Now that my lovely skin situation has returned, I’m finding myself up at times when I should be sleeping because I can’t bear the pain of lying down.  And it’s perfectly fine during the daytime, but as soon as I try to fall asleep, it creeps up on me and I’m unable to think about anything else.  Maybe by focusing on these thoughts I can make my skin feel better or at least ignore it for however long this takes.  So while I may ramble, maybe it’s the best thing I can do to force this out of my brain.

I compartmentalize my life into segments based on where I was living at the time.  I can carve out chunks of my life in 4-5 year increments as that’s how often we moved when I was growing up and in my adulthood I patterned my own life on that nomadic behavior.  It’s easier to deal with those periods of my life because they feel like other lifetimes to me.  I know that they happened.  I remember them happening.  But I can just as easily pretend that they were a story I read once.  I can pretend that the things I remember aren’t real or that they were dreams or manifestations that my brain created after I started having seizures.  It’s a coping mechanism, albeit a bad one.

There are touchstones to the past that I can’t completely avoid.  There are the physical manifestations – the scars mostly, that are constant reminders of the person I’ve been.  But there are also the people – my sisters, my parents, friends that have been there across multiple lifetimes. When I can’t deal, I shut them all out.  I can’t face the me that they reflect back.  There are versions of me that I can’t stand, and those people have known me through all of that.  When I get panic attacks about the past, I can’t cope with these people. I can’t call them even though I know that some of them still want to talk to me even after all I’ve put them through.

At the core is this belief that I am a horrible person.  It’s been suggested that my Catholic upbringing had a lot to do with this.  I have spent my whole life terrified of dying and being damned eternally because of things I’ve done (or didn’t do).  I feel like I’m scared that I’ll be defined by the things I’ve done in the past.  I’m scared that I’ll spend a lifetime (or many lifetimes) trying to atone.  Terrified that one day people will “find out” who I truly am, and never talk to me again.  This is the fear that wakes me up crying in the middle of the night.  This is the terror that I feel when I have a flashback to something from my past.  It’s catching up, running alongside of me, and I can’t avoid it too much longer.

The dark terrible secret? I have always felt guilty that I’m alive.  I have felt ashamed since I was a little girl.  I’ve felt ashamed of being fat, of having epilepsy, of being shy, of not being perfect.  I justified that shame at a young age.  I made a choice that I must have done something wrong for God to make me this way.  And that He made a mistake when he saved me.  Guilt and shame are like old friends that wrap around me, and I don’t know how to shrug them off.

Attitude is something that I’ve seen discussed a lot lately.  It’s not as if I can just suddenly “get over it” or “change my way of thinking”.  There are 34 years of guilt and shame that are not going to go away by looking at a picture of a kitten hanging off a tree limb telling me to hang in there.  Having bariatric surgery – a surgery that would effectively amputate a healthy part of my body just to “make me healthier” is not going to make that go away.  And I’m so afraid of reaching out to talk to someone else because I can’t take the rejection.  I can’t take the leap of faith and trust someone else with my feelings and have them just abandon me.  So, I don’t make the phone call to go get help.  I don’t respond to efforts to reach out to me.  I’m scared that if they really got to know me, they’d leave me too.

Here’s a story for you from a few lifetimes ago.  I was best friends with someone who was an emotional vampire.  It’s easier for me to picture her as the bad guy, but the truth is far more complicated.  I was her willing victim, you see, because I always went back.  I would cut her out of my life, and finally gain my strength.  With one phone call she could get me to drop everything and go to her.  She knew my weaknesses and could always coax me back into her life because she “needed” me.  Some of my happiest memories revolve around my friendship with her, but without too many details, she is the star of one of my defining moments.

The worst summer of my life ended on Labor Day.  I’d taken heavy pain meds the night before, and woke up that morning in a stupor.  I stumbled downstairs and the house was far too quiet.  There was an empty hollowness there that I couldn’t explain.  She and the person I was dating were gone. And there was a note that I will never forget.  “I’m leaving, and I can’t say that I will miss you all that much.  You are so fake, I don’t even think you know when you’re being real.  You are a horrible person and I’m happy that we will no longer be friends. Please take care of (the person she was dating), I just couldn’t stand it anymore.”  I kept that note for years, just because they were the physical manifestation of everything I knew myself to be.

I don’t know why I’m sharing that, maybe so that I can’t edit it out of my life.  It feels like a nightmare, but the words I know are true.  And even though the note is gone, the words are still etched on my heart.  It’ll be 10 years this September, but it feels like yesterday.

I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’m always waiting for the note from the people I love to tell me that they’ve had enough.  I’m afraid that they’ve had enough of my depression, of my crazy, of my inability to just be happy and change and be perfect.  I’m afraid of people telling me that they’re worse off because they’ve met me.  Or afraid that these people will just disappear because I’m not worth even responding to.

So that’s my secret.  Too ashamed to live.  Too afraid to die.

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