No one understands.
I need to escape this.
– The triple lie.
This lie lives inside of me. Sometimes it shouts, other times it whispers. But it’s always there.
And I’ve convinced myself that I will pass out of this life being unremarkable to anyone. My parents long since in the grave, my last breath will be taken with an empty hand clasping. I will not know comfort in the eyes of the one I love, or enjoy the station of being the most important person in someone else’s life. I will pass quietly and un-remarkably out of this world with the second half of my bed ice-cold.
And in between that moment and this, I will work to convince myself that I don’t mind. And as I try to come to some fragile peace with the notion of struggling through cancer or heart failure unmarried and alone, I become intimately acquainted with the word ‘resignation’.
I am resigned to this life sentence he saw fit to hand me, I tell myself. He probably should have just killed me, because what he left behind is rather like a bug lying on its back in a pool of poison. I’m twitching, yes, but it wasn’t quite enough Raid to finish me off.
What remains is an unrecognizable shell of mistrust and skepticism and suspicion. Of self pity and cynicism and pain. In an effort to escape what I’ve become, I have found the enigmatic power and exquisite magic of numbness.
Give me Shark Week and digital farming and all manner of time-wasting endeavors. Give me bedtime at 8:30 and dust collecting on the manuscript I’m supposed to be writing. Give me online shopping and kid sports and play dates. And above all, give me FOOD.
Because I like being numb. It’s comfortable. Just nod if you can hear me…is there anyone home? Productivity can suck it. You’re not the boss of me, progress! I will wallow in my pile of Hi-Chew wrappers and failure and you can go eat a dick, personal growth.
Numbness is a double edged sword because, of course, it’s an opting out of feeling anything. Which works, because lately I don’t want to feel wide swings of emotion of any kind. I avoid feelings. I like it grey. I’m aware that that’s unhealthy as hell, but my nervous system took a real good lightening zap to the CPU five years ago and it simply doesn’t operate the same way anymore.
There is now one all-pervasive operating system remaining: pain avoidance at all costs. And, my definition of what constitutes pain has also changed. It takes next to nothing to ignite the tight chest and the heart palpitations and the labored breathing. Only a handful of people in my life even know I now suffer from anxiety attacks, or know what can trigger them. Moreover, I don’t even want to try and explain it to them. It sounds…weak. Selfish. Illogical. What’s that? You had a panic attack at the movies when you saw a dad hold his son’s hand? Mmmmmm…ok.
Because I know what they’ll think, but never say. I should get over it. Move past it. Get on with my life. You know what kid? Getting dumped sucks. But you’ve got to move on.
Yes, getting dumped sucks. And then there was the way I got dumped: ghosted in a state where I knew next to nobody whilst fully engrossed in a ‘normal marriage’, fresh out of giving him two brand new babies after moving away from my friends and family in order to help his career. No visit to his children in 4 years while I field their endless tears and questions. My PTSD has PTSD.
Special achievement ‘brutality’ achieved. Honey leveled up! Bonus lives awarded.
Is there any wonder why I’m not over it? Not to me. But to the outside world that doesn’t live the daily consequences of an abandoning spouse and father, I likely look…pitiable. I’m five years out, still yammering on about this joke of a man who has long-since forgotten my birthday or the curve of my face. But it occurred to me the other day that for me personally in this fiasco, the lasting damage as a woman has mostly been to do with how I see myself and how I relate to and trust men. But that mistrust of men is not on him anymore, that’s on me. The fact that he spurned the problem into existence does not mean that I have license to perpetuate it and fuel wildly unhealthy beliefs in my head about men in general or my self-worth. To lay endless blame on Honey for the duration of my life about that would be immature at best. I understand that much. But the problem exists nonetheless.
I’ve given up trying to get over it. I’m now committed to trying to move past it. Like it’s nothing more than a bunch of broken jars of Prego blocking the canned goods aisle. Excuse me, I’m just gonna try to skooch right past this messy red nightmare…
Or if that analogy isn’t quite your cup of tea…
Somehow I’m going to take this jumbled mess of nightmarish clown dolls and turn it around quickly in my hands like a squeaky balloon animal and make a mother-effin’ unicorn out of it. Better analogy? Maybe not.
So as a result I find I’m walking through life with these emotional landmines hidden within a plethora of seemingly normal endeavors. There’s nowhere to hide, really. Not from commercials featuring happy families, not at school picking up my kids, not even in a damn drive through.
Five years. Five years on, and this garbage is still happening to me. I’m in a drive through. I see a dad walking with his son through the parking lot of Beef n Bun in his Little league outfit. He turns to his boy and smiles and says ‘whattya want, kiddo?’ Broke my f****** heart. Five years in, and no way to turn away from the suffering of what he stole from my children. There is no immunity from this anywhere. And as if on cue, in marches the lie.
No one understands.
I need to escape this.
What’s worse, I don’t care. I don’t even have the energy to figure out WHY I don’t care. The usual me would delve into reasons and motivations and causal factors. This version of me has no desire to delve. I spent the last several years doing that. The only thing that it produces is burnouts on the lawn of my mind. The circular logic is maddening and there’s always a hell of a mess to clean up after in the morning.
So it goes without saying that I DEFINITELY don’t want to be put in situations that will make me cry, even happy tears. I cried more than I was aware a human being COULD cry after Honey left, so the impetus to tear-up alone gives me anxiety and near-panic. I’d rather just feel…nothing.
I’m going to admit something that I’ve never admitted to another living soul.
Going to church now gives me panic attacks. I’ve tried to hide it for years. I get a pit of dread in my stomach and know that when I do decide to fight it and make myself go, that I’m going to be in the same familiar position as I was the week before: hiding in some hallway or near the cafe, watching the pastor on a screen and feeling like an idiot. Hiding out in an area of the building where no one goes. Finding a seat on a step in a stairwell. Being ANYWHERE but in the service, really. I get the kids to their class and I become a ghost until it’s time to pick them up.
I can’t be around complete nuclear families who love God and get to be together. Couples, families, any of it. It’s the single biggest trigger I have and I have told no one.
But at least I get my kids there for some learning and fellowship. That’s the biggest win for me. I will go through the panic and pain so they can be there.
PTSD, if you struggle with that as I do, is full of these kinds of illogical treasures, pain avoidance included. For example, going to the bank was a trigger, so I didn’t set a PIN number on my ATM card for over 2 years because I didn’t want to go in to handle it. 2 years I couldn’t withdraw cash or shop at certain stores that wouldn’t process my debit card as a credit card. Illogical. Totally. But once I was down the road and I could identify it for what it was, it became…amusing to me. Laughing at absurdity is my jam, if you didn’t already know that about me.
So why then should anyone tune in to listen to me? I’m a self-admitted train-wreck. One minute seemingly healthy and functional, the next filled with rage or sorrow and nowhere safe to park it. And what’s worse, according to the calendar of ‘tidy bows on things’ my half-full grief cup is out of fashion. I am clearly behind schedule, if there is such a thing,
You should tune in because if you’re anything like me, you need to hear this: The truth is, God doesn’t call us to live this way. I know this to to be true.
God promises: Do not be afraid of anything you’re suffering. I will give you a crown of life. Revelation 2:10
Well, Lord, my crown feels a bit like it’s made of Whopper wrappers and shame, but I’m going to choose to believe your version of my worth, seeing as how you’re the creator of everything and know infinitely more than I ever could.
I promise this post has a point. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, it’s an invitation. An invitation for anyone who relates to this to find and hold on to the truth that’s buried deep under broken jars of sauce and aimless web shopping and painful triggers.
We can rise above this crap. We can. Yes, it takes a long time. Yes, it is painful. But God does not call us to live this way. Full stop. Aim for the next victory, no matter how small, and give yourself grace for the failures. Give yourself permission to feel.
That three-pronged false pronouncement of our worth? We can drag it out into the light and call it what it is. It is a damn lie. And while numbness may bring temporary comfort, it has no business in our lives in the long term.
Who knows? Maybe I’m not the only ‘grief calendar’ non-conformist out there. Maybe I’m saying some things you can relate to, and if it is in any way helpful to hear that you’re not alone, then it’s worthwhile to have written this.
You’re not alone.
You are safe and sound right where you are.
– The TRUTH.