“You seem very well. Things look peaceful. I’m not quite as well, I thought you should know.”
Excerpt from my upcoming memoir.
With my parents overseas, my best friend dead, and my boyfriend AWOL, I felt abandoned and desperately lonely. I was so pained by it all that I found myself wondering if loneliness could kill. We’ve heard the stories of elderly couples dying within weeks of each other; the remaining spouse unable to live without his great love and dying of a broken heart. No part of me questions the validity of that anymore. I could feel the loneliness growing inside me, making me sick. It was stronger than any cancer, and more powerful than the myriad of mental illnesses that plagued me. My guts churned as I envisioned mutated cells multiplying and breeding until I slowly rotted from the inside out, physically displaying what I felt inside. Burning, gripping, stabbing, tearing, vibrating, starving to death.
Had I been asked to point to loneliness in my body I could do it without thinking. For me it resides in the stomach. It’s an emptiness that isn’t filled with food, but nourishment of the soul. Without which it becomes desperately starved and will do anything to satiate that ever growing appetite, and it will grow. It is not something you just get used to, or get over, as some like to suggest. That healing takes time. That takes work. And when you are starving, not peckish, not hungry, but ravenous to your core, you will do whatever it takes to fill that gaping hole inside with even the filthiest of scraps. Even if it’s bad for you. Even if it will make you sicker. Even if it’s stolen and illegal, because that is true loneliness, and I wasn’t just empty, I was fucking hollow.
I had moved back into my childhood home since Dave left; this large, five-bedroom house, just for me. Lucky girl. Of the acre block I ended up spending all my time within the four walls of my old bedroom. Within there I was confined to my bed where I lived for months, only leaving for vodka refills and pee-breaks. It was too hard to think about food; what to buy, cook and eat. I didn’t even have the energy to put on pants. I wasn’t going to leave the house to forage for food and risk running into anyone. To protect myself from the great unknown I put my nutritional knowledge to use and made one smoothie a day that contained as many nutrients as I could pack in. I’d make sure to add a tonne of chia and flax seeds for bulk, and voila, the burden of hunger was gone. Fucking genius. I kept my base survival needs mostly met, and the rest of the time I drank, smoked, slept and cried. #Goals, am-I-right?
The mere thought of bumping into someone I knew, or worse, someone that knew him, paralysed me with fear, so I rarely left the house. However, on days where I was so achingly lonely that even knocking myself out with booze or benzos wouldn’t work, I had another option. It wasn’t pretty, but it was different, and even a different kind of suffering is a relief in times of desperation. Within the safety of my bed I would drink myself into a bold enough stupor to put some clothes on and leave the house. From there I would head into the night, somewhere I knew people would be and try to find some strangers to spend time with. I’ve discovered that the saddest, loneliest people in the world are found wandering the streets, looking to continue the party at 3:00am when everyone else is home, tucked safely in their beds. Those were my people. It was obvious we were all heavily burdened, but we rarely talked about what lay beneath the thin veil of booze, drugs or sex. It was an unspoken rule that we didn’t go there. The pain would find its way back to us soon enough; this was the time to forget. There was no fear in running the streets with depressed, angry, criminals because I too was a depressed, angry criminal. It wasn’t until the “fun” was over and I was on my way home that the nightmare would find me again. The loneliness simultaneously satiated for an evening, and even more starkly palpable, now accompanied by a deep shame.
I was entirely broken, to the point where I could look back on my spinal surgery nostalgically. Then at least I had family around me, or visitors who brought flowers and gifts. I was drugged to the gills on pain killers and most importantly, however slow it was, I could see myself improving and healing. There was a finishing line for the pain. This was different, there was no end in sight. I couldn’t see a world in which I didn’t feel this way forever, and if that was the case, I’d rather not be here at all. That almost sounds passive, like I could slip off gently into death. It wasn’t like that, it was as if my soul was trying to escape my body, screaming and clawing from my chest. My corporal body clung to life while my soul begged for mercy. It was like burning alive, but never dying. I would sporadically wake in the night screaming, my body unsure what to do with all the heartache and rage that it would burst into these deathly screeches. Like part of me had died, but I couldn’t extract it. Something lived in me that was once so unimaginably beautiful, but now shrivelled, repulsive and dead. I wanted to forget I’d ever loved that much, but it was there forever, taunting me in its new form.
There are several life events that can challenge us to our breaking point: death of a loved one, separation or divorce, loss or change of job, moving house and serious health problems. Not to brag but I was ticking all of those boxes, and some twice. Always the overachiever. I fantasised about the swift death of a heart attack, but despite myself, I lived on. I’ve been to hell on earth and that’s it, living when you already feel dead. Sometimes I wonder about the afterlife and what could be on the “other side”. It terrifies me to think that any part of me might live on. When I die I want to be done. Chapter over. Story told. Imagine finally being gifted the release of death in the hopes of being free of cognizance, only to wake up and have to continue some form of existence in Heaven (yeah right) or Hell (bring it bitch)! I would be pissed! When I die, I’d like a nice eternal nap in peace.
It was an interesting time because I wasn’t afraid of being unlikeable; in fact I relished it. Like a school bully it gave me a false sense of power to act like I didn’t give a shit, a feeling I had been missing since my entire life blew up in my face and I discovered control was a futile illusion. This was a tough lesson for a former anorexic who once weighed every morsel of food that passed her lips. So, I pretended I didn’t give a fuck how crazy I looked and became free in my insanity. To be clear, I was insane. I was fuelled by blind rage and a desire to fight anyone who got in my way. There were times I was sure I could kill. My psych and I actually prepared an action plan on how to avoid body-slamming my ex, pinning him down and violently poking his eyes out with my bare hands if ever I ran into him. The crux of the plan was to run swiftly in the opposite direction. For years I would go to sleep with images of myself brutally murdering him in cold blood (can this be used as defence against me? If so, JK). This was some dark shit and it was just there in my head, whenever I closed my eyes. Adrenaline surged through me; my heart would race, I would cry, sometimes scream, and desperately try to eliminate the images of death from my head by listening to some soft-spoken woman deliver ‘Meditation for Anger’ on Youtube. I would listen on repeat for hours, willing myself to sleep, hoping that something in my brain was absorbing her soothing nature. I was genuinely concerned I’d be like Jessica Biel in The Sinner (except hotter) and just stab that motherfucker with a fruit knife before I even knew what was happening. Just a good old stab, stabby, stab stab! Woops! “Did I do thaaaat?” (I felt like we needed some Urkel to break the murderous tension…did it work? I feel like it worked). Hence the necessity of my psychologist’s plan to take the ‘flight’ option of my stress response. I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to choose, but I agreed to give it a shot because I had just told her I was a potential murderer and like, that’s a lot.
One day that bubbling fury just raged a little too hot and ‘fight’ came out swinging as I punched a random misogynistic arse-hat in the jaw. Honestly, best thing I’ve ever done! Highly recommend (am I liable? Again just playin’!). Some women reminisce about their wedding day, I will grow old reminiscing about the feeling of my fist hitting that beautiful, chiselled jaw. I took myself out on the town to fill the growing void in my weary heart and ended up at a bar I would occasionally frequent. I chose that bar specifically because I thought it was a lesbian bar and I couldn’t be arsed dealing with fuk boiz, but turns out it was their queer night-off (not a thing), and as such fuk boi central. One such boi selected me as his prey, and since I was vulnerable, sad and increasingly drunk I let him talk to me and pretended he was the funniest person that ever lived. After a night of laughter, drinking and flirting, he kissed me and I was on cloud nine, until I heard one of his mates casually mention his wife. Putting two and two together I realised that three did not equal wedded bliss! I was angry but I also needed to pee, so I took my homewrecking arse to the toilet. Upon my return I saw him not-so-stealthy sneaking out of the bar. This pretty boi had just spent his night telling me how wonderful I am, and I don’t even get the curtesy of a “C’ya babes”. Now, this is not the worst treatment I have ever experienced from a “man”, and it’s certainly not the first time a horny dick-head has fucked over both his wife and an emotionally vulnerable woman in the same night, but this was the first time I was able to look the cause of my rage dead in the eyes and let him know exactly how I felt. I stood in front of him and his two muscle boys, and stared him down like a bull to a red rag. I asked him if he was planning on saying goodbye, not because I needed him to (even though it’s the fucking polite thing to do!) but because I wanted to watch him squirm, and do you know what he and his tribe of dummies did? They pretended they didn’t know me. Hours we had spent together. Hours. I’m talking maybe five over the course of the evening, and these knuckleheads just stood there blinking at me like I had escaped the asylum and was foaming at the mouth. They had obviously conspired to act as if they had never met me in their lives. For what? To humiliate me? To make me feel insane? For a cheap laugh? To feel better about cheating on your wife? It didn’t matter. I was already seeing red. I’m pretty sure there was actual steam coming out of my ears. I’ve been gaslit before, of course I have I am a woman in a man’s world, but never so blatantly. Never so coldly.
I stood in front of the three 30-year-old children before me and steadied myself. I felt like I wanted to yell every profanity in the world in their smarmy faces, spitting and scratching at their eyes like a rat, but I didn’t. I took a few deep breaths and brought myself back to my body, now shaking with rage. Half of me was intensely connected to the enhanced physical sensations in my body; the tingling of my fingertips, my hairs all standing on end, and the other half was looking into those black eyes and seeing every man who had ever fucked me over, only this one wasn’t going to get away with it.
I was sick to death of insecure little men using women to big up their own fragile egos. I was sick of them thinking it’s funny to leave us more broken than they found us. I was sick of having to assume that every compliment I ever received from a man is inauthentic; I’m not special, or pretty, or interesting, but in fact fucking stupid for buying into anything some arsehole at a bar says to me. And finally, I was really fucking pissed that every single one of my female friends has lived this more times than they can count, while the men in our lives blame us for buying into the fact that someone might actually like us. What silly little women we have been. This was meant for every man that had ever treated me, or any woman, as lesser than, just because they were lucky enough to be born with a dick. My body was pumping with adrenaline through every limb and I felt my fingers slowly close into a fist by my side. I was completely focussed as I zeroed in on a spot on his jaw and thought to myself, ‘are we really gonna do this?’ Answer, SLAM! Right in the kisser (owies! Jaws are like really hard)! I internally celebrated that I hadn’t missed (omg can you imagine!) and stood in front of him panting like a mad-woman. It was fucking fantastic. The three “men” stared at me shocked for a moment before turning and running away like the “little girls” they loathed so much. Honestly, if given the chance I probably would’ve pulled a Khaleesi and eaten his raw, beating heart, I was that fuelled with adrenaline! I wanted to beat my chest and scream like a banshee, calling all my sisters to unite against the patriarchy! I waited until they were out of sight, then realised I had just committed assault and quickly got in a cab to flee the crime scene. I smiled all the way home.
“Cause the joke that you laid in the bed
That was me and I’m not gonna fade
As soon as you close your eyes, and you know it.”
– Alanis Morissette