It’s been a better day today. Almost a normal day. They are so alien now, normal activities. It feels like taking the training wheels off your bike and trying not to wobble too much. Hoping you can stay on till you get to the corner.
Our world changed in July this year. For her, it started happening months before. We had seen glimpses of it, but not the whole thing, not until a few days before her birthday when everything she had been hiding suddenly showed itself and everything else fell apart.
This process we have been through, are still going through, has turned all our lives upside down to a greater or lesser extent. As things improve we are gradually learning to right things again, piece by piece, moment by moment. It’s frightening how quickly you become acclimatised to living with something like this, and how weird your old life seems, and how strange it is to go back to it.
Of course, you can never go back to it. Not like it was.
Almost certainly that is a good thing. If something goes this wrong it means that it is better faced, better challenged and changed than suppressed or denied, by everyone involved. And once you know how things are, you can’t unknow. Things have to change and they need to change. The change is better. For us it’s better. Hopefully for her, too, but it isn’t easy.
I’ve had some experience with this kind of thing before, living with what is essentially an addiction. The crunch comes, usually when the person experiencing the problem hits what some people call rock bottom. It’s not a phrase I’m keen on. It’s far too concrete a definition for what is a rather nebulous process.
A better definition for me, is that the person has reached that point when the pain of doing what it is they are doing to themselves is so terrible, that it is greater than the fear of changing it. Having said that, both are terrifying. Changing doesn’t seem like a good thing, even though your rational mind might say it is, because you are so afraid, all the time. The thing about an addiction is that it is something you think you are in control of, that you understand the rules of, because you made it for yourself. Everyone else might see it as something dangerous, but a lot of the time, the only place you feel safe, is inside the confines of your disease. You have no idea what the changes you are putting in place will do to you, and where you’ll end up, and that’s scary.
I think that one of the biggest difficulties with this is that there is choice. With a true rock bottom there is no choice. It’s easy to go up when there’s no way to go down. It’s not easy at all when you could still keep going down, and you have to work to choose up. That’s what’s so painful to do and to watch others do. And once you change one thing, you have to change everything until the world is made new for you, and you start all over again, and that’s tough.
One of the things I have thought to myself, time and time again this summer is how much this process for me has resembled having a new baby again. It’s the same terror of doing something wrong, inadvertently damaging such a fragile creature with my clumsy behaviour. The constant hope that there will be something to guide you in your absolute cluelessness. Of course there are books and professionals, and they are valuable to an extent, but there are those nights when it is just you and your baby and you are locked together in something only you can share and no diagram or top tip will help you then. You just have to keep on, knowing that this terrible moment will end and maybe the next moment won’t be quite so terrible and hoping that you’ll hang on until the next time and maybe next time you won’t be quite so clueless or so frightened. It’s the same pacing at nights hoping she’s sleeping and not dead. It’s the same worry that she won’t hurt herself. It’s the same sitting up for hours, soothing and calming and talking distracting nonsense. It’s the same figuring out the language of this just like I had to figure out the language of her when she first arrived.
And now she’s stronger and more independent again I am having to figure out how to let go what I held on to so tightly all over again. I’m having to figure out how to trust again. I’m having to work on believing that when she tells me it’s ok, it really is. I’m having to practice trusting that she isn’t going to slide, that we’re not going back to that terrible moment when the world came crashing down again.
And of course, we aren’t, because we can’t, because the world is different now, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Trust isn’t something you can smash to the ground and just magic whole again. It comes with patience and practice and work, and while it’s taking its sweet time, it makes those first few days without the stabilisers that bit more scary, but she’s doing it and so can I.