This evening the conversation goes like this:
Me: Sam, would you like to have beef stew for dinner again, like Daddy and me?
Me: Great. Dinner is in ten minutes.
I am pleased that Sam says yes. I am pleased that he tried the stew at dinner last night. Trying new foods is a sign of health in our son, while rejecting foods is a clue that he is doing poorly.
We sit down to dinner. Sam looks at the bowl of stew in front of him.
Sam: I won’t eat this.
Sam: I didn’t ask for it.
I’d sorted all the vegetables in the pot and put the best-looking ones in Sam’s bowl, because he won’t eat them if they are mushy or misshapen. Ian, Ruby, and I can live with less-pretty vegetables.
Me: Yes, you did.
Sam: No, I didn’t!
I’d poured Sam’s serving of broth out of the steaming pot five minutes before dinner so that it would be just the right temperature for him. I’d taken out four chunks of meat, cut them each into smaller pieces so their size didn’t freak him out, and then tasted a small piece from every chunk to make sure that none of them had that gamey flavor that stew meat sometimes gets, which would also freak him out and end dinner with tears. There had been three volcanoes already today, many more this week, countless more over the years we have been navigating life with Sam.
I close my eyes and take a breath.
Me: I would like you to eat your stew.
Feeding Sam is a delicate experiment, not only because a particular meal might fail if something is not right, but because a single bite of something he finds unpleasant will eliminate that food in his diet. It happened with a spicy bite of chicken when he was five, and now, two years later, he gags at the sight of chicken.
Sam, his voice rising: You didn’t ask me if I wanted this.
Me, my voice rising: I did ask you, Sam. Daddy and Ruby heard me ask you if you wanted stew.
Feeding Sam’s four-year-old sister Ruby is easy. She likes most of what we put in front of her and is eager to try new foods. As I argue with Sam about his dinner, Ruby quietly gets to work on her bowl of stew, the bowl of stew which I did not check over, taste or otherwise de-fuse before serving to her.
Sam, whining: I want to eat noodles.
Me, stony: You can have noodles if you eat your stew.
Sam stares hard at me, then lifts his spoon to his mouth. His small pink tongue darts out to lick the spoon, then disappears. He squinches up his face and says: The broth tastes bad to me.
The words pour out of my mouth hot and mean: You liked it yesterday.
Sam starts to cry. He beats the table with his fists. Ian warns Sam not to let his volcano explode. The developmental pediatrician had given us this metaphor for Sam’s angry meltdowns. There had been three volcanoes already today, many more this week, countless more over the years we have been navigating life with Sam.
Sam yells tearfully that it isn’t fair, that he didn’t ask for the stew, that it tastes bad to him. Ian gives him a second warning. Something shuts down inside of me, as though my anger abruptly recedes, and I gaze toward the stewpot, thinking placidly about throwing my bowl of stew against the purple tile backsplash behind the stove. About how the stew would splatter, how the shards of the blue Heath bowl would fly. Sam lets out a howl and my anger floods back into the foreground. I excuse myself and go to the living room.
I sit on the couch, sadness and fatigue eating at the edges of my anger. Most days, Sam’s issues threaten to overwhelm me. Now seven, he has had a sleep disorder since birth, and gets up for the day, every day, hyperactive, between 4 and 5 am. He is anxious, depressed, irritable, hypersensitive and over-reactive, and has been all of these things — in some way or another —his whole life. We recently found out that he also has celiac disease and cannot eat the gluten in wheat, barley or rye, and so now is on a strict gluten-free diet.
This is the son we have, the person we have to work with every day. Most of the time we do not feel equipped to do this, do not feel confident in handling what comes our way from minute to minute. I am, however, a competent researcher, and so I seek answers. This is one thing I can do.
Instead of working at my actual job, I’d spent my morning emailing with doctors at Stanford University, the University of California at San Francisco and the University of California at Davis, trying to find a physician who understands the relationship between Sam’s anxiety, depression and morning insomnia. We have seen psychologists, psychiatrists, a developmental pediatrician, a holistic pediatrician, a sleep disorders clinic, an occupational therapist, an osteopath, a chiropractor, and a speech therapist — the latter for the oral-motor disorder he developed because parts of his mouth were so sensitive he could not let his tongue go there. No one, except for the speech therapist —who assured us that correcting Sam’s speech should only take three or four years of twice-weekly therapy — has an answer for us, for our child.
When Sam was four, he picked obsessively at his head until it bled, and chewed his fingernails to nubs. When he gnawed off an entire toenail, we took him to a psychologist for help with the anxiety that drove him to tear off parts of himself. The psychiatrist heard his story and said that Sam didn’t need therapy: he had sensory processing disorder, difficulty taking in and figuring out what to do with everyday sensory information: sound, sight, taste, smell, touch, awareness of his body in space. That explained why Sam gagged at certain smells, could not dress himself, had fine and gross motor delays. Why, as an infant, he had cried at loud noises, at sunlight, at the feel of wind on his face. But why?
We are cautious in the way I imagine an abused wife is around her husband when he’s been drinking, certain he will explode, wondering only when. No one could tell us this. I’ve asked them all.
One psychiatrist told me, when I asked him why: We must have a certain epistemological modesty about what it is possible to know. In other words, suck it up and live with it. But I can’t— I need to know why my son is this way, so that I can help him live a less disordered life. I can’t see where modesty about my quest to help my child serves any purpose. Except, perhaps, that it might preserve my own sanity.
I feel so often that I am failing with him. Trying so hard and still failing.
At home we do what the occupational therapist calls a sensory diet to manage his sensory integration dysfunction, and what the developmental pediatrician calls cognitive behavioral therapy to redirect anxiety and rage. We are trying to control his behavior, mood and sleep disorders with nutrition — he takes fourteen different vitamins and supplements twice a day, and sits in front of a 10,000 lux light box every evening. We have adopted strict timetables and firm boundaries and clear expectations because Sam thrives on structure. In these ways, we prevent as many meltdowns as we can.
Still, we are cautious in the way I imagine an abused wife is around her husband when he’s been drinking — certain he will explode, wondering only when.
Ruby finishes her dinner and comes in to see me on the couch. I lie down with her delicate body on top of me, her back to my front. Cuddling. Snugging, as she calls it. Loving. We giggle and I start to feel a little better. She is my love, my light. I feel fortunate to have her, my normal child, my sweet girl.
Me: I feel lucky to have you.
Ruby: I feel lucky to have you too, Mommy.
Sam comes in. I ask if I can talk to him. I send Ruby to the kitchen in search of a gluten-free pumpkin muffin (Omnivorous Ruby has more-or-less happily gone gluten-free because of Sam’s illness). I tell Sam that I feel sad because I’d asked him if he wanted stew for dinner, and I gave him the best vegetables, and I cut up the meat and tasted each piece to make sure it was okay for him, and he still wouldn’t eat it.
His face crumples.
He starts to cry.
I pull him onto my lap and lie back down, hold him on my body the way I’d held Ruby. He is larger and more full of sharp elbows and wiggle. He starts to sob. I stroke his arms.
Sam digs an elbow into my ribs and wails: I hate you, you never do the right thing, I wish you weren’t my mother.
My hands freeze and my heart locks up. I think: I hate you. And I’m going to bite off a chunk of the inside of my cheek with the effort of holding those words in.
I take a deep breath and try something I learned in parenting class. As he howls on top of me, I say, with as much gentleness as I can muster: It sounds like you had a hard time with dinner tonight.
He doesn’t hear me through his sobbing.
I sit up and move his body off mine, position him next to me and look directly into his eyes. Say again, slower: It sounds like you had a hard time with dinner tonight.
He takes a ragged breath and sighs in two parts. Says: Yeah. Dinner was hard for me.
My heart melts a little.
Lock, melt. Lock, melt. This is the tachycardic dance in my chest every day I live with Sam. Sometimes it feels like I just can’t take it anymore, can’t handle the overreactions, the accusations, the sobbing, the vast despair. I don’t sleep enough to withstand it. I ask why he is crying. I think: I hate you. And I’m going to bite off a chunk of the inside of my cheek with the effort of holding those words in.
Sam: Because I feel so bad.
Me: What do you feel so bad about?
Sam: Because you did all that work for me and I didn’t eat it.
I melt the rest of the way. His despair becomes something to feel compassion for, not something hateful, hateworthy. Sam starts sobbing in that way that is not easy to stop. I put my arms around him.
There are things we could, should have done differently with Sam. We should have gotten help with sleep earlier. We should have figured out his sensory issues when he was a baby, not a four-year-old. We should have found a more aggressive pediatrician who helped with referrals and diagnoses. We should have taken special parenting classes sooner.
And there are still questions. Should we medicate him? With what, when his doctors can’t agree on what is wrong? Could we have found his celiac disease earlier? Are we, as our pediatrician once suggested, making too much of this? But here we are, on this couch, in this moment, and we have not done these things or answered those questions, and I have to decide how to respond to the howling boy next to me. My boy.
I murmur: It’s OK. I love you. I even loved you when I felt sad about the stew. I will always love you. I’m not mad. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.
His sobs start again. I hold him.
Me: It’s OK. Everything is going to be OK.
He cannot stop crying.
Ian comes in and says it is time for Sam’s supplements. That Sam already has two warnings. That it’s not OK to let his volcano explode like this.
Me: No, this is different.
Ian stares at Sam for a moment, taking in the ragged breathing, the small face wet with tears and snot. Then he says to me: Earlier when Sam was upset we did some squeezies, and Sam felt better.
Squeezies are the sometimes-ineffective and sometimes-magical joint compressions that the occupational therapist taught us to do on Sam. They are helpful during a meltdown when words don’t work. I often forget to try them.
I sit him in my lap and squeeze him firmly: shoulders, upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, each joint of every finger. Press the flat of my hand into his stomach, compress his ribs from the sides, gently press his head down into his neck.
He begins to calm down. Still taking uneven, gulping breaths.
Me: We will get help for you. For this bad feeling inside. We are working on it.
Sam: Okay, Mom.
I squeeze his smallest, last finger. He catches sight of a toy catalog on the floor and asks to look at it, sitting up next to me on the couch. He takes a shuddery breath. Mommy and Daddy both try our best. We don’t always get it right. But we are always trying our best.
Sam, opening the catalog: Is that a bouncy house?
Then, with more enthusiasm: Is that a pirate sandbox?
We look through the catalog together, and then I tell him it is time to go take his supplements. He does not argue. He looks at me.
Sam: I wish you could do my bedtime reading tonight, Mom. Daddy was giving me warnings. He thought my volcano was exploding.
Me, thinking for once it is Ian and not me who has missed a cue: It wasn’t your volcano, Sam. This is something else.
Sam: Daddy thought it was the same thing.
Me: Mommy and Daddy both try our best. We don’t always get it right. But we are always trying our best.
Sam: Okay, Mommy.
Sam goes into the kitchen. I sit on the edge of the couch alone for a moment.
I take a deep breath, and then go back into the kitchen to find my family.
I’ve been debating joining Band Back Together since the day it opened. I was leery, because good goodness do I have a lot to say. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. And hard to let yourself. Some things are hard to pull out of the box under the bed. It’s not easy to give them attention or light, even if sometimes that is necessary.
So I’m here. And fuck it all. I’m healing. I’m better. I’m stable and mostly happy. I got shit to say.
My mom once showed me a song by Lucinda Williams called Sweet Side. She said it reminded her of me. Which is sort of bullshit. I’ve been pretty emotionally fucked up but never quite to that extent. In any case, I found it sort of ironic that my mom should point it out to me. She mistakenly believes my internal wounds were created when I was molested.
They were her made by her alone. I’m honestly not affected by the molestation. I have been, but that pain has long since been banished.
The worst damage is the quietest.
It is the person who should love you unconditionally repeatedly telling you, “I love you, but….” It is being thrown out into the streets at the age of thirteen. It is being told you are insane; a bitch, violent, angry, a failure, unstable, and worthless in words and actions for most of your life. It is trying, with EVERY OUNCE OF LOVE in your child’s body, to gain the affection of your mother by any means necessary. Then, when that fails, to gain -attention- by any means necessary.
And when that fails, shutting off to the world.
It’s being sent away, over and over as a child, on the word’s “I can’t deal with you any more, you are going to your (Aunt’s/Dad’s/Grandma’s) house.”
It’s your insane family hosting an intervention.
To tell you to lock yourself in an insane asylum. For the horrific sin of being angry. When the forty-year old virgin who still hides in her mother’s attic, the woman who had seven kids (five outside of her marriage) lied about the whole thing, watched her husband beat and molest her children and ignored it willfully, and the former heroin addict tell you that you need help, something has gone terribly wrong.
Having one of the most insane stick up for you at the least expected moment. Finding shelter in his rage. Seeing the correlation. Black sheep meet black lamb. Those surreal moments that buffer you from the storm.
It’s moving in with your step-dad when your parents separate. Because he’s the better parent.
It’s being kicked out of your bedroom and moved into the corner of the living room, so your mother’s boyfriend can have an office. Or moving into the spider-infested, insulation-free shed outside. Because they are tired of you inside. Or a 3AM, walk outside to get to the restroom, because you aren’t welcome to live IN the house with the good people.
And finding the front door locked.
It’s a birthday party alone, while your family went on vacation (again) to New Orleans without you. During Mardi Gras. It’s a sweet sixteen where they haul in a musty old pull-behind trailer and tell you, “Happy Birthday, now GTFO” and you find yourself with a ‘birthday’ basket of cleaning supplies and a rank, disgusting trailer parked in the back yard. Your new home. Have a paper umbrella, it’ll make it right.
It’s making the (sane) decision to not speak to your mother, ever again, at seventeen. And being talked out of it. Stupidly.
It’s having the power cord leading to that same trailer be pulled repeatedly in the middle of the night by your mother’s boyfriend. Leading to HOLY FUCK IT’S COLD IN HERE. Leading to ‘Stop lying! He didn’t do it!’
It’s trusting, against your better judgment, to go home when your life collapses and you are sick and losing your mind. And finding yourself taken advantage of, and then thrown out. Again.
Of trying to get your life back together, only to have your money depleted entirely. Of going back to school only to discover that every day seems to result in another, “I TOLD you I couldn’t watch the kids, I have an appointment”
Of visiting a friend in California to get away from the building stress and anxiety, to find yourself homeless and stranded and papers being filed in your absence claiming you abandoned your children. Of having to explain to your children that you didn’t. And that you meant it when you said you’d be gone a week.
Of living in a shitty motel in the middle of the Mojave desert, subsisting on ten dollars a week in food to make it back to get your kids. In waiting a year to see them again because of your mother’s treachery.
Of gearing up for an epic court battle only to have her mysteriously drop them off with ‘a secret, don’t tell your mother’ and have your beautiful, sensitive daughter burst into tears because the pressure is too much. In hearing her, through her sobbing, explain that she’s afraid Grandma would be back to take them again in a month, because that’s what she said.
Holidays are bullshit. They remind me of the family I don’t have.
They remind me of going to Thanksgiving to drop off my kids to spend time with their Uncle, and be entirely ignored by my family. They remind me of being asked how much a vacuum was at Home Depot without a ‘hello’ or a ‘Merry Christmas’ preceding it and without even so much as a ‘have a nice day’ on leaving.
I spent the last two years with just my partner during the holidays. It’s been years since I so much as got a birthday card or a Christmas card. I don’t expect them, and I don’t need them. But I kind of wish I got them. It felt odd. It still feels odd.
This year, I’m going to cook a turkey, we will all will sit down to it and be thankful for what we have. And I will continue to love my children fiercely every day, no matter how angry and hurt they are inside. No matter how long their own healing process takes. No matter what silly, childish things they do. Even if they break something I love, or snark at each other in a hormonal rage, no matter if they make horrible decisions or great ones. I’m going to be there and love them.
The fact is, that no matter how much she’s done to me, no matter how much she has injured my heart, no matter how many times she’s screwed my life through her manipulations, I love her. She’s my mother; I can’t help it. I miss the love a mother is supposed to provide. I miss the safe haven. I miss the support system.
I miss the person you call when you are at your wit’s end and need advice. I have nothing like that. I’m it. I’m my own self-contained support. If a kid does something baffling, I’m on my own. If I’m drying out the turkey, I’m on my own.
I haven’t spoken to my extended family in years. I haven’t spent more than five minutes in conversation with my mother for two. My life has NEVER been better. It’s stable, I’m back in school. My kids are healing, slowly and painfully, but they are healing. We have our finances in order and our life is generally upwardly mobile. But still…
I want a mother so desperately it hurts.
And I can’t make that feeling go away, no matter how much I want to.
Three years ago, my husband attempted to rape me. I didn’t really think of it that way at the time. I did shove him off me with a hand to his throat, and he was extremely angry. A few months later, he completed the rape.
He’s always been terrible with boundaries and when I would say no to sex, he would keep trying until I gave in. I didn’t like it, but didn’t recognize it as anything more than annoying.
It was a red flag I guess, but didn’t seem like “real abuse” because I wasn’t being harmed.
After he raped me, I slowly spiraled downward.
We did marriage counseling. I did individual counseling. Still, I wound up checking myself into a psych hospital with severe post-traumatic-stress-syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
We have managed to stay together, but, as you’d expect, It hasn’t been easy.
He still struggles with boundaries, which are obviously so important to our relationship. Unfortunately, he will touch me sexually even after I’ve explicitly said that I don’t want to be touched that way (when my anxiety is at a high I do not want to be touched at all; much less sexually).
He’s started having sex with me in his sleep despite me saying no – when he’s aware of what’s going on he stops, thankfully. When he is very much in the mood, he won’t come to bed with me because he’s afraid he can’t control himself. I suppose I should just be grateful that he stays away but I don’t like hearing him say he can’t control himself. It freaks me out.
He has been (for the most part) patient and understands why I’m like this now. He’d do absolutely anything to make me happy.
I feel guilty because a large part of me hates him. He has told me that he doesn’t think about the rape unless I’m struggling, which is devastating to me. Something that changed me at my core so much. Traumatized me. Destroyed trust, my ability to enjoy intimacy, gave me massive, crippling anxiety and he…?
He doesn’t even think about.
We are in marriage counseling again; but we haven’t yet told the counselor what happened.
We’ve only had two sessions so far, and I haven’t been ready to discuss the rape.
The counselor is giving us all these tools to work on things and I just…I don’t know. I don’t know how to make it work.
I can’t afford to care for my kids alone. I’m a stay-at-home mom, no good work experience, no family to help me out. I MUST make this work.
And my husband really does try to make me happy and I feel so guilty that he can’t.
I will never be the same again.
Part of me wishes to just end it all and escape the constant anxiety and feeling like I will never get better. Don’t worry; I would never do that to my children.
I’m just struggling with so many feelings of anger, sadness, depression, stress, and frustration.
My husband used to be my best friend. We get along pretty well now, but I just can’t see him romantically again.
Can we make this work?
The only thing I’d wanted was another baby.
So when, after meeting a good guy, marrying him and buying a house in the suburbs with a yard (like I was Suzie-freaking-Homemaker), I found myself knocked up once again just like I’d wanted, I couldn’t begin to understand why I was so miserable. After living through my first pregnancy — something that can only be described through a particularly bad country song — raising an autistic child, escaping my alcoholic parents and finally having another baby, this time the way I thought it was “supposed to be,” my feelings were beyond bizarre to me.
Certainly, my life was stressful. But my life has always been stressful. I’d had to quit my job and money was tight, something my new husband worried about often and loudly. When we’d moved to the ‘burbs, we’d left behind our friends so my support system of single friends was gone. We’d occasionally talk on the phone but it became more and more obvious that we were no longer on the same page. It stung more than I’d thought it would.
Day after day during this pregnancy I sat alone on the couch, or praying to the porcelain gods, while my husband worked 14-hour days. My distant son, never a source of emotional comfort anyway, was in school all day. These were the days before I’d adopted the internet as Your Aunt Becky, so I was Becky, As Herself. I had no one to confide in, no Band of Merry Pranksters to confess my feelings to, and now neatly severed from all of my support systems, I floundered.
I’d been depressed before, but the feelings I was experiencing were new. I felt like I was mired in quicksand, rooted in one spot, unable to move forward. Always a social beast, I could barely leave my house. A simple phone call became too much to handle. The isolation bred isolation and now a trip to the store exhausted me for days beforehand and afterward.
It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.
Sleep was an elusive mistress. Night after night, as my son churned in my belly, I tossed and turned, unable to ever fall into that deep REM sleep that the doctors insist we need to survive. I remembered that sleep deprivation was a technique that soldiers used on POW’s to drive them slowly insane, which was precisely what was happening to me. Each morning, I dragged myself out of bed, unrefreshed and sad, filled with a sense of impending doom.
Finally, untrusting of my OB, I turned to Dr. Google for advice. While I wasn’t yet Your Aunt Becky, I was a blogger and I knew that the beauty (and horror) of the internet is that there’s always one soul that no matter how depraved you’re feeling, can sympathize with you. Setting my search to “antepartum depression,” I was confident that I would find something.
Nothing came up. Well, okay, there were a couple of things, but mostly with “antepartum” and “depression” mentioned in the same article.
Not exactly helpful, Dr. Google.
Fine, I thought. I’m a freak.
Ben, my first, had been born after Andrea Yates had her bout with postpartum psychosis, so I’d had no end of pamphlets shoved at me to help me combat any urges to hurt myself or someone else after he was born. We’d studied the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders in nursing school as well. But antepartum depression was a big question mark.
So what did I do? NOTHING. I wore a groove on the couch where I sat miserable and sad until my second son, Alex, was born squalling and healthy. Almost instantly, my mood improved.
When I got pregnant with my daughter, I expected the antepartum depression to return and it did. By this time, I had become Your Aunt Becky and shared my troubles with my Pranksters. Many stepped up and said that they, too, had experienced the same types of feelings. It was wonderful to feel less alone; less like a circus freak. I went onto an SSRI in my second trimester to try to combat the antepartum depression, but even with that on board I didn’t feel much better. Pregnancy, it seems, doesn’t agree with me.
What shattered me was after I shared my experiences about antepartum depression, the usual search terms that brought people to my blog (boring things, aunt becky sucks, mommy wants a vodka) were replaced by these: “antepartum depression,” “depression during pregnancy,” and “sadness in pregnancy.” Knowing that there were other women sitting on their own couches struggling the way I had broke my tiny black heart into a billion pieces.
The isolation I experienced was devastating and while I ended up walking away from the experience with only a little darkness on my back, I hate to imagine others out there suffering the way that I did. I’m thrilled that postpartum depression has gotten so much support. It should get all that it does and more. Women supporting other women is beautiful. I want antepartum depression, which they now call antenatal depression apparently, to get some of that support, too.
I hope that for the next pregnant woman who sits on her couch, crying and feeling as desperately alone as I did, I hope that she can find the light.
Because there is light. And it is so, so good
I’m not usually one to do stuff like this. I’m the creeper lurking in the corner wanting to make friends but never approaching anyone.
But I have a story, and I need to let it out.
I was your typical Midwest teen in 2006. I was 15, went to the movies with friends, spent all the time I could in the band room or wandering around the pastures surrounding our house. Life was pretty good. Then came that fateful day in February.
My half-brother got arrested for murder. My dad and I always knew he’d end up in an institution somewhere. He wasn’t raised in a good home like me and he had a hard life; we thought he’d get some time for burglary or car theft.
But never this.
After he was arrested, all these issues from the few years when he lived with us surfaced again, all the abuse he put me through before mom came home from work. My school never did Sex Ed, I didn’t know. For years they were buried…he hadn’t lived with us for awhile, but when he was arrested, the memories came back.
But I never told anyone, until now.
I failed my first class ever that year. I just didn’t see the point in doing any work when spring came around and my brother was in court and here I am in school while the people around me are complaining about how the school food sucks or how some teacher took their cells. On the outside I was the same as always, but inside I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I made it through the year, when my mom yelled at me about my D grade, I thought about ending it that night. Just swallowing a bottle of pills, but I was able to get online and talk over all the stresses with my internet. Life was stabilizing again.
Then came the day I can never forget, and I still have trouble talking about.
June 11th 2006, 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning, I got a phone call from my best friend.
She told me that 3 students from our school and our Spanish teacher were lost in the ocean while swimming on a school trip to Costa Rica. The body of one of the students had been recovered already.
Sunday, they recovered the body of one of my closest friends. The third student was recovered Wednesday. Sr. C wasn’t recovered until Friday.
All I remember for those summer days was sitting in front of the computer refreshing news pages, hoping and praying that maybe Andrew, Jessica, and Sr. C were still alive, then it was Jessica and Sr. C, then just Sr. C. Finally it hit me. Four people I knew, went to school with, acted in plays with, sang in the choir with, played in the band with, learned from.
They lived in Kansas and they drowned in the goddamned ocean in Costa Rica.
It was 2 days before my 16th birthday and instead of going to a movie with friends or something on a Friday night I was sitting in a hot crowded auditorium with some friends and Andrew’s brother, crying, wishing it was all just a dream.
Saturday, I didn’t get out of bed. Sunday, my mother prepared all my favorite food for dinner, a beautiful cake, my sister was there, I didn’t eat anything. I got a car. I didn’t care.
Later that week, I was on a bus full of high schoolers heading down to Texas for Andrew’s funeral. Everyone thought I was okay, I acted normal for my friends. But when they played Amazing Grace at his funeral I lost it. Amazing Grace? What’s so amazing about a 17 year old losing his life?
The freshest memory of Andrew is sitting with him on the floor of the band room on the last day of school listening to Good Riddance by Green Day. Any time I hear that song, even now, 4 years later, I cry.
My junior year in high school things were back to a semblance of normal, but band didn’t have Andrew. That spring I started cutting because I was so sick of being numb and the pain let me feel something. It wasn’t deep. There are no physical scars, but it allowed me to feel.
Then I went off to college, started smoking to get away from my crappy roommates, slept any free time I had. I didn’t have a social life outside of band and my dorm room.
Next year in college, I rented a house with a friend of mine, and I started cutting again. One night, I finally left scars. The next morning, I called the schools Mental Health Services, the next day I was talking to a therapist. I told her part of the story, how my brother was a murderer and my best friend drowned in the fucking ocean. How I almost scratched my arm raw on the first day of classes because I’m so nervous in new situations. How I’m always afraid that the worst is going to happen. She didn’t try and give me coping mechanisms or advice, she just gave me pills.
The pills made me feel nothing, I went through that semester feeling like a shadow. I tried to tell her that I didn’t want the pills, she said they were the best option for me. So I stopped. They weren’t helping the depression, the anxiety, or the suicidal thoughts. I was on my own again.
During spring break, my significant other of 4 months cheated on me with another friend. She had the dignity to tell me but it didn’t really help. I started drinking, and picked up smoking again. I failed all my classes.
I am not proud of who I was, or of what I did. I have regrets and I can’t forget those regrets.
But I am stronger now. I switched schools and I’m back to living with my parents. I don’t really see my friends much anymore, but I’m becoming who I need to be. I’m trying to learn to cope with my feelings in a good way instead of just bottling them up inside.
I’m 20 now, an age Andrew will never reach. I haven’t seen my brother in 4 years. I can’t trust anyone farther than I can throw them (read: at all) but I am becoming me. I’m changing the path of my life, some days are bad, some days are good, and some days I wish I could crawl under a rock. I just have to keep telling myself that everyday is worth it, that I am worth it, and that in the end I will be me.
And maybe in years to come when I look back at the last four years of my life I can smile and remember good things that happened instead of seeing this crater left by that summer.
What is an addictive/dependent personality?
I don’t mean someone who really grows on you, I’m talking about someone who is easily influenced and can become readily addicted to or dependent on mind-altering substances. It can be drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin. It can be prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Xanax, or a plethora of pain killers and muscle relaxers. Maybe it’s alcohol that interferes with or has to be part of everyday life. Now take that person and throw in the occasional, and now more frequent, anxiety and panic attack. What do you get?
You get the hell scared out of you!
Let me tell you first hand because dependency has been in my family for as far back as most of us can trace, and we are now finding out that the anxiety and panic issues have been in the family for quite awhile as well.
Have you ever been there?
I have and it scares me.
Have you ever felt your temperature begin to slowly rise for no apparent reason?
I have and it freaks me out.
Have you felt your breathing begin to get a bit shallower, each breath becoming more of a gasp than a serious breath?
I have and I just want it to go away.
Have you felt your throat dry and then begin to close, slowly sending you into panic mode?
I have and will hate it when it happens again.
Have you had to wonder what the hell this was all about when life really is not to bad?
I always wonder. And really, what the hell is this all about?
The medication prescribed to combat such issues to me are often very addictive.
Now you have me.
I freak out for no apparent reason, then think about the little pill I am about to take. If I continue to have to take them, it’s very likely I will be dependent on them. Not taking them wreaks havoc.
I don’t mind the occasional sleepless night. But when it happens, I pace around the house, then into the yard and then in the car with no where to go because it is 2 in the morning. Then I go back in the house. I don’t want to wake others up because I feel it’s wrong. I don’t want the medication, but without it sleep, and a productive day, will be out of the question.
Shouldn’t I feel positive about the fact that there is a medication to help me through such time? I don’t want to become dependent on the medication, but I really do want to sleep and enjoy my sanity.
One is just feeding off the other and it is just wrong.
Have you ever been there?
Are you there now?
Where do we go from here?