Page 2 of 4

He comes to me in the night,

Sneaks into the covers and pulls me close.

He kisses my neck, whispers my name.

His ghost but a tingle on my spine.

I loved once. It was fire and passion.

Making love and tearing it apart.

Now I listen to love songs on quiet country roads

and I feel him sitting in the passenger seat, loving me.

I feel his smile, miss his lips, his warmth all encompassing.

He is the one and he belongs to another.

So all I have left are whispers of him.

Whispers that lull my empty heart to sleep when the moonlight floods in.

I have grown up in a life of insanity. My mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was seven years old but symptoms started far earlier. When a parent suffers from a mental illness, the fear the child suffers is unique. From the time I was seven until today it has always been there, a steady hum at the back of my head. The fear that with one wrong move, one word too harsh, my mom could die by her own hand never leaves me. It influences everything I do.

Today was a bad day. My mom desperately wanted to leave the house, but her back didn’t allow for it. I watched her go from disappointed to sad to angry as night drew closer. Suddenly it was eight o’clock, I was sitting in the middle room and my mom went to her room, turned around, said a emotionless goodnight and closed her door. She didn’t wait for me to get the ice machine ready that she uses every night ready. She didn’t wait for me to tell her I would have my phone on if she needed me over the course of the night. She just closed the door. My sister immediately noticed the anomaly and went into my mother’s room to enquire if she needed ice and that’s when things officially started falling apart.

Eventually the fight the ensued with my mother and sister drew me in and, like most fights with my mother I can’t pin the plot down in my head. I do, however, know how it ended. It ended with me, blank faced and exhausted, offering my own emotionless goodnight. It ended without resolution. It ended with my sister looking abandoned at my retreat and my mother not caring. It ended with my failing to fix things. It ended with me wondering if my actions were going to result in my finding my mother’s corpse in the morning.

When a parent suffers from a mental illness, the symptoms may be invisible, but suicide is their shadow. It is ever present, growing smaller or larger the worse the symptoms are. Tonight the shadow seems to absorb the whole house, producing a pit in my stomach, an ache in my head and tears behind my eyes, threatening to fall at any moment.

I’m not a Christian and, if I were to take it a step further, I’m not religious. I can trace these facts to two main causes. The first is my father. My father taught me that Christianity was full of judgement. He instilled in me an understanding that to be a Christian one must hate those that were not. I watched him call liberals evil. I watched him call Barack Obama the antichrist and I head him on numerous occasions refer to homosexuals as freaks. This leads me to my second cause.

I am gay. I think I first became aware of this in eight grade, but the phrase itself didn’t cross my mind until my Sophomore year of high school. It was rather unfortunate timing because I had left public school for the first time in my life to attend a private Christian school. By then I was absolutely certain of two things. First, I had cemented my political beliefs as a liberal and that, in the eyes of my peers and teachers, was absolutely unacceptable. Second, I was gay and if anyone found out, I would not only be ridiculed, but I feared I might be expelled. This experience taught me that Christianity was equivalent with judgement and exclusivity. It taught me that if I wanted to live my truth, I could not expect Jesus to walk alongside me.

I am now twenty-six years old. For the past several years, I have called myself a Spiritual Buddhist. Buddhism spoke to me because it demanded love for all of humanity. It taught that we are one with every living thing in the universe. Basically, it taught what I believed to be the opposite of exclusivity: inclusion.

Unfortunately I live in Texas. Buddhism isn’t widely practiced here and any form of group practice is extremely rare and at times, expensive. In fact, I distinctly recall telling my therapist that I, “couldn’t afford to be a Buddhist.” And, (in order to provide a somewhat smooth transition), it was my therapist that turned my gaze back to Christianity.

My therapist told me that Christianity, in her mind, was much the same as Buddhism, at least when it came to the parts that were most important to me. She thought of Christianity as a lesson in loving all of humanity, without judgment. She never pushed the teachings of Jesus on me or made me feel guilty for my lack of belief. Rather, she met me where I was and told me that Christianity wasn’t my father. She told me that being gay and being a Christian weren’t mutually exclusive. She helped ease my anger and resentment at the religion.

So, now I am searching. I’m reading the Bible. I’m following a devotional. I pray. I’m keeping my mind and my heart open to the idea that maybe God is walking alongside me. I’m starting to consider the idea that perhaps He isn’t judging who I am, but that He made me who I am. I don’t know that I feel his presence yet. I’m not sure He hears me when I pray. But I do know that I’ve always believed He existed. He is the one I plead to when I am at my worst, He is the one I blame when I am at my angriest, and He is the one I thank when I am at my most relieved. I am listening, my heart and my mind is open and perhaps maybe, one day, I’ll find God.

I’m losing my mind. I can feel it leaving as the house grows dark and quiet. I can feel the walls around me moving in for the kill, leaving me breathless and without escape. I am getting sick and I am too tired to fight.

I have spent the last eight months fighting for disability. I have spent the last year taking care of my mother, trying to get doctor’s to solve problems that they don’t seem to care about.

I am losing sleep. It is becoming harder and harder to grasp. I feel my eyes growing heavier, I lay down, and suddenly I am wide awake again. It is a cruel cycle that leaves me more and more panicked every time it happens.

My thoughts are scattered. I can’t seem to pin them down. It’s like everything is tied together but I can’t seem to figure out how.

Traditionally, the holidays are my favorite time of year. Everything is still magical to me, even at the age of twenty-six. The nights are cold and foggy and even street lights take on a mythical glow. Or at least they did.

Even the cold has been taken from me. I’m left to suffocate in the perpetual Texas heat. I want to be able to breathe again. I want to feel that sense of magic. But now I am losing my mind. My bipolar disorder has snuck in through the cracks and caught me unaware. I am too tired to fight. I am too tired to defend myself to my ever aggravating psychiatrist. I am trapped by exhaustion and yet I cannot sleep. So I suppose I must surrender. What that means, I’m not entirely sure. Do I sacrifice the holidays? Head to an inpatient program? Or do I ask for help? And if so, who do I ask? My mother is certainly incapable of helping me in her condition.

I know none of this is coherent. I’m too tired to polish the rough edges. So I suppose I’m just sending out my exhaustion, frustration and hopelessness into the universe.

“Sweet surrender was all that I had to give…”

-Sarah McLachlan, “Sweet Surrender”, Surfacing

I remember driving away from him. I knew it was over. I had given all I had to save the relationship and it wasn’t enough.

As I drove down the interstate, mile by mile gathering distance from him, I sobbed while listening to “Fix You” by Coldplay. I wished he had loved me enough to fix us.

I remembered the fight from the night before.

“I need more time. Just devote a little more or yourself to me. I can’t survive on breadcrumbs.”

I remember his angry eyes, his furious stance, his aggressive grabbing of my wrists, making me look at him while he replied.

“You’re crazy. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Just shut up, SHUT UP.”

If he just hadn’t grabbed my wrists I might have stayed. I might have blamed it all on myself. I was crazy. I was bipolar. I deserved what I got.

But the grabbing of the wrists woke me up. I knew he was done with me just as I knew there was nothing I could give him that would bring him back.

So, I fled through the west Texas desert. I fled with all of my belongings back to the only place I ever felt safe. I ran away from the only man I’ve ever given my heart to.

 

 

Seven years later, I can still feel his lips on my neck. I can feel his hand in mine. I can see his perfect smile beaming at me. I suffered immeasurable pain to have him in my life those short six months, but I don’t regret it. Even if, at the age of twenty-six, I have already experienced the great love of my life, I am at peace with that fact.

I found him. I loved him. I clung to him. And one day, with tears streaming down my face, I ran away from him; the dust kicking up behind my car, covering the past in a blanket of dirt and rubble.