I Had No Idea

[Bear with me on this post, if you decide to read: it’s a tad bleak — like, TW-for-talk-of-suicide bleak — but I think I’m getting to somewhere good!]


My emotional reserves are running on empty. Have been for some time. Sometimes a little thing like finding less cereal in the box than I expected hits me like a final straw, and I wind up sobbing on the kitchen floor for 15 minutes.

And sometimes big things leave me laughing so hard and so long I almost get sick, like last Saturday’s video chat with my father, during which he spewed vile invective about every member of mine and my brother’s families for almost an hour — 56 minutes exactly, according to Skype — while shutting down every attempt I made to speak with hand-waving and “no no no no no, don’t say anything!”

And Nathan’s showing symptoms again, like vomiting right after eating (which Hildi then tries to eat, since she likes his food so much better than her own that even regurgitated, it smells like a treat). I figured out this morning that he has been spitting out his pills, maybe for a while? Lodging them in his throat somehow, until after I have checked his mouth and started walking away, when he hawks them back up like a skilled bulimic.

I am filling my well as fast as I can, and still it drains faster than I can keep up. I feel absolutely empty. I feel at the bottom of myself.

What I don’t feel?


I can see this all as situational and say, “damn that sucks,” knowing every situation is always changing. I may feel as though I can’t handle one more damn thing — and yet when that one-more-damn-thing happens, I still know I can survive it.

I may have sobbed on my kitchen floor this morning over half-cup of Cheerios — but finally I stopped, picked up a bottle cap that had somehow missed the trash bag and rolled under the refrigerator (like a certain fateful piece of corn), and stood up to get on with my day.

Is this what it is to be not-suicidal? I had no idea.

I’ve felt so brittle for so long, I forgot what it was not to expect each next-blow to be the final one. Maybe not even forgot; maybe I never even knew there was an alternative. I have diaries from my sophomore year of high school in which I am trying to work out how to kill my soul while leaving my body still available and of service (to whom? is a thing one might wonder): page after page of adolescent theorizing about “emotional suicide.”

I cannot remember a time when I expected to live beyond a five-year horizon.

I cannot remember a time when I was not bargaining with the universe for permission to stay a little longer, “please don’t make me do it yet.”

If this empty feeling today is the alternative to feeling shattered, to believing I am broken — then I am seizing it with both hands and a grateful heart.

If “constantly draining to empty” is the best I ever feel — and even though it is that right now, I doubt it will be so forever — but if this is as good as it ever gets, I still gotta tell ya:

This feels like sunrise.



“I Had No Idea” is part of an ongoing memory project.
Additional installments can be found here.

[Image credits: hazy sunset, public domain, NOAA via. Red clouds at sunrise by Simon Eugster,  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via.]

19 thoughts on “I Had No Idea

  1. Between father and older brother there are many potential causative factors. Jack really did a number on him. I’m interested to know more about the nine indicators and the info on their kids. I think I may need to be more grateful for the sister between us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I reached the point, finally, where I realized my anger issue was actually a control issue and a fear issue. I controlled via my anger. I got angry because I was afraid. As I began to realize I couldn’t control, no matter what, my need to control diminished. As I addressed the reasons for my fear, my need to be angry diminished. Apparently someone still feels he can and must control you (and outcomes) through anger. Maybe it’s time to step out from under (whatever that looks like) and be free. Anger is also a response to perceived threat. I wonder what he sees threatening him?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have come to realize that he is very ill. That he manifests all the symptoms of a personality disorder (NPD, to be precise). He has been off the charts on all 9 criteria for the past 6 months — and only 5 are required for a diagnosis. And many of my own symptoms are very typical among adult children raised by parents with this disorder.

      I have not come to this conclusion lightly. And if I am correct, then there is no logical answer to your question. NPD is not something he can correct on his own, and it is notoriously resistant to treatment. So…that’s where I am on this issue today.


  3. I applaud you for knowing what is wrong in your life right now and then deciding to keep on going, ready to make yourself whole despite the turmoils. It takes a kind of inner strength that your adolescent self didn’t yet have, but you do now. Powerful post here that rings true on so many levels.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I know that feeling, like you feel like you can’t take any more, like when it downpoured last night, and I worried about my home flooding, like it did three times before. Add that to everything else I agonize about, and I’m crying right there with you!

    To someone else, it looks like I’m crying because of rain, and isn’t that silly. They don’t understand that I can actually have PTSD from seeing black sewage water coming up from the drains, being helpless as it destroys everything up to the 4 foot mark, then seeing the devastation after it finally recedes, 3 days later.

    That missing cereal could have a much deeper meaning for you. It could represent something, or bring back a memory. Even if it doesn’t, things add up, and the camel can only handle so many straws. But you didn’t go to that dark place. You got back up and went on.

    You are such a strong person. Just reading your words inspires hope.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Dana! I appreciate hearing that!

      The cereal in question really was just a straw. But I hear you on the PTSD responses, how your brain can see rain — and end up taking you back into a memory in which THE DESTRUCTION IS HAPPENING AGAIN RIGHT NOW. I’m sorry for what you went through, and sorry that the trauma lit a live wire in your head that you still suffer from.

      (And also, in all seriousness, quite impressed with your brain’s association skills! “Rain = devastating upward flood of sewage water” is almost literal, as far as traumatic triggers sometimes go. I hope that means you were able to identify some or all of your triggers relatively quickly, once you realized it was PTSD? Even if not, good for you that you have this one identified now!)


  5. Well in my humble opinion this is an exceptional post, because normally I couldn’t/wouldn’t say that after reading of renewed cat chaos and even more of the bad person on Skype. I am in fervent agreement with ‘becoming cliche’ on the hang up point, but until you reach that, this is a major step upward and onward…so keep it movin’ in that direction because YOU CAN DO IT 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Deb! Yes, it IS a major step. Not the only step, and very far from the final step — but a critical one to have taken, nonetheless.

      And I’m pleased to report there has been no more cat-puking since I posted this! [KNOCK ON EVERYTHING WOOD EVER.] I’m back to feeling cautiously optimistic, especially as more of his typical behavior returns! Like ankle-biting me as I’m sitting on the toilet…which sounds like a slightly weird thing to feel grateful for, now that I write it out.

      The things we do for love, eh? 😉


  6. You are a fighter. I am so proud of you for pushing through to a world where you want to live. It’s not easy, and some days to feel suffocating.

    I knew EXACTLY what blog post the corn referred to. Allie Brosh has been my anchor the last few days.

    I can’t wait until you live in a world where you hang up on the @#$%*& who is yelling at you. No one deserves what he just served up.

    There’s a paste that cats seem to like the taste of that provides extra calories. Maybe hiding the pill in something that doesn’t come up easily? I wish I could solve that problem for you. Cats are sneaky.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Truly.

      As for the @#$%*&, he’s not a bad person so much as he has a profound disorder. And I have not yet gotten to the point (emotionally or practically) where I can just hang up. Or walk away. But — even if all I ever manage is the same “two steps forward, one and a half steps back” crab-step I’ve been doing for the last two years — even that eventually gets me away, if I keep plugging.

      And yes, cats ARE sneaky. However, I am bigger — and my brain is 46.7 times larger than his. I will prevail.


  7. What a powerful piece. Life really does become overwhelming sometimes, doesn’t it. I don’t really know if that’s because there is so much of it — the good and the bad that all of it just doesn’t fit inside our heads.

    I haven’t known you very long at all — well, don’t technically “know you” at all. But I will say that I’ve been there on the floor with you and that little bit of Cheerios. I got up. And I’m glad you did too.

    As for the journals, wouldn’t life be so much better if we could all skip adolescence?

    Keep standing up.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What an apt way to describe the feeling: “too much life to fit it all in my head.” And yes — adolescence is pretty much a GAH HNNGHHG FLUHHHH period of life. If anyone ever starts an Internet petition to abolish the whole thing, I AM SO THERE! Might even start a second identity, just so I could sign it twice…

      I’m glad you stood up, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank-you for sharing your struggles. Yes, each day does provide its own battle, and I agree it is great when you get to the point where you can *see* that it is situational (usually). I hope you continue to see your 1/2 cup of Cheerios as half-full. Sending you a smile & a hug.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I love what you’ve done with the Cheerios image, btw — “are you a ‘my cereal bowl is half-full’ or a ‘my cereal bowl is half-empty’ kind of person?” may just become my new catchphrase!

      (Well…perhaps not. But it really deserves to be *someone’s* catchphrase.)

      A smile and a hug back to you!

      Liked by 1 person

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