“Do you like poetry?”
“I like some poetry, yes.”
“Have you ever read anything by Rimbaud?”
“I don’t think so. What’s he written?”
“Season in Hell. Illuminations.”
“Nope. Doesn’t sound familiar.”
“He’s a real kick in the ass.”
“Do you like poetry?”
“You don’t have a couch in here.”
“No, I don’t. Should I?”
“Aren’t you a shrink?”
“I’m a social worker actually. You didn’t answer my question: Do you like poetry?”
“I like words. And I hate them.”
“What words do you hate?”
“All words sometimes.”
“When they’re insistent and forceful. When they won’t let you sleep, or eat, or breathe. When they become obtrusive and overbearing.”
“You speak of them as though they’re a living thing.”
This is from a conversation I had with a hospital social worker 2 days after I was diagnosed, and it reflects perfectly my feelings right now. Writer’s glut is how I think it was described. My neck is tight with the tension that comes from sitting at the keyboard, trying not to let the Words take you over.
In his book Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon describes what it’s like to have the midnight disease; “to have the rocking chair and the faithful bottle of bourbon and the staring eye, lucid with insomnia even in the daytime.” I smiled to myself when I read his definition. He uses it t0 describe a common affliction of writers; I would argue that it’s likely to plague anyone who’s intent on purging a part of themselves for whatever reason or motive.
“The midnight disease is a kind of emotional insomnia,” he writes. “At every conscious moment its victim-even if he or she writes at dawn, or in the middle of the afternoon–feels like a person lying in a sweltering bedroom, with the window thrown open, looking up at the sky filled with stars and airplanes, listening to a narrative of a rattling blind, an ambulance, a fly trapped in a Coke bottle, while all around him the neighbors soundly sleep. This is…why writers–like insomniacs–are so…liable to rumination and a concomitant inability to let go of a subject, even when they are urged repeatedly to do so.”
That’s it then, the midnight disease.
I loved to write. What better way to examine things that need to be examined? I didn’t think it would be this hard. It’s become my albatross. I’m left now feeling like I took a running start toward a sheer cliff and I’m now balancing precariously on the precipice. I’m not sure what to do next. What happens if I make a false move? I’ve put it all out there and now I don’t know what to do with it. It’s left me raw and terrified and vulnerable. I just want my life back.
I have come to hate the one constant in my life. Writing now brings me no pleasure. That which was once my passion now haunts me from within and I’m not sure how to live with that. This task no longer brings me comfort, but anguish. I can’t write without remembering.
I’ve been plagued with a terrible sense of urgency lately. The past 2 days have found me in marathon writing sessions, desperate to get it all down, to get it all out.
So here I am in my 40th hour of consciousness, drinking chilled Evian water and ruminating over this post that I’ve started and stopped a half dozen times.
I’ve lived most of my life under—but not buried by—the shadow of those memories. But lately they’ve haunted me and now I’m trying to deal with them in a way I never had to before. So I thought purging those memories in a safe way might be a first step in freeing myself from them. I wrote it all out. I wrote into the early hours of the morning and I almost hit “post.” But I couldn’t. It’s amazing that my 8-year-old self can feel such shame and horror. I couldn’t share those details. I wanted to. I wanted to let go of them on some level. But the truth is, even though I’m anonymous behind this blog, there’s a deep enough sense of shame that kept me from sharing that particular horror.
The nightmares have been bad lately. They haunt me each time I close my eyes. In the dark I can feel the Monster on top of me, raping me, causing the most excruciating pain and terror imaginable. There’ve been times I wished that he’d just killed me, as he had so often threatened to do. In a way, I suppose he has. He stole my innocence when I was 8; he’s been crushing my spirit ever since.
I want to be numb to it all. I can’t bear living through it in my mind’s eye one more night. I hate him. I hate him with every fiber of my being. But it’s time I have some closure. It’s time to take some power back.
“Nothing can drive one closer to his own insanity than a haunting memory refusing its own death.”
I called him Uncle, though he was not related by blood. Of course, I only found that out later when I was old enough to understand that he would have had to have been one of my parents’ siblings to truly be my uncle. The thought comforted me briefly when I realized it, but only briefly.
I was told to call him Uncle. I guess because he was my father’s friend, and he spent more time at their house than any real relative. I don’t remember ever being very comfortable around him. He always seemed so cold and inhuman. He was always around, and not long after my 8th birthday, I found out how inhuman he was.
I was in the basement watching television. Cartoons probably. He came down and asked if I wanted to play a game. He suggested Cowboys and Indians, and I agreed. He told me to run and hide and he would try to find me. I started running. He ran after me. Then he caught me.
He put me over his shoulder and carried me back downstairs. He laid me down on the floor and tied my hands to the lally column. He left me there and went upstairs. When he came back down he had a can of beer in his hands. He took a drink then put it on the floor next to me. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and shoved it in my mouth. He shoved it so far down I started to gag. I could feel the sting of tears roll down my face.
From the back of his pants he pulled out his gun and put it on the floor next to the beer. He turned back to me with the most hateful look in his eyes. He pulled off my pants, then his.
I will never forget the pain that night. Each time he pushed into me, I tried desperately to cry out. Tears were running down my face. Finally he collapsed on top of me and I felt my breath come even harder as I struggled under his weight. He got dressed after a couple of minutes. Then he picked up the gun and pressed into my cheek, right next to my ear. He said I was dirty and I didn’t deserve to live. He cocked the gun and pulled the trigger. I squeezed my eyes shut and shook violently as I heard the hollow “CLICK” next to my ear. He did that twice more and then released the chamber to show me there were no bullets inside. He put the gun back down and laughed. He took the handkerchief out of my mouth. He took a sip of beer and then poured about half of it down my throat. I gagged and threw up. That really pissed him off. He slapped me hard across the face. He untied me from the pole but kept my hands tied together, dressed me, and threw me in the closest. I don’t know how long I stayed there, but I remember I cried quietly the whole time, praying he wouldn’t come back.
It went on for years.
I’m not sure how one becomes a victim, or how one is able to continue to be victimized. I don’t know what makes people vulnerable to the evil indulgences of others. I don’t know how or why one remains vulnerable and can be sought out time and again. Doesn’t matter much, I suppose, so long as the cycle ends at some point. When I was teenager I was revisited by this nightmare from my childhood. That started my great descent. The man who, from the time I was 8, abused me in the most horrific of ways, returned. It sent me spiraling into a kind of hell from which I have only recently been able to escape.
At that point in my life I had no idea how to deal with what had happened. In hindsight, of course, I could have maybe mentioned this horror and dealt with it in a way that mainlined the circuitous route to “healthy” adult I ultimately ended up taking. Instead I slid further and further into a gripping despair that followed me right into the heart of adulthood. Instead I tried desperately to numb the pain by any means necessary.
The downward spiral continued after 4 AM, finally consuming me sometime around 6, I think. The loss of control is what finally pissed me off and pushed me over the edge. I’ve never had much control over anything in my life. Who among us does, I suppose? But the utter lack of control finally broke me that night. I started shaking. I couldn’t control it. I continued crying, unable to control it. I walked outside to gain comfort from the moon, then back, and then began the relentless pacing. Then the pain set in, and the nausea, and again it was beyond control. Fuck it. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold on then.
Heroin’s voice still wakes me sometimes in the middle of the night. It’s the silence between each beat of my heart, and it talks to me when I’m surrounded by nothingness. It teases and begs, daring me to chase its magical fucking high. That first high, the first time I shot it. The one that gave my body the most intense, euphoric feeling I ever felt. The one I could never get again. Now I’m trying to chase life before I take the shot that kills me.
Our pasts are supposed to be behind us. Mine isn’t. It sometimes feels like it’s coming at me from all sides. I can’t escape it. Will it ever be behind me?
Sobriety is a decision. I have to fight like hell to take away addiction’s power. The easier choice would be to say “Fuck It” and use. Heroin’s high is magical, but as I gain some clarity, life is starting to look a lot better. Still, I know the power it has all too well. The power that has yanked me back from the cusp of health and life too many times and made me run back to the needle. The feeling in my gut is stronger than a craving. I sometimes feel like I would do anything to get a fucking hit.
Dope wipes away the memories that haunt me. It takes away the pain. But as soon as the high wears off, all of it comes back, rushing at me at full force.
Heroin is a fix for the raw nerves. It erases my memories and fills me with a sense of peace and safety. It makes all my pain disappear. The beautiful silence of the nod, the euphoria… But then the deafening scream for more once I start to come down.
The warmth I know heroin could give me is loud and insistent. It causes my heart to race, my mouth to water, my veins to ache. God, how I crave its release. I just need a taste.
My palms are sweaty, my veins pulsing, my head throbbing. The desperate need is begging to be fed.
The triggers cause intense urges. They pull my desperation and darkness to the surface, threatening to break through.
While the physical part of addiction is gone, the mental part is still quite present, and often persistent. It’s especially loud tonight and I fear it will always have a voice.
I came back to Boston more than 2 months ago. Boston isn’t the place for me anymore. There’s nothing here for me now. It’s my past; it’s not my future. I have to leave. Because of reasons, I can’t leave it behind completely. But for now, I’m ready to take the next step.