I’m in a bad way today. My stomach is still torn up, even though I have finished all the Tamiflu and am still taking the Zofran. But it’s not just feeling physically ill. I found a Facebook memory that took my breath away, and this morning I could not get out of bed, because I just wanted to hide from it and hope it went away.
The physical is much worse than the mental, which is why I decided not to go to the book fair. There is nothing more embarrassing than being out and about in town and realizing you need a bathroom RIGHTNOW. RIGHT THE FUCK NOW. This was not a case of psychosomatic illness, but the after-effects of not being quite over the flu yet, and I didn’t want to push it.
But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t tell you what the Facebook memory was:
Favorite tongue in cheek comment so far, because I love my friends: “I didn’t watch the video, just saw that it existed. I just felt like someone who caused you so much trauma probably wasn’t the best person to tell teens that “it gets better.”
It was Diane Syrcle’s It Gets Better video made at Oregon Ballet Theater. In response to the post, I said something about loving that video, because it showed her without The Mask.™ Then I realized I hadn’t seen it in years, and when I made the egregious mistake of watching it again (at that time, not today), I ended up with vomit on my shirt. That’s because the new context in which I saw it made all my kid nightmares/fears bubble up to the surface and I could not ignore them anymore, as I had for so many years previously. I haven’t watched it since, because things certainly did not get better for me. Only more muddled, more fear-induced, more protection mode for someone who didn’t deserve it.
The same friend in the above quote said that one day she would have no more power over me, and when that day came, I felt a freedom I hadn’t felt since I was 11. There are still selected moments in time where she can still rattle me, but it has more to do with destroying old tapes than it will ever have to do with trying to reconcile something that never should have happened in the first place.
For instance, about a year and a half after I left Portland, I got an e-mail from her that contained a photo of her with a Timbers scarf and a program autographed by every player that said without my influence, she never would have become interested in soccer. My reaction ran thusly… everything I had to say about all the emotional abuse I’d suffered as a teen was already out on this web site, and I have no doubt that she’d followed every word closely. Because I knew this, I said, “we haven’t talked for almost two years and this is the first thing you want to say? Go fuck yourself.” It was a reaction and not a response, but I doubt after thinking about it I would have said anything differently. Pretending like nothing had happened and just wanting to be buddies creeped me the fuck out, and always, always will.
That’s been the hardest part of this whole process… discovering ways in which I felt entirely creeped out and was powerless to do anything about it… and later discovering I wasn’t powerless, it just seemed like it. If I’d been willing to talk as a teenager, I wouldn’t have spent years pouring meat tenderizer on my skin, trying to get the poison out.
It is not a shock to me that I got so ill I had to be hospitalized, because that’s not something that should have happened as an adult. That’s something that should have happened about the time I turned 15, and yet kept everything locked inside until I exploded. I was so lucky that I had a gaggle of women ready to catch me when I fell, but ultimately, it was up to me. Argo gave me a swift kick in the pants when she said, why do you think it’s everyone else’s job to fix you? When she said that, I was on the phone with my insurance company within the hour. I didn’t just need medication by that point, but a cohort of people who’d been through similarly horrifying experiences with which to debrief in a very real, no bullshit sort of way.
I had leaned on Argo & Dana long enough, because they weren’t trained in dealing with mental health issues this severe, and I don’t think I realized the toll it was taking on them to try and be my support system…. because how do you do that when you’re in the situation and not looking down on it? I couldn’t make myself have enough out of body experiences to be able to look at the situation logically, because even though I could disconnect from my emotions, it wasn’t always in the healthiest of ways. Sometimes I thought I was coolly calculating my next move. In reality, I just made things a whole lot worse for myself, and have had to dig myself up from enormous emotional holes that I spent a lot of time digging, not realizing that if I didn’t stop, the earth was going to swallow me up… not in terms of dead, but in terms of losing everything I held dear and not being able to repair those relationships because too much had happened for them to feel safe with me.
The two sentences I have had to give up thinking that mean the most to me are:
- Hey Argo, can I buy you a beer? I’ll make good on Aaron’s promise since he isn’t here. 😛
- Hey Dana, let’s go away for the weekend and see if we can come to some sort of understanding, a working relationship not tinted with the past.
With both of them, there is everything to say and nothing. What could I possibly have to offer them that wouldn’t end in what a piece of shit I was to them previously? What could I possibly offer that would say “I am not perfect, but I am trying?”
It’s all connected, this creepiness I’ve felt over my lifetime except for the first 11 years. My psychosexual dysfunction has crept into every relationship ever, and working with a therapist has helped enormously, and why I didn’t think of it before is something I’ll regret until the day I die.
Life is all about putting away regret and shame, but there are always those cuts and wounds that stay with you, healed over into scar tissue that hopefully makes you stronger. But sometimes, just sometimes, the scab gets ripped off and that part of healing has to begin again.
What I lost in the transaction with Argo & Dana is a lot of laughter, for a lifetime, really.
I am still trying to gather what I gained in terms of life lessons and perspectives. I have a great big tapestry to look back on, but that doesn’t always help. Sometimes, I giggle through our memories, and sometimes really tough ones come to mind and I lose myself in the rumination of what should have happened instead of what did.
Knowing myself is the key to moving forward, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with, day by day by day by day by day, Sisyphus pushing as hard as he can only to have the rock fall night by night by night by night.
I wish I could have their grace and mercy, but at least I know I’m working toward my own. And, in the end, that’s what has to matter most. I hope that this is the part of my life meant to propel me into the person I’m supposed to be, because I don’t have any desire to keep repeating mistakes. I at least want to switch to new ones.