It’s here

Posted on January 23, 2007

I knew this was coming. Numb this morning, failing to dodge tears all afternoon, and now tonight it’s here in all its sanity-challenging intensity.

I can’t identify it, can’t classify it right now. That will have to come later, when I’m not in the midst of it. Right now it’s simply a struggle to stay in the moment. I have to stay grounded. I have to stay right here. Right now. Because if I don’t, bad things go bump in the nighttime of my mind.

Eating helps. Drinking water. Focusing on my breathing, but that’s hard to do when you’re fighting a soul-wrenching wail. Writing helps a bit, but invites dips into the emotional turmoil, dips that burn like acid on the fringes of my being. Escape is the easiest: reading, TV dramas, movies without any violence. Something engaging. Sesame Street won’t cut it.

And pain. Pain works the best. Did you know you can give yourself an ice cream headache in about five seconds without eating any ice cream? Just hold the container to your forehead, right between the eyebrows. If I keep it there long enough, I can temporarily blind myself from the cold. Long fingernails, dug into the fleshy centers of the palms. Anything to keep myself in the moment.

I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin, like I have to hold it in or I’m going to explode into a gazillion pieces of ravaged humanity. Why? I have no idea. It’s just there, waiting.

My mind isn’t racing, isn’t particularly goal-oriented, isn’t obsessing over anything. Not mania, that’s for sure. Doesn’t feel like it anyway. Feels like panic, like the sheer terror that accompanies a spiral down into one hell of a depression. I fight it. I usually lose. I’m down for the count, for a week or two anyway, and then I get to do it all over again. I hate this.

I can’t be around people like this. I knew this afternoon when I wrote a comment intended to convey only sympathy and understanding, and an hour later I was convinced it might be taken as mean-spirited sarcasm. So I had to post a clarification. I’m hoping I’m the only one who read my own words wrong.

The tears, the panic, it doesn’t necessarily mean catatonia is my next stop. It could just mean I hit a speed bump, some sort of emotional hiccup, and I’ll be fine within a day or so. It could be, but I’m not willing to bet on it. Experience draws the road maps and mine are pretty well worn.

It’s not boring, at least. I went to get a spoon for the ice cream, grabbed one out of the dairy drawer and in a flash it morphed from teaspoon to grapefruit spoon, sharp and serrated, ready and eager to cut into soft, wet pulp. Like my forearm. I had visions of stabbing myself with it, all wet and gory, and it scared the crap out of me. I had to force myself to look at it, at how it really was, the rounded edges, a harmless, not-a-weapon teaspoon.

Why am I posting this now? I’ve never before tried to explain what I’m feeling while in the middle of it. The images that hit me, the screaming inside that makes me want to slam my forehead against a wall just to experience that stunned oblivion, just to subdue it for a few minutes.

I won’t. That would be a hell of a bruise to explain away. Pardon my language. When I get like this, it’s all raw and open and I don’t have the censors to keep things neat and clean and tidy.

The worst part is, I’m in it alone. I’m in house full of people and I’m alone. I can’t drag anyone in here with me, not that I’d want to subject them to this, and no one else understands. No one understands that I can’t control this thing. It’s just part of me and it comes from some place so deep and primal that it’s all pure emotional force.

Meanwhile, life goes on for everyone else. Work, school, phone calls, commitments, obligations. The world doesn’t care that I’ve temporarily checked out for an all-expenses-paid trip to gehinom and my return ticket is as yet undated.

I can’t think about how – or if – I’m going to get to sleep tonight, or how I’ll feel tomorrow. It’s too frightening, too close to feeling like I can’t cope and I’ll fall apart anyway. I have to stay in the moment. Right here. Right now. Sit on my hands if I have to and take each minute, each second as it comes.

The only monster to fight is within, and the best strategy I’ve found so far, the least injurious, is to force calm. Calm breaths, relaxed muscles, stay in the moment. Right now I’m still here, still hanging on by a thread. A minute from now, an hour, a day, who knows? But I’m here right now. Breathing in, breathing out. Check the major muscles, relax them again. And again. Breathe in, breathe out. In the moment.

Now’s the time. Now’s the time for my blog title to mean something. G-d, please hear my prayer. What are the lines from the psalm again? “My heart is sorely pained within me; and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.”

Yeah. Those. Sounds about right. I could use those dove wings anytime now. Please?


  1. Rivka

    Thank you. My counselor asked what she would see if she came to visit when I was in a bad place. I said if I had my way, she wouldn’t see me at all. I’d be hiding. But I shared this post with her, what she’d see if I invited her into my head for a little bit.

  2. Ayelet

    *a long, tight virtual hug that lasts as long as you want it to*

  3. Rivka

    Jack: thank you. Getting it down in words last night made it somehow different today. Maybe it is that perspective.

    Shira: Thank you. I didn’t know there was a song with the same name. Thank you for the link. I just listened to it. The first third made me cry. Knowing the words and what they mean to me, it fits as a painful ballad. I’m afraid the last two thirds were too upbeat, or maybe just too much beat.

    I like to sing, but I’m not so good with writing music. I do connect with music, though. I could imagine a video with that first third: someone standing alone at the top of some cliffs, the ocean battering below. Or a bus ride across country, staring at a desolate desert out the window.

    Thank you for your well wishes. It means a lot.

  4. Shira Salamone

    I don’t suppose that puttings your thoughts to music would help, but that’s the best I can come up with. Sorry I can’t be of more help. I wish you a refuah shleimah, r’fuat ha-nefesh (a complete healing, a healing of the spirit).

  5. Jack Steiner


    I use my blog as an outlet. It doesn’t always make it all go away, but it sometimes helps to provide perspective.

    I hope that your blog helps you too.

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