It’s Wednesday. The day I have my weekly session with my doctor. There are several things we agreed about today. Several things I finally said. I’ve avoided saying them for nearly four years.
“This winter tore me up.”
“This winter was hard on a lot of people.”
I felt like saying, “Yeah, doc. I know.” I didn’t. I did what I always do. I thought first. I searched through my scripts. My databases. My knowledge. For the right thing to say. There wasn’t any right thing to say. I was in psychotherapy. And my doc knows how my mind works. He knows what I’m thinking.
“This winter tore me up bad.”
“I know, Mark.”
I thought of her. My spouse. My best friend. She whom I’d willingly die to protect. She without whom I’d be hopelessly lost. “She doesn’t know.”
My doctor nodded. “No. She doesn’t,” he put his papers down. “No one knows.”
“Yeah. I hide.” I’d never admitted that. Never.
“And you’re damn good at it.” He doesn’t smile much, when we’re talking. He didn’t smile then. “You’ve had a lot of practice.”
“Yeah. I hide.” I knew there was no sense in hiding that truth from him. He already knew it. “I always have. I learned to. I had to learn to. I learned to hide. To keep what I feel, what I think, what I believe, hidden. I learned to observe. To tear apart. To analyze. To study. To build programs. Scripts. How to appear normal. How to blend in. Because I learned, if I did that, if I followed the scripts, and blended in, everyone shut the fuck up, and left me the hell alone.”
I wasn’t finished. “They stopped saying, ‘You can’t be like that. You can’t live like that. You can’t be that way.’ They shut up. And left me alone.”
We were silent for a bit. Only a minute. Maybe a hair more. Until I spoke again. “I’m going to take a walk in the morning.”
“Good! You need it.”
“Yeah. I need it.” I sat there, on the sofa in his office, as I have far more times than I can count, and I finally spoke the truth. “I don’t walk 5 and 6 miles because it doesn’t hurt.”
“I walk because I have to walk.”
He sat there, waiting for me to continue. We both knew he’d do that. We both knew why. “I have to walk. It’s how I cope.” I could have stopped there, but it was time to bring the truth out. “It’s how I cope with the anger. The frustration. The stress. Of living in this world.”
“I know. And it’s good. You need to walk.”
“She doesn’t understand. No one understands.”
Yeah. These aren’t the exact words we spoke today. But they’re close. I told him of the time I posted a message on Facebook. “I said no one knows. No one understands. How hard it is for me to keep going. To keep dealing with this.”
No one understands. Oh, people think they do. You have no idea how many people think they do. But, unless you’ve lived through this. Unless you face this in your life. You have no idea.
I the past few years I’ve found a few special people. They understand. They live with this same nightmare, or another nightmare like it.
I hide. Because the truth still stands. If I hide. If I put up a façade. If I blend in, and appear close to normal. People shut up. And leave me alone. They talk to me. They spend time with me. They don’t understand the person they think I am is a lie. Isn’t real. Isn’t me.
She knows I need to walk. She knows there are times I have to walk. She’s even said, “Walk. I’ll be here when you get back.” She knows. And I know it disturbs her. Especially when I’m wounded so visibly she says, “Go for a walk.”
I wish there were words, magic, miracles, anything at all, that would let me explain why I walk to her. Let me show her that I HAVE to walk. And I have to walk for miles. I have to walk, even if it hurts.
Do you know what it’s like to walk seven miles, or more, in August, when the sun is burning the grass, and it hasn’t rained in weeks, and you can see the heat coming off the asphalt streets, and the humidity is so high you feel like you could cut the air with a knife.
But I have to walk.
It’s walk. Or go insane.
You have no idea. You really have no idea. The price I pay. Every day. To live in a world I never made.