I have dreams I can breathe under water. Sometimes other people are down there, going in different directions. Often there are people above the water, terrified of drowning, but I always know I can breathe under water. I love those dreams. They are so freeing.
I used to think it was about me talking to dead people. That the water represented the veil between life and death. Now I think I was wrong.
When my mother died, I stepped into a pink fluffy cloud of oxycontin. It diluted the pain to a palatable level, just as it was meant to do. Admittedly, it was a pain of the heart not of the body, but pain is pain, and painkiller acted as painkiller. It graduated to complete feeling-killer and I broke up with this scrumptious poison, but the fact was…. it had been there for me when I needed it. I did not suffer the pain as I would have otherwise.
I did not feel the crashing, desperate, gasping agony that came with immediate and horrendous loss. I did not feel the suffocating tightness in my chest that forces me into telling myself out loud to, “Breathe, Goddammit, just take a fucking breath.” I have never hurt like this. I did not think I was capable. Truly. In my deepest and most damaged self, I thought that this level of pain would destroy me so I developed a whole repertoire of skills and talents to avoid hurting.
First, of course, the obvious narcotic choice. But let’s not forget the personality quirks. The controlling. I will tell you what to do so you will love me and I will not hurt.
The escaping. Reality is as I choose it to be and in my reality I create only things that can’t touch me. Therefore they can’t hurt me.
The blaming…. ooh, yeah, the blaming. Litigation against the doctor who refused to declare my father incompetent because, “The dementia is probably alcohol-related?” Yummy. Throwing chunks of cement at the vultures who circled the dumpster outside my father’s home asking if “the old man” was still there? Yes, please. Tracking down the woman who had been looking after my father to the total tune of $120,000 and his life? Sign me up! I’ll blame ‘em all!
I didn’t this time.
I spent a lifetime thinking that if I molded and shaped pain into something I could take in little, noxious bites, that I would get through the whole meal unscathed and the pain would stop. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t, but it would blur it a little. It might spread it into something less opaque, something I can pretend to at least see through. I have done that all of my life, you know. Never once until now, have I just allowed myself to sit and hurt.
But THOSE were the water dreams. I think the pain will kill me. I think the pain will drown me. I think the pain will be the end of me, but I’ve been reminded over and over through my entire life that I can just take a fucking breath.