To be honest with you all, I am not well. Not by any stretch of the imagination. For months now, I’ve been sleeping poorly, attacking myself with food/wine binges, and having complete emotional breakdowns that seem to come out of nowhere. My counselor here has been of no help to me whatsoever and I’m still in the process of finding a new one. Without that outside, objective point of view, I couldn’t understand why this was happening. Yes, the last eighteen months have been worse than hell, but I survived, and things are getting better! So why have I suddenly lost my f–ing mind??
A week ago, as I lay curled up on the floor under a towel in the shower, hot water streaming over me as I bawled my eyes out for hours, something clicked. I finally understood. It’s like in my novel, Summer Rain, when my narrator cannot cry at her grandmother’s funeral. She says:
I should have cried a year ago when she had that first stroke. That’s the moment I really lost my grandmother. But I didn’t, because back then, it was an emergency, it was all need: I have to get to her, I have to get home, I have to help. I didn’t have time to grieve.
Deferred grief. As I said, I’ve been to hell and back in the last couple years. I was gutted multiple times, but had no time to stop and take care of the wounds. Slap on an industrial-grade bandaid (*coughZoloftcough*) and keep pushing forward. Now that the crisis has passed and I can pull off the bandages, the wounds are much worse for the waiting.
I say that I’m on a brand new journey, but in reality, I’m not nearly as healthy as I’d need to be for any journey, old or new. Whenever I give myself a challenge, no matter how simple, I fail within days (sometimes within hours). I cannot do anything for myself right now. I’ve become an emotional invalid, and I know that I can’t even begin to heal until – at very minimum – I stop using the knife that flayed me to inflict further injury.
So that has to become my focus right now, I suppose. Not on getting better; just on not getting any worse. Time to put down the knife and treat the wounds, and try to survive the ensuing pain. At least I understand the cause now, and I’ve found that understanding the roots of my behavior/emotions often helps me to correct and overcome negative actions/responses. We’ll see.
I have no idea what it means to be kind to myself. My counselor in Massachusetts was trying to teach me, but I made a poor student. What does it mean to be kind to yourself when your current needs are directly opposed to your future needs? Which do you obey when there is literally no middle ground? Yeah. I suppose, in the meantime, if I can’t be kind to myself, I need to at least stop being cruel…
Dear younger Manda,
You survived. You were broken, gutted, beaten, and ripped to bloody shreds, but you survived. Now, it is time to rest. This is the promise I make you: I may not know how, but I will learn to tend these wounds instead of making them worse. You did the painful work of surviving, and it’s my turn now. I will do my best not to hurt you again, and furthermore, to help you – help us – heal.
Love, modern-day Manda