Like many of my friends, I met her on Twitter. As a fellow baseball fan I found her easy to talk to about subjects that grew increasingly deeper. At the time I was searching for an editor after someone approached me and told me that I needed one. I agreed and proceeded to reach out to the woman who would become my friend. Email allowed me to send things I had written to her. We chatted about life; school, our children, essential oils, depression and what to make for supper that night. Time passed and I discovered the joy of putting pen to paper instead of typing on the computer. I lost touch with my friend and became immersed in my own inertia. Last June I had an experience that I shared with her. After my father spent several nights at my house there was an altercation that involved having to call the local police when my dad refused to leave the chiropractor's office with me. In any fight there are at least two sides, and possibly a third if you consider that neither person is going to be objective about what was said. The Friday after my father left I was home alone. I had a hallucination that involved seeing a pool of fresh blood coagulating on my bathroom floor. Thankfully that wasn't real, but the terror that followed afterward was. Afraid to stay at home, I got in my car and started driving. In the past I've talked to my therapist about driving down the freeway and wanting to collide with the base of a concrete bridge. I've read that depressed people rarely commit suicide because they can't generate enough energy for the task. Before I knew what I did today, that was more comforting. During college I worked at a gas station that sold many convenience store items. Candy, soda, cigarettes, coffee, condoms; you could buy any of these at the register. On my way into town I thought about people I could call. I knew I should call someone, I kept telling myself to call my therapist, but a voice inside of my head didn't want to be talked out of my mission. Our town is small, but there is a gas station downtown and a Walgreens that are both open twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
There was something soothing about being beneath the bright lights once I was in the store. I saw a bright blue pyramid of washer fluid and remembered the guys I worked with when I was a teenager going out to mix it with water so people could wash their windshields during winter. Frozen drinks whirled behind their clear plastic casing. I thought about a fountain drink, but I was so wired that I feared adding caffeine to the adrenaline flowing through me. A nurse wearing scrubs entered to pay for her fuel. There were younger girls in pajama pants, a cashier was counting cigarettes the way that I had done, and for a while I drifted among the aisles, savoring the dusty cases of beer and Pepsi that sat near the charcoal and lighter fluid. I didn't think I would be able to sleep when I got home so I bought a candy bar. Paying for it was an unreal experience, as if someone else was inside of my body and I was going through motions that made me seem like a living breathing human when I was already dead. When I shared the episode with my friend she was very empathetic. She mentioned that she felt better inside of convenience stores and I wonder if this is a piece of Americana that has unintentionally provided a degree of normalcy to other frightened and disturbed people. The anniversary of this date is coming up, it's a couple of months away, but I'm already dreading it. My father is in a nursing home now. He's very confused most days, and after he fell and broke his hip a lot of his shaky mobility disappeared. My therapist has talked to me about flashbacks, and I have an app called PTSD Coach on my phone to help me get through a panic attack or other situation where I need that kind of help. I read a lot, talk to others, and try to do common sense things I should be doing anyways. Getting enough sleep, eating well, avoiding known triggers like the green lidded plastic container that set me off initially. I have music I can listen to, friends I can call, and pictures I look at to remind me that what's playing in my mind is a product of trauma, and not really happening in real life.
I learned a lot about myself and others that night. This past winter a picture I've since sold to a very nice young man sent me into a panic. I didn't know what was fueling my desire to clean everything, but it wasn't a good feeling. If this is the kind of thing that you deal with I would encourage you to check into some of the resources that are out there. It seems like there's a smartphone app for everything these days, but in this case, I'm glad. Having a list of people that I know I can trust, and can call or text at any time of the night or day, is helpful. I haven't reached out very often, but the last time I was afraid to get in my car and drive anywhere despite having felt relief in the convenience store so I called a girlfriend and she talked to me until other family members came home. I'm a person who finds value in sharing, but that may not be you or your style. I think that if I am open about events in my life, people will realize that you can be more than a little crazy from time to time, and still have friends and be loved. The Twitter baseball community has been especially supportive, without some of those people, and many here, I don't know where I would be today, or if I would be here. The other day my daughter used my phone to text a friend. She asked her friend what she thought that death would be like. My other daughter was telling me about the One Direction fan girls who were upset by the recent news that Zayn Malik had left the band. This news doesn't make me sad, but she told me that there were girls who reportedly called suicide hotlines after the story broke. I don't joke about suicide, and like rape, or teen drinking and drugs, these are tough, but worthwhile conversations to have with children or young people in your life. My life has changed dramatically since last June. I'm proud of the steps I've taken regardless of how small they may seem to others. I feel like I'm starting to live more normally than I have previously by addressing some of the issues I've unknowingly surpressed and repressed, and hopefully the outlook will continue to improve.
Dedicated to my friend Janice who understands the power of friends to talk to and convenience store comfort.