We were soaking in the tub with Chris on the tap side because my skin is fragile and hot baths are more my thing than his. He’s shaving my legs, stops at my knee, looks at me with that serious thoughtful look and says ‘I want to make you happy.’ I look at him with my serious thoughtful look and ask ‘Where does that come from?’ It’s not a Chris thing to say. ‘That blog post you wrote three weeks ago, it just got me thinking, is all. And I want to make you happy’. He recites it from memory too accurately. ‘Mhm’, I say. Then, ‘it’s not your job to keep me happy, hun.’ Only when I say it do I realize that I really do mean it. His forehead creases and I apologize for being an idiot, wishing he’d said this three weeks ago already so I could have explained then that what I feel in the moment isn’t always the truest of truths. I feel a lot of things when I’m in pain and although I cannot say that any of those emotions aren’t very real at the time, making them as valid as the more socially acceptable emotions, they’re fleeting phantoms that capture a small part of the picture and mistakenly turn it into the whole world. They’re skewed. I try to explain that. His forehead furrows deeper. I sigh. How do I explain that I unravel when pain passes a certain threshold and I desperately will grab for, hold on to and cling to whatever happens to seems safe and within reach? There should be a name for it, something like ‘the lifeboat effect’. I start to feel guilty.
It’s easy to give in to the impulse of instant gratification. I never wanted to be the (in my view) shallow instant gratification type, but when you’re in so much pain that suicide has seemed in those times like a reasonable option, making yourself feel better is suddenly not such a terribly selfish thing to do. I never really had people in my life I trusted enough to make me feel better when the edges unravel. Until Chris came along. It wasn’t until I joined my first WoW guild six months ago that I had let people stick around for the not so nice stuff. I hung out on vent either just chatting or listening to other people raid or mess around in heroics rather than finding a corner to curl up into. People were nice and few things in life is as nice as people being nice. I got a little caught up.
I used to climb trees when I was little. The irony does not go amiss. It was the only quiet and alone place I could find to curl up in and collect myself. I’d cry until my throat hurt and my pulse had slowed down to walking pace again and then I’d climb down, utterly exhausted, crawl into bed and go to sleep and wake up feeling okay. Okay was important. When we moved house I found a rock on the beach that was as isolated and comforting. At university I had a balcony to hang out on and each place afterwards has had its outdoor spot. A bench on the beach in Bognor, a park bench in Bristol, sitting on the metal fence watching the cows and wild deer whilst living in the cottage and here, there’s the garden. It’s easier to find my balance when sat outside, looking up at the usually cloudy wet sky whilst listening to good music. On very bad days I usually can’t get to my outside space, I’m stuck in bed, but there’s always the thought of being there and the soothing sounds.
I am relearning an old lesson I never should have forgotten. Happiness is not the emotion I should be looking for, contentment is. And I shouldn’t be looking for it by turning to others to make me feel better. People are important and my happiest memories are of time spent with other people and I’ll always have important people in my life. However, I have to be okay on my own first. I had a rather wretched day and crossing that dreaded threshold at some point is an inevitability, but when I do, I’ll get up, stumble outside, sit in the garden and watch the cat play with a blade of grass until I feel as if I can breathe again.