violetcheetah: (Default)
This started off as stream-of-consciousness writing to my shrink, and I'd like to be able to turn it into something more precise and focused, but my mind, for months, has been unable to think in a precise, focused way. So rather than pretend to myself that someday soon I'll tighten it into "real" writing, I'm just going to post it now.

Read more... )

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

When the event occurs in my shrink's office, there are rarely words. Often there aren't even thoughts that I try and fail to put words to. There's just a -need-. Not a need for a certain thing — or not a thing I am aware of — just that I need something, something I don't have, perhaps something that doesn't exist in the first place. After the session, I try to write it down, explain what I remember of what happened, what I felt. Often the best I can do is recall other times I felt the same thing. Or other times I -think- I felt the same thing because my actions were the same, or because the image of that other time was in my head in the office, or comes to mind now. I like facts, hate hypotheticals, and it's frustrating, but it's the best I can manage.

Last night, after the session, I tried to explain why I had needed to stand. Because the chair was… not right, somehow. I needed to be somewhere else. Really, what I needed was to run, to go out the office door and out the front door and then… well, I don't know. And I knew, barely, at the time, that it wouldn't do any good, that I would go out the office door and it wouldn't be right, and out the front door and it wouldn't be right, and down the street, and another street, and to the river, and across the bridge. I needed to be somewhere that didn't exist, and I was barely able to hold that certainty, and so I didn't run. But I still had to stand, because my feet needed to be moving, shifting my weight from one to the other and back again, sometimes backing up a few inches, or stepping to the left. I had to do that, because it was close enough to running that I could keep myself from running, and I knew if I sat in the chair, my body would suddenly bolt without being remotely in my control, and I wouldn't want to run but I would run anyway, and I would never stop.

It wasn't an urge that started in the office, not because of something we were talking about; in fact, we hadn't really started talking about anything yet this session. It had been there all week, most of the previous week: the incessant need to be somewhere else. At work, during my mid-shift break, I would stand by the chair in the break room and not want to sit down. My feet ached, my knee ached, and eventually it was necessary, but it wasn't where I wanted to be, and it was nearly intolerable. I shut the urge off, several times a day, because in public, there are consequences for doing "crazy" things.

I tried to explain in what I wrote after the session, and my shrink replied in part, "It sounds terrifying…" The word stopped me as I read it, made me want to shake my head, because I didn't remember terror. I had made -noises- like I was terrified, but the only name for what I remembered feeling was not-rightness. No-place-ness. Burning, itching, infuriation that there's no place that's right, not right, -how- is it not right, what's not right? It's not safe. There is no place that's safe. It doesn't exist. I run toward something that looks right, or try to crawl inside, and — it's not there anymore. If I go to a place that seems safe, it stops being safe when I get there.

Because I carry within me the opposite of safety.

Safety is a fundamental particle in the mental universe. It's a quark or an electron, a building block that everything else, everything larger that has any importance, contains. Everyone absolutely has to have it. I have to have it. But I am its anti-particle. Either I am that ant-safety myself, or I contain it within me, I don't know. But either way, I feel as if I am mainly composed of anti-safety. Which means I can never touch safety. I can't exist in the same place. It's dangerous to even try, because when I reach out and touch it — and I always, incessantly, knowing better, reach out toward it — I annihilate both the safety and part of me. If anyone is close by, the shock wave could rip them apart. At the very least, it propels them away from me at breath-taking speed. Or maybe propels me away from -them-. And what if the safety isn't the place, but the person themselves? Will I obliterate them?

My core is hollow. That's how it feels. I sometimes peer over the edge, and occasionally fall in, and there's never a bottom; I always have to dig my fingernails into the wall and drag myself out, because otherwise I will fall and fall and never stop. That seems impossible. There has to be a bottom. But if the bottom is safety, and I am the opposite, then when I hit it, I destroy it, and keep falling until the next bottom, over and over, and each time I also leave a small crater in myself, crater after crater, until it feels like what's left of me is just tatters that will scatter in the wind.

It's just a metaphor. I get too attached to metaphor, and I feel like I shouldn't do that, that it's indulgent. It isn't real. But it -is- language; it's words, a story, a narrative, something my mind can clutch when there is nothing else that makes sense. It isn't real, but perhaps it's close enough to truth for now. It's not safety itself, but perhaps it's at least a buffer, something that neither matter nor anti-matter will destroy, that will allow me to exist in the same room as the safety I crave, will even allow me to reach, to press my fingers against the smooth glass of the metaphor without having to worrying about who or what I might obliterate.

violetcheetah: (Default)
[This is the novel about the single mother of Sam, who is 7 years old in this scene. It's already established (or will be once more of those scenes are written) that he's musically gifted. Prior to this scene, he was trying to learn to play violin, but his 7-year-old dexterity couldn't keep up with his perfectionism; he couldn't stand the sound of notes not being exactly in tune, and he also couldn't tolerate the sound being so close to his ear; he wanted the violin to sound like it sounded when he listened to a recording or to a person in front of him on stage. So Larry, his uncle, installed a fairly standard program on the computer that lets Sam play music on a keyboard and have the notes he plays write themselves on a staff, where he can then edit and play back the phrases in the "voices" of whatever instruments he wants.]

-----Read more... )

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This is the first letter I have received from my mother in the last three years.  I'd written her three times.  I haven't phoned in that time, except to call and ask if there was a family history of heart arrhythmia, because my doctor wanted to know.  She has phoned me once, to tell me my aunt, her sister, had died; she called me about two weeks after the funeral.  

I may repost this letter annotated with my thoughts later, but for now, I'm just posting her own words.  She seems to think I post everything about her on Facebook, so I might as well not disappoint her.  I'm not sure which of her friends who are also my friends on FB have shown her things I've written; I don't mind, am even glad of whatever posts my mother has seen, but if you're reading this and have shared my posts with her, I'd love you to Private Message me if you could give me any insight on her state of mind.

I will note that, in the letters to her, I told her I wouldn't share any details of her life she didn't want shared.  However, she never shared any details, and I did not agree not to share my own memories of events I lived through.

I would also ask that anyone reading this post not resort to publicly calling her names or belittling her or otherwise opining that "What she thinks isn't important, anyway."  You may mean it as a comforting-to-me gesture, but it's not going to comfort me.  I welcome thoughtful responses, but not dismissive ones.


[received October 5, 2015]

I don't know how to answer you. I am not going to argue with you.

Talking to you is like talking to a drunk

"Tell me all the bad thing you ever did. Tell me all the bad things that ever happened to you. So I can put them on the Internet for the whole world to read. I just want to "comfort" you. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me."

You seem to think it is terrible for me to talk to a family member about someone we are both concerned about. But you seem to think it is okay for you to tell everybody your version of something and then when somebody doesn't agree with you — you get mad.

So I won't talk to you about anybody in the family again.

I won't tell you anything about my life — good or bad.

I won't tell you anything about my friends. I don't even want you knowing who they are. Because we don't want to be the subject of one of your rants on FaceBook.

No, I don't talk about you to anyone — not even family. I don't tell anyone about your "craziness."

You do. If you don't want people to think you are crazy — then don't act like it. When you get on FaceBook or your Blog and rant and rave over and over and over, what do you think people are going to think of you?

It may surprise you to learn that I know a few people with your type of mental illness. They always hate the person who loves them most — usually their mother. They blame them for everything they think is wrong with their life.

You are like a little kid. "It's all your fault. Make me happy."

I wish I could give you happiness and peace. But I can't. You have to do that yourself.

And you can't be happy or at peace when you are so full of hate that all you want to do is hurt other people.

It's your choice.

violetcheetah: (Default)
When there's no one else to do it, and I "do the buildings" at work, it means I leave the post office at 3:45 p.m., grab the few pieces of mail in a small drop and put them in a nearby blue bin, then walk a block and a half to the JFK federal building; I collect and sort mail there for 10-15 minutes, then head to the O'Neill federal building at about 4:10, get to the mailroom at 4:25 or so, and collect and sort mail there for half an hour, then bring that mail down the hall to the dock; the truck that picks up that mail then drives me back to the JFK building, where I collect and sort anything that's come in since I left, bring everything to the dock for the driver, and go back to the post office to finish out my day.

Yesterday, as I left the JFK building, it was starting to rain. I knew there was a storm headed this way, but now how strong, how long, or how likely it was to hit squarely. It was clearly going to rain harder than the light rain that was coming down at the time. But I had a schedule to keep, and there's no slack in the schedule. So I headed out. It started coming down hard within a minute.

By the time I got to the underpass under the big parking garage, where people were taking shelter, the wind was strong enough they were getting wet even under there. And I was already as wet as I could get, really; the rain sluicing off my raincoat plus the rain in general had pretty much soaked my shoes — light hiking boots, really — and the lower half of my shorts. I kept walking.

When I crossed Merrimac Street, there was three inches of running water at the curb. But my shoes were already soaked. There was two inches of water running down even the middle of the street. Four or five inches at the curb on the other side. Two inches standing water on the sidewalk. And then the hail started.

Small at first, then half an inch, then an inch, then larger. I got pelted by a few pieces, but it didn't hurt as much as I expected, more like a marble being flicked at you than a golf ball. The way large hail forms, if I understand right, is that smaller hail forms in the cloud, starts to fall, gets pulled back in an updraft to the top of the cloud, and falls again with more ice forming on it, and with the smaller pieces sometimes clumping together. Some of the larger pieces that came to rest on the sidewalk looked like stylized daisies, with a center piece and then smaller petals all around that center.

You couldn't see a block down the street because the rain was so thick, with the wind whipping the water white and blowing it horizontally. No one was out: no cars, no pedestrians. I was out. I was not normal, not waiting it out, insane, sloshing down the street. And I was where I was supposed to be. I was on my way to where I needed to be, and I was going to get there. And for the first time in months, I was at peace. I was walking, but I was at rest; my mind was at rest. I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do, not because I had to but because it was what I wanted to do.

I tried to understand it, that prickle at the corner of my mind, why it felt so calmly good. Not just the aloneness, not just the quiet that you only find in the midst of a rushing storm or the ocean or a waterfall. The best I can explain is: if I was supposed to be there, then… then there existed a place where I was supposed to be. A place I belonged.

The place is gone. It only lasted 10 minutes, a soap bubble containing a small sphere of a different universe, and when it touched me, instead of popping, it wrapped around me, let me pass through its skin and walk in that world for a few minutes, and then wafted on its silently loud way out to sea. But for 10 minutes, there was a place where I belonged, and I was in it. I don't know how to believe it will happen again; I don't have the ability to have that faith. But at the same time, as I fail to believe, I also fail to believe that it's impossible. That's the closest I've come to hope — to active hope — in a long time.


Jun. 24th, 2015 12:19 pm
violetcheetah: (Default)
When I got out of the car at the cat shelter where my friend and I volunteer, there was a dragonfly on the ground. My favorite insect. One of her wings was… it was beyond bent, folded in half near the middle of the wing. She was on her back, moving slightly. I put my hand down and she held onto my finger, so I lifted her to look, and to see how bad it was. It was bad. The wing was creased like a folded paper you run your fingernail along to keep it flat. When I tried to see if it could unbend, or why it wouldn't, I could feel that the two halves were actually stuck together where they touched. You can't fix that, can you; it's not something that can heal, is it? She was dying. She was already dead. I knew it was kinder to crush her quickly, and I selfishly refused to give her peace.

It's hard to handle one wing of a dragonfly, to get that wing alone, without the others, refraining from holding the slender, soft abdomen between your huge thumb and finger. I was in terror that in her terror and struggle she would rip herself away from the wing I held her by; I knew it didn't matter, she was dead anyway, but it would be worse somehow to have a part of you ripped away, it must hurt more than just a broken wing. I finally had the grip I needed, with one thumb and finger on the outer part of the creased wing, one thumb and finger on the part near the body. I peeled the two sides apart, like tape from a piece of paper, and you know chances are the paper will rip, a thin film will come away with the tape and it'll be ruined, but there's no choice, and I expected the outer half of the wing to just fall off, to turn out to not even be attached at the crease. But it didn't. It stuck out at an angle for a few seconds, and then she pulled all four wings flat against each other, like sheets of paper tapped against a table, absolutely perfect, and I could no longer see the damage. But it had to still be there. It wasn't something you can fix, not something that can heal, it's prideful to even imagine, that you can fix something like that, prideful and childishly naïve. I had given her my finger again for her feet to hold, and she looked so perfect, it was painful to look at, knowing. Maybe, though, maybe it hurt less, the wing. Maybe she had peace. I took her to the pine tree against the fence and coaxed her feet onto a low twig. It seemed like the least-bad place to end life. And just in case, if this was something you recover from, at least she was out of harm's way while she gathered strength; no ants to attack on the ground, no birds likely to find her among the needles. I did not hope, but I wished, I wished I hoped, and I pretended like I hoped and put her there.

When I came back out ten minutes later, she was gone. Not on the branch, not on the bare ground below. I don't know if she recovered and flew away. I don't know how to even hope, because I don't know how to imagine that's possible. Creased, stuck together; I'm not an entomologist to know what's possible, and I don't want to call a professor at a university and ask because then I would know, and I can't imagine I would like what I know.

When my shrink read this, he replied, "I know that some stories don't have hopeful endings, and I'm not sure how you would feel about this, but I found myself thinking that the dragonfly was able to fly freely at least once more than it otherwise would." Maybe. Maybe she at least believed she could, in whatever way an insect believes. Maybe on the ground on her back she had known with certainty she would die, and then after the terror of being held by a monster, she had a moment among the pine needles when she knew with certainty — truth and logic don't matter — that she would fly away, when she believed she was not dying. They have such short lives that for her, a moment is a year, or perhaps a decade. Maybe I gifted her with the hope I couldn't feel myself. Maybe that's my life: telling stories that give others hope I will never feel. I don't know, but it's all I can manage now.
violetcheetah: (Default)
I started working with Precious almost two years ago at the shelter "tricking" her into realizing that petting was awesome; before that, she'd been there three years, and a few people occasionally "petted" her with a brush, but I don't know that even that happened that often. When I started working with her, I began by brushing, and learned that if you made her purr, she drooled. She drooled even more extravagantly once I could pet her for real with my fingers. I adopted her a little over a year ago, so I could now spend more than 15 minutes at a time with her, and two things happened: (1) I coined the term "spitsicle" for the up-to-two-inch strands of drool that would sometimes hang from her mouth; and (2) I discovered that if you petted her for about half an hour, she would eventually stop drooling — not, it seemed, because she stopped being happy, but because she would figure out to swallow occasionally.

Precious does not drool anymore. Maybe a drop or two when I first start petting her, but she no longer ends up with strings like a Saint Bernard. She's taught herself to unthinkingly swallow WHILE she purrs, like, you know, any normal cat.

One theory about why some cats drool when they purr is that they were weaned too early, so their brains are still stuck associating happy/purr with food. Makes sense; I mean, that's why adult cats knead, that leftover association with nursing. But then, why do most kittens learn not to drool when they are kittens? Is it because most other cats purr a lot OTHER than when they are nursing as kittens? Do housecat kittens learn because they purr more because they get petted all the time? Precious, before she was in the shelter, and then for three years after that, did not get petted. And so, apparently, other than maybe an occasional snuggle with another feline resident at the shelter, she … she didn't purr. And the occasional snuggle was likely not as marvelously ecstatic as petting. Is she that unusual? Are most cats wired such that nothing makes them happier than human petting — not food, not mutual grooming, not being nursed on by their kittens? Maybe when they themselves are kittens, their mother grooming them is equally wonderful; maybe, for the brief time "the act" takes, copulation brings an emotional ecstasy along with the physical. But other than that, maybe for some cats — most? — nothing in the world compares to an ear rub or a chin scritch by a human being. Maybe that's because we domesticated them and they evolved that way, or maybe part of why they were able to be domesticated is that we humans happen to caress them in a way that is reminiscent of their mothers' grooming. Either way, the result is this: perhaps many cats — most cats? — can never achieve their highest potential happiness without a person. Contentment, yes; but not unrestrained joy, not half an hour at a time of rolly-squirmy-kneady return-to-kittenhood when the world was perfect and safe and nothing bad had ever happened and never would.

Precious used to drool. I thought it was because her brain was miswired. But now she doesn't drool. Because she learned. Because in the last year, she's had an opportunity to learn — to learn something that she apparently didn't have the opportunity to learn in the previous six years or so of her life. I'm so happy for her it makes me cry. And at the same time, I grieve for the countless cats — feral, stray, or just "benignly" neglected — who will never return to kittenhood and never be nearly as happy as they could have been.

violetcheetah: (Default)
Maybe I'm thinking about this only because many of the people I've met through my writing workshop are trans or gender-fluid, and I'm a copycat. Maybe I'm thinking about it because I never had the framework to question before. I still don't, really; I'm not sure how to ask the questions I want to ask — especially of friends who've never questioned their gender — and have them understand what I'm asking. I had an IM conversation with a friend, and it was hard to explain that no, I don't mean the question you are answering, but I don't know how to explain what it is I -do- mean.

My main questions is: how often does an average person think about their own gender? What percentage of your time are you aware, as you go about your daily grind, of being male, or female? When I asked my friend, she said, well, whenever I go to the bathroom and sit down, but I said, that's just your body's sex, which is another question I want answered, but not the question I'm talking about. She said, I guess when I'm horny; but again, that's not gender, that's just the body's response to stimuli. What I'm trying to figure out is, aside from when your genitals remind you of their existence, is there a baseline, constant hum in your brain of "I am female/I am male"? Is that part of the sense-of-self most people have coursing through them all the time? Because I don't think it is for me. Even when I am doing something physical, when I am aware of my body working or not working, when I am aware of it being my body, and either feeling like it belongs to me or that I am mismatched, I don't think about it as being female, so the feeling of belong in it, or alternately the dysphoria, doesn't seem to have anything to do with its sex. I often don't like my body, but I often love it; which one I feel at a given moment has more to do with whether it's doing what I want it to.

For the most part, though, I don't think about my body's sex one way or the other, let alone whether it matches my mind's gender. And I think that's why it's hard to separate that from the question of gender, because I don't have -that- underlying awareness, either.

I am female. If you ask, that's what I answer. But most of my security in that answer seems to come from outside, from other people treating me as female. I don't feel female when I'm alone, or when I'm with people who don't call attention to my sex. I don't feel -male-, either. I wear long skirts, and my hair is long, and I like how I look in long hair and skirts. I feels right, to the extent that I ever feel right looking in the mirror. But it also feels like a costume. And: I like how I look in hiking boots, with a skirt or not, and how I look in loose jeans and a unisex t-shirt. I like both, because both are dress-up. I look in the mirror and smile because I'm wearing a cool costume; today I'm impersonating a boy, tomorrow I'm impersonating a girl. I feel comfortable either way, but mainly because either one hides what I am equally well. Or hides what I'm not, hides that, in just another of several ways, there's a part of me that isn't there. But in this case, I don't really miss the absence, any more than I wish a felt sexual attraction; it isn't a hole I search to fill. The difference between having an arm amputated and having been born without it.

Or maybe it isn't something that other people have. But it seems like they do. Women, most women, seem to primp or adjust in an unconscious way, stand in such a way to accentuate the feminine parts of their body. Men stand or sit in a certain way that takes up space; they touch their facial hair, especially, if they have it; adjust the waist of the pants, move a leg a certain way that isn't the way most women stand. But I don't know if it's just that most male bodies feel comfortable a certain way, and most female bodies feel comfortable a certain different way, or if it's an unconscious hum, a voice saying, "I am a man, and this is how men stand or sit," or, "I am a woman, and turning this way indicates that."

I don't know how to explain better. I feel strange asking the questions, even, because it feels like I think too much. But I'd be interested in my friends' responses, whether publicly, or anonymously on the blog post, or via Facebook private message.

violetcheetah: (chess)
Two weeks ago, the prompt in my writing workshop was a poem, Nate Klug's "Squirrels." It led me to write the following poem:

This is my mind today,
squirrels in the corner of its eye,
joyous squirrels but also wasps,
the wisp of grass on the ankle
is mistaken for ominous,
the ankle jerking upward to
meet the smack of the palm
before I realize there is
nothing there to sting me
except that slapping hand,
and then two minute later
the same tickle causes
the same spasm because
I cannot keep the knowing
in the front of my mind,
the knowing that there is
no danger in the grass's caress.

I cannot keep anything
in the front of my mind;
I have read about an eye disease,
macular degeneration,
that robs one of all vision
but peripheral,
a black spot in the middle
that expands with time,
until you look at the world always
with eyes averted
because it's the only way to see,
but you cannot focus your side gaze,
so even what you see is never clear,
and even light casts a shadow,
confusing your eyes with the contrast.

The laminated placard
hanging from the railing
near my machine at work
shifts in the air currents and
flashes at the edge of my view,
making me glance up and over
before I even know that
I'm expecting a person standing,
before I realize that I am afraid,
so that I know there's no danger
a moment before my heart quickens —
each time the glimmer,
then the understanding,
then the lurch of fear,
then shame at the lack of logic.

This is my mind today —
yesterday — July — April, this year and last.
Each day I think
tomorrow I will see
what is front of me.
But today is never tomorrow,
and my mind's eye aches
with the constant futility.


May. 15th, 2014 10:39 pm
violetcheetah: (Default)
V. has been one of my co-workers since I started this shift in September. Not just someone I worked with, but part of a kind of group of four of us; we partnered with each other — though usually she partnered with Jonathan — sat together in the break room, teased and picked and made juvenile off-color comments. One slow day, we had a rubber-band war while we waited for mail to show up. One night when I couldn't mentally function, she sat on the floor with me, an arm around my shoulder, humming.

November and December were hard for all the PSEs, the contract-temp workers like us who aren't fully vested career people. We went from 40-hour weeks to 48, to sometimes having to stay late and ending up working over 50 hours. We were all pretty damn worn out. V. was maybe worn out more than the rest of us, because she has a family, obligations outside of work. Then things slowed down in January, and while I think all of us were still not as energetic as we'd been in the fall, V. still seemed more tired. Someone said something was going on with her father but I never knew what; she didn't say anything to me, and I don't tend to ask about things like that.

She's missed a lot of days at work this winter and spring. She's been worn out on the days she's been there. And more and more irritated, by smaller and smaller things. Nothing directed at me, but it's still hard to be around, partly because I don't deal well with discord or outright anger, but partly... I worry. She's unhappy, and it's hard to see her unhappy because she's a friend. Or I considered her a friend.

She's been wearing perfume, or something scented, for weeks, going into months. I'd never noticed it before, and at first I only noticed it once a week or so, and I didn't work at a machine with her often, so it didn't matter. But it slowly became an everyday thing, and on the days I worked near her, I was miserable: migraine, lightheaded; I think now that scents trigger the irregular heartbeat that's becoming more of an issue. Thinking about it now, I might have seemed irritated to her, at her, because I probably didn't speak much, didn't interact more than I had to, partly because it made my head hurt worse to be near her, partly because one of the effects of scents on me is that it feels like my brain slows down, it's hard to think, and all my concentration goes to the work I'm doing and it still feels like it's not enough, and I don't have energy left to have a conversation.

Then my regular partner switched shifts. So did V.'s usual partner. And the only person without a regular partner is V. I knew I had to talk to her, but I feel like I'm oversensitive, and I should just learn to deal, and it's not an easy conversation to have with anyone. And she's been so irritated, angry, tired. I was afraid it wouldn't go well.

But Friday, I nearly had to go home; it was bad enough my vision was tunneling in on a few occasions, bad enough I was sitting down during a lull, and the supervisor came and asked if I was all right, because, well, feeling like crap had been a regular occurrence for me for several months, including going home early, and taking an ambulance ride one night from work because I either passed out or was so close to it that I was unresponsive. And really, what I felt now was the beginning of that. Maybe it's just stress, psychological, and scents trigger stress which triggers the arrhythmia. Maybe it's more. Either way, I can't will myself to relax and not pass out, if that's all it is. I told the supervisor that the scent was the problem at the moment, and that I had to talk to V. about it. But for the time being, the supervisor moved us to different, separate machines.

Maybe V. was angry at how I'd been acting all day; if you didn't know I felt like crap, I probably seemed like a sullen child. Maybe she thought I'd told the supervisor something bad, and her being moved away was punishment. Or just was angry that she was being moved, which is annoying, and knew or suspected that this move was my fault. She'd already been fractious all shift; I didn't see her much for the next couple of hours, but she seemed more pissed than before. But I tend to feel like people are angry even when they aren't, worry that they are angry at me. And regardless, I had to talk to her.

So after the shift was over, in the break room, I went over to her table. She was on the phone, but she paused and asked what was up, or something like that. I said, "I can't work with anyone wearing scented products." She said, "That's okay, Bev, I don't plan on ever working with you again, anyway." The syrupy bitterness to it, the stereotypical passive-aggressive bitch-ness of it, was so over the top that I almost expected her to start laughing. It was exactly what would have happened in September or October. It's what the v. I knew then would have done. But there was no laugh, no smile. I walked away.

It was a bad night after that. I was in tears walking to the train, on the train, waiting to start sobbing until I was at my station, and then sobbing most of the next two hours. It was a typical response from me to rejection, especially to the girly/bitchy rejection that goes back to horrible interactions in middle school and high school, threats of violence, threats of sodomy with a broomstick. And back to interactions with my mother, subtle, indirect, dehumanizing, annihilating. I am nothing. I am not a person. I do not exist. By the next day, I was pretty much mutedly resigned, jaw not clenched but set; but she wasn't at work, so I had a day to let it fade, not to regrow skin but at least to let the nerve endings give up and stop screaming. Sunday, she seemed to studiously ignore me, except for the two minutes when the supervisor of the day asked, once there was mail to run, if we wanted to partner up and she very quickly said, "No," and she was sent off with some fill-in guy from the other end of the plant. Or maybe the ignoring wasn't deliberate on her part; maybe she just honestly didn't see me anymore. It was what I expected, and not pleasant, but it didn't destroy me like Friday night had.

I want to be mad. I am mad, but I want to just be mad, uncomplicatedly "fuck you, too" pissed off. But what I feel most... I don't know, it's not a feeling, not an emotion, I just, it hurts to think about her, to think about the her I knew for months, the her I liked, the her who was fairly happy, and, God, she's so fucking miserable, all the time at work, and I don't even know what life outside of work is like, and just, I just want to ask, "What happened? Can I do something? Can I do something to help bring back the V. from last fall?" And "Why the perfume?" She never wore it before, or not that strong. What changed, that she suddenly now needs that? Does she feel unclean, like she smells? Is her father ill, and she spends so much time at the hospital or caring for him at home, smelling disinfectant and medicine and illness, that she needs to surround herself with something that doesn't smell like that?

Part of what I feel — what I felt even before this last straw — is just, everyone likes to be around happy people, fun people, so it's entirely selfish that I want the old her back: it's less stress, I'm human, I like laughing with people.

But that's only partly it. Because: it's V. We were never exactly friends, but we were colleagues, and we made each other laugh, and she offered me comfort, and she didn't treat me like a freak, and I want to offer comfort back. But I can't, not through this wall of anger. Anything else I could deal with: sadness, depression, fear, anxiety, crying, screaming, curled into a ball, any of those I would at least try to reach through, try to punch through the wall. But anger — it's not brick or barbed wire or something I can withstand the pain of: it is fire, and I have no protection. I want to try. At least I think I want to. But I know, I just can not do this. It will destroy me, and I'll be no good to anyone, I'll just make it worse. So I sit helplessly, and I burn with a different fire, with shame and helplessness and smallness, my hands aching with the desire to do something, my throat aching with words I can't even think of, let alone say.

violetcheetah: (Default)
[The workshop prompt was to write about the worst insult from your childhood.]


"You're pretty," she said. I was stunned. I was 8, and I was not pretty. I knew I was not pretty, and no one ever pretended. People said, "You have such pretty long hair," or "You look just like your Aunt Jean," and she had pretty hair, and she was nice to me and didn't try to kiss me when she visited so I liked her and I was happy to look like her, but she was not pretty. But now, in between reading time and math time, Kim looked at me as if just noticing something and said, "You're pretty." And I knew, I knew there was a hook inside the worm, and it wasn't even that I wanted the worm, but I didn't know how to say no, I didn't have an answer that wasn't "...thank you..." because I was eight and I didn't yet understand how to declare someone full of shit, to just say, "Okay, what are you playing at?" or "Ha ha, what's the punchline?" So I froze in dread and said "Thanks," and she said, "Pretty ugly, pretty stupid, and pretty apt to stay that way."

I'd know it was coming, not exactly what but that some insult was coming, and she was my friend, at least sometimes, and I knew, I knew she wasn't being mean, she didn't mean the insult any more than she meant the compliment, I knew, and I couldn't stop the burning heat in my eyes from bringing tears any more than I could have if I'd been slapped. I just stood still frozen, looking over her shoulder and not directly at her, and I willed my stupid eyes to listen to reason, and I couldn't even look away so she wouldn't see the tears fall. Frozen, slow: stupid. I don't remember thinking about the ugly part, that didn't matter, but I was an idiot, a baby, not in control of my own body, the water leaking from my eyes no different than wetting my pants.

Even looking past her shoulder, I could see the expression on her face when she realized what she'd done, that mix of shame and physical pain you feel when you hurt someone you didn't want to hurt, and I wanted to say I was sorry for not taking the joke, for making her feel like crap, it wasn't her fault I was a big baby. She said, "Hey, I didn't mean it." And I shrugged as if I wasn't crying and said, "Yeah, I know," and went to the book corner to read until math.


Jan. 10th, 2014 10:40 am
violetcheetah: (Default)
[From workshop Wednesday night; not inspired by the prompt, but just by that particular word that had come into my head earlier in the day]

I miss things. Things I never had, things that never even existed. Yearning, that's the word I used today; I usually say that I ache, but today I found the word "yearning."

I miss God. Miss believing in God, in a higher purpose, in a kind parent who puts us through hardships — or allows hardships to happen — only to make us into the better people he knows we can be. I miss unconditional love. I don't understand it, can't comprehend someone or something loving you no matter what, but I used to imagine God weeping every time he had to cast someone into hell, because he'd tried, he'd done his best to make them fit for heaven, and he wished he could bend the rules. He wished he could go back and make them do the right thing, relieve them of the burden of free will and shepherd them into his kingdom. My God ached for each soul that would never join him, had a hole in his own perfect soul for each of them. I knew he had a hole where I was supposed to be, knew I would not be with him in heaven, but it was enough that he yearned for me.

I yearn for my mother, of course, or the mother I thought I had when I was a child. I yearn to believe that the problem is me, that the hole in my own soul is my own deficiency, because if it were, then I could do something about it.

I yearn to be hidden. I know, I know, it was a horrible, twisted existence, walking around unseen behind whatever mask I'd made that day, silently screaming for someone to notice that I wasn't there, and I often leaked through the mask as if it were a diaper, usually at the most humiliating times. But this thing now, this pathological inability to hide anything from anyone: it's shameful, and tiring, and out of my control, and I yearn for a middle ground, where I choose what to reveal to whom.

violetcheetah: (Default)
I CANNOT believe I ended up following this particular writing workshop prompt, since I loathe Christmas, and never liked Santa.  But here it is.  The prompt was to write a letter to Santa from your younger self, or one of your characters.  This is what I would have written when I was somewhere between 7 and 9 years old, had I been articulate; I remember having each of these thoughts at some point around that age.


Dear Santa,

I'm not sure what I want this year, but I know what I don't want.

I don't want a doll this year. See, I really like the dolls you brought me last year, especially the one with the straight black hair, because I've always wanted to be an Indian and have my hair not frizz and tangle and not turn red at the ends, so, I know this sounds weird, but when I play with her, I pretend she's me as a baby and she's going to grow into what I want to grow into instead of what I really am. And she doesn't look like a baby, really, she looks like a two-year-old, so I can pretend she can talk without feeling stupid. But Jenny's my favorite doll ever in my life, and I want her to always be my favorite, so if you bring me another doll and I don't like it as much, it won't be fair to the new doll, and maybe someone else would love it as much as I love Jenny, so you should give it to them, instead. And on the other hand, if you bring me a doll I like better than Jenny, I would feel really bad about not loving Jenny best anymore, and anyway, she deserves to be loved best. Actually, if you want to, you can take my other dolls and give them to other kids, if you know someone who will love them better. Except Lilly, because she and Jenny are friends, and I like her almost as much and some days maybe even a little more because she's older and can go on adventures.

I don't want any more Matchbox cars this year, unless I can have another U.S. Mail Jeep. Darrell and me have too many cars already, and it gets confusing. Oh, except if the Matchboxes are for both of us, that'd mean he wouldn't get any either, and I don't think he'd like that.

Mainly I guess I just want fewer things, period, at least at Christmas, because Darrell is too old to get many toys anymore, so he only gets like six things, and mom only gets three, and dad just gets the one from mom and the one from both Darrell and me, and then I'm still opening presents after everyone else is done and it feels quiet and weird and the air is heavy and I feel greedy with all the stuff around me.

What I really want more than anything is for the church to have the candlelight service every Sunday night and not just the one before Christmas. I don't know if you have candlelight services where you live, but what they do is, they turn off the lights, and then Brother Bob lights one candle in the front of the room. And he uses that one to light two other candles, and two deacons take those candles and start with the front row on each side, and light the first person's candle, and then while that person's lighting the next one, the deacon moves to the next row, and the next, and then in like five minutes, everybody's holding a lighted candle and there's enough light you can see the hymn book to sing Silent Night, and it all came from that one candle, and I don't know why I love it, but I want to do it every week until I can figure out why I feel so light and full and like crying and laughing and flying and curling up in bed all at the same time.

violetcheetah: (Default)
From last week's writing workshop. The prompt: Start with the following line, and don't let you pen/fingers stop writing: "That long-distant day when your father took you to discover ice."


I am supposed to write without stopping, but just saying father is enough to paralyze me with scenes, or flickers of scenes, ominous but unformed, the memory of the feeling without the memory of the event.

The flashback I've been having recently is an actual flashback, a "real" flashback. It used to be that I'd slip out of my body and hover over my left shoulder, and I was remembering a feeling, that moment before something happens, but I couldn't' remember the actual event, or events. I felt that something's-going-to-happen feeling all the time growing up, so the flashback was just of that eternal moment, hundreds of times over, infinity squared inside a black-hole singularity. My mind would swirl — I always tried to remember the event, any event, it seemed like if I could just put a scene to the feeling, it would stop. But my mind played dozens of scenes at once, all superimposed over one another on the movie screen until it was just a blur of grey and black.

Now, though, I end up in that night with the gun. Not when he fired the pistol into the wall, not once I'd turned the swivel rocker around and could see the gun pointed at me. I am in that moment in between. I have heard the first shot in the bedroom, known and not believed what it was, heard the second shot and known and believed, and in a second I will be turned around and see the barrel in front of my father's swaying body and vacant eyes. But I have not yet turned, and I do not yet know what I will see, I just know it will be bad, and it may be the last thing I see, and I need to see it, I need know what's going on, whatever it is, it's worse to not know, and right now, I have no idea, and so every possibility still exists, so many variations of blood and smoke and holes, and none can be ruled out.

I can hear the echo of the shot. I can hear it in my shoulder, the back of my left shoulder, as if there's an eardrum vibrating above my scapula, see, I was sitting sideways in the chair, my back against the left chair arm, my right side against the chair back enveloped in the curve of the chair, and my left arm, my left shoulder, out and exposed and I felt the sound there. I am 41 now and it happened when I was 16 and I saw a shrink for 18 years, not counting the crappy shrinks before him, and I described the scene dozens of times, hundreds, to shrinks and friends and in writing, over and over, and not until a week ago at work did I remember feeling that sound in the shoulder, the shoulder I hover above when I dissociate, the shoulder I look over when I don't hear someone behind me, always exposed, always cold, burning cold. I never gave it a thought; I was born with that shoulder dislocated, that collarbone cracked, probably too big for my mother's small birth canal, it's not uncommon, and I did a repeat performance of the same shoulder and collarbone at a year and a half. It's my earliest memory. Not of falling off the bed and dislocating it, not of the doctor's office. What I remember is standing in the kitchen, I remember the tabletop taller than me, and I'd just dropped a crayon, and I was left-handed, very left-hand dominant, but my left arm was in a sling, and it apparently never occurred to me to just pick up the crayon with my right hand, because what I remember is reaching over with my right hand, pulling the sling off my elbow, reaching down and picking up the crayon and standing back up, and then crying because my arm hurt. That's the shoulder, it's never been right, always too loose, prone to popping out of place, weird-feeling, just not right, but not cold and hot and vibrating with the sound of that small snap that wasn't even that loud. That feeling was that one night, and after all these years I know where I am when I'm not here, and it's such a relief to finally know, even thought it hasn't made it stop happening.

violetcheetah: (Default)
The first draft of this was written on January 8, 1997. It is more hopeful than I was at the time, but as hopeful as I desperately needed to be.



I was pure polished copper,
deftly etched to show each strand of hair,
each lash,
each line on each palm.
My reason for being was
to gleam in sunlight like laughter made visible,
to glow in moonlight like a dream of the coming dawn.
I brought joy always,
I thought,
never knew of such a thing as
until her majesty's guards
stole me from the sun
and the sun from me.

I knew my friends would come
as soon as the queen was dead.
I taught myself to lose count of the days;
it was easy when each was the same.
On the night of the mourning bells,
the crowbar easily broke
the mass of rust that used to be a lock,
and I ascended the stone stairs without aid
toward a blinding beam of light
that came from a crescent moon.

Oh, but what the sunrise showed —
as if the darkness had been
a thing with mass, heavier than air,
that settled like dew on my skin,
now black and green mottled
like a charred tree fallen
and covered with moss and death.

But tarnish isn't just a covering,
dirt from outside to be washed away —
no, those are my pure atoms,
joined now to something else
but still made of me.
I held on to all of it for weeks,
but there's no way to separate the two.

We tried to rub me clean,
but it would have taken years,
and it was in every crevice,
each etched hair, each garment fold.
I would have to bathe in an ocean
as pure as I had been before.
They came with me to the shore that night,
but I waded into the vinegar waves alone.

Blinded by tears, suffocating,
nerves inflamed as my skin dissolved,
pulsing blood on fire, but
I held my breath and bore the burn
until there was nothing left
I needed to lose.

I pulled myself from this stinging sea,
stepped into the moonlight,
and saw that I was not what I had been:
once-well-defined lines
were now blurred by the absence
of what once was there.
I will never regain it.

But as they rubbed me dry with
clean white flannel, their fingers
brushed my skin and halted,
hands transfixed by memory.
I am changed, they said, but still
the one they loved always.
As the tide receded at dawn,
I dared seek my reflection
in a still, sandy pool.

The sharp creases of my gown are gone,
but not the drape and line;
each delicate hair has disappeared,
but still the braids remain.
There is nothing here I do not want,
nothing I need that I don't now hold.
It's a subtler luster than before,
but in this seashore sunrise,
still I shine.

violetcheetah: (Default)
Another writing workshop missed, but another poem offered as a prompt (Robert Frost's "After Apple-Picking")


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violetcheetah: (Default)
[Apologies for those of you who are driven insane by second-person references; I didn't set out to write it that way, it just kinda happened.]

I don't trust people. I also, simultaneously, trust completely. Every kindness you give to me, every tiny act of caring, I grab hungrily, sure that it's sincere. At the same moment, I am searching for ulterior motives. It isn't that I later doubt you; I trust and doubt at the exact same instant, latching on with cat claws to draw you closer — to pull you inside me, or me inside you, because nothing is close enough — and as I do so, slashing you and kicking you away from me. "Ambivalent attachment" is the psychological jargon. It happens with kids who don't form a "secure" bond with their caregiver when they are small. We go through life looking for that intense, all-encompassing connection.

It's hard to both trust and distrust at the same instant, every instant. Not just hard: agonizing. People bandy about the term "cognitive dissonance" flippantly — I do it, too — but real cognitive dissonance makes you want to scream, sometimes for hours. It's exhausting, thinking double, feeling double, especially about something as important as whether you can trust someone with what feels like your soul.

Sunday was not a good day. People surprised me in a couple of breathtakingly awful ways. Not people I intensely trust/distrust; one seemingly tiny event was that at the end of my workday, I discovered that someone had taken my jacket out of the break room. I don't know who, so now I am potentially betrayed by everyone who was in the building, by each person I work with. And I like all my coworkers, so it can't be any of them, but it has to be one of them, but... But the worst part was not the theft. Worse than the missing jacket was the probably three or four minutes I spent, staring at the shelf where I had left it 6 hours earlier, thinking, "But I remember leaving it there. Am I misremembering? I must not have actually left it there, because if I had, it would still be there. Maybe it is there, and I am not seeing it." I went over and actually touched the surface of the empty shelf, half-expecting to feel my invisible jacket. I had to be wrong. I walked down to the other end of the building where I'd clocked in, to make sure that I hadn't brought it down there with me and left it. I did this even though that end of the building is colder than the rest, and yesterday was cold enough that for the first time I wished I'd had something long-sleeved to wear. I remembered standing there with goosebumps thinking, "Gee, I kinda wish I hadn't left my jacket in the break room." And now, six hours later, I stood there in the cold thinking, "Did I actually think that or am I making up that memory?"

I got home and sat with Butler in my lap, petting him more consciously than usual, needing the comfort, and also needing to give him happiness, needing to do something good, to feel good about myself, to feel his happiness. I was after a while completely at peace. But at the same moment, I was in pain. I ached over the betrayals of the day and wanted to scream, while gazing at Butler gazing at me and feeling sleepy peace. It isn't quite the same as cognitive dissonance, but it's still painful to do. And yet, it feels right. The complexity is somehow soothing, feels like what I'm supposed to be doing. But is it something I should do? Is it normal? Not "Is it different from everyone else and therefore bad?", but, is it pathological? Is it maladaptive? Should I refrain from holding two feelings at once because it's somehow hurting my mind, my brain? Just because something feels good doesn't mean it's good for me.

No: especially because something feels good, I need to suspect that it isn't good for me. I mean, I have a track record of calming myself in really bad ways: Shutting off, going numb. Ten years of slicing my arm, or my legs. Attaching myself to people in such all-encompassing ways that I disappeared in them, wore them out, drove them away. Why on earth would I trust myself to make good decisions, to act in my own best interests?

I do not trust myself. Even when I am absolutely sure I'm right, even when a memory is clear, even when I read the facts myself, when someone questions me, I immediately think, "Did I get that right? Did I misread the article, misread the situation? Did I make that up?" The most solid certainty shifts like sand, because it is my certainty.

I trust you completely, but I am absolutely sure you are untrustworthy. And I am sure you are untrustworthy precisely because I trust you. I cannot trust myself to make good decisions about who to trust. I have a track record, from the moment I was born, of completely trusting absolutely the wrong people. Why should I trust anyone I trust?

So at least for me, my own attachment disorder, my trust issues, are in the end all about me. It's not my parents I don't trust, or my friends, or anonymous coworkers when I'm not in the room. It's me I don't trust. It's me I'm suspicious of, that I second-guess until I third-guess until I don't know which certainty to discount. Like all the epiphanies I've ever had, it seems blindingly obvious now. I don't know if seeing it will help anything. Maybe?

violetcheetah: (Default)
Although once again I couldn't make Wednesday's workshop, Toni provided this poem as a prompt, and the following is what came to mind.


[Despite the way the beginning sounds, this event occurred not when I was still a child, but when I was 19 and a sophomore in college.]

It was 5 o'clock in the morning, and now it was safe to sleep, the sky not yet blue but not still grey, the half-creatures under my bed and in my closet dissolving to dust in the new morning. I lay with my back to the window, my eyes open, still hungry for daylight, watching the anti-shadow of the window lighten on the wall above my desk. I fell into sleep a few times, as always, always jerking awake at the last minute until all of me could fall at once.

See, there was a rope around my heart, a slipknot, with a long length leading out my back beside my spine between my shoulder blades. Most of the time, it was slack; but I could feel it, portentously heavy, knowing what was coming sooner or later. Sometimes it would catch on something as I walked, or a hand would reach through the back of the chair I was sitting in and yank, and my heart would be jerked back and out of my body completely — I could feel it, almost see it, hovering in the air two feet behind me — and I would have to stop where I was, stop what I was doing, stop thinking, even, and wait for it to fight itself back into my chest, thudding hard as it played catch-up for the beats it had missed. It was important not to move while my heart was missing, because if I wasn't precisely where it had left me, it might not be able to find me.

Whenever I tried to sleep, of course the rope dangled over the edge of that cliff behind me, all the way to the bottom, and the sunlight never reached that far down so the half-beings there never dissolved even when it was dawn where I was, and they pulled the rope like it was attached to a church bell. I had to resist each time until the angle was just right and they pulled the entire belfry of my body down with the bell, until my chest and the rest of me fell with my heart down into darkness. It was still painful, still terrifying in the pitch-black at the bottom of the cliff, but at least I was whole, and I with my heart could slowly work my way up the rock face and back into the world.

I lay that morning as always, resisting the pull, too tired to be afraid except for those moments when my chest was empty. I watched that window anti-shadow as I failed to fall and waited to fall. And then something new happened.

I heard a soft noise behind me, through the open window. It should have been the unremarkable wingbeats and coo of a passing pigeon. Except at the same moment, I saw the grey shadow pass in front of me. I saw the noise, I heard the shadow, and my heart nearly left my body, but I was backwards and the rope pulled at my heart through my sternum, and my sternum did not give and I fell forward and sideways and up and not back, and I was in the space between the feathers and the song, I was within the dove, clothed in down and above the ground.

It was a second. Not even a second. But it echoed, reverberated like my drumming heartbeat. I had fallen forward. I had fallen upward. Forward existed, upward existed. I had been there, all of me, whole. I had flown. I did not yet conceive of a future for myself — didn't dare, couldn't dare, to think more than a week ahead because the weight of even imagining that impending time was one of the things that could crush me — but I dared imagine a single second of a possible future, when perhaps I would maybe fall forward again.


Sep. 6th, 2013 12:15 am
violetcheetah: (chess)
I wasn't able to attend the writing workshop this Wednesday, but Toni usually posts one of the prompts on his Facebook page. This one (a poem, Joanna Klink's "Some Feel Rain") didn't strike a chord in me overall. But there was one fragment that resonated, and I ended up with this blog post.

[Trigger warning: sexual abuse]

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violetcheetah: (butler)
I grew up in Kentucky, and we didn't have air conditioning in the house. Except on the hottest days in summer — highs above 100 — I never missed it, and even then, I slept with a blanket at night even in August. When I went to church in the summer, I brought a jacket. In high school, they kept the place so cold that I wore my puffy winter coat in class all year. I mean, yeah, they kept it chillier than they needed to, but not that cold. Senior year, my first boyfriend bought me one of those reusable hand-warmers where you flex the metal disc inside the plastic packet to start an exothermic chemical reaction — supersaturated sodium acetate, I think — and then when you get home you boil it for 5 minutes to dissolve the crystals and use it again the next day. It was the most incredibly thoughtful gift he could have given me.

Of course when I moved to Boston, I was always freezing. I didn't spend much time in the dorm lounge in the summer because it was air-conditioned. I wore sweaters at night even in August. I had sock liners and glove liners for winter, with metallic strands woven in, although that was probably mainly for illusion; it was probably just a matter of having two layers that kept my fingers and toes warm. Or at least less frozen; they still ached with cold all the time.

Now, 23 years after the move, I'm usually too warm. It amazes people when they find out I grew up in Kentucky and now I love winter. I always tell them that I used to freeze even in the South, that I froze up here for 10 years, and then it was like a switch flipped, and I acclimated, and now I wilt if it's over 80 degrees. I'm a New Englander now, hardier than half the people born and raised here.

I had an epiphany the other evening. I didn't get home until really late last night, and I was freezing on the train. I'm never cold on the train, but I pulled my arms inside my tee shirt sleeves and crossed them over my chest. I had to get up after 3 hours' sleep to clean at the cat shelter, and even bustling around scooping poop and changing bedding, I didn't mind that the windows were open and the A/C off. There's nothing surprising in this; I think most everyone gets cold when they are sleep-deprived; it's the way the human body generally works, trying to coerce you into lying down and resting.

Then on the train ride in, still without enough sleep and still cold, I had the "duh!" moment. I moved to Massachusetts in 1990; 10 years later was 2000. That was the year I started taking risperidone; it's an antipsychotic, but I take it at a lower dose, for PTSD. I take it an hour before bed, and it doesn't make me drowsy, doesn't suck me down into not-quite-unconsciousness the way sleep meds and sedatives do. What it does is slow down the incessant windmill in my brain.

Before I started taking it, it took me two to three hours to fall asleep. At least. I would start to doze, and then at the edge of sleep, I would jerk back awake — not just to drowsy consciousness, but completely alert, heart pounding, adrenaline surging, sensing a presence. Over and over. Every night. Except for the nights where I would drift sideways, not into sleep, but into something I still don't have a name for.

I could watch myself dreaming, or at least acting like I was dreaming: I moved, my feet apparently walking, my hands either pushing against or reaching toward something or someone who wasn't there. But I had no idea who was in the dream with me; I couldn't read my own mind. When other people were with me as I slept, they would talk to me, and sometimes my mouth would talk back, but I had no idea why it was saying the words it was saying, or who it thought it was saying them to. It was shameful, because if I was aware of myself doing it, then I must be doing it on purpose, I must be trying to get attention, a drama queen, which in my family was one of the worst sins. But if I tried to stop "acting," it was worse: I was gone completely, and by the accounts to those co-sleepers, I was still talking, running, hitting sometimes.

The nights where I watched myself "dream," I don't know how long that lasted: an hour, perhaps, maybe more. Then I guess I would finally fall into actual sleep. If I was lucky, I didn't remember the actual dreams. The dreams I had weren't "real" flashbacks, because they weren't of actual events, which I could recall dispassionately; I dreamt of fires, and drowning, and nuclear holocausts, especially nuclear holocausts, knowing I'd gotten a deadly dose of radiation, that soon I would be horribly ill and wish I could die, but would be without the strength to do anything about it, and I knew I should kill myself while I could still do it painlessly, but I couldn't make myself do it, and I desperately searched through the wasteland of blowing yellow-orange sand looking for someone who was still alive and willing to kill me. Sometimes I would awaken early in the search, but most nights I was, I guess, too tired to wake up, and I would walk and walk, knowing the clock was ticking and the hideous sickness was drawing closer. When I finally did awaken, I was mentally exhausted already, and the panicked, searching dread stayed with me throughout the day, a sense of urgency without a goal.

So some nights I just didn't go to sleep. I didn't feel any more drained the next day if I just stayed up and wrote or sewed or played solitaire until it was time to go to class or to work. And at least the tiredness dampened the restless, purposeless urgency. So I got into an irregular pattern, in which I'd often stay up all night one night and sleep 12 hours the next. That's an average of six hours — well, 5.5, because there was still the hour it took to fall asleep even after an all-nighter, but if I was taking two to three hours to fall asleep each night otherwise, and then actually sleeping for only five or six hours anyway before a dream woke me, then this was much more efficient, right?

In 2000, I started taking the risperidone. The first night, I lay in bed with the usual anxiety — knowing I was about to go through the two-hour ordeal of spinning and jerking awake and then dreams or worse — plus the added anxiety of knowing I'd just ingested a mind-altering substance and didn't know what it would do to me. I drifted down, not into sleep, but also not into the abyss and fallingness. I just lay, my mind wafting, but not spinning. It was comfortable. I thought at some point, well, this is better; I wonder when the falling will start. And then it was light, and I realized after about three minutes' confusion that it was morning. I'd had an odd dream about being in a cow pasture, and I was looking for something, but it wasn't a nightmare, and I hadn't even been confused in the dream, let alone scared.

About a week later, I got up to get the paper and the front door was unlocked. I hadn't checked the night before to make sure it was locked. I thought back: I didn't remember checking the lock for several days. And I hadn't checked my closet before bed, or checked under the desk. There was simply no one to look for anymore. When I woke up at night and went to the bathroom, I just walked there in the dark. I didn't turn on the bedroom light and open the door and walk two quick steps to turn on the hall light and walk to the bathroom and turn on that light and then carefully avoid looking in the mirror while I washed my hands because someone might be standing behind me in the reflection. I just got up and took a leak and washed my hands and went back to bed. I'd been doing it for a week without even thinking about the change.

And if my math is right, that was about the time I stopped being cold all the time. When I started sleeping for nine hours a night on average. Instead of six, or five, or less. Thirteen years later, I have finally put two and two together.


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Violet Wilson

October 2016



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