Life. It’s all about juxtaposition.
Moments of pure joy filling up my heart while sadness simultaneously tries to empty it. This has been my daily lately—actually, since last October when the Lyme flared up and I started struggling healthwise again—but especially in the past three weeks since the Lyme treatments have really started kicking in.
HOLY TOXIC WASTE DUMP OF EMOTION, BATMAN!
As I’ve finally started to feel a shift in some of my symptoms (less overall skin pain and a reduction in joint pain), I’ve also started to become progressively crazier. I mean, ha ha, I’m always slightly crazy and I definitely have a temper sometimes, but I’m talking CRAZY. As the treatment is killing off massive swaths of bacteria and they are emptying into my system to be flushed out, I am turning into a full-on psycho.
For example, Greg and I were building the back fence last weekend and I tripped over some tomato cages that fell over while I was walking by them and I LOST MY SHIT. I threw down my tools, picked up the cages and LAUNCHED them across the yard with all my strength. If I’d had a sledgehammer handy, I probably would have smashed them into flat, unrecognizable lumps of wire. I may have also let out a guttural screech of pure stabby frustration as well.
Then I calmly picked up my tools and went back to work. What in the actual fuck?
Then, after a week of watching my orange fluffball, OJ, fight for his life after contracting some unknown illness, I lost my shit on my dad without meaning to. The conversation started out fine, we chatted for a bit and then he told me he would be dropping his cat off soon because he and my stepmama were going out of town. I told him that I couldn’t take Roger Flatface because OJ was too sick and it would be too much right now, to which my dad replied, “What did he do to himself now?”
This is where the anger sparked a little. He didn’t even offer sympathy or express concern for the cat, he just acted annoyed, like it was my fault the cat was sick. So I told him that OJ had just stopped eating and drinking and I’d had him back and forth to the vet all week trying to figure out what was going on with him. To which he then said, “Why don’t you just put the cat down and get another one.”
Again, spark spark, sparkity spark spark. I think my face actually started twitching at this point. Caveat: This is my dad. He may actually feel compassion and sympathy, but I’ve seldom seen it because, for whatever reason, he simply does not show it to me. His way with me is to be gruff or disapproving and to offer advice that he thinks will solve the issue. Most of the time I just roll with it and let him say whatever he feels like he needs to say, even though it is usually kind of hurtful and often makes me feel like I’m completely failing at life. Also, I know my dad loves me and I know he means well, so I usually just roll with it.
At this point though, I was starting to feel extremely agitated that my dad would be so callous and just tell me to basically discard one of my kids and replace him with a new model. I’m positive he didn’t see it that way, but I sure as shit did. I told him that I wasn’t going to kill my cat just because he was sick and also pointed out that he wouldn’t do that to his pets either. And, again, for whatever reason and because dad is dad, he got pissed off, told me I couldn’t afford to pay for all these vet visits and then he hung up on me. (Ironically, my eldest brother who has Schizophrenia gets angry and hangs up on my dad ALL THE TIME and dad gets really annoyed by it, but apparently, it’s totally acceptable for dad to do it to people.)
Normally, when my dad says or does things that are extremely hurtful, I let it go. It may annoy me, but it doesn’t make me see red or feel the need to retaliate. As Greg always tells me, “Water off a duck’s back.”
This particular day, however, my body was flushing hot with all the dead bacteria flowing through me and I was completely exhausted. In my head, I thought, “Oh well. There I go doing the wrong thing again by trying to save my furchild with medical attention. What a disappointment I am.”
And then I simply snapped. If I were observing from across the room, I would have seen the top of my head explode with such force it hit the ceiling and my face would have turned a pretty shade of vermillion.
In less than 30 seconds, my thoughts turned extremely dark and spiralled down the shithole. These aren’t even thoughts I normally entertain, so it was just SO out of character. I have been to A LOT of counselling over the years to deal with my shit and I have learned many techniques to calm myself down, let shit go, and keep moving forward (even before my daughter died I had been to many counselling sessions). No. This is a whole different ballgame—one I have no idea how to play. This is Lyme Rage and, from what I hear from so many people, it’s a giant mind fuck. It takes your brain to places that you would never normally even go and on this day, it was instant and overwhelming. It drowned me in a wave of bullshit.
…How DARE he tell me to kill one of my children. The only fucking children I will ever have. How DARE he get pissed off at me because I won’t watch his fucking cat and I’ve been trying to save my cat’s life with medical treatment. Who the FUCK does he think he is, always trying to dictate my life and telling me what to do with my money? Always making me feel like I’m a giant fucking disappointment who has never accomplished anything or done anything in my life worthy of his acceptance or respect? Where the fuck was he when I was growing up? Oh, that’s right, he was ignoring me and tending to his other four children. Me he simply left behind to be raised by a crazy person. In his eyes, I’m the shitty child. I’ve always been the shitty child. I’m the child who always fucks up everything and has never been worthy of his love. That’s why he left when I was five. That’s why he’s always telling me how proud he is of my sister and how she always finishes things she puts her mind to (even though HE never finishes anything and almost never follows through with the plans he makes). My sister who basically lived at home, when she wasn’t away at school, until she was nearly 30 and has never struggled for money or food or to keep a roof over her head. Proud of the sister who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and has no clue what real struggle is like while my dad left me to be raised by a woman who was shitty with money and taught me nothing about living out in the real world, had mental issues, and yelled at me all the fucking time. Not proud of the daughter who got straight As all through school, has two degrees, has fought her way through a lot of death and loss and still manages to keep smiling and loving through all of it. Nope, I’m somehow a burden, a disappointment and an asshole because I refuse to give up on a cat I love more than life…Why do I even let this bother me? Why does his opinion even matter? Why am I always hanging around, seeking his praise when I know it will never come, never has. Fuck this. I’m done. I’m done with allowing myself to be hurt by his words and actions. I’m done with letting him dictate to me or tell me what’s best. He is mean. He is judgemental. He kicks me when I’m down because he doesn’t know how to love. I don’t need this in my life. It is hurting me. It is slowing down my healing. Enough is enough…
And then…I picked up my phone and spewed out a bunch of nasty words, calling my dad out on being cold and cruel and heartless, telling him that I am done with him and telling him to stay out of my life.
Even though my gut was SCREAMING at me to let it go, to walk away, to just take a deep breath and it would pass…I hit SEND.
I HIT SEND. Jesus H. Christ. I HIT SEND.
And then I just sat there wondering what the hell was happening to me, breathing heavily, torrents of tears pouring down my face, gasping for breath, staring at my phone.
For 10 minutes I stayed this way, sobbing, feeling my heart rip open and simultaneously feeling totally justified and like a complete asshole. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo knew that dad did the best he could when we were kids and did what he felt he had to do. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo had already been to counselling for years to deal with all the hurt and resentment she’d felt surrounding her parents and her mom’s death. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo LOVES her siblings and is much too intelligent to blame any of them for any of her shit. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo knew her dad loves her and would never intentionally hurt her feelings or deliberately set out to make her feel like a loser. None of it mattered because Rational Jo wasn’t even present. Rational Jo was pinned into a corner by a thick wall of zombie Lyme bacteria while the rest of the zombie army was penetrating her brain, tapdancing all over her sensibilities.
10 minutes of all-consuming, completely irrational rage and then, like a switch was flicked, back to totally calm and rational.
I was filled with regret, but too tired and too “Johnson Proud” (we have a thing with stubborn pride in our genes that is tough to admit to ourselves…) to do anything about it. I could have picked up the phone, profusely apologized to my Pops and explained what had happened and how much I’ve been struggling with the side effects of treatment, but I just sat there. I could have called him and told him how much I love and appreciate him for all the good things he does and says, but I just sat there. For another hour.
Eventually, I got up and got on with my day and just shoved the episode out of my mind to deal with another day.
Incidentally, I did end up apologizing, after losing sleep for a couple nights and agonizing over all of it. But, really, hurtful words are just that and sometimes even an apology—no matter how sincere—really sounds empty when the words were cruel. So I really have no idea if he will forgive me or not and I’m totally fine if he doesn’t because I’ve forgiven myself. I’ve also forgiven him for his hurtful words. They don’t matter anyway. Kitty has made a full recovery and it was worth every penny.
The point of all this, though, isn’t my baggage or the struggles that relationships go through, it’s about juxtaposition and the fact that there is always going to be a yin and yang flow to life. We are on this earthly plane to learn and grow and we do that with periods of struggle and bliss and everything in between. We are also human and we ALL fuck up, we ALL do shitty things that we regret, we ALL bring light and joy into the world, and we ALL have the capacity to accept this, accept our shit, work to improve ourselves and keep moving forward.
The past two weeks have been a constant juxtaposition for me—fighting the massive bacterial bitch that is Lyme disease, nursing a sick cat back from the brink, and adopting a small bundle of Meximutt craziness who fills my heart with ecstatic joy. I’ve had moments that bring me to tears, both from sheer happiness and utter frustration. Moments that make me belly laugh, both from genuine mirth and stark irony. And moments of quiet, euphoric stillness that remind me that we have to drop in and relish those good times so we have something to boost us and get us through the shitty ones.