Drop Your Shame at the Door
The mirror above the sink is made of metal or tin, like a baking sheet flipped over, bolted to the wall. I don’t resemble much in the scratched reflection. There is this pointy, hollow, puffy-faced woman with black circles around her eyes. I see a physical creature, held hostage. Far, far away I think I remember her, at least a trace, for a moment. And a deep saddness fills me–fills me up to the jagged edge of sweaty palms, a burning stomach, a fluttering in the chest. ‘Stop!’ the word careens through my mind ‘Jesus stop!’, up and down the roller coaster in my head. I think maybe I have to stop getting so close to that girl, because it brings out my disease–makes me nearly quit breathing–or I want to quit breathing. It makes me run for the nurse, who’ll give me a blanket to hold and lay me down on a heating pad and softly speak to me about the facts of PTSD. Facts calm me down. I won’t be able to breathe when I first lay down–I’ll close my eyes and scratch at my face for the blindfold I feel wrapped around my head. Then I’ll feel blood, hot and sticky, coming from some kind of hole on my cheek. She gives me a pill. I’ll smear the blood away and look at my hands at the peak of the flashback, and not see red fingers; no blood. And I can see; no blindfold. It’s all just my mind, like a dream. I’m shifting in and out of different planes of reality if I’m not dissociating. I have no control. The monster never reveals himself, just the shame arises and I am naked everywhere inside-out;skinless. I’m a little girl. Just another little face that cowers before a perverse hand and leaves this place. “Fear is not your monster. Don’t give it a name. We are here to show you that it’s not your monster, it’s your teacher.” I wash my hands. I am nauseous. I can’t get it away–this blood of mine on my hands. Focus. I stop spinning in my head by saying aloud the word Focus. I can focus for about a minute. Sixty seconds of bliss as I touch the objects around me and describe them, which should supposedly help me from sliding off the ledge into dissociation. I stare out the thick window, I stare at my cot, my twisted white sheets, my balled up blanket I hold close at night like a teddy bear, my plastic pillows, my untouched books, an old journal that looks at me during the long afternoons. Then I’m speeding up, frantically saying as I grab at random “soft, smooth, hard, cool, squishy, solid, rock, concrete…” and my pace is what scares me back into a panic and I feel myself step away–in one, loud thunder-step she’s gone, leaving me empty again. I don’t stand a chance here, I think, the only place where there is help. And I sit and cry in an empty shell. Days pass in what feels like a month. Happy New Year I laugh to myself. Just days, I say, just some days and I went so far. How do I travel so much in a few days, locked in one building, the mirage of help where the nurses sit in their glassed-in office, watching us, laughing, sharing chocolates and Christmas cookies and new diets. How many shifts went by for them? I’ve become dependent on Nurse Jo; she’s the one person I choose to show my absolute bottoms to, and she brings me back to the room in the quiet building under the street lights that reveal showers of snow, gently, outisde. At night, after supper, I stare out the glass door by my room. I stare at the soft knolls of rounded snow, imagine the buzz from the halogen street lights, the crumple of weightless snow singing to the ground. I can’t go out there and touch it. I think of the recycled generations and VIP’s that have spent the same kind of nights here. I cry (that’s about all I can do). Hard. I cry because I’d wanted someone to carry me, carry me like water–as Saenz says. But I’d run through their fingers. I cry because here I am trying to carry myself, and I’m just so tired; I have no faith left inside. No faith in tomorrow, or even the coming night when it gets bad. I realize how alone I am and that I’m falling with nothing to catch myself on. Am I destroyed? Did I blow it? Will I get her back? I stop crying and stiffen up. I’ll find her. On my own, dammit. I’ll get her back. I won’t carry myself. I’ll push myself. I’ll fight for her, because she was once so lovely. And I cry again, because it all just hurts and I have no defenses left.