Painkillers

For everything I have that makes me who I am, my love and knowledge of the written word far exceeds anything else that I favour about my personality. My ability to render people speechless, to dissect and resurrect the smallest of nuances and my inherent capability to give people the words they’re looking for, not only in a way that makes sense to them, but in a way, that further enlightens them to their own predicaments – well, it’s just what I do.

And I’m good at it. I’m good at talking people down from ledges, reassuring them that everything is going to be okay, metaphorically recasting the tragic or comedic plays that are their lives, giving hope where it’s needed and cutting it down where it’s overgrown and suffocating, planting seeds of self-empowerment and culling weeds of doubt, of making people believe the impossible about themselves and the improbable outcomes to seemingly seamless situations.

But for all the words I have, I have struggled to formulate the blog I am attempting to write for you today. The thoughts have been flailing in the swampy regions of my brain for well over three months now, snippets of experience that have slowly began to transform into cognitive sentences. It came to a head this week when a routine phone call to a friend resulted in a two-hour conversation about them, and me, and the subject of us as human beings scrambling aimlessly across the face of the planet trying desperately to find someone to not only fall in love with but fall apart with.

And though I didn’t do my ironing the evening of that phone call and nor did I get to bed early for my five am start the next morning, the sand in my eyes as I stood hunched over and hollow pouring milk into cups at work and shouting the word latte more times in an hour than any human being ever should, was well worth the exchange of thoughts and more importantly, words. I was transfixed the entire day with the idea of people self-medicating themselves not with drugs and alcohol but with other people.

I had a teacher, when I was fifteen or so, that blurred the lines of our relationship so much that to say I was mesmerised or indeed, infatuated, by this man would not be an understatement, and like with anything that we tend to keep and eventually pass on, something that this man said to me has stayed, stuck in the forefront of my mind like a kernel of corn in the bed of a gum all these years later. He told me that people could get addicted to other people. He was talking about our relationship, of course but truer words were never said by him or me during our time together and now that one phrase that has shaped so much of my thought in the decade that followed it comes to my lips every so often and leaves a bitter, but honest taste on my tired tongue.

And when speaking to my friend and recounting our various failings are friends, children, parents, partners and lovers, I did what I usually do, and I gave my words away. I told my friend that he’s a painkiller and that’s why people need him when they are in pain, regardless of the constitution of his own pain or pressures. Saying it out loud to my friend reminded me of the first time I said it out loud, in December of 2016 after a drive in a car with a boy that tore out what had been left hanging in my chest masquerading as a heart. The realisation that someone could be used in such a way painted the rest of my year black and it’s been a hard few weeks trying to settle that feeling of fear and faithlessness that’s been there since I bit my tongue in half trying to keep words from spilling out into the frigid air as I climbed out of that boy’s car and made it just through my front door before I collapsed onto my knees and screamed, hot, frustrated fucking exhausted tears, man.

Because it is exhausting, isn’t it? The game of it all. The constant analysis of people’s intents, their smiles, the way they cross their arms or the way they brush hair off your forehead or breath into your ear when they hug you a little too tight. Continuously misconstruing their obsession with answering the phone to you at stupid o’clock in the morning with genuine concern. Cherishing their veiled compliments or the way they say your name in a way you’ve never heard it said before or that sickly-sweet feeling you get when they leave, and you find yourself just standing there for a moment wondering if any of it means anything or if you’re just slowly driving yourself insane playing out scenarios in your head that could have dragons riding motorcycles and fairies doing backflips through a field of toadstools for all the reality they have in them. Convincing yourself that there is something to be salvaged in this person, that your time and your dedication, your love and more importantly – your words – are what is needed to save this beautiful creature from oblivion.

And you defend them, these people, you make excuses for them and pardon them for their sins and you find yourself concocting elaborate woes that have made them they way they are that give you a permit to be their friend or their lover when were you advising anyone else in the same situation you’d tell them to burn that bridge just as quick as they could and get running away from the wreck before the smoke had time to catch in their lungs. You’d sooner blame yourself than cast slander on these people that make you make sense to yourself. It’s your fault they’re like that, you weren’t enough, you’re a terrible person with a crooked smile and a crooked heart incapable of loving someone or being loved in return and you’ll get better, but you must be alone because you deserve to be because you are simply just the worst kind of person that doesn’t deserve a second chance because you’d destroy it like you destroy everything.

But helping other people helps you. Taking away their pain takes away yours for a time or two and then you’re stuck in this co-dependent state of causing pain just to take it away and when you didn’t cause it, you write a story in your head, you string together the worst of your words and cock them to your temple, pulling the trigger and martyring yourself to a conclusion that was never yours to die for. It’s easier that way. To take responsibility for the wounds of the world. If it’s always your fault you can always seek revenge on the villain and take justice for the victim. You isolate yourself, cut yourself off and cut yourself up, pull out the stitches that the years put inside you to hold the broken pieces of you together and then you get to endure the agony of the needle pulling the wire back through the soft, swollen valley in the middle of your soul.

And it makes you feel better.

There are people like this all over the world that right now are sitting in a room by themselves staring at the wall worrying about someone or something that has no time to consider the same of them. We are often told that things will get better and that yes, the sun will come out tomorrow.

But I live on a rain drowned island in the middle of a cold, grey sea and I’m tired.

I’m tired of being in pain. I’m tired of being numb. I’m tired of pretending that it doesn’t hurt or that I will be okay. I’m tired of walking around like this with my heart outside my skin. I’m tired of pretending that it doesn’t terrify me that we’ll never touch again. I’m tired of pretending that I am better on my own. I’m tired of laughing when I want to scream. I’m tired of starting again. I’m tired of all the words that have my tongue tied in knots. I’m tired of trying to sleep. I’m tired of food not tasting like anything. I’m tired of drinking a bottle of whiskey to still feel the ache in my gut. I’m tired of the drugs not working. I’m tired of opening my eyes in the morning to the empty sheets I sleep next to. I’m tired of feigning optimism. I’m tired of the dullness of a world that used to be ablaze. I’m tired of the burn in my chest, the fire in my lungs. I’m tired of coffee never being strong enough to keep me awake. I’m tired of butterflies dying in my stomach.

And I’m tired of talking.

It’s the age-old question of who does a priest confess too or who treats the doctor when they’re sick? Where does a shrink go when they need someone to talk to? Well – what does a painkiller do when it’s in pain? The same answer applies to all the questions posed above – priests confess their sins to other priests, doctors cure the ailments of other doctors, shrinks seek help from other shrinks and painkillers kill each other’s pain.

And there is no way to regulate this practice and in the hopes of always having someone to kill the pain you carry with you, you are in turn hoping that that person remains in the same state of perpetual pain that you found them in because happy people make lousy painkillers. I can’t remember a time I didn’t feel like this. Even at the peak of my happiness there has always been a voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m going to fuck it up and dollars to donuts – I always have. Every single time. So maybe these people that I rely on can get better and they can be happy and that might even help me shave off some of the sharper corners of my reality and live vicariously through their normality.

But until then I will carry my hopes like grief and even if I remain in pieces for the rest of my life, at least there will always be enough of me to go around.

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