Sometimes, I’m convinced I don’t count.
I could tell you exactly for what and to whom, but I suppose the important thing is: the answer must be, to me. Because, let’s face it, I’m not in anyone else’s head, and I can’t know if I count to them at all. I only have their words and reactions to judge from, and I attach myself to people whose words and reactions don’t match. And I don’t know how society in general sees me, victim as I am – as we all are – to confirmation bias and other fallacies of the brain. And my brain has never been kind to the rest of me.
But, yeah. All that’s irrelevant, because it’s how I feel, and if there’s one thing I learned in the past two struggling years, it’s this: you have to at least try to accept that your feelings matter.
As with everything, this is an uphill battle. Some days are good, and I can put my foot down and say, “No! This is what I feel, and you won’t gaslight me!” Now, granted, this happens mostly with my husband, who’s already doing his best – jury’s out on whether his best is best enough – but, anyway. Small victories.
So, back to our subject: I quit the SSRI a few weeks back. It’s been fine. No particular anxiety – except the usual, like, “I’m the only one in my neighborhood, circle of friends, town, or maybe the universe who is highly educated but has no job, no career, no prospects, and will have no pension and die in poverty, nevermind those few trips I dreamed of taking and things I wanted to experience in my already slipping-through-my-fingers life.” Or, “I got fat again.” (I did. I have learned to accept my body, but my body can’t take me places anymore. I used to do ballet and hike uphill, although with difficulty. Now, I’m really overweight – because the last months, years, decades, have been hard and I’m very consciously allowing myself to binge-eat a little – and feel bad about it, because my knees hurt and I can’t even do the ballet trainings right.) Or, um, other things of sensitive nature. The not being a woman, for example. I struggle with that, too. As I always did, as I always will. And other stuff, too personal to mention. Yes, more personal than being in love with a guy that used to be my best friend, and publishing a book about all the pathetic details of it, and him abandoning me in every possible way you can abandon a person, and me being a freaking mess on-and-off ever since.
The latest “off” phase lasted five months and five days.
I hadn’t cried about it, or him, or whatever it is I keep crying about, since September. I know the exact date, because I wrote it down, as I write too many things that happen down. September 13 is where I closed my memoir, thinking, that’s over. I’m healing. I have friends, I am loved, I have my children. There’s a sort of life to be lived here, unimpressive as it is.
And then, last week I made the mistake of looking at the book’s reviews. There was a new one, by a woman who wrote, “I must admit, I wanted to march to Munich and shake Ioanna quite a few times. Her patience is inspiring, she must be a truly great friend to have and know.”
Yeah. Great friend, inspiring, patient, whatever. I still don’t count.
Right after I read the review – and quite a bit dazed by the fact that a stranger, number one: wanted to shake me back to my senses as she read about how I lost myself to a person who according to most of my friends didn’t deserve a tiny bit of me, and, number two: came to the conclusion that I’m a great friend while I’ve been agonizing for months about whether I’m the one being unfair to him, I reached into my nightstand, where I keep proof copies of all my books, and took Until We Meet in Denver out.
That was a mistake. Because, as you’ve already figured out, I’m not over that story yet. I was over it, for five months and five days. And then I wasn’t.
Does it ever go away?
I’ve been talking with one of my most loyal readers, Phil, since the book came out. His answer to my question was, no. If you’ve been hurt deeply, it doesn’t really go away. You learn to live with it. You kind of get over it. You even forget about it and have a nice time, and are grateful for family and kids and those friends who didn’t abandon you, and maybe also for the coffee you can afford this week (because you’re moneyless, careerless, jobless, and prospectless, and generally fat and useless – whoops, RSD brain got out of control there for a while), and you think it went away.
It doesn’t go away.
I’m still confused, and hurt, and I haven’t really had closure – although I’ve accepted that I probably never will, because he won’t give it to me, since this has grown larger and more horribly painful than what either he or I ever imagined it could be. And, although I thought the crying part was over, because it’d been, let’s not forget, five months and five days, on that day I took the book out, I started reading the epilogue, and again, I cried.
It’s not only the lady who wrote the review, or Phil, or my friend Dimitra, or Sasha, or James, or everyone who’s ever said to me, “he’s an asshole, forget about him.” Every woman and most men who’ve read the book shrug and say the same thing. It’s almost embarrassing how often the “shake Ioanna back to her senses” thing is mentioned. And, for some of the more hotheaded ones, “if he ever crosses my path…” They are quite emphatic about all of it. In my mind, I wrote a book about how I loved a wonderful person, how I tried to understand him, and how I got very, very hurt through a combination of circumstances, mental health disorders, and life. But what all those people, friends, acquaintances, readers, got out of it, was: this dude is just an asshole.
And you, Ioanna, you are naive.
The thing I don’t tell my friends, readers, reviewers is: I don’t care what any (or, more precisely, pretty much all) of them say. He is not an asshole. I know this person. He is my friend. Was my friend?
So, the point is – and thank you for reading up to here, because I’m just venting and ranting, aren’t I – I don’t count. I don’t count as a woman, never did. I don’t count as a professional, or as much of anything. And, last but not least, I don’t count to him. He will keep going on his trips and his excursions, have his diverse experiences, which is (was) all he cares (cared) about, and I’ll keep being here, fat, careerless, jobless, prospectless, and crying over the pages of a paperback once in a while.