[NOT A TROMP POST. While this is a post-US-election piece of writing about the weird twists and turns of grief, beyond that, any similarities between my comments here and the Orange Cheeto-led sh!tshow that is our current political outlook is purely accidental. And sincerely regretted.]
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One of the stranger symptoms I have discovered—as I claw my way back from the dissociative fog of PTSD that rotted out my brain over 25 years of squatting there like a toad, undiagnosed and untreated—is a limited ability to notice my body’s sensory input. I have to cook with overwhelming flavors, or I don’t taste my food. I must remember what I expect to smell, before I can detect an odor. If someone asks me whether a room’s temperature bothers me, without also specifying if they think it may be “too hot” or “too cold,” I often start to panic, suddenly aware that I have no idea what temperature the room is—and no clues from my companion to guide me.
But I noticed something interesting on my walk home this evening: I noticed my hands felt cold.
It can be tempting to feel dejected when, after four years of putting all my time and energy into recovery, “cold fingers” represents one of the pinnacles of success so far. Which is not to say my only success—far from it. I have knit together aspects of my personality broken apart for decades; identified and defanged many of my severe triggers, reducing to a bare minimum the most debilitating symptoms; and reconstructed narratives of my life so that nearly all of my memories are accessible again, when and as I choose. All in all, it’s one helluva lot, and I don’t discount any of it.
Still, it exhausts me that every time I reach a new plateau—every time my capacity to handle the sh!t stories I am already carrying increases—my brain decides it has yet more sh!t stories to throw my way. I fell down yet another well of despair two weeks ago: another unresolved pocket of pain and grief demanding to be worked through and released.
Four nonstop years of this has left me very, very tired.
I have stopped asking myself if all this work feels worth it; I fear more days than not, the answer would be a resounding “NO.” I have tried to stop asking if I believe I am out of the red yet, in the world’s grand tally of joy and despair—if the rent in the world that is my life has let in nearly enough of the first to justify the torturous second. (I try not to ask. Sometimes I still do. The answer always makes me sad.)
What I can also say, though—when I start not from questions but from answers—is that even in the midst of this week of tragic national news, I have old college friends still making time for me as I work through this latest grief-pit, willing and eager to help me revisit memories from 25+ years ago and sort them out. I can once again write words that other people read, and even more: other people value my opinion enough to often send me words of their own. And tonight, walking home on a cool evening in November, I could feel my hands as they grew cold.
For today, it is what I have. And today I choose to name it, “Enough.”
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[“Cold Hands” is part of my ongoing memory project.]