I chased her out of the house, yelling obscenities. The veterinarian ruled out a bladder infection. But, no, her behavior continued for months after he left. When I was very young, my parents would ignore my siblings and me at family get-togethers as they drank and laughed and told jokes. My older brother would disappear with our cousins, and my younger sister would fall asleep on a couch, but I would sit there feeling neglected and forgotten, asking my parents in tears if we could please go home.
Sometimes, on the way home, my father ended up in a fight with someone at a convenience store or had to pull over to the side of the road to vomit. My brother canceled nights out with his friends to stay home and comfort her. Then in high school he became a drinker, coming home from parties in the early hours of the morning and throwing up with my mom by his side.
Through my own high-school years I never drank, and I cut ties with any friend who started. But at twenty-one I was going through a crisis and began using alcohol to cope.
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At first I drank to let loose and have fun, then for comfort, then to forget. One night my little sister found me sitting in the darkened kitchen with my forehead flat on the table. She was still in high school and looked up to me. Now here I was, drunk and mumbling.
I cried myself to sleep and called a therapist the next morning. When I spend evenings sitting on the lakeshore trying to find the comfort that the vastness of the water used to give me, and it never comes. When I fear work on Monday but fear the weekend more, because two days with nothing to look forward to is more unpleasant than five days in the office.
But I always stop myself because I remember how it was when she died, how devastated everyone who knew her was, and I think maybe it should have been me: I was always the depressed one, and she played counselor to all of us in college. Maybe if I had gone first, she would have seen how suicide scars the people who are left behind.
Maybe if I had gone first, it would have stopped her the way her death is stopping me now. I laughed at the absurdity of what he had just said. She woke up one morning with a purple spot on the end of her nose. Later that night she rubbed some CoverGirl on it and went out disco dancing.
I have a Crush!
About a month later I was working my day job as an orderly in a large, urban teaching hospital. A lesbian I knew was in for surgical removal of a kidney stone. I felt my stomach drop and the blood rush from my head. Oh, my God , I thought. This is real. God is punishing us.
We moved in together in January I gently pressed on it. For some reason I felt relieved: Two years before his death, we were heading home after a romantic dinner when I suggested that we stop at a neighborhood piano bar for a nightcap. A community fundraiser was being held that night to support AIDS -related research at a local university.
Miss Charlotte, a local drag queen, promenaded around the room collecting donations and singing a sultry ballad. As she approached our table, John offered her a handful of cash. I had a lot of luggage on the sidewalk, so I was glad to get a big Checker cab to stop for me. I was leaving grad school at New York University and moving back to Michigan to marry my boyfriend of six months. The cabdriver, who was overweight and had a pasty complexion, sighed at the sight of my bags. I told him I was going to LaGuardia Airport and mentioned the upcoming marriage. No, I explained.
I loved my boyfriend, and we were going to have an exciting life together.
I have a Crush! – The Trevor Project
He was a musician in a punk band. Why do you want to leave New York? I did want to go, I replied, and I gazed out at the gray December sky as we made our way across the bridge. Then I felt a jolt, followed by the clop-clop-clop of a flat tire. The cabby pulled off to the side, shaking his head. My boyfriend and I got married.
We moved to Texas. Three months later I quit my job and flew home to Michigan alone. A year later the marriage was over. I looked down at my forearm, which showed parallel cuts running from wrist to elbow. Quite a nice pattern, I thought. There was no blood, just a row of neat little lines, a brief distraction from a lecture I felt too dumb to follow anyway. The thing is, I have unusually sensitive skin, and, instead of fading away, the neat little lines turned into swollen scabs. It was stupid. What I learned from that meeting was to turn my future self-abuse inward, where no one would see it.
On a bright spring day when my daughter was ten years old, she came home agitated and close to tears.
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Then she waited impatiently for her father to get home so we could watch the movie together. The movie was about a child her age who suddenly becomes autistic after the death of her father.
She withdraws into her own world and begins building an elaborate house out of playing cards. Desperate to get through to her daughter, the mother builds a wooden structure modeled after the one the child has made. The daughter climbs into the life-size card house, and the mother follows and brings her back. It was a powerful movie, not something a ten-year-old would normally watch. That night, alone, I watched the movie again, feeling there was a message in it I needed to hear.
Two years later, after her father and I divorced, my daughter descended into madness. I home-schooled her, then sent her to a series of private schools while we tried every possible drug combination. At night I lay awake in a house stripped of anything sharp or toxic, knowing that if she really wanted to commit suicide, she would find a way. At work I waited for the call I feared would come. And it came, many times. But she never succeeded in killing herself. Throughout all this, I had only one certainty: I believe my daughter warned me, with uncanny prescience, at the age of ten what would happen to her.
Stay with me.
What It's Like to Date When You Have a Chronic Illness
Bring me back. Why is my boyfriend of sixteen years stuttering? He fixed this malady in elementary school twenty-five years ago.
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