It strikes arbitrarily. Sometimes when you are perfectly content and you least expect it. You are more vulnerable to it when you are already tinged with sadness from a low tide in life. You are intensely grateful when it does not strike at times such as these.
You can feel it coming, in advance, and the fear grips you as if snakes have suddenly awoken in the pit of your stomach and are coiling up into tight, painful balls. Through years of coping, you have learned not to fight it because you know it will take you anyway. And so you surrender. And you wait. And you watch the colours slowly blanch from the loveliest of things in the world that would otherwise delight you.
It sweeps over you, putting your heart in a vise and squeezing just up until the point where it will explode. Then it stops and holds it there, where it will stay for the next 3-4 days as the palms of your hands begin to sweat. The reality around you becomes otherworldly. You walk the streets and the hordes of people you see all around you – going to work, laughing with friends, walking hand-in-hand with their companions, engaging in all manner of quotidian things – seem like film stars to you, living lives you could only ever dream about. The tears well up in your eyes at the drop of a dime if anything provokes the slightest sentimental resonance. You futilely bark at the painful memories you wade through, against your will, and which you can normally keep at bay…
When the darkness comes…
When the water rises…
Feeling all the worse for having the temerity to feel this way.
You make yourself supper and eat it staring out the window at the spidery, leafless tree branches and the dirty half-melted streets. You are not hungry and the food has no flavour. It is only a can of vegetable soup you have heated up but you still cannot get halfway through it. You get into bed, even though it is only 8 PM and cannot get through a paragraph of your book. So you mindlessly channel-surf the TV, staring blankly and absorbing nothing, as you weather the storm of an unquenchable, harrowing grief.
You take an anti-anxiety pill and, although very ill-advised, you combine it with a Xanax just for good measure. You close the lights and in the darkness of the room, you feel your breathing getting shallower and the tears flow freely now, curled up alone in the bed you used to share. As sleep mercifully anaesthetizes you, your last feeling is the sincere hope that you never have to wake up again.
But you do wake up, in the dead of night, and the shadows traced across the wall from the streetlight outside frighten you, as if monsters, even though they are just the outlines of your daughter’s things. And as you clench your eyes closed and will yourself back to sleep, the water streaming through the aquarium’s filter babbles a lunatic’s poem and your descent into madness is complete.
And you wake up again. Morning now. Bleary-eyed and knees creaking, you part the blinds in your bedroom window just a crack and the sky is gray even though there is not a single cloud in it. You walk unsteadily to the bathroom and, with a shaking hand, scrape the razor across your haggard face. You get in the shower and scald yourself with searing hot water because any physical pain is better than this. Same with the coffee – you drink it too hot so you can feel it burning your throat and stomach. Distracting you.
You step out onto your balcony and walk with trepidation down the stairs. The rain pelts down on you even though it is a brilliant sunny day. The wind whips your face even though there is not so much as a breeze in the air. Thunder cracks even though it is only the sound of the kid next door unlocking his bike.
Steeling yourself, you walk out into the brand new day and tell yourself, over and over again, that soon you will own yourself again.
For the time being…