I am 18 years old. I am living in Portland, Maine with my boyfriend. We have moved into our own scanty apartment. Some friends are another block over. Things are good. I have a year of college behind me and a hot summer ahead. I have a job at a bakery in the old port. It's an easy enough affair and it feeds us and a lot of homeless folks too because I drop bags of day-old pastries and breads on street corners. It's a step up from Kraft Mac & Yak and Ramen noodles. We have just what we need to support our smoking habit- I am up to more than a pack a day. We steal boxes of cigarettes up our sleeves- haven't gotten caught yet. Addiction is the mother of greed.
My first year of college slapped me semi-lucid. There were moments of connection with newfound friends and engaging projects. But for the most part I was still the dissociated zombie I have been all of my life. Getting away from my step father and mother has been the best thing that ever happened to me, of course. But even now their ghosts haunt my essence, my vitality. It is hard for me to associate people. I am not used to people. I am not used to anything- I am a wild-child.
Now, the days are getting more narrow. The walls are closing in, the streets are busier and the sidewalks are a stage for my growing lack of self-esteem. Day by day I am dreading leaving the apartment to walk the long mile to work. There are strangers out there. They look at me, they breath out while I breath in and I find myself holding my breath a lot. Everything is filthy-doornobs, railings, money- I can't touch them. I am filthy enough.
I am losing sleep more and more every night. I fidget in the dark on my side of the matress on the floor. I can't stand the idea of my boyfriend touching me. What if he awakens? How can I feel that I love him and yet I cannot stand his hands upon me? How can I make him stay? How have I managed to make him stay this long? He has a heart of gold while my heart is a rotted fruit. Perhaps he wants to plant one of his seeds and change me forever.
Soon I am not sleeping at all. I am a dragged out puppet as I struggle with the weight of moving past gravity to get up in the morning knowing I must go out into the world. A new terror has begun to arrive under my skin as each day passes. It grows big and strong- my newborn miscreation. It scrubs my never clean skin in the shower, it tells me not to eat, it warns me to wear baggier clothes and to keep my head down as make my way in the streets. It whispers what every man is capable of doing to me each time one passes until its voice is a thousand calls- tangled and vexing.
I call in sick to work a lot. My boss and the other employees are annoyed. I know it's an inconvenience, but I really am sick. I can't explain my symptoms, I just can't function. My creature runs circles around me , disclosing more and more reasons why going outside and being around people is going to make me dirtier and certainly in peril. We work through the shower together and I allow it to wash my hair and clean my body for me. The hair that just a year ago waved in the breeze as I walked now lies in greasy clumps and hides my face. This feels familiar and it is comforting. It makes me trust my homunculus.
My boyfriend skirts around us. He has stopped touching me. I am not sure he is even around much anymore. I confuse him. I am confused. I have lost track of days, though I know I have managed to get to work some. I think those are the days that I have been able to beg my boyfriend into walking me there.
I receive a call from work. I am informed that if I do not show up for work the next day, I will be fired. My boyfriend can't walk with me, no matter how much I beg- he is previously engaged. As I lay my head on my pillow, I ebb into a special kind of hell. There is a silent hysteria parading around my body stirring winds into tornadoes and waters into tsunamis. I am an unnatural disaster. My skin slithers with a heat that hales from deep inside. The night is imperishable.
In the morning, I am dressed before the rooflines are spread with sun. I don't know what time it is, but I will leave now for work. I have the key, I am always there alone, it doesn't matter what time I get there, as long as it's on time. I'm just going to go.
I am on the sidewalk. Every step feels artless. My legs are insolent children- I can't make them behave. I am absurdly clumsy as I look at my feet and walk. I make it to the light at the top of the street were I know I will be in the city in a way that feels abrupt and rude. I will have to look up in order to cross the street. I am going to look up now. Look up.
I am there, on that corner, for a very long time. I am creeping backwards so slowly that it is imperceptible. The sun is zipping though the streets now that it has risen above the rooftops. People are arranging themselves around me. Finally, my back meets a wall. My arms are crossed over me, hands clamped under my armpits, my head is hanging. I hope that I am invisible. I hope that there is no law against whatever it is that I am doing. After a while I am not hoping anything, I am just there.
I am nodding off into sleep, my legs are buckling and locking, buckling and locking. The wall is giving way behind me. I am in a dead run now, thrashing and bolting like a prodded horse. I have broken. This can never happen again. I promise this to myself when I reach the apartment. I gain entrance and the phone is ringing. The petulant noise of it is relentless. I don't even think to pick it up. I know- I am fired.
Not too long after this episode, many things conspired against my mental well-being in an unmanageable way and I ended up packing it in. I went "home" to Vermont and stayed with my brother. A change of scenery and a lack of responsibility for any one but myself did me good and I was able to pull myself together enough to get some jobs and generally survive. I was able to go back to an opaque dissociateve-ness that allowed me to drift for quite some time. This was just the beginning of a life-long struggle with Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.