Warpaint And Foxholes

Going to outpatient therapy every damn day did something to me that hasn’t happened in a very long time. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning. Get in the shower. Do my damn hair and put some makeup on. Every morning. That might not seem like anything to you, but for me, it’s huge. I was used to going from the bed to the couch, the couch to the bed, every day and every night smearing together into an infinite loop of depression. Sure I had moments, where I would put on a happy face and take a Klonopin and face the world, but I was very seldom true to my smile.

There were real moments of happiness. I even shared them. They did exist, at one point.

I get up and get ready to drive through rush hour to sit with other damaged people who are just like me or you or the person in the next room, I get ready to talk to rooms full of strangers for five hours at a clip, strangers who become my fellow soldiers in the foxhole, these precious strangers who know things about me that I dare not speak in the real world, people who know what it’s like to spend a week locked behind two steel doors, watching the sky from an airless room full of childlike artwork and board games that somehow are supposedly therapeutic. If you say so, sure. Roll with the punches, meet with those in charge and then go back to your foxhole with your brothers and sisters in arms. They understand. Who else could?

“What was it like, in there? Were you scared? Were you lonely? Did looking at the sky from behind the reinforced locked windows make you cry? Did you dream of fresh air and sidewalks full of people and real food and coffee and birds and your own blanket and shoes with laces? Were you so very scared?”

I can’t tell you. Because you don’t dare ask. Or don’t want to know. Or don’t care to know. One of those. And I understand, I do. No one wants to be behind the doors and the reinforced glass. No one really wants to know. But we do. We who survived on gallows humor and writing notes to the cafeteria staff and getting chocolate cake for breakfast in return. We were our own world, in there. We survived. And no one else will ever know what it was really like. Is it scary to ask us?

Now I see the same soldiers on the outside, where there is real air and the sky is bright and there are people on the sidewalks and real coffee and my own blanket and I put on my red lipstick like warpaint every day to remind myself that I’m back in the real world now. That I may feel like I’m completely alone and abandoned, but there are people out there that I shared a foxhole with, my brothers and sisters in arms. I see them now as we enter through unlocked doors and talk and cry and leave, and get in our own cars and get back, slowly but surely to our lives.

Changed. I’ve changed. I see my old self haunting my apartment, alone and despondent and scared and I want to hold her tight and tell her everything is going to be okay. I want to believe that things are happening for a reason and a purpose and even when all is completely lost and I’m all alone, I’m not. I have moments in which I’m kind to myself now.

Asking for help was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and it’s bitten me in the ass pretty hard. I’ve been left to fend for myself and there are wolves at the door. But I see the faces of my comrades from the inside now on the outside. We made it through, broken and wounded and bleeding, but we made it. Even if all seems lost and I’m crippled with fear of the outside, I know that there’s a band of us who have been inside. And outside may be lonely, but there are birds and grass and cars and you can eat whatever you want and please, don’t ever take anything for granted.

I guess that’s what this mess of a ramble is all about. My comrades and I, we know now. And we don’t want you to ever go through what we did. Asking for help is terrifying, and you will have people who abandon you at your weakest moments. But there are always others in the foxhole. And you will always be irrevocably tied to them, and you’ll never be completely alone again.


Warpaint And Foxholes — 14 Comments

  1. Aaaand …. now I am crying. Cause for those of us who have been there, who have lost time behind walls and been abandoned, it is hard to know that others have been through it. Are still going through it. But you learn very quickly who the people who will always be there with you are, and you learn to lean on them. I hope there is comfort for you here, cause we all think you are the bees knees.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. My husband struggles with depression, intense stress and is drinking a lot to the point I’m lucky if he goes to work 3 days a week. I am terrified that I may have to make a decision like commit him. He does have an appointment with his dr but now the dr has the flu and had to push it out. Thank you for being so raw and honest about what it is really like.

  3. I am so pleased to see you posting again. I have no idea how difficult things are for you. You must know there are thousands of your beloved squirrels cheering for you.

    Your post brought to mind an episode of West Wing (loved that series–Martin Sheen as president, Aaron Sorkin as his writer?? Nirvana) where Josh sees a trauma expert for PSTD.

    Assuming you are a WW fan too I’ve included a link to the episode.

  4. Having never been “on the inside” like that, I’ve got no clue what it’s like. I can only imagine it in some ways, the ability to communicate the experience bears some similarities to other “shared experiences” that folks have. The kinds of things that only the people who were there with you, can understand, no matter how you try to explain.

    And I can’t speak for everyone, but I honestly have all of those questions. Was it scary? Did you miss fresh air? Did the art work help or drive you nuts? Were you worried about being there for way longer than you were?

    But honestly, I have no idea what is appropriate to ask. It’s not that the information is scary, it’s that I’m afraid to ask because it might bring up a the wrong memory or thought at the wrong time.

    Since I’m a reader, I can’t look you in the eye and ask questions. I can’t judge my timing or your mood or what is appropriate. I can’t see you wince if I ask the wrong thing.

    That’s the scary part. Asking something upsetting or inappropriate.

    I’m really glad you’re out, and I’m really glad you’re writing again. Every day that it takes you a while to post a blog post, I start to wonder… and I go check twitter to see if you’ve tweeted, and you have and I know you’re still “on the outside”.

    Honestly, I don’t read that many personal blogs, by which I mean the sort where people blog about their actual life and feelings and stuff. The ones I do read are mostly RL friends, and it’s more about keeping up with people I know.

    Your blog is important to me, though. You’ve given me some interesting insight and clues into my own… um… issues. 🙂 Not to mention you’re just a heck of a writer, and I always get something out of reading your posts, even if it’s just giggles over the cat antics.

    So I’m not sure what to ask, and I hope you’ll just keep right on sharing what you can. It’s your blog. Say anything. 🙂

  5. I second what JinMontana said. I have a few questions, but it seems so intrusive to even ask. So, I won’t.

    I’m still here rooting for you. Every day.

  6. I grew up with a bipolar mom. I never asked her what it was like in the hospital. It was just too sad. Losing her every 3-6 months was hard enough. It also seems like a very private thing. To ask would be too intrusive. I’d never fully understand anyway.
    Thank you for sharing with those of us who only know from the outside.
    Sarah last post: What You Wish For

  7. This is a wonderful post! I think many people, myself included, feel it is rude to ask someone about their experience. It is such a personal journey to begin with and I guess that is why its not talked about. I have seen a wonderful change in your post lately and I think that you now have hope. Hope that things are getting better, hope that you deserve more, just hope in general. I am so happy that you are getting better! *hugs*

  8. you are so brave. so many people go through this kind of pain, and it’s not fair, but the only thing that can help are words.

    your words are exactly what go through my head, but most of the time i’m too frustrated, too pissed off, too hurt, too scared to say them.

    you are so beautiful, in so many ways.

    thank you, for the thousandth time.


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