Sleight of Hand

Today in therapy I talked to Sarah about the kind of person I am, and how a lot of it is not who I want to be. We’re having to start with the basics.

I told her how hard it was that since I didn’t have a job, getting my sleep cycle straight is next to impossible (although I do have a solid line- more on that later). She asked me what my normal sleep cycle was, and I asked her if she meant my ideal or what it is now. She said, “both.” I told her I was the happiest when I was waking up just as dawn broke, and writing from that place of promise. I told her that now, a lot of my writing happens in the middle of the night, and the difference in tone is palpable, like when I went on overnights at Alert Logic… that I even see myself differently in a new dawn then I do at the end of my day. My sleep cycle now is that I can’t fall asleep, so I take a sleeping pill, and then I sleep too much. I will take a sleeping pill at 7:00 and still not fall asleep until 3:00 AM… and then it feels like I’m walking through Jell-o, but that I’m trying to combat it by taking a caffeine pill 20-30 minutes before I get out of bed. I also told her that I was used to being able to function on four hours’ sleep, but it’s not happening anymore and I am none too happy about it. After years and years and years of being able to pull all-nighters, that part of me is slowly ending. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend, because I have to admit to myself that I am getting older.

I have really felt my age this year. There’s no such thing as competitive suffering, so I do not want to hear from readers who are older than me that say I don’t have it so bad…. complain all you want about your own ailments, as long as it’s not directed at how much worse I’ll have it when I’m your age. I’m almost 40 (a little less than two years), and my arthritis is starting to show. I need more sleep when I used to pride myself on not. My back is the worst, and now I’m registered with a PCP, so that’s the next order of business. It’s getting to where ibuprofen doesn’t cut it anymore, because I have a corkscrew scoliosis that continues to get worse and when I knock it on things, no amount of pain medication is enough to keep me from crying out.

I don’t think the two things are related, but it seems like the first time I had a spinal tap was the first time I noticed that the lower discs in my back stuck out, especially because they were bruised. That was when I was in fifth grade, and the problem has compounded ever since (it went to eleven). Chairs are my worst enemy.

Emotionally, I wonder how I let it get this bad. Sarah says not to be too hard on myself, because bipolar and trauma are a lot to manage and there are so many facets that go into mental health that it’s not surprising my physical health has suffered. I know part of it early on was that I could not fall asleep without Dana, couldn’t even imagine it, so I would just recreate her in my mind and create this fantasy world that she was just away on business. I knew it wasn’t real, it was just comforting, but it worked until I could stand on my own (or lie down, as it were).

Now, my ruminations center on what I’m going to do for a future- that I wasn’t sure I ever wanted a relationship with a partner again. It didn’t come from a place of denial, but from a place of being overly focused on work and not necessarily wanting to drag a wife and family into it with me. I think it takes having lived that life to know how hard it could be for my wife and kids, anyway. I had a wonderful childhood, but there were things about it that drove me crazy, like people commenting on my parents’ parenting. One little old lady went up to my mother and reamed her out because she thought I was too young to be wearing false eyelashes, and wouldn’t believe my mother when my mother told her, “ummm, those ARE her eyelashes.”

I have empathy for the fact that being a minister’s partner is a tough gig, and do I really want that for them?

I also started to get into the meat and potatoes of what happened with Diane, and how for the longest time the abuse wasn’t really real. In fact, it wasn’t real until I was 35. People were telling me it was an abusive relationship from the time it began, but I loved her. Plain and simple. If you love someone, you are not looking for their flaws, and won’t.

It wasn’t until the emotional swings became so great that my childhood emotions started bubbling up in front of me and I could see them in a way that I couldn’t before, because I wasn’t willing to discuss the fact that there might be a problem. It is amazing how far I went to cover everything up, mostly because those abusive actions felt normal to me. Healthy reactions feel unhealthy now and it is hard to lean into them and know they are right. I am learning so much, so quickly that my body is responding, but not at the rate that I’m taking in information.

Dana was very angry with me that it took Argo to get me to see what she’d been trying to tell me. I don’t think she knew how important it was to me for someone completely outside the situation to look in on it with fresh eyes and say, “ummmm….. yeah. That’s fucked up.” Dana knew both Diane and me. Had partied with us for years. Making excuses for Diane’s behavior was easy for me with Dana because whatever doubts there were in her mind about what happened in my childhood were muted by the fact that Dana loved her, too. It made it hard for me to hear her doubts, and when one of her friends told us that Diane had been attracted to me when I was young, it made Dana’s blood boil and me feel absolute vindication that I wasn’t crazy. I don’t know whether he was telling the truth; I don’t know that any of us would have considered him the most reliable source. But I would have taken anything at that point to feel right.

That I hadn’t been confused. That I’d picked up what she’d put down without missing a beat, because that’s what tortured me the most. That I was wrong. That I was so mentally addled that I’d made this huge mistake. That my intuition, those feelings that went to the center of my heart, mind, and body were off to such a disconcerting degree. It is what created the split in my personality- the part that is bubbly, bright and perky and the part that doesn’t trust anyone or anything if she can help it.

Thinking that I hadn’t made a mistake made me feel that I was as smart as I thought I was. Feeling like Diane had come on to me and then having her swear up and down for years and years that she didn’t allowed me to beat myself up because I thought I was so stupid.

It’s taken disconnecting from everything to be able to wrap my mind around the fact that I am smart, and I always have been… way above average, actually, which is why my diagnosis of depression makes me so sad. I am not in the mood to hear that I am right on track for recovery from this disorder I have to manage, because I don’t want to hear that I have a disorder I have to manage. It’s not that I won’t. It’s just disheartening that it’s a lifetime battle, now, where as before I thought that with the right medication it would go away. Yes, I’d have to take pills, but after that my brain would function as normal.

You don’t get over trauma with medication. You just have to talk, and keep talking.

The sleight of hand reference comes from two things. The first is how easily Diane was able to give me adult reading material and then convince me that it was all on the up and up. The second is how I’ve extrapolated that into the ends justify the means. That it’s how the world works; you can use darkness all you want as long as the end result is a greater good. I’ve said and done things in this vein that frighten me, and therein lies the focus of my therapy. Where do those sorts of actions/reactions stop and healthy ones begin?

Part of getting healthy is getting a job that gets me out of the house every day, so that I do not have a chance to isolate. My homework for this week is to go to a store or something and strike up a conversation with a stranger every single day. To that end, I went to a book group that I swore I wouldn’t go to this morning. Just so happens one of the women in the group is married to the director of the National Autism Foundation, and they need someone to do marketing and social media.

And on that note, all I have to say is….

Amen

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