It’s quiet in the bedroom right now. I’m sitting up trying to pass the time online. It’s my wife’s birthday, so I’m staying up to see her when she gets home from work a little after midnight. I’d try to sleep early for awhile, but I can tell it’s probably going to be a rough night. I’m debating on whether or not to take something powerful to sleep. The lights are on, the dog is sleeping at the foot of the bed, and the two cats are curled up on the bed next to me. The only sound is the howling wind outside. We live in a very small town where we’re at the end of a street which borders a wooded area. The only sounds you hear here are the occasional distant siren from the fire department or the dog barking next door. Today was a good day. Work was hectic, but it always is. It’s nothing new and that doesn’t get to me most days. Aside from today being my wife’s birthday, it was for a coworker of mine too. Someone I’ve come to regard as a friend. I insisted on paying for lunch. We had steaks from Applebee’s. After work I took my wife coffee and something from Edible Arrangements for her and the other nurses on her floor. Nurses need coffee..
It’s been a good day. My mind is wandering to some places in the past that I’d rather forget. It’s rare that this happens in waking hours, but it has today for some reason. When my eyes are open I can stay present. I can tell that the here and now is indeed here and now. I know my age and where I am. I know I’m safe. I know I’m an adult in my own home, and a formidable adult at that. When I close my eyes though, that’s another story. I see fragments of memories going by at a blinding pace. None of them are in relation to the other. Some last less than a second. A muffled voice here, an image that’s distorted that my brain doesn’t have time to process when or what it’s part of specifically, but the feelings are attached and building with each one. I try quieting my mind but it’s futile. I open my eyes and snap back to the present. I close them again and the familiar violent images that I always see regardless of the day or time are now mixing in with these that are actually causing me distress. I go back to what I’ve learned to cope with.. Breathing exercises, attempting to control or change the outcomes of the visualization I see in my mind’s eye, blocking it out by going to my happy or safe place, using any number of techniques to get present… It helps a little. The images don’t go away though.
One thing that living through these things is though is a set of skills that get me through situations.. They aren’t useful for things like this though. If I’m in distress and need to maintain composure, I can literally shut my emotions off. I can turn ice cold at will. Not mean, cruel or angry – just completely numb. I can get things done in times like that. I can get through a current traumatic event unfolding in front of me while others freeze and try to process what’s happening, or get through a workday, or even a social event. I’ve managed to go through the motions without drawing attention, and when things are critical I can act when many others simply can’t. It comes at a price though. As soon as things are calm or safe, it rushes back all at once with a force that I can only describe as an emotional sucker-punch. That skill was acquired through years and years of.. Unpleasantries. That’s not tonight though. This is just an ordinary night. It’s best to just go through these things when they come. I’ve stopped trying to understand why they do and just accept that it’s part of life as lived through my experience. I make it sound as though I brush it off.. After it passes, I do brush it off, but in the moment – it’s awful. Unspeakable at times.
Tonight, my demons do have a name. I’ll leave it at “A”. A is still living in my home town. He’s again remarried and as far as I know, he resides in the house I grew up in. He has a good life, but I can only assume he’s still just as angry and hateful as he’s always been. I’ve heard from others that this is the case. What must it be like to live in a mind full of hate and anger all of the time? I see horrifically violent images every time I close my eyes every hour of every day. It sounds more terrible than it is. I’m so used to it that I only rarely notice it. It’s always been like this. But to have such hate and anger nearly every hour of every day.. What’s that like? For all of the pain and suffering you’ve caused me A, which of us suffers more? I’m not trying to compare apples to apples. One can’t compare the impact of maladies of the mind. It’s pointless to do so anyway. Your reality and the lens in which you see the world through that’s unique to you may have the same history as me, but your orientation to the world around you may be quite different. As much as I’d like to thing that you and I are complete opposites A, I see similarities to you in myself. When I’m seething with anger or rage, it’s your words that shoot from my mouth, not mine. It’s your blind rage and hate I feel. Or maybe it is purely mine and I see myself in you. Tell me A, when you close your eyes at night, what do you see? Do you see whomever made you into the person you are today, or do you see me? Maybe I’m being too self-centered or self-important to believe that I even cross your mind. Maybe part of me still hopes that I do and that maybe you feel remorse. I used to think like that, but I don’t anymore. At one point I felt pity for you.. After all of my pain, anger, hate and sadness eventually passed. I stopped asking why. I wanted to know why, A. How could you be that way to me – a quiet, shy and meek child? No answer would have been good enough, much less justify any of it. When I’ve been awful I’ve taken responsibility for it. I’ve owned it. I don’t blame you for that. It’s a choice. I choose to not be abusive. I don’t know why you did’t make the same choice A. I’ll live with seeing you in my nightmares, A. Can you live with being so miserable? Maybe you’ve found peace. Maybe it’s gotten worse for you. Regardless, I’m glad that I don’t have to ever see you again, A. I did wonder, just now as I wrote this, what’s it like to live in such an angry and violent mind. Maybe for you, the horrific violent images don’t go away when you open your eyes.
My lovely wife will be home in a couple of hours now. I think I’ll go take a hot shower and watch something funny on Netflix. I’m glad that she and my friend at work are here for another year. I’m glad I’m still here to say that.