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Middle-aged Wasteland

Some say April is the cruelest month, but February can eat a big bag of donkey dicks, too.

February is a wasteland unto itself, after the manic hijinks of the holidays, the stressing, obsessing, and clashing of expectations with reality. A new year, new resolve and resolutions, and then…

Usually a failure of resolve, and then…

And then February.

February is the Chihuahua of months, small and mean, armed with nasty sharp pointed teeth. Armed with Valentine’s day to remind you that you are unloved, less-loved, not as loved as you think you should be–or just outright unloveable. Whatever. A sugar rush of clearance candy. Then a sugar crash and depression for the other 14 days.

It’s still winter. The fucking groundhog is never right except by chance. And you are trapped: in a house or apartment; a job or school; a relationship or nothing; an endless cycle of getting up in the dark and going out into the dark and coming home in the dark.

It’s dark. It’s a dark time. The world is a dumpster fire, and I’m sitting here waiting for snow again. Cabin fever. No TV and no beer make Homer something something.

When I was a kid half a century ago, I grew up in a house with a rage-aholic. My dad. Bipolar disorder with wide-ranging swings from magical thinking to blackest rage or stultifying depression. The slightest misstep by any one of us could send him spiraling off in whatever direction. We almost never sent him off to the magical thinking unicorn place, though. Almost never. It was usually the rage.

My dad, visiting me in Los Angeles when I was nineteen.

I remember being small, age ten or less, handing him a flat-head screwdriver instead of the Phillips-head he asked for, as he was trying to fix something in the attic. He looked at it, tossed it aside and told me I could “fuck up a wet dream” and took off from there. Heigh-ho Silver! Away! He was mean. He knew your weak spots and went right for them. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know the mental illness. I only knew anger and the words and how to maintain a low profile so as not to draw fire.

It was probably a February when he tried to hang himself in our basement.

I’m not sure because I was still under ten years old and my mother kept it from us until we were adults. Maybe just me. I didn’t find out about it until he tried again, with pills, when I was an adult. Sorry, “adult.”

This is what my inner child looks like.

I think it was also February when I tried, nearly a teenager, to hang myself in my bedroom, just as unsuccessfully as my father. More-so, because I was able to conceal the attempt and didn’t get sent to the loony bin for jolly electroshock fun time as he had. Yay me!

It’s not easy living with crazy, whatever form it takes. Your own, or someone else’s. Regardless of whose crazy it is, it splashes around. Stains the walls and rugs. You get two or more kinds of crazy under one roof and buttons are going to get pushed. Crazy becomes a chain reaction. Boom boom boom! Or, more likely, boom boom BOOM! Chain reactions are additive and accrue force, getting stronger as each new blast accentuates the last.

Because I grew up with a rager, my personal crazy is somewhat internalized. I’m introverted. After prolonged contact with people, I need to withdraw and recharge–even with family and friends, the people I love. Depending on the type of crazy I run into, it may or may not work as the survival strategy it was when I was a kid. My dad would lose interest in yelling if there was no one around, so he’d go inflict harm on the house. Patch a wall, or rewire a socket.

My go-to escapes were reading and writing, both with big old-fashioned headphones and music turned up to drown out the rest of the house. Someone had to take active measures to cross that boundary. Now it’s still the same, plus alcohol and eating my feelings. Thank goodness I quit smoking!

Hypothetical Territory:

If your crazy is, say, anger with a side of abandonment issues, I’m going to make things worse. You get mad, I scurry into my hidey-hole, you feel abandoned, get angrier, so I run away, and so on and so on. Ultimately, you corner me in my hidey-hole, and I feel threatened, then my internal becomes external. Boom. I’ll freak out on you and then, most likely, go take a nap because dealing with others is exhausting.

Annnd Back Me:

I’m lucky. My late partner ultimatum-ed me into therapy many moons ago. I’ve been talk-therapied, group therapied, and medicated. I am at the very least self-aware. I know my triggers, behaviors, and whatnot. I know what I need [again, naps mostly, plus quiet time to read, watch a movie, and recuperate. I am better at talking myself out of my initial reactions. Stopping myself from making a sarcastic comment, or pointed hurtful reply.

Better, not perfect.

If you push a button, I’ll give defusing it a go. All that happens in my head, so all you’re likely to see is me with a stupid look on my face. Or resting bitch face. Or active crazy face. It takes a minute, just let me go.

February is bad because of the aforementioned trapped-ness. The enclosed feeling, and the companion feeling that the enclosure is getting smaller. I can’t share space with people 24/7 without an equal amount of time to restore and recharge. I need my own little corner of my own little room, without any intrusion that suggests there’s someone else in my world–no TV [unless I’m watching it], no music [unless it’s mine].

Without that me time, I get resentful, cranky, and spend an awful lot of time ruminating on my poor life choices, which is the path to depression, which is a spiral all its own.

So, yeah, I spend a lot of time deciding whether I want to go to this or that social event, and then if I say yes, or circumstances say yes for me, I spend an equal amount of time trying to figure a way out of it.

And here we are at the ass end of February, and I’m blogging my little depressing tales in an attempt to talk through stuff for myself with the interwebs because the last thing I want to do is talk about them to a real person occupying the same space as me.
This isn’t a cry for help, this is me trying to help myself. Thanks for letting me vent.
Peace.

If you can relate, I leave you with a favorite poem and some resources. The poem, because it often occurs to me this time of year, and the resources in case the poem doesn’t work.

Resumé

BY DOROTHY PARKER

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

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Published inAutobiographicalBrain Farts and others