September 24th is the day that my life as I knew it, ended. Twice. In 2015, it was the day I started dating Eli. Two years prior, it was the day I thought I ruined it permanently with a car accident. I’ve written about this countless times on this blog alone, wrote an entire novel about it, and made a web series based off my novel in which I acted out this trauma. If anyone has processed and made peace with her trauma, it’s gotta be me, right? Sunday night I had the worst anxiety attack I’ve had, possibly ever. I started thinking, and then my thoughts spiraled out of my control. When Eli asked me what was going on, I attempted to explain it.
“I just got really freaked that I’ve been performing everything my whole life and with you or something? And it hasn’t been real and I’m not happy or something?
I don’t know why my brain just thought that and I don’t think it’s true but now I don’t know what’s what and I’m very scared. My brain just went ‘yeah but what if all you are is friends and you’ve just been lying to yourself or something’ and now I can’t breathe. I don’t know what the fuck is going on but I feel like I can’t trust anything.”
Then came the confusion, the actual disassociation. I didn’t recognize myself. I didn’t trust anything in my life as the truth. I didn’t believe that anything I had ever known was real, and I didn’t trust reality itself. One moment I was so confused I didn’t think my relationship was real, and the next I realized that I haven’t broken down about the accident since the start of my relationship. I have been so perpetually busy for the entire 3 year span of our relationship, that I guess once I had a spare moment my body thought— okay, good time for a breakdown. I cried harder than I have in a very long time, and sobbed on the phone to Eli, apologizing profusely to the point that I actually started to hyperventilate.
“I just started to think about how identity is ambiguous and it’s a series of hats we try on and who we were at 15 is not who we are now and so who are we really and therefore can we ever really know ourselves and furthermore HOW can we ever really know ourselves and know what’s true? And then I just got to thinking- oh my god maybe I don’t know what’s true and that was so terrifying... ?
And that sounds so fucking crazy I know but I think I just got worried about my choices, because we have so many in this life- and I got worried that somehow I was making the wrong ones and I was locked in or something but that is so absolutely not true— it’s just that there are so many infinite possibilities and choices and doesn’t that just freak you the hell out sometimes? That you can choose anything, so maybe you’re choosing the wrong thing and don’t even know it?
I want you!! I want our life and I want our kids and our cats and I know that you are my actual soul mate and I’m so sorry and I hope you don’t take offense that my brain tried to convince me that I didn’t know that.
This time of year fucks me up. Because 5 years ago I thought I knew everything, I thought I knew what I wanted and then it broke down and I realized what I really wanted and so I think I’m paranoid that everything’s gonna break down again if I’m happy.”
These past few years have been a conscious effort on my part to prove to my parents and everyone around me that I am okay. No, I’m more than okay. I’m great. I’ve risen above this thing that tore me apart. To be clear— I have. But in a single moment it hit me, for the first time in a long time, that I am absolutely terrified of it happening again. In the early days after the accident, I would tell my mom and therapist that I was afraid, that in the back of my mind I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. After a while though, real joy seeped into my life. I became less afraid of that shoe dropping. I took a leap of faith on this relationship, and I thought that meant I was past it. That I wasn’t still afraid. This enormous breakdown was evidence to the contrary.
The truth is, I have been working to prove that I am happy while simultaneously fearing that happiness, because the illusion of happiness is what I perceived in my life before my first downfall. And now that I’m actually happy? Oh, we could fall so much harder. If I am happy, my body is probably lying to me and some terrible thing is going to have to happen to jolt me out of it and show me the truth.
For about an hour, my body was in control, out of my brain’s control, making me physically feel before it let me mentally remember and logically think. It moved through me like a tidal wave, and I was so consumed by it that I barely noticed that hour passing. I’ve always loved that Eli and I started dating on the 24th of September, because I thought- this is my life coming full circle. This is the universe healing me. What they don’t tell you is that healing involves feeling it all over again. I thought I knew my own feelings enough to recognize my PTSD flashbacks. This experience was entirely new to me. I’ve felt flashbacks before, usually in the car. This wasn’t a car flashback, but a flashback of how I felt in the days and months after the accident. Deeply hopeless. Purely lost. Questioning everything.
And it’s funny, because I had just finished a video that I had been working on for a month, about this exact thing. About the tension I feel between my relationship and my accident.
My mom said she thinks this might be the last bit of processing I need to do before I can release it. This thought comforts me, but it also produces an unfamiliar panic. I am no stranger to facing my shit. I encourage it in post after post on this blog. I thought I was good at it, ready for it, past it. Last night I expressed to Eli my fear of myself, my fear that there’s more of this coming, and my fear of being alone with my thoughts.
“It’s just isolating. You are all you can really trust, and when you don’t feel like you can trust yourself...what do you have? I’m also feeling like— dear god please let there not be more. I can’t take any more. Also, if this is some big final processing thing like the Boss on Mario or some shit, what comes after? Also, how does one “process”? What does the after look like? It’s fucking scary.”
He replied with,
“Well you can’t really deal with, or even know what’s after until something happens and you are *after*. But I hear you.”
I’m waiting for the after, paralyzed by the now. That is the honest truth. But Eli is right. You can’t be after without the gritty meat of the before.
P.S.- If you enjoy reading these rambles about my mental health, check out the podcast I’ve started with my friend Frankie. It’s called CrazyAF, and the first two episodes are live on iTunes now.