No Longer An Option

March 1, 2013

Yesterday was a weird day.  Shades of my most recent past.  I awoke from a long sleep feeling exhausted.  I had my breakfast and felt too tired to journal, so I went back to bed and simply lay there until I had to go tutor H at 4:00 pm.  I kept asking myself, “Is Depression winning, or am I just extremely tired?”  I dreaded going to work, but I diligently got out of bed and prepared myself.  Once I got to H’s and was a part of their warm environment, I became full of energy and ready to light fires with my writing!  We spent two hours together and I worked very hard.

I don’t think I would have made it to H’s if I didn’t have the Present Practice technique I learned in the Program.  I focused on each moment as I was getting ready, so as not to continue dwelling on questions I have no answers for.  From getting out of bed, to putting on my socks, to brushing my teeth and beyond, I thought about each action as I was performing it.  I was acutely aware of textures, tastes, and the sensations of the different materials that touched my body as I went through my routine.  Doing this kept me in the present…in real time.  I couldn’t fortune tell my future because my future doesn’t exist in the here and now.

That course I took at the Rocky sure was excellent.  I am so grateful I was able to do it.  Grateful to Dr. F for referring me and getting me into the program.  Grateful to D for giving me a break, and grateful for having the time to invest to do it in.  I wonder about the other course?  The really expensive one.  Would I benefit as much from it?  Is it worth the money?  Am I worth the money?  They say I am Bi-polar.  I am finally being medicated for it.  Do I really want to do the Borderline Personality Disorder course because, as Dr. R says, there MAY be elements of it I MIGHT find useful?  I think it will just confuse me further.  On the other hand, I don’t want to drop into another low and be scraping the bottom of the pit yet again, not being able to pull myself out of it because I lack the tools.  But I DO have the tools and the handouts from the Rocky course.  I read pieces of these articles and try to practice some of the different exercises I have learned every day.  That’s got to count for something.

I am still leery about the way depression has been skirting my existence a couple of days in the past week.  PLEASE don’t come back.  I can’t bare a repeat performance of the past ugliness that has shrouded my being in a suffocating blanket of sadness and woe.

NO.  I am in charge here.  Depression is no longer an option.  I gain nothing from it, therefore it has no purpose in my life.  I say to it, “No more!  You are not welcome!  Go and camp somewhere else!  You are not getting any action over here anymore!”  Now…to believe it.  Or to say it over and over and over again until I DO believe it.  And to make a picture in my mind of me sending Depression away.  Yes!  That will be my plan.  Affirmations and visualizations.  That is how I will oppose the seething mass of blackness that threatens to envelope me at every turn I take.

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September 25, 2017

Again, I sense the duality of my life and the two opposite poles stretching me to my limits.  The desire to rise above and defeat depression is as real as the fear that it will come back and terrorize me once again.  It’s as if I was playing tennis with myself.  Optimism lobs a ball over the net, and Depression slams it right back.  Only in this game, there is no love.

At present, the game of tennis that is played on the court in my mind is being won by an optimistic hand.  There are still some volleys that are returned by my negative self, but positivity has served countless balls over the net that the other side has been unable to send back over.  Those balls lay scattered about on the other side of the net, like the debris that litters the ground around an overflowing and rank garbage can.  Nameless balls of no return.   And on the opposite side lies a pristinely clear court that welcomes play to begin.  To be at this stage in the game is a remarkable victory indeed!

 

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The Slippery Slope

February 19, 2013

Last night as I was driving, I had the feeling that I was on the edge, poised to fall off into depression again.  I was tired and fearful.  My mind was racing forwards and I was imagining all sorts of evils related to my jobless situation.  It was a horrible feeling.  That the precipice on which I stand was about to crumble.  I felt quite powerless and afraid.  I don’t ever want to go back to how I felt in the fall, winter, and into January of this year.  So many years of my life have been lost to illness of some kind.  I would like to think I have left anorexia behind me, but the thoughts and the images still haunt me.  Perfection is a goal I have not given up yet, either, although it is ludicrous to think that I could ever achieve it.  Me…absolutely imperfect in every way.  So hopelessly inept that it is laughable that I would conceive the idea that I could even flirt with perfection in the first place.  But there.  These are negative thoughts.  I must be ever vigilant of these destructive tendencies that I have towards negativity.

Perhaps I am feeling like I am in a funk because I went backwards for a bit.  The days since I last wrote in this journal have not been easy.  The weather has been grey and cold of late.  That also makes it harder for me to function.  I see the greyness and I want to stay in bed.  I had a dreadful “sleep day” on holiday Sunday.  I slept the day and the night away, missing it altogether.  Shades of my recent past.  Today I woke up late, and I have just now got up from an hours lie down on the couch – not actually a nap because my thoughts were racing as I lay inert, but a rest period just the same.  I guess this behaviour makes sense because I am coming off of the buzz of having five sleepless nights in a row.  I hope that is why I feel exhausted, and not because I am heading into another depression.  I would like to get my sleep, and/or lack thereof, under control.  Either night after night I lay awake, unhelpful thoughts bombarding me, or I succumb to a slumber so deep that I don’t gain consciousness for an entire evening and a day.  And sometimes even longer.  It is this up and down existence that is hard to manage.  Let’s face it.  Right now, ALL aspects of my life are hard to manage. The sleep issue just ascorbates the situation.

I have yet to finish my resume, and vacuum and wash the floors.  I’m not following my laid out plan very well, despite the fact I have clearly allocated tasks and chores to do on each given day of the week.  Why do I seem unable to adhere to a schedule of my own design?  The Program showed me that I need structure in my life in order to function…period.  And yet I resist this fact with every fibre of my being.  Why is living each day in a motivated way so seemingly difficult for me?  I know I can do it.  I’ve done it before.  I’ve lived in three different countries on two different continents, and I managed on my own, for the most part, successfully.  Perhaps I am still in the shadows of the overhang of my depression.  What a wretched place to be.  But again, I am drowning in the negativity of my thoughts.  I HAVE been making progress.  I absolutely cling to that belief.  I guess some slips are to be expected.  Just as long as it doesn’t become a long slide down that slippery slope into the abyss of my profound sadness.  How I abhor that slippery slope that I know so well.

I have to go somewhere and phone to get my telephone turned back on again.  That was bad of me not to pay my bill.  No.  I just made a mistake by not paying attention to the due date on my statement.  I am not bad.   Next time I need to be more aware of time and the timing of my bills as they come in to avoid having this happen again. I am totally embarrassed that this has occurred.  What will the person on the other end of the line think of me?  What will I say to try and explain myself?  I hope nobody I know finds out about this faux pas.  I cannot bear to be judged any more.  On the other hand, what kind of a company disconnects a phone just because you are late in paying your bill?  I’ve never missed a payment before.  This seems like a harsh punishment for being derelict in paying my bill once.  AND, I have to pay a fee to have it reconnected.  That really makes sense.  If you don’t have the money to pay your bill in the first place, where are you going to scrape together more money to get your phone turned back on?  It’s hard not to feel like I am one of the downtrodden.  I have been there practically all of my life, but I so hoped I had moved beyond this condition once I had finished the Program.  I guess only time will tell.

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September 17, 2017

The tone of this journal entry has changed significantly, as compared to the more recent ones.  It is laced with negativity and fear.  The feeling that the other shoe is about to drop is as tangible as the shoe itself.  I can almost picture myself looking skyward over my shoulder, waiting for it to fall, and for me to collapse underneath it.  But I can also sense the desperate attempts to rise above these negative thoughts and feelings, as they are occurring.  Only three days have passed since I wrote positively about a memory I had had, but within those three days a shift has taken place.  The pendulum with its perpetual swing is beginning to carry me back to a space I have learned to dread.  A space of darkness where possibilities are vanquished and squashed under the unforgiving heel of a steel-toed boot.

My struggle to overcome contrary emotions and to bask in the light of positivity is tenuous at best; then…and even now.  Although at present I am equipped with strategies that assist me to live on the brighter side.  Mindful breathing, affirmations, and a spiritual connection with the universe all help me remain under the sun of an optimistic lifestyle.  Does the slippery slope still exist?  Most definitely!  However, with the awareness of the choices I make in my daily life, and how they affect me in turn, I am better able to combat the darker influences in my brain and to live a life of peace and happiness.

Bring It On!

February 8, 2013

Going on my third night without sleep.  My mind is absolutely buzzing.  I’m not even sure what it is I am thinking about exactly, as thoughts are flying around in there at an alarming rate.  It is so odd.  An idea forms and I begin to think it through, and then another thought bombards into that idea, sending it flying into the ether.  Which in turn is replaced by yet another notion…and so it goes.  I feel like I am using an inordinate amount of brain power without having any results to show for it.  I must admit, this is a far cry from where I was in December, paralyzed with inertia.  Now when I sit still, my head is a racetrack.  I am finding too, that I have energy to start tasks that would otherwise have been impossible for me to even fathom when I was in the doldrums.  But again, completion escapes me.  I start with one chore and get it half finished, and then it occurs to me that something else also needs to be addressed, so I leave the first job undone and move on to the next.

I’ve decided to take a break.  It is a gorgeous day and I am out on my swing at 1:10 PM.  T and S have joined me.  The birds are sweetly singing, chirping out the news of the day, and the sky is azure blue.  I LOVE my swing.  It is so peaceful.  The gentle swinging action puts me at ease.  Much like how I imagine a baby must feel when it is being rocked.  I look at my dried raspberry bushes and wonder of their bountiful promise this summer.  My apple and cherry trees stand stalwart respectively, awaiting the time when they will spring to life and be laden with pristinely white blossoms.  My lilac tree behind me displays its branches, that guarantee will hold the heady scent of lilac when they bloom in June.  My wind chimes are tinkling.  Fairy chimes.  There is a cool breeze, but the sun is warm.  The breeze wafts around me, as the sun shines on my face and hands.  The warmth of it spreads through my body to its very core.  My coat is undone.

The East side of my yard is blanketed with snow.  Banked and white.  The West side has some snow as well, but it is melting and there are puddles along the fence and in the raspberry bushes.  The North side against the house is a combination of dry and muddy parts, and the crown of my strawberry rhubarb plant is bravely peeking out.  The South side against the garage is deep with brilliantly sparkling snow.  I must remember to clear those rocks out by the side of the garage so my raspberries can continue to grow.  I can’t wait for spring to come when N will come and finish the backyard!

T is in amongst the raspberry bushes.  One of his favourite haunts during the summer months.  S has just scaled a snow drift mountain, and is perched on top, sniffing the air.  It feels and looks like spring, but I am afraid we have lots more winter left to experience.  It’s hard to believe on a day like today.  A jewel of a day!  I just took a deep breath of air into my lungs and it even smells like spring!  That fresh, slightly dank aroma of mulched leaves and dirt.  Why, I see a few sprigs of green grass!  Hey…I see LOTS of green grass sprouting up!  Oh, wouldn’t it be amazing if after all these years of having Phil the Groundhog see his shadow, that this year he didn’t and we got an early spring instead?  What a time worthy of celebration!  An early spring and an extra long summer would fit the bill perfectly!  Perhaps I should send out some wishes to the universe to bolster the possibility of this happening.

The universe…God…whatever is out there.  I have felt for so long that It/He/She doesn’t like me, or rather cares little for me, but likes to challenge me for its own entertainment.  And not JUST me.  A score of us purple sheep the world over,  A universal entertainment troupe.  The folks on the planet who struggle, or suffer, in varying degrees, for what benefit?  For whose benefit?  It’s hard to make sense of all the pain that exists in the world.  To justify why it is present.  Why IS it present?  What purpose does it serve?  It’s easier to think that someone or something up there is simply watching a television program that we have all been cast in.  And ratings are always higher when adversity is featured.  I have always said I wanted to touch people.  To make them laugh, or think, or cry, through my acting and my stand up routines.  Maybe I got my wish.  Just not in the way I thought I would.  The audiences that I had hoped to enthral have been diminished to one being…or one entity.  And the time that I was meant to be on the stage is actually my life as I live it each day.

Today I am feeling positive.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it is because I am riding a tide of delirium that has occurred because of my lack of sleep.  It doesn’t really matter why.  How long has it been since I felt this way?  Can I even remember a time?  I just feel like I can handle anything that comes my way.  So if there IS a being out there that wants to be entertained, I am ready and willing and standing by the stage door.  Bring on the events as you see fit!  But this time, I am writing the final script, and I will be the one that enjoys the show!

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July 2, 2017

Well, that passage is far removed from most of  the others that I have penned earlier in 2013.  At the end of it there is a cocky challenge that I sent out to the universe.  Something that I wouldn’t necessarily do today.  But unbeknownst to me, I was sailing along on the high at the start of a manic episode, and such behaviour is common at this time.  Although I think it is wise to have an attitude of confidence, I have learned that too much of a good thing can get me into trouble.  On the other hand, I don’t think with my life-long history of self-loathing and depression, that I could EVER reach a point where I was overly confident!  Hah!

As I read, I am taken back to this time.  Despite the fact I was just recovering from a debilitating bout of depression; that I had no job; that I had no way to pay my bills; that I had lost most of my friends due to my illness; and that I struggled daily to feed myself and maintain a weight that would be substantial enough for me to survive on, I was happy IN THAT MOMENT.  Whether it was derived from a chemical imbalance in my brain or not, there is no denying the contentment in my voice as I described my treasured back yard oasis.  What I want to remember about this important fact is that rain is followed by sunshine.  So many of the memories I have in my life are difficult, or shrouded in pain and sadness.  I seem to have forgotten most of the lovely and happy times I have shared with my family and friends.  Whether it is due in part to the ECT, or because I wasn’t really present in the times as they were occurring, I do not know.  It’s very unnerving to be so blank about my past.  But that day’s writing is a reminder to me that I have had good days.  That I will continue to have good days.  And for those that are less than that, I now have strategies in place that will assist me in finding my way through any darkness that may come.

 

Facing the Day

February 6, 2013

Another sleepless night for me.  I am weary today, but I am afraid to take a nap in case I don’t sleep tonight.  I haven’t followed my schedule today, or for that matter, in several days, as I lay in bed for a long time willing myself to get out of bed.  Getting up each morning is still so hard.  I don’t hate the day the minute I wake up anymore, but I just don’t seem to want to get going.  I guess I am still hiding out from the world.

I have made some good strides forward.  Dr. F is amazed at the big leap I have taken.  But I fear that this supposed progress is only temporary.  I hope I am not falling back.  I couldn’t take that.  Being on my own is difficult, as I no longer have an enforced set of activities I am required to complete.  I am my own boss.  This is a role I am not comfortable taking.  More truthfully, this is a role I have not a clue how to adopt and take on for myself.  How can I not know how to manage me?  How is it that I have never learned this basic survival technique?  It is unfathomable how I could have gotten so far into my life without grasping this simple premise.  And yet here I am.  Blindly making a muck out of experience after experience.  Terrified to step out on my own.

How do other people manage themselves?  Why is it that I have never thought about this crucial piece of reality until now?  What a simple concept, and yet it is one I don’t understand.  I have been ill so much in my life.  Hospitalization after hospitalization, to the point of sometimes becoming institutionalized due to the length of my stays.  I think of all the help I have received and the care that has been given me.  I have required this attention because of my illnesses, but at what cost?  Is it any wonder that I have difficulties standing on my own two feet?  Couple that with the fact that my family sees me as being fragile and unable to cope.  They have tried to protect me from what?  Myself?  The world that surrounds me?  Whatever the answer I am left lost and alone.  Feeling unprepared and unable to face each day as it greets me.

OK.  My heart is pounding, my chest feels constricted, and I have a nauseous feeling in my gut.  These physical signs are telling me that I am panic spiralling.  Never a good thing.  I must do some breathing exercises and focus on the moment of now.

I look at my luscious plants.  They are so beautiful and green.  Such a variety of different shades of colour.  It’s quite remarkable and spectacular at the same time.  Like me, they love the sun!  Basking in it each day brings me warmth and satisfaction.  A comfortable feeling of contentment creeps in as I feel the subtle warmth of the rays on my arms and hands.  This morning it was cloudy.  A greyness permeated the sky that suggested snow was on the way.  But now it is delightfully sunny with a slight haze in the sky.  It is like the clouds from this morning haven’t completely burned off.  I look up into the depths above me and marvel at its perfection.  With all of its different moods, the sky remains constant.  Something I can count on seeing each day and night.  If only I could learn to count on myself, then I, too, would be able to take care of me and face each day with dignity.

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May 27, 2017

I like most mornings, now.  I arise very early and then relax into my day by luxuriating in the downy folds of my cotton bedding while repeating my positive mantras at a lazy pace.  I am then able to eat breakfast, and although I cannot say I enjoy it particularly, I like the idea that I am feeding my brain and my body for whatever comes my way.

There are still days when I struggle to get out of bed, dreading what awaits me.  During those times, I strive to think of what I have to be grateful for, and I do my daily affirmations with a blind fervour, trying to occupy my mind with positivity, as opposed to focusing on what is negative.  This can be a challenging activity because for so many years my brain has been bent in the direction of negativity that I naturally navigate towards it.  But the more work I do establishing new positive neurological connections within myself, the better able I am to reach and remain on the bright side of that spectrum.

Now the grand question is whether I have learned how to take care of myself.  Anorexia has shattered what little self-esteem I possessed before its onset, so many decades ago.  It has not been built up significantly to date, despite my concerted efforts in this area.  And I remain rail thin, which would indicate that my ability to care for my basic need of sustenance is one that is sketchy at best.  But I AM functioning in the real world.  I have maintained a career for several years, and although I would like to have a partner, I live somewhat successfully on my own with my dear doggy and kitty.

True happiness still eludes me, as countless years of self hate have taken their toll, and the ability to be kind to myself is grossly impeded by my inner critic.  But I have learned to accept most days as they come, and to do my best to focus on the moments that occur, in real time, regardless of whether they are moments to remember, or ones to forget.  I hold onto the belief that with continued hard work on myself as a person, I WILL find total peace, and even true happiness.  In the meantime, I welcome contentment as my companion as I face the days that come before me.

To Nap, or Not to Nap

January 26, 2013

Fighting not lying down in the middle of the day today…Saturday.  The day seems endless.  It is creeping by and I am dragging myself behind it.  Exhaustion saturates my being like a mop sitting in a bucket of hot, sudsy water.  Even the prospect of writing in this journal created a sense of fatigue that made it difficult to put pen to paper.

There is a veritable mountain of chores that I refuse to acknowledge that need to be attended to.  I must vacuum upstairs, downstairs, and in the severely cluttered area I loosely deem my basement.  It is a glorified storeroom of copious amounts of junk that I am seemingly unable to part with.  I have had to carve four pathways through the precariously piled boxes in order to access the four corners of the room.  Disgusting.  Along with all my other personal defects, must I add ‘hoarder’ to the list?  Just entering the basement leaves me weary, let alone climbing about it to locate an item that has been missing since the turn of the century!

After doing that, there is all the dusting to attend to, and washing the dirt encrusted surface that once was my hardwood floor.  And my never-ending battle with the perpetual clutter that plagues my tiny abode is always a reality to contend with.  Not to mention the Christmas Tree.  It STILL graces the corner of my living room over one month since it was initially assembled.  How can I stand living in such a disheveled environment?  Because I don’t deserve to live in one otherwise.  Wait.  That is a negative thought.  I need to counter it by thinking of a positive one.  The kitchen and the bathrooms seem to be the only rooms that I am able to keep clean.  At least I manage to do that.  Yay, me!

Hey…that comment reminds me that Dr. F told me to focus on the positive aspects of my life, and not to ruminate on the negative ones.  So lets see.  I got dressed today.  Check.  That is cause for celebration in and of itself!  I took care of the bunnies.  Check.  I went through some books and picked out some games and activities F and I can do on Monday.  Check.  And that’s about it.  The rest of the day yawns before me, and I long to yawn on my comfy couch!  But maybe it’s OK to take short naps in between activities.  Now is that Depression rearing its deformed and maladjusted head, or does that action make sense as a reward for doing an activity?  Perhaps it is just fine, as long as the nap is short and I do another task once the nap is over.

Other than napping, the only other impulse that registers with me is eating.  Blast!  Of all things.  Why must hunger plague me at this time?  This is one aspect about being at home that is not good.  The fridge is too convenient!  Maybe an apple is all right to munch on.  I think I’ll take a break, sit on the couch, munch on an apple, regroup, and carry on from there.  And if by chance I have a nap, I will be sure to get up and be active afterwards!

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April 14, 2017

I look back now and I can see the insidious presence of Depression, licking like flames at the fragile structure I had built during my time in the program.  It is not difficult to imagine how sneaky Depression is, and how painfully unwitting I was to its ever present stance in my life.  Napping is one of the signs I need to watch for.  It triggers the alarm to sound that all is not well in my world.

My recovery has been an infinitely slow and often tedious process, fraught with multiple dangers along the way that have completely derailed my success.  Succumbing to Depression’s power has on numerous occasions occurred so gradually that I was completely unaware of it until it held me firmly in its grasp.  At this time, all hope seems lost as I struggle to salvage some part of my soul that has not already been devoured.

I wish I could expound a theory on how to beat depression and keep it at bay until the end of time.  I guess though, like everyone else, my journey is unique to my own experience.  I do know, however, that it is possible to move beyond it, and out of its omnipotent shadow.  I need to work each day on finding what is precious and taking the time to marvel at it.  Whether it be drinking in the glorious view of the mountains that stretch before me when I am driving on my way to work each morning, or in the comforting feeling of having my little doggie and kitty’s warm bodies against my own when we snuggle together at night.  When I can appreciate these pleasurable sensations in real time each day, Depression can no longer find me in its iron grip.

Will depression ever be excised from my life altogether?  Of this I do not know.  I can, however, tolerate its presence in the dark recesses of my psyche, as long as I live for the moment I am in.  Depression feeds on past regrets and future fears.  When I solidly position myself in the ‘now’, I have nothing to do but feel grateful for all that I have.  For all that I am.

Damaged…beyond repair?

Journal Entry January 24, 2013

Today I had lunch with another fellow from the program.  We were all forbidden to contact anyone that was in the program while we were in it, but I guess now that we are out, it’s OK to meet up.  Truthfully, these are the only people I have had contact with in a long time, other than my family, and P.  It makes sense to reach out to some of these people as I am starting the upward climb out of depression and into…what?  What?  That is the question.  Where do I go from here?  Am I ready to face a world that I failed miserably in, in my past?  How do I know I won’t fail again?  Who or what can I cling to when the world around me begins to crumble?  But these are negative thoughts.  And I’m not supposed to have negative thoughts.  What can I replace them with?  Surely as a graduate of the program I should be able to root around in my toolbox and find a way to silence the negativity that threatens to undo the good work that has been done, up until this point?  Do I detect a note of sarcasm in that statement?  Well, yes!  Here I have spent all of this time in the program and once I am out, I can’t recall a single strategy to help myself with when the dark clouds fill  my sky.  That is pathetic!  Must I run to my big, blue binder and flip through it to find an appropriate plan of action before I can act independently and come up with a solution?  What is wrong with my brain that I have no recall…of virtually anything?!  OK.  I think I had better do some deep breathing exercises to deescalate.  I do remember how to do that.

Anyway, back to lunch with J.  I learned today that he is a recovering crack addict!  Sheesh!  Is there hurt and sorrow everywhere?  Are we all damaged?  Is there no respite from suffering?  J’s story was harrowing…and very real.  When he was finished, I asked him when the last time he had used was.  He replied five months ago.  Five months ago!  Five months ago I was buried deep inside the bowels of my soul, unable to leave my bed.  How torturous were those five months he must have experienced, but here he was, retelling his life and times as naturally as if he was commenting on the exploits of his children.  I don’t think I said hardly anything all the while he talked.  He just kept going on, and I just kept listening.  When he was done he took a swill of his beer for a long moment.  I think he was expecting me to say something, but at first no words came.  I was still processing the information.  Eventually I opened my mouth to speak, and we discussed aspects of his journey before moving on to more mundane topics.

So this was my second ‘date’ since returning to the real world.  I almost preferred R not showing up to this time of J’s self-disclosure.  I respect the fact that he wanted to be honest with me, but isn’t there a  proper time and place when it is acceptable to divulge the private parts of our lives to one another?  It certainly cannot be considered reasonable to spew forth the vile truths of our existence on a first date?!  What IS this world I live in?  On the surface it is full of people who move about their lives in happiness and harmony, but the dark underbelly of the world is peppered with the outcasts of society of which I am a bonafide, card carrying member.  Does it ever make sense?  Does the damage ever get reversed?  Or do the weak just continue to fall and fall, thus coming undone in the end?

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February 26, 2017

The day was a beautiful one.  I remember that.  I was optimistic that the outcome of this, my second ‘date’, would be far superior to that of my time waiting for R to show up.  I mean, what were the chances of me being stood up two days in a row?  Now that I consider the head space that anyone coming out of a therapeutic program is in, in the first few weeks of their return to reality, it’s rather amazing that J WAS at the chosen restaurant at the designated time.  Although I primped and prepped a little for the outing, I did not obsess about my appearance.  I did do my hair though, as my vanity had taken a severe hit when I saw my disheveled appearance in the glass in the doorway at Starbucks yesterday.

When I arrived at the restaurant, there was only a smattering of people seated sporadically around the room.  J was sitting in a booth off to the side.  When he saw me, he gave a friendly wave and I moved towards him.  He helped me with my coat and made a comment on how pretty my hair looked.  Take that, R!  After we sat, he passed a menu to me and suggested we decide on what it was we wanted to eat, and then we could have a nice chat.

We sat there together in the nondescript booth, exchanging pleasantries, when all of a sudden he hit me with his truth.  I was flabbergasted.  I mean what do you say after someone says, “Yes, it is a lovely day!  It sure seems like spring is on its way.  Speaking of spring, could you spring for our meal?  I have been a crack addict for the past 23 years, and I don’t have any money.”  Talk about harsh honesty.  After I propped my left hand under my chin to keep my jaw from dropping open any further, I stammered, “Wow, J.  That’s tough.  Sure I can pay.” ‘”Wow J.  That’s tough???”‘  Not a very astute statement, coming from a girl who prides herself on being a good listener with a knack for coming up with a few select words that are appropriate to the current situation.  But this was a situation I was completely unprepared for.  What a nightmare story.  All the pain that he has endured, and the pain that his addiction has brought to his family is inconceivable.  And he looks like Joe Normal!  I guess I had a preconceived and judgmental idea of what a crack addict should look like.  Shame on me for depicting an image in my mind that was less than flattering.  I suddenly developed an acute tightness in my chest, and I found it difficult to take in air.  He then smiled at my glassy-eyed gaze.  My eyes were open wide for so long they were beginning to dry out.  I blinked quickly a few times to moisten them, and for an instant J’s face was colourfully distorted, like when I am looking through the eye piece of a kaleidoscope.  The moment was ultra surreal.  J appeared completely fragmented.  He had broken into little, blurry pieces that shifted unevenly and swam before my eyes.  I shook my head slightly in an attempt to clear the picture away.  When I blinked one final time, his face returned to normal, and I let out a long, ragged breath in relief.

I must admit, I have a morbid phobia about getting addicted to drugs, although I have never done any, nor do I EVER want to do any.  But the phobia has me dating a fellow who has a drug problem unbeknownst to me.  As time goes on, I lose myself in him, as always seems to happen to me when I am dating.  I am so influenced by him, that in time, I become an addict, too.  Like most phobias, this is an irrational fear, but it has had me in its grip for a looonnng time.  It is also the reason I haven’t dated anyone in years.  Now to be sitting across from a man who actually lived this life was almost too much for me to bear.  I felt a deep chill go through me.  He continued relating his horrendous tale as I sat, my food growing cold, untouched on my plate.  I sat listening to him, transfixed, until he finally finished talking.

I felt emotionally drained.  Over the years, and in so many hospital programs, I have listened to a multitude of people bare their souls.  Their stories have all been full of pain and pathos, and I have given little pieces of my heart to each person who has had the courage to share.  But this confession was different.  I think this story touched me so dramatically because it was not told in a hospital setting.  And I was not a patient in a group that I was mandated to be a part of.  J told his story simply and honestly, and the rawness of the telling cut through me like the razor blades on my wrists had done so in my past.

There was no awkward silence after he stopped talking, and before I spoke.  Silence, yes.  But is was respectful in nature.  When I did begin to speak, I thanked him for his candour.  It is an honour to listen to a person bare all, and I wanted him to know I appreciated his braveness.  He was concerned that I had not eaten my meal, but I told him I would take it home and eat it for supper that night.  After I paid the bill, he thanked me, walked me out to my car, and gave me a hug.  I hugged him back, got in my car, and drove away.  All the way home I was lost in thought.  I think J is a good man.  He is definitely an honest man, and his candid appraisal of his life was not short on self-deprecating humour.  But his is a damaged soul.  Perhaps beyond repair?  I guess that has yet to be seen.