I don’t say “I’m from Detroit” unless:
- someone tries to bullshit me on what repairs my car needs
- I’ve just been told “go to Hell” (the implication being, been there done that)
- people are having a grand time trying to place my accent — for some reason, no-one has ever guessed right, so I just give up after a while and tell them this is 30 years of living in and around Detroit talking. Thank you for guessing that I’m maybe Irish, but the truth is gonna make you make an “Ugh” face.
Saying “Detroit” makes everybody make the “Ugh” face. If you live there, it’s your resting face: Either you’re constantly consciously aware of how much of a deliberately-constructed torture-machine of poverty and racism and environmental awfulness it is, or you’re unconsciously aware of it and your Ugh face is hiding a half-inch behind a desperate Midwestern smile.
It took two years after I moved away for my face to reconfigure away from the constant pained expression of a person trying to live a life among a seething ruin after rubbing shoulders every day with people on the absolute edge of desperation. And no, I don’t mean the homeless and the addicts. There are far more, and equally desperate, people in southeast Michigan who are still, for now, managing to live indoors. You won’t notice them unless you live there, and they outnumber the ones wandering the street by a wide margin.
Since I was a tiny child, I’ve been trying to say, “Oh my gods y’all — This is where the whole country is headed if we don’t wake up…this right here is industrial capitalism’s next phase! Let’s stop and change while we, while anybody, still can!”
But after you grow up a while, you realize that telling people doesn’t matter: they either know it full well, and think it’s worth it – probably because they’re wealthy, or privileged enough that they think they will be one day – or don’t simply don’t care (because, I’m guessing, it feels inevitable…or maybe I should say “they’ve bought the lie that it’s inevitable”).
I’ve now lived in Boston almost a decade, and while my inner Cassandra will still come out in heated discussions, I’ve mostly given up on sounding the warning-siren of Detroit.
It’s tiring and depressing, and if I’ve ever opened anyone’s eyes to what Detroit’s absurd segregation, its grotesque violation of one of the most gorgeous natural environments in the world, or aggressively anti-human city-planning means to the rest of us, I’m not aware of it.
If you’re not from Detroit, you don’t think it could happen to you, and/or you’re buying the perennial line about how “making a nice expensive spot in the middle of downtown will fix it. And if you are, you’ve probably given up – or will soon.
I’m an expat / refugee of Detroit, and I gave up SO MUCH to get out.
After 30 years I finally realized that if I ever wanted to be mentally “okay” (never-mind healthy, just…okay), I had to get away from the constant background scream of hopelessly-flailing-against-awfulness that is the D.
The biggest thing I gave up was being near my family — my only family in this world; we’re a small handful and we’ve always been very close. I had high hopes that I could “get them out” too, once I was established here, but my older parents and mentally-disabled brother (who, I stressed, could have reasonable health care here — hell, if they were homeless in Boston, their options would be better than in Michigan) just weren’t up for that kind of life-change, and they’ve decided to stay.
I talk to at least one of them every day on the phone. I travel back to D-town four or five times a year (my spending every holiday in Detroit is a fun “you’re so hardcore” joke for my friends here), and every summer they take a vacation (their only one) to come visit me and Boston. The pain of that separation is a little easier now, for the most part, but not really.
I have survivor’s guilt. I miss them like crazy, and I hate that if something bad happened I’d need to make an 800-mile journey to reach them. I struggle with the moral implications pretty much daily: Is it okay for me to have done this, to have found myself a home that makes me incredibly happier and miles healthier, and to have left my loved ones behind in Hell, USA?
I’m not going to talk, here, about the details of growing up in Detroit; about what the background of intense violence, racism and poverty does to a person – though maybe I will later. This one is about getting out, and where that leaves you…partially because I’m sick to death of the sensationalism around it, and can’t quite handle yelling about the realities of it yet.
I hate Detroit, still, the way you hate an ex-lover; instead of Ugh-face I now have Rage-face, but at least it’s not a constant thing.
It’s SO difficult to have your hometown, the place you grew up and will forever know best, be the embodiment of modern evil; to feel like you’re walking into Mordor every time you go back; to have a wonderful family Christmas and then gasp with relief when it’s over and you can leave, even though your chest burns because you won’t see your family again for months.
I left my daughter there too, Band. My only child. I’ve always shared joint custody of her with her (thankfully awesome) dad, and when I left I had to decide if seeing her every holiday and having her live with me here in the summer would be enough for both of us…and that, I think, is probably the worst and hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
But eight years on, I still feel like I made the best decision I could. Her situation is pretty well-protected from the worst of it: She lives in a rural area safely far outside the city, in a nice house, and goes to a great school with her three half-brothers, and again, we talk almost daily (she’s a teenager now, and getting too busy for daily :P) — and we have a great relationship. She loves Boston, and I’m SO glad she gets to have more and broader experiences than I did…my hope is that she won’t feel trapped in Michigan, and won’t have to make a decision to either stay in shit-town forever, or rip her life in half to get out and have a chance at happiness. Also, she isn’t stuck there with one of her parents being a miserable, grotesquely depressed mess, like she would have been if I’d stayed. That was definitely my experience — my Mom hated Detroit too, with every breath, but she never could stomach the hard change of leaving, so we never did. And now she seems resigned to dying there and just…hating it the whole way.
I guess we all do whatever we can to do better, to provide better for ourselves and our kids, any way we can. Sometimes that means cutting your own roots, and giving yourself a chance, however much a long-shot it is, to grow in better soil, to be nourished instead of constantly poisoned by where you live.
It’s important to say this, before I wrap up this topic (which I’ve needed to get off my chest for so long now; THANK YOU BAND I’M SOOO GLAD YOU’RE BACK) — and that’s that I carry a dark fear with me always, a terrified certainty that at some point, I will likely have to give up my better life here and go back to D-town.
Everyone in that place is precarious, and like I said, my parents are aging and my brother needs pretty constant care and support; and we’re all we’ve got, really. I’ll be in a better place to help them thanks to the good career and vastly better health (physical and mental) I’ve been able to cultivate here in Boston — but I very well might need to give up all my progress here in order to give them that help, and I know that if they really need me to, I will.
So every time I walk back into Detroit, I know that I might get trapped there again someday. If I think about it too long, I’ll start shaking and crying, so I try not to. But that’s another angle that may be helpful to remember for all survivors of nasty situations: A lot of the time, you don’t just get to leave your Hell.
People who got stuck there for a while can get out and never look back, but those of us who were born and raised in Hell can sometimes never get free.
Detroit is a place I’ll live with, even if I don’t live in it, for the rest of my days.
And it’s so hard to write that, because the rage, the ungodly anger at everyone who caused it and is keeping it going and is punishing all of its people with it every day, has never let me go. It’s even somehow scarier, now that I’ve gotten some reprieve from having that rage as my resting-face, to contemplate being immersed in it again…but it’s not a dragon I can slay; it’s too big. It’s my hometown. It’s in my blood and my voice and my life, no matter how hard I work to cut it out of them.
Fuck you, hometown.
As we have traveled (and travailed) through our journey (ha!) with infertility struggles, I’ve learned a lot from the infertility blogs that I’ve read, and from our family and friends. While I do have to put myself on hiatus from infertility blogs on a regular basis, I am so thankful that we have not been alone through this continuing nightmare.
I had a conversation recently with my mother about my blog, and why I choose to make such a private issue so public by putting it all online. Well, if one person finds the Lord, learns anything about their own infertility and what to expect, or is helped in any way whatsoever, then this has not been in vain. That may mean just helping someone who is not infertile to understand what the people around them are going through.
Or letting someone several years into this roller-coaster know that they are not alone, either.
As others have done for me, I will do for them. This post is in that vein….
…Depressing. There is no end to the feelings of failure, shame, and envy. Every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or any other important holiday that passes without a baby in our lives is a kick in the teeth. Some days simply getting out of bed is too much effort. But we do it, so as to appear normal.
…Frustrating. To not be able to do something so simple is incredibly frustrating. We cannot do what our bodies were designed to do, and everyone around us can.
…Humiliating. Everyone has seen parts of me that should be private. Everyone knows intimate details of our sex life and feels that discussing them is totally acceptable. Our pharmacist is nosy. Our doctor asks questions that make me blush, and I am not easily embarrassed. There is no modesty in infertility. Even at our very thoughtful clinic, I am stripped from the waist down and given a sheet roughly a half yard wide to “cover” up with. My bare butt faces the door.
…Learning to laugh. A man who loves you when Clomid makes you grouchy and when you have to prop your hips up afterward will love you through anything. If you can discuss cervical fluid and peeing on a stick, he’s a keeper. If we don’t laugh at the absurd, we will cry over everything.
…Isolating. Even though over 10% of all couples in the US experience infertility, you may never meet or talk to another. None of your friends can fully understand, and your family may not try. When your infertility is all you can think about, they may not feel comfortable talking about it at all. Our infertility is never mentioned for the prayer requests at church. It is the elephant in the corner at every baby shower. In the waiting room of our fertility clinic, no patients make eye contact, ever. Infertility is not something you tell folks about unless you know you can trust them with your heart.
…A learning experience. Not many things give you the chance to learn to self-inject medications and learn words like hysterosalpingogram or ovarian drilling.
…Painful. Physical changes make my body hurt. Side effects cause aches, pains, and headaches. Injections and blood draws hurt, internal ultrasounds and hysterosalpingograms are very painful. Childbirth actually sounds like a cakewalk after some of this.
…Strengthening. If I can handle this, I can handle anything. So can my marriage, and my faith. Infertility is not for wussies.
…Taxing. “Trying” or “practicing” sounds fun, right? Try it for about two weeks and see how romantic you feel. Don’t forget to time it just right and to prop your hips up afterward.
…Disappointing. Every holiday without a baby, every month with a period, every new check up at the clinic because last month was a bust is a huge disappointment. Telling my husband we’ve failed again is miserable.
…Scary. Words like premature ovarian failure, premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix, and intrauterine fetal demise are terrifying for anyone to hear, especially when it’s your ovaries, cervix, or baby.
…Hope. Hope is new again each month, thank God.
…Expensive. Having to give up on your dream to have a baby or having to plan your baby around your credit line is just sad. Especially when you’re paying good money for useless insurance.
…All-consuming. If you don’t learn to stop and find other outlets, infertility will eat you alive.
…Unfair. 14 year old junkies have babies they don’t want. People who lock their kids in closets get pregnant all the time. Why can’t I?
…Eye opening. Many men will leave you when they find out you can’t have babies. The extra-awesome one will stay, look you in the eye and say “That’s okay.”
…Finding a way to trust God and His timing even when I am on the floor, crying and broken.
The last time we talked, you had so much blame. So much disdain for my decisions and actions. You had guessed my motives from the biased stories told to you from people who were angry with me at the time.
At no point did anyone say to me, “Katie, these things we’ve tolerated from you are no longer acceptable to us. It needs to stop or you need to leave.”
I respected the boundaries Casey gave me without any realization that my behavior was triggering Hali. Why would I think that Billy’s appearance would trigger her into a panic?
After several weeks of living peacefully – with both Lee & Hali’s permission to live in their backyard, coming inside only to shower and heat up microwave meals… suddenly, I received notice that I’d violated their boundaries.
I’d been coming by to shower in the dark of night, and I always announced myself when I arrived during the day. Rationally, I explained the reason for each person that I’d invited in. You thought that I didn’t deserve the opportunity to fix it so that I could ease Hali’s mind. I did not even garner enough of his respect to let me know by text, call, or taking a moment to walk into the backyard to tell me to my face that my presence was creating panic in his mom. He acted without taking into account my feelings, situation, or ability to show respect WHEN ASKED TO.
He says I disrespected him and his parent’s house. Did I? Partially, yes.
I acknowledge that I did not understand that my actions within my surroundings (and the authority to bring guests (even short-term ones) in) were triggering others, but I was NOT incapable of rational understanding. My behavior was deemed unacceptable by Casey who never told me.
I am deeply hurt that everyone around me was so offended, angry, and unable to deal with my choices, yet too afraid for my sanity (or lack thereof) to confront me from a place of care, love, concern, and protection.
I am hurt by your actions and inactions as well, Sir.
You talked to people who knew me without explaining my version of those events and should have told them that my motives shouldn’t be impugned, as I wasn’t being malicious.
And when you diagnosed my “irrationality” to Casey, you didn’t tell him that we had had a conversation a while later (after my rational ability to understand had been restored by the State) when I explained my ACTUAL intentions and acknowledged that I could see now that people did not trust my ability to make sense at all.
I was hurt that you made no effort to tell Casey that I had given reasons/excuses as my actions were based on a skewed and warped sense of reality at the time.
EVERY ONE IS THE PROTAGONIST OF THEIR OWN STORY AND HAS A BIASED PERSPECTIVE.
I cannot accept that you understand me “better than anyone” because NOT A SINGLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION YOU SOUGHT HAD ANY CONTACT WITH ME AND AT NO TIME DID ANY OF THESE *IRREFUTABLE* SOURCES actually understand my motivations.
They cast me into a pile that they deemed “unacceptable to have any contact with” and I was left even more alone.
You resent that I – from your perspective – manipulated Mom & Dad into giving me money that I should have been ashamed to ask for?
You actually have the nerve to tell me that you love me and care about me SO much that you MUST protect yourself from any contact with me. Those two statements are BOTH true I understand that, and I’ve respected that – you’ll notice that I haven’t asked for anything from you since.
You are NOT a professional psychologist trained to diagnose whether or not I was, at the time, able to understand reality. You said that your experience shook you so badly and made you believe that I cannot appreciate any viewpoint but my own. This is not true.
What I find ironic is that you actually believe that you have SUCH a powerful brain that you – taking Casey’s word for what happened – are the SOLE AUTHORITY of your Sister. That is SICK AND OFFENSIVE.
You have no understanding of any person’s story but your own. This summer, I tried to understand the motivations of people around me and compare motives with actions.
Was I naive and taken advantage of?
Yes, however, I learn from my mistakes.
Unlike the people I was hanging out with, I had no problem acknowledging my mistake, explaining the reason for it, and promising that would not do so again. I truly believed that ALL people have dignity and value in this world and I believed that everyone’s decisions MAKE SENSE TO THEM at that moment.
I’m able to see others’ actions, disagree with them, but acknowledge that their perspective makes sense to them, even if I find their logic or assumptions wrong. Validating their actions were reasonable to them and then offering a minor change of perspective or asking a question to clarify their motivations and feelings at the time. Unfortunately, people began to think I was manipulating them. They distrusted who I was; they began to treat me as a a threat to their understanding of the universe.
I was very much hurt that my *only* natural sibling was incapable of contacting me for the 18+ months that I found myself homeless.
You offered no indication of care – or acknowledgement of gratitude – that you’d lived with me for 2 years without any income, you understood and appreciated my explanation for wanting you to stay – that I couldn’t live with my only brother homeless – while it was in my power to prevent it. I’ve strived to make you feel as though you were family and I’d always do all I could to ensure that you were safe and loved. You threw my generosity into my face. When I expressed ANY expectation that you contribute to the well-being of the household, in the form of dishes, other cleaning, money (when you had it), or an indication that you had any interest in adding to the comfort and happiness of the people around you, all I got was silence.
How did your sense of “honor” survive when presented with the *exact same* circumstances, but reversed? When I became homeless, you found yourself incapable of allowing me anywhere near you for longer than a few minutes at a time; you insisted upon resenting me for my inability to take responsibility for my life.
Throughout, you happily took Matt’s side. Your sister’s understanding of reality was so far removed from any you could comprehend based upon your limited experience and NO training or treatment experience. You disregard any external wisdom I have learned from talking to others about their experience.
You are so terrified of mental illness that you hide in your monastery of ceramic and Sony PlayStation and justify that being without any responsibilities to anyone – not even those (you say) you love and value – somehow makes you a superior judge of the human condition and supremely qualified to pass judgement upon those who fail to meet your standards.
I accept that my actions have landed me in this situation, and I am aware that your response to stress and drama is escapism and distress-avoidance. You run the fuck away from a situation you cannot fit into the neat little compartments that you believe all humans should conform to. Any deviation from those neat little boxes you quickly label, categorize, then promptly disregard terrifies you. You become a shadow of who you want to be, and my insanity terrifies your sense of the destiny you believe you control.
You are disappointed in me; that I did not meet your expectations for what you “expected” from me. It’s as if you felt no guilt about fucking off all of the family because Mom & Dad could fall back on me – a child they could be proud of.
Somehow you believe that I’d had some kind of idyllic life for a small moment. This meant that you were absolved of any guilt for your own lack of ambition and sloth, because you avoided confrontation and uncomfortable emotions your entire life, and sunk into early drug use to escape your feelings.
You don’t understand my life and my choices. You’ve never asked me (without accusations) about my life.
The only real message I got last month is that you do love me and were aware of my existence and the lifestyle I had fallen into. You had so much anger and disappointment in me, but honestly, you weren’t acting like caring family member reaching out to see if he could help, without approving of my choices I’d made, but that my behavior was so frightening that you avoided me. You wanted an acknowledgement that I hadn’t made good choices and an apology for the pain you’d been through because of it.
You take my choices very personally, Mike, though I’ve never held you responsible for my fuckups. I have respected your desire for distance and no contact. I had no desire to make you uncomfortable. I’ve only experienced your encouragement and care after I’ve made a mistake and you believed it wasn’t your place to say so, though your mindset is truly remarkable. It’s too bad you’re a coward for not speaking up.
You’re a smart person, Brother, but you don’t show respect to me.
Respect is believing what I tell you – or at least giving me the benefit of the doubt that I am not lying. Your experience of living through my mania is valuable to me, especially. However, you expect me to understand events EXACTLY the way you do.
I had my reasons and I went through enough hell – without any indication that you cared. You took over ten years to find a full-time job and never asked for anything that would inconvenience anyone else. That is your code. But you have NEVER even ASKED me how I define right and wrong – because your understanding of the world is rigid, all or nothing, black and white, and while you understand that other people have different needs and desires, you have no respect for my choices because I don’t adhere to your rigid belief system.
You have no interest in understanding me or my story, Mike. You’ve never asked me for my motivation behind a choice you didn’t like, you only told me I was wrong after I’d done it. Life isn’t easy and I don’t have all of the answers.
You say I destroyed you. If this is true, I sincerely apologize that my crazy was so traumatic that you feel I have irreparably damaged you.
What I don’t understand is how you continue to internalize and make my choices ALL ABOUT YOURSELF.
Do you understand that my choices were made without you?
You are not my victim, Brother. And I am not yours. People do change over time – we heal and grow or we stagnate and stop learning because we are comfortable and complacent. I don’t know at what point you stopped believing that you were capable of change, growth, or positive change for yourself.
i don’t know when you decided that YOUR experience was the only one with meaning or value. I don’t know when you decided that you were too far removed to add any perspective or for your insight and opinion BEFORE I made decisions. We are evolutionary ultra-social creatures designed to live in community with one another. But researchers are wrong, in your opinion, because the fittest survive what?
Hell. And come out stronger.
The strongest people I have come across over my plethora of identities and lifestyles, the strongest are those who’ve been through the kind of hell that I put myself through. But they made a choice not to be victimized by their life story. They found the lessons and found ways to contribute – I have struggled with this.
Leslie asked me on the phone in January, which was “what does Brody (my boyfriend) give you, Katie?”
I paused briefly and answered: he gives me an interest in the future and a vision for what kind of life I want. He gives me a reason for the struggle and value for the journey that brought us together. He’s the smartest man I have ever known and the only man whose perspective I use; his viewpoint is a barometer of my ability to interpret reality.
He gives me safety and respects my viewpoint. He’s the only man who’s EVER told that me I was wrong and why. He cares about me and loves me – not in spite of my crazy, but BECAUSE of it. He has no reservations or “despites” in his love for me. I love, accept, and understand him in of fundamental way that NO ONE has ever done.
But you don’t care about that.
You believe that you’re “destroyed,” but that was not my doing, Little Brother.
The only control we have is in our response to the things we perceive. You’ve never had an interest in anyone else’s perspective. You don’t care what anyone thinks. You don’t get value from painful reflection.
You are dead.
Because you don’t value any other person’s existence, and because you have declared yourself the sole arbiter of Morality and Honor without any interest in what others might think, you are, indeed a God to yourself.
And I have my own understanding of how the Universe operates. You have no use for my concept of God and your memory of me is not what you heard or were told about.
Sorry to disappoint you.
I’ve learned and grown and changed and I have more understanding than you EVER will of the way people DESERVE to be treated. I find value for their experiences and perspectives. You aren’t interested in my experiences and I think you’re terrified that the role you’ve put me into isn’t accurate, that you cling the me that you valued but never treated with any dignity.
I will always hope and pray that you find some growth, happiness and/or reason for your existence beyond your pain and escape from it. I will always hope that any report I get of you will be positive. You don’t believe in Luck either, so I hope you find what has eluded you.
–Your “Big” Sister
In June of 2017 my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She passed away in November. My husband and I have custody of our 11 year old granddaughter. Grieving is taking it’s toll. Last month I was admitted to the hospital for being suicidal.
I think about my daughter all the time. I spent every minute in the hospital with her for 5 months. Telling my granddaughter that her mom was dead was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. Whenever I go outside for a smoke, I think of my daughter. Whenever I drive the car, it reminds me of the drive to the hospital.
My mind won’t stop thinking suicidal thoughts. My brain constantly hammering me with negative thoughts. I’m hopeless, sad and feel out of my body. I don’t recognize my thoughts or myself. I am so lost. The emptiness is everywhere and I don’t know what to do.
I’ve been treated for depression for years and have had suicidal thoughts the entire time. I spent 2 days in the psych ward. I slept most of the time. I attend an outpatient program and went to a new psychiatrist today. He said my bipolar diagnosis was incorrect and adjusted my medications.
The first time I used, I was 9. I stole some of my mom’s appetite suppressants. For the first time in my short little life, I felt like I could do anything. I forgot that I felt like I didn’t belong. Don’t ask me why I felt that way. I am an adopted child raised by a good family, so I should have felt fine. I truly believe that addiction is genetic. With dope, at long last, I belonged. I wasn’t afraid.
Life went downhill from there. I gradually branched out to other drugs. At 14, I was stealing my parents’ cigarettes and booze and smoking pot. At 18, I got introduced to what would become the great love of my life-meth. I really could do anything on that stuff-no job was too big, and my mind worked like a pinball machine with an electrical short-thoughts careened around so fast I never held one long enough to examine it, so I never really thought about feelings of inadequacy or fear.
At 19, I was tired of trying to make it on my own, so I found myself married to an abusive bastard; anybody who’s ever been through that can understand what I mean when I say that it destroyed any shreds of self-worth I had a chance of having. By then, I knew how to fix that-I used more dope. It didn’t matter what kind as long as it helped me shove those feelings of worthlessness into some dark, forgotten corner of my soul.
After 3 years of being smacked around, I fought back, left, didn’t look back, and didn’t quit fighting for a long time.
I went through a string of failed relationships for a couple of years, until I met “the one.” He actually started to redeem the male of he species for me. For a year and a half, I somehow managed to limit my drinking and drugging. Life was pretty good. I was living the suburban American dream.
In the end, untreated addiction always wins. I got involved in some unsavory business, running drugs up and down the interstate. For each time I got arrested, I made it through at least a few more times. I guess sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good, or I’d still be in prison.
My second husband finally had enough, and I got sentenced to prison knowing that divorce awaited me when I got out. Looking back, I can’t blame him. At the time, I was just enraged.
In prison, in a state far from home, I didn’t have drugs but I still had that fight in me, and the ability to stuff my emotions into some dark corner of myself and forget them. It allowed me to survive in a cold and lonely place. When I got out, I did what I always did. I got high. How else was I supposed to deal with my situation? I was 4 states from all I knew, being held against my will by a parole officer who wouldn’t let me move home.
Fast forward to 2005.
I’m on probation for yet another drug offense, headed for an inpatient drug treatment center at the judge’s (and probation officer’s) suggestion. I had reached that point where I used dope to become that static-y snow on a TV with no reception. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want to deal with the mess my life had become and I damn sure didn’t want to deal with the mess that I had become.
I muddled along for a while until I had a using experience so horrific I will never forget it. I had finally used so much dope, trying to kill my feelings, that I had used myself into a corner and it was that dark corner of my soul that I had been avoiding for 27 years.
The dope had led me right into the hell I had been denying from the time I first discovered dope at the tender age of 9.
I got clean, finally. It hurt. Detox can kill, and I guess I considered myself lucky to be alive, considering the way I had used my body for a toxic waste dump.
And I grieved the loss of the drugs. I grieved the loss of the numbness. I was FEELING shit again and it was ookie and I didn’t like it.
The human psyche is an amazing thing, with a remarkable talent for self-preservation. I managed to avoid the real problem: here I was drugless, and the big shitty mess inside was still there. Denial became my best friend. I felt no emotions (or so I told myself.) I damn sure didn’t show them.
For the first two years I was clean, I was involved with another abusive bastard. Got a busted eardrum out of it. During that two years, I did a good job of not allowing myself to feel much of anything, partly out of determination to deprive that bastard of the satisfaction of knowing he had affected me, and mostly because I didn’t want to look at that big shitty fucking mess in my mind and soul.
I did all this while calling myself a member of a twelve step fellowship.
Two years into my abstinence, the pain of my living situation became too much. Denial, toughness, bad attitude-none of it was working anymore. Without the dope to numb my soul, the big shitty mess in the darkest corner of my heart began to fester. So I got honest. Well, a little bit, anyway. Six months later, I was out of the abusive relationship. I was healing.
At least that’s what I told the world.
Until the physical after effects of the corrective surgery on my eardrum became unbearable. They also became a physical representation of all that was wrong with my psyche.
I could no longer use those old defense mechanisms. I could no longer be the hardass, the tough girl who didn’t give a fuck. I gave a fuck and I was tired of being broken.
Aunt Becky, I cried. Like I don’t think I have ever cried before.
I cried for all I wasted. I cried over all the wasted potential, the wasted years, the wasted lives I destroyed with my sick spirit.
I cried for a little girl who never felt like she belonged. I cried for my mother who couldn’t fix her child. I cried for what was left of myself and for the parts of me that were lost forever. I screamed. I cried until my throat hurt, my rib cage hurt, my head hurt. I cried until my entire head was so congested I couldn’t breathe. I cried over all the sadness I had never cried over, I cried over all the pain I never cried over, I cried over all the fear I never cried over. I have no idea how long I cried. It seemed like forever.
And then I slept. I slept the sleep of the damned. Because as I cried, screaming about how I was tired of being broken, I realized that nothing could fix me. I was doomed to this existence of knowing I was broken and the only thing that ever made me feel whole was dope and I couldn’t have it anymore. It had been killing me while it killed my feelings, except it wasn’t killing the feelings anymore. I couldn’t stop using once I started, and once I used I became this horrible beast who got arrested and burned bridges with the people in her life. So dope was out.
I was, finally, alone with the truth. I was rotten inside and nothing could fix me.
At 40 years of age, I’m glad I can say that a lot has happened in the 3 years since I cried that night and screamed my frustration at being broken. I started working the 12 steps of recovery from addiction. I have a sponsor. I have 5 years clean. I have a reasonably good relationship with my mother these days. I am now in a very serious and mostly healthy relationship with the man who held me the night I cried-he is truly a good man. I am in my first senior year of college. I have been well trained in the work I do and have been working the same part-time jobs for 5 years now. I’m good at my job. I have a few friends-true friends.
Aunt Becky, I wish I could give you a happy ending. I wish I could say that I have finally progressed through the 5 stages of grief. I think it’s safe to say I have passed through denial.
Yet I still can’t let go of those old defense mechanisms. It is so fucking hard to express emotions. It’s just as hard to live through them. So I shop. I eat chocolate. I find things to distract me. Often, I stick my feelings in that dark corner of my soul. Even the good ones. I still miss the ability to deny their existence. I don’t know what to do with them, so it’s easier to deny them.
I guess it’s progress, being able to admit I have emotions.
Some days, I get so angry. Why the fuck can’t I be normal? Why oh why do I always seem to feel inadequate, less than, afraid? At least the rage can be empowering, motivating me to get up and try one more day to find a way to heal my sick spirit. If nothing else, rage feels good. It’s so primal.
Some days, I’m depressed. The possibility of spending the rest of my life knowing I am irretrievably broken saddens me beyond belief. This is where I am grateful for my adoptive mother-she’s my REAL mother. Nothing ever stopped her, and rarely did anything slow her down. She always kept going. What an amazing example; I believe it’s the only reason I keep going on my depressed days.
Bargaining. Yes. I do that. I make bargains with whatever’s out there-if you would just fix me, God, I would try to touch another life so some other woman doesn’t ever have to live with the pain I lived with for so long. Just please fucking fix me so I am not afraid, ashamed, and insecure. Make me not hurt and I will try to share it with someone who needs to know it is possible to not hurt.
Acceptance. Not so much. Today, I refuse to accept that I am irretrievably broken. Maybe that is where the twelve steps are beginning to work in my life.
And maybe that’s the happy ending after all.