The Mean Season
After I started counseling with my sister, I started to look for more books to help me cope. I didn't have much success. It seems no one wanted to talk about it. So I branched out. I got books on other things. At a small bookstore I picked up a book I reread every year, some years more frequently than that. "How Can Everything Be Alright, When Everything Is All Wrong?" It kept me grounded and reminded me I am blessed. Then I found "My Grandfather's Blessings". I read "Toxic People" and then "Toxic Parents". I read uplifting stories about cancer survivors and stories of real tragedy. They kept me from getting overwhelmed and to realize I wasn't really alone, we all suffered.
In The Courage to Heal, I learned that disassociating was bad for me. I read that it is the state to which Buddhists aspire to. It was a bad habit and at that point, I was unwilling to try to break it. It's kind of like floating. Above the pain and sorrow your body feels. The first person to ever catch me at it was a Dentist. I had TMJ and he was treating me. While he was injecting my palate and jaw, he asked me. Very quietly, if I had had a trauma, was I abused. Any survivor knew the last thing one wanted to happen was to have someone call you out. To be recognized as less than "normal", because all of us out there, we were just trying to emulate normal. Even if we didn't know what normal looked like. It was the goal. To not be found less than, lacking and to have no attention shown to exactly how damaged we were. The trick was in being invisible. It jarred me, him knowing. He said it was because I was so calm, so still. I showed no discomfort or fear. I spoke with my counselor about it. She said that I had to learn to face emotions and pain and to stay attached. But the truth was I wasn't ready. It was my safety, my comfort. I had carried it with me almost the whole of my life , and to ask me to abandon it now, was impossible. I had no desire to change. I followed all the other suggestions, I journaled and I read. I did exercises in self esteem and threw myself into being the best me I could be. But I did not give up floating. I would do it unintentionally all the time. It made me come off as scattered brained or forgetful, I didn't care. It was like putting myself in time out when my world got too raw, too real. I realized that emotions were uncomfortable for me. Not the easy ones, joy, happiness, but the messy ones, disappointment, loneliness and the worst for me, anger. My anger scared me. I was afraid it would consume me. Blotting everything else out. So I hid it. I compensated and I floated and months turned to years and I allowed my life to be stolen away, without any care or regret.
It must be like finding comfort in a bottle or forgetfulness in a pill. Only there was no waiting, it was instantaneous. You just went away...As with so many things, it was my children that made me realize I had a problem. I was losing them. They would be home and then they weren't. I would ask where had your brother gone, where was your sister? And of course, they had told me. They had asked and I had answered. Only, not really, I had not heard and I did not know. I could fool them. That piece of me that was always left. The part that had caused all this trouble to begin with. I could hide in my mind forever. Pretend to disappear, but I could never take my body with me. That body that had been the source of all this anguish. It stayed behind, abandoned by me. It was a callous thing to do really. Although I didn't see it at the time. I was still doing it, just like that little girl I had walled in so long ago, I was still leaving me. Alone. Unloved and uncared for. I will always struggle with floating. It is a hard thing to give up. The ability to live outside of your life. To be detached from the pain that we all experience. To not turn my life over to fate, without a fight. It was the realization that I was still hiding. Still hiding like that scared little girl and of how much I had already lost, that made me accept that I had to stop. And I try, I really do.
Things with my husband were no better. He went on medication and then off. He didn't have to tell us when he had given up on his pills, the ones that made him sane. That slowed his brain down and made rational thought possible. It was always his temper, his all encompassing, unreasonable paranoia that gave him away. I was always slow to pick up on it. First I would try to reason with his moods, try to talk it out and make him see that there was no logic to whatever the focus of his distress was. I was sure he wouldn't go off his meds. He knew how important they were. To his wellbeing, to our families survival. But he would. I think he missed those highs. The feeling that he could do anything and that he was the only one who could understand the universe. We would get caught up in his joy. He was fun and funny. Sweet and charming and we loved it. Until, he wasn't. Then would come the rages, the anger over NOTHING. And we would all know, it was the mean season again. There would be more doctor visits and threats, there was alway the threats. Ultimatums thrown out. It was just one pill. Take it. This one little pill held the fate of our family. Between my faith and his pills and some floating here and there, we made it almost twenty years. It amazes me now. How much I settled for and bargained away. I wanted a family, I NEEDED a family. And in that storybook world that the child locked away had created, there was always a father. A kind loving father. I did not know how to tell her, she would have to rewrite her fabled story. There was no wonderful father who fixes everything and makes it all better. He was not real and my children deserved better.