“Even the little things were now a challenge, one I didn’t understand” – Sarah Todd Hammer
There comes a point in the great tunnels of denial that we burrow ourselves into, when the roof caves in and bright, harsh daylight streams in to illuminate all the things we wouldn’t let ourselves see. I am not an idiot. I know my body is nowhere near what it used to be. But it is better than it was a month ago, I can now walk. I feel so much better, so strong, and yet… I am not what I thought I was. As I walked my dog for the second time of the day with my fellow third wheel last night and he encouraged me to stop and slow and say if I needed a break, I realised it was ok to admit my incapabilities to the pair of us… And I realised just how much I was wrecking my body in forcing it to walk so far (not far at all, just round the block, but way too far for me) again. As I pushed through dizziness and an inability to breathe because we had encountered a slight incline, I wondered when things had actually become like this. And I wondered why. Not why me or anything like that, I am perfectly accepting of the fact that this is the way things are and incredibly grateful to have been spared much worse, but I wondered why my body struggled so much. Why is it such a poop? Not a sort of why that you answer with a cause, a why that you answer with an explanation of what exactly has gone on in my body to leave me in such a feeble state (I already know but hey, denial and tiredness!) My inner scientist broke out and my inner frustration broke out and I wondered why it couldn’t do such a simple thing. It just didn’t make sense to me. At all. Suddenly I was confused by… Myself.
My fellow third wheel and I walked and talked and made plans for him to come and move in for a week when my family are on holiday and I’m home alone with my furry rock. We went back to my house and planned to watch TV in the kitchen, but my little brother and nephew kicked us out, so we sat on a step in my back garden with the dog, and we talked for well over an hour until it was dark out. We talked about service dogs. We talked about how I deteriorate so quickly now with no warning and no symptoms until way too late, and that it would be incredibly helpful to have an early warning system, which would mean far less hospital admissions and ICU stays (which is great because of the whole PTSD and hospitals thing). And then because we could, we looked at puppies and completely freaked at the cuteness of them and laughed a lot and shouted about the fluffiness so many times I was surprised none of my neighbours came round to complain. And I fell in love with a labrador-husky cross, and my fellow third wheel encouraged me to just ignore my parents and listen to the doctor that suggested the whole idea and just get a puppy and start training it.
He wanted to stay as late as was possible, but ended up getting picked up around half eleven after we watched a film. I say we watched a film, but in actual fact we just had Skyfall as background noise to our continued conversation about service dogs – the issues and the hiccups and the problems and stuff that were stopping me getting a puppy and training it either through the charity or privately, and potential solutions to those issues. My fellow third wheel invited me to stay over at his at some point so we could talk it all out some more, and has said I’m welcome to just appear at his house any time (obviously when he’s home and not busy). We spent four hours together and I was glad of his company because he stopped me overthinking the whole excuse me body but what even is this shocking incapability and now that I think of it when did I actually stop being that person that used to run along these pavements every day? thing that was suddenly a huge bother to me.
I just couldn’t work out when. I couldn’t work out how. That’s it. That’s the word, not why but how. How did this happen? How did I end up here? And when? When did this become normal? Did I just feebly roll over and accept it? Why did I accept it? Should I accept it? I don’t even know.
My fellow third wheel left after a long hug goodbye, and I sat down to type out my service dog benefits and draw-backs in a letter to try and shut my parents up basically (I don’t even live with them, but they made it clear that if I get a thing that will save my life then I’m not welcome in this house and I have to find a way to afford all of my London rent by myself – even though my uni fund currently pays it, they seem to have control of my uni fund and therefore may as well have a gun to my head). That started to happen. And then from absolutely nowhere I decided I wasn’t accepting it anymore. But “it” wasn’t their objection to a service dog, “it” was everything: being treated like a child, being made to feel like a substandard human being, being made to feel guilty by selfish attitudes, being judged and shouted at by my own parents for having PTSD, being put down and moaned at constantly, being scared, not feeling like I am respected, feeling like I’ve lost my independence and am more 20 months old than 20 years, shielding my mother from all the things that get to me to spare her feelings when she doesn’t even consider mine when she decides to rant about my health and make me cry…
5,000 words poured out of me. 5,000 words. I cried a couple of tears with almost every paragraph. The things I was writing about hurt. They were things I’m not allowed to talk about, opinions I did not feel allowed to voice, truths about this family that nobody will face and the impact that toxic familial relationships had on me. I put it all out there, how I felt, the impact of everything on me, because she never pauses to consider how I may feel, only rams her point of view into my mind and forces my own to fall out like overflow. I got angry at how selfish that is. I felt sorry that she was so broken because of me. I let it all out. Stuff I’d kept in for years (and the family feud that is apparently about me, which is petty and abominably selfish and insensitive and made me want to cuddle up with the grim reaper instantly but thankfully briefly until anger took place of that feeling). And I don’t know if I’m going to let her read it. I want to, but she hates to read the truth.
She hates to read what the people she picked for me to call dad (two of them – the one who made me abandoned me when I was born) did to me, the emotional scars they left. She refuses to accept a lot of the way I feel and refuses to listen to me because she lives in her own bubble of denial. She does a lot of the things she dislikes when her own mother does them. She doesn’t understand me and she just shouts whenever I try to talk to her. But I can’t do this any more. I can’t be in this house. I can’t do it. I feel so small and downtrodden and like an unwanted burden at the moment. I can’t do anything right – someone is moaning at me all day every day. Tiny things, they moan if I don’t load the dishwasher (which my little brother, who actually lives here still and is 13, never does) and then I get shouted at because I put the plates in wrong. Things like that, things that make me feel like if I can’t even do that right I must be a substandard human being because I screw up everywhere.
I am tired of my dad not understanding science at all and being convinced I am responsible for my own health issues (HELLO. NOT THE CASE). I am tired of being told off for sleeping when I’m unwell and can’t help it, and being shouted at for not doing chores because I’ve been home all day while my family “are all tired too but we’ve been at work and school all day and you’ve done what?! Nothing!” I know my body sucks. But on the days when no glucose at all is getting into my cells and my body has nothing to burn for energy, my body just shuts down. When my heart can’t heart any more, my body crawls off to sleep. When my blood is becoming acidic, I do nothing but sleep… (See the pattern here, it isn’t even a normal sleep, I don’t wake feeling rested. And tiredness isn’t the word, it is pure exhaustion, I can’t even keep my eyes open or lift my head or stand, let alone walk).
I realised they don’t ever hold back before just letting everything out at me, before taking their frustrations with work or each other (or mostly my health) out on me, and that maybe I shouldn’t shield them from my feelings for a change. I just want them to see. I don’t trust. I don’t feel close to my family and haven’t for a long time for reasons I will not discuss, but I want to feel close, and it makes me hate myself that I can’t let that happen. I let it all out anyway. And I’m terrified to let her read it (my mum) but I think she needs to. I don’t want to hurt her, but she needs to know why I am hurting, she needs to know the effect her actions have on me when she snaps and says stuff she doesn’t mean like “You’re ruining my life” or “You are pure evil!” She needs to understand that even if she doesn’t mean them (and denies ever saying them, which is why I occasionally record her rants so I can listen back and check I’m not insane) the things she says hurt me. Just because a few hours later she doesn’t feel the same way, doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to have an emotional reaction to the words she threw at me, doesn’t make everything ok, and doesn’t undo the damage that by that point those words have already done. I know she doesn’t mean them and I’m still stupid enough to let them get under my skin. It’s just what she does. I care about her and I am worried about hurting her feelings, and a little afraid of her reaction.
I am so distant. I have been distant from a lot of people for a long time. It is lonely and isolating and I hate it but at the same time it feels so much safer and I can’t help it, it is a defence mechanism. It’s what happens when you’ve been through the stuff I’ve been through. I don’t expect love and I don’t look for it anymore. I don’t feel loved and I haven’t for a long time, by anything other than my dog. I don’t trust. At all (unless something has four legs, huge canine teeth and a tail). I hate living this way. It is isolating and horrible and it only leaves more room for depression to spread its wings but I can’t help it. My mind is an animal and it learned. It learned things it cannot unlearn. It learned that humans will hurt you. All of them. The will beat you, they will make you bleed, they will belittle you, they will shout, they will make you feel like less than dirt, they will put you down, they will let you down, they will bruise you, they will scar you, they will bully you, they will manipulate you… And they will always get away with it. And long, long after they stop inflicting the pain, you will pour the poison that fuelled it into your own thoughts without any input from them.
I guess I’m trying to bridge the gap between me and my mother. I feel she should understand me in ways she currently seems incapable of because she can’t see past her own frustration and judgement and… She needs to understand the way I am and why. My family need to know what they do to me, but for the sake of us all I couldn’t mention the specific things that have been done. The past is the past and onwards we move. Examples wouldn’t be believed anyway, like I said, she lives in denial, and who am I to take her from it’s peaceful, sandy shores?
I didn’t know how to show her, how to make her see. And I didn’t know how to keep her heart whole but I know I break it every day. I explained that in the letter. I explained that my family sometimes make me feel like they’d be better off if I was dead, but that I know they’d hate me for running off with the grim reaper and death, and that if I stay of if I run from existing, either way all I can ever do is hurt them. It’s how I feel. This is all just how I feel. My family are nice people. I’m just a bit of a dick, as you know.
Anyway, tonight it became apparent to me that I could never walk 1,000 miles (I would literally fall down, but not at somebody’s door like in the song by The Proclaimers, instead after about 2km), but I could write 5,000 words. And I did that. Because it was an equally big step and an equally long and difficult journey for me.
I said I let it all out; however, the scary thing is, I was just emptying the overflow. There is so much more I can never let out. Bigger stuff. Stuff that matters. Stuff that broke me. Stuff only the people involved know. It would do too much damage, cause too many problems, break too many hearts. So I will let it tear me apart and I will bury it and hope the past fades to nothing. There are also so many feelings around the severity of my health recently that my healthy family would never understand. The crushing weight of everybody’s expectation, my worries that university is going to be as unsupportive as they were last year (although for once everything is so bad all at once that university doesn’t matter right now). I miss being at uni. I miss London and independence and adult conversation and intellectual stimulation and I want to go home. But I know I will isolate myself in this frame of mind and that makes everything worse, and I’m in a room alone not sharing a flat and nobody will even notice if I collapse there and I could just die and nobody would know for days (this one is a stupid teeny tiny illogical worry but hey let’s throw it in while I’m emptying the overflow tank of thoughts).
I am filled with dread and I don’t know what about. There isn’t one aspect of the future responsible. It’s all of it. All of it.
“Physically, mentally, emotionally – it seems like every part of me is broken in one way or another” – Patrick Carmann, Skeleton Creek
No way but through.
Forgive how pathetic this post was, this is just my only place to vent. Oh wow it’s now August. And also suddenly 4am. No point sleeping now, I guess. Can’t bring myself to re-read this. Sorry it is so long and sorry for the mistakes it is probably filled with.