“Do not invisible. Do not Disappear.”
-Angelique Palmer, “What to Wear To Your Standing Appointment With Your Shrink After The Two Most Horribly Challenging Weeks Of Your Life So As Not To Get Committed to The Nearest Mental Health Facility As A Danger To Yourself And others, A Love Poem”
This is typically the season I disappear. Getting my body out of bed feels too heavy. I argue with myself too long to get out of it. This is the season I retreat and ignore messages, don’t even comment on people’s posts because I dread the interaction, worry someone will ask how are you and I will be too sad to lie. That’s not the case most days- I can lie very easily still when I try to. I have actively been emotional therapy for dear friends in the middle of my own wailing ocean of grief. Most times they don’t know the difference.
I am good at hiding. I am good at disappearing.
Like a cat who goes off to the garage to die to keep the burden off, I too don’t want anyone to see me like this. I am a mess. Every year around this time I get progressively putrid with emotion. I burst out crying in cycles and lay in bed heaving hiccupping sobs from past times I didn’t let myself feel. I wear the same clothes for days. The energy it takes to wash a dish or feed myself is astronomical. On good days when I can take care of myself, I cannot take care of anything else yet I still am exhausted.
It used to be a game: Disappear until someone notices. When I felt hurt or ignored, I’d slip away onto the train while my friends were still on the platform. I’d disappear to save them the hassle of being around me. I’d flit away to remind myself that I was disposable.
One time when I was about 10, I walked out of a dugout while my father played baseball with his many cousins at his family reunion. I was all alone and feeling ignored- I didn’t want to just sit here and wait. I walked through the other parts of that large park, eventually wound up in a part of the park where his other family members were congregating over food. And no one ever came looking for me; no one ever said a word about my disappearance.
Disassociation is its own flavor of disappearing. It’s why I can barely remember. I disassociated my way out of my everyday hells for 2 decades. Now there are pieces of memory that come up from the buried dirt whenever it rains.
When Autumn and I were 17 sometimes we’d be laying in her bed talking and I’d go completely limp. First I’d give short responses as I felt myself slipping away. Then I’d stop responding entirely as my eyes concentrated ahead. My breathing quieted to almost nonexistence. I would stop breathing, my glassy eyes open and unmoving.
She would get alarmed and look me in my face and shake me gently. I would hear her calling “Baby? Baby?” like I was underwater. Her voice was far away. I was aware of her voice in some other world where I wasn’t. My body was empty skin. I was aware she was shaking my shoulders but they did not feel like my body. The thinking parts of me were outside my physical body. I could hear her but I was not where she was. I could not answer because my soul was not near my mouth.
I would come to after a few minutes, confused at my surroundings yet somewhat satisfied at her tears while I had been gone. She was the first person to notice when I disappeared and who actually talked to me about it.
Once the leaves start to change colors, I know I am in danger. Though physically removed from the surroundings I was escaping, my body still anticipates the upsets of yore. Though I no longer have to anticipate the perils of the Christmas Eve Clean – all its dead mice, their shit, the piles of stuff and body aching work it took to clear a space for a tree and the screaming matches that would ensue with one heinous adult who would sit unbothered the whole time- my body still prepares for the battles it remembers.
I thought moving in with my wife would magically make my disappearance acts unnecessary and thus they would end with a snap. She noticed, actively talked about issues and did not let me disappear. But healing doesn’t work like that. Now in physically safety, the last 3 years have been a flood of emotions I never allowed myself to feel when I just had to keep moving forward.
It’s taken a year of therapy to stop punishing myself for not being able to adapt as quickly as before. Sometimes I still cannot adjust to good things.
Clusterfuck that 2020 has already been for all of us only adds to my fears of the dark. Every year I know this will happen. I should have been scrounging up resources to save for this time like a squirrel planning for the winter. But instead I did what I do best- let the nihilism fester. The fighting part of me wants to beat my ass for daring to lay down to this dark yet again. But the sadness is a dead weight. There are parts of me that will always dream of rotting.
I’m trying really hard not to disappear this time. I’m trying not to fade into the background. Let this be the first Winter I don’t float away.