It was her first day out. It was nerve-wracking to think about going to
church and facing everyone who knew her parents. She could just imagine the whispering behind some of those old ladies’ hands as they pretended they weren’t talking about her. But everybody knew what she had done and now she had to face the world. Good thing for Xanax.
It was humiliating to end up back home as a thirty-four year old woman.
Even the biggest slackers from her high school had gotten out of their parents’ houses by thirty. Or most of them, anyway. Mitchell Hatch had never graduated from his folks’ basement. Joanne thought that he was waiting for them to die so he could just move upstairs and continue smoking weed and watching cartoons and strumming his stupid electric guitar without an amplifier, just like he did in high school. Joanne couldn’t remember a time when he had ever left home. The last she heard was that his parents were supervising his probation for the roaches the cops found in his car ashtray. She felt like an idiot for ever having dated him, but at least he was a worse fuck-up than she was.
It was impossible to explain to anybody what it had felt like when Joe left
her. Like that carnival ride where you spin ‘round and ‘round and the floor drops out from under you. Only when this ride stopped spinning, the floor didn’t come back. She was left hovering over a dense, dark, bottomless hole, hanging on by the tips of her fingers, slipping… slipping…breathlessly anticipating the moment when she would lose her grip. The blackness sucked at her, pulling her into the unknown. She didn’t know what was down there, but it reeked of death. She either would fall blindly through the blackness to the bottom and shatter into pieces or she would slip softly into the vacuum of space, floating helplessly while she slowly suffocated in the dark.
They called it borderline personality disorder, though that was just the latest
diagnosis in a long line of diagnoses. At least the drugs were better than they used to be. She remembered the Thorazine she’d been given in the psych ward back when they thought she was schizophrenic. It was so totally numbing that you could watch a toddler fall under the wheels of a train and wonder what’s for lunch.
Actually, numb was how she felt a lot of the time anyway so the ‘zine
family—Thorazine, Stelazine, Compazine—did nothing for her. In her natural state she had days when she walked around looking through her eyeholes with the sensation that her face was a mask. She could look out, but nobody could see her hiding behind her face. She felt safer that way. It was far better than the other state of mind she slipped into where she became paralyzed with worry about what other people were thinking about her or saying to other people about what she had said or done and whether they had taken something the wrong way and what they might do and how she could fix what she might have done wrong the last time she saw them and who was looking at her now and what they were saying about her.
And then sometimes she just couldn’t hold all that emotion in anymore and
she’d get furious and scream and yell or she’d start crying for no reason except that the world felt like it was all collapsing in on her. Therapists had tried to teach her to regulate her emotions away from the extremes…everything wasn’t all or nothing, life or death, love or hate. It was her job, apparently, to keep track of her feelings all the time and try to catch them before they swung wildly out of control. But it was hard, hard, hard, and exhausting and it made life so heavy and difficult. She needed somebody else to pay her bills, cook her meals, fill her car with gas. She struggled some days just to make herself take a shower. She hadn’t shaved her legs for months or fixed her hair and she couldn’t even remember how to put on makeup anymore. It was hard enough just to keep something clean to wear in her closet.
But after a week in the psychiatric ward at Eastern State Hospital, Joanne
was freshly evaluated and medicated and sent home under her parents’ care. She had some pills for depression that were supposed to perk her up, get her activated, or whatever, so things weren’t so hard. And she had some pills for calming her down when she got overexcited or too overwhelmed to go out in public.
The breakup two months ago hadn’t just been devastating; it had been
. No note, no message, no excuse. No explanation whatsoever. She came home to their apartment one day and it was half empty. Her mind couldn’t even comprehend what her eyes saw. The living room looked like a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing. The DVD player sat on its low shelf, but the television that had sat above it was gone. The sofa was missing, but the two matching club chairs remained in place. Half the books, half the music, half the electronics were gone. She moved robotically into the kitchen…half the dishes and small appliances were gone. The dining table remained, but the chairs were gone. In the bedroom, half the clothes were gone, the spare set of sheets, half the towels. He’d taken one dresser and the desk, but left the bed. He took the lounge chair, but left the nightstands. All very methodical; all very fair.
That was one thing about Joe—he’d always been fair. Always divided the
box of Junior Mints into two equal piles on two separate napkins at the movies. Always made sure that each of them spent the same amount on food, bills, and entertainment and made sure never to buy any large items together in case they had to divide things up in the future. Now she understood—every moment of their two-year relationship had been about preparing for the day they would split up.
Just like that, she lost all sense of her life, her self. She couldn’t remember
what her life was about, what she’d been working toward. Couldn’t remember what the point was. Nothing existed except for this great, deep ache inside her. It swallowed her whole.
She stopped going to her job at the florist shop where she took call-in orders
and waited on customers. Her home phone rang and rang, but after a time, she barely noticed it. Her mother came looking for her when she called the florist’s shop and was told nobody had seen Joanne for two days. They assumed she had quit.
Greta Bowman found her daughter crouched in a dry bathtub, making
perfect parallel cuts on the inside of her arm with a razor blade. The little lines formed a grid design. She’d tried making a matching grid on her right arm, but her left hand wasn’t as coordinated and the lines weren’t as neat. It had taken two days to fill in between the scars left from the last time she had sought comfort in the razor.
Now she had a therapist at the Community Mental Health Center whom she
saw twice a week and she was supposed to be making forays back into the community, her hometown of Amity where she hadn’t lived for the last ten years. She had no doubt that everybody in the small town had heard of her breakup and her supposed attempted suicide and all that crap. It was nobody’s business and yet, it seemed to be everybody’s business.
If she had her way, she’d stay in the house and see no one. She didn’t want
to worry about what people were thinking or what she had just said or how she was acting. She didn’t want to be looked at or talked about. She didn’t want anyone to try and befriend her and she certainly didn’t want any more disastrous love affairs where after two dates she fell head over heels with a guy who just wanted sex. That was her pattern with men. Sometimes she thought they might have been interested in more, but she got so needy and clingy that she scared them away faster than she could sneak a toothbrush into their bathroom.
Joanne didn’t know why she couldn’t be cool and play hard to get, but she
never could. Once she had sex with someone that was pretty much the beginning of the end. She had to know if they loved her and if they really, really loved her, and if they said they did, then they had to prove it to her. That would put them off and
they’d start to pull away and then she’d do something to get their attention back, like lie or wreck their car or something, which made them want to get rid of her, which made her do more and more drastic things to keep their attention. It usually had something to do with razors or a bottle of pills, or once, a garden hose duct-taped to the exhaust pipe on her old Dodge, but she had never really been suicidal.not really.
Anyway, she thought she had gotten past all that with Joe. He’d put up with
her idiosyncrasies and she’d put up with his age-inappropriate love of heavy metal and wearing backwards baseball caps, and even when she went through a bad patch from time to time, he’d stuck around. She’d figured that he would propose to her soon and then she wouldn’t have to worry about the dating nightmare ever again.
In fact, Joe probably had been planning to leave for a while. Nobody could
disappear so cleanly during a single eight-hour shift without having thought ahead. Half the utility bills were in his name and he’d had those turned off so he could get his deposits back, she supposed, leaving her with neither water nor cooking gas. She still had electricity and trash pickup and phone, but no cable because why would she need it if Joe was taking the TV? Everything perfectly planned and executed.
She guessed now that Joe had been using her for her half of the rent and
utilities and for free sex pretty much whenever he wanted it, though to be honest, he’d never shown all that much enthusiasm for it. It was utterly humiliating looking back on it.
Her therapist had told her that it was okay to be needy with her, to call when
she needed to, to laugh, cry, get mad, but to try doing less of that outside her office with other people. And Joanne was going to try really hard to change and to learn better coping skills. She had even decided to join a support group for people with her disorder. A sturdy stool needs three legs and that’s what she was building for herself. The first leg was her therapist, the second leg would be the support group, and she was going to establish a third leg by going to church, something she had given up for the last ten years. Maybe God could help her get her life back on track.
Joanne looked at herself in the large bathroom mirror in her parents’
basement apartment. Her layered hair hung down to her shoulders in a cut that badly needed to be renewed. That, along with the bi-color horizontal striping where she’d given up bleaching her dull brown hair made her look unkempt no matter what she did with it. She didn’t have the money for salon visits now, so she planned to let the color grow out and cut off the blonde when it got long enough. For now, she would just rubberband it into a ponytail and bobby pin the sides.
She’d gotten heavy in the last few weeks, stuffing her face with junk food
between cutting sessions. The two misbehaviors gave her a similar kind of
temporary relief. The aching emptiness at the center of her soul numbed down a little when she did either.
Unfortunately, the only clothes that still fit her were from her fat days after
high school. They’d been stored in a box in her parents’ basement on the off chance that she ever got that big again. She located an elastic-waist blue-jean skirt and a baggy sweater that would work okay for church even if the outfit was way out-of-fashion.
She pulled the green sweater over her head and shimmied the skirt up over
her granny panties, the big ones she always wore when she had her period. Even though she was hanging halfway out of her bra, nothing would show under the loose sweater. Ugh! How was she going to lose weight on top of everything else? Why did everything have to be so hard?
Scand J Med Sci Sports 2007: 17: 687–695Printed in Singapore . All rights reservedJournal compilation & 2007 Blackwell MunksgaardCombined diet and exercise intervention reverses the metabolicsyndrome in middle-aged males: results from the Oslo Diet andExercise StudyS. A. Anderssen1, S. Carroll2, P. Urdal3, I. Holme1,41Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, O
Resources from Laughing Allegra by Anne Ford • National Learning Disabilities Organization—serving Resources for Adults with Learning Disabilities • National Learning Disabilities Organizations RESOURCES FOR CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES National Learning Disabilities Organizations—Serving All Ages NATIONAL CENTER FOR LEARNING DISABILITIES (NCLD) NCLD seeks to raise p