|Three pictures of the same Nō 'hawk mask' showing how the expression changes with a tilting of the head.|
by Wmpearl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Rage: the white-hot anger that burns through me–again, randomly–and is mostly triggered by the unfairness of life, petty injustices. The fact that I can't find a job or support myself in any way, after years of working multiple jobs and going to school, getting TWO degrees, and spending most of my free time applying for jobs. Getting rejected again and again and again and again. I'm mad at myself and I'm mad at the world, and sometimes that just bubbles over. It's often followed by Deep Sadness or Utter Exhaustion.
- Utter Exhaustion: when I just can't move or do things. All I want to do is curl into a ball and sleep, sleep forever. If I had to make an effort to breathe, I probably wouldn't. Though Utter Exhaustion often shows up after Rage or Deep Sadness, it sometimes visits on it's own.
- Deep Sadness: the best I can describe this is as an endless pit of tears. A well so deep as to be bottomless. For me, it is often triggered by babies or children and happy new mothers. At least, right now. I've always wanted to be a mom, and I don't think I'll ever get to be one. Also triggered by couples, people with successful careers, and job searches.
- Stupidity: brain misfires, the inability to think, a lack of concentration, losing words and names. I'm smart. I am. Gifted is what they called me in school. I was just one point off from getting a perfect score on the ACT in high school. I remember almost everything I read. I learn quickly, needing, in general, just one pass at any task to be able to do it again. And yet, there are times when I can't think. I just can't. I can't think, I can't remember, I don't know. I can't string words together to make a sentence. I can't read. I can't understand.
- Physical Pain: this one doesn't happen very often, but any of the symptoms above can and sometimes do trigger migraines or muscle cramps/spasms. Sometimes I just ache. Sometimes I just hurt.
None of these are pleasant. All of these are the worst while I'm dealing with them, you know? When it's bad, all of these show up at once. And it sucks because I still need to function. I can't hide like I so very much want to. I push through. I work, I live. Sometimes I even laugh, and I die a bit inside. But I have customers and coworkers, friends and family, and none of them want to know. So I don't let them see, and that, truthfully, is the worst. The constant lies eat away at you and cause much of the Rage and Sadness and Exhaustion. The never letting anyone know what's going on with you because you did that once and lost all your friends, your lover, and caused your family pain. You never wanted to hurt anyone, you just wanted a little bit of comfort, and maybe a hand to help you stand up and move through what was supposed to be a temporary sadness. But you were pushed away, abandoned, and blamed.
So you took that lesson to heart, and you learned to lie. You swallowed your emotions, your pain, your sadness, your anger. You swallowed them all and forgot how to feel. Except sometimes, when it all became too much for you to bear, and then, sometimes, you cried or you raged or you wallowed, but only when there was no one around to see. Only when you were alone. And those times were refreshing, the only bit of freedom you were allowed. So you found a way to make those times longer, you kept yourself apart from others more and more, and you forgot how to interact with other people because you didn't want to wear that damned mask. You didn't want to lie. And you relearned how to feel.
Of course it couldn't last. You get lonely when you're always alone. You need work and friends and you always wanted a family. So you step out in the world and try to live your truth, but that truth includes your pain and others still don't want to see. You bring the mask back, but it chafes. You're healing, you know you're healing, but it's not happening fast enough, and you're still so fragile. The lies make you weak, but they make you socially acceptable. Every time you laugh when you want to scream it's like opening a vein. There's only so many pints of blood that you can spare, and you lost those pints long ago with a wound that's never fully healed. The mask keeps it open, you see. The mask makes you bleed.
It's harder now than it once was, to wear the mask I need to wear to function in the world. I think it's because I don't have stable footing right now. I keep slipping and my mask falls, and they see this bleeding, tired creature desperately grasping for a little bit of normality, a little bit of stability, just trying to stay upright. I bleed from a thousand tiny wounds, a thousand cuts of worry. I bleed, but I can't let anyone see it. I'm punished when I do.
But showing it, talking about it, feeling it? That's how I heal too. That's how I let the mask go and find the bandages and antiseptic that I need to cleanse the wounds caused by the jagged edges of the mask. That's how I know I'm human still. A bloody creature, maybe, but one that can learn and grow and, yes, heal. That's how I remember that change is possible. And, gods, I need a change, and the change I most want and worry about is in my job situation.
Right now, my big worry is money. It's so hard because I'm less than a paycheck away from losing everything I have. If I lose just eight hours of work a month . . . Yet, I think the slips of my mask make it harder for me to get a job. Would you call that irony, or just plain bad luck? I need a full time job and the money that the job would pay me. I need the money and the stability the money will buy me. I need the health insurance and the psychiatric care that health insurance brings–mostly in the form of antidepressants. I need a little breathing room, time and room to heal. I need to pay myself back, pay off my debts, and rebuild my savings. That would be the first of many steps, of course. I've a long way to go before all's said and done.