It’s Friday night, and I walk away from my evening class alone, with no plans. I am exhausted and frustrated to need to drive before I can rest. I don’t want to cook for myself; I’m too tired. I don’t want to drive; it’s stressful.
I walk across Greensboro St and get pizza from the Napoli truck. Another suboptimal (though delicious) food decision, because I’m too depleted to care. I drag my feet walking to the car and drive back to Danielle’s house where I am cat sitting. I feed the cats and perch idly on the barstool at the kitchen island, drinking fizzy water and checking Facebook. I don’t want to be alone, as usual, but I’m too tired and vulnerable to do much about it. I’m sure as shit not getting back in the car.
Stultified, I scroll and click, irritable and numb. I’d go for a run–but I can’t run two days in a row yet. There are interesting things I want to read–but I’m too tired. The cats have gone outside. It isn’t dark yet. I trudge upstairs to the master bedroom, noting how clean and tidy everything is with relief. The master bath is light and spacious, trees and sky visible out both big windows. I plug the drain and turn on the faucet. While I wait, I throw myself across the bed and scroll more. When the tub sounds full I go back in and unwrap a bath fizz I got myself as a treat, and step right in without pausing to test the water, bend my knees and sink into the tub.
My hair swirls around my head as I lay with my face only barely above the surface. It’s quiet. I can’t hear the a/c or the insects chirping outside or the sounds of my own breath and movement. In fact I’m not breathing–I’m contracted in my miserable loneliness. I close my eyes and exhale, pull my head under the water and emerge blinking.
I wipe the water from my eyes, look down and see the shapeless peach-beige of my belly underwater. I bring my hands to my abdomen and flinch. My flesh is soft and loose beneath my fingers. I palpate the deposit of adipose tissue covering rectus abdominis. I see myself in racing photos, abdomen defined–but this isn’t how I look now. Since the stress fracture, I’ve gained twenty pounds. I’m still fit by most standards but I don’t like these useless twenty pounds one bit–they won’t race worth a damn. They make me feel slow and useless. My lip trembles and my forehead creases in frustration. Still recovering. Can’t cut weight. I hold my belly in my hands and close my eyes.
Patience, I tell myself. Hold on. I address my unwanted distended belly; Hey, you can’t stick around. You aren’t staying. But you can be here for now. You are my grief and loneliness my apathy, my hopelessness. I understand. I can hold you.
Next I bring both hands to my neck, where my paraspinal muscles have the approximate appropriate level of tension to hold a damned bridge up. Only with my hands there I can acknowledge my neck has been in pain all day.
All right, I tell my neck. For now you can be like this. I see how you’ve been working to protect me from harm. You are my fear and hyper vigilance, my anger, my aversion. You will not stay like this.
I stick a leg out of the water. Ordinarily the muscles of my leg stand out, trembling a little when I move my foot. Ordinarily, I love my legs; my quadriceps are strong as hell and gorgeous. Now they look soft, flaccid, useless.
I suddenly have no further patience for my changed body and my strained relationship with it.
I gasp and duck under the water, which burns my nose this time. I stand up and step out of the tub, blowing my nose frantically into a ribbon of thin toilet paper.
I don’t want to feel any more. I’m tired of my feelings. I pull the curtains shut, hang the towels in the bathroom, and go to bed.
Where I lay there.
…And lay there.
Danielle’s bed is so comfortable, I remind myself. Much better than the cot I usually sleep on. This is nice.
And then I continue to not sleep through a trip to the bathroom, a trip to the thermostat, some twenty or more adjustments to my weighted blanket and a melatonin lozenge. I lay awake with the hell of my feelings and my goddamned mental images and my unbearable loneliness. I continue wanting very much to sleep–and yet not sleeping while memories surface. Finally I catch myself trying to remember what kissing feels like, and then I whip my totally unimpressive legs out of the bed so fast my quadriceps must be working in there somewhere. When I leave the bedroom I can see that I’ve endured two and a half hours of sleepless misery, and I figure that’s about the threshold for the emergency drugs.
Numerous people have asked, encouraged, and prodded about SSRIs. The many, many doctors I’ve been to after the car accident generally do depression screens. There’s that pesky question about whether I’ve considered suicide, which I always have to check yes because I’m that honest. Even though I know we’re next going to talk about psych drugs and I do not want psych drugs. Except that since the accident, sometimes actually yes I do. I have to be really, really, really desperate for the anxiety to go away.
I am really, really, really desperate for the anxiety to go away. I dig in my purse for my emergency Clonazepam. I become briefly hysterical when I find a foil wrapper peeled open, the tiny white pill missing–but then I remember that’s from the other week at my friend Chris’ fight. I dig some more, and then I tear the foil wrapper open like an addict. The pill is cloyingly sweet and fuzzy under my tongue as it dissolves, and I walk softly back upstairs in the dark, still weeping a little.
And then before I know it, the unbearable pain turns to night. I sleep soundly until morning.