I am a mess. I need someone to hold me, a friend to hear me out, but really I’m in search of comfort that I cannot name. I am alone, and I don’t have a way to adequately explain how deep this moment of nothingness goes. There is no one to hear my story. I have run through the mental list time and again, and come up short. I am so tired of living so far away from all of the women I count as my sisters, and so tired of trying to explain to myself how this will all be OK.
The doctor told me that I was anxious (with a touch of depression) a few years ago, and it’s true. I am nearly always anxious, and only sad every now and then. But when I am sad, I usually also know there’s no real reason. It’s easy to see that there must be sunshine on the other side, since the shadow is so flimsy, really. The feeling remains, but the hope is not diminished in its path.
Today, though, I experienced something. I’ve been turning it over and over in my head, and I believe that it might be best called trauma. I was at the doctor’s office. I was seeing my gynecologist for a regular procedure, an IUD insertion. We’d discussed the fact that there would be pain and cramping, and before going in, I read many, many stories from women who experienced everything from no pain at all to severe cramps and faintness and nausea. Not one story mentioned flashbacks or panic attacks in conjunction with the procedure.
I did not receive an IUD today; I’ve been scheduled for an insertion under general anesthesia next week, instead. Apparently my uterus is tiny and my cervix will need a lot of help dilating, and the pain I was feeling as my panic attack started was only about 10% of what I was going to feel. So if I go ahead with it, I’ll do it while I’m knocked out, and wake up with a prescription for pain pills and a weekend to recover on the couch. I’m not so sure, though. If I’m going to have anesthesia, why not just schedule a sterilization and be through with this whole thing? I don’t want biological children; why think about any of this anymore?
The problem here isn’t that I felt pain, or that I was once again feeling ashamed to have my feet in stirrups at the doctor’s office (though it is a source of deep, deep shame, thanks to my good ol’ Southern Victorian upbringing). The problem certainly isn’t the doctor, who held me as I sobbed, and offered me tissues, and assured me that this happens all the time. The problem is that the thing that set me off wasn’t physical or even related to my body. It was related to love. A lack of it. A loss of it. The feeling of having it physically stripped from your body. Of feeling like you aren’t worthy of love, and will never deserve it, no matter how much you try, how much you give.
Just as I screamed, just before I started sobbing and the doctor removed the tools she’d placed inside my body to prepare for even more invasion, I felt the intense desire for someone to hold my hand. No one was there. I was desperately alone, a tiny speck in a giant universe, floating lonely in a sea of forever, all the people I love being pulled backwards from me, out, out, out into their own space. This happened in my head, you see. It’s not something that I’m writing about to describe how I felt – it’s a thing that I saw, eyes squeezed shut on the doctor’s table. I recalled feeling/seeing this exact thing years before, a moment when I felt my soul cry out to the man I then loved, and heard nothing in reply. It was the emptiest I’d ever felt. I’ve never felt it again, because I haven’t given myself so fully ever again.
Also for a millisecond, as I experienced this all over again, I saw something deep in there, inside myself. I’ve built a little mental house around my tenderness, two stories, pink clapboard siding (strange, since I dislike pink), shutters on the windows, green asphalt shingles on the roof. I understood that the house was protecting my ability to love, that I’ve been trying to open it up lately, to air it out and shake the dust covers off all of the furniture. That I’m terrified of the rejection I feel coming. The house is miserable.
Tonight I’m finding myself back there in that terrible loss, experiencing this cosmic echo. And in realizing all of these things, I see now that it was just an echo of an even earlier moment. Only then, it was I who was needed, I who took my hand away when it was most required. “No,” my grandfather said, when I struggled to remove my fingers from his grip. I needed to go finish my homework; I’d come back tomorrow, I promised. It was the last thing he ever said to me: “No.” I have a strong suspicion that this emptiness I’ve seen, this great pulling away, this is how he felt, wasting away in his hospital bed, hooked up to a morphine drip, cancer gnawing away at him. His eyes were squeezed shut, too. Was he struggling to hold on to just one person who loved him, as everyone else drifted away? Will there be someone to hold my hand?
If I believed in an angry god, I would wonder if I’m being punished. Maybe I’m being haunted. Maybe I’m just suffering from anxiety and a touch of depression. I wish I knew where that guy was, the one I loved, the one who wasn’t there to hold my hand when I most needed him. I would egg his house tonight.