Part 2 of 10 from the NOTES FROM THE BREAKDOWN LANE series:
There are no cheap tickets out of hell, he knew that for sure. He didn’t know how long he’d been awake lying there in the moonlight like that. It had turned everything in the bedroom into a quiet, silvery replica of itself in the quiet hours of the night, and he realized that the acrid fog of doubt and regret that had been weighing him down like a lead blanket had lifted somehow, and that he was more awake than he had been in a very long time. So he slipped out from beneath the covers to search for the answer to a question from the new god.
He Googled “effects of childhood neglect.” And there, sitting in the dark and surrounded by the light blue halo of his computer screen, he began a journey down the rabbit hole to the answers of questions he never even knew he’d always been asking, as if a curtain were being drawn back on a room that hadn’t ever known light.
What hooked him first was a video describing living life in “a sense of unreality”. What a perfect description, he thought to himself. That led to a string of websites and videos that all seemed to keep pulling him closer and closer to a truth he felt he had to uncover. Eventually he found his way to a questionnaire on a site dedicated to what had been coined Childhood Emotional Neglect. It was as if each questions was tailored for him alone, and in the end he realized he answered yes to all 22 questions.
“So there’s a name for it,” he said to himself, standing and going to the window. Day was just about to break, and somehow the impending dawn had a different feel to it than it ever had before, like it was more manageable somehow.
Now that he was on the right trail he wanted to leave no stone unturned and spent the next few weeks diving into more websites and videos and ordering books online. But it was in the dark of that first morning that the clouds finally parted and let in the light he’d been so long suffering without. What a gift it was simply being able to put a label on it, to know that it was not his burden alone, but in fact just the burden of being human, and a bit unlucky.
But he was fortunate in other ways, and he was sure fate must have been smiling on him kindly to have seen him this far in his blindness while still keeping his soul intact. He’d never been a stranger to the darkness, and he could see now looking back where it had begun to creep in through the corners of his life so long ago, until it finally seeped into everything with the quiet efficiency of a drop of ink in a glass of water. He thought back to all the journaling, all the reading and meditating, to all the poison he’d been pumping out of his system for so long without even knowing it. Suddenly he was there; he wasn’t behind a wall anymore, he wasn’t locked outside looking in. A sense of dimness had lifted, and he could see the colors around him for the colors he always knew they should be, and he felt a sense of gratitude that could have brought tears to his eyes.
And compassion. Compassion for himself, and for everyone else along in this whole chain of misery. Was this not, perhaps, the universal thread that led to so much needless anguish for so many, he would find himself wondering? Is being so cruel and unforgiving to oneself a never-ending curse of inheritance? Would it not be better to be beaten than ignored? And what might life have been like with a guiding light to show him the way and be there to lean on in the darkness?
He could tell this last question could easily lead him to feelings of anguish and remorse, but now that he could feel them and see them properly he knew he wanted nothing to do with carrying them anymore. He was just happy to have slipped the noose. One of the items on the questionnaire had ben about thoughts of suicide, and though he could not recall a time when he had entertained them very seriously, he also could remember a time when dismissing them seemed a joke. “Well, it’s either pack up and move west,” he had scoffed to a friend once, after his life had finally fully fallen apart. “Or you come by here someday and find me hanging from the rafters. And you know how I like a road trip.”
He’d sad it with the best smirk he could muster at the time, and yet there was a poison thread to it that had rung true. Soon after he would find himself washed up out in the desert like someone who just got shot out of a canon, with nothing to hold onto but a few cardboard boxes of scattered belongings and the dazed haziness of a trauma victim. Slowly and surely he managed to pull himself together, bit by bit, and build up a veneer of bravado that managed to get him through day to day life. But in the privacy of those desert nights he would sit beneath the stars with a bottle of whiskey and whatever random pack of cigarettes he had snagged for the bar and lose himself in times past, serving all at once as defendant, judger, jury, and executioner.
Tomorrow only matters if you can see yourself in it, and it took him that long to realize that he’d never really taken Plan B off the table. On nights like that he was just dipping his toe in a little, a form of soft-core suicide, not at the end of a rope but at the bottom of a bottle, and with a brooding sense of helpless desperation that could only be relieved by the mercy and release of drunken oblivion.
No, there was no room for feelings of regret or blame, not anymore. Time had passed and with it came a type of weariness that he welcomed, and left no urge to hang on to the past. it was time to pack light and roll up the sleeves and get going again. It would be easy to mourn the loss of years past and a youth that had been deprived of so much joy. Bu the flip said of that coin was in knowing that all his happiest days still lie ahead.