Tag Archives: Memory

Fallout 3 -or- Blowing it Away

washington_monument_fallout3

View from the top of the Washington Monument of the Capital Wasteland

This morning I woke up with a headache and nausea, how my depression and anxiety present. I was a psychosomatic ball of nerves because I couldn’t put my finger on the problem. That’s always the worst part- feeling crappy and not knowing why.

I didn’t have to wait long, because Facebook always sends me notifications that there are memories on which I might like to look back. Today is the memory I’m calling “Fallout 3.” Three years ago, Dana and I announced our separation, literally blowing our entire world away, the one we’d spent seven years building.

If you’re going to build a life with someone, it wasn’t a bad one. Today I am not mistaking the part for the whole. I’m employing the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, we got the marriage we both needed & deserved. It’s the 20% that curled my hair. I think what’s making me ill today is that the divorce was the second worst thing that has ever happened to me (my mother died in Oct. of 2016), mostly because a lot of it happened at my own hand and is therefore also the worst thing I’ve ever done. It takes two to tango.

There are so many things I know now because of reminiscence that I didn’t think of then. Some of them would have helped us navigate not breaking up. Others presented facts that I’d absolutely made the right choice to let the past lie. For instance, I wish I’d apologized more for my behavior and made more efforts to change it. Also, I didn’t realize how much Dana’s DUI affected me- just how angry and miserable I was that it happened, and how I covered it all up because I thought Dana needed more support and not less… not realizing that I needed someone to support me. It was a serious lapse in judgement on her part, because it would have been so easy to take the bus or get a taxi. You can take a taxi through the drive-thru at Taco Bell. I’m sure of it. I would never in a million years say that this #dumbass attack meant that Dana had a drinking problem. Everyone has those moments they wish they could take back. She was just being cocky about driving, which happened every single day. It made my life a little bit harder, because when Dana had her license taken away, she was working graveyard at the airport and I drove her for three months straight. Being completely sleep deprived made me awfully cranky at the driver ed football coach in the front seat.

I think that was the first time a fissure happened without words to articulate it. It was under my skin, but not apparent to me or anyone else that it was happening. Later, we moved to Houston so that Dana could get an alternative certification to teach, because in Oregon, all teachers need a Master’s degree. There is definitely more than one program out there, but Dana got rejected from the one she wanted, and took no steps to either find another one or get a different job. She didn’t need one. I made enough money that I could afford to keep her in the lifestyle to which she’d become accustomed. 😛 It’s just that the problem was bigger than that. Sitting in isolation prevented her from building a life outside of our little world…. and my support system was no help. My boss told me that I should get Dana pregnant so at least she’d have something to do…. which turned into fantasies of kicking him… hard. My work life suffered because of everything that was happening at home, because I am terrible at compartmentalization. And there we have fissure number three.

I skipped over fissure number two, because the third one started in Portland and carried over. The second one was all Houston, all the time. Remember in my marriage article when I said that the cardinal rule of marriage is to say to the world that you are creating your own family, forsaking all others, and not to let your partner get hung out to dry with your first family? Well, two things about that. I got hung out to dry with both of our first families. With Dana’s, it was hard for her parents to conceive that we were married in the first place. With mine, I specifically asked Dana to keep a confidence for me at about 5:00 PM. By 9:00 AM the next day, she’d met with my family without me and spilled said confidence all over the place. Breaking rule #1 was almost it for me. I broke up with her on the spot, and told her she had enough money to do whatever she wanted to do- get her own place, go back to Virginia, whatever. Just get out.

Then, I couldn’t make it stick. I couldn’t throw away our long history of taking care of each other, and we were back together within two hours. However, I’d already had it UP TO HERE, and we were never able to regain all the ground that was lost.

At the same time all of this was happening, my truly emotionally destructive side started to show in a major way. I am excellent at making horrible choices, especially when they seem like great ideas at the time. I desperately needed a wine-and-yoga-pants girlfriend, and I found her…. it was wonderful right up until it wasn’t. Because of my abused nature, wires got crossed- I’d never been so intricately tied up in someone who was all the sweetness and light I could ever want, because I did not understand the nature of friendship between women. Over a short amount of time, I became more and more starry-eyed when I thought of her, and it wigged her the fuck out…. because even though I didn’t understand, she certainly did…. that women’s friendships were deep and close, and why would there ever need to be romance involved? Because it’s “how I was raised.”

I told her flat out that the reason I was giving her this information was because I wanted her to be sensitive to it- to hold me at arm’s length because I was having trouble with true sensory overload. I didn’t expect anything from her- I expected me to manage me. It would just take time. There was no reason to act, not ever, because I was wired for monogamy and she was wired for men. Because I was so down, the tiny bit of dopamine that “new relationship” provided was enough, because even in friendship, there’s that explosion of “oh my God you’re the coolest person ever.”

I wanted to be absolutely transparent about all of this with Dana, and I still can’t decide whether it was the right thing to do. It was all my stuff to deal with, and I felt like Jimmy Carter, not Bill Clinton. But she was a rock star, saying, when it comes to Argo, I am not threatened. I feel like I have more than proved my worth. It was so true I could have taken it to the bank and cashed it…. and, of course, because she presented herself as being so cool about it, I told her a lot more than I ever should’ve. Argo became a threat with which she thought she couldn’t compete, but there was never a game in which either one was going to win or lose.

Even so, Dana’s self-confidence slowly began to deteriorate because of this perceived slight, and I take that all on myself. It was my responsibility to work on myself, and I thought I could handle it on my own. In short, I couldn’t. Jeannie did not go back to the circle couch. It got so bad that Dana was convinced that Argo was in love with me, she just couldn’t say so… that over time, she’d eventually bend to my will. It was crazymaking. While I can be absolutely charming and adorable, I’ve never been powerful enough to change someone else’s sexual orientation. By that point, I was writing these absolutely desperate e-mails, such as could you send Dana a 12-page report with graphs and pictures on how much you like dick? It would help. Thanks. I was trying to inject humor into an awful situation, because that’s how I deal…. and then I laughed until I farted when Argo changed the subject line to “Bullet Points.” One of them was I am not a threat to your relationship. I knew that, but Dana didn’t.

We couldn’t even deal with the simple problems we were having without Dana launching the RPG of Argo somehow…. because everything came down to the fact that I was already out the door, because “Argo and I loved each other.” It brought new meaning to the word “bullshit.” Every single discussion that could have been resolved in five minutes became sulking that lasted for days.

I kick myself every single time I remember that in one fight, Dana broke the physical barrier between us by pushing me over, and I just went off like a chihuahua with a God complex. It ended with Dana’s substantial fist smashing my glasses into my face, which left a bruise under my eye and phantom pain for weeks, because again, it wasn’t just physical, but psychosomatic as well.

Berating myself doesn’t just come from my role in our physical fight, but the fact that I was STILL willing to stay married after that. It was insane. I just thought to myself that after the flood comes the rainbow, and eventually we’d get our happy ending.

Not so much, actually.

It’s not an accident that I moved to DC afterward. Our divorce ceased to weigh on me, but the loss of her friendship certainly did. I figured that even if our paths weren’t parallel, eventually they might be perpendicular, because running into each other a couple times a year was completely different than trying to rebuild what we’d lost.

In the end, it didn’t matter. I was butt-hurt that she didn’t reach out to me over Christmas break after posting on my parents’ Facebook pages until I realized that e-mail goes both ways, and told her that if she wanted to see me, I wanted to see her…. that if she didn’t, it was fine with me, because I had my own stuff to work on. It’d just be nice to catch up…. or something to that effect. I’m paraphrasing.

I did not get an e-mail back from her. I got one from her attack cat, who said not to contact Dana at all through any means…. and that was that. If this was the kind of behavior I could expect from her, I didn’t want her in my life, anyway. It was nice to receive a clear message to let go, and not be held by emotional strings. I celebrated quietly and patted myself on the back. Everything was going to be all right.

It was time to go back to my house in Megaton, while the waters of life washed over me…. knowing for sure I purified that water myself.

Highs and Lows

During self-imposed exile to the basement, I watched a couple of movies that I’d wanted to see for a while but just hadn’t put forth the time and expense to go to the theater. The first was Baby Driver, which is one that I will watch over and over, running the first 20 minutes on repeat. I recommend that whatever you’re watching right now, ditch it and see this movie. You’re welcome.

The second is Call Me By Your Name, and I have issues.

In Italy in 1983, the age difference of the two young men was completely legal… but it sent shockwaves of anxiety through me because it just didn’t seem ethical. It wasn’t the age difference that bothered me. Seven years isn’t noticeable at all when one partner is 30 and the other is 37. It was the timing. The younger of the two men was 17. The older, 24.

Keeping in mind that I have no leg to stand on when it comes to talking about ethics, the movie tapped into some of my deepest and most memorable scars. If you’re post-college, no matter what the age of consent may be, I’m still not sure you have the right to mess with a teenager’s feelings, much less have a short summer fling with them and leave them in tears… then call back a few years later only to say “I’m getting married… is that okay with you?”

If I had known that’s what the movie was about, I wouldn’t have watched it in the first place. I’m trying to get those pieces of scar tissue stronger than they’ve ever been. Therefore, I would never intentionally trigger myself back into that place, because it’s dark and twisty there.

The thing I’m so much better about now than I have been in previous years is snapping myself out of it. I have learned tips and tricks for changing my own mood, and I use them. The axiom is true that hurt people hurt people, so even though I am not entirely rid of pain, it’s at least manageable. What I Know for Sure™ is that I never want to be in a position where I’m speaking from a place of pain to people that don’t deserve it. I’ll never be able to get mad at the one who does, so my work to do is making a thunderstorm back off to rain, then sprinkles, then partly cloudy. I don’t think that anyone whose been hurt in a similar manner to me would say that we ever get to sunshine, because even with all the coping mechanisms in the world, there are still triggers that make moving pictures dance across our minds as if no time has passed at all. Then, the moment passes, and all is right again.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it’s an indication that I need to change course mentally when I feel it physically. A knee-jerk reaction to a trigger is generally a headache or feeling like I’m going to vomit. It’s so attractive.

The thing that is altogether different now is that I recognize what is happening rather than wondering what it could possibly be. A major part of being angry and, in turn, stuffing it down into my socks is that I couldn’t articulate what was going on.

It was legal. But it wasn’t ethical.

I had issues.

Cold

Today is the first I’ve taken a shower and put on real clothes in, like, four days. You’d think that this is because I suffer from depression, but no. It has been in the 20s and 30s this week; when I went to bed last night, it was 25 (that’s in Farenheit, all y’all :P). There is absolutely no part of me that wants to take off clothing for any reason whatsoever. Also, my hair never looks better than after three or four days of bedhead with strong wax in my hair, and it chafes me that my best hair days come when I’m just about to wreck them.

Now, once I am in the shower with screaming hot water pouring down, I’m ok. But those few moments in the cold bathroom are not just dreadful, they’re more than dreadful. I would rather wear my skiing silks, my flannel pajamas, a t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, a double-weight hoodie, and three pairs of socks. During the day, I also put on my snow boots (mainly because they’re warm, but also keep me from sliding down the stairs in wool socks). It’s a look.

Yes, we do have heat at our house, in case you’re wondering. I just get cold easily, and it’s hard for any heater to keep up with DC winter. Besides, the electric company has never charged me for putting on a sweater.

When I had my own place, I never heated it very much- maybe to 50 or 60- because with all the winter clothing I own and an electric blanket, I didn’t need it. I would rather have it cold and be bundled up on my own… except for when I have to change clothes.

I do, however, feel better now that I’m clean and smell really good… but it’s not just that. Laying out all my frustrations yesterday really put things in perspective, because depression and anxiety feel so real, but in reality, it is your brain lying to your face… and as my friend Phil so eloquently said, they know the very best lies to use against you. Going back over and reading what I wrote let me see those lies up close.

I am indeed so much stronger than I usually think. No one that digs a hole as deep as I did and then has a parent die while trying to dig themselves out isn’t. You can either get stronger, or you wither away. I’ve already gone the “withering away” route, and it didn’t do anything for me. I got stronger because there wasn’t a choice… anymore.

The lies my brain used on me at that time in my life were that I was a burden to everyone I knew and it was better to just disappear off the grid. It did not seem like a permanent solution to a temporary problem, because there was nothing about my illness (I’m bipolar, for those just joining us.) that said this is manageable, and you will improve. Everything in my life pointed to getting progressively worse, akin to terminal cancer but closer to alcoholism due to the strange and self-destructive behavior it presents. To me, the worst thing in the world was to have my loved ones watch the roller coaster, knowing it would never end.

It was during one of our legendary blowouts that Argo saved my life, and I mean this quite literally. My response to feeling that ill was to talk about it to my friends, hoping that they’d safety net me until I could function again. It seemed reasonable at the time, but it was leaving out a crucial piece- responsibility & self-reliance. We were talking (well, arguing) about everything that was going wrong and she said, can’t you see the common denominator is you? Why do you expect everyone else to fix you? It got through to me that I wasn’t moving under my own power, and within minutes I was on the phone to my insurance company and checked myself into the psych ward at Methodist Hospital. I wouldn’t have done that had it not been a real emergency. I didn’t have a psychiatrist and couldn’t get a new patient appointment for three more weeks, and I absolutely needed help that day, right then. My depression was telling me I wasn’t going to make it three more weeks.

So, if you ask me what really saved me from myself, it was a friend who was willing to kick my ass when it needed kicking. The treatment did not work overnight- it was not a miracle cure- but it definitely pointed me in a better direction. That being said, the group therapy I experienced made me vomit up even darker emotions than usual and the better direction came from everything getting a lot worse before it got better. The biggest regret of my life is the way I treated those around me during that time, because everything spewed at them was a direct reflection of how I felt about myself. The old axiom is true- hurt people hurt people.

By then, Dana wanted out and I needed a sounding board more than ever, but I’d used up every “get out of jail free” card I had with Argo and I didn’t trust anyone else. But panic attacks that presented as rage burned that bridge butt-quick. I feel more guilt about pushing Argo away than I ever will about Dana and I breaking up because Dana was in the room with me. She participated in 3D. Argo was just on the receiving end of words she didn’t deserve without my ability to see her eyes, her reactions, and know when to back the fuck up. There could only be so much in the way of damage control because of it… because I know the first time I saw her eyes flash in anger or sadness, I would have become a sobbing mess on the floor, all the fight taken out of me because I couldn’t just hear about the damage. I could experience it. I could see up close and personal what I’d wrought.

With Dana, I saw everything.

It’s not worth revisiting, but the picture was bleak. All the color in our world just bled out on the floor, and I ran. We were way past the point of reconciliation, and I knew within myself that if I didn’t run, I’d spend way too much time trying. We were past the point of no return, having alienated each other with mutually assured destruction….. robbing me of all but the deepest regrets. Yes, there were (and are) things I still have to get over, but it was also extraordinarily freeing to be able to walk away knowing that I’d made the absolute best decision I could make with the information I had.

When I arrived in DC, it was April and there was still snow on the ground. The weather matched my mood.

It was cold…. like those few seconds in a cold bathroom, angry in the moment and yet, knowing that warmth will eventually arrive.