There are moments, when I am doing nothing of any importance, or I am engaged in a conversation, or even when I am mad busy with work… and I am forced to pause because a collection of thoughts and realizations hit me. The equivalent of a 12 car pile up on the fast lane on the freeway – except in my mind. Each one ramming into the next and shattering glass and mangling metal like was made of flimsy paper thing tin cans…
The dots connect in a way that render me mute and childlike in my ability to process it. Even now, to articulate it… I don’t know that I can.
I went out for dinner with James tonight. A family pub type place. We sat in the smoking section tucked in a quiet corner away from the hustle and bustle, and the ear bleeding voice of the hired live music – that I image is entertaining if you are drunk, but we don’t drink alcohol, so all it sounded like was someone being run over and dragged.
I did what I always do. I sat in the hair facing the entrance, and I scanned the people within vision and briefly played out in my mind what I would do if there was any confrontation. I counted the available ‘smash into someone’s face’ type objects, and how many knives were on each table. I rearranged the table so that it was all symmetrical and moved the things that didn’t suit the symmetry onto a different table. I wiped the menu down with a sanitizing hand cleaner and then started to mentally take notes of which part of the room would likely be the dirtiest – just not visible to the human eye. This is something I have done since the 23rd of April, 1999. Obviously it wasn’t apparent to me back then, and worsened after several other events in my life. The main one being the fire I was the sole survivor of in 2005. So… to summarize, as it’s relevant:
Abused by an uncle from age 4 to 8.
4 days held and raped by two men: 1999 (19 years old)
Attempted murder suicide (me being the one supposed to be murdered): 2002 (22 years old)
Homeless after leaving drunk and physically abusive man: 2004 (24 years old)
Fire in which I was unable to save someone who I loved: 2005 (25 years old)
Failed suicide attempt (after enough crack and coke to kill a herd of elephants): 2010. I had not spoken about or dealt with any of the above things… and by then was well into my ‘anger is better than being weak’ stage of all of it.
Each of these events added a little extra intensity to my need to be in control of everything, and sometimes, that includes ‘everyone’. I found escape in booze and drugs and did the rehab thing twice – but have been clean and sober off hard drugs for over 5 years and the second stint was three years ago for codeine. Call it what you like but that was a mistake… not an intentional ‘escape plan’. I didn’t know that codeine could generate pain (same base ingredient as heroin), and so I took more, and more… anyway.
So… we are sitting in this restaurant. We chat to a friend of mine who manages the place, and we have an awesome meal. The bill is paid, and I go to the bathroom to wash my hands. This is always a mid fuck because I want to wash my hands but I have to touch shit that a million other inebriated people, who have possible just vomited, taken a shit or … heaven only knows what else… and I end up using my sleeves and my elbows to move things, touch things… and there have been times that I have stood and waited for other people to enter so that I don’t have to touch the door.
Tonight, was no different, except for the 12 car pile up in my brain. Car one rammed into me as I saw my reflection in the mirror. Bathroom lights always make my eyes take on a psychotic shade of green. I have light green eyes and I am pale, so all it does is remind me of the reflection that stared back at me the night I slammed my face into my own bathroom mirror out of such a deep self loathing, that I lost my self in how evil I believed I was.
Car two, the scar above my right eye, and under my chin. Being kicked in the face because I dared fight back the man who was determined to kill me and then himself.
I leave the bathroom, and brace myself with each person that passes for the possibility of a fight. Car three, four, five…
The reason I scan people, read them, profile them, scan rooms, memorize each object than can be used as a weapon is because… I would rather die than be taken off guard ever again, and I would rather kill – than be weak ever again. But somewhere in that heightened paranoia and determination to be the most aware and the strongest person in the room, I lost my natural ability to be empathetic, and to be compassionate. I have tried so hard to explain to psychologists that when I take people under my wing – it is because I see injustice, not because I am maternal. I get very uncomfortable when people ‘stay’ weak… (I won’t even try to explain that).
Case in point – a friend of mine who I adored recently threw me under the bus to protect herself. I met her in rehab so there is a 14 year age gap, and at the time we met it was pointed out that I was maternal and had become the mother figure to all the broken little birds. Truth be told, although I did warm to her and we did become friends, my motives were not born of maternal instinct. I developed a seething venom like rage towards most of the clinical staff, who I believed had over sedated me, and regardless of what I am there for, I demanded that I had a name, and the rights to speak my mind and because I knew who I was (even with all the armour) – I became the voice for those that didn’t think they had a voice. It was about the injustice of the system, not about the doe eyes girls that looked at me as their pillar of strength. I rejected the labels and the requests to simmer down.
My sole aim was to take down the psychiatrist. I was not paying nearly 1000 bucks for three minutes of no eye contact… in which time she somehow decides that I am in severe withdrawal, and aggression is a side effect – so best tame the beast instead with over sedation than seeing if I can manage it with some monitoring. They sedated me to the point where my insides stopped working. I would desperately need to use the bathroom and nothing would happen.. so I would pass out and fall face first onto the floor. And up until that point I had not been at all rowdy or aggressive. Vocal, maybe, but it’s rehab, not a convent.
If I had to start a mini rebellion and get the others to refuse to see her just for one week, my point would be made. And it was. But although I stand by my feelings about that psychiatrist – therein is demonstrated my need to control my environment – and when necessary – the people in it. I can be charismatic and I am good at getting people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. Believe it or not – it is not even always calculated. I instinctively plan ten steps ahead now in situations that don’t require it. One of the cars in the pile up… is knowing that.
Car pile up still in progress. I am a self absorbed (not in a vain way – but in a ‘I come first’ way) and I have been called a narcissist and I agree, I do have some strong narcissistic tendencies. But if you put me in the right situation, I would also break someone’s fingers and smash their face in, with no remorse. Does that make me the monster? Or am I hyper vigilant because I have experienced first hand how disgusting people can be with no warning?
The car pile up is not about guilt. Its the heavy and weighted realization that all my little quirks and a large part of who I am today – right down to the need for symmetry, my selective kindness, and my unflinching brace for potential blood spill, is because I have survived on my own terms – and those terms are that weak is weak, and those that know me today, know that I am not someone you fuck with. I prefer that – than being someone is easy to pick on, because flight is preferable to fight. many would say that makes me a victim still… but I would tell those people to kiss my Lilly-white arse.
When that car pile up happens, it is anger I feel. Anger that I am stained and that I can wash my hands a million times, and keep my home and work space as tidy as I like, but the real filth in this world, still walks around and that people like me, who take on the monster, gut it and spit on it – become the type of person that makes many uncomfortable. Talk about injustice.
Car eleven… I am just as savage in my view of weak vs strength as the people who hurt me. That is the same way I look at people. You are a weakling, or you are a force. Guilt? No… just a numb throb of acceptance. But overwhelming for a moment still, because I know that some of those characteristics that I wear with possibly too much pride – weren’t cultivated by my own independent thinking. They are the result of being intimate with death, and the stench of pain. Pain that I later sought in various ways, to test my own limits and to know it, and trust it, so that if I need to, I can use it. I can harness it and it not ever be afraid of it.
If you take fear out of the equation, your armour takes on an extra shine.
Car twelve, the last to slam at speed into the already mangled mess. Love… I still feel it. Putting my dogs down ripped my heart open and I would gladly have taken the needle myself, if it meant they would be safe. James… the man I love, I would kill for him, and be killed if it spared him. My brothers… my family… my friends. All that love… the weak spot in my armour. It makes me angry… that I view love as a flaw in the suit of impenetrable ‘fuck you’ that I wear. But I still give it, feel it, and need it…
And the twisted part in this pile of smoking and crumpled car wreckage, is that, that car, the last one, the one that reminds me I am human, is the one that always brings me to my knees. Trust, betrayal, loyalty… complete truth… I expect that from those I love. It keeps me safe.