I don’t remember last Spring.
I don’t remember noticing the change in the weather, the grass turning green, the trees blooming, and the leaves coming out.
What I do remember is slowly falling apart, and then all at once.
I remember being with friends, thinking to myself, I should be happy, and so I acted happy. I remember always feeling despair most of the time instead. I remember feeling like a raw nerve, exposed. I remember feeling like I was watching myself fall but couldn’t stop it or call out or even articulate what was happening.
I remember finally noticing that I was falling into darkness. And I remember being paralyzed by that realization.
I remember one year ago, I realized that an abusive ex had been following me on Twitter for a while and I hadn’t noticed. How did he find me? Wait, I know how he found me, why was he looking for me? How did I not notice? I had already blocked him on Facebook, years before, but I hadn’t been paying as close attention to my followers list on Twitter. He stole a large piece of my past. He had no right to my present.
He stole it anyway.
I remember trying to hold it together in front of my son and other dance moms. I remember turning the shaking inwards so that it felt like my insides were going to dislodge from their rightful places in my body. That trauma still felt fresh, that tearing, all the subsequent betrayals…I turned it all inwards. I imploded. And then I started really shutting down.
I was already barely hanging on.
I wrote that this whole thing came without warning. This moment, this was a warning. I didn’t want to hear it, I didn’t want to break again over this.
If it hadn’t been this moment, which accelerated the fall, it would have been another one. Less than a week later, I was on the floor of husband’s former office, in the same building where I used to teach my classes, at the same institution that had treated me like garbage, that had worn me down for so many years, having been tasked with cleaning out his tenure binders, throwing it all away. The inward shaking returned. His tenure, that I always will feel conflicted about, now up to me to clean up and toss aside.
Things I should have been “over”. Things I needed to just “let go” of. Things that I should have “moved on” from.
Things that reminded me that I failed and kept failing. Winter had been about immediate failures, personal and professional. I was flailing and floundering and trying too hard and wanting things too much, in a battle against the fall. But the past is never past. It was like poison I could never get rid of. I was poison.
I remember taking bath after bath after bath, wishing the water would swallow me up, would wash away my existence in the world, like marks in the sand at the beach. High tide could come and sweep me away, smoothing over my footprints with each subsequent wave, and I would just be gone. Maybe if I spent enough time in the bath, I would dissolve in the water and be sucked down the drain or evaporated into the ether.
I remember thinking, it would be better if I was gone.
I don’t remember much about what happened outside of me from those moments on. I don’t remember Spring. I don’t remember any blooming, I didn’t remember important birthdays and other milestones, and I didn’t care. I didn’t care and I couldn’t understand why it mattered to anyone that I cared. Worse, there were moments when I would have brief moment where I could look outside of myself, but saw how I was failing everyone, so I would retreat, again.
This year…This year, I noticed Spring. I noticed the trees and the grass and new music and people and…that I am feeling things. I was in a mundane moment, a moment that a year ago were the worst – the drive to and from work. I would cry the whole drive into work, and then cry the whole drive home. That space in my car, alone, thinking, over-thinking, spiraling, trying to steel myself for what I had to do to get through whatever piece of my day I was on my way to face.
I was driving home, I think. I was coming around a corner, coming up on the YMCA where I would be coming back to coach in a few short hours. The window was rolled down, the warm air was blowing through my hair. I had the music blasting, and I was singing along, while also going over the routine for once I got home to feed and get the kids where they needed to be. I was thinking about coaching that night. I was looking at the trees. I caught my breathe.
Was I feeling happy?
Is this what normal feels like?
I don’t remember the moment when I realized that how I often felt wasn’t “normal”. I’m sure it was one of the many moments of ostracization in school or at swim team or even at home when I shared how I was feeling and what I was thinking and was met with blank stares, derision, dismissal, mockery, or denial. I struggle to maintain friendships because I am always fearful of the moment when I become “too much.” I am wary of moments of happiness because I am always on edge, waiting for the next moment that will take it all away and pull me back into the hole of my own self. I struggle to remember what the positive feelings, real positive feelings, feel like. The memory of their absence is too strong. The feeling of helplessness, of loss of control, of powerlessness in the face of my own emotions, my own reactions to life, my immoderate inner-voice…
I was stopped at a red light, and I closed my eyes, for a moment, so I could try to remember it, that feeling in that moment. I was calm. I was, for the most part, under control. I was happy, but not in a manic kind of way. There were anxieties, but they weren’t overwhelming me. I wasn’t shaking internally. The sun was warm on my face. The music made me smile a little. The day, far from perfect, made me smile a little more. The rest of the day ahead, I was looking forward to.
I was trying to remember Spring, commit it to memory. That it exists, that it is possible, that it can happen. Winter, sometimes, just lasts longer and can be harder for some of us. But Spring comes.