Let me soothe my wounds

(TW: suicide, abuse, stalking mentions)

I've been playing life on Ultra Hard difficulty for a long while now.

I'm trying to build up confidence, a personality, a self, from the wreckage of "me" that was left after an emotionally abusive father, a sequence of unhealthy and invalidating romantic relationships, a controlling friend who attempted suicide and stalked me. I'm still learning the depths of the trauma, the poisonous thoughts and habits that were sown into my head, the ones that grew up around the injuries in an effort to protect me from them. Plucking weeds as I discover them, digging deeper and deeper trying to find the complete root systems and remove them all.

Finding that so much of the soil of my mind is colonized by those roots, needing to take it slow to prevent my mind from completely falling apart in a landslide that would be the end of me. Making sure to sow new, healthier seeds in their place.

I'm trying to learn - for the first time, after a lifetime of toxic and unhealthy relationships, being bullied, being neglected, shutting out the world and trying to do everything alone - what it means to love. To love myself, to love my friends. I've given up on the idea that I might be able to learn to love romantically, at least for the time being. I need to learn these first two before I trust so much of my heart to anyone. Trust... trust is difficult. I barely trust myself. I flee from relationships at the first sign of difficulty, and paradoxically also demand constant reassurance from my relationships. I rarely feel safe, at all, ever, anywhere, anytime, with anyone. So it is... slow going, teaching myself to rely on others without becoming dependent on them, to open myself to the world rather than shut myself in, to try to stand on my own instead of wanting others to carry me.

My trust has been betrayed a lot recently. I'm fleeing a family system who stood by and watched as I pleaded with them to just consider me, to not blindly support a regime and an ideology that would be happy to let me, and people like me, including so many of my friends, die. Who scolded me for standing up for myself against people who denied me the right to feel the pain and fear I was choking under the weight of, who stood by silently as a member of that family flew the flag of that hateful ideology right to my face. My siblings have alternately either turned a deaf ear to my pleas for closeness and reconciliation, or made my distress my fault. That I should have relied on them, when I was being told to be quiet and get back in line and continue taking my father's abuse. When I was being treated like my emotions were blown out of proportion and I simply didn't understand the family dynamic.

I've been running from my abusive father, closing him out of every part of my life that I can over the protests of the rest of my family. Trying to grieve the relationship we had when I was younger, even as I see its flaws in deeper clarity now that I am older and wiser. Trying to fix the damage it did. All while watching my mother divorce him, watching him kick and scream and torture her as long and as hard as he could until the legal system and his funding wouldn't allow him to make any more of a mess. Watching him waste money and time and goodwill just for the thrill of getting one up on her one last time. Watching her try to keep it together as months turned into years and she was still living with her parents - kind as they are to host her, not a fate I would wish on anyone. Certainly not in my position.

I'd been trying to keep up with a high-pressure, high-intensity job which heaped work at my feet, problems no one had ever solved but which everyone assured me was very easy and I just needed to get it done. Things everyone tacitly relied on, things on which more and more reliance built, yet things that no one but me was working on. With management who wanted me to just work harder, just make it happen, who didn't know how to help me and who I'm not sure wanted to try.

I've been watching my country, my president, commit atrocities and lie about it. Convince millions of people - my own family among them - that he was being unfairly painted. I saw the law become a thousand times more cruel in four years under the guidance of one man and his army of lackeys - and I learned just how cruel it was to begin with. I feared for my own safety as lawmakers argued that people like me shouldn't be allowed in the right bathrooms, that people should be allowed to discriminate against us based on our identities.

In an effort to get away from all this, in an effort to run towards the only comfort I had known, I dreamed of running toward Japan, toward the friends I'd met online. The only place I knew that gathered people I was able to converse comfortably with and matched my needs for transportation. A place which fascinated me. I dreamed of starting over there. I built a resume in a tiny Tokyo apartment and dreamed of having one of my own someday soon.

But it wasn't to be. That was a year ago. A deadly global pandemic exploded soon after I got back from that trip. I watched my dreams of spending the next New Year in Tokyo crumble away, and wondered what I would do. I was hemorrhaging money, my family and I were having a rockier and rockier relationship, and my country was seemingly deliberately mismanaging the pandemic in the way that would bring the most misery to the most people. Japan's doors were closed to me.

I fled to the next safest place: Richmond. A happy decision, one I do not regret at all. It brought me to a much closer source of safety, without taking me away from the time zones closest to my closest friends, or away from the places where I understand the language and culture. It saved me money, giving me more room to help others. Help they surely needed, as protests emerged across the country and police violence skyrocketed against them. As the pandemic grew yet more dangerous.

I tried, during these times, to connect to jobs. But I was still bleeding from the damage to my confidence that came of my earlier job. I was still hobbling on emotional legs that had been broken by abuse, that had healed wrong, that needed to be broken again to heal right this time. The rift between me and my extended family was still fresh, and the rift between me and my siblings was just beginning. I was still watching thousands of people die lonely, preventable deaths every day. I was just beginning to learn about the non-neurotypical parts of me, and how I could care for them. I was still watching my abuse play out on the national stage.

And in the midst of all this, still doggedly chasing my dream in the desperate hope of one day claiming the safety it offered me, I got jobs that demanded more of me than my old job ever had. Jobs that needed me to work in another time zone, with new and untested remote work protocols, in situations where very little information was on offer. Jobs set in another country, in another culture, with another language floating around.

I do not want to suggest that I am weak. I believe that still finding the energy to get up and limp toward my dreams even after being kneecapped so heavily is a demonstration of strength.

But this was a bridge too far. I couldn't focus. I couldn't function. I got into difficult conversations with my bosses, and I feared for my job safety. I flashed back to abusive moments with my father, with previous bosses.

My brain craved escape. When I denied it fantasies of quitting, it fantasized about death instead. "That stalker ex-friend tried to kill themself using pills," it whispered. "You have pills." I have never gotten even close to executing one of these fantasies, and I have not wanted to. They were merely the desperate pleadings for escape of a brain that had been pushed past its limits. Pleadings for rest, genuine rest, not merely the lull in activity while preparing for another move.

I thought about moving to freelance, or to another job role, or to another company at least. But ultimately, I just need rest. I need time to grieve all of this deeply. I need time to learn who I am, to grow strong and confident in it. This vessel has no reason to live if the soul inside is not strong. If I will not let it destroy itself, then it will stop maintaining itself. It will refuse food, refuse exercise, refuse water. It will lay in bed for hours with no will to act, but no will to sleep either, no will to return to the nightmares that await in dreams. No amount of medication or therapy will cure the loss of the desire to live. The loss of something to live for.

If I do not give my body and soul rest, then they will take rest. However they can.

I am blessed enough to be able to take a break and still be able to cover my expenses. Not only my expenses, but others' too. Because I grew up being told to save and save and save some more, and I did. And I was blessed with parents and grandparents who could get me a good education, who could pay for me to go and not leave me with too many loans, who could let me stay with them for free so I could put more money toward paying off loans and saving up.

I am going to take some time off. Genuinely, completely off, unlike my last time off. Because I am genuinely afraid that if I don't, this will kill me. By sustained self-neglect or by a moment of absolute, crushing despair. And because I want to take care of myself. I want to live. I want to have a stable base to build on. I still dream of going to Japan. Not today, not this year, not next year either probably. But when I'm healed, when I'm stable, when I'm ready.