangs on; you both smile and sway.
Sunday’s departure becomes Monday–you barely slept after you left your daughters. Drive straight to work and spend seven hours talking with your mother and customers at the bar you work at (again). She’s there (for an hour) because she knows you’ve slept less than seven hours since you woke up on Saturday. You’ve driven 800 miles and are wearing a Ralph Lauren t-shirt from Goodwill that you picked up on the way in, because you didn’t bring enough clothes with you over the weekend (see Paragraph II above, RE: Shit Not Together).
After she leaves, your regulars treat you kindly (they usually do), but you really don’t feel like talking, so you find reasons to walk away. There are dishes to wipe, ketchup bottles to bring to the grill next door.
Go home and see more evidence of how surrounded you are by grace. Your mother has packed half of your kitchen and the bedrooms your daughters don’t live in anymore for you while you’ve been away. Somehow you’re going to move into a new apartment by Friday, and you know you will because you’ve finally started telling the people around you that you’re Not Okay At Present.
Today’s eyes look less like bruises than yesterday’s. You haven’t taken your medicine yet because it’s in the car, and it’s so cold outside. You don’t feel ready for that yet. You’ll get it soon, though, and swallow it. Then you’ll start doing the Things You Need To Do Today.
If my daughter stands any chance of surviving her sexual trauma, I have to deal with my own.
Yesterday I hung on the neck of an abuser I love like fireworks. The only maniac who would huff gasoline with me in ___________’s basement when we were kids. An ex-roommate who threw his lit cigarette at me the night after he (date? friend? roommate?)raped me and claimed he did it in his sleep. The cigarette, not the sex.
He walked in where I work right now–a cavernous “sports” bar that rarely has more than ten customers on the day shift unless you count the quiet stream of gamblers who sit on the four machines along the front wall and bother no one. The Greek owner never pops for any pay-per-view, the huge screen on the wall rarely has anything projected onto it, and all the liquor bottles have electronic collars that tie each pour to the register and measure them out.
This isn’t what bartenders at sports bars dress like.
I’m here because I’m on leave but need a tether to the outside world. FMLA days from a university job that I NEVER should have taken, except I learned a ton and–whatever. I went publicly insane for a while. Again.
Here, we are.
When my Shouldn’t Be Friend walked in, I hugged him like I was surrendering. I didn’t mean to. I hung like death on him, limp, because we haven’t seen each other in a year, and the way I’ve always dealt with this particular pain is to never try to see him but allow myself to take advantage of it when The Universe throws us back together. So I did.
This morning I’m sobbing. I’ve been in my bathroom with my hair pulled back, searching for a hair tie but spotting scissors. Walking out, then back again.
This is the kind of pacing I don’t want anyone to ever see, the physical manifestation of too-much-happening-in-my-head. Boyfriend did one time. It was just a glimpse, but I heard the catch and dawning in his voice when he saw it (it elicited tenderness ultimately, not a break-up, but I felt him seeing me–I think it startled him).
I swallowed a dozen pills in that apartment, the cigarette one. I don’t remember trying to die; I just wanted to go to sleep. We lived next door to rock stars, played poker with matches pilfered from another roommate’s diner job. I called ___________ and told him what had happened. He came and sat on our third-floor porch stairs that night, but he kept being Friends with him. And so did I.
I won’t write my child’s story here; I can only tell my own. Part of my story is learning how to safely mother a sexually traumatized child.
Yesterday was a gorgeous, terrible lesson. I have to deal with my own shit. FML.