Ten Fingers, Ten Toes, Ten Sinkers, Ten Souls

The first thing my dad tells me he did after my birth was count my fingers and toes. He said those words, “Ten fingers, ten toes” out loud whenever I arrived. I suppose that aside from noticing a pair of perfectly healthy lungs, this is a common thing parents pay attention to when first laying their eyes on their newly born infant. I only remember looking into my daughter’s eyes that first extremely short moment they allowed me to hold her, before she was taken away somewhere else, where her lungs got their first official medical treatment. And I didn’t see her again for six hours.

Waiting sucks. But, I have learned to be patient. I have just accepted that usually things do not typically go my way right off hand. Sometimes, the miracles of life are slow. As hell. And sometimes, priorities shift. I don’t remember counting fingers and toes. I remember being happy that I finally got to hold her in my arms, and remember never wanting to let go.

My daughter is fifteen now, on the verge of sixteen in less than a month. Sadly, we have not been practicing driving until only recently, and she has yet to get a driver’s permit. I could blame Covid, and I could blame working multiple jobs, and I could blame myself for being exhausted and absent minded, etc. And I did, for longer than I should. It took one driving lesson to realize the actual reason I had not made it a priority. So, uh… allow me to share the truth.

But first, patience! I have a long, drawn out story to tell.

I have been in exactly ten (10) car accidents. I am required to be inside of a vehicle to continue being responsible. I have never caused a collision. I have had multiple spinal fractures, resulting in body casts, use of wheelchair, physical therapy, as well as concussions, eye damage, rib bruising, nerve damage, and other things (PTSD, brain stuff) I’ve yet to see a specialist for. (Patiently waiting for insurance effective date to roll around as we speak.) Anyway, I love (<3) to drive. But riding?

NOT SO MUCH.

I am in near collisions seemingly every single day. Most people I observe being a complete dumbass are typically on a cell phone or putting on make-up or just totally jacked up/numbed down on…. whatever. The last collision took place on my birthday. I accidentally overslept (somehow, this rarely happens), and I did not have time to make coffee nor change clothes before taking my daughter to school. I rolled out of bed, frantically took a piss, put on my shoes, exited the house, and then drove her to school. On the ride home, I got stopped on a live train track, so I pulled into the clear lane to avoid a horrific accident, but was in an accident three seconds later anyway. A woman who wasn’t very patient wanted to avoid waiting at a red light and rolled right in to me. I was nice, despite the circumstances leading up to this and generally this. She wasn’t. I retreated to my car and patiently waited for an officer. He was nice to me and thirty minutes later, I was back on my way. Enjoyed my coffee. Enjoyed my birthday. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Two nights ago, I was stopped at an intersection that intersects a main highway. My light turned to green, and I crept forward, but since I am hyper aware of my surroundings (make sense?), I noticed a black Charger hauling ass, blatantly running the red light, and had I not been paying freakish attention and come to a complete stop in the middle of this intersection, he would have definitely plowed into the passenger side of my vehicle, I would have been knocked to the left, most likely hit the embankment at around 50 mph, spinning, possibly flipped, and perhaps would have been dead on impact.

But I stopped.

I say all of this for many reasons, but I’ll just bullet point a few potentially (definitely) life-saving tips, since most people are either anti-patience or anti-attentiveness or anti-courtesy.

1.) Be patient.

2.) Be attentive.

3.) Be courteous.

You can go a long way (i.e.-live longer because you weren’t killed in a vehicle), by observing these very simple game changers. You will also feel yourself enjoying the journey more. One extremely difficult thing for me to do- which has taken years of practice- is be patient inside of a vehicle whenever there is a Point B. I want to exit the vehicle as soon as humanly possible, unless I am on a joy ride in the country and blasting my tunes. It also took many years to figure out various routes to various destinations that require the least amount of stop and go, while involving the least amount of traffic. Road rage has increased in the area, and I guess all over, and tensions can run high. Imagine that feeling you get when someone’s just cut you off, without using a blinker, and then drives ten miles per hour under the speed limit, AND flicks a birdie your way. Your heart would be racing, I’m thinking. Well! I’d like for you to think for just a moment that there are folks who experience this level of anxiety from simply being inside of their means of transportation. Now, here’s my truth:

Riding in the vehicle with my daughter, who was wearing spiked platform boots, unable to feel the acceleration, was worse than the Acrophobia ride at Six Flags. Some people don’t do heights. Well, I realized on this day what my phobia is- Being in a vehicle operated by my teenage daughter and realizing I won’t be there to help and/or protect her eventually-phobia.

The idea that my child could potentially be in any dangerous situations makes me feel sick. I don’t think about it. When the thought pops into my head, it is quickly dismissed. I can’t handle it. So, with my history relating to accidents and recoveries, and subsequent struggles and lessons, I have learned this lesson: You have to let it go. You have to let them go. This, in all its fury, requires a level of patience I may have yet to achieve.

But I can be patient.

I am the patient.

s/i

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the letter s, forward slash, the letter i, it signifies suicidal ideations.

We are going to dive into these three simple characters to a depth that may completely horrify, devastate, or sicken you. On the other hand, you may leave this pitch black building feeling enlightened, grateful, or astonished. Either way, you will certainly feel something (regret?). Which brings me to the introduction:

Being numb sucks. Sometimes, my body parts go numb. I also have sharp pains that bounce through my body at various times. Totally random. Couldn’t pinpoint (unintentional pun) the body positions that trigger these, or the outside elements that may or may not play a significant role, or the digestive phase of my burger or pizza. All I know is, these zaps of electricity occur in my left arm and both hands, my left leg, my spine, my feet, and my toes.

If you know me personally or have been reading this blog (thanks, btw), you know I have suffered numerous physical traumas. Namely, car accidents. Some resulting in head and spine injuries which I thankfully recovered from. Mostly. So, these electric jolts and sharp stabbing pains have been taking place as long as I can recall bits of middle school. This likely explains why I tripped a lot. I fell on occasion. I’ve sprained my ankles and wrists and stubbed toes and D’OH paper cuts (least favorite) countless times. People think I am accident prone. I’d say they are probably correct.

Anywho, fast forward to the here and now and I have learned so much about neuroscience, psychology, mental wellbeing, various topics relating to healing various ailments, while simultaneously staying away from traditional methods of correcting these issues. (i.e.-Doctor appointments, prescriptions pills, various therapies). Instead, I was exploring what I was more interested in- how these things affected my behavior, why I did this or felt that, etc. I rebelled against the traditional therapies for a very, very deep, dark, personal reason. Now we are inching closer to the s/i part.

When I was fifteen years young, I experienced my very first panic attack. It happened while in class, and I remember that I could not get a full breath in and I started to panic. My heart was racing and I panicked until I really, really couldn’t get a half breath in. And then I hyperventilated and every single person in the room was freaking out. My teacher, who I adore to this day, was so upset. She screamed for someone to get me a candy bar and a Coke and a paper bag. I may be giving incorrect details but this is what I seem to recall the most. Just recently, a couple of school friends and I reunited and one had mentioned this to me and many memories started flooding back to me. I had almost forgotten about the incident altogether, but since it became fresh to me, I began thinking about the time period and the s/i I experienced shortly thereafter (I’ll get to eventually) became this- a blog post I should have written a long damn time ago.

S/I is something I have found to be quite common- among those seeking help, and those who unfortunately never did. Suicide is something you see or hear about in the news, or something you have dealt with among your peers, or something you have experienced among extended family. Less frequent are those who have dealt with this level of pain among their inner circles and immediate families. It is a subject nobody wants to ever talk about. So, yeah. Let’s talk about it. Right now.

When I had my panic attack out in the population of kids I’d grown up with, I felt like I’d become a kind of spectacle. I didn’t really understand what it was that had happened to me. I saw a male Psychiatrist at the hospital one time, and I had a Primary Care Physician. I’m not sure who prescribed this to me, but I was just starting puberty (late bloomer), and was taking Zoloft.

S/I is not really commonplace when taking Zoloft. I doubt this drug had a profound effect at all, really. I was still experiencing periods of overwhelming devastation and hyperactive excitement and extreme fatigue. Totally all over the place, depending on my environment and the circle of people around me- or totally isolated. I still wanted to sleep and drool all over my desk in some classes and was 106% engaged in others (Biology, Psychology- certainly not Coach Baptist Minister Pierce’s history class- God love him).

But I vividly remember the first time I felt so desperate to stop living. To just simply stop going on anymore. I so badly just wanted the pain to go away. For the memories to go away. For the numbness to stop creeping in. For the lightning bolts to stop striking me in any given place at any given moment. I just wanted peace.

Every time I have these thoughts, I replace them with others. The thing about reading, doing your own independent research, working in mental healthcare, and engaging with other people like you is that you learn about yourself, what causes what, what you can do to fix it, and identifying that you share a common thread with others like you (you’re never alone) and sometimes that thread is basically all you need to use as your literal lifeline. This is why it can be so difficult to leave someone you really love, especially when you have been there for each other in very difficult times. But there was one time I wanted to leave so badly, I took a handful of pills, and I swallowed them down one by one- gag.

I can’t recall how old I was. I may have been fifteen still. For some reason, seventeen pops up but I don’t think this is accurate. It may not be relevant anymore. Measuring distance and time has always been challenging to me. I never measure ingredients, either- I just do what feels right. But I remember taking a lot of pills.

When you know you’re a handful, sometimes you think about how you negatively impact people around you. People you love. You don’t want them to suffer anymore. You don’t want them to feel sorry for you. You don’t want to be a spectacle that leads to embarrassment or shame. You just want peace. And maybe quiet. You want the thoughts in your mind to stop. You want your brain to just… stop.

S/I happens without warning. It happens on a rainy day. Or a sunny day. It happens in the woods. Or on the bed. Or in the tub. It happens in the car. Or at church. Or at work. It happens randomly. It is an electric jolt of feeling. It is a numb. It is a sharp, stabbing pain. Hits you before you even recognize what it is. Let me tell you what S/I is:

Suicidal

/

I D E A t i o n

An IDEA is something you may or may not be able to control. They happen constantly. Depending on how well your life is going, your ideas may at times feel darker and more burdensome than not. Regardless, thoughts are bound to happen and S/I is something that can impact the highest and mightiest to the lowest and weakest. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich. If you grew up in the city or the suburbs. Or the woods. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had trauma or if your life has been filled to the brim with it. Doesn’t matter if you experience behaviors relating to any other known “mental disorder”. Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been married, divorced, or how long you’ve been single, whether or not you’ve had children, whether you graduated high school or Damn I Wish I Could Have Been a Doctor school. Religious, atheist, farmer, engineer.

None. of that Matters.

So what does matter?

Well, let’s define matter! Matter is the shit all around you. And you are also matter. Everything is made up of matter. So I have found a great coping skill any time the ole S/I suddenly appears and I’m all like- hey, what’s up? I matter, remember? And the thoughts begin to become more controlled, because they become something of real substance. I imagine sweeping the pile of dust off the porch and thinking about my radio friend, Tom, who shared this sage advice: You don’t have to be rich to clean off your porch. Likewise, you don’t have to commit the act of suicide should the thought ever pop into your head. Sweep it away, just as you would anything else that’s annoying.

I’m going on over twenty years of random, unpredictable, deeply disturbing and uncomfortable bullshit- both mentally and physically exhausting- but, I matter. And you’re matter, too.

Conversations with Myself

Working and living in an area of non-stop small talk, often times the most intimate conversations I have are with myself. I think constantly. My brain is thinking about multiple things, beginning around the hour I become conscious, to the moments leading up to me quickly shutting down my brain to RELAX.

Anyway, conversations with myself- self talk as the Providers describe it- can do two things:

  1. Cause total chaos, leaving you exhausted and disheveled
  2. Cause total bliss, leaving you weightless and satisfied

Oh, you aren’t exactly like me?

I guess I forgot.

There are days when I feel euphoric- something I would compare to an acid trip. Maybe it’s the season, the weather, or nerve damage? I couldn’t say. What I can say is that some days feel like the polar opposite, and these are the days I would like to focus on right now. Because we always start with bad news. And when I say we, I actually refer to my two vastly polar opposite personalities. One is happy and excited. One is tired and annoyed.

A little, somewhat popular, album was released when I was fifteen years old. It recently turned twenty years of age and I thought, you know what? I really would like to discuss how this particular piece of timeless art shaped me in my most vulnerable and bitterly angry years, when I was attempting to break the rules and figure out who the hell I really am.

Why am I so angry? Please explain this to me in song, Maynard James Keenan.

Lateralus was released May 15, 2001 and it was the spring, then summer of Tool, which then became the following twenty years of more Tool which involved digging into and appreciating and supporting more side projects. Hell, a winery was birthed out of Tool. And a farm. Life.

Come to think of it, even… my child.

Hooked on everything that these people involved with these projects produced, I felt like I had found this secret garden of information that a handful of other local, angry teenagers and I clung to for emotional support and strength on the days when we had ZILCH internally. The local music scene thrived- not because of Tool, but thanks to this similar angst that Tool had seamlessly tapped into, harnessed with leather straps, and made their bitch. It was an inspiring time for angry artists, and holy shit- was I angry.

I met my child’s father the summer a drunk man decided to get behind the wheel of a heavy automobile, which he half ass managed to operate until he ran my friends and I off the highway around a curve just in front of my friend’s house. We hit the embankment, flew in the air, and nose dived into the ditch, while the dumb, intoxicated redneck sped away, leaving three good looking teenage girls in a smoking vehicle to die a horrible, untimely death. My friend’s mom heard the crash and sprinted down her driveway, spraining her ankle. I was stuck in the backseat, unable to get my seatbelt unclicked, while a motorist who had stopped was screaming to get out because the car was on fire.

Oh cool, this is it. I’m gonna die in front of Britney’s house.

Self talk.

I didn’t actually want to die. I enjoy living and being happy. But those are the words I said to myself, in such a sarcastic “gee, this is such a surprise” kind of way. After brushing my hilarious sarcasm aside, I got serious and worked harder to unbuckle, and with a fractured L4, got out of the car that was definitely not on fire, and ran however many yards, crunching glass and gravel, collapsing upon meeting my friend Britney and her mother- who were sobbing and gasping upon realizing it was me. “Yeah, another accident.” (I believe this would have been the sixth.)

My dad and sister pulled up. Just one week prior to this, my sister had major scoliosis surgery. She was recovering with stitches still holding her fragile halves together. I saw her crying and I felt so terrible that she was upset because I knew she was in so much pain herself. The ambulance arrived. I was strapped tightly to a hard board to stabilize my spine (gravel and glass cutting into my back), where I would remain for the next six to eight hours. I drifted in and out of consciousness but remember drinking the absolutely horrid MRI juice, VoLumen (short for Liquid Voldemort), and hurling barf upon meeting my Doctor, who replied with “Oh dear”.

Oh dear, indeed.

I recovered that summer in a back brace, with orders not to drive. The summer all of my friends were graduating without me and I couldn’t even celebrate. So, I spent my time writing. A lot. Whether in notebooks or LiveJournal, I was getting my thoughts out of my head. I was sharing. A lot. I was visiting chat rooms and sharing there, too. And this is how I connected to my child’s father, Ricky. Another Tool fan.

-Something cool I said about my favorite band

-Something he said in agreement

-More words exchanged

He then looks at my profile and sees that I am female.

-Holy shit, I thought you were a dude.

-Ha, no.

Then we continued talking about our favorite band Tool for four hours.

Then we continued talking about the reasons we admire the band Tool.

Then we continued talking about the various things that we have been through that led to the mindset which allowed for appreciation of the band Tool.

Then we moved in together.

Then we made a baby.

Self talk is important. Sometimes self talk can seem like something that produces filth and you suffer for it. Often, those around you suffer as a result, too. But every so often, when you’re lucky, you get a diamond in the rough.

Twenty years later, and he and I still maintain. He is the person who gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. “When you talk shit to yourself, add something nice.” We can communicate. I know the pieces fit. He appreciates that I have been on top of all the responsibilities in raising our child, and I appreciate that he hasn’t laid one finger on her. Be patient.

I talk to myself daily. And yeah- you do, too. Whatever you tell yourself, never forget- add something nice.