Have you ever used a gum eraser? They can lift almost any unwanted stroke from a piece of paper without leaving a mark. It’s why I love them so much. They allow me to make a finished piece of art without a single hint of the ugly mistakes made along the way to creating it.
The same works for writing on a computer, or publishing on a blog. When I no longer want to feel (or look at) the words on the digital page, I can simply press a button to metaphorically burn them. No ash. No mess left behind. No visible proof they were ever really there. (Though I have heard it said that nothing put on the internet can ever truly be erased.)
In both of the above examples, however, when I start again I’m not really starting anew. True, I may be embarking on a different piece, with a different attitude or perspective; but the artist and/or writer behind the work is still the same.
There is no gum eraser or delete button that allows me to start from the beginning of who I am and remove all of the ugly bits… and I find that extremely frustrating, and incredibly sad.
After decades of trying to see myself through a different, more accepting lens – to experience the world through a fresh set of newly learned behaviors, I am still (in part) the broken little girl that walked hesitantly into the meandering footsteps of the shattered woman that I am.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that different lenses and better adapted behaviors haven’t helped me to be a more evolved version of who I was before I had them in my personal toolbox. All I’m saying is that they haven’t changed me as much as I had hoped they would.
I had (quite naively) hoped that through therapy, and a more cognitive understanding of my mental afflictions, that I would be (mostly) cured of them; and that has not been the case.
Knowing that “feelings are not facts” and “this too shall pass” doesn’t help to stop the heartache or the tears of intense, largely irrational emotions.
Knowing that there is a chemical imbalance in my various hormone levels doesn’t change my body chemistry.
Knowing that my neural pathways were built to reach the center of Crazy Town doesn’t change the fact that I’m a permanent resident of a neurologically f*cked up city.
Happiness, for me, is a fleeting state of existence. Fear – as my husband pointed out last night, during yet another breakdown – is my default setting for survival. Survival. I don’t live. I survive.
In the middle of one of my “spells” (I like to lend my lunacy a magical vocabulary. It makes it more palatable.), I am little more than a prisoner of my own mind. A part of me can detach and see that I’m acting erratically; but a larger part of me – a part forged in the tumultuous fires of Mount Doom (i.e. trauma) – rises like a dark and violent Phoenix from the ashes of pain and refuses to give over its monstrous, protective control.
If I could, I would take a gum eraser to the haunted forest of my past, and walk from a quieter wood a much more stable person. Sadly, pharmaceutical science has yet to create the memory-oriented gum eraser so many of us desperately need. So what do we do in the meantime?
I know what I do. I fight the urge – every goddam day – to annihilate myself. I don’t want to die, but I certainly don’t want to live with the sh*t that rattles around in my head.
Often, I feel like an actor in my own life. As if I’m playing a part that I don’t quite have the experience to pull off… but I’m just good enough that no one seems to notice. (Well, my husband does. But only because we live together, and there’s nowhere to hide from him.)
I don’t know what I want.
I don’t know what would make me happy.
I truly doubt that I can be happy.
I don’t even try to be happy, ’cause I’m scared to f*ck it up. (The fear and evil that you know are easier – and more familiar – than the ones that you don’t.)
I am scared that without the various masks I don so easily, that I am nothing. No one. Just another survivor who desperately depends on the Hall of Faces.
And I don’t know where to go from here.