Session the 12th: Hard Candy Christmas

Me, I’ll be just
Fine and dandy.
Lord, it’s like a hard candy, Christmas.
I’m barely gettin’ through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
sorrow bring me way down

    — “Hard Candy Christmas”

What I brought before my bartender, paraphrased:

“Before the 24th I was still alright. I mean, I was mellow. The anti-depressants were working really quite well, and then sometime during the 24th, or maybe late on the 23rd, they completely stopped working, and I started wanting to scream and cry constantly. I didn’t, because it would do no good. It just kept building up and up and going on and on, and it was literally as bad as if my father were actually there, even though I knew he wasn’t, and it was like this for about 72 hours straight, after which I went offcall and could pop a sleeping pill. ((It is important in matters such as these that this is a singular noun.)) And now, sitting here talking to you on the 28th, I still feel like screaming constantly.”

No flashbacks, actually. But it was just about four tarp corners fully waving about in the gale, if one measures these things that way. Possibly a flashback would have been moderately less traumatic, mostly in that I wouldn’t remember it. Whereas right now I still recall that block of constant… well, not terror, or fear, exactly. “Mental anguish” is a term I always think of as melodramatic, but it fits here to a T. It was hell. On Saturday, maybe two hours before my oncall ended, I contemplated killing myself to get out of the situation faster.

Last week was the first time since I came to my new job that I had ever spent an entire Christmas Eve, Christmas, and half of Boxing Day oncall. When I’m oncall, with my pager, I take things pretty seriously. That means no drinking, no sleep medication, often no sleep (I have insomnia, maybe for not surprising reasons), and no engaging activities. Everything needs to be shallow, because I may be called upon to engage very deeply indeed at the drop of a hat, and I don’t context-switch well. As a result, if something happens when I’m oncall, I’m usually on the scene reliably and quickly enough to make sure good things don’t stop (and bad things stop happening), and willing to work hip-deep in tech and business issues for hours on end if need be.

But it was a quiet Christmas (as it usually is), so I had nothing distracting. Literally; couldn’t start anything up, either, because I have to be ready. And of course I was by myself, and all the shops and restaurants were closed on the little, quiet island.

I didn’t realize that I’d relied, before, on being able to get unconscious as quickly as possible during previous years. I’ve done 7×24 hours of oncall throughout my years, but never more than 24 hours at a go during any one Christmas week. Naturally having an oncall fall on those three days was just asking for trouble.

My bartender says that the lack of sleep is what probably made the mental anguish worse. I thought you just got sleepy and maybe hallucinated when you were sleep-deprived; he replied that’s only so if you went into sleep deprivation settled and calm. If you go into sleep deprivation at all unsettled, the tremors only get worse, until they’re earthquakes.

So! In the interest of not killing myself when the New Year arrives, we talked more seriously about figuring out new traditions to help displace the old ones that my father practically all tainted. Probably these traditions need to be “get out of the house and do something” traditions; like doing some shopping in a low-stress tiny traditional shopping area (which the island has got a lot of), or visiting museums and zoos and such. That’s the first take-away I have for this appointment.

We also talked about my close friend who was upset about me not right now being a good friend, which also didn’t help the emotional trainwreck of last week (wreckage still smoldering today). It would almost be funny, the idea of someone who knew that the holidays literally triggered you, being upset that you didn’t come to a holiday concert full of music that triggers you during this most triggery time of the year. Of course, I didn’t think it was funny, I just cried (and it made things much, much worse on the 25th).

The second take away is… I am… kind of scared of doing that. I’m scared of doing anything so crass as “taking care of myself,” partly because my parents taught me that I am not worthy of such measures. Doing anything for myself is sinful, the worst possible sin, and I was already a stupid, retarded, hateful, evil bitch-scum at the age of seven who was going to suffer in hell for eternity and deserved to die and didn’t deserve to be born and only makes other people’s lives bad and should be beaten, kicked, stabbed, cut, burned, strangled, worse… unless I did things for my father first and foremost. (That litany, by the way, is still how I think of myself if I’m not constantly recalling that it’s not true. It probably gets worse when I haven’t had sleep.)

The other part is that I am scared that I will “lose it,” Set Piece PTSD Style, in company.

For instance, I thought about doing some genuinely unselfish activity, like serving in a soup kitchen, but during the holidays I can react badly (hah) to things. I tried hanging out in a Safeway for a little while earlier in the week, to see if I could put up with any kind of busy-busy people-filled environment, and… no. Not during this time of the year. Really not. I could stand it for less than an hour; if I hadn’t left, I actually would have been on the ground screaming. And I hadn’t even been interacting with people.

A friend of mine a while back thought I was very susceptible to psychosomatic disorders—I can sense stress from other people very well. And you know, I’m probably sensitive to stress in other people for some reason, like having grown up trying to predict if my father was going to beat my mother or not….

However, museums and aquariums during low-traffic days are probably OK. People are hanging about, but there’s a loooot of space and people aren’t rushing around. And it’s different. And. It probably… won’t be bad.

Gods, this all makes me want to scream. Okay. I’m gonna finish off this post and go hide for a while.

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