if you saw me right now, you wouldn’t notice much. perhaps a little more furrow in my brow and a slight pursing of my lips. i would lay my hands down in my lap so you wouldn’t notice the tremble. you wouldn’t feel the spontaneous, uncontrollable muscular twitches on my scalp, or the painful tension in my jaw that occasionally prevents me from opening up my mouth.
click down. click right. release.
you also wouldn’t hear the earth-shattering, petrified scream of terror that occupies my mind several hours a day, or the urge to cry at all moments. especially not the unsettling thoughts of peeling off my own skin and running as fast as i can, as far as i can, and never looking back.
in persistent flight mode, the slightest unexpected thing could send me over the edge, letting out the long, horrified shriek i’ve so far been able to contain, or reducing me into a crumpled pile on the floor, shuddering, crying. the safest place is the paralysis stage, when limbs feel heavy and the mind goes to a strange, empty place that can’t quite be captured with words. it’s a bit as if you found yourself in a heavy fog, floating. no thoughts can enter that space. just quiet.
you look around. you see things, knowing implicitly what they are, but not quite processing them in the way that you would normally. it’s a mindless place, a place where autopilot helps you navigate space, where you can be among the natives, appearing normal but not quite able to understand what they are saying. this is where your hypervigilance comes in handy. without a single thought, just using body language and facial cues to know when to smile, laugh, or look serious. you leave, not knowing what you talked about. hearing words – some of them seem to make sense together – but your mind slipped away again so you lost track of the point. nevermind. no one noticed.
you know you have work to do. meetings to attend. a dissertation to complete. this place won’t help you, so you do the things that are supposed to help. you hold your worry stone. go to therapy. take your meds. take a bath. get exercise and plenty of nutrients. reach out to friends in whatever meager way you can compel yourself to do it. try to distract yourself with busy work or netflix. yet you still wake up, heart racing, tears at the gate, tight chest. bracing yourself.
what awful, hateful, spiteful things might you hear today? what of your person might be under fire? what things you care about might be used against you? is everyone safe?
it might be quiet for a while. what does it mean? is it finally over? maybe the defenses begin to come down and you see the vast emotional wreckage, the blistering, hemorrhaging sores that have been opened and reopened, and scrubbed with a wire brush, and you know you can’t take any more. all the troops are down; you have nothing left. just motions and time. go through the motions until new resources are born to repair this mess.
airstrikes by text message.
you hoped too soon. this isn’t over. not by a long shot.
perhaps if you contort yourself, your emotions, your values, your beliefs, maybe you can twist yourself into a foxhole. maybe, if you compartmentalize enough, and don’t think about all of the verbal, acidic spittle or the award-winning mind fucks, you can dodge the attacks. walk the narrow line, else a reign of terror befalls you.
why won’t you leave?
you can’t. it’s not compatible with your person. you cannot, in good conscience, abandon your position. too much is at stake. i weather the attacks so the little ones don’t have to. it’s too unstable right now. just a little longer.
hope, pray even, that the treatment sticks. hope it’s just enough to get by, to get everyone in the safety zone. set up the fort, get contacts in order, build the safety net.
it’s the only way to be free.