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.

AA how I loathe you

A text message exchange between me and my friend Ken …

Me: I just left the AA alkathon, too many guys in the meeting reminding me of my father. Oy. So triggered. There’s an over abundance of older men telling drinking “war tales.” I hate that.

Ken: Sucks when meetings go that way.

Me: Yeah, makes me pine for the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) meetings with all their meeting rules. Alas, I get triggered there for different reasons. I have the air conditioning jacked up in the car to try to shake myself out of it. Strangely funny …

Ken: Funny cause it’s 20 degrees out 🙂

Me: Yeah …

You know how I have a blog … Well, I found out the day before yesterday that another fellow blogger I used to correspond with took her own life. I didn’t mention it at dinner, didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to sully the evening. She actually lived less than 3 hours from me, but I was too scared to try to meet her. Not because of her, just because I am generally afraid of people.

We used to trade stories about the different psych hospitals for PTSD and DID. We had the same ideas and theories about how these places are run.

Then I just got out of the habit of emailing her, and now she’s gone. And I feel like somewhat of a disappointment. Like maybe if I hadn’t been so scared of the world I would have visited her …

Bizarre to pull up her last email to me with the knowledge that the person that wrote it is now gone.

Ken: You have no power over other people. She had her own stuff you could not control or change.

Me: The wise brain part of me knows that, and the other part of my brain feels incredible disappointment in myself. Then on days like today I feel ridiculous with all the effort I expend.

Ken: Are you making it into a meeting? If not the alkathon, is there another?

Me: I was on my way to one that starts in a few minutes. But I don’t know …

Ken: I think it would be a good idea to try.

***

And with that I arrive with trepidation to a meeting at the infamous “A-frame” as people like to call it, so named because of the architectural style of the church. A common question is, “Going to the A-frame for a meeting tonight?” The A-frame has meetings several times a week, sometimes several times a day, depending on the day.

I take a breath right outside the doors, and I can hear the twelve steps being read. I open the door, take notice of the familiar wood floors and strangely comfortable plastic folding chairs, then I take a seat near the side wall. There’s a fiftyish salt and pepper haired guy with an Old Navy hoodie chairing the meeting, and I close my eyes and take in the odd, but comfortable feeling from being present in that room. I’m consciously relaxing into the chair when I hear salt and pepper haired guy say (to the best of my memory), “This is a simple program, and I find that when you keep it simple it works. When people get into this therapeutic PTSD stuff, I don’t know … you know … I don’t know about that, just keep it simple.”

Well, shit, that got my attention. When salt and pepper haired dude finally noticed me with my hand up this is what I said, “I’m going to go out on a limb here, but with respect to the PTSD I want to say something about that. As someone who’s an alcoholic with PTSD I can say that the combination, for me, makes it difficult for me to be in these rooms as much as I would like to be. I wish that weren’t so, but it is. I wish that it was not the case that too often I get triggered by simply hearing about drinking or consequences from drinking. I am glad I did not know how almost unbearable my PTSD would get for me when I quit drinking. I want to be here, but sometimes I have to make the choice to leave when I’m getting triggered. Even so, I’m grateful that the program is here for me when I’m able to be here.”

As predicted there was the typical reaction to my share that one has to keep it simple, stick to the program, and that if you don’t veer from the program you’ll be fine. Such a belief is overly simplistic in that it conveys a presumption that the believer knows everything there is to know about what works for every possible person with this addiction. Let me take the opportunity to say that such a belief is beyond foolish, beyond embarrassing and devoid of taking in the bigger picture of the varied individuals that present as addicts.

And that is why too often I find myself driving past the damn A-frame when I’m not in the mood for the self-rightous words that I will inevitably hear over and over again in any meeting I find in that church in the shape of a summer camp.

just a kids birthday party

You are minding your own business typing on your laptop and spacing out. Then bam! What the hell is that? Your body instantly shakes. You want to hide, but there is no table high enough to get under as you only have a coffee table in front of you as you sit in your favorite cozy comfy chair at the tea shop. The guy next to you sees you shake and says, “It’s just a kids birthday party.” You feel a part of you get angry at him, and you can feel the hot gaze that you are giving him. He offers his hand to yours, but you’re too much in touch with this angry part of you to take his hand. Another kinder part of you wishes you had taken his hand. This nicer part of you knows that he was just stating a fact to you without judgement, but the other angry part of you still fights this understanding, and insists on being a weenie jerk with a wall of silence.

You feel stupid when you realize it’s just a balloon popping from the birthday party in the next room of the tea shop. A river of tears comes pouring out of your eyes, and there is no place to hide, no way to shield it from the people sitting around you knitting as the set up is a series of comfy chairs around a coffee table. Someone asks, “What happened, hon?” You can’t answer because you have not yet found your words. Your words are floating around you like bubbles you can’t catch. You reach for your words and they disintegrate before they come out of your mouth as articulated verbiage. The lady next to you says, “Did someone say something mean to you?” Then the guy beside you says, “Balloon popping from the birthday party startled her.” Thankfully, his explanation lessens their attention on you. Everyone mercifully goes back to their knitting.

Your mind is still amped up and jumbled like a slew of cords that can’t be untangled. And just like Adam Sandler’s character who fought PTSD in the movie, Reign Over Me, you put in your ear buds and turn up the volume as loud as you can take it. You need the jolt of music to hit all your senses so that you can try to get out of this cloak of fear that will not come off. Coincidentally, when you hit play “Shake It Off” is what you hear. That’s ok, it’s just the song you need to distract you because you do need to shake it off.