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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Four Months

That's almost how long it's been since I came here. I have a number of reasons for staying away, the first of which being that I just became exhausted.

It's been a very long time since I've been so sick for so very long. I lost interest in most everything. There were mornings when I was sorry I was still living. Some mornings I thought about ingesting everything prescription at once. That would have included prescription decongestants, cough suppressants with codeine, narcotic pain meds for my tooth extractions...

When that happened, I convinced myself I was being melodramatic and probably I'd just end up nauseated and vomiting. Then I got dressed and went to work.

Five months of nearly nonstop illness. That's actually not terrifically long, but it felt endless.

At this point, I've had about four weeks of feeling well. Then last week I contracted another virus.

The diagnosis: My immune system is compromised. I have asthma which puts me at high risk because I live in a polluted environment. Probably, as long as I work in a place where I am exposed daily to different germs from more than 500 students, my life will be like this.

You know that natural happiness that has always been mine? That wonderful feeling that bubbles up even when I've been at my lowest? It's gone. It's been a very long time since I've been happy at all.

In the meantime, PTSD has nearly eaten me alive. I've tried so very hard to maintain relationships and stay in touch with people I love. But it feels impossible.

A bright spot. My sweet sister, K, with whom I work, knows I'm struggling. Every day or two she pops into my classroom to give me a hug or just check in with me. She doesn't say anything about noticing that I'm not doing well; just says she missed me and wanted to say hello. I need that. I need people to smile back at me while I'm trying desperately to look as though I'm okay, walking through hallways filled with students I teach, smiling, talking with them, all the while wanting to just go to my classroom, lie on the floor and sleep.

I'm not sleeping at night lately.

I had this conversation with Therapist:

Therapist: You mentioned you feel that people love you, but try very hard to maintain distance between you.

Me: Yes.

Therapist: What causes that feeling?

Me: I don't know. It just feels like people want to talk with me, but only if they have something to tell me. They're not particularly interested in me, personally.

Therapist: Do they ask questions?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: That might indicate concern or caring.

Me: It might.

Therapist: Do you believe they're concerned?

Me: Not really, no.

Therapist: Why not?

Me: I just don't see why they would be. Here's our conversation: They ask how I'm doing. I say, "Still sick. They say, "That sucks. I'm really sorry." I say, "Yeah, it does. Thanks." The end.

Therapist: What do you want them to say?

Me: You know, it's not really what I want them to say. And it's not really about being sick for a long time. I used to spend time with people. More than that, people wanted me to spend time with them. Now I go places and see people I know, and I understand that things have changed. It's not that I'm unwanted. It's just that I'm no longer an integral part of anyone's life. Except Darrin's. Yes, I knew you were going to mention him. And that's great. I love that after eons of time, he's still in love with me and I, him. That's not what I'm talking about.

Therapist: You're talking about friends.

Me: I suppose. Except, if you look at what's happening, I have tons of friends. Those are the people who know you, who make a big deal about wanting to see you but are too busy to actually do it-- and they're okay with that because when you finally do get together for an hour, it will be very special, like no time has passed since you were last together, and you still love each other madly, because that's the kind of friends you are!

Therapist: I take it that's not what you're interested in.

Me: I'd really rather have no one.

Therapist: What have you done to keep your relationships close and less like those casual friendships you just described.

Me: Not a lot. Sick, remember?

Therapist: It sounds like you wish someone would take care of you a little.

Me: Not a chance. That would make me nuts.

Therapist: And also make you feel loved, needed, and cherished.

Me. I don't think so.

Therapist: Well, I could be wrong.

Me. Yes.

LONG PAUSE

Me: Actually, I think the people in my life are sort of afraid of me.

Therapist: Why would they be afraid?

Me: I'm an intense person. I'm not afraid to say I love you a million times and mean it with all my heart. I don't get tired of the people I love deeply. I always want to spend time with them. I'm happy to hear all the things in their lives from the really momentous to the mundane. I often try to dig deeper, to know them better, to find out more. I don't think most people like that. I think I make them uncomfortable.

Therapist: Maybe they want the same thing.

Me: Do you? How many people outside of immediate family do you have who feel that way about you?

Therapist: A few.

Me: And how often do you see them?

Therapist: Not often enough.

Me: Which means what? Monthly? Annually? Every decade?

Therapist: Probably a couple of times a year.

Me: And do you call them in between?

Therapist: Sometimes.

Me: Often?

Therapist: Usually every few months, yes.

Me: That's not often.

Therapist: For me, it is.

Me: That's what I'm talking about. If someone contacted me every few months, I'd be fine with that. I'd let it happen. But I wouldn't count them as close relationships. And probably they'd die out because I don't have the ability as of yet to trust people who walk in and out of my life every few months or years or whatever. That's why I think people are afraid of me. I want them. I want them in my life often. I want to know about them, lend support, touch them sometimes. I'm scary.

Therapist: Sam, you're not scary. And I don't think they're afraid. They're just busy.

Me: Yes, they are.

Therapist: That's not a bad thing, you know.

Me: Nope. It's a healthy boundary. It's living life and allowing people to have a part of that life. It's how real grown ups interact.

Therapist (laughing): I'm not sure that's what I meant.

Me: No. But one thing is very clear. I'm a three-year-old in my heart.

Therapist: I think that's understandable, given your background.

Me: Maybe, but not socially acceptable. And I realized something this week.

Therapist: Yes?

Me: I was at a dinner for staff appreciation week. I was with colleagues I meet with weekly for meetings. We work together, sometimes teach collaboratively. And I like them. I think they like me. But that's it. I don't belong. I never have. I probably never will. This is not me asking for advice as to how I CAN belong. It's just an observation. And because I like my colleagues, I find myself wishing sometimes that I did belong. Except then I remember-- I've never belonged anywhere. Not ever. The closest thing I've felt to "belonging" is when I was alone in a practice room playing my guts out. I belonged there and on stage. And with Darrin.

Therapist: There have been other times, Sam. You've told me about them.

Me: Yes. There have. But always with people who feel the need to put up those "healthy boundaries." And you know what? That's wasted effort because I would NEVER trespass. I would NEVER insert myself where I was not needed or wanted. And I would NEVER put someone I love at risk physically or emotionally. But still, they seem to need to warn me about all the reasons they can't spend time with me or communicate with me or whatever. As if I wouldn't already have thought of all those reasons because PTSD reminds me constantly that I am unfit for human company.

Therapist: They tell you they don't want to spend time with you?

Me: No. They tell me they do. And then they tell me why they can't. And it's fascinating to me. Because if I want to spend time with someone, I make time. I schedule it. It's a priority because THEY are a priority. I never want anyone I love to believe they're not important to me or are less important than another social engagement or work or the weather. But I think they're afraid I'll think they feel the same way about me. And for whatever reason, there has to be a boundary that makes certain I'll never believe that.

Therapist: You've been feeling pretty down lately. It sounds like you're emotionally spent and a little bit angry.

Me: Anger is a secondary emotion.

Therapist: That's my line.

Me: And now it's mine.

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