Note to my readers:

Welcome. Thank you for wanting to hear my story.

Until very recently I was writing in a void, very few people aware of my tiny voice in the vast internet universe. A lot more eyes are suddenly here. That is an honor. As the story teller I will continue to do my part: to tell my story honestly as I know it. Due to its heaviness I have blogged anonymously. I have changed the names of friends and family whose stories are intertwined with mine. I don’t mean to be their voice, to portray their experiences or assert expertise in their needs. I tell of them only as they bump against me, my story being the one I  can tell with authority.

If you know, or think you know, any of the characters in my stories please respect their anonymity, both in your sharing and in your comments. I recommend using the names as given in this blog for the sake of internal consistency.

Do feel free to share this blog freely. Do so with consideration to those whose story is being bared.

Thank you.

Breathe

Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday.

It’s also the one year anniversary of the last time we spoke.
“My wife and I will leave you the hell alone.”
He’s been as good as his word. I wonder if he uses my name or if, like my mom, I’m “Someone” in his stories.

My body remembers anniversaries. I’m trying to speak gently to it, to let it feel what it needs to feel. I’m trying to get through the next two days without another panic attack.

“I never expect my body to remember things, but it does.” My friend gets it. She says what I need to hear. “I try to speak gently to my body, to let it know it’s okay that it’s upset.”

I laughed when she said that. “Really? I usually let it know I’m pissed it’s interfering with my day.” I’m trying her way. I’m trying to be gentle to myself, to let my body have a mind of its own. “We can do this. Two more days. Breathe, girl. Breathe. I’m sorry this happened to you. You are beautiful. Breathe.”

Anxiety attacks are terrible. I’ve spent all week feeling anxious about anxiety attacks. Helpful, I know.

It was cold last week. I got home from work not too late and set about fixing myself some food. My partner had made himself comfortable in bed as I chatted away loudly, voice carrying through our open bedroom door. Drink in hand I wandered in to join him. Mid sentence I faltered. I tried again, repeating the last word and pushing ahead with my story– and stopped. I sat down, took a deep breath, tried again. My story dissolved into pointlessness and tapered out. T looked at me attentively.

“I’m sorry, I can’t finish my story while you’re wearing those.” Unceremoniously and without hesitation I removed his white thermal pants. I hoped I was playful when I tossed them on the floor, but I was afraid it was too clearly a banishment.

“Those were keeping me warm.”

“I know. I’m sorry you’re cold.”

He took a long look at me. “You have…. interesting triggers.”

I love that he knew a trigger when he saw it. It keeps the wounds clean. I tossed my fuzzy blue PJ pants at him. “I didn’t mean to make you naked without asking.”

White thermals: my dad’s go-to in cold weather. Camping, fishing, working, stacking firewood, Christmas tree hunting. They were ever present. They were warm and comfy and rural and sensible. The happy times are triggers now? Great. Didn’t see that coming.

“I’m having a hard time being inside my body.” It was only a few minutes after I’d hurled them away but the thermals were out of sight, out of mind. I didn’t know what I felt, or why.

“What does that mean?”

“That’s… that’s all I’ve got.”

“What can I do to help?”

“I– hold me?” My body took control. It clenched itself into a fetal ball to keep itself inside my skin. He squeezed me, but not hard enough. Not frantically enough. Not like he wanted me not to explode. My body twitched, it sobbed. I didn’t know why my body hated me. I didn’t understand why he didn’t know he needed to save me. I pushed him away hard, left him behind and threw myself onto the couch, squeezed myself into an even tighter ball.

Twitch.
Breathe.
Clench. Twitch. Twitch.
Remember to breathe.
Anger.
Fear.
Breathe.
Twitch.
Mindfulness. Breathe. Why do I feel afraid? Why am I angry? There is no danger. There is no harshness. Breathe. Relax. Relax your spine so you can breathe deeply. Relax your fingers. Uncurl your hands. Breathe. You’re so cold. Stand up. Go rest.

Those damn thermals.

I melted back into T’s arms, pulled the blankets tight. He squeezed me hard– loving hard, not world-is-ending hard. Because he loves me, and the world isn’t ending.

Two more days. We can do this. Two days.

I miss my dad.

Tools

I lean against my partner’s shoulder as we stand close– partly because we’re in love, partly because there’s only a small patch of floor safe for standing. His arm is warm around my ribs, his quick squeeze makes me flush. Boxes and chaos: the price of our decision to live together. “Moving sucks,” is the common thread of public sympathy. Seems a laughable understatement at this point.

“They’re lovely,” he says. Our floor-to-ceiling IKEA shelves are all snapped into place. “Not the hand-made hardwood boxes we’d hoped for, but this’ll do.” I nod my acceptance.
“The boxes would have been gorgeous, but we don’t have time for the project. Or room. Or tools. We’d need a lot of tools.”
“Well, I know at least 5 men at church with all the tools we’d need. … if we were still welcome at church.” Sometimes groups of people don’t know how to be present with hard changes. Losing community sucks.

I snuggle in a little. “Historically I’ve had access to Dad’s shop. And lumber. And tools. I feel really… Isolated. I miss my resources. I miss my dad. This was what he’s good at. This was a safe space. I keep wanting to call him and say ‘Hey! I’m building shelves!’ and let him talk at me, pretend to be close. Too bad he’s halfway across the country. Oh yeah, and he doesn’t acknowledge me anymore.”

Having a shitty father sucks.

**********

We’re taking him to the ER.” Latest in a weekend-long series of texts Saturn and I have exchanged. I’m so glad she’s there; a dozen states away all I can do is stay informed and tell everyone I love them.

A missed call from Pewter. Heart racing, I hit call-back. He’s crying. “I don’t want to die. I don’t. I’ve worked too fucking hard to make it to today to check out now. I don’t want to die. I love you guys more than anything and I can’t do that to you. I just don’t know how to keep going. I don’t know how to survive this. I wish to God Dad had had the balls to get help. But I’m stronger than him. I’m doing it, and I’m going to get better. I love you.” I love him too. More than life. And I couldn’t protect him. No one could. I sit and stare at the closet. I want things for Pewter. Good things. Healthy and beautiful things. Like a whole new childhood. For tonight I’ll settle for basic physical safety.

Saturn calls me back– our brother has a bed in the psych unit. I wish I felt relieved. The System isn’t known for offering much to those I love. But he’s alive. A step.

Saturn and I spent a decade working together on the fringes of the mental health system. I had to tap out, but she’s still there. She has the connections Pewter needs. She’s his best ally. “I’m looking for a DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) trained therapist in the area. DBT is so much about being able to still yourself, be present, gain perspective and respond intentionally. To trust your own voice. Pewter knows what he needs, he just doesn’t know how. He needs–”
“Tools.”
“Yeah. Tools.”
Tools for surviving Dad.

*********

Moving projects seem infinite.
“Would it be safe to assume you don’t have a metal file somewhere?” T asks, waving his hand across the box-covered desk.
“I have a collection of metal files. What size do you need?” T looks at me with amazement.
“It wasn’t a safe assumption. I’m sorry. You are awesome!” I shrug away my partner’s adoration.
“Dad gave them to me for jewelry.”
T’s silence draws my questioning glance: he’s waiting for my eyes and doesn’t let them go as he responds:
“Your dad gave a good gift– to an awesome person.”
Slowly T’s words are informing my inner voice, a gentle voice, the one I must learn to trust.