The Power of a Smile

Here I sit; grumpy, disgruntled, famished, cheesed off, and ready to lash out at SOME ONE…ANYONE!  I have been fasting for my blood work and I have lost the ability to be hungry with dignity.  Darn those, ‘Save-My-Life-Meal-Plans’ that have been imposed upon me.  Why is someone always trying to get me to gain weight?  I have had to eat more food, and everyone knows, the more you eat, the hungrier you get.  Now when it comes time to abstain, an activity I am a master at, I am unable to shut down the pains emanating from my belly because I have been forced to ‘three-meal-two-snack-a-day-it’ for some time now.  Where is the pristine elegance of my posture when the cleansed feeling I associate with an empty stomach envelopes my body?  I am hunched up and cramping, and almost howling from hunger!  But where am I and how did I get here?  I will use my journal to record the events of this day thus far.

I experience a rare case of road rage on the way over to the clinic with a white van emblazoned with the message, ‘Sunnnyside Wellness Centre – Where Old Becomes New Again!’  It is packed full of elderly people who seem to be enjoying a leisurely drive through the city.  Talk about crawling along!  I bark and growl at them as I putt, putt, putt behind them, my stomach sounding its own alarm as I angrily pound on the horn in my car.  But to no avail!  The van meanders along the road, oblivious to my menacing threats.  When at last it pulls over to the curb to park, I speed by shaking my fist with one hand, while the other hand white knuckles the steering wheel.  I careen by ineffectually.

I screech into the parking lot and yank up the emergency brake.  I am terrified I am going to be late for my appointment, which the nurses will NOT hold for you, and that I will have to go through this blasted fasting once again.  I run up the stairs in the building, clutching my achingly empty tummy as it gurgles and yowls angrily, throw open the heavy glass door, and dash into the office.  I nearly run headlong into a pregnant lady who is standing in the doorway nursing her baby.  Throwing my shoulder to the right, I lunge sideways to avoid bumping into her.  My ankle twists and I stumble uncontrollably into some empty waiting room chairs.  My body and the chairs crash loudly against the picture window.  My forehead meets the glass with a resounding thunk, and my knees collapse into the plastic seat of one of the chairs that I am in front of.  I slowly swivel around to face forward, as my left hand clutches at the bump that is fast forming on my head, and my right hand reaches down to rub my aching right foot.  I open my eyes, which I didn’t realize I had closed, and see the pregnant lady shoot me a dirty look before she turns her back on me and continues nursing.  At least somebody’s hunger is being satiated.

Slowly I stand up and limp across the floor to stand in the roomy space provided for waiting patients.  I am the only person in line.    The only other people in the waiting room are the pregnant lady and her baby.  I look across at the counter and there are four nurses seated at stations down the line.  The first one is talking loudly on the phone to someone about the bursitis flareup she is experiencing in her left leg.  She uses extremely colourful language to describe the amount and placement of her pain, and then she stops talking to listen to the response on the other end of the line. The second person is chewing a tunafish sandwich and flipping through an Enquirer magazine, which is also utilized as a napkin when some of the mayo from the sandwich squirts out onto her lip.  The far two seats are inhabited by a man and a woman who are having an in-depth conversation about a topic I can’t discern.  I wait as patiently as a person with a throbbing head, a strained ankle, and a burning pit of fire in her stomach can.  After a bit of time I clear my throat audibly, although I am positive anyone in the waiting room cannot deny my presence because of the resounding noises radiating through my belly and out into the open air.  At last, the lady with the tunafish sandwich closes her magazine, after wiping her fingers on the last open page she has been reading, and tosses the baggie that had held her sandwich into the garbage can across the room.  t is an impressive shot, as the crunched up baggie sails through the air, bounces off the arm of the male nurses’ chair and kerplunks into the wastepaper basket several meters from where she sits.  She reaches into her purse and draws out a tube of cerise lipstick, which she then artfully applies without the aid of a compact mirror.  Once this operation is completed, she pops the lipstick back into her bag, turns around and looks at the huge LED screen that displays a large red number and calls, “718.”  When she turns back around, I smile weakly at her and move awkwardly towards her window.

“Number please.”  I look at her blankly.

“Excuse me?” I ask.  She peers at me over her glasses and points towards a ticket machine that stands to the left of the doorway.  I had completely missed seeing it on my way in because the pregnant lady had blocked it from view.

“But I am the only person in line,” I counter.

“I need the ticket,” she intones dryly.  I stare at her, my mouth twitching unattractively.  Then I very deliberately turn on my left heel and hobble over to the ticket machine.  I have to ask the pregnant lady with the baby to move aside so I can access the machine.  She scowls blackly at me and steps way out of the way.  I tug on the paper, rip off number ‘718’ and then make my way back to the Tunafish Lady’s window.  I hold the numbered tab up and say in my most pleasant voice,

“Number 718.”

“Name,” she states.  I tell her my name.

“Health Care card?” she asks.  I hand my card over.  She writes some information down, and then looks at a list of names on a schedule.

“You’re early.  Go take a seat and we’ll call you when it is your time.”

“Early?” I gasp in disbelief.  I look wildly at the clock on the wall.

“By forty minutes.  Go take a seat and we’ll call you when it is your time.”

As a person who used to be perpetually late for ALL engagements, I have designed a complex system wherein I trick myself from knowing the actual time.  I cleverly write down the wrong time in my schedule book!  By the time the date arrives for me to go, I have forgotten the original times scheduled.  This ensures that I will arrive early to all of my engagements.  But I’ve never been FORTY minutes early before!

Numbly, I shuffle over to the bank of chairs across from the nurses’ windows and slump into a hard one.  Forty minutes early!  How could that be: And here I thought I was running late.  Oh joy.  I am early.  Now I have to wait in this antiseptic prison with an elephantine hunger that has left my tummy swollen and reeling with stabbing pains that intermittently jab my insides when I least expect it.

As I sit there, my eyelids begin to droop and become heavy, and I struggle to stay awake, despite the pain in my head and my ankle.  I had taken a sleeping pill late last night, which is unusual, because I am on so many other medications I try not to add any more to the particular cocktail I ingest on a daily basis.  My alarm woke me early, as I had a list of things to get done before I came to this appointment.  I foggily realize I haven’t slept off the effects of the sleeping pill, and I begin to doze in the chair.

“Do not drool,” I keep repeating in my mind, as my head bobs down and then up again when I discover I am sleeping.  Suddenly a young man enters from the hallway where the blood is taken.  He sees me in my dazed stupor.  I try to smile at him, but I stop midway because the excess amount of saliva I have in my mouth threatens to cascade through my teeth and spill out onto my chin.  He frowns slightly at me, and then moves towards the pregnant lady with the baby.  They share a kiss, and then exit the room.

I groggily look up at the clock on the wall.  My eyes take a moment to focus and then I can see the display.  Twenty-five more minutes of this agonizingly long wait before my appointment time arrives.  Finally, I give in to my exhaustion and close my eyes.  Doing so immediately lessons the pain on the left side of my head.  I rearrange myself in my chair and doze off accordingly.  I am awakened by the doorbell that sounds when a patient enters the room.  I am unaware of the time, but I know they STILL haven’t called my name.

“Hey…listen people!  The frumpy, middle-aged woman with the belly bursting from famine and the eyes slightly crossed and rotating in their sockets due to a drugged and sleep deprived state is getting ornery over here.  Call my name, dammit!”

My eyes fly open widely and I grip the chair with both hands.  Did I just say that?  Have I lost it and gone postal in the blood clinic?  I can feel the suffocating sensation in my chest, as my throat begins to close, that signals the beginning of an anxiety attack.

“Breathe,” I say in my head.  “Deep breaths.”  I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to block out the inevitable fallout that will occur when I am admonished for my outburst.  My body is completely tense and my toes are wriggling in my shoes like they always do when I am stressed.  And then…nothing.  I wait for it.  Nothing again.  I open my right eye.  The clinic is running exactly as it has been since I arrived.

That was my inner monologue!  I didn’t speak that out loud!  Relief and euphoria wash through my body in gigantic waves that leave me feeling breathless.  I collapse back into my chair, and my toes stop doing their manic dance.

“Number 718, please.”  A friendly nurse stands in the hallway holding a clipboard against his chest.  I jump out of my chair and dash over to him, the pain in my injured right foot all but forgotten.

“Yes!  It’s Me!  I’m Number 718!”

“All right then,” the nurse smiles.  “Let’s take you back and we’ll have you out of here in a flash!”

I let him lead me away.  Somehow, all the anger and frustration I have been experiencing dissipates.  He genuinely takes an interest in me, and asks how my day has been going,  I release a gigantic, jagged breath of air, and look deeply into his smiling eyes.

“Well…funny you should ask,” I reply, and I find that I am smiling, too.

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January 28, 2018

It is amazing to me how the power of a smile can turn my day around…or make it that much better.  Whether I give a smile, or I get one, the endorphins in my brain are turning somersaults, high-fiving each other, and generally celebrating life.  It’s easy to share a smile when I am happy, but much more difficult to dredge one up when I am feeling low.  Yet that is when I need to use those muscles in my face that turn everything upwards, the most.

When I am experiencing difficulties, the last thing I want to do is to look at myself in the mirror.  What I see reflected in the glass is not a person who I would consider successful.  My image during those times is a constant reminder of how inadequate I feel.  How unattractive I view myself to be.  But what if just once I stared at myself in the mirror and dared myself to smile?  To really exercise my face muscles and come up with the happiest grin I could muster.  Would I feel foolish?  Probably.  Would I inadvertently giggle after I watched my face struggle to remain morose, despite my brain directing it to do otherwise?  Most definitely!  Would I feel better after doing it?  You betcha!

I realize that sadness must be respected and given its due.  I grieve at times when it is necessary, and at times when it is not.  It is truly important to experience those feelings in real time.  But when I am just feeling out of sorts, or when I have had a hard day, I am going to challenge myself to face the mirror and give it my most dynamic smile!  The one where I can see both my top and bottom teeth at the same time!  And then, if it’s possible, I’m going to share my beaming face with another individual.  I’m smiling right now!  Go on.  Use those face muscles in a positive manner.  Take my challenge and see where IT takes you!

 

 

 

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Building

March 6, 2013

Well, I did absolutely nothing yesterday, and yet the day was full.  I don’t know where the time went.  When I say, “nothing”, I mean nothing I had planned to do.  No vacuuming, no computer work searching for a job.  I did my journaling and self-help work.  I did yoga for the first time.  I talked to M on the phone.  I took P in to have a teeth float.  I met up with dear S for dinner, and then later a nighttime tea at Starbucks.  I got home at 11 PM, and it was too late to even think of vacuuming.  Instead, I glued F’s hair barrette again.  The one that we made during our craft time together last Friday.

My heart is pumping blood at a furious rate.  I can feel it right through my housecoat.  Am I anxious because I didn’t go on the computer yesterday after announcing to one and all that that was my goal?  I realized yesterday AGAIN how afraid I am of failing.  Perhaps it wasn’t so much a realization as it was a pristine moment of clarity where I was slapped in the face with my own reality.  It’s one thing to SAY I am afraid of failing.  It is another thing altogether to FEEL it soaking through my bones, drenching me from head to toe with suffocating completeness.  I also became aware of the fact that I have no confidence.  That seems like a rather redundant statement to make after living a life with the absence of self-esteem.  But somehow this new understanding of my lack of confidence is profoundly disturbing. What do I do to regain it?  Or if it was never there in the first place, how do I develop  something I’ve never seen or felt before?  ‘Fake it ’till you make it’ cannot apply in this circumstance because I have no understanding or innate sensibility of what it is that I must fake.  What IS confidence?  I know some people are born with it, and others are not so lucky.  Can I truly gain something; an entity I have no previous or background knowledge of; and propel myself forward with it in tact, as I motor down the freeway of success?

Success.  It is a beautiful concept, and one that has been absent in all aspects of my life.  I guess that statement is not exactly true.  A few instances do come to mind:  being awarded ‘Most Improved’ ball player at the end of my first year playing baseball in a league, to being named ‘MVP of the Year’ in the same league, in my third and final year of play; moving to LA a few months shy of the ten year deadline I had set for myself to land there; and graduating ‘With Distinction’ in the two University degrees I completed in four years time.  But that is about it.  Oh wait…I should include being my high school Class President and Valedictorian in Grade 12; and giving the Invocation at my University graduation in the spring of 2008.  I should be proud of these achievements, but instead I am achingly aware of what a pathetically short list of accomplishments that is for someone who has been wandering the planet for 47 years.  Blundering and plodding along, blindly and continually stepping into great potholes in the road, and falling several decades into pits of despair.  No sidestepping for me.  No circuitous routes.  Straight down the line, over monstrous mountains and through unfathomably deep valleys.  Why do I feel like taking a short cut is a ‘bad’ thing?  That strategizing and avoiding definite road blocks and bumps along the line instead of tackling whatever comes my way is shirking my responsibilities.  In other words, my attitude is, “Take it as it comes…EXACTLY as it comes.”  It is not acceptable to avoid any grievances that may come up.  I must face whatever confronts me, and confront IT!  It is cowardly to turn my head and look for another option.  I must persevere through each trial, growing stronger with every obstacle cleared.  What a load of hogwash!  Since when is looking for alternative methods of action or responses a negative experience?  Where does it state that tribulations can only be met as they are presented, head on?  Who said that only adversity makes me grow?  My whole belief system needs to be dismantled and retired.  Or abandoned altogether, and thrown into the round file.  I’ve got to start all over and develop a new scheme with which to live by.  But how do I do that?  Where do I begin, and with what do I begin with?  Which takes me right back to my original question:  How do I develop something I’ve never seen or felt before?

Maybe all of this thinking is meaningless.  Perhaps it is just a matter of doing.  To greet each day and do the best I can with what I’ve got, each moment as it comes.  I could recognize each minute success I achieve, and celebrate these moments as they arrive.  For instance, congratulations me for steadfastly making the time to write in this journal.  Good on me for completing the rewriting of my notes from the courses in the hospital program into my Big Blue Binder.  Way to go for establishing a cleaning schedule, and then making a concerted effort to stick to it each day.  Kudos to me for pulling myself up off of the putrified floor of Depression, and struggling to find meaning and purpose in a life that has been devoid of these properties for multiple decades.  Wow!  What a change in mindset THAT was.  Was that really ME speaking?  What a foreign way to think.  This may not be permanent, but I will say, “Thank you”, Universe, for suddenly opening the windows of my mind to acknowledge these realizations in real time.  May this type of thinking be the substratum with which I construct my new belief system on.

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January 14, 2018

As I reread this journal entry, a flicker of hope flashes through my brain.  Five years ago, for an instance, I got a glimpse of what the other side might look like.  It came out of nowhere, a surprise of the sweetest kind.  An opportunity to view an alternate way of thinking, of being, that no matter how brief, did flare into existence.

I continue to compose my ‘new’ belief system to this day.  Sometimes I experience days when a positive truth gleams forth, and a new brick of enlightenment can be placed to reinforce the others around it.  At other times, I am beset with insecurity and I feel like the fabrication of my foundation is crumbling all around me.  In moments of weakness, I worry that the distance I have travelled from then until now is minimal.  In moments of strength, I don’t compare.  I am content in the knowledge that I am in the spot intended for me at this particular time in my history, and that my building, as it stands, is one that I can love and be proud of.

 

 

Amnesia

March 5, 2013

I am reading a new novel about a woman who has a rare form of amnesia.  She doesn’t remember who she is and she wakes up in an unfamiliar world every morning.  Her circumstances seem quite horrific, and yet I find myself wishing I was her.  Preposterous.  Why do I constantly want to be someone other than who I am?  That woman’s life would be a veritable nightmare, but because she is ill, there are no expectations on her to be or to do anything.  Not to have a job, or support herself.  She barely even has to take care of herself.  That is all the responsibility she has.  Her husband can do the rest.  And I want that ?!  Where is my fight to survive?  My will to live?  My apparent need to be independent?  It’s like I just want to be taken care of.  To be told what to do and where to go.  To be directed as if I am an actor on a stage waiting for my blocking.  What has happened to me that I feel so inept and incapable as a person to be able to take care of myself?  I can pseudo care for T, S, B, and P, but when it comes to me, I want someone else to do it for me.

I don’t know if I can hold a steady job again, or not.  In the past I have met with fiascos regarding my careers.  I work myself to the bone for my employer, desperately looking for approval and acceptance, only to burn out and be replaced.  Then in my recovery, I sit at home and slumber my life away, afraid to get out and tackle life.  In a warped way, I think if I am ill, I won’t be expected to go out and support myself.  What is wrong with me?!  The truth is, I have no one in my life who will take care of me.  I am a single woman with financial responsibilities.  If I don’t work I will end up on the street.

Today I broadcast to my family that I would go online and search for a job.  Is this why I am panicking?  Or is it because I fear I cannot hold a job, and whatever one I get I will eventually lose amidst shame and pain?  Is the writing already on the wall?  Why can’t I just die and be done with this Earth?  I don’t want to be tested anymore.  I don’t want to try and try and try again, only to end up in a pitiful heap on the floor, a doormat for those who are seeking one.  I don’t want to live anymore.  It’s so odd.  I don’t actually feel depressed, or the usual depressed feeling I have come to know and dread.  Instead, I feel inordinately afraid of what is to come.  Afraid I will fail once again and be left struggling in the pit, with the dusty remains of my past dreams for company.  I feel squashed flat.  I can taste the grit embedded in my teeth from being one of the downtrodden for so long.  Why can’t I fight back?  Why can’t I pull myself up and talk to myself kindly, gently?  Encourage myself to take the next baby step, no matter how small.  Forward.  Onwards and upwards.  I need to be talking to myself in a positive manner.  Instilling beneficial ideas and beliefs into my heart and soul.  Nurturing my broken self.  Tenderly piecing back together the fragments of my life that lay scattered haphazardly around my feet, like dry breadcrumbs I feed the birds.  How is it that I know what I SHOULD do, but I am incompetent when it comes to the doing of it?  Am I slipping?  Am I heading towards another tumble into the abyss; the depths of darkness and despair which I have come to consider my only reality?

Another sleepless night.  I walk and move as if I am another person when I am not feeding like a leech on my depression.  I don’t feel real.  I possess a lightness of spirit and mind that is foreign to me, as the times between my bouts of depression are so short lived I forget what they are like, and what I am like in them.  In a way, I experience my own amnesia regarding my happy self.  What does it feel like to be happy?  Who am I when I AM feeling brighter and more alive?  How long will this feeling last, and where do I go at its end?  Down.  Down.  Down.  It’s been several weeks now, however.  It has been since the end of January that I had a sense of feeling uplifted.  How much longer do I get to benefit and bask in the sunshine before I become buried in the putrid blackness of my soul?  Please let this medication work.  I know I am not feeling as high as I have in the past when my burden lifted unexpectedly, and I was free of the chains of my morose and tortured thoughts.  Maybe the meds are taking the edge off of the high, which hopefully means the edge will be equally relieved off of the inevitable low that will follow.

Am I someone who can work and exist in the world like an average person (whatever that is), or do I need to go on assistance and only work part of the time?  Tutoring and holding a part-time job.  Why do I feel like a failure if that is my lot in life?   And is there a ‘lot in life’, or does it all come about by the personal choices that I do or do not make?  I feel somewhat relieved when I write maybe that is all I CAN do.  A part-time job, tutoring, and some kind of assistance.  But does that make me a slouch?  Or am I being realistic?  Can I only manage so much?  Have I pushed beyond the limits of my stamina from years of abstinence from food?  Have the limits of my personal strength been exhausted?  Have my ‘will’ and ‘power’ deserted me from horrendous overuse in my endless anorexic years?  I know one thing for sure.  I won’t meet any eligible men who can take care of me, if that is what I REALLY want, going the part-time/assistance route.  But maybe I’m not supposed to.  I just can’t bear the thought of another public humiliation when I fail at yet another job.  I am just beginning to get the hang of cleaning the house, for heaven’s sake.  How will I keep that up AND work full time?  OK.  My thoughts are escalating and my panic is increasing.  I need to stop.  I need to look at my handouts from the hospital program. I need to read and think good thoughts for a while.

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January 2, 2018

Amnesia.  It is a funny thing.  Not the condition itself, rather the fact that during certain periods in our lives, we all encounter a form of it in some way or another.  Mothers might remember the difficulties they had birthing their babies, but they forget the actual physical pain they experienced at the time, when recounting the details of each child’s birth.  So too, could be said of the surgeries I have undergone.  I can recall the events of the hospitalizations, but the excruciating pain itself, and the knife-like stabs that occurred whenever I moved are thankfully forever removed from my memory.  I think the same applies to my depression.  When I am lost in it, I am swamped with the distorted feelings of hopelessness, self-hate, and the familiar desire to die.  On the other side, however, those feelings too, fade into the recesses of my brain.  All I have to remember them by are the scars that were left behind.  It is the belief that the other side exists, though; that is the understanding that I must adhere to.  That it IS feasible for someone like me, who lives in darkness, to reach the other side where possibilities abound.  That the journey I have embarked on, with concerted effort, will eventually bring me to a truth that holds a new promise.  One that justifies my travels along an arduous path, and makes some kind of sense in the larger scheme of things.  Where the memory of the razor’s edge of depression is sliced away and tossed out into the ether, enabling me to walk out of the forbidding shadows and into the light of day.

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!

 

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.

A Valentine’s Day Surprise!

February 14, 2013

I had the loveliest surprise on Valentine’s Day!  N popped by.  I had made him chocolates, but I didn’t know when I would get them to him due to the nature of our circumstances.  But sure enough, his familiar knock echoed through my living room in the evening and there he was!  He came in for tea and I could tell he was pleasantly pleased with the candy.  We dove into another one of our fantastic conversations and entertained ourselves accordingly for quite some time.  Then, out of the blue he announced that he wanted to treat me to a new haircut and a colour!  I was totally taken aback, as he had never given me a gift before.  What a lovely gesture!  And so unexpected.  My next thought was that my hair must look pretty darn dreadful for him to warrant such an offer!  Hah!  When I asked him what his motivation was for making such a suggestion, he simply said he had noticed how hard I have been working on putting my life back in order, and he wanted to honour my efforts.

At that moment I don’t think I knew what to think or feel!  My eyes welled up with tears of happiness because I was touched by his kindness, but I was embarrassed as well that I should be in a position where I NEEDED to gather the shards of my existence together and put them in some semblance of order to resemble “normal life.”  I could feel my face begin to redden in anger that he would assume I would need such a gift because I was unable to provide for myself in this matter.  But I also felt sadness because a simple gift exchange such as this was an occurrence that rarely happened in my life because I no longer had many friends.  Anorexia had ruthlessly taken care of that years ago.  Then the sad feeling was chased out by the frustration I experienced because I really DID need his help on many occasions.  Whether it be to open a jar I was not strong enough to crack the seal on, or to listen to me talk and to provide feedback when I felt completely alone in the world, N has been here to help me through.  Albeit on his own schedule, but he does have an uncanny talent for appearing just when I need him most.  And I am always so ill-prepared to return a favour to him.  Shame on me for not being a reciprocating friend.

I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh, or cry, or yell, but I could feel something untoward building in my chest.  It started as a ball of fire that began to swirl upwards into my esophagus.  Its heat grew in intensity as it rose until it felt like my throat was being burned by acid.  The fire caught my tongue and I could feel my eyes begin to water.  Sensing my inner turmoil, N moved closer to me in concern.  He placed his big, strong hand on my shoulder and he leaned forward towards me.  I had no idea what I was going to say to him because of all my conflicting emotions, but I knew I was going to say something.  Just as the heat threatened to blow off the top of my head, I opened my mouth to speak and…I burped!  Loudly!  Of all of the responses to his generosity that I could have elicited at that moment, that one had to be the least anticipated!  The air was deadly quiet, as my eyes flew open in horror at my faux pas.  I heard the steady, ‘Tick, tick, tick’ of my living room clock, and then…we both erupted in peals of laughter!  “Dear me,” he finally said in his soft accented speech, and I showered him with a jumbled up combination of apologies and thank you’s until we both settled back down.

It was so great to see him on Valentine’s Day!  It is super to see him on ANY day, but today was special.  He is a dear man.  I care about him deeply, but I can do nothing more that that because of the impossible situation.

N confirmed again tonight that we would do my yard in the spring.  I really look forward to that.  I’m sure it will be hard work, but I love being outside.  I also really like physical labour.  There is something really satisfying about working with the dirt.  The land that I live on.  The land that I cherish.  My little piece of utopia.  My heaven on earth.

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July 18, 2017

What a funny memory for me!  Laughing with a good friend is one of my favourite pastimes.  I have come to appreciate how both laughter and friendships are priceless commodities that must never be taken for granted.  They both provide great joy, and they need to be valued in kind.

Being the best friend I can be brings me tremendous happiness, as well.  To me, friendships are living, breathing entities that require nurturing and attention at all times.  I know, however, that they are well worth the effort and the time I invest in them.  The give and take between friends is a natural phenomenon and not something where a score needs to be kept to ensure each partner is giving the same amount as the other.   When the connection is true, balance ensues.  As the years roll along, I find I have fewer friends than I did when I was younger.  But the ones that I do have, are rare finds that I treasure with all of my heart.

Fearing Happiness?

January 31, 2013

My sun is back!  It’s pouring in on me through the kitchen window and it is indeed glorious!  The warmth of it kisses my outsides and melts into my skin, warming me from within.  How lucky I am to have a great, big window that faces south.

I look at today’s date and I marvel at my personal progress.  Just one month ago I prayed for a good year, asking that this previous year, being the worst one in my life, never be repeated.  Here I am, thirty days later, making cookies for C and D’s Ukrainian dance recital and then off to tutor HH.  A little over a month ago…say 6 – 7 weeks…I couldn’t get out of bed.  Wow.  My landscape has changed greatly over a short period of time.  I wish I could celebrate this achievement, but I am too afraid to.  Whenever I recognize a positive aspect of my life, something negative occurs that slaps me down, right back into the pit of my despair.  It happens without fail.  In actuality, I fear any good that may come my way.  I can’t bear to be beaten back down into the swirling depths of my despondency.  It is safer not to acknowledge any possible moments of happiness.

Last night, sleep evaded me completely.  I lay in the darkness with my eyes endlessly open.  I did not experience tiredness, despite the fact that for me, the day had been a busy one.  My mind would not quit producing thoughts, and those thoughts were accompanied by feelings that ran the gamut on the emotional scale.  I felt like my body was going to burst with the contained energy I held inside myself, but I never made a move to get up and expel some of it.  It was most curious to be so full of vigour, and yet so devoid of movement.  It was as if my physical being was completely separated from my mental and emotional state.  The more active my brain became, the more sedentary my body remained.  I felt like my body was shackled to the bed, while my brain was encouraged to run amuck within my imagination.  Finally, at about 5:30 AM, my body was released from its prison and I got up to greet the day.

What will this day bring?  Do I dare to allow the happiness in by accepting the fact that I am moving forward from a past full of dread and sorrow?  Or do I cower away from this truth?  Protecting myself from the impending doom I am convinced will occur once I allow myself to bask in my own happiness?  The latter is a scary thought.  But one whose reality has been proved to me on countless occasions in my past.

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April 30, 2017

Fear is a powerful entity.  It can sneakily and gradually seep into my being as I become afraid of an action or thing that previously had no effect on me.  Or, it can bombard me full on with a terror so palpable I could eat it like I do a sandwich.  Either way, Its insidious grasp closes about me, squeezing the air out of my lungs, and causing my heart to pump at an alarming rate.  The racing thump thud of my heartbeat causes the blood in my veins to throb with intensity.  A prickly feeling at the back of my neck signals the hair on my body to stand on end.  Goosebumps develop across my arms and a freezing chill accompanies them.  Instantly following the cold rush, my body is flushed with a searing heat and beads of sweat gather at my temples and across my forehead.  Fight or flight? Fight or flight?

Fear is as strong as the power I award it.  In the past, I always gave into it, and it fed off me like a parasite sucking the marrow out of my bones.  Now I am better able to combat the force when it attacks by breathing deeply, knowing that this sensation will pass if I allow it to.  However, the phobias I have developed about all insects, and sharks have yet to be dealt with!

Although the fear of experiencing happiness has lessened dramatically, I still sadly cultivate the belief that if I let myself get too happy, or if too many wonderful events occur for me in a short period of time, I will be punished for it.  It is like the feeling of a hangover that I can’t shake off.  Since my earliest memories, my life has been fraught with difficulties of which many I have been unable to manage.  Unhealthy Fear came along and set up camp inside my psyche, thriving there for several decades.  To this day, it still takes up residence, but the space it inhabits has been greatly reduced.

Living WITH fear is one thing.  Living IN fear is another.  As mentioned above, unhealthy fear still inhabits a part of my brain.  But I no longer allow it to rule my existence, dictating the way in which I live my life.

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.

The Hungry Mind

February 25, 2013

I am very hungry.  There.  I said it.  I listened to my body and acknowledged the sensations that I am experiencing.  Hunger.  How I vehemently dislike that feeling, and that word.  It has been a long time since I had the rumbling, hollow emptiness that signals the need to eat.  Or more correctly, the desire to eat.  When I habitually starve myself, or rather restrict my eating significantly, which is my modus operandi, the sensation of hunger dissipates until it disappears completely.  For a time, there is a numb feeling that permeates the stomach cavity, but eventually that goes away as well, and there is no longer any evidence of feeling that is associated with hunger at all.  It is quite delightful really.  Once my brain has been trained to ignore the sensation of hunger, I no longer require set times to eat.  Nor do I fixate and salivate over special foods that at one time tickled my taste buds and satisfied my ‘need’ to eat them once they were devoured.  There is simply a nothingness that my subconscious accepts as my regular state.  When I do eat, I only allow myself certain ‘set’ foods that I have allocated as safe to consume.  My diet is made up of the same few food items eaten regularly, day after day.  That way I know exactly what I am putting into my body, and then my weight doesn’t change.  But ever since the end of the Program, I have been eating more…and more often.  When I start eating more, I start wanting more food to eat, and then I begin to get hungry, and consequently I eat more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  So what do I do now?  Give in and eat, or abstain and suffer the pangs of hunger?  Why am I even having this thought?  The obvious answer for me is to refrain from eating until the absence of the sensation of hunger returns.  The Program is tricking me into believing that I deserve to eat whatever I want to eat, whereas I know I can only eat what I have deemed alright to eat.

Really wanting to lay down right now, but it is only 5:07 PM.  I still haven’t cleaned the main floor, or taken down the Christmas Tree.  That is pathetic.  An entire month has passed since Christmas, and my Christmas tree and decorations are still up.  There is so much to do, and all I want to do is to go to bed.  I don’t think that is a very good sign.

I have (in a few hours), survived my first entire weekend since the end of the Program on Tuesday.  A couple more days and I will have a whole week of successful living under my belt.  I think I have made it thus far thanks to my regimented schedule, my big, blue binder full of strategies for when I begin to struggle, and for the opportunities I have had to go for coffee…by MYSELF…Hah!…and for lunch.  I am trying to pack in activities to fill up my day with.  The busier I can be the less time I have to ruminate on my failures, and the lack of prospects I have for my immediate future.  Hmmm.  Perhaps that’s what it’s all about.  It’s not about the Hokey Pokey after all!  Hah!  Fill up my day and the meaning will come later.  I’m looking for the meaning and not doing anything.  Sitting in the doldrums and being as active as a sloth may not be the best use of my time when looking for purpose in my life.  Maybe it is time to try a new tactic.  Fill the day up and let the meaning come afterwards.  OK.  I’m challenging myself to do this very thing.  And ‘filling the day up’ can mean with cleaning chores part of the time, too.  I HAVE to get my place presentable again.  It has been over a year since I did anything with it.  I don’t even remember the original colour of the hardwood, as it has been a grey, gritty mess peppered with mammoth dust bunnies for so long.  How shameful is that?  To punish the Hungry Self by living in filth and denying it the comfort and cleanliness of a well cared for home?  No.  I learned in the Program that I am worthy of a clean and respectable place to live.  Now I just have to get off my butt and actually do some cleaning to bring about a new reality.  And I WILL do it…if only the couch wouldn’t continue to call to me to cuddle up and slumber peacefully on it.

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March 26, 2017

That was a mish-mashed piece of journal writing if ever there was one!  I can sense a growing panic about the mounting hunger that penetrated my body at the time.  With that hunger and subsequent eating would come the inevitable weight gain of which I dreaded…and still do.  So much of what I described about the controlled way in which I ate back then, is still present today.  I indulge in the same practices regarding how and what I eat.  The non-existent ‘feeling’ that accompanies the absence of eating is still my constant companion.  An old friend that keeps me from enjoying the social aspect of eating.  An old friend that keeps me from enjoying ANY aspect of eating,  But that is the price I pay to continue being small.  A lifelong goal that still doesn’t make any sense to me.  Why small?  Why not big?  What do I gain by remaining petite?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that the secret to getting and staying thin is not so much in what and how much you eat, or how much you exercise, but in how you think, or actually do NOT think about food.  Once my brain is trained not to register hunger, I refrain from thinking about food and I cease to be hungry.  I continue to live in this way, and I guess it is fine, because I rarely think about food anymore.  In fact, I have dismissed it and consider it to be a nonentity in my life.  But for a thing of no importance, it is interesting to me how much time and energy I spend obsessing about the topic, as has been evidenced in both of these journal entries.

Being active is an excellent thing.  Having activities to do is an enjoyable way to pass the time.  I don’t think, however, that filling my day in such a way is how I will find meaning in it.  That comes from appreciating the moments in my life.  Both the wonderful ones that I will treasure, and the difficult ones that afford me the lessons I am required to learn.  These snippets of time provide what I need to possess a peace of mind, and a love of self.  I see this collection of poignant bits as a lifelong process.  I cannot say that I have achieved either a calm and mindful state, or self-love at this time.  But I do my best to be aware of the many meaningful moments in my life that shape who I am today.

 

 

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.