Running on a broken knee

 

Today I went for a jog.

As I wrote in my previous two posts, I’ve recently had more knee trouble than usual and even discovered that I’ve been living with a fractured knee-cap. Well that explains a lot! I’m able to get around–I guess the clicking in my knees should have been more of a concern than it was. But long and difficult activities bring on pain in my left leg. It often radiates from my hip to my ankle in waves. But sometimes a girl just has to run…I have an amazing brace that I’ve had for a few years that has never let me down, although I’ve just recently finished paying it off. It seems however that my entire life could be summed up in these words: running on a broken knee.

I don’t pretend to be ignorant of my depression. I know it’s there, it’s always been there. In a way its dark, overbearing hands are a comfort to me…mind you they’ve never brought me chocolates or anything. But I’ve grown stronger to bear it over the years and some days it goes unnoticed. I do spend a lot of my time in deep thought and worried about the future but that doesn’t always bring my depression into the mix. No he’s keen to stand on the sidelines with a beer waiting for the worst possible moment to get close to me.

But on this jog, I wondered why was it that I was applying force to something that had already broken. What was it for? The vanity, the exercise, the need to be outside? Weren’t there other ways to be thin and beautiful? (No really, I’m asking; email me if you have a list). These thoughts opened floodgates in my mind on my half an hour run. What else had I pushed, or had life pushed, to the point of fracture? And then, without meaning to, I started to remember things that I’d rather forget. They too had popped up like the green ghosts of Christmas past at the end of the 6th Star Wars movie. They were there to watch me come apart at my broken pieces and fail.

So, instead of letting Obi-wan and Vader pick me apart I’m here to tell you something I never thought I’d so candidly and publicly speak of. When I was sixteen I attempted suicide. Obviously, I was unsuccessful. The only success to come out of it, was that I had confided in a friend the day before what I was going to do. Thankfully, she told her parents who called mine and I was busted. I was taken to the emergency room where I was admitted and committed to the pediatric psychiatric unit at MUSC.

I’ve experienced a lot of physical pain and discomfort in my life. But I’d happily experience all of it in consecutive order than relive a single second of the night I was committed. Two years ago I was almost killed by the world’s most venomous jellyfish who’d stung me over 1/4 of my body. I’d gladly going square dancing with that mofo in order to never experience that night again. I couldn’t look my family in eyes. I couldn’t speak to them, console them, or explain to them what was happening. Instead I blindsided them and wrecked everything.

What I was most thankful for, oddly, was that I couldn’t leave. I was involuntarily committed meaning that I had to put in enough time to convince a staff of medical professionals that I was not a danger to myself or others. Ultimately this meant that no one could get to me. I was allowed visitors but only my sister came and even she only came once respecting the time and space I desperately needed to digest everything that had happened. We tried to have a conversation but I don’t remember much of it. The one friend called me on the phone while I was there. She told me that no one at school knew except our other best friend who was beside herself and unwilling to speak to me at that time. My classmates were told I was violently ill, which rang pretty true. I’d ruined everything and because of this I was so happy that no one could reach me. I was alone.

The problem was I wasn’t where I wanted to be. Yes, I was away from the consequences of my actions but I was confined–jailed. There were bars windows, the bathrooms were locked, me and the other patients were to have little contact, and we were never unsupervised. I remember distinctively talking to another boy on my hall about our lives outside of the ward. It never occurred to me that the nurses were listening and when it turned personal, i.e. “what’s your last name, I’ll look you up when I get out of here,” the nurse all but flipped us over and smacked our butts like bad children. We were not to share personal information. She pulled me aside and scolded me “you don’t him! You don’t know why he’s in here.” And with that she sent me back to my room to stare out windows that had never been opened.

Eventually I did learn about him. His name was Drake, he was a year or two younger than me. He’d come in the same night that I had. I remember it was 2 am when I first saw him. The police brought him in, he was bleeding from the forehead. He never saw me, they tossed him a room and I didn’t seem him again for another day. He wasn’t crazy, or suicidal, or anything. His mom had gone on a bender and attacked him. The police were called but they didn’t get there before she’d managed to rip the toaster from the wall and hurl it at his head screaming she hated him. He didn’t have any other family and the state wasn’t sure what to do with him, so they left him there. When I told him why I was there he was bewildered “but you seem so normal,” I remember him saying. This would go on to  be the description of my life.

“Yea, why would you want to do that to yourself?” Chris chimed in. Chris was younger than both of us and a lot smaller too. He was on the ward because…for a lack of a better explanation he was angry. He said he didn’t understand why he couldn’t contain himself or why he got so angry at the little things but during his stay there, he never stopped smiling. Chris and Drake shared the room next to me and at night would tap the walls pretending I could understand their coded messages. I’d tap back like we had already established a language of knocks only the three of us knew. Perhaps it wasn’t a real language but it helped me sleep at night knowing that across the wall there were two strange boys who desperately needed to know I was still there.

My own roommate shared the room with me only for one night. She was kind and we bonded in the early hours of the morning I arrived. Her arms were so scared she looked kind of like a tiger or zebra. I remember her father couldn’t look me in the eyes when they came to pick her up. We’d become friends by then. Her mother was polite and kind and packed up her things while Sarah played with her baby brother. And then they were gone and I again was alone in a purple jail cell.

I’m recounting vivid details that stick out in my memory of the days I spent there. Bur most of it is a blur. I was medicated and I was seen everyday by a psychiatrist who asked me stupid questions. I remember not answering them for the first couple of days but this got me a higher dose of medication, less free time with Chris and Drake, and another day added to my stay. So I eventually started a dialogue with the doctors giving them what they wanted to hear. That I was a misunderstood, confused, and dramatic. That I hadn’t really meant it. That I was okay. On the last day I and my family were called in for a family session. I honestly don’t remember any of it. What I do remember is that my mother had brought a stuffed bear. I concentrated on squeezing the bear until I could feel the seems of its neck rubbing together under my fingers. And because I was so uncomfortable and concentrating so hard on that I don’t remember the session. But I was ultimately, released. My parents left letting my sister drive me home and get me settled in the house without my parents under foot (which I am still so grateful for). I said good bye to Drake, Chris had already been released a few days earlier. Drake was here indefinitely. I remember being somewhat heartbroken for him. He assured me he’d be okay and that he’d come for me when he got out. That’s the last I ever heard from him. Wherever he is, I hope that it worked out for him. And it if didn’t I hope that he was able to rise above it and be something greater that what bore him.

I, in turn, was assigned to a therapist and forced to continue sessions for 6 months. I was also prescribed Prozac which has blurred a lot of the memories that surround my stay at the institute. Surprisingly here we are 8 years later, med free, working with a counselor, and I’m not sorry that I didn’t go. I’m not sorry that I was unsuccessful, that I was committed, that I was watched, probed, loved, knocked, and let go. It’s all fodder for the memoir. It turned out to be the foundation that I built the life I now lead. I don’t mean this to be some sappy inspirational novel. I never said that I’m cured, I never said that I don’t continue to dream of what it would be like to end it. I still suffer from my lurking friend Depression and have since been introduced to his close friend Anxiety. I am still cruel to myself. But all of it, all of 2008 really gave me perspective. It helped me out of the dark hole I’d dug myself into. And it helps everyday to wake and believe that that’s worst it will ever be. I hope that for the rest of my life that’s the lowest I’ll get, that’s the hardest it will be, and that everyday after that one will be easier.

I’ve always wondered if he remembers me. If he finds himself in the quiet thinking back on his days in the institute when he was a teenager. I wonder if he worries about me or wonders how I’m doing. Maybe this is how the universe works. Every person that unintentionally steps into your life sends you warm wishes, light, and love on your journey. How I find myself sitting thinking about someone I knew for less than 72 hours, hoping that everything worked out for him. And how I hope if there ever comes a day that he does think of me he sends me the same wishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apology

Something is wrong. I can tell by the way you talk. Or don’t talk; because there is more weight in what you don’t say than the actual feather-like words you speak. You rushed forth with a fake apology, for a mistake that I hadn’t yet  realized you’d made. I wish that I had know then, on that day, your sudden distance wasn’t in fact me “over-analyzing” and you weren’t “too busy with work.” The gap between us was intentional; you had silently crept backwards away from me with every decided step.

I believe you owe me an apology. A sincere one. I’m going to get a little Workers of the World Unite on this one. I want every man, woman, and in-between to stand behind me if they’ve felt this way in our society and so called dating-culture today. As a child and then a young woman, I grew up hearing about the three-date rule from the women in my life and culture around me. I along with others shaped my limited knowledge around sex and dating from an early age. I, sadly,  was programmed to believe that I was worth exactly three dates. And those that have tried to pursue me have been programmed to believe that all it would take to get into bed with me was a few lousy dates, a moderate interest in my character, and a smooth caress of the side or thigh.

And I am here to say, fuck you. I am a human being, as equal as the next person. As equal as every man. It is hard enough for me to believe that I am worth more than three dates without you trying to come over and “relax and watch tv.” The rate at which I wish to be intimate is entirely up to me, and no amounts of manipulation or beverages is going to change that. Sleeping with some one on the first date doesn’t imply sluttiness nor does sleeping with someone  on the 3rd or 4th date imply an intention to settle down. Waiting to get to know a person before jumping into bed with them is fine, they are a STRANGER in every sense of the word. This should not imply that the party is looking to get married, have your babies, or meet your friends and family. It should however imply that the person is looking for something real, regardless of the length of time it lasts. I don’t need something to withstand the length of time. I just need you to look at me and see someone worthy of respect and kindness. I need you to be mindful of the guidelines by which I choose to lead my life. I need you to be patient. And most importantly and pressingly: you owe me an apology.

On record

How could I possibly explain what I don’t even understand myself. All my life I feel as if I have been searching –not searching — scouring the planet for this thing I can’t even name. I don’t know what it is, what it looks like, where it is, or really anything about it at all. All I know is that the rusty gears behind my rib cage are constantly turning, exhausting themselves and me after a mythical, invisible goose. Do you know what that is like? Can you even begin to imagine how it feels to be missing a part of you–a part of your very spirit–and to be oblivious to what it is or where you last put it. I am seeking answers to questions I don’t know how to formulate, chasing the end of a circle, or trying to see out past the horizon where the line between sea and sky becomes indistinguishable. And I feel heavy and burdened like someone has filled my soul with stones while I was sleeping. Everything is a task, everything is challenging and hard. My highs are too high and my lows are too low, my emotions seem to be polar and extreme. I feel everything too much or too little.

And then I step outside, go walking into the woods and I can see everything. My world is balanced. This mental clarity is like a drug and I find myself oh, so addicted. Nature and the wild fill my soul with what ever is missing, and I cannot see it. I can only feel it and trust in it that some part of me is slowly becoming whole again.

An Invisible Grief

I lay on my side facing him, my head propped on one elbow, my other forearm extended on the sheets between us. He smiled at me, then looked down and passed one finger lightly over my forearm, near the top crease of my wrist bone. He traced two small, faint scars nestled there, little pale parentheses cradling a minor vein. He looked up at me, knit his brows.

“I made them once,” I admitted. “It wasn’t such a big deal. It wasn’t dangerous or anything.” Toru nodded wordlessly, conceding that they were nowhere near the underside of my wrist, where tender skin separated artery from air.
These were marks made during a particularly confused period of adolescence when I had wanted not so much to destroy myself as render tangible an invisible grief so it might begin somehow to dislodge and recede.

-Passage from The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World by Tracy Slater

Teach me the stars and I will show you the ocean

Our lives are filled with moments. Snapshots of the mind in a single frame of time that you can revisit whenever the inkling hits you. These moments are important, they are everything we are or have been; the lachrymose, the lucid, the precious, the egregious glimpses of our lives as a whole. As I have gotten older, I’ve begun to realize how cruicial the patches of your life are. As a child, unknowing to me, I had already dug into dissociative tendancies that would change my life all together. This year, 2016, has been arduous. I finally succumbed to my desperate need to see a counselor. I believed all along that the hardest part of starting my own healing process would be finally taking the initiative to make an appointment. To my surprise, working with her these past few months has been one of the most trying experiences of my life. As I dig up the horrible cumbrous roots of my past simultaneously I’ve noticed a sheer force strike up within me and grow; as if it were a sproutling piercing the earth’s crust for the first time to breathe.

Since my childhood and adolescence were difficult my dissociative states and anxieties have made it difficult to recal large portions of my life. Giant gaps are missing from my memory reel. As much as it pains me to say, if you were to hold it up to the light most of the film would be blank reflecting heartbreakingly to me just how much of my life I have been absent from. Which is why holding onto memories now is so important to me. I cling to them pertinaciously because I’m scared if I don’t they will leave me and I’ll be dancing on an empty negative for the rest of my life.

So I’m going to hold onto the memories I’ve come across of late. I will remember what is was like to lie on the beach tracing out the lines that Saturn took to travel across the sky or the deep craters on the peel of the moon. And then how it felt to exchange your wisdom for that of my own as we splashed wildly in the night surf hoping to see the waters glow with illuminative microscopic life. Or what it was like to hear your breathing slow and grow steady as you peacefully fell asleep beside me. Or how much I loved the weight of your arms around me and the cool breeze of your breath on my neck. You are not afraid of the fragile glass bubble that I live behind and you are so strikingly gentle when it comes to my instabilities and failings. I think your kindness will forever be playing in my head and your silly demeanor as the early hours of the morning slipped by us. Because no matter where we go or what happens to us, in that moment I was human. A rare and beautiful human moment. And my brain still thundered with anxieties and my soul didn’t believe I deserved your touch. But I was there, and in all of it, I was the person you decided to share it with

Complicated

I don’t ever write poetry but this danced around in my head while I tried to fall asleep:

Don’t tell me it’s not complicated.
Don’t.
Can we please just let it be complicated.
And it’s not just one.
It’s not just that we’re coworkers,
that’s complicated.
It’s not just that we’re 20 years apart,
that’s messy.
It’s not just that only one of us is single,
that’s ugly.
It’s all three, very complicated.
So please just let it be.
Don’t tell me that no one at work has to know.
Don’t laugh off 2 decades between us,
saying you’re mentally 10 years younger
and I’m mentally 10 years older
so we’re theoretically met in the middle.
Don’t lie to me and say your wife is okay,
or that she doesn’t need to know,
or that life has played out in a disappointing series. 
Just let it all be too complicated.
Let it permeate the space between us,
and keep us from being.
Other wise it’s just too easy to touch.

When sleeping with inappropriate partners

I don’t feel bad for what I did. I feel bad about not feeling bad for what I did. This is quite the paradox and has been knotting my stomach and giving away my good sleep. My moral compass has never exactly pointed due north, in fact the damn thing’s been spinning around on its axis for a quarter of a century now. And while I’d like to ramble on in the profound fashion that I normally do, there really is no point. Not to mention, I’ve been struggling with writer’s block since the incident and I believe it’s partly to do with the fact it’s hard to talk about—this thing that I’ve done. Society will chastise me for my actions, best do it quickly.

I slept with a man 20 years older than me.

I slept with my co-worker who is 20 years older than me.

I slept with my co-worker who is 20 years older than me and married.

Ah, now we’re getting to the root of the issue.

And I don’t think that I feel bad or regret doing so. The actual sex was just the tip of the iceberg, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, I had a full on Hollywood-can’t-breathe-get-me-out-of-here-out-of-my-skin level panic attack afterwards, once he was gone but that’s beside the point. My point is that the sex produced more problems than ‘Oh shit, I slept with a married man.’ And honestly, the panic inducing factors were less about him and more about me.

I knew eventually something would happen between us. Our attraction (both physical and mental) was obvious and palpable from the beginning. In the back of our minds it was merely a matter of time; when and where. ‘Let’s get a drink sometime” turned to “You make a wonderful drinking buddy” which turned to blurred intentions like I’m going to grab your thigh to make it look like I’m driving home my opinion on something but really I just want my hand as high up on your leg as I can get it in a social and public setting. Once we were drunk enough, it was on.

I had more than enough opportunities to change the conversation, claim it was out of my depth, inappropriate or dull but I didn’t because it wasn’t. Talking about sex, first in innuendos, and then in actual context was exhilarating. Not cheating, not unfaithful but tight-rope walking across all the fine lines in the world. He was testing me—easing me in to see if I reacted. I knew that I was being manipulated. And in fact I was manipulating him into thinking that he was manipulating me. He is married, he knows better than to behave like that but I’m young and he thinks I’m sexy and who knows what his other justifications were.  But he’s married and I know better. Society will preach he’s a man he can’t help himself but you, you young single heathen, you know better than to tempt him.

But as I sat there, for hours and listened to a man tell me in so many words that his marriage lacked passion and his life had played out in a series of disappointing and unexpected realities. But nonetheless he had bound his life to this woman whom he still loved but saw lustlessly as a roommate. I listened to him tell me that he could easily separate sex from love and all other emotions, “sex is just sex.” Over and over he drove this point home, in my own head I could deduce that if I had sex with him I essentially would mean nothing to him. Not that he wouldn’t be gentle or respect me as a woman, I just mean that in the sense that us being together would only ever be sex. I would be a tool with one purpose.

And ultimately I didn’t have a problem with band around his finger. I don’t love this man or harbor any outstanding feelings for him. All I knew at that point was that I’d had enough beers to quiet the noise in my head that would normally over-analyze the situation. When you get down to the nitty and gritty, I wanted to have sex with him. So I did.

And now I’m stuck with the usual consequences. I have to see him everyday, we have to remain discreet and quiet about it at work (obviously). What does this mean about his marriage? Would it happen again and under what circumstances? Are we still friends? Do we pretend that it never happened?

But I also have to digest what this means on my own level. What exactly were the factors that contributed to my exhausting panic attack 86 seconds after he was out of my sight? What exactly was it about the situation that made me sick? For days the thought and feeling of his hands on me made my skin crawl. The images of the night would creep in and my body would shutter revolted by pictures of us in the dark, involuntarily blinking and shaking my head trying to erase them from memory like an etch-a-sketch. Is that shame and guilt from the event or previous events? Is the shame I feel actually from the event or is in indirectly presenting itself because I don’t feel guilty. I showered and showered and showered when I got home but I don’t think it’s because of what we did. I think it’s what I did. I manipulated him, a married man who couldn’t help himself, to sleep with me because I couldn’t stand being inside my skin for one more second.

I knew better. I knew what would happen if he and I were alone together. I knew we’d collide. I think that subconsciously I used him to set me free. Free to punish myself for another week or month or year. Another opportunity to self-destruct and liquify. I knew all too well that the force of our bodies hitting could knock me out of my realm—out of the sky.