My godmama cornered me at a recent family gathering.
Sweetheart, I read your blog because your god-sisters tell me when they think I need to be aware of what you are going through. It make me so sad to know that you have such a big sadness. Tell me what I can say to make it better, I wish I knew. I know you are having a hard time right now, but the only advice I can give you is: don’t worry about the forest. Focus on the trees. Just take one thing at a time. Tell yourself, ‘I can’t handle this thing right now, so I will work on this other easier and smaller thing and make it better. I know I need to fix this third thing, but I’m not strong enough right now, so that will have to wait and that’s ok. Instead I’ll take care of this little thing.” One tree at a time, sweetheart, bit by bit, that is how forests are made. It breaks my heart, sweetheart, that you are feeling so sad. Please, please just remember that we are a phone call away and that we love you. I wish I knew what to say to make it better.
That’s a godmama, right there.
I tried to tell her that I know she loves me, and it comforts me. But at the moment, I just can’t show up. I’m exhausted, and I’m trying so hard. All my energy is consumed trying to salvage my career and fight my brain. Knowing that she and my close friends and family are a phone call away sustains me. But other than concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, building up my career, and then attacking one by one the trees that need fixing in my life, I have no energy for anyone or anything else.
For reasons that are not relevant to this blog, I am still in contact with Hickster. There are some loose ends we are trying to take care of, which involve us communicating with one another far more often than never.
Before my diagnosis, especially from November to January, Hickster and I were locked in a pissing contest to see who could hurt the other more. He was soooooooooo frustrated with my constant tears, yelling meltdowns and screaming matches. He would dish out 3-10x as good as he’d get, warning me “you mess with me, I’ll make sure you never try that shit again”. We were the ultimate case study for a toxic destructive relationship. I’d rage at him that he was an ungrateful coward who couldn’t recognize everything I’d done for him, and he’d reply, “You can’t see what I’ve done for you. Who else would put up with your social awkwardness and your tantrums and tears. You’re a fucking child who doesn’t know how to behave. There is a reason why people find you so hard to love. I have moderated your odd quirks and made it easier for people to accept you and like you. You think I don’t value you? I’m still here despite you acting like a spoiled brat drama queen all the time. Nobody else would put up with your exhausting bullshit. Grow up.”
February, I got my prelim diagnosis. I begged Hickster to reach a truce in our warring, while I was on the waiting list to see a psychiatrist and sort out my shit. I was sick, sicker than I’d ever realized and I didn’t have the energy to fight him anymore, not when I was losing the battle against my brain. I had nothing left in me. For about a week, he refused to accept the diagnosis, telling me I just needed to learn to control my emotions. Classic reaction of someone who doesn’t accept mental health issues. The warring continued. I thought I would drown in my own tears.
One day, something switched. Hickster saw me. He saw me trapped in my own misery during a conversation. Since then, he listens and can flag in my voice if I’m sliding down own of my paranoid tunnels, experiencing an episode of cognitive distortion. He stops short the conversation, “Vanilla it isn’t you talking right now, it is your sick brain. You are upset, I see that, but we have to finish this conversation later once you are better. Or else your brain will say something to hurt me, and I will say shit I don’t mean, you know my temper. Let’s just wait till you are better. No, Vanilla. Don’t insist. I have a relationship with you and I have an entirely different one with your brain. I need to manage both.” I assumed at first he was manipulating me. Except rather than use my brain as an excuse to avoid the difficult conversations we needed to have, he checks in periodically to assess my mood, and when he feels I am clear-headed, he DOES have the painful, complicated convos we need to have. Almost overnight, the fighting has stopped. We are closing out the loose ends I thought would choke me to death.
It has been disorienting to have Hickster switch from being the guy that almost broke me to someone I can trust to protect me against myself. To be clear: this doesn’t absolve him of all the incredible bullshit he did during our time together. He was an asshole, sometimes still is. But whereas for the longest time I felt unseen, unacknowledged, and devalued, here he is, for the 2nd month running, seeing me better than I see myself. Even though we are dealing with the shitty aftermath of a relationship, he is still showing up. I hear the echo of all the times he told me “You think I don’t value you? I’m still here despite you acting like a spoiled brat drama queen all the time. Nobody else would put up with your exhausting bullshit.” I wonder, now. How much of that was abusive demeaning talk, and how much of it was actually true? He is attempting to fix some of the messes he made in my life even though we are done. He talks to the real Vanilla, the one he always cared for, and has taken on the considerable burden of managing my sick brain. I am grateful for that, because I need all the help managing it.
I feel so much grief. I wonder how many of our fights could have been avoided had we known about the extent and gravity of my condition. How much unnecessary scar tissue we could have saved ourselves. I don’t doubt for a second that Hickster and I were doomed from the start, regardless of my mental health state, because we both are very broken individuals in incompatible ways. But it seems such a waste to have inflicted SO many scars on one another because of my unmanaged condition and unmanageable emotions. I wonder how many other romantic relationships and friendships could not bear that burden and caved or faded. I wonder. I remember some of the fights I had with my ex, over the 6 years of our relationship, the number of times he told me I was exhausting, he couldn’t get through to me, I was vortex of despair. Again, I don’t think we would have ended up happily married, but I mourn how hard I made it for him. How hard I’ve made it for the people in my life, and how many I pushed out of my life.
The real Vanilla wants to love these people, wants to show up, wants to be. But I can’t most days. I fail them, despite my best efforts.
Recap of this recent battle with depression:
- A moment of reckoning
- Phase 1 feels like capitulation
- Phase 2 feels like consternation
- Phase 3 feels like humility
- Phase 4 feels like resignation
- Children, tho!
- Phase 5 feels like accountability