I’m sitting upright on my bed with my back supported by a pillow as I type this. Piano music is playing from my phone. Ah, the wonders of modern technology where things like surreptitious music are but a finger swipe away. Some kind of Nocturne is playing and I’m wondering if it’s Chopin. It’s a familiar melody as I’ve listened to this Pandora Radio station many-a-time. My bedroom isn’t my only sanctuary. My home and private space extends into the kitchen which looks out onto the dining nook, filled by an upright piano, and the spacious living room of which a $3,500 couch takes up a copious amount of space because it boasts a queen pull-out bed. Behind the light moss green couch, a colour which I specifically selected, are a couple of dark bookshelves packed with books and my cast iron teapot set which I use once a year for fun. I would never again spend such money on a couch, of all things, but at the time, I was not worried about money. These days, worries of money pass in and out of my consciousness like an ever-present cloud of rain.
This is the life I have made for myself, chosen for myself, won for myself. This is not the life I had on the other side of the state, where I was far from family in a place I had forced myself to call home for over fifteen years, working several underpaid jobs, stressed out by the workload, underappreciated and torn by the remnants of post-traumatic stress disorder and severe clinical depression. I would say that I still suffer at times, but much less so. Torments of the past and extreme states of emotional distress have left my life almost completely. My depression takes the form of entire weekends spent in bed, whilst still managing to feed and walk my dog, a necessity of the life of being a dog mom. When I adopted him five years ago I committed myself to the responsibility of taking care of him. Though he is aging, he is still a spry 11-year-old chihuahua mix and at 10 pounds if he doesn’t listen to me, which is often the case due to poor training and a diminished sense of hearing, I can pick him up and bring him to me. Last night he had his monthly bath. He hates baths but oh, I am such a proud dog mom to say the least, as he is finally clean again! What a wondrous sight and smell. He was beginning to smell a bit like wet dog smells when he wasn’t even wet. I can’t manage to bring myself to bathe him more than once a month due to my depression. If I were a good dog mom I would bathe him at least twice a month due to his consistent allergies. Now he has arthritis to add to the mix, for which he will have to take special medication, hidden in between a “pill pop” flavoured like chicken that I got at the vet’s office today. Dogs are expensive and any pet owner can relate. Vet visits add up quickly. He’ll have to have a chest x-ray due to his heart murmur before we can decide whether his little body could tolerate the anesthesia required to get his teeth cleaned, for he has also been diagnosed with mild periodontal disease.
Friends of a distant past have moved from my former home to Bali, Indonesia, where the wife of my photographer friend awaits giving birth to their first child. This friend sent me a photo and a video of her engorged, naked breasts. They were very tastefully and artfully depicted in the images. While this may not be a “normal” sort of thing for friends to exchange, I once posed nude for this photographer. We created a collage of artful and very explicit nudes of my then 115 pounds of flesh. I weigh much more than that now and would never get in front of a camera like that again. But in those days I was not afraid of nudity, nor was I a stranger to sexual escapades while I was being taunted by a narcissist who sexually exploited me to a degree which to some, would be unfathomable. I am happy for this couple, my friends of a still-distant past. It’s strange that I’ve remained in touch with them in spite of leaving everything else from that time period behind.
I’ve often dreamed of a different life for myself. Not the life of the 25-year-old new bride who dreamed of being a mom with two children behind a white picket fence. But a life which includes the trauma, now healed, and of being of service to others. I tried one semester of graduate school only to discover to my dismay that it was not good timing. When will it ever be the right time to go to school to become a psychotherapist? Perhaps never, perhaps, one day, when I am fully healed and suicide attempts are a thing of my distant past.
My last suicide attempt was in January of this year. I was so sure, absolutely certain, that killing myself was the right idea. I had come up with a brilliant strategy to complete my impending death sentence, one that I had never thought of before, only to chicken out at the very last millisecond. I ended up hospitalized for the requisite 72 hours, which were torturous because of the way hospital staff treated me, or should I say, county mental health staff. County mental health is notorious for being bad. After I got out my brother took care of me for two days and those days were lovely. It felt nice to be cared for, before I had to submit myself back to the daily grind, sometimes excruciating grind, of being at work five days a week and “pretending” to be okay.
The piano music is still playing and my dryer from a load of laundry is humming in the background. My hair is so long and voluptuous that after a shower, the weight of my wet hair is not well-held-up by one single hair band. I am wearing a baseball hat, so-to-speak, to keep my hair up and off of my back. My hair stretches all the way down to my waist and I normally wear it in a braid to my side, with my hair parted in the middle. That is my “look” every day of the week at work. They rarely see my hair flowing freely at the office.
I had my obligatory weekly shower. I don’t know why, but showering for me is difficult. Survivors of sexual assault and chronic sexual abuse often find showering difficult and unpleasant. Once I’m in the shower, I’m fine, but it’s the “idea” of the shower which assaults my placid mind which makes me want to vomit. Something about being naked, in the nude, in the buff, whatever you want to call it, something about that gets to me and it’s not something I can take for granted as many people do.
Well, this is a window to my world. My therapist, who has stuck by me for over a decade of weekly sessions, five years of which were pro bono and unpaid, has been on vacation for a week. I will finally get to see him again this weekend. I’ve been doing so well that we will often skip weeks at a time, or at least see each other every other week instead of weekly. There was a time in my life back in 2012 whence I was so incredibly suicidal and unable to work, that I would see him three times a week just to keep myself alive and from killing myself. Because inevitably, as all my attempts at my life have been, another attempt would be unsuccessful and land me in the hospital for a number of weeks. I had so many hospital visits and bills that I filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Seven years have almost passed by since then and the bankruptcy will finally exit its doleful place on my credit score report. Maybe one day I’ll actually be able to buy a home: a nice little two-bedroom condominium where my mom can stay in her elderly years. That’s my dream. She took care of me for most of my life, still does to a degree, and I owe it to her to give back to her what she gave to me: self-sacrifice.
It’s almost bedtime now. I walked on the treadmill for an hour this evening. I manage to do that once every few weeks at best, given that one out of the hundred residents of my complex could be using the gym at any given moment as well, and often the treadmill is taken. Because of Covid, only one person at a time is allowed to use the tiny gym anyway. So it’s time to say goodbye. The effects of the red wine are wearing off and I occupied my mind whilst cooking dinner tonight by listening to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” It’s a book which causes me to reflect on my life as it stands today, and on my past. I am really enjoying the listening. I finally got a library card because buying audio books and Kindle books was becoming an expensive habit.
I am in rare form tonight. I actually have energy. Not the sort of boundless energy one could attribute to a 20-something-year-old, but energy enough to sustain me, rather than having to feel the need to go to bed hours before my necessary bedtime. My brother inadvertently mocked me for going to bed at 7 PM one night, asking if I was a baby. I quickly changed the subject but I was hurt and I know he will be able to hear my complaint one of these days, to repair that minor damage to our relationship. Does he not know that I spend entire weekends in bed doing nothing but sleeping?
I just got up to use the restroom as my bladder wasn’t having this typing anymore, and I was delighted to use my bidet. This is a bidet installation to a regular toilet that my brother so lovingly and painstakingly installed when I moved into this apartment almost a year ago. If and when I ever move, I’ll have to get him to uninstall the bidet, as I am not adept at such very specific manual tasks which require a lego-like minded assembly motif to the instructions that come with the gadget. Mind you, my Mum did buy me pink legos when I was young, and I enjoyed assembling those buildings, as per the instructions. But those days are long since over and my patience wanes.
“Pure Imagination,” which played in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is playing right now in the form of a piano composition. The melody is familiar although I haven’t watched that movie since childhood. I’ll get my obligatory eight hours of sleep tonight, though sometimes it wickles down to seven hours, in order to be able to function tomorrow. I can’t imagine functioning on less than seven hours of sleep though some people do it regularly. I don’t know how. Tomorrow I’ll send emails to clients, and be the detail-oriented me I know how to be. I’ll service the clients of our financial firm that were assigned to me, and I’ll prepare for upcoming meetings. I won’t call in sick, though I think about it almost every morning when faced with the prospect of having to go to work, particularly on Mondays. I’ll do my once-a-week grocery shopping trip to Trader Joes, get frozen meals for lunch at work and try to buy some fruit and vegetables since those are supposedly good for the constitution. And then I’ll have another mostly peaceful evening, perhaps punctuated by another glass of red wine, although I’ve been trying to curb my drinking habit as of late. But a bottle of red is open, so why not finish it off? And so the cycle continues. And so life continues, my life, specifically. I’m not dead yet and I am aware that death inevitably comes to us all one day. But for now, I am alive, and I’ll keep living until there is no more life to be lived.