When my eighteen-year-old son moved out (many years ago), I found myself living alone for the first time in my life, in the midst of a brutal Baltimore winter.
I had turned on every light, sat in the living room and stared at the TV all night long, afraid to close my eyes. Plus, being stuck in a wheelchair imprisoned me. Nightmares of that monster trafficker, Shane, his gang of pimps, and my abusive husband, Armando, finding me tortured my mind.
I rolled around my apartment, checking and rechecking every door and window, tightening the locks repeatedly. Dancing shadows on the shades unglued me, my racing heart nearly exploded. I tried reading Psalm twenty-three and listening to soothing music, but nothing helped abate my panic attacks.
The abysmal days of isolation drove me batty. I picked up magazines, unable to get beyond the first page before tossing them aside. With no appetite or wish to take care of myself, I became a mess, emaciated and dirty. The radiator generated little heat, so my paralyzed legs and feet froze. It led me to wonder if God was punishing me.
I pried my memory, trying to figure out what I had done wrong.
Nevertheless, a kind of hope ignited in me. Like an ember, fading and brightening again, it burned quietly. Though I’ve often felt as if my mind would disintegrate, somehow it has not.
Sudden noises, a knock at the front door, the turn of a key among other things still make me jump. Forgetting I am safe, it always takes me a moment to readjust. I sleep with my face and head completely covered, even though I am claustrophobic.
I’m stuck inside a body that doesn’t move and spend nearly 24/7 hours laying on an uncomfortable specialty mattress that helps heal pressure wounds. But, it’s painful. My midsection, including my back, sink into the twenty vinyl cells of a low air loss mattress, which continuously moves to stimulate circulation. My neck – continually bent because the air cells in the head section stay in a static place – my shoulders, slouched and pinched. You’d be surprised how hard those air-filled cells are, even though it feels like I’m balancing myself on a deflating raft in turbulent waters. So unpleasant.
The sound of the mattress pump reverberates throughout our condo, a loud annoying white noise that never ceases.
Outgoing and friendly, I enjoy talking to people very much, yet I’m socially dwarfed. It’s a dichotomy that confuses me. When no one calls or visits, I feel rejected, however, I prefer my solace. I lack self-esteem and self-confidence. In fact, they are non-existent in my life although I am fortunate to have a handful of supportive friends. Writing helps, but it does not ward off sudden panic attacks or bouts of depression that blind side me.
Triggers happen via memories or images, while I’m typing, listening to a song, or watching TV. Bullets fly out of nowhere and pummel me, throwing me into an abyss. And whatever happy moment I’m enjoying turns to darkness.
Rather than reach out to the one I call God, I hide under my covers for hours and listen to incredibly depressing songs like Whiter Shade of Pale and N.U.M.B. During those times, I long to wither away and die. That is when I pray to God to release me from this life of ongoing anguish and misery.
I’ve sought therapy to no avail, but I’m still hopeful. Also, many times a mysterious joy invades my heart and pulls me out of the muck. And I sometimes hear a whisper, from a source I cannot see, that strengthens me. It baffles me how I can bounce off a mountain into a pit in a moment’s time.
Although the ember of hope keeps burning quietly, my heart quivers as I share these secrets publicly. However, the audience I seek for this entry is those who suffer as I do. Maybe, together, we can help one another heal. As for others who read this post, I thank you.
“I feel like the one insight that’s extremely comforting to me about the world is that we all share the same pool of emotion that we draw from.” Abigail Washburn