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malformed

Every day is nearly the same. Four months after my wife split with me, a years since my dad died, seven months since my Ollie dog died, and nearly every day is still the same. I wake up and feel decent enough. I take my medication, and I go to work. Things are typically fine until around 2pm, and that’s when the gloom sets in. After the gloom, the anxiety ramps up, and that’s when I start to have a difficult time fighting off the negative thoughts. Thoughts of the trauma, how much she hurt me, how much life has thrown at me, and how I can’t seem to get past it all in the slightest.

My life is fine. I have a nice house with no mortgage. I drive a nice car, and I have plenty of savings, very little debt, and a very awesome little 8 month old puppy. On paper, I’m fine, I’m going to be okay physically and financially, and I have great clients and exciting projects. But, I’m not at all fine. My anxiety is crippling, and I can’t tell how much of it is simply due to my inherently anxious disposition, or how much is because my psyche simply cannot process all of the trauma I’ve been through. The world is ready for me to move on, and my logical brain is more than ready to comply, but the deep down, emotional brain is in full control these past six months, and I can’t seem to wrangle it back in. My emotions—the hurt, the fear, the utter confusion— they are fully in control, easily brushing aside the logical voice that constantly tries to self-assure, it will be okay, I am okay, focus on the breathing, bring it all back to right now. I know these things to be true, but my emotions are that of a wounded animal, one seated and programmed from years of trauma, and one now unable to live in what is by all means extreme comfort.

The inside is so wounded. I am so very lonely, hurt, and so terrified of life that another part of my brain tells me simply to protect. To guard, to keep them all away, those that might hurt me again, those that I think may love me, the way I truly thought my ex wife loved me. But that rug was pulled out from under me, violently forcing me into a phase of life I’d never planned for, an a mindset that is in a constant mode of forced self-soothing, minute by minute checks and reassurances that I never fully believe (I’m okay, things are okay, I’ll be happy again one day, I’ll learn from all of this, one day it’ll be worth it) only to get through another day.

I worry that my body and brain have now somehow locked themselves into this mode of constant anxiety and fear. I feel it every single day of my life, this sense of impending doom, this terrified inner voice that whimpers “Please don’t let something bad happen again,” like a pleading infant. Regardless of my surroundings, of positive experiences, of new relationships that truly show me that something better is on the horizon if I could just heal my wounds even a bit. That feeling is always there, the fear, the deep lack of trust, like a wounded animal, but where my wounds are solely internal, deep down in the blood, and in the hormones, and in the perhaps-permanent synapses, now malformed to cater to a new master.

knot

The holidays. Yes, they’re extremely hard, but not in the ways I expected. My father died unexpectedly in October 2020, and that was the start of when my mind started to change. No matter how much I soothed myself, how often I tried to come to terms with his death, something in me had changed. When a parent, or when someone who has become fused into your life so definitely, is lost (through death or other means), then something inside changes. In a way, I think this is trust for life. You lose trust, lose faith that things are going to be okay, lose faith in the human-made notion that “things happen for a reason”.  The finality of death is a true shock to us human beings. All of the little things… small disagreements, behaviors of the person you lost, unsaid words, unforgiving actions from both sides… all of that comes to an end. You will never solve them, never get closure on things you, perhaps only in your subconscious, hoped would one day resolve themselves.

With my father, there were many things from my childhood that hurt me, but I’d come to terms with those and forgave him before he’d passed. My father was a difficult man, with a lot of anxiety and what I think was insecurity, but he was a good person, and he treated us well. My understanding of him was that he did the best for who he was. Of course it could have been better, but it could have been so much worse. He took us on tiny vacations, picked us up every week for fishing and lunch/dinners, celebrated every birthday and Christmas, and, especially in his older years, became very sweet and loving. I miss him terribly. I miss his texts and his over-reliance on emojis. I miss sharing random life events with him, and still get a prompt from my mind to shoot him a text whenever something fun or eventful pops up in my life. The permanence of loss, that those things are forever written in stone, complete, unevolving—that’s one of the hardest things one learns about true loss of a loved one. Their story is written. Another items I struggle with is the memories. They are all different now, as I expressed in the poem “Two Weeks”, each memory now has a disclaimer. Good memory or bad, each time I think of one, a little voice inevitably chimes in… “But he’s gone now.”

Last year when my ex and I went to look at Christmas lights, my anxiety grew to a level where I had to pull over the car. I told her I can’t do this, that it’s too hard. Not only was I thinking of my dad (who had only passed 2 months prior at that point) but the anxiety was doing a number on me. Anxiety is such a complex, conniving thing, utterly complex and devious, but it is also incredibly sophisticated. I consider myself a decently smart person, but most of the time I’m no match for how anxiety works, the web it weaves within that is knot-like and granular in its approach. This night, when anxiety was overhwhelming me, it wasn’t simply because I missed my dad. That would yield sadness for the most part, but my heart was racing, and my hands were shaking. Afterward, after a few days of thinking it over, I realized that the anxiety was there because I was supposed to be having fun. Looking at Christmas lights was supposed to be a positive experience, one to be enjoyed with my partner, a break from the sadness.

But I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t able to have fun, and further, I wasn’t able to express this to my ex, how complicated these feelings were, that I felt that I’d only disappoint because I simply couldn’t enjoy the experience at the level that was expected. In her defense, she was kind and understanding in the moment, but ultimately I can’t deny that grief played a part in the implosion of my marriage. It was too big for her, and due to the way her brain was wired, she didn’t have the patience to deal with it, and ended the marriage 10 months after my father died. But that’s not the point of this entry, if there is a point.

This year, I never expected my thoughts to be even more clouded, my life to be an even sadder place than it was one year ago, but here we are. I’ve come a long way in understanding myself, and yes, I’ve learned from the tragedy and trauma. That can be a smal commodity, and again one born mostly out of societal expectations: Good always comes from bad, everything happens for a reason, etc. I have a hard time believing those things. With the compound trauma I’ve experienced in the past two years, will I have learned about life, myself, and the behaviors of others? Most assuredly. But the thing is, I don’t think I really want to know those things, never asked to learn them, and question the benefits of knowledge vs naivety. Another phrase, one incongruent to those mentioned, is ignorance is bliss, and that’s a phrase I tend to believe in quite a bit more. I’ve been handed the most complicated riddle of my life, and my opponent on the other side of the board, is a formidable one, a shadow from which I only catch fleeting glimpses.

Time, however, will tell, and time is already beginning its glacial manner of healing. I can feel it, and after quite a bit more of its work, perhaps I’ll come to a different conclusion. Perhaps that conclusion will make me see that the true answer is not in others, but in myself. Stand alone, and stand in comfort. Time is the only thing that can rival trauma, the only thing clever enough to untie the knots that come with my level of confusion and despair. Or, if not untie it, to loosen it, to teach me the intricacies of the knot itself so that I might better understand, or at least to accept its presence. Perhaps when I achieve that feeling, that’s when I’ll begin to trust once again, both in other people, and in life itself.

1%

There are times when I feel the first sign of healing. Well, let’s call it healing, I’m not exactly sure what it is at this point. It’s a feeling that thoughts aren’t quite as raw as they were just a few weeks ago. These thoughts, memories of times good and bad, speared through me and caused such anxiety that I could barely function. I can only describe them as atrocities, the bad things that happened to me, the regret I had in my own actions along the way. Though my ex had an affair, and the split was solely her decision, I’m plagued with memories of times I could have tried harder, of my moods that perhaps caused their own form of toxicity, of the way I simply closed down due to lack of trust. Likewise, I felt the anger, again the ‘atrocity’ of it all. I had done so much for her, put everything I had into the relationship (though I could have done more) and regardless, I ended up thrown away with such speed and lack of thought, that the 16 year relationship now feels like the biggest regret of my life.

These are only a slice of the thoughts that haunt me, but in the past week, I’ve felt something lift, something so very minor, perhaps a 1% improvement, but it’s something so very noticeable, because I’ve felt nothing but total despair for nearly 4 months. In these times, I’ll bask in that little nook of reprieve, and try my best to push outward, to stretch it into something more.