This is how to Love me, when I can’t love myself
Tonight, I cried. I cried big heaving sobs that left my eyes sore and red; that had me hiding my ugly-cry-face behind my hands; that blocked my nose with snot and made me suck in great gasping gulps of air through my mouth because it was either that, or pass out.
I was heart-sore; face-sore; brain-sore; soul-sore; an eyesore.
It doesn’t matter what it was about now, not here, in the ‘after’. It wasn’t even one thing, specifically. More like a collection of ‘enoughs’. Enough exhaustion. Enough anxiety. Enough of putting aside ‘me’, in favour of ‘them’.
I am so tired.
It doesn’t happen often. And when it does, you probably don’t see the worst of it. Sometimes I cry in the shower. Sometimes sitting on the toilet. Sometimes in great Silent Screams. Sometimes in soft melancholy sniffles. Sometimes it’s hormonal. Sometimes it’s not.
Sometimes it’s because I can’t fix things that ought to be fixed. Because I’m not there to ward off disaster. Because I can’t be everywhere at the same time, do everything that needs to be done, keep everyone happy and not drop at least a few eggs in the process. Occasionally, it’s just a vent of pressure. Other times, more.
I can’t orchestrate a perfect life, but it doesn’t stop me wishing for it. I want to keep all our ducks in a row, or at least all on the same fucking pond, and I can’t, and it kills me. I was always there, hovering, invisible but needed, I think. And now I’m…not there, not needed, not always even wanted, maybe. Or at least, that’s the way it feels right now. I’m still not entirely sure it’s worth the pain.
I sometimes wonder what you must think, in the times that you get to witness these lowest, darkest points. You’re a stoic person, always have been — but maybe that’s a front? Maybe you’re just as (partially) broken as I am and you’re just really good at hiding it. Maybe you’ve been conditioned since childhood to shove your pain and frustration way down deep like I have. Don’t let it out, don’t show your emotions, don’t cry, man up, and all that. Toxic masculinity is a bitch-fuck of a thing.
Where does your sadness go? The closest I’ve ever come to seeing you cry is when our dog died. You were glum and silent and on top of everything else had to deal with wrapping him in an old baby blanket and driving him to the vet because we didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t do it. But you didn’t cry, at least not when I was looking.
So what do you think, when you see my snot and red eyes and puffy cheeks and Munch-esque open-faced silent screams and all you’ve seen to trigger that is a fucking toilet paper ad? It’s never just the cute puppy, let me just say that. The puppy is just the final drop in a bucket that has been perilously close to overflowing for some time beforehand.
So here’s the thing. There’s a secret trick to this business of ‘being there’, and I’m going to let you know what it is. It’s a surprisingly easy thing. And I promise you won’t need any heroics.
I don’t need your words.
I know words. I know how to use them, how to arrange them in pleasing (or devastating) ways; and I also know how useless they can be in certain circumstances. Words don’t always make the pain go away. Sometimes they just fill the void. And words spoken for the sake of speaking are just…packing peanuts. They’re not always the thing you need — sometimes they’re the things shoved into the gaps around the thing you need.
I don’t need you to solve the problem.
Not necessarily, anyway, or maybe just not right now. I’m overwhelmed and overstimulated and overtired and over it. I can’t see the solution through the vented steam, yet, but I’m a big girl — just give me time. In the meantime, turn on a fan.
I don’t (usually) mean what I say when I’m angry or sad.
My default setting is to use words as an outlet for frustration — and the problem with speaking the words aloud instead of writing them down first is that my mouth doesn’t come with a ‘Ready to publish?’ button. I’m sorry when I’m a bitch. I don’t mean it.
I need touch.
Not a token hug, not sex (not yet, anyway), not a ‘there there’ tap on the back. I need an intimate touch, the kind that cannot be shared between any two other people. I want you to be my Big Spoon, my hair-tucker, my face-stroker. Without expectation or time limit. Just wrap me up, and in doing so let me know that you want to be close to me, not that you feel you have to be close. We all have different love languages — you can tell me you love me seven ways to Sunday but if you absentmindedly rub the small of my back in public or squeeze my sadness out of me like a piece of cutlery I will walk through fire for you in return.
I’m sure there are days when you find it hard to love me. That’s okay. I get it. Just…don’t give up on me yet. ♥
When The Black Dog Bites was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.