Lately, I have had to admit to myself that I need some help. I’m unable to find my way out of my sadness.
Maybe this isn’t an earth-shattering declaration for some people, but for me, it is pretty unprecedented. I have a ridiculously complicated thought process when it comes to allowing myself to be weak. Should I find myself depressed, I instantly dislike my weakness, ashamed of how pathetic I am, question my faith, and often decide to avoid asking for help because I assume people will think I’m just wanting attention, and maybe deep down, I really am. I almost never come to the conclusion that I might just be a sick person who could use a little help, but instead, it is always that I am a person who just needs to try harder to be better. What does it say about God that one of His own is so flawed and weak?
I have a past that includes being molested, and that subject makes me physically sick to my stomach, so I assume people will decide I’m “tainted” or “dirty”, or will look at me with pity, which I hate with my whole being. It happened so long ago, it feels pathetic to be affected by it now. The crazy thing is, I thought that way within minutes every single time it happened, and somehow, I always felt I had missed the window of time it would be acceptable to need some help. Decades later, I feel disgusted by my inability to just forget all about it.
Throughout my adult life, I developed a way to live rather contentedly around the parts of me that had been broken, and maybe even took a little pride in having accomplished this all by myself.
Then, my marriage exploded spectacularly, in so many extreme ways, and in such a short period of time, and suddenly I was not only being bombarded by the debris of that recent event, but long ignored emotions and fears from being abused were present as well, as if all that stuff had just happened yesterday. All of it confused me, threw me off balance, and removed any illusion of feeling safe in this world or in my own mind.
It seemed to take forever, but I limped my way through the grief, tears, fear, and sadness. I assumed that because I could make it through a day without crying, I was getting well. I could find things to laugh about again, so of course, I had to be getting back on track, right? Whole days had finally began to show up that I felt reasonably okay. As long as things were beginning to be endurable, I didn’t need anyone’s help with any of it.
I think I was wrong to assume anything about any of this.
Over the months that followed my separation, I have had to adjust to a whole new kind of life that includes a lower standard of living, a pressure to support myself without help, loneliness, changing plans and goals for my future from “us” to just “me”, and probably the hardest change, distrusting myself, my perceptions of what is real and what is just my imagination, and my innate powerlessness to protect myself from harm. I’m a resilient person, and I do have faith in the Lord, so my decline has been gradual, but last week, I finally accepted, I’m drowning in all of this, and I feel something terrifyingly familiar from a different time in my life — numb.
Since the day I left my childhood home, I have been grappling with different addictions that would pop up whenever I found myself in emotional crises that I felt I couldn’t cope with. I knew I was self-medicating, and frankly, the alternative was simply unacceptable. I would ride out whatever storm either drunk, or high, or asleep, and then I would quit the coping tool. I felt that because I was only using something to get through the problem and found stopping cold-turkey rather easy, I had found a reasonably effective way to deal with things I couldn’t deal with. I still maintained my jobs, and my perfectionism helped me maintain an acceptable level of performance, and my introverted nature kept people from ever really noticing I was impaired. From the mildest to the hardest drugs I’ve ever used, my reaction to being blitzed is the same – I’m silent. Everything is always going on in my head, whether I’m sober or not. So, for decades, on and off a few months at a time, I would crash into these valleys of self-medicating, and no one, even Chef, was the wiser. To further complicate everything, I’m a suspicious, distrustful person. Almost every substance I used was legal — mini-thins, liquor, or prescription drugs that had been prescribed to me specifically. Only a few times did I venture into street substances, and these times were when the drug was offered to me by someone I could reasonably believe wasn’t stupid enough to get caught by the police and give them my name. My fear was being thrown under the bus by someone trying to keep his own butt out of jail. I rarely if ever had to purchase it, and I used such small amounts, for such short periods of time, my finances weren’t affected either. As junkies go, I was pretty high-functioning, which may have been the worst thing for me. It has kept me from truly needing to get well throughout my entire adult life.
If you have been following this blog since the beginning, you know I fell into this same habit again, trying to cope with losing everything. Up and down, back and forth, using, not using, and even being able to maintain a job, pay my bills, write, and basically function. I was up-front with my kids about where I was emotionally, what I was or was not doing, and I was allowing myself a little luxury of leaning on Rebekkah a little. But overall, I was trying to deal with it like I assume normal, healthy, strong people would. It occurs to me now, I don’t think I’ve ever met one of these mythical normal, healthy, strong people I’ve always tried to emulate all my life. I think maybe we are all a little broken.
In September, when I had to put Jake down, something in me snapped. Emotionally, I was more than just a little sad. I was afraid. I was alone, exposed, and though it makes no real sense logically, I felt targeted. I rarely remember my dreams, but often, I wake up crying, or terrified of something I can’t quite recall. As a person who naturally isolates more than other people tend to do, my reaction to life in general has been to withdraw inside myself for longer and longer periods of time, and it scares me to find how hard it is for me to come back from so deep inside of me.
I find myself staying numb, even without drugs or alcohol, and I haven’t a clue how I am able to do that. I will admit freely, if snorting a line of hot tar from the street outside could make me feel less emotional pain, the city would have to repave my street. I know myself fairly well, and only once has everything around me felt so hopeless and dark that I didn’t even want to try to fight it. The last time I felt this way, I swallowed a bottle of pills hoping to never wake up. I know when I have crossed into a dangerous place and this place is not good for me.
Ella and the way she died was the tipping point for me, and I haven’t been able to recover any sense of normalcy since then. Where is God, and why has He deserted me? Does He really care about the sparrows? Why let Ella die so horribly? Didn’t He know how much Rebekkah loved that dog? I can’t feel God, or hear His voice, and I’m more terrified by that than anything else. What if God has had enough of this weak child so low on basic faith?
I’m afraid of what I may lose next. I’m broken. I’m so horrified by the world I’m living in. I’m so very angry. I’m afraid of feeling. I’m afraid of not feeling. I’m alone. I’m almost finished trying, and I’m afraid of that, too.
I’m older than I was when I did that hopeless act of selfishness, and I refuse to do something like that again. My children have been impacted by all of this as well, and I’m not deserting them to handle all of it alone, knowing I bailed on them. I can still feel shame, of course, because that emotion could break through any of my walls, and that is not the legacy I want to leave my babies with.
I don’t care what my motives might be in the shadowy depths of my subconscious, nor do I have the luxury anymore of not allowing someone to judge how I chose to cope, either with booze or just becoming a cold, distant bitch. I have no control over the opinions people are going to have about me when it comes to this, nor does it matter anymore that I assume I will be despised for being so pathetic. No one could be more disappointed in me than I am.
I don’t want to disconnect from life and those I love in it; that would make me feel so much more shame in myself than I’m already carrying around. I can’t worry about what people’s opinion of me will be if they knew how pathetically weak I can be about such minor things in comparison to the nightmares other people have had to endure. Ella was a dog; people have had their children murdered!! What is fucking wrong with me?!
I write all of this because of accountability. I need to get help, but left to myself, I would find reasons not to.
Don’t feel sorry for me. It was a long time coming, and I knew all along that eventually, I would need to deal with my inability to deal with life. I chose the easy way all these years through all sorts of crises instead of the right way, and here I am, reaping the consequences.
Because I am hard to read, and because my kids are loyal and private and would never in a million years give anyone a reason to judge me, I felt like I should let people know that I am not a person who has her shit together, no matter how it might seem on the outside. I hope I don’t choose to be intentionally deceptive, but who the hell knows anymore? I’m on auto-pilot, just going through the motions these days.
I have had the flu for a few days now, but I did call yesterday and make an appointment to see a shrink. I hate therapy, primarily because I have spent my entire life avoiding having to address this shit, and that’s all they ever seem to want to do. And if I want to get well, I have to have someone to help me. I’ve reached a real crossroads, and I’m choosing to live.
Feel free to nag me, insult me, love me, or hate me. But please, also forgive me.