I’m lying there, tucked in bed, soft pillow, eyes open. The exhaustion that led me to collapse here is gone, evaporated, replaced by a palpable heartbeat—fast, hard–and that now-familiar mixture of nausea and nervousness roiling in my stomach.
Boxes are unpacked, the house is not yet in order. Things aren’t right–too loud, too bright, too much stuff. There’s stuff, needless stuff, in my space, and I need it gone. I need to purge, need to throw things away. I want to get rid of everything.
“Heather, we need the extra carseats. We can keep them in the closet or something.”
“No! I don’t want them, we don’t need them, we have to get them out, they’re taking up too much space, I want it empty, throw them away…”
I said something thoughtless a few days ago, and now it’s all I think about. I know, in that small, logical part of my brain, that’s he’s likely forgotten it, but it plagues me every waking and sleeping moment. I obsess about it for three full days, replaying the moment over and over in my mind and sliding deeper into the abyss of guilt and regret until I can’t take it anymore. I have to get it out. I confront him and apologize. He doesn’t even remember the occurrence.
I’m driving on the freeway; I hate the freeway so much. My kids are talking but I don’t hear them because there is a semi next to me, why is he driving next to me? I’m going to hit him. I’m going to veer into him, and I’m terrified. I feel boxed in, he needs to move, we’re going to crash, I speed up to the sound of my fast, heavy, uneven breathing, and pass him. Then I collapse into sobs.
My neighbor confronts me, we’ve been too loud. The boys have been slamming the doors and it’s disturbing her. She’s nice, but obviously irritated. I smile and nod and apologize and promise to make things right. She goes back inside and I feel sick. I’ve never taken criticism well, and it hangs over me like a dark, thick, cloud for the next few days. I lie awake at night and feel ill, replaying her words over and over in my mind. I’m 25 years old and yet I still can’t stand to be censured, and in my mind I imagine how much our neighbors hate us and what they must think of me, and it gets worse and worse until it’s all I think about.
I wake up and feel immediately that everything is wrong. The sound of my sweet boys talking is too loud and too sharp and it sets me on edge. I clench and unclench my hands while I pace the house, my breath coming faster and faster, matching my frantic steps. My bra is too tight, my pants are touching my legs in a way that grates on my senses. A piece of hair touches my face and I think I might scream.
I walk into the kitchen and there is a plate in the sink and crumbs on the counter. Things are out of place. Everything is dirty; always dirty. Nothing is clean, nothing is right. I won’t be okay until the messes are gone.
I’m sitting in the dark. My whole body feels tight and strange, and I’m trying to control the quickly-increasing rate of my sharp, heavy, inhalations. A small, warm body jumps onto the bed and crawls into my lap. It starts to purr and the heaviness, the warmth, the lulling sound is comforting. Someone is there. I feel a little better.
When wine and benzos (not together!) aren’t an option, a cat is a pretty close second.
Disclaimer: Mom, everything is fine.