Facing the Monsters

Just say One True Thing, my friend once told me. This helps, especially when I’m fearful, troubled, or stuck. I am all three on the morning my second son is nine months old and I say One True Thing to my husband: “I’m not suicidal, exactly. I just can’t think of any good reason to live.”

As soon as I say it I’m horrified. It feels shameful. It is a profound and terrifying failure, not just a failure of some course or project, but a Failure of Being. How did an overachieving, responsible, “good girl” like me end up like this? I have everything I wanted: a degree from Stanford, marriage, two children…and I don’t want to live.

How am I going to do this? How am I going to get through the rest of my life? A quiet little thought comes into my head, just pops there out of the blue: I could drink.

This shocks me, it scares me to death. I don’t even like to drink. My mother drank, and the thought of ending up like her frightens me into calling a counselor and begging to be seen as soon as possible, like today. One part of me wants desperately to just curl up in someone’s lap and be soothed, to be reassured, to be taken care of, to be fixed. But another part of me wants to smash all the old ways of taking the easy way out and needing to be good and right and perfect.

I want to find someone who can really hear me, who can listen to this deep ugliness, who will not freak out or avoid or placate me. My husband can’t do it. He says, “Oh, hon, don’t talk like that,” and walks out the door. My friends will be worried. They will tell me to pull myself together, to look at all the positive things in my life. They will want to pray with me. I don’t need those things. I need someone who has the courage to go down into the dark places with me and help me face the monsters. I need a warrior who isn’t afraid of truth, pain, rage, and death.

I find a warrior. I show her a sculpture I have made. It is the delicate porcelain head of a woman. She looks a little old-fashioned: black hair, white skin, small red berry of a mouth. But black cracks run all over her face and head, and in order to hold her together and keep her from falling apart, she has been wrapped round and round with barbed wire.

The warrior understands, and we begin the journey.

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