Thursday, August 04, 2011

Collateral damage

Warning: Navel-gazing post ahead.

One thing I have come to realize recently is just how toxic I became over the past few years. I took everything that had been thrown at me over the years and hid it away behind the pain and trauma of the shooting. Then, I took the pain and trauma of the shooting and hid it away. Unfortunately, I did so without adequately confronting what had happened and what it had done to me. As a result, I became the trauma.

One of the consequences of this, I've realized, is that I became a weight to bear for those around me. This weight didn't make itself known so much in big, overt ways as it did in small-but-growing compromises that I forced those around me to make. And it meant that they began to bear my weight. The scary part is that I not only didn't realize what I was doing — and probably didn't listen when confronted with it — but that I don't remember whole swaths of time from the past few years.

As I wrote in an earlier post, the feeling is that of waking up from a long, boozy, bad dream. You're not quite sure what's real and not for a while. In fact there are whole periods of the past two years that I simply don't remember. I recently tried to remember when something happened at the kid's school. In my mind, it had happened this spring; in reality, it happened almost a year and a half ago. This wouldn't bother me if it was an isolated example, but I am regularly reminded of conversations I had completely lost, of things that happened that I had completely lost, of a rush of daily life that completely eluded me. This is not a fun feeling.

In fact, one of the most distressing parts of this process are the moments when I spiral backward. I don't necessarily beat myself up for things that happened or didn't happen; I realize I just wasn't there. In pieces and parts — when I most needed to — I'd break through the fog and show up for a few minutes, hours, days, or maybe even weeks. But by and large, life just carried me along with it while I fell farther and farther into myself.

In the end, a series of life circumstances and realizations started chipping away at the walls I'd built. And as the walls cracked, I started to lash out. When I had a brief glimmer of what I was doing, I shored up the walls. Until the shoring up started cracking too. All the toxicity that I'd been trapping behind those walls started dribbling out in comments and fights and anger.

Around the time this was coming to a head, my partner Kevin was injured by an exploding keg. I took him to the emergency room at MCV. It was the first time I'd been there since the shooting. Walking past the ambulance bays was difficult. And then two weeks later, the keg blew up at me — blew up at my heart. And the walls came down.

I started shaking that day, and haven't quite stopped yet. My life was in a shambles. My heart was in a shambles. My body was in a shambles. I had forgotten to bleed the pressure on the keg — and on my life. Collateral damage was all around, and I hadn't seen it for months, years.

Time to rebuild.