I lay in the dentist’s chair sweating with nerves, all of me tense. But this level of fear doesn’t bother me. It is nothing in comparison to the pure terror induced by my flashbacks and nightmares, and so oddly, it is almost relieving to feel a normal, acceptable level of trepidation. There is no panic, only anxiety. And yet… It is still strong enough that it is controlling me rather than me it. I cannot take my hand away from my mouth, even though I am trying to, and when I eventually manage to, my arm swiftly springs back to push away the dentist’s hand, only moving away when she promises that there will be “no pokey thing” and agrees to give me a mirror so I can watch.
She lets me pull a fragment of my own tooth. Actually, I sort of say,
“Wait!” … “Can I do it? Can I try?” and sort of start poking around at the broken piece of tooth that I pushed (more or less) back into place (it is displaced and now jammed into my gum). She looks a little surprised, but agrees, and hands me the fancy dental tweezers so that I can get a better grip, instructing me on how to use them and holding up the mirror for me so I can see what on earth is going on. I relax a little, because I feel in control, and I can see what is going on. (It reminds me of the time that I was 18 and the doctor on the paediatric ward I’d lived on for a while gave me sterile tweezers and let me pull out the packing of my own surgical wound. His colleague had ripped out packing in the same wound a couple of days before with improper technique that had made me, the person who walks around with broken bones and swallows the pain, roar in agony. I wasn’t letting anyone near the wound again, and so they came to a compromise and showed me how to do it). Occasionally I hand the tweezers to the dentist and let her move the fragment into a position where it is easier to for me to grab it, and we slowly build up this little relationship where I know she’s not like the rest, and she relaxes me a lot in taking time to acknowledge that this needs to happen before I will let anything else advance. She understands my ridiculous phobia (I watched my mum kicking and crying out in a dentist’s chair when I was a young child and it FREAKED ME OUT about the dentist) and is very patient, but the fragment has been wedged so firmly into place by my immediate and panicked repair job the other day (except not properly back into place because that bit of my tooth is displaced) that it won’t let leave.
So the dentist steps in with something not too dissimilar to this (only sterile, silver and super shiny)
She mocks and teases my mum a lot and says that she really isn’t helping the situation with the things she is saying, at one point even announcing that she’s stopped listening. This makes me laugh. While she’s putting a temporary filling on what is left of my tooth.
Throughout the whole thing she keeps telling me that I am delaying her next appointment and don’t even have one booked. She goes on and on until I feel so guilty and awful that I can’t stop apologising (hey, it is me, you know I had already apologised multiple times because I feel bad for most things I do, sometimes even existing). I apologise profusely over and over and she ignores it. I thank her, because that’s what I do. Over and over the word slips involuntarily and instinctively from my tongue, I am pre-programmed to show gratitude to people who help me. But I still feel pretty awful.
When she turns away to the computer I sit up. I am soaked in sweat to the point that they give me a towel to dry off with. Skippy (my heart) is angry at the adrenaline rush. Bob Jr. is required to five an extra bolus of insulin because adrenaline and stress majorly mess with diabetes. On the way out, the dentist makes us stop in the waiting room to apologise to her next patient whose appointment I took up, and to explain. She then announces “see, it wasn’t my fault, blame them.” And my guilt goes off like a firework, tearing me apart – I already felt awful, she had already more than made her point. Anyway, I leave minus 1/3 of a tooth, and as soon as I get back to the house, I write a thank you card (because I had no appointment, was told to turn up and wait for an indefinite amount of time, was treated quickly and took almost an hour to have the simplest procedure. The dentist was blunt bordering on rude but I like that in people, it makes them feel safer and easy to trust if I were ever stupid enough to do that again).
I also, of course, pack my swimming bag. I have been tense, and I want to let it all out.
But I never made it to the pool. I had no way of getting there. My mum took my brother and nephew to the new trampoline park that has opened near to us. I always loved trampolining. I’d have loved to go with them, but there’s no way Skippy would permit such an activity. She expected me to want to watch them. I explained that this would be torture and she couldn’t understand how. The boys were highly unimpressed when we picked them up. They were bored. They’d been in a room with walls and floors made of trampolines and they were apathetic about the whole thing. WHAT IS WRONG WITH KIDS TODAY?! My mum was unimpressed, and I wanted to try and make them appreciate how awesome what they had just been able to do was. But I kept quite and thought of a pool.
I watched the Olympics as time moved on. I ended up pacing around the house at one point like a caged animal. I had a random swirl of emotions and a teeny tiny bit of energy and I wanted to get out and go. I so, so nearly took my bike off of the garage wall and went cycling. So. Nearly.
My mood sunk like a lead weight. For three hours I felt empty, numb. I laid on the sofa and went to sleep.
And then at some point my nephew posted a self pitying status on social media saying he was sorry to everyone he knew for his behaviour when he was younger and understood if they unfriended him and he hoped they didn’t have to encounter anyone who behaved like him ever again. I was like… Please, a pity party? Dude. I do not miss being 16. Turns out someone he used to go to school with six years ago told him that they were never friends, she had been forced to be his friend, and everyone at that school hated him. After hearing the explanation he refused to give to anyone else, I understood his feelings and thought his reaction was more than justified, but I was also a little annoyed at the outpouring of attention he got from my family – not because he didn’t deserve it, but because it reminded me how differently they treat me to everyone else, how I will always be in the shadow of people who share blood, that I am invisible. It reminded me that I am invisible.
I email them privately and get nothing. I try to talk and get nothing. I cry out to feel part of this family that I clearly will never belong in and they just leave me because they are concerned of stepping on my parents toes or whatever. They don’t want to deal with me. I’ve made posts worse than that, posts where I asked for help because I genuinely needed it, because I was going through things that they or my nephew could never imagine, and they all ignored it. I sat there and watched my older sister (not his mum, the other one) message him. She wanted him to talk to her instead of me, she seemed to think she was better. And I was angry at the world for my nephew. He’s 16 and taller than me and he just sort of hunched over onto my shoulder and I held him for a long time as his voice grew quieter. I sat in his room with him and just wrapped my arms around him and we sat, him leaning into me, me comforting him like a child and raising how young this 5’11”, deep voiced, strong
man boy actually is. I talked for a long time. I comforted him. I knew I couldn’t fix it, I knew nothing I could say would take away the sting of her words, but he’s like a brother to me and so I was the big sister he’ll never have. But damn it hurt to see him getting those messages. It hurt because all I could think was where were you when I needed you? Why am I always there for everybody, and yet nobody is there for me? How am I even selfish enough to think like this for a second I AM A DISGRACE.
I revised for 15 minutes this morning. I have an exam on Friday right before I move in with Aunty Cousin for a week, which my cousin, who turned 14 yesterday, is as pleased about as I am. My family will be going to France. I want to go with them, but this family isn’t good for me to be around at the minute and I should be in hospital right now (yeah I’ve been keeping that fact a little buried, but I know I’m very ill and if I didn’t have an exam on Friday I may even have checked myself into a hospital so they could give me some IVs before I end up unconscious and in the ICU). There’s just too much going on in my mind at the minute for me to focus. I just can’t. I’m hurting emotionally a lot. And that is pushing everything else out of my mind. So I need to swim. It is the only safe way to let that out, the only way where nobody else has to listen to the things on my mind and use them against me or dismiss them or tell me that what I told them just ruined their life. I can’t take that. I can’t take feeling like filth even more than I already do. I’m going to the cinema with my fellow third wheel tomorrow night (we arranged last week that we would go today but then life happened), so I plan to swim in the morning in order to clear my head enough to revise all day.
I want to reach inside my brain with a pair of pliers and pull out all the memories and all the emotions that bubble up without warning. Most of the time now I just feel an emotional numbness, it is easier just to switch off and carry on without feeling or thinking. I want to take those pliers and tear out the PTSD. I want to wrench out the episodes of depression that roar over any other thought when things get tough in terms of home or health or the outlook of my future. I want to take pliers and pull out each malfunctioning organ, every stupid cell that has gone wrong one by one. And I want to burn it all.
“Don’t stop at the tooth” I wanted to scream at her, “Take it all! Take all of it. There is so much I need you to take. So much.”
I’m struggling. And a lot of people will call me pathetic, they will tell me to get a grip, they will ask, as my own mother does, what on earth I have to be “down” about. But they have no idea what I’m going through. No idea (and in my mother’s case, even when I tried to tell her she wouldn’t accept some stuff). They have no idea what I have been through because the stuff I write on this blog is the tip of the iceberg and it is more than anyone who knows me will ever know. The last people I would ever open up to are my parents. I don’t talk to one of them because he behaves like an aggressive child, and my mother just shouts now and tells me I’m pure evil or ruining her life, which she doesn’t mean after the heat of the moment has passed, but eats away at my already minuscule self esteem. I have nobody to talk to. Nobody to turn to. My uni parents solved this for a few weeks but that bridge is burned and sunk and washed away by flood water. I feel alone. I am not alone, I know I am not, but I feel alone. There is nobody I can fully open up to. There is stuff I can never let out because it will destroy lives. There is health stuff I can’t talk about because I don’t want to spread the feeling of futility that occasionally overwhelms me when I take a step closer to accepting it. I am drowning. And the only way to stop that is to swim. Literally. Sport always got me through before.
And there is still no way but through.