Today is a good day. 🙂
For the last while I’ve been struggling to find words for what’s been going through my mind… I’ve a very dear friend who’s been struggling a lot of late, and though my contact with them has been minimal, I’ve mostly been trying to figure out how best to help them. From what I’ve learned about trying to help people is to listen – listen far more than you talk. To truly help, you need to be able to join them in that dark place. Not as an outsider who’s observing and waiting to catch them falling, but to free-fall with them and not know where the bottom is.. To not even be certain anymore that there is a bottom. That’s what it’s like when you fall into these dark places.. When you think it can’t get any worse, it can. I know every time I’ve hit that threshold with my own struggles – what I believed to be the worst of it, I’ve been proven wrong every single time. Not to sound bleak – it can get better. I’m still alive and enjoy nearly every day now and appreciate being here even on the bad days now. It wasn’t always so, though. My friend is in that dark place, struggling to come to grips with the reality that there may be hope – that it’s not to late to stagger back to their feet and get back into the fight. Hollywood does such an injustice to those that struggle deeply.. A movie or documentary at longest will summarize what put a person in that dark place, examine it for literally a few minutes, then spend at least a few minutes at the end tidying up progress in some way. That’s not all programs or movies – just the vast majority. I do know the place that my friend is in, though. I know the years upon years of feeling the way they do right now.
I feel so guilty and selfish for the hell I put him through for several months last year. He was in the same place, but still had the energy to keep picking himself up time and again. I was in such a bad place then. Our exchanges via email were long enough to be put into a novel – truly, a novel’s worth. I was arguing my position – my place with it. I wanted to end things, and he argued against it. It wasn’t the hollow arguments that most people give when pleading with someone to not do something. His arguments were thoughtful and realistic. They were personal. I know I drained so much energy from him for those few months.. I recognize the pattern that he’s in right now, and there’s no amount of reasoning that’s going to pull him out of that place. So, instead of trying to drag him to his feet, I’ll sit down next to him and keep him company until he asks for help standing up again. We can do damage control later.
I know when I was at my worst, I was pressing for him to say it was okay to give up. I wanted validation that the fight had been fought with every fiber of my being and that continuing was cruelty. I wanted it to somehow be okay with at least one other person – for someone to truly accept my decision and to give me permission. My God, the stellar attempts on his part literally kept blood in my veins for months.. At my lowest point though, I’d not hear it anymore. I won’t get into the details of exactly how things went here at home, but I didn’t say exactly what was about to happen when I went for the door, but my wife knew me well enough to grab my arm and try to keep me there. I’m physically much larger and stronger than her. Her trying to physcially force me to do anything is more of a gesture. She sobbed and begged me to stay. I had been cold and rigid to that point. For a split second, I put myself in her shoes, not being able to physically stop the person I love from leaving to die by their own free will. I asked myself if I’d be able to live with that. I walked back in a few steps and sat down on the floor. I lost it.. It takes so much to work yourself up the point where you can actually go through with it. Emotions are so charged up, but lay just under the surface. You need to remain calm enough to actually go through with the physical process – whatever that may be. To override instinct and go through with the act takes true commitment and resolve. Emotionally you’re like a volcano just waiting to explode from under the surface of the frozen mountaintop. So, there I sat on the floor with all of that charge and nowhere for it to go. It’s been at least 15 years since I’ve sobbed like that. Not shedding a few tears, or crying, or weeping – sobbing. I still feel so guilty for the things I said to my wife during the couple of hours that followed. I put myself in her shoes now and imagine what it would be like for her to say that she wants to die. Not in a cry for help sort of way, but to say it with true conviction. Then to say it’s pointless, that she loves me dearly and doesn’t want to hurt me, but she needs to end her own suffering. Then I imagine what it would be like for her to ask me to let her go… Then for her to ask me to forgive her for what she’s about to do. . . I imagine this and it shakes me pretty badly inside – to truly imagine her saying any of those things. She doesn’t have to imagine though. My friend doesn’t have to imagine either. I put them through that. For the last few weeks I’ve been hearing these arguments more and more from my friend. I do understand that place that he’s in. I know it well. It’s like revisiting an old apartment.
Tonight I saw something that really shook me. I didn’t expect it, nor did I see it coming. I’m largely unaffected by the things I see and hear, but this was something in a television series I was watching on Netflix. For anyone familiar with psychology, this was a trauma-related trigger. For many years, my triggers have been entirely physical, and very specific at that. I need to find balance. My friend needs me right now, and I’m not going to bail on him. I am drained right now, mostly from that given that it brings up so much of my own things. I need to keep myself a little more guarded for awhile. I’m also going to do something nice for my wife – something to honor her. I need to thank her. In spite of her own struggle which was tremendous at that time, she joined me in my horrible place. I was so blinded by my own bullshit that I didn’t even see how badly she was suffering. I owe her an apology for that. I’m not apologizing for my being the way that I was. Even as self-critical as I am at times, I don’t see where I was as being avoidable.
I know there’s a whole set of words that psychologists and therapists tell someone not to use, but I find it to only be useful to an extent. Yes, certain words aren’t exactly empowering, but to omit them is to omit the truth sometimes. I’ve been broken and weak at times. Some of those times I had no one to help, and other times I’ve had amazing people in my life to help me back up. I’m left wondering tonight if we aren’t all somewhat bruised or broken and that we can’t wait until we feel strong enough sometimes to help each other out. If you happen to be reading this and want to parrot the whole “you can’t help someone else before you help yourself” speech, save it. I did put on my oxygen mask first, just not very well, apparently. It’s so fucking hard to reach out when you’re in the thick of it, I’m not going to stomp on his fingers telling him to seek help elsewhere. I’ve had that happen – I didn’t reach out after that. I just need to find some balance. And rest.
Sorry for the infrequent updates/entries. My health has been stable, but I’ve been so incredibly tired lately. I can’t believe how much I’ve been sleeping. I’ve terrible pain that started tonight around my kidneys and liver. It’s sharp pain. If it gets any worse tonight or is still as bad as it is right now I’ll go to the ER. One of these days I’ll need to take a couple of actual vacation days from work that don’t involve staying in the hospital. On that note – it’s time to get some sleep.
The last several weeks I’ve been seeking out for whatever reason, things relating to PTSD. Maybe it’s because of the nightmares that happen so often that a night without one is a rare thing. Maybe it’s because of the place I’m left as result of my own “exposure.” I honestly don’t know why. I know that I’m always curious as to how people move on from such things. There are things unique to certain types of experiences when it comes to PTSD, but others that are quite common regardless of how one comes to be traumatized. I also believe there are three types of survivors when it comes to PTSD. There’s the ones that knowingly enter into a conflict of their own free will and become traumatized as result, the ones who are going about their daily lives and fall victim to something terrible happening by chance or by the will of others, or those like myself whom are born into a traumatic environment. I hear a lot of terms thrown around such as hero, victim, survivor and adjusted. “Adjusted” or “well adjusted” always get me. As if there’s a path that someone should inherently be on, though loosely defined other than the path one is on is clearly not the path to be on. Part of my experience.. A significant part, actually, was to wear away at my sense of self and self-esteem. There were many labels put on my in a daily basis. No exaggeration, either – it was literally daily for every day that my primary abuser was awake and within reasonable distance to convey all of the ways I was defective as a human being, a mistake and an utter fuckup in every conceivable way. If someone were to come at me in that way now I’d likely leave them rather physically and emotionally broken as result, but I was a child then. I was small. I was weak. I didn’t have a frame of reference as to believe anything other than what was being said. I’m told now that I’m “well adjusted” and that I’m a “survivor.” Neither seems accurate to me most days. I’m only so well adjusted as to hide how out of place I feel from a world that I simply can’t understand. The more I’ve some to understand and see the more I don’t want to be a part of it. I want to help others like myself, but I feel held back somehow. Maybe some of those messages of being too stupid or insignificant that I’d fail at anything that I’d come to try sank in to some degree. As far as being a “survivor” – that’s biology. There were points of physical weakness. Being starved regularly to the point of emaciation made me weak on many levels. I didn’t starve me, my abuser did. For years after leaving home I kept cupboards overflowing with food. I look back and see that as being rather silly on my part, but at the time I needed to have plenty of food in my living space to be able to sleep at night and at least feel like that one frightful thing was dealt with somehow.
I guess the part that I still struggle with is not fitting in. Sometimes it’s lonely – isolating. Sometimes I want to be a part of a community that exists for the sake of existing. I do fit in with trauma survivors, but with that comes a sense of mutual responsibility. I’m not shunning that – I cherish the relationships I have with others who’ve survived horrific things. It’s a group of people I don’t need to explain everything in explicit detail for them to understand what’s meant by “I just don’t want to be alone right now.” Or even when I say that I need to be alone without it being taken on a deeply personal level as rejection or something similar. There have been some that have wanted to join me in that place though. I’ve only let one who wasn’t a trauma survivor in. That didn’t turn out well for either of us.
I don’t understand the world around me. I truly don’t. I don’t understand the social structures, the structures of authority, how so-called leaders of state can disagree while wearing suits and being petty turns into rivers flowing with blood of the youth of our mutual countries, why borders exist only on a map and not in reality, how the “us and them” mentality exists and is perpetuated by those lusting for power, the excessive wealth in the face of the excessively impoverished, human trafficking and so, so many other things. I don’t understand how as a people – a common people – how we allow such things to exist. I despise the hypocrisy that we all exist in. I despise it in myself. I shame the excessively wealthy for being so greedy, yet I’ve decent means most of the time and I hold on to what I have. I’m not out leading the charge to end poverty. I do spare a few dollars here and there and am generally generous with people. I’m far from lowering my living standards to significantly improving the living standards of anyone else. I marvel at the fact that I work on a computer all day and make three times as much as someone who works their ass off all day in a job involving physical labor. My labor is mental, and most of that is to restrain myself from telling those pressuring me how utterly useless what I’m working on truly is. That’s why I don’t fit in. From the places my trauma has taken me, I learned a lot about myself and the world in those dark times, and more while trying to put some semblance of a life back together. I learned about the basic things that are important to survival and about what actual needs are that go beyond the scope of food, water and shelter. So, when I’m pressured to finish designing some piece of propaganda to convince someone to buy something they don’t need, or that they do need at some inflated cost, or to convince the masses to vote a certain way, it takes a lot of restraint to not tell them how epically unimportant all of it is. Deadlines are arbitrary unless it’s something that’s actually crucial to the survival of someone else. I mean that in a vital sense. I’m not religious, but I do have to wholeheartedly endorse the lesson that money is the true root of (almost) all evil. I’d expand that to lust for power and control as well.
I wish I knew where I was going with all of this. It feels like I only have one part of my life in order, and though that’s a great majority of my life, I still have practical matters to consider. I don’t have a problem with working to survive. I’d be bored if I didn’t have to work. I’ve taken few vacations in my life, and for the ones I’ve taken where there was nothing to do but relax I was ready to climb the walls after about three days. I’m facing the challenge of what to do for work when we relocate in the coming weeks or months. I’m seriously considering doing freelance photography and working part-time at some job that’s low-pressure and doesn’t command an income to keep me there if the working conditions are terrible. I’m left to wonder why though. Why keep trying for something better on a monetary level? Why bother with my creative endeavors? Why bother making new friends? Why bother trying to make family relationships work at all at this point? What is there to gain other than selfish notions of having value in some way? The odd thing is that this type of thinking I always associated with the deep depressions that lasted for so long each time. I’m not depressed – I’m really not. There still isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of taking my own life. I thought that it was just habitual thinking from the depression. It’s been a long time now and I still have that thought and urge every day. So, yeah, to the outside world I’m “very well adjusted.” The only person who has any indication that I’m not at 100% is my wife.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to write about any of this. I can only assume that I’m not the only one that feels like this, but I’d guess I’m in the minority. The wounds have long-since healed and I’ve learned how to laugh and smile. I even feel it sometimes. I pause though, when someone asks how I’ve been.. I say that I’ve been good and leave it at that. What I want to say is “you don’t know where I’ve been, and you’re so, so fortunate for not knowing.”
Please take the time to watch this video. It’s just shy of 10 minutes.
I think I need a few days off. The weather is nice and I’m feeling like I should be in it rather than being cooped up in an office. Granted, I feel that every day. I’m hypomanic right now. At least I think I am.
Tonight I’m dropping our kitten off at a shelter. We feel terrible about it, but our older cat is too old and too passive to assert herself as being dominant. The little one constantly tries to play with the older one and all the older one does is growl and try to bat at her. This goes on every waking hour from the kitten. It’s torture for the older cat. It’s been months. The kitten rarely does this while we are in the room – she knows better. Nothing will remedy this situation it seems, and not for lack of effort. The kitten is a good cat but she needs another cat of equal youth and desire to play.
My wife and I are continuing to prepare to move. We have sorted out the things we are taking with us and leaving the rest to charities, etc. Once she accepts a job we will move within 2-3 weeks. She has over a month of unused PTO and I have two weeks. Between us that will be a few thousand dollars, so we will have enough to get a new place shortly after moving (we will be staying in a family member’s house when we get there). The more I think about it, the less enthused I am about leaving this place. I like it here. I like my life here. I won’t miss my job, but that’s about all I won’t miss.
Time to go start my workday.