Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I looked forward to yesterday afternoon as if it were the commencement of some grand vacation, like if I could just hold on until Tuesday afternoon I'd win an all-expenses paid trip to the magical kingdom of Prozac Land and never have to look back. I worked with one eye on my kids and the other on the clock, and when our contract time was up at 4:00, I speedwalked out the door and cursed at the drivers, most of whom seemed to have rescheduled their Sunday afternooon pleasure cruises for mid-week rush hour, the entire 30 mile drive from where I work to where I get to be crazy with impunity.

I arrived, furious at myself for being seven minutes late, and affixed the fake smile I always wear when I go into the office complex where my doctor works, because grinning incessantly at the other elevator riders CLEARLY means I'm just popping into the mortgage company down the hall and not following the woman who is currently pulling her six-inch pink vinyl wedges off her feet so she can pick at the dead skin on her toes into the psych offices. Because I am a horrible person, I always do a scan of the other patients in the lobby and play a quick "What's wrong with them?" game inside my head. I've found this is way more rewarding than in an ENT lobby, because while deviated septums and chronic tonsillitis people are pretty obvious to spot, it's hard to figure out whether the same lank hair and dark circles that I sport everyday as symptoms of not caring enough to take care of myself equates to the same issues for the woman across the room who also looks weary and haggard. It's always women in the lobby when I come to this place...forty-something housewives clutching their office copy of Good Housekeeping to their chests like some sort of genteel, suburban shield...a teenager curled up into a corner chair, fingers tracing over the oyster-pink lattice of scar tissue on her forearm and staring sullenly at the profile of her anxious, harried mother who seems to be trying to balance maternity with the laptop perched precariously on her knee. Everytime I see a self-harmer, my own fingers brush instinctively against the nearly invisible half-moon scars on my own wrists and arms. I don't do blood, so I was a cigarette lighter burner. Somehow that seemed more romantic in college.

As I worked my way through the lobby, then the receptionist desk, and finally back to my doctor's office, I went through my same routine of trying to be ask perky and seemingly normal as possible...."Yes, Erin!" "I'm here to see John!" "New insurance card!" "Great! Thanks!" "I need regular treatment and maybe medicine! Depressed and suicidal, yes!" I'm pretty sure had I kept it up for much longer, there would've been a lithium prescription marked FILL ASAP at the bottom of my purse by the time I left.

But I made it in, and we talked, and for the first time in all the times I've visited John it didn't feel like I had solved any problems, because of the handful of therapists I've visited in my time, John is a world-class champion of helping you figure out the problem and finding ways to solve it. The small, wan woman who saw me for six months in my college town squeaked her office chair back and forth and fingered the trim on her omnipresent beige cardigan (from Scotland, she told me once), and never once offered advice or opinion until the day she prescribed me a tranquilizer and OCD medication, neither of which I apparently needed so I spent the next half-year basically either in a coma or irritable as hell. But the reason I keep coming back to John, besides the fact that in our first session he dropped the f-bomb twice as my heart erupted in a celebration of foul-mouthed kinship and exhilaration that if he felt comfortable saying "fuck" to a stranger then we probably wouldn't be doing much putzing around in our sessions, was that he helped me feel like the crises I perceived in my life were really much more manageable than they seemed at the time. So that's why I could go in once, work on my own for a few months, and then go back in if I needed extra help or feedback.

But this time, as John and I talked, there were a lot more of those characteristic therapist pauses, where he'd squint at me and try to telepathically extract whatever I waswithholding; what it was that was making me feel so incredibly black and hopeless. But the thing was, I was searching my brain too, and I couldn't come up with anything at all. Should I have told him that I recently saw a picture of myself smiling with my mouth open and I looked so much like James Gandolfini that I've since refused to do anything but half-smirk with my lips clamped shut? Was I supposed to say that the single nicest moment of my day is when I check my email one last time before bed, pick up the cat who sleeps on my feet and put her next to my pillow like she's a baby while my other cat follows us into the bedroom and assumes his position next to my hip? That I think the very idea that I'd sate my maternal instinct with an animal while being too terrified of screwing up or neglecting my own child to actually have one is incredibly pathetic? Should I have just advanced three months worth of therapy and had the breakthrough right on our first session back and tell him that a decade of avid navel-gazing gives me the authority to say that every single problem I think I have...of the relentless anger, of not feeling wanted, of feeling worthless, of having overwhelming guilt when I want to have a more exciting job and a more extravagant life...that I can trace every single one of those things back to my relationship with my mom and that really the only big problem I have is how to forgive her but still keep my distance and get over it on my own terms?

Because if I thought those things would've helped in the half-hour time we had, I would've blurted them out. I would've talked and talked and journaled and did worksheets if it could've stopped the way I was feeling right at that moment...the awful melange of relief and terror when John finally wrote out a list of recommended medications on his eggshell blue Post-It pad, turned to me and said "Well, you're officially depressed". So right there on his bone-colored suede loveseat that's almost too comfortable because if you try to lean back you recline so far that you look like Ed Bundy I almost started to cry. And I don't cry unless Grey's Anatomy is on and there's a pint of ice cream and maybe a glass of wine involved. My eyes started leaking when, as I turned to leave his office, he gave me a look of such genuine sympathy that I forgot for a second that he gets paid to be kind and caring. The look he gave me, the little pat on the shoulder, and the fact that he asked, "Are you okay?" and then kept listening...I've been waiting for those things to happen for two years now from somebody...anybody at all. I used to look hopefully at people in stores, at restaurants, on the street, just to see if maybe they saw the actual me who was drowning in all this fat, these emotions, this self-abuse and that they'd rescue me. No one did, of course, so I stopped thinking about it. And it's weird, because when it finally did happen, I had absolutely no idea where to start.

It's funny, because when you finally decide to stop pretending that everything is okay, and you give yourself or someone else permission to start stripping open your veins to see what's really in there, you start actually FEELING things again, and it's so excruciatingly painful. I made it to my car okay, but when I dropped my keys as I was trying to unlock the door, I lost it. I started gasping out enormous, heaving sobs that didn't stop until I pulled off for bottled water at a fast-food restaurant twenty minutes later. I cried when a friend popped up on my IM and sent me a link for a pair of Gucci pumps she had just splurged on. Another friend, whom I was tentatively planning to visit in New York City for Labor Day, called to cancel, and I blamed my broken voice and sniffs on the cold I'd been fighting all week, and when he hung up the phone I burst into tears again and cried for two straight hours until I was finally so sick of crying I started laughing and then I took a bubble bath and cried there too because it seemed poetic and right while my cats sat by the tub and judged me as they are fond of doing.

And the thing was, were I pregnant or a hormonal woman in an hour-long network dramedy, this would be totally funny, because I'd be played by someone fun like Sara Rue or that new Hairspray girl and I'd be crying and spluttering and dabbing at my eyes with a handkerchief that my best guy friend (who I didn't notice for the first half of the season but who later seduces me in some sort of zany but touching episode during May sweeps week where I learn what true love is) gave me at a coffee shop where we meet for breakfast each morning and interact with the charmingly eccentric citizens of our quaint New England town called Stars Hol...oh wait. But anyway, since I am decidedly NOT that girl and yet I was still crying at ridiculous things. I mean, I wasn't REALLY expecting to go to New York City and it absolutely couldn't be helped that he had to cancel, and I shouldn't have gotten so excited at all, but for the late part of Monday and all day Tuesday I got more and more excited because I really wanted to see my friend and I'd never been to NYC, and my brother was going to be there that weekend too, and I just wanted so badly to get away from my town and its black hole of culture and knowledge and the rough people in it and the sad children with permanent Kool-Aid stains on their cheeks and rotting teeth and, and, and...

And I needed to take a step back and realize that once I opened up this whole can of worms, there'd be a lot of nasty stuff leaking out before I started to heal again. And that instead of doing the whole "I'm all right! I'm excellent!" thing that I tend to do until I finally bottom out once every two or three months, I'm just going to have to be oversensitive and easily hurt and disappointed and I'm going to have to learn to deal with all of it until I can finally even my emotions out into some semblance of normalcy. And that'll be okay, especially after I go get a prescription on Tuesday to help me do that.

And funnily (health and weight loss blog...right. I keep forgetting), all this melodrama has resulted in a downward-trending scale again. I guess the same voice that said "You could totally just end this all, but the pills and the vodka are on an entirely different floor of the house and futon is just as comfortable as it was in college and you'd probably not want to commit suicide until you cleaned your bathrooms so your mom wouldn't be ashamed when the paramedics come to haul you out and who's going to feed the cats and would they eat your face if they got really desperate and you're out of black ink for your printer so you couldn't type a suicide note and you know you have a tendency to be wordy so it'd be hard to write it out..." Well, that same voice told me it probably wasn't the greatest idea to buy fifty dollars worth of junk food and eat it in one sitting. My eating habits have been surprisingly ascetic, because I just don't have the desire to do anything but sit around and mope. So, I guess that's good. I have an Official Erin Is Fucked Up Weigh-In of 220.4 lbs. for today, which is a loss of about 3 lbs. since two weeks ago. I'll take that.

Finally, now that I've officially written an entry longer than my senior capstone term paper, I just want to thank all of you very much for being incredibly supportive and kind and generous with your thoughts. I get attached to the little IPs I see scrolling through my site tracker each day...I like waking up with 121.48.73 from Australia, and seeing who's logging on from clandestine government offices or big fancy firms in New York and London. So when I see the names with the visitors and know that you're all human too and you've all been through or if you haven't you care anyway...well, it's the most humbling and gratifying feeling I've felt in a long time. Thank you very much.


Erin said...

All I can say is that I wish I could just give you a hug. You are truly an amazing person and I hope that the therapy can help begin to heal your heart.

Melissa said...

You just described just about everything I went through (and still go through, sometimes) in the last 15 years. It can get better - Please just give yourself permission to take it a day at a time. It is so true that you have to wade through the muck to get to the good stuff on the other side. It's really hard, but totally worth it. Know that we are here for you, okay?

By the way, I am one of those logging in from Australia. And the freaky thing is that I am moving back to Kansas City next week (I grew up in Kansas). We will be settling in Lawrence.

If you feel like being social, maybe we can meet up for a cup of coffee sometime.

Take care.

Lauren said...

I love my emotions balancing drugs.

Vickie said...

hugs from me too. When you share like this - it helps you to write it and it helps us all to read it - because mostly, we are there now, or have been there sometime in the past, too.

And you write BEAUTIFULLY!

Faith said...

((hugs)) It takes a strong person to face things and start trying to unmuddle everything. You're not alone.

Sarah said...

Oh, I feel this. You write about the pit so perfectly.

You're not alone.

Just keep breathing.

Morphidae said...

I don't have words for what I'm feeling after reading this post. The pain is so familiar. I'm also trying to just feel my emotions and let them occur without stuffing them back down or numbing myself with some activity. Feeling the yuckiness of pain, anger, fear, anxiety, etc. sucks beig time. Knowing I'm not alone in this helps.