(Trigger warnings for discussions of suicidality, family drama, and other A+ parenting issues. Also, as usual, language. This is a sort of undecided, sort of open-ended piece because I need to tweak my meds again and am feeling more than a little blue, but I have already called my shrink & let my therapist know I feel lousy, in case you’re wondering.)
I read some author’s line someplace that we sometimes feel like can’t be who we really are until everyone who’s known us is dead. Sometimes, it’s even true by circumstances of money or other constraints– you don’t have the freedom to tell other people and their expectations to go screw, and sometimes just heading out for the hills and reinventing yourself somewhere, somewhen else is not in the cards.
I believe in the power of reinvention. I learned it for the first time at Girl Scout Camp when I learned that I was as funny outside my head as I thought I was, and that I wasn’t just a fat kid who’d grown up quiet because her mom never listened and her dad yelled too much.
I’ve learned it lots of times since then, though sometimes I’ve forgotten and the re-learning has been wrenching and painful in the throwing over of other people’s insistence that you stay as they want you to be. (Ahem, marriage.) I even bought myself a little tray I keep watches & earrings, etc., on, that says “May the bridges I burn light the way,” because sometimes you have to destroy things to find what’s in front of you, and while I don’t recommend wholesale life & relationship destruction on a regular basis, I don’t want to deny that in failure & starting over from scratch, there can be huge freedom because there’s no place but up. (Ashes are really fertilizing if you fold them into the soil, didn’t you know?) I believe in not letting other people’s expectations limit you– but timing, money, and your own feelings of obligation or love (even, hah) can hem you in so that you aren’t being all you can be, to steal a cliched phrase from the Army ads of my youth. And goddamnit, but those circumstances and obligations can be fucking depressing.
Sometimes I feel, in my darker moments, like I won’t ever really be “free” until my parents are dead and I can do whatever the hell I feel like without the worry of what they will think or what I’ll have to fix for them the next time they need fixing hanging over my head. And sometimes, the weight of that thought is enough to make me just want to off myself, now, because waiting for that whenever date is way to amorphous, and I need freedom now. I don’t have it. I don’t make enough money to live on my own, much less replace my totaled car, not when I haven’t gotten out yet from under all of my debts. The thought that someday in the far off future, I will be, isn’t heartening, because in the meantime, it’s just a reminder that oh, yeah, I failed to maintain a marriage relationship (or get out of it early enough) in which the person I loved loved me back enough to say– hey, you’re incurring some serious liabilities here, I am going to make you let me help you. I know it’s not about love– it’s about weakness– but it still feels like it’s about love. Still. And while the thought of sticking him with a bigass alimony obligation that would help me bail myself out of that hole is satisfying– in the end, I don’t want to drag it out forever, which is what it would do if I tried to stick it to him for all the ways in which he was a shitty financial partner. Fact is, so was I at times.
I also understand there is a larger, not just bipolar-caused psychological problem, with the fact that sometimes the only thing stopping me from offing myself is the fact that it’d probably give my father a heart attack and I feel constrained from guilt from inflicting that on him– rather than from any active interest in preserving or living my own fucking life. (Ironic that I don’t worry whether my brother can deal with it, it’s not like we have a close relationship, and he can hire someone to handle declaring my estate bankrupt or whatever the hell…) In the end, I usually don’t feel like I make a difference enough to people’s lives that anyone would, in the end, miss me if I was gone, and sometimes it’s all just too damned much. (Maybe that’s narcissist. Maybe it’s just a human want to know we’ve made some impact out there.)
My dad said to me once “I wish there was a way for you to not feel things so much.” I sort of wish that too, sometimes– but sometimes I don’t, because they’re my feelings, and anyone who tells me they’re wrong just because they’re big feelings that are amplified more than someone else’s can go jump in a lake. I’m entitled to be angry or sad or whatever, if I decide that’s how I feel. (Control’s th thing, though.) Still, I do get tired of the swings in mood, and the vigilance, and the exhaustion all of that brings. Death is really the only completely effective mood stabilizer, in the end, and most of the time my sense of Fuck All These Bastards, I Am Going To Do What I Fucking Feel Like is just that little bit stronger, even when I’m completely fucking miserable.
The problem with the waiting around (for other people) to die problem is it’s wishful thinking, along the lines of “when I win the lottery.” It doesn’t change anything now. It’s what my mother does, all the time, run away from her problems figuratively or literally, and that got her precisely nowhere except on the other side of the country, running away from cold weather (really? there’s winter in Boston?) and the fact that my father had floated her health insurance all through her cancer even as she spouted bile about him, and now neither one of her children want to visit her in Sunny CA and I’m actively not talking to her. Her imagination about what her life and the people in it should be like is not anything like who I am– and I’m done trying to live up to a fantasy. I would have settled for an emotionally available mother who provided for us financially rather than tried to pit us against the economically stable father whose indignation and anger at least made some sense, even if his alcoholic temper was extreme and his criticality still leaves me cringing at anyone’s negative feedback. “Loving words” don’t mean a hell of a lot against government cheese, and barking anger can be counterbalanced by a warm winter coat and some attention to us, as developing people, even if that scrutiny was occasionally more critical and less praise-oriented than it should have been. At least he was paying attention to what was actually happening with us.
What do you do when you can’t or shouldn’t run away, don’t (mostly) want to end it all, and can’t really move forward? Treading water only works for so long– eventually, you either have to make for the shore, or you get too cold & lose strength, go under. Waiting around for a boat to pick you up is just wishful thinking, and those dolphins of Greek Myth who towed you to shore? It’s a nice story, but again– storytelling’s not the same as getting on with your life.