Lose Yourself

September 5, 2019

Sometimes, if you can’t live with yourself, you might as well run like Hell. It’s funny; I thought I’d like myself more as I got older but turns out, I still feel like my skin doesn’t fit and my head is too noisy with ruthless bullshit. Frankly, I thought I’d do better.

It’s what keeps you going, right? The belief that things will get better. That you’ll be better, that you’ll give as good as you get and then some. You’ve spent all this time wading through the muck and it’s going to pay off in the end because it HAS to. It’s gotta be written somewhere, that life can only throw so many saw-toothed boomerangs at your head.

But it doesn’t work that way and despite your most fervent of hopes, life doesn’t owe you mercy.

It does not, in fact, owe you anything.

 

So you might as well say fuck it and run.

 

By some stroke of fortune, you might even have someone to say fuck it with you because is there really anything more important, when it all boils down, than someone who will grab your hand and let you lean into them for a while? To let you lose yourself because being yourself really isn’t fun right now and it actually feels dangerous to stay there?

 

I have two weeks to remember how to feel and how to breathe and discover what is salvageable in this junk heap of a head. I have a plane ticket and a hand to hold and things to see, eat, discover and experience that are totally new. Things that I’m hoping will shake my tree enough to believe that it’s all worth it.

It has to be.

I’ll let you know.

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In the middle of the night I see her, slowly scooting down the hall, eyes on her feet and hands gripping her walker. She has red-pink spiky hair and a pair of Jack Skellington socks that are too big for her feet. Immediately, I hear my Mama’s voice in my head: “Oh Lordy, look at that poor little thing. She’s no bigger than a minute, is she?”

Southern ladies. They get in your head and never leave, which frankly, I find rude. I really don’t want my mother in my head but she’s incapable of silence.

Spiky hair scoots, scoots, scoots. Back and forth. For hours. Nobody reprimands her or tells her to go to her room, even though everybody else is ordered to their rooms at 10:30. Her walker is tricked out with glittery stickers and the back legs are encased in tennis balls, so she’s almost soundless as she moves. Scoot.

She always misses breakfast. She gets it delivered to a table in the commons, where she sits by herself and picks at it. She rarely attends any of the morning meetings or activities, but by afternoon, she’s willing to shuffle in. An earnest boy named Rafe sees her outside the door and is on his feet immediately, holding the door open as she makes her way.

“Well hi there!” the meditation/yoga lady chirps enthusiastically, and spiky hair immediately cowers and covers her ears. “I…I…I…” Her enormous eyes tear up.

“Sadie has a brain injury,” Rafe says, leaning against the door. “Noise–even like a normal speaking voice–sounds really magnified in her head.” He looks pointedly at yoga lady. “You’re gonna have to lower your register. Volume, too.”

Yoga lady’s face falls. “Oh my gosh. Of course. Thank you for telling me.”

Rafe the Dragonslayer. Keeper of the Spiky Haired. Heart Outside Body.

 

Today she has black leggings adorned with everything Jack Skellington. He’s dancing, he’s laughing, he comes to life on her legs. Mostly, people leave her alone while she scribbles furiously, deliberately into a leather journal.

It takes two days before I have the courage to approach her.

We’re at lunch and it’s hard for her, trying to negotiate the tray and the silverware and the Diet Coke without ice that I know she drinks at lunch because I’m the only weirdo who does the same thing. But she grits her teeth and she does it on her fucking own and she can deal Goddammit and it’s all a matter of physics, the balance of the walker and the tray and the cup. I offer to get her the dang weird Coke since I’m going up anyways to get the same and there’s a ghost of a smile. It whispers across her face and then is boom. Gone.

“Tha-that is nn-ice. Thh.” Her eyes glower in frustration but she gets it out. “TThh. Thanks.”

 

Day 4. She will sit with me sometimes and color these crazy pages from an adult coloring book that are supposed to calm us the fuck down.

“D-ddd-do you know I-I havehave a duh-daughter?” She smiles shyly but her face is alight.

“Show me,” I say. And she does. A toddler with pigtails and a stuffed elephant. I reach for the coloring book and tear out a picture with an intricate butterfly, ready to launch. “Do this one for her,” I say.

 

It’s kind of soothing, the scritch-scratch of ink on paper.

“Can I ask you?” I say quietly. My eyes are on my page; an elephant with wings (whatever). “Can I ask you what happened to y0u?”

She nods. “Two-two ww-weeks ago. I-I was. A-assaulted.” She reaches for the orange marker. “H-he slam-slammed my h-head into thethe p-pavement. I wuh-was unconscious f-for d-days after.”

I have no control over my face and I must look completely Gobsmacked because she laughs a little.

“Wait. You don’t remember? Like, at all?” I clench my teeth. “Do you at least know who did this to you?”

She nods. “I-I d-do.” She gestures to her phone, which she is somehow allowed to have. “L-l-law offices are call-calling. T-they wwant t-to repre, represent me.”

“Oh my God, that’s good. I hope he fries.”

 

She’s wandering the halls in the night again but she’s upset. Tears stream down her cheeks. I can’t sleep either. I have a new roommate and she’s lovely but Jesus, she snores. I pad carefully out of my room, wondering if I’ll get yelled at. I don’t say anything but I fall in beside her. I hand her tissues and we just stand there for a minute, not knowing if we have to whisper.

“You don’t sleep,” I say.

She shakes her head. “I c-can’t.”

“Is it because you are starting to remember?” I ask.

Another shake.

I force myself to wait her out.

“It-it’s j-just. W-what if.”

“W-what if this is-is h-how my life i-is go-going to b-be now? I-i can’t even t–a-tal-talk. Any. Anymore.”

I grab her fragile wrist, no bigger than birdbones, really. She allows a hug.

We color soundlessly, winged elephants and butterflies, until we can’t anymore.

 

 

 

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All My Crackers are Broken

August 18, 2019

Pro Tip #1: If you are taken to the hospital with abdominal pain, vomiting, insomnia and crippling anxiety that’s lasted over a month, they will ask you if you are suicidal.

Pro Tip #2: Responding to said question with a snort-laugh and the remark, “Well, fuck. What do you think? Yeah…I mean, sometimes.” Is gonna get your ass thrown into the can for a week.

I deserved it.

I most definitely needed it.

Did I resent it?

Absolutely.

 

The can is no fun. Intake takes hours. When they finally let you go to your assigned room, after 6 hours in the ER and 4 hours in intake, it’s 3:30 in the morning. They confiscate everything you own (including hair ties, FFS) and you fall onto the bed fully clothed. You’re shaking, haven’t eaten since you don’t know when but you’d throw it up anyways. You take whatever pills they put in your hand.

You sleep through the entire first day and through the night, etherized.

You wake up with your head on a pillow so sad and deflated that you wonder how you slept on it. You think of your 80 year-old grandmother who told you, as a teenager, to always wear a bra because “if you don’t support the ladies, they’ll turn on you.” It feels like that. A surrendered breast.

You stay in bed as long as you can stand it, until you have to pee and you know you have to face this sometime. It’s freezing and you haven’t packed really anything, so a blanket will do.

 

This place is different from the last one. This place has wings. Wings for strictly addicts. Wings for PTSD. Wings for the determined and starving. I am in the suicidal/depressive/anxiety wing and it is small. There are about 12 of us. They don’t talk to me at first, when I lurch out of my room with a blanket. It’s not outright hostility, like at the last place, but I am eyed with suspicion. They give me a wide berth. I don’t blame them. You don’t want to engage without a litmus test. How do you rate on the Nutjob meter? They leave me be, but I get the feeling of being watched. I settle in a chair in the corner. I don’t even have a book to read, and it sucks.

 

The kid approaches me, all white teeth and emaciated body. He’s gorgeous. Or maybe it’s just the eyes, which are spooky seafoam green against his skin, which is tanned so deeply that he looks almost umber. He’s wearing red sweatpants that keep falling down and he tugs at them, trying to keep them in place.

“Well, I haven’t seen you here. Hey! Welcome! I’m Dallas.”* He has manic verve; he cannot keep still. He dances in place and snaps his fingers to some kind of groove in his head. “You look nice.”

Jesus, he’s just a kid. I mean, 16 if my radar is right. I am immediately charmed.

“Dana.” I extend my hand. He kisses it and then is off, dancing around the commons. He raids the snack station and comes back.

 

“This place isn’t really bad, for a Cracker Barrel,” he says, chomping into a beef stick.

I can’t help myself. “Um, you know what they put in those pork thing-a-ma-bob sticks, right?”

He grins. “I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. All I know is that they.are.delicious.”

“Please don’t tell me you eat those all the time.”

“All the time here,” he says. “The Snack Fairy comes twice a day and brings awesome stuff.”

 

I wander up to the snack station and he’s not a liar, although I will never eat his favorite snack. There is an odd abundance of oranges. But there’s also cheese and crackers, which I think I might be able to hold in. I grab a fistful and am suddenly afraid that I’m going to lose it and I’m tired again and I need to get back, back to the dark and quiet of the room.

I make my apologies and he smiles in recognition. “Sweet dreams,” he says. “And believe me, you aren’t the most broken cracker in this barrel.”

 

*Names have been changed.

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Used to Be Mine

April 25, 2019