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Last night I had one of the most vivid dreams I’ve had in quite some time.  Each time my alarm went off, I fought wakefulness and kept returning back to the same place, aching to grasp the threads of the dream again.  Shadows of it are still haunting me, even though it’s mid-afternoon.  I wish I had a way of transcribing my thoughts while I’m on the bus, because I had more to say about it then.  I seem to lose a lot of clarity in the time it takes for me to write things down.

I dreamed about someone who I haven’t spoken with since my dramatic departure from her life in 2004.  I spoke of this toxic person in an earlier entry and outlined some of the reasons I have for never speaking with her again.  We have a few mutual friends, but I’m careful not to ask about her, and have cautioned them about telling her anything about my life.  It sounds harsh, but it seems the harder I tried to push her away, she’d always find a way to prey on the love I had for her.  She’d find a way to make me feel sorry for ever leaving, and make me feel like I was the only person who could save her from herself.

In the dream, I drove the three hours to her wedding, which was in Pennsylvania (I guess in the dream I lived in Ohio).  I missed the ceremony, but went to the reception, where I sat alone and picked at the decorations on the table.  I was sulking and unsure that I should be there at all.  She was there dressed a wedding dress much like the one I wore for my wedding.  Her husband was nowhere to be seen, but she looked radiant as she greeted all her guests.  She looked happier than I’d ever seen her.  A mutual friend of ours came to my table and asked me what was wrong. I told her how I was feeling, and she nodded but then walked away.

At this point, my friend came to the table and sat down.  There were no hugs.  There was no fake gushing about how good it was to see each other.  We just faced each other.  She said to me, “You may not want to, but you are going to call me tomorrow.  I need to hear from you.”  I couldn’t meet her eyes, and said, “I don’t think I can do it.  I don’t want to face you, because you reflect back at me that person I was during that horrible time.  That person was a bad person.  I hate that person.  I don’t want to feel that ever again.”  She laughed and said, “You know I love you to bits, but I feel the same way about you.  I still think  you’re going to call me.”

I woke up at that point, but I still can’t wrap my head around what it means.  She did email me about 8 months ago, and said basically “I’m sorry. For all of it. For everything.  I know I can’t undo anything, and you probably won’t respond, and that’s OK. I just wanted you to know.”  I didn’t respond then, and I don’t think I should even now.

Is this some way of my brain dealing with the loss of my best friend from high school? As if I need to cling to those ghosts because I don’t want to lose the memories of who I was?

I have fought the urge to email this person so far.  I got some great advice from people much smarter than me about why I should keep this person out of my life.  But I feel like there’s something I need to do about my dream.  I feel like my subconscious is telling me something, and I’ll be damned if I know what it is.

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.

I remember vividly the first time I ever told my mother about my husband.  I was in the blissful throes of “omg he likes me so much” and I wanted to tell her all about it.  And she said “You know what I love?  Is that you found someone to love you despite your body type.  You know, he loves you as you are”.  I know in my brain that these words were not meant maliciously, because I know my mom loves me.  As I am.  Whatever that means.  But tell my heart that? The words were like weapons and I took them to heart.  As if I was this unlovable person that couldn’t possibly be loved at my weight.  As there was something absolutely wrong with me that someone would have to completely overlook or “get over” before they could decide to love me.But isn’t that what society tells you? If you’re fat, you’re going to die alone and no one will ever love you unless you fit some mold?

A few years ago when I was living in Alabama, one of my coworkers asked why I wasn’t married, since I was about to turn 30.  Ignoring the rudeness of that, I just told her that I hadn’t found the right person yet.  And this woman, who I’d just met a few weeks earlier said to me “Well, you’re just too picky, then.  I know lots of guys who would go out with someone like you“. 

So what can I ascertain from that phrase “someone like you”?  Intelligent? Geeky? Funny? White? Short? Curly haired? Of course not.  And in case it wasn’t clear the first time, she made sure to spell it out for me.  “There are lots of guys who like women with extra meat on their bones”.  Well…good for them, then.  And thanks for thinking that I am not capable of finding someone to love someone like me and that I am being TOO PICKY with something as important as the person with whom I will spend the rest of my life. 

My husband observed that people are so worried about being “PC” that making fun of fat people is the only thing that’s allowed these days.  And in his way, he’s absolutely right.  Being fat is regarded as something that makes you a second class citizen.  And it’s perfectly acceptable for people to tell you how fat and disgusting you are.  As if you had “no idea”! And that it’s “for your own good”.  It’s ok to be prejudiced against someone who’s fat because we’re conditioned to believe that weight = unhealthiness.  So if someone’s unhealthy, they don’t deserve to live.  Or they don’t deserve to live as comfortably as everyone else.  So why shouldn’t you be able to discriminate against them? Because it’s really all their fault, isn’t it?  And if they really wanted to change and be better, they would be.

Guess what? You can’t tell a damn thing about what kind of person I am by looking at what’s on the outside of my body.  You can’t instantly tell me what my cholesterol levels are, or my blood sugar, or the status of my organs, or my fitness level.  You could guess, but you’d be wrong.  And do ANY of these things make me a person of worth?  And furthermore, are any of these things any of your business?

The realization I’m slowly coming to is that I’ve spent most of my life letting these judgements define me.  I see myself reflected back in the eyes of strangers and I have learned to hate what I see staring back at me.  And it’s hard to break that habit.  It’s hard to be allowed to love someone like me when I am told by everyone else that I don’t deserve that love because of what I am.

Someone like me is someone who is a person of worth who is loved BECAUSE of who I am. And I have to keep telling myself that I am a person of worth until I can shut out the voices that keep telling me that I’m not.