Spectacular Failure

I failed at something I loved, spectacularly failed. I never thought the end would be like this, but, alas, it is. I now question myself constantly. What else could I have done?  Could the outcome have been different if I had never said anything? But now it is known, even if I’m not believed the secret is out. It is no longer a secret that this person gaslights, and makes you doubt your sanity by denying the truth of what you experienced. The denial of that experience is far more destructive than the original inappropriate behavior. It makes for more interesting reading if I put forth examples of this crazy-making behavior. However, in the interest of discretion, I should not, though I ache to convey the insanity.

There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve experienced where as the complainant I became persona non grata when I was previously well-received by the same people who now will not even say “good morning.” Some of these people I adored, and had respected greatly. When you originally assess that a person is credible, lovely and a good judge of character, it can be a jolt to your system when that same person no longer speaks to you with no explanation. I’ve cried over it, theorized about it. And now I have to move on, and accept that it will forever be one of the mysteries of my life. I have to work to make this experience not define me, though it is hard to stay out of that tendency.

It’s hard to go back to my okayish self. I’m out of that job with a new one, but the scars remain. I get freaked out easily, and still question my reality and my sanity. I want it to be behind me, but there it is, like a March mud season that does not relent.

I tell myself that it’s okay to come out to the living again. But the fear is right there beneath the surface, ready to bloom to defense or flight at a moment’s notice.

I tell myself that I am more than just a job. I am more than a document I produce. I need to not leave this earth of my accord, despite the nightmares and the flashes of visions where I go into oblivion.

I drive very little these days because I get in that floaty cloudy state far too often. I’m on the bus a lot, and it seems I’ve found my people. The woman who speaks to herself at the bus stop is my sister, my sister in confusion and trying to make a life with a brain that works differently from the rest of the world. The homeless guy on the bus is all of us trying to make it in this life. The mom with 3 kids on the way to the mall is going to give her kids a fun Friday night, just like other moms all over the country endeavor to do on a Friday night. On the bus I can sit there and silently cry about the job I no longer have, and the people I no longer see. There’s a quiet acceptance of each other on this bus-the homeless guy that needs a shower, the woman that talks to herself, the mom with 3 kids that are full of noise and laughter, and me with my head against the window with a broken heart, but a hope for all of us on that bus.

some accidental clarity

Ever since I learned of Sara’s passing I’ve been in a foggy dissociative state that’s been confusing for me. Since mid November when I returned to my previous job (which is now my current job, life is funny that way), and fired Doc, my last psychiatrist (more on that in future posts), I’ve been doing surprisingly well. I’ve had less instances of getting stuck in the car in a foggy state where I’ll be stuck from anywhere from 10 minutes to upwards of 2 hours. I’ve even been able to get out of bed with very few instances of the stuck-to-the-bed feeling that used to plague me on a near constant basis.

However, a lot of that foggy dissociation returned once the news about Sara reached me. I understood the return of the dissociation at first as it was and is a loss. But then I started getting the feeling that there was more to it, but I couldn’t pin point it, and because I was in that foggy state the thought would come to me in a fleeting moment, and just as soon as it would come it would disappear. I would ask myself, “Wasn’t there something important I was just pondering?” But the thought would just evaporate, such is how it is when my dissociation is ever present.

Yesterday and today seemed to glob into one space of time. Every thing was an effort: getting in the shower, getting in clothes, going to get something to eat, driving, laundry, grocery shopping, the gym, eating again, and then throwing out garbage and putting away groceries. I was stuck in the car, and I just said to myself “We just need to go in the grocery store. We need bananas, oranges, toilet paper, and almond milk. You can do this! It won’t take long.” Thirty minutes later I make it into the damn store.

In that moment when I was sitting in my car, playing a game of Candy Crush trying to jolt myself out of the foggy state, the fleeting thought came back, and this time I managed to hold onto it. As I was playing that stupid game I suddenly had the realization that this has been so hard because of my mother. This whole thing took me back to my mother. There were countless times that she threatened suicide. She would yell that nobody cared about her, we didn’t care about her, and because we did not care about her she was going to kill herself, and when she killed herself we would all be sorry that we did not show her how much we cared about her.

This was a frequent scenario growing up in that dreaded ugly brown house on Marietta St, so much so that I got to the unfortunate point where I am ashamed to say that I started to wish she would go ahead and do it and put us all out of our misery. Thankfully, I never expressed this to her, but I definitely thought it, wished it, hell I think I might have prayed for it at one very desperate point. I don’t even want to know what God must have made of that request.

There was one time when I was likely around 6 or 7 years old when I ripped up a Ziploc bag in front of her and ate it as she was making her typical suicidal threats. When she realized I did it as a suicidal gesture she laughed, and said to me that eating that bag was not going to kill me.

Eventually I started staying away from home as much as possible. I recall one particular argument (actually this is the only part of the argument I recall. I couldn’t tell you what we were arguing about in that instance)  with my mother when I told her that there would come a day where she would never hear from me or see me again, and I wanted her to remember this moment, remember all the moments that brought us here to this because they will make up the reasons that she will never see me again. And I believe I said something to the effect of, “You should never have been a parent. You’re the worst.”

Decades later I stand by those words. I do, cruel as it may sound, it’s how I feel. I wish her no ill well, just that I leave this earth without any more exchanges between the two of us. Any love that was there was killed, extinguished long ago. She’s just a person to me, a person in this world with whom I have an unfortunate connection. I’ve kept my word in that I’ve not seen her for many years. It’s the right choice given the situation.

I never realized this until this week, but I believe her suicidal threats were likely the most damaging to me out of the entire potpourri of damage she rained on us. I believe it’s the reason when I’ve had friends who’ve experienced suicidal ideation I tend to freak out or take off or both. My own propensity for suicidal ideation leads me to be very close to the vest about it. In the rare moments when it has scared me I am reduced to whispering it to my therapist. There have even been times when I couldn’t even whisper it, all I could do was write it to my therapist and hand her the piece of paper. I never realized, until now, that I have a fear of talking about suicide.

The legacy of suicidal ideation was passed down to me, but I went the opposite direction with it. I try to protect everyone from it. My mother wanted everyone to feel responsible for her ideation, and I go out of my way to protect my loved ones from even knowing that I struggle with this. My mother suffered out in the open, and I struggle with mine in a good amount of isolation.

My mother was a good at crafts, and our dining room table often looked like a craft store vomited on it. She would make homecoming mums (a strange Texas tradition) or make candy cane reindeer at that table. I remember wishing that I liked crafts so that I could have one good memory of doing something nice with her. Instead, I would glance at her doing crafts at that table with my sisters, and I would read a book.

The preschool room

The preschool room in the church is where we have our Alanon meetings. It’s fitting in a way as my connection to Alanon started at the same age of the children that inhabit this very room during the week. The blue sky paint and rainbows on the wall harken me back to the days where it all began. There are lovely crayon drawings on part of the wall facing me. My favorite is one of a personified sun that seems to grin at me from the top of the wall.

Many times I can set the reminders in that room aside, and focus on the here and now. Friday night was a notable exception. Our meeting chairperson read a piece about being grateful for the alcoholic and their alcoholism. I felt myself stiffen. I never imagined being grateful for my father’s alcoholism. I can hardly fathom it. My brain shuts down at the thought of it. I don’t know if I can speak. We’re going in round robin order today. The woman beside me is speaking for a long time, the long wait makes me crazy out of my mind because it is an all out effort to stay present, stay here. I stare at the clock: 7:59, 8:01, 8:04, 8:06 … good god, the wait is excruciating. I start tapping my chest as Doc has taught me when I get triggered. Finally, blessedly, she is done. I’m up.

“Hi, I’m Beatriz. Today’s topic – Grateful for the alcoholic Wow. This hits home for me. No question that I will always be grateful for my father, and what he gave me: a love for writing, literature, poetry, human rights … But I don’t know that I will ever be grateful for the alcoholism, and everything that came with it -his disappearance from my life- and everything that came as a result of that disappearance, and all the crime and so much more … Maybe there could be a day when I’m grateful for all that. It certainly would be a more peaceful place to be, and maybe it’s a sign of how much more work I have to do, and how young I am in this process … But no, I am not grateful for the alcoholism. I am grateful for all of you, and for this meeting. I look forward to it every Friday. Thanks for listening.”

We continued around the rest of the room with shares until the end of the meeting. The business meeting was up next with a short five minute break in between.

And that’s when I heard it.

I heard the voice of the old man, the old man with the bright green shirt and a constant cough. I heard his voice go up, and I dismissed it. I thought I was mistaken because this man had kindly passed me a box of tissues at my first meeting when I cried about my father. But then there it was again, unmistakably his loud voice … he was mad about something we wrote in our introduction to the meeting. I can’t make out what he’s saying because I have to run. I have to go. He starts shouting. It’s no longer just a loud voice. My mind starts to get scrambled, and I can’t think, can’t think straight, just have to go, go for the door. I need the door. But I feel heavy. The desire to run is not in concert with the rest of my heavy feeling body. I must be walking oddly. I just keep my eye on the door and will myself towards it. I manage to feel the door against my hands, and I push it open, and when I do so I just fall out with the door and stagger onto the sidewalk. I feel myself fall onto the concrete curb for a respite from my heavy feeling body.

I hear a voice call out to me, “Beatriz, are you ok? Do you need help?” Jack is part of our group, and he sounds so far away, like he’s speaking to me from the end of a long tunnel. I strain to hear him, part of me knows he must be near me though it sounds as if he is long out of my reach. I will later learn that he was sitting right beside me on the curb.

I try to stay there, stay there, right there. I do not want to fly away and disappear. I need to stay. I try to focus on Jack’s voice. I don’t know what he’s saying to me, but it’s a calm voice, and that is good. His voice is calm like the light breeze on the lake as you sit on your hammock. I try to focus on that. I think I can come back. He asks me something, I don’t recall what he asked, but I can tell I’m slipping away because my own voice comes out in a hoarse whisper. I can tell it’s barely even my own voice. I am barely present.

But then I hear him again, the old man with the bright green shirt and constant cough who once passed me tissues. He is now outside, and he is still yelling. Is he coming closer? I have to go. I cannot be here. Jack tries to keep me from running. “He’s not going to hurt you. He’s leaving. You’re safe. You’re safe here.”

And there’s the change. I feel the moment when I’m no longer in the driver’s seat. I’m now in the passenger seat of my own life, my own interactions with people I barely know.

I feel the little girl voice, and the little girl fear take over all of me. “I sorry. I so sorry. I not supposed to be here. I sorry I scared.”

“Where’s Beatriz?”

“She not here. She be gone. Please don’t call no police.”

“Why is that?”

“They not nice. They mean.”

“Is there anyone we can call?”

“Inside.”

“Inside where?”

“They be a man inside. He friends with Beatriz. He know about me.”

“What’s his name?”

“I forgot.”

“Don?”

“No.”

“Ben?”

“Yes! It’s Ben! That’s him!”

“Okay, we’ll get Ben. Do you have a name?”

“Yes. Letty …”

“Hi, Letty. I’m Jack. Can you give me some big belly breathing? You’re safe here.”

“I sorry. I not supposed to be here. Please don’t be mad at Beatriz. It my fault.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong. No one is in any trouble. Here’s Ben.”

“Ben! I so sorry. I sorry I got scared in your office when we was at your house. That was me. I sorry. It looked like my old room. That was me, not Beatriz. She tell the truth when she say it was me.”

“It’s okay.”

“Who be here now?”

“Well, there’s me – Jack, Lucy and Tina, all people who care about you.”

Just like that, I felt myself come back. I looked at Jack, and gave a yelp, a Beatriz yelp, and buried my face in my cardigan that somehow came off me though I don’t recall how it came to be in my hands.

Everyone introduces themselves to me as it is the first time I’ve met them. Perhaps they are not sure who they’re speaking with now …

Awkward hugs for everyone, awkwardness is from me, not them.

We go back inside the school to finish closing up. Lucy takes out a chair and implores me to sit while everyone else closes up shop. She asks for my phone number with her pen poised over her little memo pad that she pulls out of her Betty Boop purse. I give it to her. She tells me she’ll call me. I take her number as well.

Ben remembers I told him that talking about nonsense helps me. He offers to take random things out of my purse as conversation pieces. We all laugh, and head out the door.

Don sees a lightning bug. (Where did Don come from? Was he here the entire time?) He points it out to us. I’ve never seen them aside from pictures. Then he shows us a whole group of them further down from where we stand. It all feels surreal, and oddly special.

Then it’s just me and Ben. He asks me if I can drive. I say that I am not sure. Bugs are biting him like he’s Thanksgiving dinner, though they have no interest in me. “Let’s continue this conversation from our cars,” he says as he slaps bugs off his legs.

We get in our cars, and continue talking via cell phone. I try to talk about something else, and I mention the house he just bought. He says, “Yes, it’s in a neighborhood near you so we can go to your favorite diner more often.” My heart jumps when he says this. I start to cry because if he sees himself having breakfast with me at my favorite diner then he just might still be my friend.