Tonight there are a lot of thoughts tumbling around inside my head, tumbling, tumbling, tumbling. It’s confusing – they jump around a lot. It feels like I don’t have a grip on my anger the way I did before the medicine kicked in. It’s hard to find, like an ember barely burning in the sunshine, almost put out by the rainbow colored water that fell from sprinklers a few weekends ago, splashing around my firstborn’s muddy ankles, landing on my third baby’s perfect cheeks, whispering to me from his eyelashes that the one we lost made all this magic possible, singing to me that there is joy even in sorrow, and that anger has no place here. Almost out. Almost out, but not quite – burning, burning, burning. The trees my children danced around play lyrics in my head: picked from the bloodline tree/ it’s green with envy/ it’s okay to lose a limb/ when they get too heavy…
I talked to my best friend today because she knows something is wrong, and she loves me like she always has. I explained the way things really are, not the way she always thought it was. I told her the things that I know are true. I told her that I do know what’s real, that instability is not the same thing as insanity. I remember being told how to interpret my brother, how to interpret his actions, and how to view my parents’ decisions. He makes up stories, he tells lies, he’s lost his mind.
I lost my mind once. I recall hiding behind a chair shortly after my brain injury, shaking and screaming at my mother not to let my father near me when he walked into the room. Don’t you touch me, I said, shaking finger pointed, crouching on the ground like an animal. So angry. I may have been injured, but truth spilled out of my flaming mouth like lava. It was what the inside looked like when my ability to participate in appropriate behavior and social norms was stripped away from me. Look at you – he said – look how far you’ve fallen. I don’t know what went wrong, but I think you are forever lost. Glowering, shaking his head at his own daughter hiding behind a chair in his presence. Burning. Setting the room on fire in the most inconvenient way.
I don’t exaggerate my stories for effect, I don’t tell them around kitchen tables while my children and followers hang on every word, and I don’t tell them for admiration. In fact, I often don’t tell my stories at all. I know they have dramatic appeal – I don’t care. Don’t all of our stories have dramatic appeal, haven’t we all struggled and scratched and screamed our way through our lives? I am interested in not being silenced. A voice is freedom. The ember of outrage that has kept me alive for so long drives me. My anger makes me speak. My memories are not lies, and my interpretation of my experiences as an adult is not impaired.
What are our brains capable of, at the end of the day? How much trauma can we endure before the cracks we’ve sustained over time become canyons? What do we do when those canyons have become impassible? I reach inside tonight and hold the ember in my hands, like a lifeline, like gravity. I whisper to it in the bright, sunny night of my newly medicated mind, don’t let me slip. Burning, burning, burning in my hands. It feels good.