Postcards from the Bottom

Well, if I’m going to get any damn use out of this at all, it’s only going to be by keeping careful notes. This is my personality in a nutshell, I suspect–even at the lowest point of my entire life, the little scientist keeps on scribbling, and the storyteller keeps on figuring out how to phrase it all amusingly. I’m glad of that.

A couple of things I’ve learned that I didn’t know before…

Rock bottom is not an absolute. There are levels to it.

Three days alternating between periods of uncontrollable weeping and brief lucidity? Not actually the bottom! Turns out someone can always dig you a sub-basement. On the upside, you can manage to crawl up to the next level for brief stretches, almost always because you’re out in public. (Presumably there’s a point where one’s ironclad social conditioning fails and one becomes a public spectacle, but I have yet to reach it, although I’ve felt it off in the distance occasionally, and been smart enough to get my coat.)

This is pride, of course, and pride is a dangerous thing. You can substitute it for strength, you can drive yourself forward, whip yourself on like a team of horses, but when the cliff looms up, there’s often no way to turn.  But at the same time, sometimes it saves you. Sometimes you should grit your teeth and walk away with your dignity, and sometimes you should swallow your pride.

God willing, before I die, I’ll learn to differentiate between the two.

One thing I did know is that there is a point where you shut off. The emotional breaker gets thrown, with an almost audible click, and suddenly you are cold, cold, cold. You are calm. You have never been so calm in your entire life.  It is not a healthy calm. It is a bad, bad calm, the hurt calm that radiates out from the belly, the eye of the hurricane, the rattlesnake coiling, the old, cold little voice that comes into your brain saying I will take this from here.

I encountered this before, during the bad bits of my divorce, and what I should have learned then is that when this hits, it has a purpose. The purpose is to give you time to stand up, get your purse, and walk away, time to say “Ah, yes. I see,” and hang up the phone. This is the calm that lets you extricate yourself. Do not stay there and hope to remain calm. This is the airstrike your brain calls in to cover your retreat.  It is a finite gift. Don’t waste it.

Physically, I know I’m shot, and not just having a melodramatic episode, because my body’s actually starting to shut down. I’m covered in bruises that I have no memory of acquiring, I’m shaky all the time, food makes me wretchedly nauseated, and yes, as soon as I get back to Raleigh, I’m goin’ to the doctor.  This is really rather unsettling. If I didn’t have the severe stress to blame, I’d start to wonder if I had malaria.

And ultimate indignity, I’vebeen having a period for a week and a half. (There is no god.) It’s finally stopping, but shit, man….that was just cold.  You wanna find the universe and kick it.

In retrospect, I realize I’ve been severely depressed for about two months…actually, right about the point where moving became a real thing I was doing.  I was just ignoring all the warning signs, because…well… I’m never depressed!  I kept chalking it up to stress from moving, and didn’t stop to think that a normal move I was looking forward to would not annhilate my appetite, wouldn’t leave me with a sick knot in my chest that never, ever went away, or make me crazy-restless and walking around for half the night, praying for the hours to pass more quickly.

Nobody noticed, because I didn’t notice. I just kept plowing on ahead, because it’s pretty much the only thing I ever learned how to do. 

Well, live and learn. God willing, this won’t happen to me again, but if it ever does, I’ll hopefully have the brains to recognize the warning signs.

Tune in next time, for more Tales From The Abyss!

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