Yesterday I felt this enormous sense of happy exhaustion. I could only describe it that way. You know, how you might feel after a great amount of physical work, having actually accomplished something. I walked out of the counsellor’s building feeling slightly aggravated knowing I had to find a cash point, and then buy something to get cash, to pay for the parking, and I needed a wee.
My daughter was at home from school and welcomed me happily, as always. So did my gorgeous dog. The cats wanted feeding, as usual. My son still slept. I went to pick up my husband from work, he asked me how it went. I still wasn’t sure. I still am not sure. But I did know one thing: it’s over.
This stage in my life where a lot of decisions and thoughts were on hold, as I waited for a diagnosis, as I waited for some answers, before I started to think ok what next? is over.
In a way, the quest of a lifetime: Who am I? Where do I belong? Where do I fit in? is over.
I am, who I am. I have aspects of good, and aspects of bad. So does everyone else. I belong, with everyone else, to life.
There were things that used to make me upset, angry. I told the counsellor, even though it was the third person I spoke to, the third screening session, the third exactly the same questionnaire to fill in. I told her a couple of things, took them off my chest. Silly, unimportant things compared to the mayhem and chaos that used to be my life. As I filled in the questionnaire, again, and once again read that the questions referred to the the past two weeks only, underlined and bolded like no other, and I once again thought: “What is the point? I have been calm for the past two weeks, two months even. At one point will you ask me how I was last year? Five years ago? Ten years ago? How is that not relevant?”, I was already making my decisions: that’s it, it’s over.
I will continue as I am, as I was, doing it by myself, getting by. Fingers crossed I will never go back to what brought me to the GP about this whole mental exhaustion thing in the first place.
Just like some of my friends are dead, who never died, I died. Well, some of me. I died many times, and this time another part of me died. I don’t really feel angry anymore.
I told the counsellor about how frustrating it is to be considered “Italian” when there is really very little to nothing about me that is Italian at all. There is the wonderful city I was born in, though I never lived there. There are relatives, all Roman, at least one and a half generations of them, then we branch out into Sardinia, the Neapolitan coast (my grandfather’s family owned hotels in Amalfi no less), Puglia (my paternal grandmother’s “noble” branch). So, that’s all pretty Italian, isn’t it? And yet. My mum was a renegade. Her biological dad was some Swiss German bloke from some noble family in Switzerland for whom her mother worked as a cook. My mum was then adopted by her stepdad, Iacobini, of whom nobody ever said anything, he was apparently not noteworthy enough? Who knows. My mum’s family was an odd one. I remember my mother’s mother on those few occasions we visited from South America or somewhere else, and she prepared the most delicious home-made tortellini in broth. She made them often, I remember the taste even now. She seemed gentle and happy to me. Her husband, my mum’s stepdad, had died before I was born. My mum found out who her biological dad was just a couple of years before she herself died, my grandmother had already died a long time before, and had taken her secret to the grave with her (if you guessed that’s where the Sardinian in my blood comes from, you’d be right.) Stubborn as hell. So my mum grew up a rebel, independent, never knowing anything about her past history, constantly feeling like an outcast, different, and not knowing why. When she found out the secret of her biological father, coaxed out gently from my grandmother’s sister before she herself passed away, she finally, finally relaxed. That is why. She thought. That is why I always felt like a foreigner, not Roman at all, like I didn’t belong. She mellowed hugely, but of course, didn’t share this with us. Oh no. This I found out about later, after my mum had died, from her cousin. My mum also took a few secrets with her to the grave.
One of the secrets was the answer to the question I had apparently been yelling to her as a toddler, and then later as a teenager. Even as a young adult I felt that she didn’t really like me, and I never found out why. Sure, there was the mentioned fact that I arrived just as she was finally planning to leave my dad: but she was in Australia when she got pregnant, in the bush, and there was no way she could afford to leave my dad from there. I guess she could have done a runner when they came back from Australia, had me born in Rome, and before we moved back out to New Zealand two months later. But as I remember it takes a long time to heal from a caesarean, so that’s probably why she didn’t. Or she had a strong sense of responsibility towards us, if not love.
The monster of that unanswered question was so real that after I moved into my mum’s house in Northern Italy after she died, with dangerous soon-to-be-husband and my baby boys, I constantly saw her ghost out of the corner of my eye, a horrid mask, the face she wore as she lay dead when I went to see her before they buried her. Until one day I saw it standing before me, I phoned my friend in Sweden, he helped me march it out of the door. The house felt freer after that, and many troubles were still to come, and many monsters would manifest in that house, concealed under the robes of relatives and acquaintances, but I was more at peace with my mother’s ghost: she didn’t like me, that’s all. It’s not a big deal. Get over it.
That has remained. As we discussed briefly with the counsellor, the lack of “proper” family meant that my friends became hugely important to me, they were/are my family. A friend’s sudden turn of emotion, his or her not caring anymore, not liking me anymore, not loving me any more, was, and the counsellor pointed out the “strong” word I used, devastating.
It had never occurred to me that it was a strong word. It was just an accurate word. My friends not caring anymore devastates me, leaves me like a pulp on the ground. It brought me to suicide once, and it brought back definite thoughts of it again recently. I know, when I still go on about it, that most people think enough already, get over it, people come, people go, it’s no big deal. I feel the same as I felt when people I loved, friends, died. The same feeling except it takes longer to be definite in my mind because these other people are not dead, are they. They walk and talk still, they still exist in this world. But they are different people than the ones I knew, and still love, will always love, no matter how much I know they no longer love me. Eventually I get that feeling, and that’s when I can finally let them go: the person you were is no longer, is dead, I mourn her or him, it’s over. I don’t understand it, but I let it go. Never from my heart though.
My heart is filled with these ropes to all those whom I loved that have died, and those whom I loved that still live but for whom I may as well be dead. Is it wrong to say that my sadness is somehow happier when I think about those who have physically died, but died still loving me, caring about me, and I feel them still, sometimes, if I listen carefully, still near me, loving me? When I think of those who still live and are now different people I just feel bitter, and sorrowful, and sad.
The ropes go out to those I love and who love me now. These ropes are just as sturdy, more colourful, happier ropes, even when they are filled with conflict, such as with one of my oldest friends, whom I just cannot bring myself to see/speak to, all because I am not sure I like who he has become. I still love him though, and should he ever need me, really need me, I’d be there. The ropes connect me to those amazing wonderful people I am in contact with once every three years. Love goes beyond life or death, and beyond distances, and time, and space, and matter. Love is all enduring and all encompassing. But I digress.
I looked at the counsellor at the end of our session, as usual we’d gone over time, I apologised for blubbering and for blabbering for too long. As she was telling me about what they can offer, 6-8 sessions, short term, CBT, counselling, or interpersonal relationships (she recommended, makes sense) and the waiting time (3-6 months), I was already gone. I already had my answers.
You don’t care about what my life was, and what my mind was, and how much I feared going back to that. In fact, you seem to almost admire what you see in front of you. That is a typical reaction, and I warned you guys about it. I can be quite the charmer, the captivator. No matter. You think people justify my occasional excessive emotions (I can be quite cold) with the fact that I carry an Italian passport and was born in Rome. Why, you seem to be doing exactly the same!
It is up to me. I feel this is a new beginning. I thought this time I will seek help, because I don’t want to screw it up, when the honeymoon is over all this may seem ugly to me and I might try something stupid to mess it up. I have to think that won’t happen, and will have to continue finding my own ways to ensure that doesn’t happen.
I have many, considering how very hard it is to find people who truly love you, people who love me. I love them, but the ropes still hold me to so many others and I can’t sever them, I choose not to sever them, so that’s one of the things I need to live with: this constant sense of loss, every day, even at my happiest. Grief and a sense of unendurable loss that remains permanent, along with the same unadulterated love for those that have been or still are but are far away. Step one: stop trying to find out which is the real me, the sad or the happy, the optimist or the cynic. We both are one and the same.