Yes, I have been MIA. An explanation is in order. And then you can verbally assault me with “I told you so’s”. But First, this.
Restless night. A new, throbbing pain settles into my foot, definitely caused by the awkward incident with the 130-lb Male Sibling Unit yesterday. I’ve tried to be good with my Tylenol intake, knowing the consequences of too much over time and understanding that I have definitely pushed that envelope in the past. This though, necessitates three capsules at bedtime and another two sometime around 4am.
Somewhere in the vague fog between dreams and waking, I become aware of an awful, familiar feeling. It seeps into my body first, sliding itself around my limbs and then sinking deeply into the skin and tissue and bone. It is a damp coldness and my mind groans and cries quietly, “Ah, no. Please.” It is relentless, though, bringing with it the inability to move. This must be what it’s like to freeze to death on top of Mt. Everest. The soul-crushing litany of fear overtakes me, with its familiar refrain:
You’re a big fuck-up.
You let down everyone you know.
Everything that goes wrong is because you fucked it up.
Remember, you did this to you. You can’t blame anyone else.
You’re better off alone, so you can’t fuck up anyone else’s life. Or gone. You know it’s true.
My eyes peer out from underneath the pillow I keep near my head at the dim light coming in from the windows. It is a dreary, wet morning. March is only a good month for me because it blessed me with a miracle almost 27 years ago: my daughter. When mornings begin like this, she is a talisman that I cling to in my mind’s eye; I cannot let her down. I cannot let the ones who still, by some twist of fate, still care for me. The terror that has sunk into my very being becomes heavier, like a wet, woolen blanket pressing me down into the mattress.
In the early days of mornings like this, I would blindly reach for my phone and text my husband, who was usually right in the next room. He didn’t leave me alone much in those days. He would come to me, bringing a little, white pill, and then wrap me up tightly in his arms. I would listen to his heartbeat and wait for the pill to clear out the invader. Don’t ask me why a tiny pill has the ability to drive out the demon; I have stopped wondering and researching and have come to simply accept it. I know that it is a chemical reaction that attacks my psyche and yeah, yeah, yeah.
This morning, though, I can’t text him. He’s at work, and I need to pull my strength together and go get that pill. I have rejected keeping them by the bed; it is a stubborn refusal to allow myself to capitulate to the devil I know. My ankle and foot sob as I put weight on them, but the pain is almost welcome compared to the panicky sadness. I hobble out to the kitchen and click on the Keurig; as the machine releases the heavenly, brown ambrosia into the mug, I grab the pill bottle from the cabinet and force my early-day arthritic hands to turn the cap. I dry-swallow the pill and welcome its bitterness in my mouth. You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay, I repeat in my mind as I grasp the mug and limp back to the safety of my bedroom. My morning buddies – Katie, Mia, Roo, and Nicolai – rush through the door before I close it and settle upon me after I place the coffee mug on the stand and pull the covers up. Nicolai is my battle buddy. He always senses when he needs to be near me, waiting at the door every single morning and seeing me through morning routines. He will stay close, gazing at me with his soothing, golden eyes. They communicate love and protection. He’s almost as soothing as my husband.
I sip the coffee. I wait. I occupy my hands with my phone, checking email, answering Facebook comments, reading the posts of others. I’m not really paying attention, and later I will return to passages of real interest, able to truly comprehend. I wait. It takes about 20 minutes for the tide of panic to recede, and it does, just like a wave on a beach shore. The shakiness calms and the icy core of fear in the center of my chest begins to melt as the Xanax aims its heat gun on it and melts it slowly away.
This wasn’t the worst one, but episodes like this are becoming more frequent. Like they were in the beginning. Back then, I didn’t have a schedule, so I would stay up late, putting off the need for sleep. I knew what was awaiting me at daybreak and I would avoid it, thinking exhaustion might quell it somewhat. Now, though, I need to barrel through and keep my head clear. In the beginning, when the requirement of immersing myself in human contact was newly essential, I would enter the benzo cloud shortly before clocking in. For a short, blissful time, it was only necessary at night. But now, it’s returning, like a cancer, and I don’t really know if I can be brave. It’s exhausting. It’s a real Hell on earth, and if Hell does exist, this will be mine. It has its claws in me again, affecting every moment of my day. I am short-tempered, paranoid, irrational, and terrified. These minor, incremental breakdowns of my physical body are intellectually endurable. We all get older, and we all degrade. The demon, though: it is relentless in using these incidences to try and persuade me that I should just GIVE UP.
I cannot. I will not. Depression is a liar and a cheat and its sibling is anxiety. I need to remove the factors that leave the door unlocked for the insidiousness to sneak in. Put some better locks on that door. And I will. Because the choices are too clear, and I am not going to lose this fight.