Over the course of about nine months, I carried to term the notion that I was still able to have an adventure. Whatever metaphorical Nor’easter blew Steve into my life swept me away, too. I was primed to change everything. I knew my jobs were ending, despite my genuinely best efforts. I couldn’t consider killing myself as a solution. I was going to run out of money sooner rather than later. My mother was renting a room in expensive southern California, and although our relationship was growing in healthy ways, I couldn’t go there. Enter new boyfriend.
Pride kept me stupid. I finally applied for food stamps and read the website about disability. I was clearly not normal. Normal people can figure out where they are most of the time and tend to sleep at least five hours per earth rotation. I also wasn’t disabled. I had two jobs and I had countless emails, cards, notes and proof that I was a worthwhile person. I refused to label myself in a way that would prevent the future job I so desperately needed.
Steve was young, in every sense of the word. He was impulsive. He was quick to act and eager to talk. We first went out to Nonna Mia on a Friday both assuming the other way likely gay. Before the end of the weekend, we’d spent about forty-eight hours pouring ourselves into each other. I told him things faster than I’d told my therapist. I let him do things that I’d never thought I’d grant without doing any sort of study beforehand. The second weekend I knew Steve, I was taken to a kink party. About a month into our relationship we had labels. I “met” his parents over Skype and told them more than they needed to know about myself considering how long I’d been dating their son. Less than two months in, Steve called me drunk and told me he loved me. To avoid the heat and humidity of impending everything, I cannonballed into this pool of madness.
The people I met in the BDSM scene were unlike people I’d met at work or in college. They were similar to the people I’d known in the church, if anything. They all seemed proud and happy to be different. They had their own lingo and expressed love in ways that scared me. It also appealed to parts of myself that I hadn’t faced. If I wanted to heal, I had to see it all, I told myself. I needed to be able to reclaim all of what happened to me as a child, and turn it into good. I was going to be ok with people doing kink. I was going to be ok with the fact that I even enjoyed some of it myself. After many therapy sessions discussing the idea, I held a small ritual burning. Steve was the only attendant. I ripped the pages defaming kink from Laura and Ellen’s book. I burned them, and I let the ashes feed the tree outside. I could define my own healing. I was strong enough to observe and attempt kink and keep my other tools active and sharp. I would maintain my safety while taking these moderate risks.
One of the best ways that I expanded my horizons was by smoking pot. The combination of music lessons from Gary and the fact that my boyfriend was usually high paired well. After introducing me to the Beatles, Gary told me that we were going to learn about Pink Floyd. He said in a perfect world I would get high and listen to the whole album “Dark Side of the Moon”. I told him that my newest romantic interest actually had weed. Gary told me that the discussion we were about to have would never take place at a normal office. He was always good about pointing out the work things that shouldn’t count in my mind as work things.
I’d dropped acid before, and loved it. I had studied and I’d asked my doctor. I’d asked both my doctors. My therapist knew. It was something I structured occasionally and I loved it. At first, pot just made me sleep. That alone I considered a miracle. I’d fought for and against sleep for most of my life. With pot, one deep breath in and I was out. It wasn’t until I had a flashback while being high that I saw the true potential for this drug. After years and thousands of dollars on pills, here was something that may actually be helpful.
Like any other flashback, I started to lose the room around me. While high it was slower. I didn’t panic, but rather noticed what was happening. I felt calm and distant. I saw Jim round the corner and come out from Steve’s bedroom. Normally I’d see the walls fall away as my father tore into my field of vision, closing fast and making everything else seem unreal. This was different. I was able to stop the idea. I used the DBT skills I’d learned in therapy. I expressed my experience and Steve asked questions and offered support. He was fascinated by my process and admired my past efforts. I shared freely. No one had asked this much about my process without me paying them weekly.
I talked to my doctor and therapist about weed. We all knew I’d wanted to come off of the heavy pills. I wanted to sleep with a normal cycle, not induced by drugs that messed up my day functioning. Kimberley and I discussed the pragmatic issues of using an illegal, unreliable drug in a state that is Louisiana. I’d created a list of top places for tech writers a year or so beforehand. I went through and added which places allowed weed. Several states had legalized it for medical reasons, and I had a medical reason beyond a shadow of a doubt. This wouldn’t feel like proving I was broken and unable to be a person in society. Instead, I’d show the glaring truth of my PTSD and get access to a drug that worked. For years I’d belittled anyone who smoked as a junkie or addict. I had no idea what I’d been talking about. I’d never even tried it before. Therapy involved a lot of reframing what drugs were and were not. I apologized to my brother and sister for years of verbal abuse. They did not have an easy childhood either. I wish I’d given them the benefit of the doubt when they coped in ways they found.
All of the new things in my life were brought to me by the boy Steve, I told myself. I attached myself to this wizard.
My paternal grandmother died. My Pa-Pa had died the summer before. I missed him. It brought my Ma-Ma and I closer together. The silver lining helped. I visited the river frequently and started to think that Pa-Pa would like the idea of becoming Old Man River. Grandma Carrie was a bittersweet loss in different ways. She’d had Alzheimer’s for years. My Aunt June had been caring for her, usually alone, since Katrina. Grandma wasn’t living life the same way, and my aunt wasn’t able to live life at all. Grandma Carrie passed quietly and lived a fantastic life. She was going to be buried next to her sons. I was going to go see my father’s grave for the first time when we lowered his mother in beside him.