Boundaries. Walls. Whatever you wish to call them, we all build them. High and strong. seemingly impenetrable. We all do this. Every once in a while we let them go. For whatever reason, we let go and love. Completely. We allow our heart to fill with joy at the sight, sounds and smells. We feel the warmth of that love and the resounding goodness it fills us with. Over the past 6 days my partner and I did this. A tiny premature starling came into our lives. Just a bird- most will scoff and laugh. Yep, just a bird. A small seemingly unimportant life in the grand scheme of things. I often say those very words. Just a bird. I build a wall. I create a boundary line in the sands of emotional thought. Initially I did, just as I always do. I found my usual distance. As the first 24 hours passed and my partner had yet to sleep I realized this little one was different. I watched her pour her heart into it in a way I had not seen from her. I got pulled in. I took turns with feeding duty. I allowed her to rest, though often we both sat with this little newborn and marveled at the translucent body and the little pulse as it shivered along his neck. It had been a long time since we were both completely captured by anything. Wrung out and burnt out, we had stopped allowing ourselves to be captivated. We erected walls and found safety in the dull monotony of keeping distance. More so myself than my partner, yet we both did it. As 48 hours passed we inched a little closure to complete rapture. Yeah, I know. Just a bird. It isn’t Jesus for fucks sake. But something was different. Each feeding, every 20 minutes pulled us closer together and to this little life. I knew, in that moment, what it was like to sit in awe of a new life. To feel so bonded and connected you could barely contain your heart in your chest. The moment when exhaustion and anger and frustration melt in the face of something so wonderful. I couldn’t help it. I was captured. I could no longer build a wall even if I had wanted to. Was it that little bird? Was it watching my partner give herself completely? was it the moment we shared watching this exquisitely awkward new life as it unfurled before us? The weak little bird grew stronger and we each started to think about the future. I promised her an aviary, still guilty over making her let the last bird go. We named him. We called him Noodle. We loved him. Not an awww, kind cute hallmark sort of way. No this was a complete unadulterated, unfiltered and unbound kind of way. Noodle was ours. Together we fed him and held him. She kissed him on top of his knobby little head. Today his eyes would have opened. He would have seen us for the first time. He never got to see us. He did not make it. What has been left in his wake is utter wreckage. heart torn out of the chest sort of wreckage. I can’t help her. I wish I could make it better somehow. There is nothing I can do but be here. I understand the pain. Is it this little bird? or is this just a culmination of loss, frustration and sorrow? Years of birds, horses, dogs and people lost too soon without enough warning. Is grief cumulative? Like sleep deprivation? I think it is. I think each time we pull ourselves together and go on with life we don’t allow ourselves that deep and complete desolation. We cannot sit long in that wreckage because to do so would be to accept that painful state. We are conditioned to survive and to run from pain like that. Nobody wants to experience it let alone stay with it. I think that is where the error lies. As we run from one wounding to another that pain and sorrow only builds. It is buried but it is there. I do not think my partner and I are grieving for this little life alone. We are grieving for fathers, and our lost family members. They may well have four legs yet is doesn’t make it any less painful. We mourn each time we packed it up and stood as death came to them. Each and every time we functioned as professionals and not as individuals who;s hearts had just been broken again. This is what is crushing us today. Noodle came into our lives for a reason. This may well be it. He gave us the opportunity to love completely and grieve totally. There is no in between. The pain is all-encompassing and that is okay because so is love. It is in our minds, our hearts and in each cell within our being. It is limited only by the walls we erect. Why? Because of this very moment. This pain. We don’t want to be wounded. Nobody does. Distance and obstacles make this easier to take, or does it? Do we just complicate our lives needlessly in pursuit of a reality that doesn’t exist? We cannot not love and we can’t avoid pain. Why then can we not just open ourselves and love without conditions. It is a question I cannot answer.
Happy Father’s Day to the incredible, tough and kind man I call dad – thanks for giving me all the chances and opportunities a person could ask for, even when they were well outside the box. For unflinchingly accepting me for who I am and never judging, nor attempting to change me. You taught me great things and bestowed great talents without ever even realizing it. I never gave you the credit you deserved. As twilight descends I can only sit in wonder at all I have received and all I am losing. Never have I faced a greater challenge, as a daughter and as a human. I love you dad and only wish I had told you that more. Wish I had mined the depths of your knowledge instead of pushing at the boundaries. I love you more than imaginable. To the man who has given so much, thank you. From pets to whales to the odd assortment of groupies, life has been a heck of a ride with you. Never knew what a new day would bring and often it was amazing. From the tripping hippies in the corn patch to the beached whale on fire island you have shown me so much. Anything but an ordinary life. If only I could have appreciated it sooner. I could go on, but I think I love you is enough.
Can’t say life is all that exciting right now. Think after all the wild rides this is acceptable. I go about my day and try and remain motivated. It is different than my usual. I guess it is the Latuda. It isn’t a flat feeling. Not like that antidepressant lack of anything or the dull antipsychotic feeling either. It is its own brand of level. But like I said, I’ll take it.
All remains the same. The same stress. The same pressure. The very same financial issues. What changed was the medication. Guess that is what leads me to think that it alone is the key to this change. Maybe I am wrong.
Interestingly enough the FB page finally started getting some steady traffic. hmmm. After all these years?? Guess I needs tp start blogging again.
As weeks pass into months and life settles into a very normal steady state I can’t help but look around. My habits and survival tactics are no longer pivotal and necessary. I have nothing to run from, nothing to tease out of my scull and onto a page. The drive is gone. It feels empty. It feels lonely. This place of health is different. It is a strange new landscape. Sure it is without pain and suffering. For that I am so very grateful. Should I be bothered that some of what shaped my life is now missing? should I just go along and not look back? Leave this blog and all those countless pounding miles of pavement behind me? There is this absence of any drive really, not just those main ones. My life before was about creating a way to muddle along. To distract myself and of course to dull the pain. Now that isn’t necessary. What I am left with is empty hours with no crippling anxiety. No looping endless ruminations and countless visits from thoughts of death. I guess I miss my normal. That had become my normal. Those panicked elopements onto the roads in search of some sanity. The desperate typing in an attempt to sum up and understand what swirled within me. As I sat home tonight rather than going to polo it struck me that I really have changed. Is this me? Is this a new me forged of chemicals? I guess I am in mourning of sorts. I have lost a huge part of me. Some might say why? Why not run, why not write everyday? When there is no drive, no push no nothing it is not that easy. I push myself out the door and continue to run but nowhere near what I was putting in at the peak of my misery. Just as my writing has dwindled to an occasional blog here and there. Often there were days in the past when blog posts piled up like cord wood just waiting for me to hit publish. I could not get home from session fast enough to get the words out of my head. My runs would be consumed with sentences. they are blank now.
I’m just struggling a bit in my brave new world and I kind of hate that I am.
(unedited) Where does one even begin when trying to fathom 20 years together? That is exactly half my life. HALF!!! I have thought a lot about this since our session yesterday. I wasn’t thinking about this anniversary then. Now it is all I have thought about today. My mind has drifted back over the years flitting here and there and trying to process all that time.
Much has vanished from my memory and there is a lot of hazy spots yet some memories are so seared there no medicine or electricity can erase them. When I was 20 and languishing hatefully amongst many other miserable rage filled adolescents my life was going nowhere. I was hopeless and apathetic. Those dismal hallways and locked doors had become my life. The psychiatrist I continually butted heads with had given up on me. I had few options. a halfway house, a residential treatment center- a life that to me was worthless. I didn’t think much if anything of myself. that morning we were going though our usual routine of bantering amongst ourselves and staring at the staff huddled working in their fish bowl that we knew as the nurse’s station. flanked in shatter proof windows they watched us and we watched them. It was sport and it was all we could come up with in our stir crazy bored anxious lives. What else did we have to look at? What more was there? On that morning we were waking up and returning from showers. The staccato rap of foot steps followed the closing of the unit door. Not a true slam but a solid kiss of wood to metal frame that trumpeted any arrival. These foot steps were different. We all knew who was in the hall by the sound. when you are locked up and have nothing it becomes a way of life. Your senses find new things to focus on. We knew our staff by the sounds of their footfalls. A head or two peaked out and took in this small frame striding confidently down the hall toward the nurses. hmmm. def not a nurse. No, nurses don’t walk onto units like that. Admin? maybe. doctor? hmmm. those of us that were within close proximity all looked at one another trying to figure it out. One of the lifers (well not really, but sure prob felt that way since they had been there almost a year) told us it was our unit chief. I looked again as she rounded the corner and disappeared into the fish bowl. Hmm. I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t all that fond of my doctor and of the hospital so I was just itching to turn my hate on someone new. It didn’t take long. the unit was in a bit of turmoil. as it often was. With that many young, angry, ill individuals your were sure to get some rough times. It was one of them. While the staff tried hard to regain some order a community meeting was called. ugh. For those of us who had been there a while we knew this wasn’t going to go well. More often than not it was for the staff to tell us how awful we were behaving and we had to knock it off. We hated it and did not want to be told what to do or how to behave. I mean seriously. most of us were there because we could not or would not control ourselves. On that day a young girl, not long with us was struggling. I can’t remember exactly why. Too long ago. what I vividly remember is that I had this compulsion to protect her. She was the under dog and she was about to get it. She could not behave. Her life was 100% out of control and coming to terms with being locked on a unit with a bunch of crazy strangers was not going well for her. I understood that. I was in her shoes months before. So there I stood, glaring at this small powerhouse of a woman I knew nothing about. I knew she was the boss and for that she was at fault. It didn’t matter that she had not been there for the previous months. It mattered little to me. All I knew was she was the enemy and this little teenager was at stake. and so I flexed my angry muscles as I had so many times before. She did not flinch and she did not budge. That same anger had intimidated many, but I had met my match that day. I didn’t know it in that moment but I had just found the only one strong enough to save my life.
In the weeks that followed she became the one that stood up for me when my discharge was looking unlikely. It seemed she realized I could languish forever in those halls if I didn’t get the chance to survive outside of them. It was not easy. In silence we sat for countless sessions. Endless diary cards were filled out. She knew enough to repeat the all to frequent refrain “do I need to walk you back down that hall to 7 South?” and each time I would shake my head as words sat like concrete setting on my tongue. I had no words you see. I had no language. I was completely and utterly unable to describe what it was that was in my head and my heart. I could write and so I wrote for her. The worst of it never did leave my lips, not in those early years. It arrived to her in the form of writing. I poured my heart there since I could not unset that concrete. I did not trust myself and I did not trust her. I swore I would open my mouth and that what would be unleashed would be unbearable for both of us. the thought alone terrified me and so I sat in silence. Often the emotions so strong they literally took the air from my lungs and still I uttered nothing. I gave nothing away. So we did DBT. Each night I’d go home and stare at that stupid xerox copy with the faces drawn on it. Happy, Sad, Angry. etc. I’d look at the drawings and try to tease out what was going on in me. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. It was too great, too massive and far too tangled to comprehend. The DBT gave me something to focus on. something more tangible than What are You Feeling? That was beyond me then.
In the early hours of the morning I clung to a payphone beside the street as if my life itself depended on it. I had been assaulted and in my terrified and traumatized mind I reached out. I could have gone to family. I didn’t. Something had shifted in those months. She had demonstrated to me that she wasn’t going to run. I could depend on her and in that moment I did. I trembled holding that phone and thinking it was a mistake. It was too late at night. What was I thinking. The operator at the hospital was obnoxious and snide. I thought about hanging up. Who calls their doctor in the middle of the night, get your shit together. I could have hung up. Instead I found some words, “a man just tried to rape me”. Oh, okay. The operator who moments before had been so nasty suddenly softened. It made it worse. If the phone cord had been longer I’d have curled myself into a ball on that filthy wet floor. Instead I used it to hold myself up. When that phone rang I knew I had to find the words. I had to tell her what happened to me. To this day that will probably be one of the most difficult moments of my life. you see I am not one to talk it out, and mull it over. No. I silently sit with it. I do not want to explain my fear. My terror. I do not want to expose myself like that. I had no choice. I made that call. There was no option to shut down and become silent. As she has over all these years she became the strength I did not have in that moment. In the darkness and the fear her voice tethered me. As I struggled over the months of PTSD and then a trial she stayed beside me. She never pushed and never pried. what I shared that night was not often brought up again. In the chill of her office I lost myself only to come back with her waiting patiently in concerned quiet. Looking around I realized her black blazer was draped over my shoulders. In those days I was a mess. That night fucked with my head far more than I can ever explain. The trial only compounded that. Each day as I summoned the nerve to deal with it I knew she’d be there. On the day I testified I remember little of the actual questioning but I remember the soul nourishing relief at seeing her red volvo come into view. I don’t know that I could have managed that day had she not come to sit in that court room. Most doctors would not do that. She did.
As I nervously awaited surgery she again presented that calm strong reassurance while pressing a little elephant opium weight in my hand. She could not be there but she wanted me to have that touchstone. I knew she would be there when I returned to sessions. There were countless times when she stood up for me. She weathered the barrage of hate and criticism from my family while shielding me from most of it. I knew it was there. I never knew the degree till years later. As the years passed and the time went on there became I time when I thought all was well. I thought I was fine. Our session grew father apart. Months would pass. Meds were minimal. I had myself believing I would not need her. Life changed. A huge move and enormous stress took me out at the knees. I struggled. I didn’t want to admit where I was at and where I knew I was going. That old demon of depression had returned with renewed purpose. Once again I found myself on the end of a phone. I didn’t want to make that call. I can so clearly and vividly picture the moment I stood on the deck. cordless phone in hand. Once again her voice drawing some resolve from within me. I returned to her and we once again started the journey of recovery. Sadly this one was not simple. Often I sat on her couch as she made the calls to my family and the hospital. It was a combination of utter resignation, exhaustion and yes, relief. Someone would care for me when I had given up on myself. I could no longer be trusted and no longer cared to be here. She would quietly look over and lock her eyes on mine before they once again settled on the rug. I never once lied. I could not in those moments. I felt as if she was holding my soul in her hand. I could only truthfully say I was no longer able to keep myself alive. It hurt more than words can describe. It is probably one of the most vulnerable and exposed experiences for me. But not because I am being violated or injured. It is because the pain and exhaustion has reached its apex and there is only surrender left. I chose in those moments to surrender to her. To the care and ultimately to survival. It was a choice each time. I could have lied, though often she knew well before I did where I was headed. I could have stayed silent and walked away talking my life with me.
There came a night I regret more than anything because I made that choice and I harmed her. This warrior that stood beside me through battles and triumphs. The one that tethered me when all was coming apart. It hurts as I write these words as if it was just yesterday. I chose to walk away. I could have reached out to her. I did not. there are many questions as to why and I do not know that I can answer them. I can only say that my suffering had finally eclipsed my reality. My sense and decision making was so skewed. If I could go back, and I wish I could, it would all be different. But ultimately I hurt her. I hurt our relationship and challenged mightily that trust we had spent years building. I walked out into that windswept snowy night fully understanding and wanting it to be my last night. In a calm distant place I grasped it would be the end of us. I could no longer suffer and I had lost sight of all she had taught me. As I tried to tie that knot there was only desire, nothing pulled me back. I wish I could say I thought of her and her words of kindness and wisdom. I did not. And for that I am ashamed and sorry. In those final minutes I was gone. The Beth I know was no longer in control. In my rush to end my life I had forgotten all that mattered most. I can say it was just the depression. But that would be letting myself off far too easy. Virgil, I am sorry beyond measure. You had offered me so much hope and strength. Why I lost it and chose to kill myself is beyond comprehension and scares me to this day. I do not know that I could apologize enough for that night and for what I did to both you and Beatrice. I know years have passed and we have all moved on but I know that it also forever changed each of us. It was never the same after that. I do not know how you found the courage to keep working with me knowing that the phone might ring one morning and instead of news that I was alive and in a hospital it would instead bring the worst of news. I don’t know how you do that. The fear I have of myself alone only gives me an inkling. I can never express how grateful I am that you did not give up hope and that you stood beside me after that night. We have brushed against it again and still you stay. I waiver and hold fast to my belief I will not live. You still stay. In my darkest hours I cry and write manifestos. You still stay. Some might call that crazy. I guess there is that but beyond crazy, it is brave. What you and Beatrice do is brave. to look a disease ravaged mind and soul in the eye and take on that battle is fierce. There may not be bullets and bombs but there is terror and stress none the same. In each of those sessions that I bared the darkest corners and abject horrors to you there is only quiet accepting. There is an ability to absorb the worst of it and still hold the course. The storm that rages is slowly contained and the ship brought back on course. All those heart stopping moments become chapters in the 20 year saga. I chose that word carefully because I think it suits it well. Sure it is dramatic, but can we honestly say this journey has not been?
As I wrap up this rambling post I can only say I know the last year has been tough. I have seen you as human and I have seen your mistakes. I have questioned our relationship and I have questioned you. That may well have been more harmful than any night in the snow might be. For that I am sorry. How can I allow myself to sway so quickly and lose sight of all these years in the blink of an eye? I guess I can only say there is more work to be done. I am easily unmoored and I understand that now more than ever. I ask only that you accept my apologies and that we can move forward into the future, 2015 and beyond. I will continue to work toward changing me and discovering how I became who I am. I have many more miles to walk and much more still to grow. For that I am thankful. Without you I would still be that emotionally stunted mute angry girl that knew only rage. You showed and offered me so very much. Virgil, I hope we continue on and that our journey winds on as there is much territory yet to cover. It may be in a different form now but you are as much a part of it as you have always been. In kindness and love I offer my gratitude and thanks. thank you Virgil. Here’s to 2015 and beyond. Love, Beth
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here's an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.
Depression just throws you in the water. How deep, vast or treacherous is determined by the life you have lived and the scars that you bear. It is one of the reasons depression is so different for each of us. sure it carries all the same symptoms but it truly is a universe of its own once you fall within it. The analogy of treading water is a good one. Drowning is always there pulling at your ankles but it is the depth of the water and the losing eye sight of shore that really do you in.
I have hemmed and hawed at writing about the past few weeks. I guess it just feels so close and so personal. I know that is strange coming from me. I have bared my soul here in the past years. Nothing was off-limits. Why this? Life is complicated when it comes to my mother. Always has been. I think myself and all my siblings understand clearly she is a product of her upbringing and the subsequent years of life in survival mode. She did what she had to to get out and to get away from that small coal town in Penn. She ran till she got to NY. As each of us can attest we have seen an anger in her that never seems to die. It simmers there just under the surface just waiting for some event or perceived slight to unleash it. Though that never seems to extinguish it, not in the least. Most people get angry, snap or yell. Fight or flee and the anger subsides. In the process of reacting our anger diminishes as it is released. Molecules evaporated off the boiling liquid and we are less angry. It never seems the case with mom. There is always something else to be angry about. Yet another item slides into the place of the one she had just become angry about. And so this goes. Life exists sliding between poles. Cool and distant, almost hermit like until yet again conflict erupts beneath a shower of rage. It doesn’t always have to be an all out eruption. Those are easiest to deal with. It is the insidious quiet conflicts that tear the family apart. The endless need to create problems. To push people away and turn them against their loved ones. I don’t know if it is jealousy or contempt but often it is those that marry into our family that get the worst of it. They are the ones subjected to endless criticism and biting comments. They get driven out, weakest in the herd. The decision made they don’t belong. And the pattern repeats. Sadly, I am not sure she even sees that she is doing this. Each of us pull away and keep our families at the perimeter for fear we will get lost in the imbroglio. I don’t blame any of us. We do it without thought or awareness anymore. We know and are conditioned to understand the cost of venturing in. and so she is alone. Lonely and sad. For that I feel terrible. I wish we could tolerate the maelstrom and live within those quarters but the risk is too great. I do not want to lose my partner just as my siblings do not want to lose theirs. and so the dance goes on. We come together for dinners, holidays, or short days spent together before we once again run for the hills. I understand that. It doesn’t work anymore. She needs us now. We have to be there for her in a way we have not ever needed to be. How do we navigate within that perimeter without losing ourselves? our lives? our loved ones? How do we create boundaries when they don’t exist for one half of the equation? To mom boundaries = rejection. They are never about creating a healthy relationship. She does not understand their place and how critical they are to keep everyone okay. Without them anything is fair game, even preying on those she dislikes. As she has gotten older it seems this habit has gotten worse. She is willing and apt to say almost anything even if it causes those near her to cringe. I can only hope she doesn’t speak of me or my partner that way when we are not the ones present. It seems the edit button function fails with age. As I sit and listen I repeatedly stop her. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care nor do I see the point. Why bitch and carry on about someone? Why expend the energy, never mind I can’t understand the hate and disdain. I don’t know where the hate comes from, or why it breeds so readily somewhere within her. I do not understand. I just want to live my life and hold on to my partner. She means the world to me yet I understand I must also care for my mother as she ages. This incident was a wake up call to all of us. It won’t be long. For now I know my life must begin to integrate her into it. Not just from the perimeter on occasion, but within that mine field. There is no option now. The avoidance and distance I have employed for years in an attempt to protect myself just doesn’t work now. I can only hope I am stronger than I once was and that I can handle the anger and the hate with patience and kindness. Sadly I doubt my ability to do so. I doubt my capacity to engage with her for any length of time. I can only hope each of my siblings can carry their weight and that we can each take turns in the mine field.
I hate that I wrote this. It feels dirty and unkind. It bristles because it is the truth. The unspoken truth about living with my mother.