Lesson Twenty-Seven: A gerbil aids my crazy

Living alone again was eased by the presence of my pet, Katniss. Katniss was a black gerbil. She enjoyed blueberries and meeting people. I held her about thirty to sixty minutes a day. She’d sit on my shoulder while I did dishes sometimes and would sit in my rosemary while I gardened.

Katniss was always instantly grounding. She was little, warm, and moving. I had to be at least fairly present to be able to hold her. I could feel her heartbeat. When I petted behind her ears, she would squeak. I had to stay present in that moment in she was in my hands. She was a moving texture of fur and air. I could ground to the noises she made and the way she kept me shifting my hands to catch her body.

Katniss was not a runner. However, in the night I could hear her chewing away at her tubes. She especially liked toilet paper tubes, which she’d rip apart to use for bedding. I would watch Katniss’s methodical bites into the thin cardboard, tearing away half inch pieces that fell beside her.

My neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family saved me tubes for the gerbil. She and I were loved. People asked me how she was doing. Katniss gave me a place in reality to relate to people. I didn’t have kids, or a “real job”, or school, but I had a pet. At the very least, I had a subject I could use for conversation if I was spacy and half-present in time.

I spent hours making cardboard mazes in large boxes that gave her a place to run around. She could chew her way through to new places where I’d hide papaya treats. I’d let her run around on my bed right before I’d wash the sheets every week. Katniss was the most spoiled gerbil in existence.

Time went on, although I missed more and more of it. I woke up next to someone I didn’t know one morning. We were both dressed, and had fallen asleep on my bed. This was a common place to watch TV, so it wasn’t abnormal. Unless you count the not-knowing-him part.

I came down on myself hard.

I can’t go through a baby again. I won’t. If I were supposed to have a baby, I would. I questioned myself, asking if this was how I got pregnant years before. I couldn’t remember everything. I couldn’t remember anything. I’d panic into nothingness, waking up hours later after crying myself to sleep in a flashback.

Kimberley took a fair bit of my anger. She praised me for feeling connected to my anger. I think I replied with a “fuck you” of some sort. I wanted my therapist to fix this. She told me that she wished she could fix it. Only I could change my own life, and she reminded me of the tools I had to do those tasks. She said that there were other tools we could explore. I would try to shut down the conversation before the words “broken” or “crazy forever” would flash neon inside my head.

Penta was becoming difficult to maintain. I was missing more and more work, which was income and credibility lost each time. Gary had started to talk to me about it. The fact that we had multiple talks says enough about the lack of progress I made. Gary was long suffering. He was a great friend when he could have been a boss. It would have been fully justifiable for him to have fired me several times.

W.E.L.L. was taking time away from everything else and hadn’t yielded income yet. Still, I was growing and networking. I had been a consultant to the New Orleans Hornets about their public relations. I was working with Dykeadence and the NOLA Slutwalk. It was becoming more paperwork than people work. It got more expensive. Donations came in, but not enough; never enough.

I felt greedy for wanting to be paid for doing what needed to be done. I didn’t want to ask for money when I was exploiting college kids and single mothers for their free labor. I felt irresponsible for not being better at the paid job, where my friend needed me. I felt stupid for not realizing that I was going to be in trouble soon with money either way. I told myself that I did realize it, obviously, but what the hell could I do?

Katniss would start chewing. I’d get up from the kitchen table and walk towards the bookshelf, where her home sat. She looked up at me, then back down to her tiny paws holding a Wheat Thins box top.

She gave me a reason to be in dark moments. Without me, Katniss wouldn’t be able to eat. I didn’t live with anyone else now. A few people had keys, but no one who would be by daily. It could be a week or more before someone came in to help Katniss. I started to wonder why Katniss wouldn’t have me to care for her. I wondered why I thought I was going to be making an unexplained exit. There were bubble baths with this theme.

I was suicidal. Again. I was furious at myself for these old feelings. “I’ve already done this!” I yelled in therapy. I didn’t want to have suicide on the table anymore.

Being inpatient again was unnecessary. I was having fantasies, not plans. I talked to my therapist immediately and consistently. I didn’t exactly want to die, but I didn’t see a way forward in life. I had a degree that I loved and it was good for taking up space in my file cabinet. I had a job that I loved with no future. I had no future there regardless if I kept fucking up. I had a goal and fulfillment in W.E.L.L., but no way to support that dream.

If I couldn’t keep a part-time job with a boss who loved me and helped me out weekly, where did I think I was going to hold a job, I asked myself. I had hundreds of questions but no answers.

I’d stay awake, asking myself questions through the night. My gerbil would burrow into her bed or spend time moving bedding from one side of her home to another. If Katniss had any answers, she was keeping them to herself.

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