Back to Square One by Lucie Kavanagh

Back to Square One


Time takes on its own meaning.  There are minutes and hours and there is no real difference between them.  A minute.  An hour.  You’re still sitting, waiting.  You think of something.  It seems important.  It drifts away.  It’s not possible.  It never was.

You need to eat.  There’s nothing you want.  Everything involves effort.  You think of something.  No; it’s not what you want.  Hot or cold?  Eat in front of the tv?  Eat at the table?  Both involve being left with your own thoughts.  It drifts away.

I stopped fighting my inner demons.  We are on the same side now.

Not funny anymore.

You need to be with people.  You go out with friends.  It’s too much.  You are sitting in a crowd of people and they are talking too fast.  You can’t make it make sense.  You can’t make it matter.  You feel tired and hurt.  You can’t make yourself interested.  You get up and leave as soon as you can.  You go home and try ringing a friend.  You exchange pleasantries.  Tears are on your cheeks and you don’t know why.  It’s too much.  You say goodbye and hang up.  You feel alone but now you know you always were.

You need to be alone.  You can’t sit still.  You need to go out.  Working helps.  Busy helps.  You pick up a book.  It makes no sense.  You read a paragraph.  Re-read.  It doesn’t matter.  You lay it down.  Put on television.  Half hour blocks.  You can’t focus.  Play some music.  That’s better.  Turn it up.  Lie down.  Sound and silence.

You don’t want to give in to this.  You don’t want to admit how bad this is.  But somewhere inside it creeps in.

What if this never changes?

You can’t afford to reason with the question.  You put it away.  It doesn’t go away.

The day is too long.  You are exhausted.  You go to bed.  Try to read.  Can’t focus.  Television.  Radio in the background.  No sleep.  10 hours lie ahead.  No reading; no distraction; no sleep.

At 6am, you clean the house.  Again.

Eventually you go back to the doctor.  You’re still feeling low, you say.  You feel like a problem that won’t go away.  He’s telling you about the things you need to do, the places you should go, the life changes to make.  It’s exhausting.  He gives you sleeping pills.  You get up and thank him.  You pay.  You leave.

You store away the pills.  Letting your guard down feels self-indulgent.

You have never felt this trapped.

Now it’s Christmas and you can’t bear it.  You keep smiling.  You keep cooking.  You clean and clean and clean.  You lie in bed and wait for daylight.  You listen to radio debates.  One day they’re discussing euthanasia.

People like me, you think and then you know you’ve crossed a line.

You can’t sit still.  People compliment you on your figure.  You’re keeping the weight down, they say.  You’re very disciplined.  Quite the athlete.  It’s something to respond to.  You feel oddly powerful.  You say what’s expected; stick to the routine; stick to the plan; work; work; work; give everyone exactly what they want…

…and feel bewildered when you realise they are all talking about you.

You back away.  It’s safer to be alone.

You meet people.  You say what you should say, do what’s expected.  You hold your head up and block out the exhaustion.  You store it all up for later.  You feel miles away from everyone.  It’s ok.

You go for counselling because the doctor told you to. You go back to the doctor.  One day he asks about the scars.  You don’t lie.  Suddenly you have his attention.  He puts you on medication.  He talks about psychiatrists.    It’s too late.  It’s all too late.  You don’t want to talk about it anymore.

But you try.

Because suddenly you’re walking along and thinking of things that need to be said.  And that’s better than the tangled-up mess that’s usually banging away inside your head.  Someone is there to help.  They are helping you pull out each tangle, tease them apart, examine them and comb them straight.  They are balancing you to shoulder the load.

“Do this…look at this…think about this…for next week…”

Next week is a focus.

You’ve said it in counselling sessions and she says it might be possible to say it, or some of it, in real life.  You try.  You show glimpses of yourself to the world.

Some nights, you even manage to comb the tangles by yourself.

The rush inside your head starts to take shape.  Words give it shape.  Shape gives it form.  Form means it can be seen.  It’s not as scary anymore.

You sit beside it and breathe.

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