Sandy is feeling so low that she can no longer go outside to get the mail or drag in the trash cans on Tuesdays. She wants to; she really does. Sandy stands in front of the door and imagines how many steps it would take to get to the curb. Her fingers start to tremble. Sandy places her hand on the doorknob and her arm goes numb.
Sandy is so disgusted with herself that she feels like throwing herself outside just to spite herself. She doesn't. She's a little relieved that she isn't that cruel.
Sandy backs away from the door and defeat settles in her gut. She sits in the kitchen and just lets her body convulse in a sea of adrenaline. She wonders how she would react in an actual crisis. Her body transitions to "fight or flight" with appalling ease.
Sandy can't fight chemicals. Her therapist tells her not to fight at all. She tells Sandy to recognize the signs. She tells her to be conscious of the changes and temper them back as best as she can. When Sandy's breathing gets erratic, she has to take long, slow breaths. When her body is tense with unease, she has to carefully relax each and every muscle.
There is a tenderness to these exercises and Sandy hates them. She hates herself in these moments because Sandy really wants to fight violence with violence. And her body is reacting violently. Sandy's body is hurting her, and Sandy wants to hurt her body in retaliation.
Somewhere in her head Sandy's mother says, "two wrongs don't make a right" and Sandy grits her teeth. It is self-destructive thinking, and Sandy can see that. It doesn't make her stop thinking it.
Sandy's body is an animal. It is wild and scared shitless of the surroundings of Sandy's life.
Sandy's mind is not an animal. It is often times unsympathetic to the body's fears.
Sandy doesn't know how to soothe herself. She doesn't know how to be kind; at least not to herself. It shouldn't be hard to correct that oversight, but Sandy might as well be trying to solve math equations in her head. Math was a light bulb that never turned on for her. Sandy thinks that self-worth is another one. The truth makes her seethe and feel ashamed in equal parts.
Sandy doesn't know how to be nice to herself. She doesn't know how to give herself a break. People always talk about bullies. Sandy has never been bullied by anyone but herself. And Sandy is cruel about it. She knows the most hurtful things to say. She knows how to make herself hurt more than anyone could ever possibly manage. She knows this, and it's not as simple as just stopping. The hissing reprimands can't be silenced with a simple please and thank you.
Sandy is her own biggest set-back. She wonders how unstoppable she would be if she liked herself. People want friends. They want companionship. Sandy wants these things too, but at the end of the day the only person Sandy is trying to get on her side is herself.
Fighting against herself sounds silly and it is.
It really is.
Sandy is sitting alone waiting for her therapist to come back with yet another photocopied article. This one is about co-dependency and something that her therapist calls boundaries.
Sandy thinks about a time when she wasn't so pathetic. There was a time when she had it all. She just didn't know it then. She didn't know that her happiness had an expiration date.
But it did.
At the time she remembers feeling restless and greedy. She thought that life was a sprint to the finish line. She rushed right through her own happiness. She wishes she would have tripped, even broken a metaphoric ankle so as to make that part of her life last a little bit longer.
Sandy went to a community college for two years before transferring to a university. At the time she was also working a part-time job. She was busy. She had a plan. There was a life there.
Sandy doesn't believe that life is a sprint anymore. It's a marathon, and she ducked her head and raced passed so many good things, all in the belief that there would only be greater things to come.
Her therapist comes back with the poorly printed article in hand. This time she reads it out loud and underlines key sentences.
Sandy burns with shame.
She remembers being on the tippy-top of her potential. She tries to remember how she fell off the other side. She didn't fall though. She slipped; lost her footing little by little. Sandy had made excuses. She had made empty promises that things were going to be okay.
Right now, in this office, Sandy wishes she would have just jumped and died instead.
Her life is in shambles. Sandy had closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to watch whole aspects of her life crumple and break. She had clung on to old tendencies that could no longer support her.
Sandy had never invested time in herself. So when she started to slip, she hadn’t known how to help. She had made it worse, because Sandy could no longer pretend that she even liked herself. Sandy had realized that she had built herself up on a tower of lies and bad habits.
Now Sandy is paying the price. She knows that she can’t go back to the way she was before. That life is unsustainable. That future will only bring more pain. But Sandy doesn’t know how to be anyone else. She doesn’t even know where to begin.
Life is long. She worries that she has a long way to go. She didn't use to think like that.
Sandy listens to her therapist explain personal boundaries and tries not to think at all.
Survivor's guilt is a real condition. Sandy wonders how many people have the same guilt that she does. Her parents' first child died two weeks after birth. It was a girl. Sandy's family doesn't talk about it much, and it's even understandable. They had her brother right away to chase away the pain. They always wanted two children though, so that's where Sandy came in.
It bothered Sandy a lot growing up. It bothers her to this day. Sandy doesn't talk about it to anyone though because of the sheer absurdity of it.
There's no way that Sandy can ever admit to being jealous of a dead girl.
Her parents were loving enough about it. They used religion as a way to explain the pain of losing a child. They used to say that God had a reason for taking their baby away. They used to say that Sandy was very special.
At night, when no one was around, it brought Sandy to tears. Sandy didn't think she was special at all. She was appallingly mediocre. But God had taken away her parents’ first baby in order for Sandy to be born as the third child. Sandy worked very hard so her parents would never think that God made a mistake.
Sandy is older now and knows how very sad her thinking was. She can never tell her parents because she doesn't want to make her mother cry.
Sandy said that she is jealous of a dead girl though and she really is. Her mind uses that child as a way to hurt herself in the most cruel ways.
Sandy always imagines her tall; taller than her for sure, just tall. She would have darker hair than Sandy, a smaller nose, a prettier face. She would be smarter than Sandy; always smarter.
Sandy thinks that being jealous of a dead girl is the saddest thing that has ever happened to her. It is the saddest most pathetic feeling in the world. She's dead. She has almost always been dead. But the what-ifs of her potential continue to haunt Sandy, and how can she win against someone who could have theoretically always been better than her. And because she's dead she'll always be better, because a dead girl can't make the mistakes that Sandy has.