9. Transient, stress-related feelings of unreality or paranoia.
"You and your beloved are walking a path never walked in exactly the same way by anyone else who has ever lived. You do not take a breath, think a thought, have a wisp of feeling that existed before, and the intimacy you build together will never be known again. Countless paths exist -as many as there are people in the world... It starts with you and someone you love, learning to be together without resistance or fear" -Deepak Chopra (The Path to Love)
For most people, death is one of their worst fears. For the suicidal, death seems... well, I shouldn't generalize. For this suicidal individual, death is not frightening. It is relief, release- freedom from the fear of living. I know when I am beginning to care about someone because that is when I begin to fear death. My death, his death... the idea suddenly becomes frightening rather than comforting- a foreign concept.
Somewhere in time and space I am laying in a hospital bed. I am unconscious. You are sitting at my side as often as possible. You tell me that everything will be alright. You beg me to come back to you. You hold my hand. You tell me stories about us; how we met, our first date... memories.
...This is something I wrote while I was recovering from my breakdown. It is a reoccurring daydream that would visit me. It still is... in a way.
I have always had a very overactive imagination. My daydreams have a continuous and symbolic "Ally McBeal" quality. The more input (books, movies, TV) I give my brain, the more often I notice these "sign"-like moments... It is called priming. There is nothing magical or mystical about it really... It is my brain making associations with recently accessed information-
...When Victor and I started dating, I had a weird story visit me... In it, he was a white knight, questing to save me, as a princess in a tower, guarded by a dragon. Many knights had tried, but somehow where they had failed, he was succeeding... He did not save the princess by slaying the dragon. He soothed the dragon to sleep, and when it found peace, it melted away into the princess.
(I dreamed this story before Victor drew this picture in my notebook...
...and I did not tell him about the story I imagined until afterwards.)
I wanted the dragon to be gone... But it is always just below the surface, temperamental and breathing smoke, ready to strike. (8. Frequent and inappropriate displays of anger) It is careless. It destroys what I cherish most... It wants me to be alone.
Although no one has ever really left me, it is what I fear most... as a result, I have pushed away and run away from everyone I cared about at some point or another. (1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment)
...When I got home from the hospital, I was not ready to re-enter my life. In fact, my life had gone on without me. All the plans I had made with Victor were still happening, but I was no longer invited. I sat in my apartment and moped a lot, barely willing to leave bed many days, aimlessly walking around the city others. My mother stayed with me for a long time, forcing me to eat at least once a day. I had no appetite, took no pleasure in eating or drinking anything except coconut water. My clothing hung off of my frame like drapes. I finally had the rail thinness that I had always envied.
I slept more than anything. I slept and wrote and watched movies on the internet.
One of the stranger flicks I saw was a Dutch dark comedy called "Ober" ("Waiter" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waiter_(film)). The title character portrays a waiter who knows he is the main character of an author's novel. It is a much more somber and unmistakably European take on one of my favorite American movies "Stranger Than Fiction" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stranger_than_Fiction_(2006_film)). However, in this film, the waiter knows his author from the start and frequently calls and visits him to complain about his circumstances... Like a direct line to God. The author makes many excuses about preserving his creative integrity, and in fact, giving into the waiter's pleas often only leads to more disappointing consequences.
...I experienced a similar writing conflict, trying to write many novellas, as a child. I never finished any of them, largely because my characters also refused to comply with my plans. I would start with fantastic a plot in mind, an intended destiny... a destination, an ending. But as I would begin to describe my characters, meet them and get to know them, I would realize that they would make other decisions. They would derail my trains of thought, sabotage my story-lines. They had other desires. They were flawed, impulsive, rebellious; and I could not force them to submit.
I can not explain how it happened, why it happened. One day...dream, I awoke from my coma. In the hospital, you were there waiting for me... But as time passed quickly in my dream, and I began to recover, I saw myself in a mirror- I was not me. I was not Echo. You were not Victor. Different faces. Different lives. So confusing...
I watched as she re-entered her life with my memories, bewildered. I watched as she was taken to a psychiatrist. Then I knew- You are confusing her. Leave her be to heal. Heal yourself. If you keep pursuing this ghost, she will be stuck in a hospital, away from the man she loves.
I missed Victor so much. I could not attend a summer's worth of his bands' gigs that we had planned to go to together. Gigs that we were going to play together were cancelled. My band seemed to be dissolving... Even if I replaced him, I could not get out of bed.
I would nap and sleep as often as possible to escape the pain... the memories- good and bad. It hurt to remember how happy we were. It hurt to remember how I lost control. Falling asleep was a relief, a brief reprieve from the truth... and each time I awoke, after a few seconds of blissful ignorance, I would realize he was not laying next to me. All the memories would flood back into my mind, drowning any sense of contentment that lingered.
It was during these weeks that I would learn my diagnosis was more than Major Depressive Disorder, as they had told me at Friends Hospital. I Googled the therapy treatment that Victor, my nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist and other therapists had recommended: dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Wikipedia informed me, "a form of psychotherapy that was originally developed by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at University of Washington, to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD)." Borderline? Like the Madonna song?
I started reading as many books about BPD as I could find; Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (http://www.amazon.com/Someone-Borderline-Personality-Disorder-Control/dp/1593856075), I Hate You, Don't Leave Me (http://www.amazon.com/Hate-You-Dont-Leave-Understanding/dp/0380713055), Girl, Interrupted(http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Interrupted-Susanna-Kaysen/dp/0679746048), Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder (http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Borderline-Personality-Disorder-Dialectical/dp/1608825655), Stop Walking on Eggshells (http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Walking-Eggshells-Borderline-Personality/dp/1572246901), The Buddha and the Borderline (http://www.amazon.com/The-Buddha-Borderline-Personality-Dialectical/dp/157224710X), Get Me Out of Here (http://www.amazon.com/Get-Out-Here-Borderline-Personality/dp/1592850995/ref=pd_sim_b_2). I was astounded to read book after book about people like me, struggling like me. Suddenly, I was not completely alone. Suddenly, I was not a conniving prima donna, constantly demanding her way. There were others like me. My compulsive pushing and testing were more than a series of bad habits and thoughtless choices. It was part of something bigger, something that had a prescribed treatment... something from which people recovered.
...I hit a wall. I had given Victor all my patience. I ran to him in the middle of the night... Something so stupid had been the last straw; his Facebook page said he was singing in his apartment "hope the neighbors don't mind -with" some girl's name. I was crushed. If he was moving on and announcing it so publicly, I deserved to know. I could not contain myself. I was a moth to a flame. I was shaking when I knocked on his door. It took several excruciating minutes before he answered, "Who is it?"
"It's me," I managed. Am I interrupting something? Are you going to open the door- or tell me to leave?
When he opened the door, I could not stop the tears, "I'm sorry. I know I'm not supposed to-"
"It's okay," Victor pulled me into his arms and held me tight, "It's okay."
I continued to apologize and cry, despite the comfort of being his arms once more, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." For everything, everything. I'm sorry I'm me. I'm sorry I'm here. I'm sorry I love you. I'm sorry I'm broken. So very sorry...
He put my face in his hands to look into my eyes, "Anytime before now, I don't think I could have handled this... But it's okay. I promise." He pulled me close again. "Let's go sit down."
After an hour or so of Victor consoling me, I could not be dishonest with him and avoid telling him about the jealousy that had instigated my visit. I confessed, "I thought someone might be here with you."
He laughed at me, "That's my neighbor's name. It was a joke... You know she can hear through the walls." ...Nevertheless, my admission had done its damage; my green dragon had shown itself again.
Over the next week, I would daydream of the woman again, out of her coma. I would not recognize who she was at first... But this time when I saw her, I saw the Wheel of Fortune, like a cog in a clock. I would ask for the process to progress... Then slowly... so much started happening in my life... I hit another wall- one that threatened the end of everything with Victor ...I quit everything and poured myself entirely into this blog. It became my life. I finally admitted, I may be writing a book.
I spent a lot of time with friends; playing music, planning, volunteering, coordinating... events, recording time, photo shoots... Job interviews! I found the confidence to offer Victor a month away from me... a month with no ties or contact. A month for him to be free of my influence and make a decision about whether to continue our relationship or say goodbye. He postponed the decision to the last possible day...
...a few days before our deadline, the first open mic I used to go to, out in the burbs- where all this started- was suddenly cancelled. I went to its grand finale. It was bittersweet. I performed for the last time on its stage, alone, borrowing Andy's guitar.
This weird theme visited me repeatedly throughout the evening... Meta. "A term, especially in art, used to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential." They were selling t-shirts, featuring the original host of the open mic... He was there wearing one. There were many more examples- Why don't you write these things down?
I knew everyone would carry the party on late... or early rather, into the morning hours, but I slipped out at last call. I texted Victor, "Can I drive by and have you bring out my key?" He obliged.
Just take the key and say goodbye. Don't even park your car. Give him distance. Give him space and time.
He walked out to my car in shorts and flip-flops. I thanked him. "Echo, if you go away in September... You're not coming back, are you?"
I looked down, "I've been thinking about that... Honestly, I'm not sure. I might not be. I don't know."
He talked me into parking and chatting for a while, "Should we stay outside?" He asked.
"I would, but I have to pee... three beers," I danced up the stairs and into the bathroom. I could have cried, staring at where my toothbrush used to rest next to his.
We talked... I told him I was sorry, "We were so good before we fell in love. Then we fell into the trap of trying to play house, like everyone we know... I'm no good at that, never have been. If I wanted that life, I could have had it several times now."
"I don't want to live that way."
"Me either. We don't have to- We can figure out how to live the life we want- together. One step at a time... Like you said, baby steps."
It was getting late, and I wandered to the door, but when he held me like he did not want to let go- I offered to stay... I had not slept in his bed in months. "You could see how you feel about everything in the morning."
He agreed, and we fell asleep in each other's arms.
...There was no way to rewind the past. We could only learn from it... I can never be that person again. Although I will always be myself, I am going to change everyday...
My family relationships have been strained. Our contact has been limited. They barely answer my calls, when they do, they barely speak... except my dad. The one person I struggle most to turn to... my one supporter... the only one not afraid of what I am exposing.
I have had to accept that they are not prepared to handle this- I could choose to crawl back into my shell, if I wanted to live the normal life they would prefer... if I let their fears and hesitations influence me, but I can't. I can't. Only through this clear channel of communication have I felt free to live again... have I found a life worth living again!
...my only fear is that I could say something now to ruin all my progress- What if my new employer reads the blog? What if... What if... What if... I am finally beginning to finally feel as though I have something to loose again- a blessing and a burden. How to continue trusting my gut, even when it jeopardizes my immediate happiness and stability?
The woman... the coma woman... Sometimes I talk to her when I am frustrated. I see her, in her daily routine. One time she was getting ready for a dinner date. She was in the bathroom, looking in the medicine cabinet. Her husband entered and saw her looking perplexed.
"Yes," She replied automatically, "No," She corrected herself. "We need to put these razors away for a while...She's here again."
He began collecting the sharps, "Do you need your medication?"
"No, I'm fine. We just need to take precautions... to be safe."
"What does she want?"
"...I don't know... What do you want?" She's asking me a question. What do I want?
Later I saw her writing. I recognized her... my narrator. She is writing my story?
Nearly a year after Victor and I left the Tin Angel together, I went there to see him play a show with another band... He knew I was coming. We discussed it. He was happy to see me, happier than I expected. While I got caught up in conversation with the venue promoter, I heard him order me a beer, "This and whatever she's having... Actually, she'll want this. Pour me another?" He put his glass in my hand with a smile and a kiss.
All night he touched me. All night I was finally ready to be his... to let everyone see how affectionate we are behind closed doors... to let everyone see what I had been running away from for months- A wonderful, darling man that I loved so much, it broke my heart.
To long for someone is an incredible sensation... standing on the precipice of acquisition. It fills me with hope and wonder. But when I am with someone, life is full of fear and doubt... the possibility of loss looms. I suddenly fear death.
...It has not been a smooth transition. It is an effort for us to let go of the past, when we gave ourselves to each other so willingly but made so many mistakes. Now even good routines, like sharing household chores, can trigger bad memories- codependency.
Loving after the falling part and the falling apart is work... and many people choose to go on falling again and again with different partners. I do not want to perpetuate that cycle. I do have faith that there is something very real worth saving between Victor and I...
One morning he caught me using his toothbrush, "Use your own." He handed me my purple toothbrush.
I felt my eyes nearly fall out of my head, "You didn't throw it away?"
"No, I put it away in my travel bag," he smiled.
I kissed him. A diamond could not have meant more to me in that moment.
"...don't feel the urge to manipulate, canjole, seduce, demand, beg, or insist. You simply allow, and in that you make an open space for love to flow." -Deepak Chopra (The Path to Love)