“Your medicine is working really well”, my husband told me recently. “You’re doing really well”. I told him thanks, and I’m okay, I think. I guess. But there is an undercurrent, a constant undercurrent. I try to explain it to him. It’s like the sound a shell makes when you hold it to your ear, and you can hear the whole ocean. That’s what it’s like inside my mind. Do we all have that? Do we all walk around with a rushing wind in our minds? Maybe not. Maybe it’s just me.
When I hear the word “ocean” I remember a little game we played years ago, like a personality quiz. My husband and I asked everyone for their answers, and I don’t actually remember all of it, but I remember my answers, and my brother’s answers. Josh’s answers. What is your favorite body of water? I asked. The ocean he said. Me too, of course. The water represented how we were supposed to see and experience love – vast, endless, dangerous. Engulfing. And what is your favorite animal? I asked. Mine was a lion. He said his was a dog. The animal was supposed to represent how we saw ourselves. But he didn’t know that when he answered the question. I can still feel myself pulling apart with grief when I think of my brother who traveled through life feeling like a stray dog. My heart breaks every time I hear the word ocean, of all ridiculous things.
I see the undercurrent in my own mind with pieces of light in it, like little specks of beauty that distract me from the fact that it might kill me. I stare, stare – stare at the water on the surface of my thoughts. Surely it’s safe now, I say. Surely nothing will drag me under and swallow my voice. The risk of death is over. It’s over. But sometimes things crawl up out of the undercurrent, and they whisper in my ears and pick at my mind. I can’t control them.
I dream about my family every night. Sometimes we are together, sometimes we are not. Often in my dreams we are supposed to go to church together, and I can’t go. I can not for the life of me face an old childhood fear of simply going to church. In my dreams I know the people there want a different version of me than the one who will be in attendance, but I can’t find that girl. I’m not the one they want. I’m frightened, like an insecure teenager, fixing my hair until the last second, nervously watching the reflection that stares back. The piano music starts and I know I’m supposed to go in, but I can’t. Because I’m wrong, everything about me is not what it should have been, and I am something to be ashamed of – won’t they all see? Won’t they all see that? Where is my armor, where are my black clothes, my red lipstick, where are my curls and my tattoos and for God’s sake, where are my shoes? Where are all the things that shout my existence and make the room see me? Make them see me. Make them see me. I have a tragic need to be unashamed for existing. I hide in the church foyer and wait for the music to stop until I wake up.