eleven: it’s all in your head

i’m going to start here with a content warning, for material that may elicit a strong emotional response for some readers

i heard that a lot, as a kid: it’s all in your head. 

my anxieties, fears, understandings of the world. all the things my senses took in.

and what those words meant was, those things you’re thinking and feeling? are made up. not real. figments of an overactive, negative, critical imagination. incorrect. wrong. faulty.

there was only one real version, and it was never mine.

believing that? fucks you up. (but you don’t figure that out until muuuuuuuch later). out of necessity, i suppose, i swallowed this mantra whole. this fear isn’t real, it’s in my head. this anxiety is not real, i’m making it up. this terror is baseless, i’m vying for attention. i was grateful to have it pathologized because at least there were labels for my experience: depression, anxiety, panic disorder. but even then, the therapies were to help me come to my senses. stop fabricating stories, twisting things around, so that i could be happy. and correct. and acceptable.

the ironic thing is, living in my head is also what protected me. what allowed me to forget so many things, both the awful and the painfully, achingly sweet. it’s where i rewrote history, and bought in to their version of reality. it’s what’s made me the clever, silly, capable human that i am. living in my head, severing the connection to my body, is how i survived.

and now, decades later, my body is starting to reawaken, as i reconnect those pathways that were slammed shut in those long-ago moments of near-death. sometimes my body just feels things, without any thoughts leading the way. i find my cheeks wet and think, huh, i must be sad. i feel a hottish swell in my chest and realize, wow, i’m angry.

some of the things i feel, however, have no accompanying words. have no descriptors, legend, or manual. i have to fight the compulsion to take a knife to my breasts: head, what d’you think about that? i have a sudden, overwhelmingly horrible/pleasurable/shameful pulsing ache between my legs: sooooo, head, what do you make of this?

rediscovering what’s real and what’s true feels like the longest, loneliest, most circuitous and solitary hike ever. one step forward for every four steps back. i’m not even sure i have enough life left to get to the end of it. i don’t know if i’ll ever fully decode it. or whether i’ll find the words in my head to match the sensations in this aging body, to be able to make sense of it all. i just don’t know.

(gah, i know. it’s so fucking dark. i’m really sorry for that. but it’s where i’m living, these past few days. in this middle ground between head and body, fumbling. that’s what’s real at the moment. it will get better. it has to.)

 

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