I bet you’re wondering what those 4 words have in common. I’ll probably tell you. But I’m warning you, this one is going to be raw. Unedited. I might even delete it. I don’t know. I just know today is not a good day and I am drowning under it all.
It is a classic February day here in the Northwest — gray and raining, the wind blowing the rain until it hits everything with a sharp sting. The smart folks are hunkered down in front of their fires with coffee and a good book, or otherwise sheltered from the rain. Me? I just got back from walking the dog in the cold wetness. I walk at a nearby college campus and I passed a surprising number of umbrellas. (Locals usually avoid umbrellas and go for good rain gear.)
Those folks with their umbrellas looked a lot smarter and drier than me, walking along with rain soaking my jacket, pants, face. But not having an umbrella is true for me. In bad weather, smart folks find a way to shield themselves from it. Me, I’m just sprinting along holding onto my issues like a kid holding onto a balloon on a windy day. My balloon is colored in coordinating hues of rage.
A balloon may be a pretty little thing, distracting everyone from its true self, but it doesn’t do much to keep the rain off of a body.
I’m a very angry person. I’m guessing most folks who think they know me but really don’t are surprised to hear that fact. But I am. In fact, most days I. Am. Filled. With. Rage. Don’t worry; it takes a lot for me to get angry with someone else. I give grace as best I can and walk away when I can’t. But the rage I hold for myself is always with me; a balloon tied to my wrist, shadowing my path.
I don’t know when I started down the path of self-harm; it’s always been with me. I heard voices as a child; voices I didn’t realize lived only in my mind. Voices that told me to kill myself, to die, to disappear, that I was ugly, that everyone hated me. My earliest memory is at 2 years and 2 months, and it has that angry soundtrack accompanying it. The voices went away as I got older but the soundtrack I suppose stayed a part of me, evolving into new ways of existing.
Self-harm is nothing new, it just found its way onto polite society’s radar, probably the first time some cutter’s sleeve accidentally fell back. I’m not a cutter but I understand the appeal of that form of self-harm for those who do. It just wouldn’t appease the rage-monster enough for me, so I’ve never tried it.
Remember that moment when you were watching The Fight Club when you realized it was all in his head? When he was beating the living hell out of himself? Yes, that.
That need to hit and hit and hit is very real to me. I know that need to let my fist make contact; to hear that sound. The rage-monster begs me to beat it and beat against it.
I don’t remember when it started. I do know the worst period of time; a time when I would hit myself over and over, for days at a time. Always where people wouldn’t see the bruises because there’s nothing worse than that awkward conversation when people have to decide what to do. Luckily, I don’t bruise easily which is handy when nothing stops the rage-monster’s pain like a different kind of pain.
Please don’t think you need to do anything now. I’m 44 years old. I’ve been dealing with this monster for as many years as I have memories. Plus, I believe in the social contracts I made with people, mostly my husband and my kids. So I try really, really hard to hold it in. I never use any form of corporal punishment with my kids. Ever. And I try really hard to not let them see the monster that is in me.
But somedays the rain just pours down and there I am, without an umbrella but with this balloon trailing behind me, dogging my every step.
Days like this, I turn off social media. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr all go dark as I struggle alone in the darkness of my own mind. Mostly I turn them off because they serve up far too many reminders of the shiny brightness for the rest of the world; it is a brightness that hurts the eyes of my heart. Everywhere on the internet are pictures of cute kittens and puppies, happy news, and crafty things a body can do with a Mason jar and a glue gun. Oh, the ugly brightness of other people’s happiness when you are under your own seasonal depression.
Sometimes, on good days, I think about making a Pinterest page because I love to cook and I really enjoy photography. But on the bad days, Pinterest makes me crazy as I look at page after page of beautiful cakes decorated so perfectly in holiday themes. Every single thing is just so fucking perfect. On my bad days, it makes me want to post pictures of when you walk into a public bathroom and someone left all their shit right there for someone else to deal with. That’s the kind of Pinterest page I’m tempted to create.
Logically, I know that lots of those cakes are simply lies: lovely fondant poured over crooked and lumpy cakes. I suppose that’s the Pinterest page for me – where the ugly inside is there for the viewing right along with its lovely exterior. But who’d want to look at that? I suppose the same folks who hope to see the wreckage of car accidents, gaining a sense of self-preservation by noting at least they’re better off than someone. But most of us live by the same social contract where we keep that stuff hidden and act like we weren’t hoping to see someone else’s carnage in order to feel better about our own disasters. So I avoid Pinterest and keep those snapshots safely hidden in my mind next to the voices and the monsters.
Those social contracts…beasts which fuel broken folks like me. I entered my first social contract back when my age was still in single digits. It was that contract that led to so many others. The contract where I fix everything without any help from anyone. There were a few times I went to people who where supposed to help me and each time it ended so spectacularly badly for me I stopped asking for help. Ever. That probably made a bigger difference in where I am today than anything else but what is learned too well cannot be unlearned.
So this isn’t a cry for help. This is just me crying. I’m not asking anyone to do anything for me. But there are people in your life who probably could use your help even if they aren’t crying. Me? I’m on the slippery-slope where all my mentally-unhealthy coping skills of the past are lining up, ready to rebuild the net I’ve always used to get over the ravines of my life. So many tricks I’ve woven together in the past to try to hold me together. I don’t know what, if any, I’ll use today. Perhaps I won’t. Perhaps I can uncurl my fists and find a way to walk away from me.
Perhaps my light-box’s blue rays will be strong enough to get me through until the sun’s rays can come back. Or perhaps I’ll just go for another long walk in the biting rain. The good thing about rainy days is nobody notices that your face is covered in tears.
Back when I was the adult that hundreds of kids came to for help with gerunds, punctuation, and relationships, I was always watching for kids who were like me. Kids on the edge of darkness and pain. Kids need grown-ups who are looking out for them, looking FOR them. Most likely, if you are a parent or aunt/uncle, you know a kid who could use you looking out for them. There is a difference between normal teen angst and depression. You might not be able to tell the two apart but you can make a difference by just being present in a kid’s life. Instead of giving money for the next holiday/birthday, give that kid 2 hours of your time doing something. You might make a bigger difference than you could ever dream of making. And nothing beats having your kids sit on the couch, cuddled up under a blanket, while you all read a book on a rainy day.