Normal Life, Workday Mode
I don’t generally write anything all that personal on this blog, and TBH I have no idea why I wrote this. But it’s a departure from the norm, and at least half of my life decisions are categorized under “What the hell,” rather than a carefully thought-out plan. So…here it is. I think I hope it’s at least partially entertaining, and perhaps it will describe in some small way to those who do not have D.I.D. some of the abnormalities of every day life for someone who does have it. For those who are also D.I.D., I guess I just figured maybe you can relate. P.S. I am not generally so overtly negative. It’s just where I’m at on this particular day. 😉
When my alarm goes off at 5:30, it always feels abusively too early. I have already been awake numerous times in the night, either from waking up choking (it happens), or from dreams, or night sounds. So exhaustion is pretty constant and complete. I am not a deep sleeper. I never have been.
I have excellent hearing and the slightest noise rouses me. Sometime between 5:30 and 6, the cat will start squalling from where I’ve locked her in the bathroom for the night, and the dog will start yipping from her crate. So even if I didn’t have to get up and get ready for work, I’d have to get up and either strangle the animals for waking me up, or take care of them (potty and food) so they’ll shut up. Some days it takes a long time to decide which.
I roll over and feel around for the dull, aching emptiness inside. Yep, it’s still there. It never leaves. There’s nothing specific attached to it, that I’m aware of. It’s just always been there. If I think about it too much, it taps into something bigger and I don’t have time for tears. But this wasn’t always the case; I have not always had the capacity for tears. I have been hollow for a very large portion of my life. Tears are a step forward, although I don’t often have time to take that step right when it’s available.
In the absence of tears, the stabbing turns inward on itself and quiets to a desperate throb. Mostly I just feel a plaintive, controlled ache, like a weight pressing on my heart, like an anvil trying to squish the life out of me. I ignore it, because ignoring it is so normal it’s like breathing. I stare into the dark, searching for anything that makes sense. Nothing obvious is missing, nothing is glaringly wrong. There is no logical reason for me to live with a core that is inherently empty.
This ache: some people would call this depression. But I don’t think I agree with that assessment. To me, depression is something that happens to people who started out not-depressed; normal; well. It’s a condition that descends upon a person who used to be well, but if and when it is resolved, they will return to wellness. The recovered will be whole once more. I have never been well. I have never been whole. It took me 25 years to figure that out. It might take me 25 more to change it, if it can be changed. Depression does not seem like the right word, to me. Depression happens. This emptiness did not happen, it just is, and always was.
Once I’m done trying to bargain with God and the universe and myself, I stagger out of bed and into the bathroom, grasping for one last reason why I should stay home in bed.
There isn’t one.
I pee with my eyes closed, because light offends me for the first 300 seconds of every day. If I’m unusually exhausted I have perfected taking entire showers with my eyes closed. (This only works until it’s time to match clothes and get dressed.) Before I get in the shower, I inspect my face in the mirror. Without makeup I feel like a panda bear without its mask. I immediately notice every single thing that’s wrong about my face; the roundness of my cheeks, my large forehead which I can’t decide if I should go back to covering with bangs, the thickness of my skin, my lips that have always seemed too large to me, my uneven eyelashes, every freckle, every mole, every birthmark, every flaw. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks about me, these are the things I perceive when I look: the wrongness of everything about me.
I am sure this hurts the universe's feelings, so I feel guilty and mentally apologize. I am “supposed” to love myself and all that trope.
I feel nothing except empty. It’s not a matter of refusal, it’s a matter of inability. My eyes move down, and in addition to all the other wrong things, I notice every curve and every inch of extra weight on my body that wasn’t there in my teens and young adulthood. I’m not obese; I’m approximately the size that the media would call “curvy” and promote as “healthy,” without being plus-sized, but I have never quite adjusted to being this size, since I’d been thin (read: underweight) at some point before now. Nevermind that I was unhealthy at that point and it wasn’t comfortable or sustainable; to me, that state was “normal” and desirable.
I am not 16 anymore, so throwing up what I eat doesn’t make as much of a difference these days. Although as a stress relief method, it still has its merits…despite the cardiac effects. My curly hair has turned me into a Cheviot sheep overnight. I’m not sure if I need a hairdresser, or a shepherd. Probably both. I shall drown this problem with water, and extra conditioner.
If I am lucky, most inside people are asleep by the time I get up. Usually I have about as much luck with this as I do at the actual lottery. The little people, at least, are usually asleep since they tend to stay up all night performing shenanigans, and by the time morning rolls around, they are understandably exhausted. Chloe sometimes accosts me as soon as my eyes open, rambling at me about whatever Charlie Rose did or said the night before, to whomever. I honestly, sincerely don’t care, until coffee. And sometimes not even then. If we are alive – which we obvs are, since I am forced to be functional at this ungodly hour – then whatever she did or said feels urgently irrelevant to me.
I ignore Chloe like I always do when it’s still the crack of dawn, and she continues to trail behind me like she always does.
Rebekah tends to think my wake-up state is hilarious, but she at least knows better than to try to tell me anything I have to respond to, until coffee. I wish more inside people were as smart as Bekah. If any little people DO happen to be around when I wake up – a very rare occurrence – she will even steer them in the opposite direction from me, until coffee. Whenever she does this I always decide she is my favorite.
I drag myself to work and exchange niceties with people, some of which I actually feel (to a small degree), especially once I’ve had caffeine. At the office I sign checks, cards, and papers as someone else’s name, and grapple with the weirdness of not being myself, yet not being the other person (name) either. I think about legally changing my name for about the three millionth time, and decide for the three million and first time that it would create exponentially more problems than it would solve.
People come in and out of view of my desk, talking at me about business stuff that I’m supposed to care about, some of which I have no neural traces to, even though I’m probably supposed to know what they’re referencing. I wish I could do more meaningful work, something I genuinely cared about. I wish I could do something I’m actually good at, which surprisingly (since they hired me) is not this.
I test 55% right-brained and 45% left-brained, and this job is ALL left brain. I don’t think that extra 5% should make that much of a difference. But if I were more heavily one or the other, a clear preference probably would. Like in virtually all other situations, I am divided.
This could be an asset.
People sometimes tell me how handy it must be to be a jack of all trades. I nod and don’t tell them they have no idea what being so lost feels like. Manners is also a skill that some of us jacks have. At work, especially if there are cookies or YouTube videos around, little people wake up and hover around the front, asking me what I’m doing, begging for a cookie, cajoling me to get them a drink, demanding to watch Sesame Street when I’m trying to focus on a webinar to expand my on-the-job skills.
When a co-worker comes to ask me a question, I feel them shift to the side and stare wide-eyed, whispering in my ears Who is that? Can she be our mom? Does she have a cat? I am utterly convinced they do this purely to annoy me, despite stern disagreement from Joanna. I try to quiet them and shoo them away, initially attempting to be nice (this ends quickly). But it’s like playing Whack-A-Mole; if I manage to get rid of one, three more pop up.
Sometimes babies cry in the middle distance of the inside. They may or may not be comforted by someone else. As long as the inside noise stays at a dull roar and remains concentrated to the middle or far distance, I can focus. It’s not so much about the volume of the noise, anyway, it’s about the location. Front and center is where most of my conscious attention goes unless I specifically try to do otherwise.
Bekah and Chloe are usually on the fringes – at least while I’m at work – talking quietly and sometimes bouncing babies on their hips, or wrangling a wayward little person when they can tell that I’ve had enough. If I run into a technical issue, Chloe will hand the baby off and come closer, in case I need help, after which she will return to the background. Tasha, who is quieter than most of the others, often stands next to me and simply observes the outside. She says very little unless I ask her. But I can feel her without talking, and I usually know when anything upsets her.
I eat lunch and then throw up in the far stall of the bathroom on the far side of the building (definitely time to cut my fingernails again). I don’t think there are many women employees over there, because that bathroom is nearly always deserted. It’s not about weight loss at this point, or weight control, because it obviously doesn’t work for either of those things anymore. It’s purely an ingrained response now; a stress relief method that’s taken root over time. After more than 15 years of doing it, it’s more of a bad habit than anything emotional.
I generally skip breakfast and do the same thing at dinner, so it’s blatantly obvious to me that it’s not about weight since it is virtually ineffective at changing that. My weight is normal, and everyone thinks that I am normal, too, both in this respect and most others. On bad days, I want to scream at people that eating disorders aren’t diagnosed (or recognizable) by weight or only supposed to be considered valid when you look like a skeleton. I want to throw a book at their face where they can read the statistics about eating disorders and find out that most of them die from heart attacks, not starvation, and I already have a heart problem that I didn’t have before I started throwing up.
But bad days – as related to food – are rare these days, so most of the time I just silently agree with everyone that I don’t really have a problem since I’m not skeletal and don’t obsess over food…much. It’s perfectly normal to throw up 75% of the time. My weight is fine and this habit is mostly just a nuisance, nothing more.
What I cannot include in this prototypical day is the gaps. The tiny blips of time where inside people DO come and go. Not often, and definitely not for very long at a time, but it does happen. I find responses to emails sent by someone else (not me) in the middle of a working day, and occasionally I run across text message conversations started by someone else (not me) on my lunch break, etc. Or I will see a FB comment (under my account) that I did not write, or pictures will appear in my phone’s camera album that I did not upload. This is the work-version of the rest of my life, where every now and then when I’m at home I will see evidence of activity by others (not me), like artwork that I didn’t draw, or books strewn around that I didn’t get out that someone must have been looking at. At work these happenings are much more contained, which is possibly the reason I still HAVE my job.
In the middle of a business document review, I start to smell an odd smell, like a combination of perfume and gasoline. I look around but so far I’m still in my office; nobody new has come in, nothing is inexplicably on fire. My head starts buzzing slightly. The familiar pain creeps into the left side of my face and jolts itself into place behind my eyes. Sounds start fading in and out. I can hear blood pounding in my ears. I feel a slight spinning sensation even though my mind argues that I’m sitting still.
Pain shoots electrically in and out of my head and through my face and eyes, mostly on the left side. It’s not a migraine. I’ve had those before and I know what they are. There is no headache, per se, no migraine aura, no specific aversion to light and noise. The perfume gets stronger. I feel hands around my throat. My vision melds into a dark room and I can’t interpret the random imagery dancing across my field of vision.
There are no words.
My brain has gone mute. Someone is telling me something, but I really can’t decode it. It’s in another language. Or maybe I’m just too subdued to understand English. My breathing is being cut off. I am going to die now. I feel calmer than I would have expected. The stereotypical bright light dances in front of my face, tauntingly, for about ten seconds, until it snaps straight AT my face and explodes.
I am left in my desk chair, gasping, the text cursor still blinking on my screen where the document is still open. Normal work sounds hum around me. I feel like I’ve just run a marathon. No one else is around, so no one notices, so I don’t have to make up anything about what just happened. These incidents have no particular pattern to them. Sometimes I might have several in the same day, and sometimes I won’t have any for a week or more. Sometimes they are all exactly the same, like the choking sensation, and sometimes they are all totally different. Sometimes they’re a mix. There is no rhyme or reason. I try to pick up where I left off, and finish my work for the day.
When I leave the office I am immediately assaulted by several inside people at once. Tasha is informing me when the next full moon is, Chloe is reminding me to put a meeting on my calendar so I don’t forget it (again), and a milieu of little people are cavorting around asking for ice cream and a viewing of a kids’ movie and a brand new softie and a music album. I rub my forehead and visualize the liquor store (along with cigarettes) and go home instead. I tell them we don’t have money for such things, which is true. I check the mail; more hospital bills, an offer for a credit card which is especially amusing since they obviously don’t KNOW my credit score or history which is why they’re sending me such an offer.
I check the mirror again when I get home (surprisingly, I am still there), and try to get as much done around the house as possible before I start to fade out for the evening. I try to interact with as many inside people as seem to need something, while I still have the ability to form a coherent thought…although my favorite answer lately has become, “I don’t know. Ask Jesus.” Which may or may not end with the person asking Jesus and may or may not result in an answer of any kind.
After an hour or so of inside consultation, overlapping with external multitasking, my brain feels like scrambled eggs and I can feel the switching headache descending (at least, that’s what I’m assuming it is).
What time I actually physically go to bed is often unknown. Dreams, internal chatter, external noise (refer to dog and cat at beginning of post), and my own particular chaotic circadian rhythms keep me in a cycle of half-waking throughout the night and early morning.
Until my alarm goes off at 5:30.
Rinse and repeat.