Comfortably Dumb

--Edward Hopper, "High Noon"

–Edward Hopper, “High Noon”

Suicide.  It’s been over six months since I’ve had this urge to google it.  Six months ago, I put that urge away. . .put it in a strongbox and swallowed the key.

This is the last time you haunt the house of my brain .  Here’s your hat . ..don’t let the unlocked door hit you on the way out.

And  here, I hesitate to say,  it is six months later and he’s back, Jack. That asshole with the hobnail shoes, exhausted, nauseous, spent. Stomping around in the kitchen again. . .rummaging through the produce drawer, looking for palpable courage.

The long hallway with all the family photos: every last one of those faces emaciated, expressionless.   You want to save them. . . load them all into boats, bound for anywhere

but here, where the hurt is.

I mean it is one kind of unholy to go there yourself, but you look into that sea of faces. . .so far from shore.  Hands and arms aching all the way to umbilicus that keeps you tethered to heavy heavy heavy.

Holden Caulfield in a Coast Guard boat, waving a white flag.  Enough already.  Uncle.

Uncle uncle uncle.

Letting Go of Dawn. . . Unraveling and Madness in Progress (working title)

Hello, gentle reader.  What follows is the first chapter of a work in progress, a memoir of bipolar, borderline, mental illness. . .PTSD and journey of healing

The first time I saw a therapist, I was nineteen.  Newly married post- miscarriage.  Her name was Marilyn and she was the quintessential earth mother, comforter and confidante.  I don’t even know how we managed to pay for the sessions, my highschool sweetheart- turned-husband and I.

He had been stationed in the Mojave Desert with the Navy and I was a bride in a rose-colored going away blazer, my little green Nova packed to the gills with leftovers from the reception and wedding presents. We had a cooler full of ham sandwiches and peach- frosted wedding cake, a menu which sustained us for much of the trip.  I still remember the way that heavy butter-cream would melt on my tongue as I watched the panorama of the plains go by.   We drove straight through from Chicago to Nevada, stopping at a Holiday Inn somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe to rest, get washed and phone home.  We proceeded to our tiny place in California, my husband’s bachelor apartment, only to move out  in a couple of weeks and settle into a two bedroom cinderblock in base housing.

It was my first time leaving my parents home outside of summer camp and grandma’s house.  First time traveling west of the Mississippi.

So when we got there, I didn’t know a soul. ..just my beloved initially and it was idyllic.   Eventually he introduced his navy buddy, Tom, who’d also just gotten married.  Tom’s wife Dawn and I became fast sisters.  She’d been one of those Estee Lauder girls at a Hudson’s in their hometown  of Detroit, beautiful and so much more sophisticated than me.  “You’re so funny, ” she’d say, “always rubbing the eyeshadow off with your fists. . . and such pretty eyes. .here let me show you how.”

We did everything together, the four of us.  When the boys were at work, Dawn and I did our girl-bonding routine , going over and over the details from our respective coursthips that led to the wedding and honeymoon we’d each just had, (I always thought that Dawn’s shebang was so much more spectacular than mine. . .they’d had the blowout version with the band and the big reception hall. . .and I had taken the more affordable route, with champagne punch and potluck in the adjoining basement of our church)  And when we weren’t talking about the joy of sex and friendship with a significant other, we were comparing recipes and exchanging nest-making tips. So no big surprises when we both ended up expecting.  For the first few weeks, our shared experience of early pregnancy was all we wanted to talk about.  So many preparations and things to get ready.  The books and charts that showed us what to look forward to as the child grew inside us, the split vision illustrations of hips and insides, not to mention those first doctor visits. . .from giant vitamins and dietary advice to explanations of what to expect during labor and delivery.

I started the squirreling-away process beginning with soft yellow blankets, baby lotion, teething rings and diapering powder.  I would stand at the closet and twist at those caps just to get that smell. . .that new baby in my arms smell.  I loved my husband so.  I wanted what any young girl wants when she evaporates into marriage.  I wanted the lullabies and nursery rhymes.  The bubblebaths and baby shampoo. The car seat, the crib linens. . .  I wanted to be useful.  I wanted to be a wife and mother.

And then, about three months into my pregnancy, it started.  The cramping and spotting.  The doctor-prescribed bed rest for days.   At some point, after having heard someone comment about the luxury it must have been to lie in bed all day.  .I don’t even remember who had said it, the madness began.  Madness that hadn’t been around so much since I’d left home, but familiar and indescribable at the time.  I’d no more had a clue about how to articulate those feelings or even begin to grasp the science and physiology behind it, but there it was again, that crazy insane self-punishment mode that always kicked in when I felt helpless and afraid.  It made this surge of angry energy just course through my body and brain until I had resolved to do everything in my power to be awake and making a difference. I began by moving the bed and dresser across the floor.  I wanted to make space to put the crib in our room and wasn’t about to enlist the help of my hard-working husband to do it after he got home. I had been told specifically to rest and refrain from heavy lifting, but the memory of that advice only made me stronger in my resolve.  I just pushed and pushed until the guilt came in and made me stop it.  I may have been hurting myself with those self-destructive and defiant activitiies, but I was also taking a  big risk with the baby I wanted to have so badly.

I remember how it felt, how incredibly exposed it felt when the bleeding came.  Great clots of it like calf’s liver. . .gelatinous masses I tried to gather in my hands and preserve with newspaper.  I wasn’t prepared for anything that came next.  The emergency room where they jabbed and jabbed at my hands with their attempts to find vein enough to start an IV.   The ward of women. . .only those curtain partitions down the long hallway of hospital beds and the sounds of someone moaning in tagalog.  Oy yoi yoi yoi.  Oy yoi yoi yoi.   I would hear it over and over, invisible like the song of a mourning dove with a broken neck.   Until one day I was able to see her face when our curtains had both been pulled back.   The nurse said she was recovering from hysterectomy; I guessed that must be one horrific recovery process.  Everything just seemed so cold there.  From the stiff sheets and blankets to the stark white walls and linoleum.  Everything a desolation of sensory input.  No warm smells or images to speak of.  Not even television to help the time pass.  Just the scent of rubbing alcohol, bleach, and pine cleaner.  There was a cold war going on at the time and this military installation was not going to splurge on anything so frivolous as a picture frame, carpet,or drapery.  The family that was not issued with the sailor’s duffle bag was lucky to have healthcare let alone any kind of comforting or diversion while they lay in bed and waited for the painkillers to kick in.

A minute or so later, I heard the sound of the metal drapery hooks scraping along the ceiling track as the internist came in holding his clipboard.

“You have a mass near your ovary,” he said.  It’s large like a grapefruit. . .and we won’t be sure of what it is until we operate; I am so very sorry to have to tell you this, Ma’am, but you should know that it’s a possibility that you will not even pass a fetus with this miscarriage; sometimes you see this with an ectopic pregnancy.”

I was so young I didn’t know any of those latin words for medicine, but I did know the layman’s term.

“Tubal pregnancy, you mean?”

“Either that or a tumor,” he said.  “And we need you to sign a release.  Won’t be able to ask after you’re under anesthesia.”

I read over the release form which stated they would be removing all problematic tissue as they encountered it:  ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus. . .

“A hysterectomy?”  I said.

I knew that latin word well enough to ask.

“Yes, but that’s worst case scenario.” he said.  “We won’t know until we get in there.”

I was so alone and there was nobody to talk to except the Filipino lady three curtains down and she could only speak in tagalog.  I had everlasting cramps from hell and my husband was off at work learning how to fix the engines of cargo planes and fighter jets. Meanwhile it seemed that Dawn was too afraid it may have been contagious or maybe she’d just left town.  I just felt abandoned and oh so jealous. I signed the paper that put my reproductive future in the hands of strangers in the LeMoore NAS Navy hospital.   I was nineteen. I didn’t know anything could hurt as bad as this did.

I passed the three month old fetus and placenta in the middle of the night among surges of violent and massive contractions.

And when it was over, when I went home with news the mass in my lap had been removed and biopsied as a benign tumor, I should have been relieved.  I should have been happy to help Dawn bring her baby into this world while I waited to get pregnant again.  But instead,  I took my vicoden and went to bed.  And as the bikini scar began to heal. ..in the place where it had been stapled, my psyche began to unravel.  And upon waking up and walking around on my sealegs, I found the intensity of daylight a little too much to bear.  I closed the curtains all over the house and went to bed again.  And I cried so inconsolably my husband insisted I see someone. His mother had been through it, the doctors and hospitals of depression.  And she had gotten better over the years.  So maybe there was hope for me too.

So I went to therapy.  I went to meet my therapist, Marilyn.  (to be cont.)

Here is Your Handbook for Heartbreak: A Springback Survival Guide for Single Girls When Ice-Cream is Not Enough

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But you know, the most perplexing part of this is, it  I could barely tolerate him upon our first meeting.  And then as fate would have it, the moment I rearranged my thoughts about that, he began to back away.

All of a sudden it was me working to keep him instead of him trying to woo me and win me over.  I mean as if I couldn’t do a thing for myself anymore.  I spent all my free time looking for  ways to make sure he was happy and confident in knowing how much I loved him.  And now I”ve done that, he’s moved on to the next conquest.

Why did he try so hard at the beginning just to let me go like this?

Last week I found myself listening as a friend let go those words in the sauna at the girl’s gym, her eyes rimmed in crimson, tears making rivulets that dripped on her terry cloth dress and neck; meanwhile, as I groped to find the right response, I felt my own sense of longing and loss grabbing at the hem of my heart.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago I had found myself saying such things as well. And in the throes of that full-throated aftershock of agony and insecurity, it also occurred to me

how ill-equipped we mortals be in the face of heartbreak.

It would seem that biology prepares us in oh so many ways to fall in love, but sadly does nothing whatsoever to help us fall out of it.

And so in light of science and lack of knowledge about the actual anatomy and physiology that supports such insanity, here I humbly offer this virtual handbook for heartbreak, something I’ve been trying to do for myself for quite some time as well.

To begin, I thought I would start with a to-do list for you, (but also for her in my groping, I am pretty sure I only said something to make it worse, not better) something printable and easy to carry around in your purse.  Because coping with the loss of love can be exhausting.  Especially when it seems all you can do is obsess  over and over to the point of neglecting the most basic need for sustenance and sleep.

Let alone tend to the needs of a battered and abandoned psyche.

So here it is, something to focus on after the (much needed) first crying spell passes and you start to get some perspective back:

Number one and most important of all:  Let go of the urge to make contact with someone who’s not going to appreciate it and write a love letter to yourself instead.

The fact that you were able to open your heart to him like a rose in winter speaks volumes about the way you view the world in general.  And chances are you didn’t break that mold on him either.  You are a bundle of love and cuddles no matter where you go or who you meet.  There are a bazillion creatures out there who appreciate that trait in a person, from the homeless guy you bought that sandwich for to the baby bird you scooped up off the ground and climbed that tree to put her back.

You are the embodiment of love and kindness.  And what’s not to cherish about that?

Time to pull your petals close to keep your heart safe from someone who doesn’t love himself enough to open up to you. .. so that later you’ll be able to open them again for someone who loves you just the way you are, unabashed lover of the ones who are hardest to love in the first place.  You touch a lot of lives with that stuff, Honey.  And the world will never forget you for it.

2. Now that you have written that love letter to remind yourself how precious and special you truly are, it’s time to do a bit of triage and bandage-rolling.  Time to focus on helping your heart to heal again.

Make a list of cons to avoid.

Jim Morrison's Mugshot - Florida 1970

Jim Morrison’s Mugshot – Florida 1970 (Photo credit: SongLyrics)

And do it first thing in the morning before the light of day hits the empty dent on the other side of the bed. ..and the tears begin to fall again. (Ordinarily I would suggest a pros column too, but let’s face it.  If you have read this far, it’s a good bet you have that one down ad nauseum.)   The truth is, we already spend a lot of precious reality hours fantasizing and assigning all kinds of unearned adoration to the objects of our infatuations.

 

Ask yourself the hard questions now and don’t be afraid to let the fritos fall where they may.  Among the beercans and roach clips that your once beloved left lying all over the house as well.

Is it really all that cute when he burps the words to “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” ?   Or is it cuter that  you were able to overlook it and laugh with him. .. the unconditional depth of the way you let yourself open to a dope who didn’t deserve you. .. like a magnolia or a lily of the mountains?

Get real, Girl.  And give credit where credit is due.

Continue reading

Who’s Sorry Now: A Godzilla Apology

So what to do when you’ve had a huge fight with your bestie in forever

and the thing has snowballed to the size of Argentina in a heatwave. ..

and you have been ridiculous and he has been insensitive. . .

and  hammered at each other to the point of senselessness. ..

each too stubborn to give an inch, but especially HIM?

You take it to the mattresses for a godzilla apology!

Listen, you reptilain toad fart! So I don’t have to say this again:

I am sorry for being such a three-headed she-beast..

Now stop brooding about and give me a hug, please.  You know you miss me already and the feeling is mutual.

What do you say we go a couple more rounds in imaginary Japan?

xoxo  Kisses and Hugs from your bestie who can’t imagine a minute of madnees without you.

Letting go of heartbreak songs

In matters of self-education and scholarly pursuit, I can be honest and say for the most part, there has always been motivation enough to make me wise and willing to learn.  In matters of the heart however, I have been remiss with myself and sorry.  And, in looking back all I can say is: Man am I a sap and a moron.

I almost never listen to mainstream pop or country so this song is new to me. ..and it’s coming at a time when I could use a reminder of what really happens after having let yourself be stupid to the point of laying face up on the floor like a golden retriever: here ya go, trample my guts and eat my heart out.

And sad songs are OK when you want to cry, but if you want to get angry and get over it so you can get on with it. ..I think Reba says it best.

Watch this one.  Even if you have to click the link and wait for the advertising.  It will be worth it!

Ether

“The lannnnguage of loooove has left me stony gray.  Tongue-tied and twisted at the price I’ve had to pay e aaay.  Dumb hearts get broken just like china cups.  The language of loooooooooooooooove has left me     broken    on the rocks.”  —Annie Lennox

That was yesterday.

Diva (Annie Lennox album)

Image via Wikipedia

And a lot of days leading up to it, admittedly.

One of those turning points, you know, when the universe seems to have blotted your name from the roster. . . the blood barely moves through your veins. . .a bag of that birdshot ingested as if from a dystopian short story.

And so you sit with that for awhile.  You drag yourself from task to task, heart pumping chunks of plastic and acid, stomach turning over and over. . .and the tremors and trembling. . .

If there is an ounce of mercy in this universe, let me evaporate please.  I want to go home.

All the while the friends floating in the ether around you. . .