Finding the Lost

I’ve been feeling old, lately.

Ugly, aged, and… 2 dimensional.

So much has changed in the 3 and a bit years since my mental health crisis. I’m an entirely different person with an entirely different life. In so many ways that is a positive result, but there’s one long-standing aspect of that recovery that has really started to get to me.

I don’t have an identity anymore.

I think many addicts go through this when they step into recovery. You mourn the loss of your chosen substance(s), and the people who came with them. Addicts design their entire lives around their ability to get high so when they take that requirement away from themselves it very quickly becomes apparent just how substanceless their lives were when they lived under the influence.

There was a lot of catching up with the world to be done when I quit Escapism.

I suddenly had all this time. Hours of it that I had to actively fill with something. I very quickly realised that I’d only ever written whilst high or drunk and that attempting to do so whilst sober only worked while I was still raw inside recovery; when I had emotions to expunge.

The moment that I felt like I was getting “better”, like I was managing my life in a healthy and positive manner, I lost the desire to put words on paper. I lost the desire to overshare myself with the world. After three years of not writing, I’ve now lost the talent, as well.

I think the loss of my identity has much to do with it.

For the vast majority of my life I was “that weird goth girl”. I stopped being her when I moved back to this little town and there wasn’t much of a call for clubwear. I also wanted to be someone different, someone healthy, someone fixed.

I figured that fixed people don’t wear demonia boots and teenage angst… but in some ways, while I seem to manage life in a healthier manner – healthier for the world around me – it’s not necessarily healthy for myself, and I am reconsidering my stance very seriously.

I’ve gone from one emotional extreme to the other. I went from overcaring to indifference. My daughter breaks through that, of course, but basically everything else that exists in my world, does so on my emotional periphery.

I feel less than whole. I feel like a cutout, a silhouette, something that is substanceless and has nothing of any depth to offer the world. I feel that my opinion is worthless; just one more stupid voice bleating into the ether. I don’t care enough to put any conviction into anything I say, because there’s nothing besides my daughter that fills me with any kind of passion.

The only time that I feel remotely like my old self; the me whose corners are filled with meaning and life is when I’m drinking.

I don’t “drink”  anymore, I normal person drink. The demons that caused me to drown myself have been exorcised, so for the most part, I don’t “drink”, I just socially acceptably sip with friends. I mean, the edge is a very fine line and I’ve slipped over it a few times, but even when I’ve had more than I should, I haven’t turned into that angry, dangerous girl I used to become every time.

I have turned into one of the girls I used to be, though. The one who listened to music, who had opinions, who … got involved in life. I guess I just haven’t worked out how to reach her without drinking.

I think it’s because I felt that everything about the old me was wrong. It was trouble, it was broken, it had to apologise for existing. I was very compartmentalised; very dissociative. There were distinctly different me’s that occupied this body at any given time and they were sometimes so different to each other that I never got anything accomplished because they kept swapping who was in control.

I think that maybe I’m so ashamed of all the me’s that I used to be that I won’t even let the healthy aspects of them out. None of them were inherently evil; they were just always too amplified because I manifested them separately.

The experiences I’d been through in my life had taught me that to survive, I had to become what someone wanted me to be. My personalities were definitely compartmentalised and my worlds were NOT allowed to intermingle. During my Sydney days, my work people thought I was a non-drinker, despite being an alcoholic, and my friends didn’t interact with my boyfriend unless the metal and goth worlds crossed paths.

I had been taught from the age of 8 that I wasn’t entitled to my own feelings. I’d been taught that my emotional responses to situations weren’t appropriate, or they weren’t the fault of the person who caused them. I was told that my recollection of the events had been wrong.

That’s the result of gaslighting – it makes you question your sanity and grip on reality and you always come out of it doubting yourself, rather than the person telling you that you’re wrong.

The consequence of this was that my emotions had to be carefully stored and sorted individually so that I could take them apart later, when I was alone, in front of a notepad or a computer. I would write out the scenario step by step, in an attempt to convince myself that I was right. It didn’t matter though. Unless the other party relented and told me I was right, I’d never believe myself, despite clear evidence and occasionally witnesses.

The self-doubt was so extensive that little by little, the whole, full person that I was began to be eroded away until all that was left was a quiet little blank canvas, always alert for signs to tell me how I should act to avoid displeasing that bully.

So those hidden emotions created all those different me’s who only came out one at a time, in amplified doses, and because I learned to be who I needed to be for the person I was with, I never actually established who I was as a real life person.

I think the only time I have ever been close to being “myself”  was the tiny little year when I was 13 years old and started high school. I left the bully behind and hadn’t yet started real life relationships with boys who taught me that my only worth was between my legs.

Once that happened, the effects of the PTSD caused by the bullying began to kick in and the social chameleon was born.

I escaped through my clothing and music and internet friends – and that’s where I first learned how to have completely separate worlds. Internet friends have always been safe, the one place I was able to be my real self because they couldn’t touch me, I didn’t feel threatened by them. They were my confidantes and probably my life savers once I began that emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship at 15.

Moving back to this little town as an adult meant that I no longer had the luxury of compartmentalising my life. I didn’t have the escape of a metal gig or club, where I could listen to the music that speaks to my soul and calms me down and makes me feel light and good.

When I binged, work knew about it, because it usually happened with them, or within their sight at one of the few pubs left in town. I couldn’t run anywhere anymore, there were no hiding places, and the walls kept falling in on me. I just broke beneath the pressure and the weed-induced paranoia.

So now I feel that to avoid that ever happening again, I’ve got walls that are so big that even I can’t get into them. Walls that I didn’t actually realise I’d put up. I will never run the risk of falling apart again, of becoming all those different people if I simply don’t allow myself to feel the emotions that breed them.

The only person who is safe for me to experience unconditionally is my daughter, because she loves me with everything that she is. She doesn’t have an agenda, an ulterior motive.

To protect her, and keep her safe from the other me’s, I just exist as this safe, but unfulfilled shell.

The unfulfilled part is starting to make me not quite as safe anymore, however, and old emotions are beginning to creep in.

Depression, ennui, futility, apathy and a big fat dose of self-disgust. I avoid mirrors at the moment – not because of my weight, but because of my face. I hate what stares back at me. Those big teeth, big gums, pale lips, old skin, empty eyes.

I see the passage of time on that face and it reminds me that I’ve accomplished nothing in life besides the basic evolutionary function that all organisms instinctively perform to ensure the continuation of the species.

I’ve whinged a lot on the internet, but that’s basically it. I mean, I don’t even have a hobby. I can’t even answer the question “what do you enjoy?” because the answer to that is “nothing”.

I enjoy not being present.

Despite a diagnosis, therapy, and feeling that I’ve worked through the traumas that caused my need to escape into a mind-altering substance on a daily basis, I still find myself drawn to pursuits that allow time to pass without me engaging with the world – reading, television, movies – sucking in someone else’s creativity in an effort to avoid doing anything myself.

This? This isn’t creativity, it isn’t writing. This is doing what my tagline says – using blogging as a cheap form of therapy.

And I’m not sure whether I have the energy or even the inclination to do otherwise.

Something’s gotta give, I know that.

My family is about to make some big changes, which I think are probably long overdue, and that’s as good a time as any for me to implement some others.

I might spend my non-smoking money on a new pair of demonia boots, or a corset. I might set up a media centre in the new house so I can listen to my music again, instead of The Wiggles or the countless nursery rhyme playlists my daughter watches on YouTube.

Maybe, if I reach in and pick some of the parts of the old me’s that felt good and pair them with the aspects of the new me that bring me peace, I’ll manage to cobble together some sort of epic goth/martha stewart Frankenstein that brings me fulfillment.

In fact, to get me started I might just buy myself this pretty Skull Apron.

classy_cook_aprons

and these boots.

demonia trashville - beserk

and I need to stop looking because I’ve added $568 worth of things to a wishlist and I’m supposed to be packing boxes for moving…

 

 

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Sleepwalking

This acoustic version of Sleepwalking reminds me of the hours and hours I spent alone in my Melbourne apartment, writing, drinking, freezing, singing, crying, hating, loving – feeling terrified, empowered, and lonely.

At the time, I was numb to all of it. Those emotions were ripples across my surface – except the loneliness – I felt that as keenly as the icy winds that greeted me every night as I left the call centre I worked at.

I remember feeling new, like paper. I was blank, nothing – a few etchings beginning to appear as my new person developed. Someone wholly separated from the person I’d been in all the years leading me to that point. I vowed I’d never be that girl who hurt herself by staying where she wasn’t actually wanted. I vowed I would never date a musician again. I vowed I would stop being scared of losing everything, and start living.

So I took a job in a call centre – something the old me would never have done, because I was too anxious that the people sitting next to me would hear how useless I was at the job. I went out to nightclubs on my own and introduced myself to people. I wandered a lot. Had hair style changes, new piercings, new clothing… and while it felt exciting to create a new me, it felt like it was all happening to someone else.

It’s only through hindsight that I can see how close I came to actually losing everything, and to just how completely disconnected I was from reality, my emotions, and the idea of consequences.

When I listen to this song, I remember the smell of that apartment, how cold it was, how small, but wonderful it was. The way I heated it using the oven, because the idea of buying a heater to keep myself warm never once occurred to me. When Sid asked me, flat out, as he shivered that night of our one night stand, why I didn’t have a heater, I remember the sadness, the horror, as I realised I’d never considered it because mentally, I didn’t feel worthy of warmth.

Until that very moment, I’d had no idea just how much I had confused my numb, reckless, alcohol-induced Brave New Person, with simply shutting down and not coping.

People say that you drink to forget. The only time I remember Important Things, is when I’m drunk. But the next day, I can’t remember what I remembered, and I wonder how many secrets about myself and my past, that I discovered and lost, alone in that apartment, with this song the only witness?

I wonder what the walls heard, or who I spilled my secrets to at 4am on threadbare couches in darkened corners of dirty clubs and 24 hour pubs – There are strangers out there, walking around, who know things about me that I will never remember, and the shapes of their faces are little more than a faded blur of a whiskey soaked memory, and yet, they probably know me far more intimately than people who’ve known me for decades, because when the whiskey goes in, the walls come down, and I feel safe to be myself.

Until I become The Other Self, the one that’s too Too – too loud, too violent, too angry, too sad, too lost, too lonely, too desperate, too broken, too confused.

So now I’m a new Me. Again.

The walls are higher and thicker than they’ve ever been. Nobody gets through the generic How’s The Weather layer. I don’t know how to let them, without alcohol, and now I have new reasons to be more scared of the consequences of drinking than I ever had in the past. I have a child who doesn’t deserve to witness the demon inside me, or my punishment for who I apparently become.

This new me is a bit like the old me, in that I feel no connection. I have friends – those satellites who orbit my world, never getting inside, because I don’t know how to have friends and trust them. It’s easier to keep everyone at arm’s length, than to lose them, or have them leave you.

So now I find myself missing those days in that freezing apartment, where my whiskey words let me make the strongest connections to any friends I’ve ever had.

I wouldn’t trade what I have now for what I had then, but it sure would be nice to learn how to let go, and live.

When Old Becomes New

For many years I had a secret dream. A dream I wouldn’t even voice aloud to myself, not even in the voice that lived inside my head. 

I felt so undeserving of this dream that I brushed it off when it came up in conversation and made self-deprecating jokes about my inability to handle the task purely to hide just how vulnerable it made me feel to want something I felt so incapable of doing.

It’s been two months since my dream came true with the birth of my daughter, and what began as the most terrifying journey soon became a pleasant and happy experience as I grew with confidence in my own ability and in my relationship with my baby.

As weeks went by I began to miss my autonomy, my friends, my ability to just unwind and not be thinking about sterilising bottles or changing nappies, so last Friday my parents watched our daughter and my partner and I joined my friends on a night out – a night that began in all the ways my drinking history has taught me to avoid.

Unsurprisingly to many, I ended up where those historic sessions always found me; 20 odd vodka redbulls later, not able to tell you my own name – In fact, I was probably in the worst shape I’ve ever been, and that’s coming from someone who has given themselves pancreatitis from drinking. 

The day that followed was the most heartbreaking of my life.

It’s a day of new feelings, and of meeting old ones long buried and long forgotten.

I was dizzy, weak, unable to throw up but unable to keep anything down. I couldn’t pick my daughter up without the fear of dropping her. She cried and my partner was the only one who could help her. I couldn’t feed her, change her or bathe her. I couldn’t comfort her and I probably terrified her with the amount of alcohol that was steaming out of my body. My skin was grey, my eyes were bloodshot and my body shook.

I cried most of the day.

I felt physically better the next day (though by no means what you would call “well”), but mentally, I was beginning the sharp descent into the boozeblues.

This is where those old feelings brush up against new feelings.

It has occurred to me in these days that have followed that mentally and emotionally, I am back where I began in motherhood. I don’t have a single ounce of faith in my own ability as a parent as a result of ending up in that same boozetown I swore I had left behind. 

If I fell this far already, when I was enjoying our life so much, what am I going to do when we have actual challenges to face?

It seems my confidence is intrinsically linked to my control over my drinking – when I fail at controlling that, I lose any shred of faith in my ability to function anywhere else in life. All I see is how worthless and useless and selfish I am to not be able to stop, even when something so perfect is waiting to see me the next day.

I’ve spent the past few days with my old friends regret, fear, self-loathing and The Whisperer – she’s the one who speaks to people when they’re at their lowest, looking for ways to stop feeling those ugly feelings about themselves – she sits on your chest, fills up your veins, squeezes your lungs and tiptoes through your mind, kicking dust all over the things you find most precious. 

Now, when my daughter cries, I can’t say what she needs. Until Friday, I was okay with guessing. Now it feels like everything is a guess. It makes me feel small and not good enough for her.

We’ve been talking a lot the past couple of days, my daughter and I. She’s been smiling at me and laughing. Until Friday, those smiles and laughs were just that – a baby’s smiles and laughs. Now part of me aches because she’s too beautiful for me. She’s two months old and I’ve already let her down.

And now I remember why she was my secret dream, because this is what I knew was in me. This is why I knew I’d fail. 

So this is it. This is the memory I need to keep each time I take myself to the bar to buy a drink. I need to remember how this feels, rather than try to forget it.

It’s in the forgetting that we end up having to remember.

She is my light in dark places

You know that place where the feelings disappear?

Where there’s nothing but silence, a companionable silence that has no meaning behind it, just acceptance of whatever is, and that vague sense that what preceded this place was the snapped-elastic sensation of giving up on everything, all at once? And now there’s no resistance, just a weightless silence of nothing mattering anymore.

You feel relief wash over you, like you’re bathing in it, swimming in it, just floating in freedom from yourself, but there, under the water is a current. If it had colour, it would be a cartoonish wisp of blackness that tickles your toes and reminds you that this isn’t a dream.. that this is real. You’re finally here. You’re at the place where the noose hangs from the tree, the poison sparkles in the bottle, the pills pile up in your hands, the gun glistens in the moonlight.

It’s when that brings no fear that you have to tread most carefully.

I was lucky.

It was the feeling of pure calm that made me realise it wasn’t me who was holding the reins that night. No, they were being held by The Girl Who Lives Inside – the little downtrodden one who finds her voice when I find the middle of the bottle.

I used to feel sorry for her, when I realised she was in there. She’s the little girl me, the girlfriend me, the one who kept trying to tell me to leave these harmful people and I kept telling her to shut up.

I don’t feel sorry for her now. She isn’t a nice girl. She is made out of knives and bee stings and hatred and vomit and just like those people she kept warning me to leave, she also tries to hurt me.

She hates that I know about her now. She hasn’t been allowed out because I haven’t opened a bottle. I haven’t left the shores of sobriety for seven months – not a single escape tool has passed my lips – no cigarettes, no alcohol, no drugs.

I suppose she’s in there just biding her time, knowing that in a few very short months, my main reason for keeping the lid on the bottle will be out in the world, no longer sharing my blood, my oxygen, my body.

And I wonder if she will pounce. If she will take me back to that weightless place a month or so into my lack of sleep, when the sound of crying causes me to do the same. When the responsibility of being someone’s world becomes too overwhelming, will that elastic snap again? When it all piles on too heavy, I know she will be there with her bee stings and dagger-eyes, laughing at me for thinking I could get away.

What she may not have taken into account is something I’ve just realised – She’s never met me. Not this me.

This me is someone who is now needed by someone who won’t go seeking a better version of me elsewhere. For someone, I am finally going to be enough. I’m going to be their mum. And nobody is going to make me feel like she would be better off without me.