When I was a freshman in high school, I knew I didn’t want children. I was told by other girls, and many adult women, that I would change my mind. the one woman who supported my fourteen year-old declaration was my aunt Prindle. I remember a heart-to-heart we had on my grandparents’s front steps in which she told me what a wonderful young woman I was becoming, and to always stick to my guns. I wavered over the kid thing at times, especially when I thought I was in love. Mostly, I felt a sense of duty to have children, knowing I’d be one of the good parents. I still know this to be true, but given my health issues over the last decade plus, and my active alcoholism before that, I know the decision not to have children was the right one.
Today, I am reminding myself of this often considered selfish decision after a mental break down. Not because of my mental pop, but because I needed a reminder that I do make good decisions for myself, for what might be considered selfish reasons.
I am sticking my head firmly in the sand.
I lived that way for many years and it suited me well, until it didn’t. I came to a point several years ago when I wanted to know what was going on in the world, finally giving in to that sense of not only civic duty, but humanist duty. I didn’t always handle it gracefully, like after the Aurora movie theatre shooting when I left my friend a sobbing message because she lived in Colorado and how was I to know she wasn’t at the theatre, nor even in the state that day? After that, as if I flipped a switch to off, shootings no longer dropped me to my knees. A callous had finally grown on my heart like on a stringed instrument player’s fingers, and I still don’t know if that’s a good thing.
That callous may prevent me from a breakdown with every shooting, but I have yet to harden my heart against what is happening to my country. And today I broke. Out of the blue. No warning. I’ve worked hard on my mental health in recent years and thought I was pretty well adjusted. I just picked up and moved to a new state for pity’s sake, I can do anything! Ha, right. Not this. I can’t do this.
Do what exactly?
cope. Okay, I suppose I did have some warning that I was on the verge of a break, the other day when the travel bans happened and it was too awful to believe and I felt so powerless to do anything and I projected my fear and disgust onto Facebook and those who voted for that man and then felt terrible for it.
the day my friend decided to work on sitting for the bar even though her own mental health is in question, because she knows lawyers are going to be needed, the day all the pain from around the world was projected on social media, that day should have been my warning, when I felt a sense of powerlessness so strong as to drop me to my knees, my powerlessness to do anything for my fellow human being.
I can handle it, I told myself. I need to know what’s going on, I told myself. It’s my duty as an American. I can handle checking the Associated Press every day. I’ll just cut back on what I read on social media. I’ll cut back on feeling all the pain, because as a damned empath, I feel the pain of others in my core.
And today I broke. No warning. Snap. Too much pressure on the rubber band. I didn’t shatter a coffee maker or throw a cell phone, I just decided I didn’t give a fuck and didn’t want to see what’s coming. I didn’t want my life to end, but I didn’t really want it to go on, either. I googled whether you can call a suicide hotline if you aren’t actively suicidal, just in so much pain that you don’t want to see what’s coming, and found the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I’ve retweeted that number countless times, never once imagining I’d be looking it up for myself. I still don’t know if I should call it.
I asked my friend Ricardo if he knew if one could call a suicide hotline even if they didn’t have a gun to their head, explaining that I didn’t want to keep the line busy in case someone who did have a gun to their head needed the line. Ricardo said my selflessness never ceases to amaze him. And here I berate myself daily for being self centered.
So I fed my dog and quietly told David I was taking my laptop to the bedroom to process some things emotionally and probably to break down so he might want to keep his son out of the room. I really didn’t mean for him to come inn, I just didn’t want his son to see me lose it. David came in after I closed the door and found me sobbing on the bed. He held me for awhile and as my tears soaked his fleece, I thought about all those couples the day JFK was assassinated. Is the sense of despair the same?
After my tears slowed and David got some Gatorade in me, I told him I thought I’d write a blog post and share my pain. Not to burden anyone with it, but because I know I’m not a lone. I know there are millions of us out there feeling the exact same way, and maybe there’s someone out there right now contemplating the gun in the closet or the liquor store up the street. For right now, I’m choosing my sober life. I hope you will, too. If you’re protecting sobriety that is. Hey, if you’re a normal drinker, will you drink one or twelve for me? thanks. and if you’re contemplating ending it all, please click that link above. I haven’t ruled out calling it myself, though I feel a little better after all this writing.
There’s a ten year-old playing his video game out there in the living room, as well as all those other children in this country and the world who need us adults to keep them as happy and safe as we can. In order for me to be there for him, I need to put the oxygen mask on myself first, and for right now, that means putting my head in the sand. Well, except when the ACLU emails me. I can avoid social media, but not email. I just wish I could do more for them than donate the money I don’t have. I’m a disabled woman. I’m one of the one’s they’re fighting for, I suppose. then my survivor’s guilt slips in. You don’t need fighting for. You’re blind, you have MS, and you’re white. You aren’t going to lose benefits (hopefully). Nothing is going to happen to you. I am a woman though, and it’s always been scary being a woman. So much more so now. Ugh.
I tried to find my usual cheery conclusion, but there isn’t one. Not today. This too shall pass. In four years.