Six years later and I still have anxiety whenever someone I love leaves me for anywhere, for any amount of time. Please be safe, I whisper. Please don’t go.
Six years later and I still have to practice breathing again whenever I hear an ambulance siren. Whenever I drive by a crash. Whenever I hear of a horror. If my daughter, 700 miles away does not immediately respond to our group texts with me and my other children, I have a creeping panic until she writes, “Omg, Mom. I’m in class.” Even when I know for sure she’s in class.
Six years later and I hate winter. I hate its lifelessness, its starkness, its death and especially its darkness. I’m frightened of the dark now. Of the panic attacks and the memories and the embers of the shattered dreams that glow in the darkness.
Six years later and I love to excess, smothering excess. Six years later and I am cold as fuck. The same heart that burns like wildfire is walled in ice, ferociously protective of those already inside, dispassionately protective of itself. Six years later and still I’m terrified of what’s to come and who’s to go and where we will all be in the next six years.
My oldest daughter suffers many of the same anxieties. She faces them. I hide from them. I hide behind my keyboard. I hide in destructive relationships where screaming is the norm because screaming at least allows me to feel something. I hide in denial from myself. My daughter accused me a month or so ago of transferring all my anxiety to my house as I, room by room, made excessive changes. Ripping out carpets, redoing floors. Buying new furniture and new throw rugs and lamps and a new washer and dryer and a car. Repairing unused patios and lights and tossing memories out in the dumpster.
You’re going crazy, she told me. You aren’t happy. I argued with her then. I told her I was so very happy. Look at me! I’m so happy! I’m finally concentrating on something else besides just caring for Damon; I’m making my surroundings beautiful and colorful and bright. What gives you the right to tell me I’m not happy?
Concentrate on yourself, she answered quietly. You are concentrating on everything but you.
You need to care for yourself like you care for Damon.
I laughed at her. I rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness of what she was saying. But I began to question. I questioned more a few days later when someone, a total stranger, said he saw a deep sadness in me, making him want to make me happy. I smiled sweetly. I took his offered arm and used it to push him away.
By the time my daughter left to go back to her apartment, I knew she was right.
Six years later and I work up the courage to look in the mirror. Six years of too much sadness and too many deaths pounding on a psyche already injured from years of emotional abuse has left me broken.
I know I need to make changes. I know I am stagnating. I must face the fact that I am not immortal, and can’t merely keep putting one foot in front of the other to only survive each day. I will need to take an active role in my own life.
As I gaze at my reflection I realize I don’t just miss that girl who disappeared six years ago, but the one who disappeared many, many years before that. The girl who had no story. The girl who was able to twirl, unhinged, like a ballerina and throw caution to the wind. And live.
I need to bring her back, whatever it takes. I need to bring her back.
Six years later and I must now endure another crash, but this one inside my head and my heart. A complete demolition. I know I have to break down before I build up. I need to rip apart that diseased part of my mind that is too frightened to move on. I know I need to tell the whole story. I know I must face truths that are uncomfortable. I know I will leave some destruction in my path, and as a tornado doesn’t wait around to clean up its mess, I will not hang around to clean up the toxicity I toss out of my life.
I know the people who love me will continue to love me and I know my inner circle is all I really need. I know my Facebook friends are like ghosts I can put my hand through; they do not really even exist. It doesn’t matter what they think any more. I write for me.
Six years later and I now know I need to care for two people going forward, not just one. I may never rid myself of my acquired anxieties, but I need to take care of them, not hide from them, with the same compassion and gentle understanding, love, and patience I use to take care of Damon.
For six years I have been on my own form of life support, but the equipment has been flawed, and I have been barely breathing. I know I must breathe again totally on my own…deep, deep breaths that fill up my lungs and make me giddy with too much oxygen. I know I must grasp tightly onto offered fleeting moments of happiness, of truths, of passion, of goodness because without them my soul will completely wither away.
Six years later and I know I somehow have to make this journey.
Stay safe, I whisper to myself. Please come back.