I’ve reached a weird space in recovery, where I can sense the old patterns of thought and the new, almost simultaneously. It’s like wiggling a switch with loose wiring: the lights flicker on/off, on/off, without the switch ever fully flipping to either one.
On—and I am flooded with an almost unbearable level of feelings, sharp and bright and overwhelming. Off—and the emotions are replaced with the sensation of razor blades, cutting deep into my forearms or thighs.
On—and I am filled with plans and goals for my future. Off—and I am certain I already wear a corpse.
On, off, on, off, on, off…
Nights are the worst. Nights are when the “on” thoughts are hardest to reach, and once reached, they feel almost unbelievable regardless.
I got badly triggered about a month ago and am still in the process of coming back to ground, which makes a “good night” anytime I sleep more than about 3 hours total. (I’ll leave it to you to imagine how soupy and unreal my days start to feel, after weeks of this.) When I went to bed last night—at a time actually already this morning—I tried to set an intention of committing to the “on” side. Felt more desperate wish than hopeful action; I’ve been here before, after all, and I am bone-tired in more ways than one.
I have been pondering, of late, these words from Bethany Webster:
“The most insidious forms of patriarchy pass through the mother.”
I have been pondering these words (and the essaythey title) so much, in fact, that I am having a hard time writing about anything else. At the same time, I am not ready or willing to write about my mother.
Maybe not ever.
I don’t write to my mother either, not any more. Not since she returned the last letter I sent her, a card for Mother’s Day three years ago in which I wrote: “I know things are rough between us right now. But I believe we both love each other enough that we will get through this.”
She returned that card to me a few weeks later, after the patch between us had become so rough—at least for me—that I needed space away and stopped replying to her phone calls. She returned the card via overnight delivery, together with two typed pages of violent and hateful anger. The viciousness of my mother’s letter was palpable even in the skimming I gave it, unwilling to take on the hurt of a more careful read.
[The other reason I didn’t read it carefully, I must explain, was that her FedEx arrived on a morning I hadn’t expected to wake up. I was too preoccupied figuring out why my latest suicide attempt hadn’t worked to give her letter more than a once-over glance, checking to see if it provided any motivation for me not to try again.
It did not.]
I tossed the FedEx envelope and its contents atop a stack of random papers on my desk and forgot about it in my flurry of other concerns. If I had succeeded at death in that third and final attempt (it occurred to me much later), the letter from my mother would have been easily found by anyone searching my room for desperate answers. In place of the farewell note I did not write, one might have found the letter I barely read—and drawn their own conclusion.
Nothing quacky or dietary-related—I promise I am not going all-juice or detoxifying my elecrolytes or any other form of woo approved only by the Dr. Oz School of Better Health Through Gargling Snake Oil—just a one-week poetry cleanse organized by a writer friend that I leapt to volunteer for. I’ve got too many unwritten words jamming up my brain right now, like rotting leaves clogging a suburban home’s gutters, and an accountability system encouraging me to get at least a few of those words out and on paper each day sounded like just what the doctor^ ordered.
[^Again, not Dr. Oz.]
According to the rules of the cleanse, I agree to write one poem (or bit of a poem, or even one single line of poetry) each day, and send it out to the group by midnight. That’s it.
We’re on day 4 of 7. I’ve managed to write only once.
Sometimes a clog is so acute that low-commitment sluicing is insufficient to break through. Daily venting ain’t enough to get the job done. In these cases, best to take a roto-rooter to the whole situation—and brace yourself for whatever mess results.
And in that spirit, as my offering to the great and terrible gods of Roto-Rootering and Writer’s Clog, allow me to present:
Alice’s Listicle of Things She’d Be Writing About Right Now If Only Her Head Were Feeling A Bit More Cooperative and, Yknow, Language-y
[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.
Today I have an anniversary. Another birthday, of sorts.
I am turning 2.
I don’t know any other way to start this story.
* * * * *
Funny thing is, two years ago today—on the actual day of October 7, 2012—nothing happened. I lay on the couch. I spent that whole month of October laying on my couch. I ate there. I slept there. I got up only to grab food or use the bathroom.
I had been carrying the date of October 7 in my head since that spring (for reasons I remember but find too tedious to recount) as the day my clock would finally run out. October 7, 2012 was a Saturday, meaning as long as I dropped any farewell notes into the mailbox on the street after 5 pm, they wouldn’t be collected for over 24 hours. If anything went wrong—if for any reason I found myself still alive on Sunday—I’d have another full day, probably two, to regroup and try a second time. Perhaps a second method. I went off all prescription medications in early September and began hoarding the pills instead. I knew which local drugstore stocked the loose razor blades I liked best.
For months I braced myself for this outcome. Not because I particularly desired it. I was just bone-tired of putting it off.