content warning: suicidal ideation
I am getting a massage. My bank account balance is so low I’ve transferred money out of savings for this because my body feels horribly dysregulated and I can’t fix it myself. All the post-concussive symptoms are back in full force–the nausea and dizziness, the light sensitivity, the eye strain and fatigue. I’m still unable to eat properly, and though I’ve gotten a tolerable night’s sleep twice since I broke down and called my therapist between sessions I’m vacillating between depression and anxiety, totally depleted and miserable. I’m absolutely terrified that someone else in my life will abandon me too, so I feel really alienated.
Before he starts, John asks how I’m doing and what I need. I tell him about he breakup, the terrible sleep and how everything hurts. I don’t tell him how it feels like torture learning how healing it is to be kissed and held and loved and then going back to occasional human contact I can barely feel because I’m so scared all the time. I don’t tell him how I compulsively check my phone even though it’s been eight days since I heard from Kevin at all–or how each day that passes feels like fresh hell. Perhaps he sees it on my face. He asks if I’d like a hug. I nod and go to him and sob on his shoulder like a child. He doesn’t pull away. I eventually calm down a little, but I don’t relax.
As John begins to work on my back I remember the first class I taught after spending my first long weekend with Kevin. I was so clear-headed, so magnificently focused. I couldn’t believe how much information I was able to take in at once. It was like waking from a long sleep into perfect, resonant clarity. Feeling safe with him brought me alive. Now I don’t feel safe and I don’t feel alive. I can barely feel John’s hands working–it’s like I’ve retreated inside myself to somewhere dark and horrible. An earlier conversation with a friend felt similarly alienating. I was hyper-sensitive to the noise in the restaurant. I could partly grasp what she was saying but not really comprehend it. We were talking about how I could improve my situation and I felt as though I were drowning and couldn’t reach the lifeline being thrown. I feel like I’m drowning. He’s working on my hips and my body isn’t yielding.
This is it, I think, I really can’t do this anymore. I am too tired, I’m in too much pain, I’ve tried everything, I cannot go on. I begin to think about how and when I might end my life, lying there on the massage table. I think about where I could go and how to arrange things to minimize the trauma for whoever finds me and what might bring me peace in my final moments. I start mentally cataloguing final letters; who might feel guilty for not stopping me or assume I blamed them for my unhappiness. I choose words to bring peace to my troubled loved ones. I imagine exhorting them to love one another, to make sure they know I loved them. I think I’ll pick up some pretty stationary on the way home. The letters could take a while and I can’t end things without writing them; that would be cruel. I turn over the question of whether my abuser would get a letter. Could I write the words “I forgive you”? I could not.
He asks me to turn over and fetches me a tissue, and then he works on my scalp while my tears cascade down the sides of my face. I consider how positively messed up it is that there’s another human being with his hands on me attempting to help while I’m mentally composing suicide letters. I feel guilty as he cradles my head in his hands. My sub-occipital muscles are tense and he’s working on them and it just isn’t getting through, and I feel so broken. I turn over words I would write to Kevin.
John reaches beneath my shoulders and my lip quivers. He’s insistent but kind with my stubborn right levator scapulae, and I weirdly can’t entirely feel what he’s doing yet am crying more as a result of it. Naturally, shit’s gonna happen around anahata chakra; the energy center around my heart.
I want you to know this is not your fault. I was fragile and tired when you came along. Anything might have been the punishing blow that I couldn’t recover from; please don’t blame yourself.
He takes hold, very gently, of my sternocleidomastoid. That’s interesting, therapists don’t usually try working on that. It’s tight, of course, and the unusual very compassionate touch captivates my attention. I feel my eyes roll back in my head. I try to bring myself back into the room where someone is caring for me.
My deltoids have been spasming relentlessly for at least a week. It’s unnerving. John takes hold of my right one and performs some small, grasping motion on the precise muscle fibers that have been giving me trouble. It’s like the sky opens up and the sun comes out, and suddenly I am keenly aware of the human connection between us and the struggle playing out within my body. Deep in the prison of my pain, I lost all touch with my own subtle body awareness–I think last time I felt something good like this, Kevin was kissing me. As John’s fingers rake across my upper arm, it’s like all those stabbing sensations that keep tormenting my broken heart start to bleed out of me. He does his work deliberately on both of my arms and then folds the weight of the blankets onto my breasts enough to press from the top of my sternum across my upper chest.
It feels as though I am still adrift on a perilous ocean with no land in sight, but he has threaded me into a life preserver. I feel far, far away from home but resuscitated just enough to hold on.
The drive home is stressful and difficult, but I pass by several stores without stopping to buy stationery.