Am I OK?

There are few things in this world that make me feel like I’m OK, like it’s OK that I’m here despite…well, despite a lot of things. There’s nothing really OK about being raped from childhood through adolescence by someone who was supposed to take care of you. There’s nothing really OK with being told you contracted HIV because of that abuse. There’s nothing really OK with becoming an alcoholic and a junkie because you can’t deal with the fallout of your life. There’s nothing really OK with trying to take your own life because you’re too scared of your own shadow to even try to live in this world. And yet, having read and absorbed the words of Alison Arngrim recently in her memoir, entitled Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, I feel pretty OK about myself right now.

I didn’t buy the book because I wanted to read someone else’s tale of abuse and woe.  Honestly, I never even knew Ms. Arngrim was a survivor of sexual abuse until I read her book. I bought it because Little House was a particular favorite of mine. It was a fantasy world into which I would escape when my own reality became too much. It was a safe haven. She was on the show. I liked the show. I liked her. Sure, she was a bitch on the show, but she was tough and she was strong, and I needed strength back then. She seemed like someone who could protect herself. I so wanted to be able to protect myself. So in a weird, two-dimensional kind of way, I live vicariously through Nellie Oleson…resident bitch extraordinaire.

So, I thought her book would be interesting. It was interesting. But it was so much more. It was, for me, cathartic. It was cathartic to read the words of this amazing woman who despite having gone through what she did, faced life with unapologetic vigor and snarkiness. She did not let the horror of her past preclude her from having a future.  She, in fact, embraced it, and strode forth with confidence into a world that could have easily swallowed her whole. How I admire her strength. Her courage gives me hope. Her fortitude gives me courage.

I don’t know Alison Arngrim. She will likely never know I even exist. Which is a shame, really, because I’d love for her to know that she saved me. I’d love for her to know that her words gave me the courage I needed to face down my demons, to throw off the veil of darkness that has long haunted me, and to live, simply because I deserve to.

She happens to be in Boston this week. A mere 45 minute or so from where I live. Sadly, I’ll not get the opportunity to meet this amazing woman. But if I did, I’d thank her for providing a voice to those who are unable to raise their own. She may be a Prairie Bitch, but for me? She’s a guardian angel.

Hospital Musings

Even in hospitals Sundays are quiet days. No one came in to take me for tests or to do blood work, and even the deluge of nurses that typically descends each hour to check vitals or administer meds slowed to a trickle yesterday. I was thankful for it at first, but last night it was just eerily quiet and very lonely.

The incessant beeping and whirring of the heart monitor and the myriad other machines was on course to drive me insane. But worse than all that? They put me on a new medication whose side effect is like fucking Chinese torture: it makes me itch. I’m talking full-on-I want-to-scratch-each-layer-of-skin-off-my-body itching. Scratching doesn’t help because the itch isn’t a surface itch; rather, it originates from somewhere deep within and I can’t get any relief from it. I try desperately not to bitch to the nurses because they’ve already got the toughest job in the world without listening to my sorry ass complain about being itchy. However I did gently suggest to my night nurse that if I didn’t get some relief from the itching soon there was a good chance I was going to break a window and use the shards of glass to go all Hannibal Lector on myself. After a brief silence and a look that told me she was seriously considering a psych consult, she brought in the longest needle I’ve ever seen and shot me up with something that is supposed to counteract whatever ingredient it is in the first drug that makes you itch. Thank fuck.

Yesterday was just one of those days. A friend came for a visit in the morning, which was lovely. But the rest of the day I mostly just stared at the ceiling. I couldn’t concentrate enough to write. I wasn’t feeling well enough to read. It was one of those days where I just wanted to crawl out of my own skin. I considered arguing to be released so I could at least be home, but I thought better of it. I’ve left the hospital twice now on my own terms and both times I’ve ended up back here with unpleasant consequences. Besides, they’re controlling my pain well enough here and if I were home and left to my own devices, well, that probably wouldn’t go as well. I don’t trust myself right now.

So last night around 12:30 I sort of gave up on trying to sleep. I tried not to lose myself in the desolation and desperation of this place.

The good news is the itch-inducing medication has managed to bring my fever down from a combustible 104 to a more tolerable 101. Seriously? I thought my brain was going to boil the last couple days. So I’m certainly a bit more comfortable. Also? I managed to consume some jello yesterday afternoon. Green jello, but still…at least it was solid(ish) food. I may try for a saltine at some point today.

I was at a friend’s wake when this happened. I missed the funeral. The finality of a funeral is so much harder than a wake, but I’m really sad to have missed it. I will miss him very much.

I’m getting all melancholy again. I have to focus on something positive. Hmmm. Oh, here’s something: I’m thankful that BlackBerry phones come with the game Brick breaker pre-installed because that has provided me with hours of distraction today. (Sense the sarcasm.)

From Whence I Came

My talent for making the wrong choices is uncanny. My intent was to remove myself for a night or two. Just get out of the present and escape for a bit. I booked a room, and planned on…I’m not really sure what I planned on actually. I brought music, booze, pen, paper, various meds, and I stopped for smokes on the way. I don’t even smoke. I have terrible lungs. I even get a whiff of second-hand smoke and I’m sucking on my inhaler for days. I told myself I was going to clear my head, push through the despair, deal with the shit storm that’s been brewing in my brain lately. That’s what I told myself. In reality, I guess my plan was self destruction. Why else would I have chosen the items I brought with me? Booze and meds? I had 7 years of sobriety. I lived well and I lived fully. I was productive and…normal. What I was really desperate for was an escape from the pain. No quicker way to do that than booze and pills. It’s not the best way, but it is the quickest.

It started out as I expected. The room was quiet and unfamiliar, which is pretty much what I was looking for. I poured a drink, sat on the bed, and stared out the window. Five minutes in and I was already stuck. How do I deal with this, push through it, come out the other side unscathed? Damned if I know. So I poured another drink while I tried to figure it out. I wrote a little, but the words didn’t come easily. I gave up after a while and opted for music instead. The saddest of songs. Another drink. Soon I was feeling the familiar tingle, that sweet buzz that hooked me from the start. It all started to melt away at once. As it did, the tears came. I’d say they were tears of sadness, but there was probably some regret mixed in there as well. And soon it was uncontrollable sobbing. Another drink. Then I really had to escape. I suck as a human being. The best I deserved, I figured, was to go back to my life 10 years ago.  I was in the city, my playground a decade or so ago. A lot has changed, but the darkest, seediest places never change. That’s what I deserved. That darkness. So that’s where I went. I don’t go to clubs too often these days. I sometimes will go to a sports bar with some friends, but those places aren’t triggers for me. The clubs in the city, those are what trigger my addiction. The music is so loud in those places, you can feel it; it pulsates through your veins, and you can feel your heart beat in rhythm with the music. The people are packed in, drunk, high, dancing, stumbling. I let it all wash over me. I got bumped and jostled. Amazingly there were people I knew at the first place I went. I haven’t seen these people since I got sober. They were happy to have me back, they said. 

For all my trouble, this is what I ended up getting: drunk, sick, and a black eye when I walked into the middle of something I shouldn’t have. I remember catching it in the eye and turning, in my drunken bravado, to confront the very large man who’s elbow I’d caught. Next thing I remember is my old “friend” Steve grabbing me by the throat hard to get me out of the way. He was saving me from myself, of course, but a little gentler would’ve worked just as well.

I woke up sometime late the next morning with cuts on my arms and a razor next to me. I hadn’t tried to kill myself (I would have had really bad aim had that been the case since most of the cuts were on my forearms), rather I reverted to a behavior I learned years ago to divert the emotional pain by having it manifest as physical pain. If I’m in physical pain it takes the focus off the emotional pain. Physical pain is easier to deal with. You know there will be an end to it at some point. The same cannot be said for emotional pain. The hopelessness is insidious and is just too much to bear.

I can’t imagine having the strength to crawl out of this black hole that has all but consumed me of late. Yet, I know I have before.