Oh, Brother!

The Male Sibling Unit has spent the afternoon at a mental health-sponsored community center he visits at least twice a week. It was opened by the local mental health facility that treats the many individuals in our community with anything from mental disorders to actual mental and physical handicaps. I say “handicap” with no fear of being chastized by someone who has adopted whatever new terminology it is acceptable to use when identifying individuals with a permanent mental or physical disability. When I was a kid, the label “mentally retarded” was quickly going out of style as other, kinder words were being adopted.

Mentally Handicapped. To the point, if a little bit blunt. We used this for a long time.

Developmentally Delayed. I liked that one. It was kinda scientific but seemed sympathetic.

Special Needs. Now, this really takes you to a safe place, doesn’t it? In a vague, glossed-over way. Hell, I¬†have special needs. My need for wine at 5pm could be construed as “special”, right? My need for the Skittles to be in pairs of two with different colored Skittles before going into my mouth is obviously special.

The latest, most politically or socially correct “labels” used by those in the mental health/educational community range from Cognitive Disability to Intellectually Impaired. Okay. Whatever. The bottom line? It all means the same thing, and there are varying degrees, conditions, and impairments. I quit giving a shit about how I refer to my brother or his friends and coworkers because at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I ¬†know who he is and where he has limitations unique to him. The only word I cannot bring myself to use is “retarded” because, when he was 18 months old and my mother had been given the devastating, soul-crushing (for her) diagnosis, she sat me down and forbade me to use any manifestation of the word at all. It was officially a curse word in our family. It would have been better for me to have been caught calling some dumb boy in our neighborhood a “stupid, motherfucking cocksucker” than it would have been had I uttered, “You retard.”

The Male Sibling Unit has many “labels”. Our mother was 39 when she gave birth to him in 1975, and while that’s no big deal now, it sure was then. She was morbidly obese, smoked, and lived a very sedentary lifestyle, despite caring for both me and my grandmother, who had been partially paralyzed by a stroke when I was 5. My mother developed toxemia – we call it pre-eclampsia now – in her third trimester and had to be hospitalised for the last two weeks of her pregnancy. My brother was delivered at a bloated weight of 9 lbs, 5 ounces; he couldn’t even open his eyes because he was so filled with fluid. Even worse, there was a period of time, during his birth, when he was without oxygen and I will never forget the description in his records: bloated and blue. Still, the doctor got him breathing and everything seemed okay for a while. He was colicky at first, but sweet. He was a good-natured baby who drank his bottles and filled his diapers just like any other infant. I was 8 when he was born, so it fell to me to help. A lot. And I didn’t mind it, being a solitary, awkward kid myself.

When he turned 1 and he still couldn’t walk or even crawl, my mother was worried. Tests were performed. Xrays were done. A healed, hairline fracture of his skull was discovered. It was eventually surmised that he had hit his head on the edge of the kitchen table while in his walker. He had never reacted to what had to have been a painful event. But while running these batteries of tests, psychological ones were run, too, and that’s where all the labels came from. “Mentally retarded” was the first, and, as the years passed, “autistic” was another.

Was he born that way? No one seemed to be able to agree. It could have been the toxemia that interfered with his development in utero, but there was that “period of time” where he was not breathing, too. Both the Obstetrician and the Pediatrician were understandably defensive about that fact. Back in the late 70s, there were a lot of experts throwing their weight around, and it was eventually determined that the Male Sibling Unit would “never reach an intellectual age past that of a 4th grader” and require care for the rest of his life.

Those experts were stupid, retarded motherfuckers.

The Male Sibling Unit is developmentally delayed, yes. He is on the Autism Spectrum, too. He has OCD. He has various medical issues including Type 2 Diabetes and Hyperthyroidism. He is unavoidably, through no fault of his own, a narcissist. He does not feel pain like a normal person; his threshold is frighteningly high. ¬†He also is, as he refers to himself, “a horse’s ass”. Nothing could be truer when he is being everything on the list at the same time but it simply is what it is.

The OCD stuff is the worst. The fact that he has a cell phone, which tethers him to me and anyone else who is on his contact list, makes the OCD harder to manage. He worries about himself and his circumstances and his routines constantly and those thoughts translate into multiple text messages a day. He will begin worrying about his prescriptions 10 days before they need to be filled and remind me that he will take care of them. Every day. Multiple times. Until it is time to actually do it. He will fight with his friends and revisit the fights over and over. When a special event is upcoming – meaning it is weeks or even months away – he begins a daily countdown.

We discuss how he feels about every little thing, every single day. When you’re me, with my own, unique set of mental albatrosses around my neck, managing another person’s is challenging. ¬†There are days when I simply need that community center time, for him to go there for a while; to leave me to the peaceful silence of a quiet house. He’ll come home, filled with the happiness of a day spent with friends, and go up to his room to post it on Facebook. Yeah, you read that right. ¬†The “mentally retarded” boy who would “never function past a 4th grade level” is now a 42 year-old who has a robust social media life. It is quiet. I am watching a news program.

Then my phone vibrates.

And yet, I can’t imagine life being any different. I knew what I was in for when I swore to take care of my baby brother for the rest of his – or my – life. It is the most challenging, infuriating, frustrating, hysterically funny, wonderful reality. I’m going to write about him more, because it’s cathartic and also because he is one funny motherfucker.

Assuming the position.

You know, I bitch a lot.

I didn’t corner the market on the Art of Bitchery, but I can roll with the best of them, and I even had a laminated “License to Bitch” once, long ago.

I don’t bitch as much as some people. No, my amount of bitching isn’t as over-the-top as some people I know, who have upped their game to a quantity-versus-quality scenario that simply qualifies them as not only uber-bitchy but also miserable. I prefer my level of bitchiness to suit the moment in such harmony as if I were pairing a wine with an entree. If there was a¬†SUPER BITCHY HALL OF FAME I would like my name to be amongst those who were eloquent and measured with their bitch proficiency. You know, bitchy on the same, stellar level as Robert Plant or Mick Jagger or Elvis Presley in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I am legit bitchy, not dime store bitchy.

I was pathetic bitchy yesterday. This is something that, in the hazy, humid light of today, I am not proud of. I took bitchiness to a corner of the market where I rarely go because I don’t want to be that person who’s holding up a sign, asking for donations to her pity party. Yesterday, I looked like her and acted like her and today, I want to slap her.

I have been fighting with my eyes for a while now, just another item on a list growing longer of shit that is breaking in or on my body. ¬†Yesterday, the grossly-overpriced, yet very qualified opthamalic surgeon informed me that I have severe dry eye disease and ocular nerve damage due to circumstances that actually ¬†were within my control. Short version? I have cold urticaria, a sort of autoimmune disorder that causes me to be allergic to extreme temperature changes. I break out in hives when cold hits my warm body, or warm hits my cold body. I’ve lived with it for 17 years now. It’s really not a big deal, because while irritating as fuck, it is at least mostly controllable with proper medication. This is my skin I’m talking about, and on one, very scary occasion, it spread into my mouth and throat. Anaphylaxis isn’t fun.¬†¬†It also should have clued me in that it’s not just my skin, but my system, but well…I’m a little slow, I guess. It never occured to me that it could travel into my eyes under extreme conditions like working in a 30¬į dairy cooler 6-7 hours a day.¬†

Go ahead. You can call me a dumb fuck. I have, many times, over the last few months. I took a job that was bad for my health. We all question, at one time or another, the wisdom of continuing with ¬†some jobs we have done or do, but in this case, I didn’t think it through, and when the symptoms started, I continued to ¬†not¬†think it through.¬†

The lesson I learned the hard way? As much as I would like to insist that “You are only as old as you feel” the truth of the matter is that science hasn’t figured out a way to stop the effects of aging and even if my brain is saying “Go! Go! Go!” my¬†body sometimes pleads, “Oh for fuck’s sake.¬†Please, for the love of all that is holy, DON’T EVEN.” And this very wise advice extends to medical diagnostics that limit me in certain ways, 50 or not. Got it.

So, I felt really shitty yesterday. Losing some of my ability to see well, and knowing that it is permanent – well, it sucked. Knowing that I could have prevented it by not taking a job I hated from day 1 left a sour taste in my mouth. I can bitch all I want about how soulless Walmart is and the personal things I witnessed and experienced, but the truth is that I chose to be there out of some sense of supposed dignity. They offered me a little bit of power and a very tiny pay raise (Tiny. Oh-so Renaissance statue of a naked man with microscopic junk tiny) and I took that koolaid and drank it and asked for a refill. The fact that I came to my senses means very little right now. I swore that I wouldn’t, but some insignificant person in relation to me said, “Here, you’re good at this” and I was grateful for that validation and guess what? I fell for the con!

That’s what I am more ashamed of than the sadness at the fact that I now have a new medical condition to add to my list. And so I bitched in a pathetically whiny, pukey way and licked my wounds for a little while. This morning, I awoke with the realization that my bitch was not a¬†quality bitch at all. It was quantity all the way, baby. And this is not how I roll.

It’s not life-threatening. It limits me a little, but I can work with it and make changes. It’s not cancer, or heart disease, or the end of the world. Yeah, it’s the end of a way that was, but hasn’t been, for a while now. So many people I know are sick, really sick, or caring for sick people, and I am sad to say that some people I know are actively in the process of dying, way before their time. I would cry for them, but I have no tears. That is sad, and darkly amusing. But certainly not worth the time it took me to bitch.

So, fuck that self-pitying bullshit! It is not a good color on me. It’s the pink of my emotions. I look like shit in pink. I will carry on, squinting in such a way that elevates my resting bitch face to Scarlett O’Hara status (or better yet, Melania Trump) and continue paint it black in a stellar, Mick Jagger way. Will I have to limit it? Yep. But it will be all about the quality from now on.

Break glass in case of an emergency.

It is after 2 in the morning. I am awake. I don’t want to be. My mind will not stop making noises and my heart is galloping along, trying to keep up with the echoes of the jumbled thoughts tumbling down the hills and slopes of my consciousness. ¬†This is the aftermath of some sort of episode; if it was a panic attack, it just upped its game in a huge way. I can’t take a magic pill because I already took 2. I know: take as prescribed. Fuck that noise. I’ve had a lot of shit hit the fan in the last couple of days and it’s covered me in its stink and I just need the cleansing of a deep, dreamless sleep.

I want to sleep. I crave it. I was ready. But as I settled down, underneath the covers because the air blowing from the fan in the window is a crisp 50¬į, a thought formed in my head and then bloomed like a firework ; it was quite loud and instantly jarring.

What if you fall asleep and you don’t wake up? Would it be so bad? You wouldn’t know. You’d be dead. What if your last act on this planet was to spend a lazy evening on the couch, watching HBO? Is that how you want to go out? Shit, girl. Face the facts: that’s exactly how it’s going to go down, whether it’s tonight or 25 years from now. You have squandered a life. You could’ve done things. And yet, you let people convince you that you were shit and that you didn’t matter. They said it just enough times for you to believe it. You fell for the oldest trick in the book and that is the fact that unhappy people spread unhappiness like the plague. And now you think you have it all figured out and you’re cured of the disease but what if this is it? What if this is as good as it ever gets and your newfound dreams are just wisps of smoke on the wind? And what if it’s all just gathering again, the bad? Gathering and building up strength and it’s going to barrel through your heart and decimate you? What made you think you were entitled to peace?¬†

And boom. Fear. Paralyzing fear, heart racing, trying to take even breaths and cursing my stupid brain for not simply shutting the fuck up.

Traitorous fuck. You traitorous fucking brain.

It’s dark. I have not turned on the light. The husband is asleep in the next room, a wall separating me from his loud, droning snore that can be heard upstairs, he gets so vocal. Don’t judge us. This is the ONLY way we both get our night’s rest and so what? That’s precisely why the wall separates us. I should try and get to him, but he has to work in the morning and really, he is probably sick of my mental bullshit. I¬†am sick of my mental bullshit. And ashamed. I know, in braver moments, I champion the fact that this is me and I can get through it and that anyone who suffers¬†from any kind of mental health issue should own their shit and not be a slave to the lies it tells. Right now, though? I’m not feeling like owning my shit. I’m feeling tired of my shit and ashamed that I can’t be stronger. Fight that low stuff, vanish it with exercise, with meditation, with inner strength. But no, I have to take pills. Every. Single. Day. And they are not working, and I know they are not, because thoughts like what just happened made it through. Hell, it’s as if someone just opened the door and said, “Come on in!”

Did I do that? Let them in?

I’m tired. Ironic, huh? This whole exercise is about being tired and I am the motherfucking EPITOME of tired right now. Maybe the intruder is right. Because things have been feeling wrong for a while now and I am nothing if not a faithful follower of my own intuition. So maybe that’s why sleep eludes me; something is coming.

Or maybe this is just the big D lying to me again.

And maybe it’s the stupid full moon. Either way, I will probably regret publishing this but I’m going to because you never fucking know.¬†

My existential crisis (or why I think humans = Twatwaffles.)

Tonight, we watched The Birth of a Nation. It’s a 2016 film about a slave uprising in 1831 Virginia, and based on a true story. ¬†I had tears in my eyes throughout the whole thing and had to stop and ask the husband how it is that one human can look at another human and think them less, somehow. Obviously, slavery was a big stain on the fabric of what makes this nation, but it was, and is, in many others as well. It set in motion thoughts that have swirled around in my head for months now.

We’re seeing a big push – especially in the US – toward the normalization of meanness. You can’t call it anything else. I don’t think there is a sufficient word to encompass what I’m trying to articulate. Malice? That’s close, but not exactly on the money. Some forms of “mean” sit perched atop ignorant foundations going back generations, and you can’t accuse someone of malice if they have no idea of how to behave any other way. Maybe calling it a contagious malignancy is better, because it certainly can be deadly, and it definitely is spreading. For instance, today, I read some comments in an announcement on a local online news site. It was about a political group, which I am a member of, and those who were “on the other side of the aisle” were hatefully maligning the group and, it would be understood, its members. ¬†A friend (going back decades, no less) shared the announcement on their social media account and proceeded to declare that the members of the group were hateful, evil, should be shot, and at the very least, be thrown out of the country. Our crime?¬†Not worshipping at the current president’s feet.

In other words, my friend thinks that of me. Is it time to end that friendship? Most would answer with a resounding “YES.” But, in doing so, would I be contributing to the ignorance overtaking this nation by not at least trying to hear?

I don’t understand it. What is it about humans that make them so horrifically, hideously cruel to those who don’t look/act/sound/think the way they expect them to? This is inclusive of ANYTHING within a culture that excludes others because they’re different. Individually or as a group; it’s all the same. ¬†Racism. Bullying. Misogyny. Ignorance. Intolerance. It’s all one, big, hateful, ugly mess, isn’t it?

We have always been this way. Regardless of laws, religion, societal mores, and the evolution of humans as a species, we haven’t been able to to snuff it out. That one element or quality in our personalities that we all have the capacity for displaying; some much, much more than others. It’s almost as if it’s in our DNA. Maybe it is, actually, and in another 100 years, if we haven’t managed to blow ourselves up or eradicate the species from the planet, some remarkable scientist will find some strand in our fabric and figure out how to engineer it out.

Because humans are mean.

And that’s all I’ve got on that subject right now. I’m going to go cuddle Roowp-1498622411789

and eat something that will likely go straight to my ass, thereby making it easier to see in order to shoot, but alternately making it harder to plant it into a seat in a plane when I am deported to wherever it is (please let it be Hawaii or Sweden, because the Swedes are quite lovely) that Trump dissenters are being sent.

That was a long sentence, wasn’t it? That was pretty mean of me, actually.

The Number of the Beast

Migraine. What an evil, heinous, totally offensive word. It’s a one-word response to the question, “What’s the matter?” that instantly elicits a wince, a vampiric hiss, and immediate sympathy from ¬†the inquirer. Those who suffer understand. Those who have only had an experience or two get it. Those who have the remarkable good fortune to have never taken this particular ride of pain¬†still get it. They hope never to experience the horror, and so they wish yours away with the fervent hope that it’s not catching.

I’ve got to address Migraine personally, because it’s become apparent to me that Migraine is an entity, not a condition. An entity so dark and pregnant with evil intent that really, we should have trained Exorcists to defeat them with rituals. Except, of course, that there is no tried and true way to drive out the demon. What works this time may not work next time.

Migraine: I am sick of your shit.

You stormed the castle last Friday, knocking down the gates and rendering me blind and nauseous with your white-hot poker of pain inserted into my skull. Two prescribed pills later, you allowed me to pass out, a pile of exhausted flesh and bones. You kept the poker at arms-length that day, threatening me with the tip. I survived. Saturday and Sunday, you toyed with me, reminding me at every turn that you could level me if I pissed you off. By Monday, I could feel the thunder, both atmospherically and figuratively (The way you paired yourself to the three small tornados we experienced that day was sheer brilliance.)

On Tuesday, you released the Krakken. You took my breath away with the force of your attack. I lay, crumpled and defeated, on my bed.0b99216b2a2a637b91a5673c83413958

Over the course of the past 6 days, I have given you every offering which in the past appeased you:

Drugs. A darkened room. Cool pillows. Fluids. Drugs. Greasy pizza. Coffee. The sound of the fan blowing. Meditation.  Drugs. Coca-Cola. Horizontal positioning. A pillow on my forehead. Begging the husband to kill me as blood sacrifice. Different drugs. A Big Mac and fries. Tim Hortons coffee. Cookies. Quiet acceptance of your power.

Nothing worked this time. Oh, you teased me, for sure. A slight calming of nausea here, 30-40 minutes of peaceful sleep there. You occasionally loosened the vise grip you had tightened around my head. The ability to peer at the tv or the phone’s screen or normal daylight without wincing in pain. You¬†played with me, you feckless bastard. And then you tightened down that grip again.

Today, I think you may be packing up your suitcase of medieval torture devices and preparing to take your leave of me. I waved my white flag of acquiescence late last night. The thing is, Migraine? Even Aunt Flo knew when she’d overstayed her welcome. She wasn’t the Kurgin of Middle Age, wreaking havoc whenever she came to visit. She almost seemed apologetic when her stays grew longer and more painful. The fact that I had to completely remove her luxurious accommodations from the weird freakshow that is my body in order to finally bid her farewell is beside the point. You¬†know I can’t remove your penthouse suite unless I blow my head off. Clever, aren’t you?

Being a menopausal woman is no fucking cake walk. You are at war with your body. It takes a gigantic set of lady nuts, an unlimited supply of Poise pads for the times when your bladder laughs at you just as you’re unlocking the front door, lots of drugs, air conditioning, and extremely patient family members who understand that you may be possessed right now, but someday, that demon will be gone. It takes the courage to push through your days when in truth, you really could use 2 power naps just to accomplish anything because your body keeps telling you, “Please, no more. I am¬†soooo fucking exhausted.” It takes tremendous strength of character not to dissolve into tears while simultaneously bludgeoning the first male you see because you just¬†know there’s a man to blame for this bullshit somewhere in history.

All I ¬†know is that my ovaries better shit the bed soon, or the chance that I may spend my golden years furtively digging a hole to freedom behind a poster of Gerard Butler with a shiv I fashioned from a petrified tp tube instead of peacefully rocking away on my front porch with the husband by my side increases with every month. Because I’m capable of violence and¬†someone, somehow is going to encounter me during one such psychotic break if this continues for much longer.

“Woe to you, Oh Earth and Sea
For the Devil sends the beast with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast
For it is a human number
Its number is Six hundred and sixty six”

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Detour? Fuck that.

A year is a long time. It passes within the blink of an eye, and when you get to be 50 years old, with lightning-speed. And yet, if you take the time to break it down into months; disassemble the days; a year can encompass many, many things. Significant events, milestones, important moments only identified as such in hindsight, and of course, a great many fuck-ups and fuck-offs and – if you’re like me – outbursts of incredulous “Fuck¬†me“s.

When we are children, a single year passes slowly, and I’ve never been able to figure out why that is. I’ve given up wondering, except to recall with wistful envy endless summers spent outside in the hot sun, the rare “fun event” that YES,¬†lasted all day,¬†and holidays jam-packed with food, fun, family, and my head falling onto my pillow at the end of the day, exhausted but content. When you’re an adult, some of the magic of time just drifts away. It’s probably because adults make the plans and bog down in the details. Kids just experience. Adults create.

I’ve been taking a little time to disassemble the past year for myself, and reading this blog has helped. I began writing again, just over a year ago, because I needed to. Writing, for me, is as effortless as breathing. I do it out of a necessity. It saved me when I was a child and it saves me now that I am doing this adulting thing. It has enabled me to¬†continue¬†to do the adulting thing during times when the low time was so low, I could not see daylight above me. I’ve written in fits and starts, but when I began this “very serious blog” it was to help empower others who suffer from¬†anything that makes it difficult for them to make it through a day. Physical pain or challenge, mental illness, plain old¬†life shit. I vowed to expose myself and my hills and valleys with blatant, raw honesty. I knew that it could help someone, somewhere. I’m seriously fucked up and I own that now. I am not ashamed to say that mental illness has roosted in the dusty rafters in my dark attic of consciousness all of my life. At times, it flies around wildly, knocking things over, igniting fires that threaten my life. That hasn’t happened in a couple of years, but I have the benefit of clarity, truth, and enough drugs to recognize that the albatross is restless again and threatening to come down from its sleep-perch to pull me down with its incredible weight.

I am disappointed in myself for allowing inauthentic, disingenuous things to block me from continuing with this blog and carrying out its purpose. When I began, I had a plan, and it was a GOOD one. It felt real, and attainable, and true. And then Voldemort happened, and I ended up in another dungeon of my own creation. This was not how it was supposed to go. Remember, my lovely, patient readers, when I vowed that I was¬†never going to drink the koolaid? Well, put alcohol on front of an alcoholic enough times and sooner or later, they’ll probably have a weak moment and take a sip. I took a sip, and because I was thirsty, it tasted good. Just like that, I toppled down the rabbit hole. I knew I was falling, and every now and then, I would catch myself and find some solid ground. A couple of months ago, I was on solid ground for a second, and had a blindingly bright moment of truth come to me.

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And then I fell again. This time, down some real stairs. Broken toe, sprained ankle and foot. And I had a few days to lay, immobile, and think. And thinking is good, and it is bad, and it is dangerous, but thinking is also an implement of truth which allows for courage. ¬†I laid aside my self-doubt (because I am¬†so fucking¬†sick¬†of that bitch and her whining) and went to my touchstone: my husband. I talked, he listened, and he affirmed everything I was thinking. See, without him, I don’t ¬†do so good. I stumble around when I’m low and I let the bird chase me and beat me with its wings. When I shut him out, life becomes harder than it needs to be. Don’t get me wrong – I do not tie my complete existence to this human – but I recognize that he gets the trains moving on schedule and we are a team in this life. He’s still here with my crazy ass because he may be well be crazy himself, but I’ll be damned: he loves me. And he heard me, and that was the antidote to the poison that had been slowly permeating all the soft tissue of my body. It never reached my heart, it never ate into my bones, and the fog in my brain cleared.

I’m writing again, friends. And I’m continuing with the journey I started when I wrote the first entry in this blog. I have found the last horcruxe, and I am going to smash it to bits. The map took me a little out of the way, but I’ve found the road again and I ‘m firmly on it. No detours, no tricks. I ¬†may be crazy, ¬†but I am going to be¬†happy and crazy.

Oh, you bet your ass.

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I have forgotten who I am and just what the fuck was I thinking?

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.IMG_20170314_122300_349

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.

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