All of my earliest memories involve stress of some kind. My first is toddling down the street home from a friend’s house to see a police car in our driveway. Apparently I had wandered off while my mom was on the phone. As I recall, I tried to get her attention, told her I wanted to play at my friend’s house, and she nodded at me. I took the nod as a sign of acknowledgement and left. Of course, this was almost thirty years ago in a small prairie town, so things were a bit more lax back then.
My second and third memory I’ve recounted here, involving the babysitter and the screaming. I can still feel the terror of that third memory resonating through my body. The complete panic, the helplessness, the horror. I was going to have to live with the man who abused me as I pretended to sleep, and as it turned out, with another two people who took advantage of me, too.
For the longest time when the sadness, anger, fear, or helplessness would wash over me I wanted to die. Right then, right there. I spent many childhood hours contemplating suicide, fantasizing about how to be ultra-dramatic about it. My favorite was slashing my body everywhere and then smearing blood all over the white walls, letting it pool on the white carpet. I wanted to ruin the house, to haunt their dreams, to make them notice me for something other than a sexual plaything. But mostly I wanted out, and dying felt like the only way.
This was true even in early adulthood, after I was out of that house. The burden of those memories was too much to carry and I was afraid I’d never make it. It was only a matter of time until I collapsed under the weight. Death still felt prominent and possible, my only viable option.
But this time has been different. As I’ve noted the fear, the sadness, and the anger have all been intensely present. They’ve been given ample room to roam through my thoughts and my days. To percolate through me, to find their way out. But, get this, the desire to die has been conspicuously absent. I haven’t once thought about killing myself, I haven’t once wished I were dead. This has never happened before. When I start sobbing I notice it, lingering in the back of my mind, the knowledge that, despite it all, I want to live.
All in all, I have a very good thing going. It would be such a shame to lose out now. This is all just a bump in the road. A huge, painful, very rocky, miserable bump, but just a bump all the same. I have support, I have love, and I have a future. I have a future. I’ve never really had a future. And, wow, it sure feels good to know that.
As I recently watched a video from a friend who bungee jumped, I realized I couldn’t do that anymore. At various points in my life I’ve done dangerous and exhilarating things. But now my self-preservation instinct is too strong. Maybe I should have done it while I had a laissez-faire attitude about life, because now I want to live for a long, long time.