“When your lost, and you low, and you can’t get back again,
I will show you you’re so much better than you know….
you think I’d leave you down when you’re down on your knees? I couldn’t do that…
…when you’re cold, I’ll be there to hold you tight to me
when you’re on the outside and cant get in
i will show you you’re so much better than you know
when you’re lost and alone and cant get back again
I’ll find you and bring you home
If you want to cry I’ll be there to dry your eyes
in no time you’ll be fine
…If only you could see into me
when you’re cold I’ll be there to hold you tight to me
when you’re low, I’ll be there by your side…”
Sean Rowe, “By Your Side”
After second grade, I can almost draw the picture of myself falling apart and inward–in my bedroom staring into the closet in Green Bay, lining up dolls, the rituals beginning. But that’s another story. My sisters though, we never made a pact, we didn’t have each others backs out in the open–that was dangerous, and I am not even sure why. Maybe it was a matter of self-preservation. But we didn’t need to make one, a pact. We swore ourselves to each other from the beginning. Like my father driving drunk in the car on the back roads, my door flew open, I was maybe three or four, and I remember Nikki grabbing me so fast and holding me in as best as her little body could hang on. And that’s how she’s always been with us. Our sanctuaries, we knew, were not impenetrable to the one person I feared and hated and loved all at the same time; but they were strong enough to maybe remind us that we had each other, and I remember kind of feeling like the world would only get meaner. And maybe strong enough to have the hindsight that we weren’t going to be entirely OK, maybe not ever, but if we were OK together, then that small sanctuary would have to be enough. And it was.
But in the corners of the sanctuaries we were able to create together late at night when everyone else thought we were sleeping, a sanctuary, a home; we respected how each of us was designed (though we hardly understood ourselves) safety, and sort of a reference to each other like-
“–did you think he should have hit her? OK, I didn’t either, maybe it’s wrong? What do we do?–“
The sanctuary was such a strong one that it came right back to me just as it had always been, when my sisters came to me in my hospital room when my mental breakdown came in 2009. It was, in my mind, like we had entered a very secret, private room the three of us share and no one has ever seen, that room we created followed us to every house we moved to, and from what I can tell, we were all waiting for things to get worse, not better. I know I was. But our bond kind of tells me that–we saved our hearts’ biggest secrets however shy or ashamed we were to share them. We feared, well I know I did, that they would be ashamed of me or think I wasn’t a good person–though I knew they wouldn’t, but I was afraid of it, I was afraid my two lights on in the dark would get sick of me after so long, or I’d push them to their limits, as I think I did later. I know myself to have a mean streak, and I don’t always think things through before I speak or act. Ha, thirty-five and I am just now learning this fact. But that day at the hospital, it was the beginning of November. I have no idea when they arrived or if it was even the first day or third. I don’t know. But I had been caging in a monster in my chest for, well as long as I can remember, and they were familiar with it even though I kept it from them,I was embarrassed by it, not that I thought it made me shameful or even weak which is quite possibly true, but more-so I didn’t want them to see I had this hideous side inside of me, growing IN me, with my little girl fear that they’d want to leave because of it, too.
I don’t remember what I said when us three finally got our privacy in my room–I remember something in my head started hurting like it did when we had been trick-or-treating and only they knew that I couldn’t handle that fight anymore, I think they knew, but we all got busy with our lives and I am a master at hiding the things I hate about myself..
My chest, my whole body, held its breath until they walked into the doors. I remember because I didn’t even realize I was holding it so hard until they sat down in my room and I just starting giving them a glimpse, but it’s like I was talking in another language because I don’t remember what I said now but the thing is I didn’t know what I was saying then either–I only remember saying “she’s dead” and I tried so hard to hold it together. Maybe I didn’t even say that? They had to get the nurse I had worked up really quick into that manic psychotic pacing thing I did when I got really, really scared. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe at all again, because I held in what I only would let the nurses and doctors see–I couldn’t let go with my sisters because I didn’t…I don’t know? I don’t know why. But I know I needed them to leave because something big was coming, and I needed to be around strangers I wouldn’t scare or something if I completely fell apart. And I did.
We tried to grow up somewhere between losing the things and people we wanted, believing loss was “just the way it was”, and also that if you’re in a shitty situation you gotta make due and survive, keep your head low and watch for tripwire, because no one else was going to look out for you–and our safety or serenity would come later when we grew up, or under the witness of others around. And when you hurt, you’d better disappear. And when the ones you love hurt, you’d better leave them alone to do it.
once you get sort of beaten down mentally and verbally (and some of us abusively) and when you get played so many times and your humiliation comes at the hands
of thee power position, and when your confused on how to even accept your contradictory feelings about that person –and at the ages we were at–
We knew no other choices.
But I was thinking, that feeling I had, and the feeling I am getting now when I play that song up there with Sean Rowe–my throat hurts. My sister told me what it was like the day they came to see me in the hospital. I guess it was New Years Eve Day, not November, which I recall but I have all those years messed in a blur. But even then, she said she cried so hard leaving me alone in that hospital so lost and alone and that she had possibly lost me and she couldn’t help me. It’s always a surprise to me, when someone can feel that way about me–to love me so much. A genuine, honored surprise. All those years I thought I was so alone in my damn near death experience, but I was just too sick to believe otherwise (thought disorder and all that–loneliness is inevitable). Nikki always respected my crippling need to not be touched and held and/or hugged. In the hospital that day when she brought me there, she waited with me in the waiting room before I asked her to leave because I told her it would be too hard later when she left–fact checked-she told me this today, I have a very vague memory of it. But I do remember sitting with her in that small room, waiting.
The love between my sisters and I is a quiet, low thing. It’s a secret language as it is for many siblings. Strange how you connect and come to rely on them when you need help at times during those young ages. I think I weighed my sisters down,
I know I did. Over the last five years. I don’t know,
I don’t know why they didn’t just say “Fuck you Amy! Fuck the fuck off!” and just leave. Scream and hit me, I wanted them to. I had nothing else, not a wall, not a reason, not the reason why and by whom it had all happened to beat upon when I was so scared and so goddamn sick those last few years ago, three maybe. Four? The resting, stale kind of sick where the fever has broken, but you have to lay around in your body’s sick all the time. I had nothing else to push everything I hated myself against, so I became angry with my sisters, who had done nothing but patiently sit out that awful, awful fucking life.
And I thought I stopped caring about them, I thought there was no one else on this planet, and I felt what I was mentioning before–a desperation that makes me want to throw my hands up, beg them to hold me, and to tell me I’ll be OK, that I’m safe, to tell them I’m sorry, that I am a decent and not a bad person, that I can be loved, that I will see it, I wanted to make them promise me in blood that they knew–that they guaranteed that I would make it out alive, because I was seeing no point, and that was fucking scary, and more than that, it was just sad. So sad. “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” is what I was really screaming at them all those times I picked fights, four years into the breakdown. And I was mad, so mad, that I had to do it when I had nothing. Ground fucking zero. I was mad because I actually believed no one else had to fight, and mad-oh! on and on. I was so lost inside the small space I allowed myself, and even that was suffocating me.
I never really stopped to think of what it must have felt like to be in their shoes. I am only beginning to be able to look at it from a good spot now, and I am flooded with love for them. You just can’t thank someone that loves you, I am learning.
So this will be a continuing thought processing for me as I piece together what it is I am wording together–in my heart.