Lipstick and Lorazepam

The boat is sinking, I’m inside, my hair perfect, lips painted red.

Can you tell that I’m falling apart?

I refuse any life jacket, because I don’t need it; I won’t fall out. I’ll hold on tight. Just watch how strong I am, watch how I weather this storm. You can’t see the fear in my eyes, it translates to resolute determination, strength.

I’m not weak.

I don’t need your damn help.

I’m fine.

Image Credit: Greta Ceresini

Image Credit: Greta Ceresini

A doctor once told me that I was purposely steering my ship into ugliness. I argued, defended the comfort of the whirling winds, near death experiences, the bruises and gaping wounds.

“That’s not comfort. That’s abuse. You don’t need to abuse yourself to save others. You don’t have to offer yourself up as a sacrifice.”

He suggested that I retreat, head in a different direction, find land and finally be safe, if only for awhile.

You’re never really safe forever.

Sometimes the storms just find you.

Who was I without the chaos of those storms?

“You are addicted to abuse.”

I scoffed at him. No one wants to be abused.

“No,” he quietly said. “You are a magnet for it. Your heart is good and you think everyone is the same. Some storms will rage on, no matter the environment. You don’t need to be a part of that. This obsession, this addiction, it will kill you.”

I ignored him. I continued to chase, until I realized the boat I’d been patching my whole life, torn and tattered from abuse after abuse, was beyond repair. I was too weak to keep up, even with a lifejacket. Now, I realized, it was time to jump. Even if I might drown.

It’s been 3 years since I found land; 3 years since I’ve been I’ve been off medication. Vanity galvanized the decision; I didn’t want to gain any more weight. There was an experimental aspect of it too –  Could the doctor be right? Could I go without these pills, as long as I found a sanctuary from abuse?

3 years of faking pride in my ability to be free of chemicals to help my brain feel normal.

Of almost picking up the phone to ask for something.

Of sitting in a doctor’s office, making up another ailment instead of what I came for.

Of being proud of how much better I was, I am, though still struggling, silently.

“I don’t want to tell you how debilitating my anxiety is sometimes. I don’t want you know to know the deepest monster that lives within me, even as I smile through these red lips. You can’t imagine.”

I don’t need your help.

One day, I almost drowned. The waves were too big, too powerful. I overestimated myself.

I still have the note on my phone, the one I wrote to my children to let them know how desperately I loved them. They needed to know that I did, my actions having nothing to do with them. There was no choice but to drown.

Somehow, I survived at the hands of other people, ones who don’t dare remind me of it for fear that I’ll shut them out. That’s another learned behavior of survival. Erase the past, put on my bright lipstick, coif my hair and pretended that I’m okay.

I don’t need help.

I’ll fake my way through all the things I’m supposed to do – being a mom, a wife, a friend, and I’ll delight that no one notices how I’m still drowning.

But I can tell.

So I asked for help.

Because the bravest thing anyone can ever do is whisper, yell, speak, that you need some help.

“I’m having debilitating anxiety,” my immaculate red lips spoke, as I ran my hand through my flawless hair.

He looked at me, dead in the eyes. He could see me, I felt it.

“Yes. Let’s make a plan.”

My shoulders released. I exhaled, and when I did, I felt the water in my lungs spill out.

 The life jacket isn’t forever.

It’s keep me afloat right now, and that’s better than drowning in facades.

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