Sadmin

blocked

I’ve come to realize a true, deeply-rooted trigger, is that I have an immense fear of losing people I love. Understandable after all my losses, but there is another element I’ve had to take a lot of time to uncover. It’s the concept of losing loved-ones in a flurry of imposed shame. After losing my father, and what was, for a long swath of time, my family (my dogs, my wife, my in-laws) all at once, like a bus crash… it crippled me with fear. Flooded me with cortisol and whatever cocktail of chemicals that have come together to truly cripple me. All things I’ve been aware of and have worked on. However there was another element I’ve only now begun to understand, and its one of those “blockages” that aren’t so easily understood or unraveled. 

Amidst the largest betrayal of my life, when I was told it was my fault, that I deserved it, all this while she was taking part in the affair and obfuscating it from the world, lying to me and gaslighting me, insisting that it’s all in my head, that she was sick of me bringing it up. I, in my mental state at the time, and a result of 15 years of this behavior, began to believe her when she told me that I deserved it all. When I later confirmed she was having an affair, she lied to her parents about god knows what, but it results in them lashing out at me, and ceasing contact. But I didn’t do anything more than plead with my wife to not leave, to try again, to give me some time since my father had only just died less than a year prior.  It went from “We’ll definitely keep in touch,” to “This was just as much your fault as hers,” with horrible text messages from both of them. The only thing that had changed: my ex knew she had been caught. In an effort to protect her image, she destroyed mine with anyone she knew may call her out, anyone who might tell her “What the fuck are you doing?”. She manipulated her parents into thinking I was a terrible person, all to justify her actions under their image of their daughter. She gave them a free pass to conclude, oh, thank God it’s not our daughter who could do such horrible things. I understand that this was all a huge family affair, and I don’t blame her parents, because they only know what they’ve been told, and they want to believe their daughter.

Regardless, I felt as if her mom/dad/brother had just died in a car crash, because they were instantly gone, and always will be. Worse yet, on top of processing this immense loss, I felt the shame of imagining what was told about me, that deep drive to explain myself that still rears its head, because suddenly these people I loved so dearly seemed to hate me, all for things I never did. I desperately wanted to explain to them that these things weren’t true, that I did nothing but try my best. But I knew I could never break the illusion their daughter had cast, because, if broken, they would have to wonder “What does this say about me?”, and that is too powerful a protective shell, and one maybe I’d be selfish to break. But the shame of what they think of me is still a very prominent burden, and its manifested in an extreme fear of people thinking things that aren’t true of me.

Unfortunately, that’s part of life. No matter who you are, there will be someone who sees you as an enemy. People will twist their own perception to maintain their peace, regardless of how toxic and fractured that peace truly is. They will hurt, and point fingers, and tell you it’s your fault. And then they’ll leave.

We are always only our own islands. And I mean that in a way that I feel is actually positive. We must take care of ourselves, care about ourselves enough to know when the haters are simply wrong, and know ourselves enough to recognize when they may be correct. When we rely on ourselves, it becomes easier.

I hope to get their one day. I hope to escape this forest of doubt and self-loathing, of bathing in shame and fear that was put upon me, of pricking myself on these constant thorns found along a path I never asked to take. I have been running for so long now.

(un)seen

Somehow I keep messing up. As I try better, I experience worse. Hurt others. Hurt a truly kind person that has seen nothing but hurt in her past. She saw me for who I was, finally, finally to be heard and seen at such a level. A twin ship passing in the night, another lesson learned, that I can hurt others, that I can be the monster. All things I already knew, but tried to deny. Rationalizations of my behavior, somehow dodging consequences, but not anymore. I’ve cut myself off from someone that may have been a true match, a special person that deserved so much more. Because I’m not ready, and I made sure of this failure in the worst way possible. To break trust, innocent as the actual action was in my mind, to hurt someone who’d been hurt so often in the past. I don’t deserve anyone.

I’m going to be alone, by choice. I won’t subject anyone to this ever again. No more trying, no more therapy, no more striving to overcome. No more spreading my brokenness. I give up, and I have no plans other than to fade into nothing.

ghost

Familiar with the feeling

of floors, and walls,

their endless textures,

of things I’ve run my fingers over,

busying them, grounding myself,

proving somehow that I’m still here.

Textures, sharp and dull and falling away,

crumbling on a microscopic level,

lodging between the lines,

of fingers’ grooves,

permanently part of me,

as real as can be,

within the facade,

within the ghost,

taking residence,

in place of me.

pariah

I’ve lost more. The only lifeline I had, gone. Another gift I couldn’t accept. Dreams that torture me and tell me “You have a few things to work on, in case you didn’t know.”. A melange of realities that weren’t allowed, of a lost child, a lost marriage, a lost future, a lost past. Vivisected. Cut open for the sake of experimentation. This is my brain on slow, brown-gray nights, in a mostly-empty  little house packed tight amongst houses overflowing with life. Outlier, an alien being that simply does not belong. I clutch to my legs alongside you, desperate to keep up, but remain unseen. Look at me and these hollow eyes, but then see right through, to the smiling, receptive faces beyond.

No direction, no stability, no anchor. Listless, scrambling, slipping. These are the visions shown to me in my dreams, of being lost in strange cities, of static-ridden cellphone calls to those I’ve lost, of violent storms and no shelter. I drive on strange, ink-black roads, my loved ones stranded on the side, or, aware of my presence, desperately trying to escape me as I beg them to just…wait. Please, wait and let me explain, let me talk to you one last time, let me say goodbye. But then they’re gone, always gone, lost in the static. Just as in my waking life, they’re lost in the static, of my anxiety, of my baggage, of my supposedly “self-protective” curse as it lays waste.

Please don’t hurt me. Please understand that I can’t let you in, though I’ve tried. Something you said or did, real or imagined, well, it scared me away, and this…shell-version, compromised-version…was the result. I’m sorry I closed you off, that you felt pushed away, that you felt I wanted to be alone, that you were deemed untrustworthy. It was all static. A voice that says “You don’t need me, and, in fact, maybe you’re better off.” I loved you all so very much, I was just so very afraid.

I’m worried. Really really worried now. So many lifelines severed, so much connective tissue, to a life I once took for granted, a life of family commitments, of friends and good, positive work, of growth. All of it cut from me, like an umbilical cord spewing life in every direction but my own. Something in me is permanently gone, and I feel that strongly. It’s just gone, and I don’t have enough time in my life to repair it. So, here I am. The observer, of what could be “only if”. Observing perfectly happy moments, while wondering “how would this be, if only I could feel…”. Relationships where I think: how wonderful this would be, if I could only trust, if only I could reveal myself again, if only I weren’t so broken. If only I could know that I wouldn’t be hurt again.

Scan the horizon for threats. Take deep breathes and tell myself, unconvinced, that I’m okay. Take inventory of things I’m grateful for, yet receiving the familiar gaze from within as it replies with indifference. Do not feel, it says. I’m sorry but I can’t allow that, good or bad, I’ve reserved only the single feeling for you, and I see you’ve grown quite adept, fearing the very feeling itself, a repetitive, cursed conundrum, wouldn’t you say? Fear the fear the fear the fear the fear…

We must run, always. For our life, we must run.

Broken Chair

(lyrics by “Chris and Thomas”)

You breathe, you learn, you lose
You take, you break, you choose
And as, you learn, and cry
You do, your best, and try

And as, the days, go by
It makes you, wonder why
You try so hard, so hard
To mend what’s bound to fall apart

Ooh maybe it’s time
To let it go
Ooh maybe it’s time
For taking it slow

Ooh maybe it’s time, time, time
For anything at all
Time, time, time, to let it all fall
Where it may

And as, the world, goes on
You try, to walk, and sing along
And hope, some things, will stay
And every tune that you play

Ooh maybe it’s time
To let it go
Ooh maybe it’s time
For taking it slow

dad

It’s been 2 years since my father passed away. With my wife’s affair, some 10 months after he passed—and the subsequent explosion of my life—I was somewhat robbed of the opportunity to properly mourn. This meant random fits of unprocessed, unhinged emotions rearing their heads whenever they so choose. At the grocery store. While hanging out with friends or family. Pockets of intense anxiety, of complex PTSD, of intense sadness. Slipping away to a public restroom to compose myself. Stabbing emotional pain when thoughts of all that’d been lost burst forward: Not just my father, but an entire branch of family now locked away due to the loss of his connective tissue that brought us all together. Not just my ex wife, but her entire family, people I loved, all locked away. I can’t help but feel the loss when I sit at tables during birthdays and holidays, tables for a few vs. tables filled with kids and grandkids, parents and grandparents and cousins and in-laws. No more father’s day get togethers, no more Christmas Eve at his place, no more weekly lunches with him and my brother, no more texting him and receiving his emoji-strewn responses that showed the often hidden softer side. So much love in those silly texts, all ending in his final, gut-wrenching text as I asked how he was doing during his final moments. A single word, a sentence forever cut short.

“I’m”

When he died, my step-mother contacted me around 10:30 am after I’d arrived at my workspace. He’d been in the hospital for a few days due to a fall that resulted in a broken hip. The surgery was a success, and my father was recovering. By all accounts, he seemed in the clear. The night before this call however, his heart had failed, and, due to Covid restrictions, he died with only a nurse by his side, a kind, anonymous soul, someone who made sure another human was by this man’s side as he passed. I’ll forever be thankful to that person.

Though my father  had covid at the time, he did not die from it (not directly anyway) but they had moved him to the Covid ward. Being during the thick of the pandemic (October 2020) this meant absolutely no outside visitors, not even from his wife. The night before, I dreamt lucidly of finding myself at the base of the hospital building, having vaguely located his window some 4-5 floors up. Desperate to see my father, I brainstormed on how I might sneak in, but the hospital was completely locked down. And so, ultimately, I resolved myself to climb, to lunge and claw at the brick building. I would reach him, and I would save him, or say some final words of professed love, to say goodbye. My fingernails snapped, and my knuckles bled as I repeatedly fell to the ground. Surrounded by rusted cars and a trash-strewn parking lot, I looked up to that open window and sobbed. I knew he was leaving, and I could only say goodbye to the ether, hoping that somehow my words would find their way up to him.

I answered the call from my step-mother knowing that it couldn’t be good news, but nothing prepared me for her shaky voice as she informed me of his passing earlier that morning. She then asked me to perform one of the hardest tasks I’d ever faced: “If you could help me,” she asked, “and let your brother and sister know…”. I confirmed, told her I loved her, and made my way to the restroom to take some deep breathes. Breathing deeply and speaking to myself under my breath, (you’re okay, it’s okay. you’ll be okay), I thought how I just had to stay strong until I got to my car. Somehow I was able to pack up my things and make my way to the parking lot without losing my composure. I got into my car and steeled myself for what had to happen next. Deep breathes, keep it together, stay strong just a bit longer. I had to call my brother and sister, and I didn’t want to further traumatize them with my own distress. I would have to deliver the hardest news they’d ever heard, would permanently lodge a knife into their very beings, a wound that would never fully heal. I knew too that I’d carry this burden—the fact that I was the wielder of the knife—alongside my many accumulating losses, my goddamned memory, so adept at remembering these moments for eternity. Another one for the books of my mind.

I tried to call my sister first, since I knew that would be the hardest. I couldn’t get through, and she texted me asking if it was bad news. I said I should tell her over the phone, but (and this is a blessing in hindsight) she insisted that I tell her via text. “He’s gone isn’t he?” she texted. I confirmed, telling her how sorry I was. So sorry. After a moment, she told me she was leaving work.

I then called my brother, who, after picking up, had a few connectivity issues. I waited in the grueling silence as he told me “Oops, sorry, just a sec…” in a casual, friendly tone reserved for any type of morning call. In a calm voice, I told him that dad had passed away. He took the news solemnly but calmly, and both of us were able to maintain our composure and get through the call. We had a nice talk, and my brother remained his typically stoic, but soothing self, his tone and shared pain a salve to my more emotional demeanor. “Poor dad.” my bother said with finality. We talked about quite a few things during that call, but I’ll always remember those two words best, the silence that followed as my brother took a moment. Poor dad.

We got off the phone and at this point I’d arrived home. I’d parked in my garage, turned the car off, and put my face in my hands. I was still in shock, and the tears, though there, were stunted by my disbelief. Surely this was a dream. Surely I was going to wake up, realizing this was just a continuation of the dream I’d had the night before. He had recovered from the surgery. He was supposed to be okay.

Later that afternoon I sat on my back patio and stared at the trees above. I had no trees in my yard, the skies above being completely clear of foliage, but there was a forest behind my house just up a small hill. The trees there, ancient and tall, were filled with leaves having earnestly begun their shift to autumn colors. A blend of ochre, burnt oranges and reds ebbed and flowed in tandem, as if from a single life source, as if breathing through lungs that existed deep within the forest. Large gusts pushing outward, then back in, susurrating with a crisp hum. The breathing earth, forever seeking balance and equilibrium, prepared itself for a cold winter.

Though the trees were quite far from where I sat, a large gust of wind, an exhalation, sent a bevy of leaves into the air directly overhead, and, from what felt like a mile above, they cascading upon me. Spinning leaves—a plethora of burned colors, a gift from the forest’s lungs—touching down on my shoulders and arms and cheeks, like outreached fingers offering a sympathetic embrace. As if saying: You are part of me, of nature’s cruel, cutting beauty, of life’s nonsensical, brutal rules. You are my child—frail, scared—yet engrained. Part of me…and I’m so sorry.

I closed my eyes as the leaves fell upon me, and the tears finally came. A bit later, looking deep into the forest, I thought about seeing my father there, walking through the brush as he’d loved to do in life. Trekking off the path and into the thicket. Exploring, plucking mushrooms, chewing on mint. I thought maybe I’d see his smiling face. A nod. And with our eyes meeting, he’d tell me something profound, about how he was okay, how he was happy to go. I’d watch as, turning with a final, casual wave, he’d fade into the forest, perhaps the only place he’d found true peace. Not heaven exactly, but, perhaps, a haven, a refuge to finally escape from his earthly struggles. To get some rest, to laugh and take it all in, once again through childlike eyes, now clear from the fogs of a hard life. If that was the case, then this burden I carry in his place, this pain that never dies, this truth that changed me on a molecular level, would perhaps feel worth it.

I miss you dad.

self

I think about the past, how I can hardly relate to a certain version of myself. When I was around 25yo, everything was moving in the right direction. I essentially felt just as I had as a kid, despite minor stress starting to encroach from my career and other typical growing pains as I entered adulthood. I felt clean, and light, and unbroken. My career was just taking off, I was winning awards for my work and getting published, and I found myself in what I thought was the perfect relationship, what would become my future marriage. These early years of perfection, of growth, of newness. 2 puppies that would become my best friends, the thought of children. My family was healthy and intact, with traditions fully in place and weekly get togethers commonplace.

Now my life is broken. My family is scattered, my father has died, and we no longer get together like we used to. Weekly lunches have been replaced with a few get togethers per year around major holidays, and only with those who remain. That girl is gone, my dogs are gone, the job long lost and replaced by a lonely self-employment. No children, no life to focus on other than my own. And then there’s the new addition, the dark, crippling mass that is my trauma. It’s a force, or presence, that I simply can’t seem to escape. I’ve tried medication, I’ve tried therapy, I’ve tried getting out more with friends. I’ve tried dating. Nothing works, nothing fixes the fact that I am fully, and always will be, in a state of post trauma. Sure, things will improve, at least I hope so, but I will never be that person that I was before my world collapsed. So much loss, but so many wounds aimed at a person that simply can’t handle them, a person that is far too sensitive for this world.

I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m lost. Those are the only feelings I feel, because even in healing, I can never go back. I can’t raise the dead, nor can I undo the wounds dealt to me by someone I thought was the love of my life. I have no choice other than to move on, to forget, to accept, and I can’t seem to do it. I don’t have the strength. Potential love is tarnished by my anger, a perfectly fine person that deserves the best, but has this shell of a person. I try so hard to overcome, but I’m simply not strong enough, and I find myself submitting, I find myself wanting to throw in the towel, to retreat and protect myself. Where there once existed motivation, a need to improve myself, to grow, now exists a rotten, writhing mass of self-loathing, of fatigue, of dull eyes that peer through walls as if looking for answers. Only those eyes aren’t looking for anything. They’re simply looking inward, wondering how it all went wrong, wondering how much more I can take before I truly break.

That 25yo isn’t here anymore. He tried so hard, but was outmatched by a vampiric personality, one that truly broke his spirit. Stabbed him when he was pulling out life’s other knives. The death blow.

And yet I push forward. I try to work, try to return to my old ways of success, but its not happening. I smile, and people seem to think I should be over it by now (it’s been nearly a year), but the wound is just as fresh as ever. I’ve exhausted every means to cope, and now I’m faced with a reality that I can’t possibly make sense of. Having plans doesn’t make sense. Ambition doesn’t make sense. making money doesn’t make sense. I’ve done it all, and it all meant nothing. I’ve woken up in the face of trauma only to see that it all felt like a grand lie, and here I am, putting on that smile (of you can call it that) and trying to project myself as a survivor, as someone who has rolled with the punches. But I haven’t.

I see the world from the outside now, and none of you make sense to me anymore. My own “self”, that previous self, makes no sense anymore. I am lost, and that Me you knew is gone, and always will be. You may not know it when you see me. My eyes may appear brighter on some days, but it’s an act. I am broken, and the world has won. I am consumed, devoured, discarded.

sad mad

I’m so angry today. So angry because progress is so glacial, and I know that I’ll never be the same even when I’m supposedly “healed”. I am angry at an event that has now somehow defined 16 years of my life as a sham. I’m angry for the repercussions forced upon me undeservedly, that I can no longer trust, that I feel duped, that I feel like I don’t know what love is anymore, that I’m terrified of conflict, of standing up for myself, of hurting others feelings, of getting my own hurt again. I’m angry that I can only get a max of about 2 hours of work done a day before my anxiety sets in and I have to submit to it. I’m angry that my savings has dwindled and my income is floundering from the results of an emotional savaging.

It is not fucking fair. Everyday I wake up and I self-analyze, I think sometimes “hmm, maybe better?” only to discover that, nope. Not better. Not at all better even after 9 months. If anything I might be worse, might be more scared and more confused than ever. So angry. So sad.

Like others who have been traumatized, I see life through a haze. It’s not just a blur, or a light detachment, but something more serious. I have suffered from brain fog since my early twenties, seemingly from adrenal fatigue that has worsened over time, but possibly;ly from a concussion I received at 19 years old. I don’t know the cause, and never will, but now it seems to be fully realized. My entire life is a fog. I watch others in slow motion as they laugh, and I wonder if they see me, or if I’m an invisible visitor floating about like a spirit. Truly, a shadow of my former self. I speak differently, and find that I stop around every 5th word or so, and have to re-assess. Like my mind is experiencing a low-bandwidth connection to my brain. “Oh yeah I was thinking…” [pause] “uh, maybe we could go to the…” [pause].

Tired, irritable, unable to process my feelings. Are they valid, or poisoned by the baggage of my past? If I stand up for myself, will I hurt the other person? Worse, will I instill baggage into their minds, will I make them self-conscious of themselves? Will I hurt them? Best to be quiet, but that has its side effects too. Passive aggressive statements. Dark, gloomy moods that would make anyone uncomfortable, exacerbating their own behaviors that then further poke at my insecurities. It’s their fault, not mine. It’s all my fault.

Best to be alone. Best to not feel anything. How I only want to feel numb.

jackson

Last night I had one of those dreams where people tell you it was a visit. Jackson, the first dog that I lost a couple years back, was the visitor in this case, and I’m amazed at the brain’s ability to retain ‘presence’ of a loved one. Not only were Jackson’s features replicated down to the swerve of the stripe on his snout, but his presence, the feeling of him, was fully in place, more so than I’ve been able to replicate in my waking mind. That gorgeous, genius, old-soul dog.

In the dream I was on vacation or otherwise in a strange place. I was in a hot tub out on a patio, when a dog came running around the corner from a road some 40 ft down form whatever property I was on. I thought, heh, Border Collie. But it ran to me with a ball in its mouth, and I realized that it was a spitting image of Jackson. More and more I marveled at the similarities, thinking how often I’ve seen those eyes in other dogs and how much they’ve reminded me of my Jackson. But this one was different. He licked my nose, as only Jackson would do (and would do only for me)— a quick, light brush of his tongue, typically when he wanted me to throw a ball. It was our secret handshake, a special exchange between friends, something shared between one human and one dog.

As I marveled at his likeness, I concluded that it wasn’t actually Jackson. Though his markings were nearly perfect, they weren’t quite right. More brown on his face, a bit smaller in stature. Concluding that, in the very least, this was Jackson in soul only, his owner then appeared from the same direction, nodding as I waved him over.

I told him my story, and as not-quite-Jackson ran to him, he continued to nod as if he new. He sat next to a tree (I had exited the hot tub by this point, a bit of time having passed as if in a movie), and told me of how this dog had always been special. He told me how they had originally found him (I don’t remember the details of this story unfortunately) and other anecdotes. I told him my memories of Jackson, how and when he had died, and the man smiled. Ultimately, with his dog nuzzled in the nook of his arm at his side, he concluded that he felt he was indeed Jackson in spirit, reincarnated if only to come see me. Only he never said reincarnated, but instead inferred that he was indeed here. He was here, to see me, to comfort me, to kiss my nose, our special handshake.

Typically these types of dreams, visits from the shades of those I’ve lost, are cruel and torturous. But when I woke from this one, though I wouldn’t call it comfort, I felt a sense of…contentment? Almost a feeling of subtle wonder. I waited for the sadness, and though it showed itself a bit, it wasn’t so strong this time. It was more a feeling that things just are. That Jackson is gone, but not gone. That my mind, even when I think it’s forgotten, has not forgotten as much as I thought. That Jackson, though his memory is slightly different, is still with me.

Eventually I hope to have this same feeling from my other losses. Ollie, my dad. The fresh wounds that are taking longer to heal. Maybe one day they’ll visit me too, and in their own special way, as Jackson did in this dream, they’ll tell me how they’re okay, and how I’ll be okay too.

where

I’ve had to make so many changes. Somehow I’ve managed to keep working, to a point, though not like before. I’ve managed to not become a total recluse, though I feel my mind begging to stay safe, to keep away, to protect, and that translates to a lack of interest in going anywhere. When I do, I can’t feel much besides an overwhelming feeling that “This is fine, but it’s not like before.” I get small glimpses of feeling better, numb vs. actively in emotional pain, but those don’t last long. For every step forward, I feel the pull of anxiety as it locks down any progress of healing. It says, don’t forget. Don’t forget.

I have an incredibly vivd memory. It’s something I used to be proud of, especially my long term memory of experiences. Now, I’m not so sure. Like empathy, I’m not sure if the gift of memory is so much a gift to me anymore. I remember where most people are able to forget, and we forget as a form of protection, as a means of moving on. Memories play in my mind from years ago as if they just occurred, and their sting is fresh each time. I so badly want to forget so much, and yet I can’t. Feelings, inflections, experiences large and small—all there, churning in my mind and looking for a place to live. Except they don’t belong there anymore. They are nothing more than interlopers, cancerous entities that eat away my ability to find peace.

Find peace. This is what I’m told to do with these memories. Experiences both good and bad, lessons learned, a person who ruled my life, hooked me in and made me fall so far, and then simply vanished. Find peace in the most brutal act I’ve ever seen someone act upon another. A dead father, my lost family of dogs and wife and in-laws. Now my life, scattered and broken, confusion, loss, fear, confusion. Fear, fear fear of losing more, of being dealt another blow.

Because of fear, my hands shake and I lose control of my emotions nearly every day. I have to leave work early, have to go home so I don’t lose my composure in public. I lie in bed, I wail, asking why. My feelings seemingly only existing as sadness, or anxiety in its many forms. Happiness is lost to me completely, and I beg to just feel nothing, dream of a day where I might feel content again, or simply numb, truly and completely.

I’m so afraid that I’ve somehow fallen through the cracks. No children, and a future of more loss as I enter middle age and beyond. Where do I go? What changes do I make? How do I plan when planning and hoping placed me here? Please, make me numb. Please, let me not feel.