After the breakthrough in therapy, I realized that it was okay to be angry. Not filled with rage as I once had been, but the normal amount of angry that I kept inside because I felt that both Dana and Argo had stopped listening to me and only talked to each other about me. My anger centers around the fact that when they talked to each other, it changed the narrative of my life. I was no longer a person with a range of emotions, but a mental patient with which had to be dealt. My opinions and feelings didn’t have weight anymore. I was just a goat-ropin’ clusterfuck who couldn’t emote without them thinking that it was some kind of psychotic break, even though I’d been through enough therapy and med changes that I wasn’t the person I was before I went through it… and yet, they wouldn’t let my character change to reflect the real me and not the one they’d known in the past. I will admit that I was a bastard to both of them, and have spent many hours trying to think of ways to make it up to them. I doubt they will ever work, but thinking about how to put joy into their lives feeds me, even if it doesn’t feed them.
I remember so clearly the moment I realized the revelation that to them, I was no longer a person but just a mental patient. I have talked about it before, but it bears repeating now.
I was sitting on the floor of the hallway that looks into Dana’s room, talking to her about the time I’d spent in the hospital. She was asking me questions, and when I started to answer, she told me to stop while still asking me questions. I’d begin to answer, and she told me to stop while still putting another question into her response. I’d begin to answer and she told me that she was going to call the police if I didn’t leave her alone. I did not move from my place in the hallway, and I did not even raise my voice. I was, at that point, already taking Neurontin (the Klonopin would come later), so I never got rattled. I just answered the questions that she put before me until she called my dad and told him I was having a psychotic break. I wasn’t. It was just her way of “dealing with me,” because apparently I wasn’t allowed to have emotions anymore, even when I was quietly talking.
Apparently at one point, someone told Dana (I really don’t know who) that I was suffering from borderline personality disorder, and she turned it into a weapon of mass destruction. She talked to my dad for about a minute and a half, and then he asked her to put me on the phone. I told him honestly what had happened, and he said, “why don’t you just go to bed? It’s not like anything more is going to get done here tonight. She’s not listening.” I took his advice and locked myself in my office, my refuge from all the madness. I took a sleeping pill so that I would indeed get some rest, and it helped enormously because I slept for a full 12 hours.
In the hospital, that never would have happened because the nurses woke us up early and forced us into the showers, thinking that we wouldn’t take care of ourselves if left to our own devices. The problem with that is the sleeping pill I was taking wouldn’t wear off by then, so I would get ready for the day feeling like I was walking through Jell-o, and we weren’t allowed any more caffeine than a bottle of Diet Coke now and then, and cups of shitty coffee at breakfast. You know what I’m talking about. Hospital coffee. Plus, they wouldn’t put a coffee maker in the cafeteria. If you wanted more than one cup of coffee, you had to order it the night before, and they wouldn’t bring you a carafe. There would literally be three cups of coffee on my breakfast tray. It was something we all laughed about, and one woman in particular (maybe Rhonda?) said, “great. You’re already peppy and cheerful ENOUGH. Now you’re going to have MORE energy?” I laughed enough for three people I thought it was so funny.
I could have handled it if I could’ve drunk Monster in the morning, because three cups of shitty hospital coffee is punishment when you literally feel hung over from sleeping pills. I have the same sleeping pills now, and what I do is take all my morning meds with a 200mg caffeine tab and go back to bed for 30 minutes until it kicks in. It doesn’t make me jumpy, it just erases that feeling of never-ending lethargy. That way, I get a good night’s sleep, but I’m not STILL asleep and awake at the same time the next half a day.
The point of telling you all this is that I am taking care of myself in the right way. I am no longer subject to the physical effects of rage or that “fight or flight” feeling that used to make me crazy (for lack of a better word) because I couldn’t get it to recede on my own. I literally had a panic attack the day that Dana showed me The Reconciliation of a Penitent in the Book of Common Prayer. She had our priest walk her through it, and she brought it to me when she made the appointment with our priest. I fell to my knees and started hyperventilating. My sins became overwhelming at that point, just making me want to crawl on my belly with shame. It was in that moment that words like “I am a worm” really started making sense, and I started feeling ALL THE THINGS, perhaps for the first time since all of our fighting started.
I don’t think Dana realized what was happening, and called my dad and my stepmother to come over immediately. I didn’t need them at that moment, although it was comforting that they came. What I needed was to sit in my shame and my own penitence. I needed to feel the hurt. I needed to feel all the pain I’d caused. I needed to feel the way I’d been hiding and let it all come to the surface. It wasn’t the first time that the Book of Common prayer put me into that space. The words that get me every damn time are thus (taken from Rite I):
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we earnestly repent.
For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name.
The church I consider my “home” in Houston is St. Martin’s, and when I started going there at 17, they used Rite I, so those are the words I have committed to memory. You could wake me up in the middle of the night and even with my sleepy eyes, I could recite them.
As an aside, every Episcopal church I have attended since has been Rite II, and I will never get used to it. I go with the flow, but I am a Rite I baby and that is all you need to know in terms of how deeply I feel when the pieces of Rite I that are not used in Rite II are missing. The pieces that are missing, to me, are the ones that are penitent beyond belief, and that is what I feel I need every Sunday.
The UCC does not have anything similar, but it will when I have my own church. It may be in modern, inclusive language, but I feel that other people have the same need I do… to be released from a week of sins, no matter how far down they go. For me, it can be anything from telling a white lie to outright flaming a relationship to the ground. My penitential order is a song by the Indigo Girls that Dana recommended to me called “I Believe in Love.” It fits my relationship with both Dana and Argo perfectly…
When we tried to rework all of this
Each to her rendition
Painted ourselves in a corner
Lost for ideas blindly fishing
For a compliment or kindness
Just to bring us into view
But you could not interpret me
and I could not interpret you.
With Dana, it’s the idea that even in our closeness, we did not know each other. With Argo, it was the same with a different twist. I knew her mind in the cloud, but I’d never given her a hug, I’d never met her for lunch, we’d never spent a Sunday with a bowl of popcorn and a bottle of wine devouring Veep.
With Argo, there was a sense that she was real, and at the same time, a wall between us of anonymity that kept her from being the human she was at the end of the line. It made it easier for me to flame our relationship into the ground because in a sense, I wasn’t hurting a real person. It was a mistake I will regret for the rest of my life, because she was/is as real as the keyboard on which I type.
It is telling to me that I was willing to hurt her in order to make sure Dana knew she was my one and only. Telling only because she wasn’t, at least in the traditional sense. I wanted to love them both- Dana as a wife and Argo as that friend who loves me beyond all measure. Most people have that, but Dana didn’t want me to have that friend. Didn’t want me to have a friend in which I could share my secrets and lies. Wanted me all to herself and would do anything to get it.
Dana manipulated me into thinking two incorrect things. The first is that Argo was that friend who would take without giving. The second is that Argo was really in love with me, she just couldn’t tell me, and that made her a threat to our relationship because there was no way that Dana could compete with Argo on any level. It was a brilliant way to isolate me from them both, because I couldn’t decide who was right. Dana had been the river of emotion running through my body from the moment we became best friends and later on, married from the first date. From the first date, she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life lying next to with my computer and my phone. I indeed asked her to marry me on our first date, because I knew it was right and good. We’d been best friends for years, and I got the sense that because we’d taken on each others problems as best friends, we already knew what contract we were signing.
Argo was my seven year itch with no romantic strings attached (except mine to her, through no fault of either of us given the way “I was raised”), and I’d hoped that Dana would see it for what it was and just let it go. I would get over the part of myself that Diane had planted, maybe not even consciously but for better or for worse, it was there. I would work it out, and Argo and I could be the friends that we set out to be- warm hearts that could go to each other in our pain.
When Dana didn’t let go, it gutted me in a way I’d never felt before. All the issues I’d been struggling with over the enormity of Diane’s abuse bubbled up in me and according to everyone else, I went crazy. According to me, I was just getting started on the path to being my authentic self.
When I was trying to put context around my behavior, to them it came across as me trying to blame outside influences for my behavior instead of owning them. I didn’t believe that for a minute, because I believe that I am responsible for my own choices and a product of my environment all at the same time. It was, to me, a ridiculous response because it was coming from them, not even trying to understand what I was trying to say but reading their own responses as Truth and mine as crazy.
The more they stopped listening, the more unworthy I felt. I got to the point where I wanted to kill myself because I felt it was better not to be there than it was to let the people closest to me hurt because of what I was to them. I am pretty good at recognizing when mental illness is telling me what to do instead of my honest personality, so I knew I was spiraling out, I just didn’t know how to fix it. I reached out to Argo and told her at that point how I felt, and though I have said this before, I will say it again. She told me, “why do you think it is everyone else’s job to fix you?” They were the words I needed to, as Jonathan says, “jump in for myself.”
Because Dana was there to see what was happening and Argo wasn’t, I sent her a voice mail saying that I’d checked myself into Methodist hospital’s psych ward and I wished I could send her a picture to ensure that my words matched my actions. It was a thank you of massive proportion, because it was her words that created my action in the first place. I didn’t just sit around and let my feelings of unworthiness get worse. For the first time in my life, I took steps to create my own future instead of letting other people dictate what was best.
As Susan Leo said, “resurrection happens in the middle of the mess.” Those words sustain me all the time. Every moment of every day, in fact, because the mess isn’t over. I just pray and pray and pray that I will be forgiven by both Dana and Argo, because I know that I am being penitent enough to forgive myself.
However, I identify with The Good Shepherd, searching and crying for my lost sheep.