|Joey couldn't say when it had gone, her self confidence, self belief, she couldn't even really say when she first knew it wasn't there anymore.|
It just wasn't.
She couldn't have pinpointed a moment, though she started gradually to narrow it down, remembering times when she'd been sure of herself, had known she was on track. Had had faith not just in those around her, but in herself, her own being, her own power.
It wasn't until she had a space to breathe, to look back that she even realised it had gone. Did it matter? Had it maybe been an illusion anyway? Just part of the illness, perhaps, that sense that she knew her purpose, knew she had ability to make her way? She couldn't - wouldn't - believe it hadn't been real. It HAD to be possible to find it again...
If she could just work out what had stolen it, or even when it had gone. But she had somehow missed it disappearing, her memories wouldn't tell her a time or a clear cause. It must have happened gradually, she supposed, worn down during all the years of just surviving, coping one day at a time.
If asked, she was sure that people around her throughout her life would have said she had plenty of strength, lots of self belief. After all, she launched herself into things with an energy few could match, didn't let anything stand in her way. That wasn't the same, though, and in herself she knew that the energy was different, wasn't real - it was her - but wasn't her own will.
Despite appearances, those points where she used to rush in where others held back were not really strong moments for her. That type of confidence wasn't what she meant, what she searched for. The false power of a high point was a different thing, more like a dream, it didn't last. In fact if anything, it damaged her, eroded the sense of strength she'd always relied on. A high point nearly always crashed, and as time went on that mean more things to undo, more consequences that she regretted afterwards. More strain on those she loved and all the more painful afterwards.
It was probably in the mix of highs and lows that she had lost it, especially the deepest lowes. There had been so much required just to stay on an upward course sometimes that she hadn't really had time to notice. As she narrowed down those points where she'd believed in herself and the points she knew she didn't feel right, she could see how it had happened. After years of bouncing from drama to illness to drama again, she had then clung to level ground, had controlled herself too much. It was extreme, but it felt almost as though taking action spontaneously, enjoying something freely might be a risk, a warning, might spiral into more difficulties to later deal with once the high point had past.
So she knew she had lost it, lost herself, now how could she find it again, trust herself? When fighting just to survive, this loss hadn't been noticeable, hadn't been an issue to concern herself with. Now she'd battled her way back to nearly herself, there was finally a little time to stop, to look back, to perhaps mourn that freedom, that ability to just react, to be. She didn't know if it would be lost forever, she didn't even know if it was something she could cope with: self belief seemed almost dangerous, to be a risk to her stable state.
She called it stable, for it was in her own control for once, but even now, in recovery there could be sudden drops, days when everything seemed impossible. She was tired, so very very tired. She wasn't going anywhere, wasn't going to leave her family, that she was determined about. But the feeling that there was to be no end, no escape from feeling fragile could wear away even at her own determination to return to the light and her family. She wasn't heading back down, and she knew the signs, knew what to do. So Joey controlled, she coped, avoided behaviour that led to drops, fought back when emotions wouldn't stay still. In the back of her mind she held the hope that one day that strength of self would come back, would let her feel there was a way forward, a future.
It wasn't easy though. A few months would pass and things seem normal, then a sudden drop would catch her by surprise. Sometimes it seemed as though every month brought a new issue, a new state. She was no longer blocked, neutral and bland, but that meant that she could feel, and sometimes that was just too much. After years of greyness, of no movement up or down, being dulled and safe, it was both worry and relief to detect small splashes of colour. The strength was muted compared to her memory of real feelings most of the time.
On occasion she chafed at how pale the feelings were, how she could sometimes only just raise herself out of the grey. She wanted to feel again, wanted to have that glow of deep primary senses, but then when she did, all of a sudden a rainbow of emotions could attack. Orange glowing, Yellow bouncing all around, Vibrant green. They all were powerful, flowed over her warmly, but also to begin with they were hard to deal with - almost too much.
It took practice, she realised, to properly feel again. It was in the contrast, the taste of real life returning that she realised just how far she'd travelled, how many years it had been since she had balanced good and bad feelings without conscious control.
At least these bursts of colour, splatters of real feeling told her that it was possible, that she COULD one day get back to herself. Still, the battle could feel so slow sometimes, and mostly she stayed in pastel colours almost worse than the grey, for she had enough to have a taste of real senses, but knew they weren't full, weren't real. Then sometimes something would break through her protective barrier and she could be whisked forward in almost a painful whirl. Red; Bue; Green... it was exhilarating, was a sense of that previous ability to enjoy life, to know there was a meaning there.
If she had been in her old state then she would have ridden the wave until the inevitable crash to black, but she fought, kept her balance until eventually she was able to keep up, jump off into the surf more and more. It kept control, kept her level and able to cope, and she was grateful for that. The blackness of that tunnel was never to be a way forward for her, however bright the high before, she knew that. So she would drop back each time, not follow too far or let things spiral too much, though this became both a relief and a loss mingled into one.
Feelings lost for years would return, able to fight their way to the front of her mind now that there was a little light there, was a little hope. That was good, she began to know her own mind slightly, know when she agreed or didn't agree with something. The memory of good times in the past could push past the fog, could give her back those glimpses of happiness to aim for. The grey of level ground had kept her safe, and had been necessary, but she couldn't stay there. Somewhere in the mist she realised she had dropped her ability to trust herself, to know that her actions, her abilities, even her continued existence were worthwhile. That was important, to hold onto getting that inner strength back, bit by bit, however hard it seemed at times.
She sometimes doubted that it was really possible, to get back that lost woman, that person who knew how they felt, knew what they wanted, and believed they could get it, believed in herself. She wondered whether it was a dream when she remembered being able to just 'know' that she was on track, to just have faith that everything would be ok, that she was going to have a future, a real future.
It seemed such a difficult thing to define, and she wished she could just move on, just do without it. She wondered whether perhaps everyone lost some of that strength of will, as the years went on. Somehow now it was gone, it seemed impossibly fragile, unable to keep whole as dreams showed themselves to be impractical, passions passed and the years marched on without people noticing. She wished she could just put it in the space of a cherished memory and be glad for the moment, not be looking back to what once was, to loss. It ought to be possible. She was heading to forty now after all, her family needed her to be focused, to get on with life without dreaming, without wondering how this, or that might have been different. Joey told herself to stop being so ungrateful, after all she was lucky, so very lucky to have Jack, and her children, and her family and friends. They were all around her, and she was loved, she WAS wanted, she WOULD be missed, hard as it was to believe that sometimes.
She couldn't leave it behind though, searching for that feeling. She felt ashamed to be unable to push past it, to be mourning a time that had in many ways been very turbulent and damaging. She missed feeling she could do no wrong, though she didn't show it, didn't tell. Everyone around her had been so supportive, had listened so much, how could she keep coming back with the same story, play the same record?
It had been such a success, getting level, it would seem so childish to turn round now and say "I'm still not me, I still can't get through, can't settle." Things were so much better now, so much stronger, she didn't feel she could really express what was wrong even. Couldn't explain how it felt, to be unable to do more than occasionally aim for the colours, hope that she could add a layer, slowly at a time. If she'd been scientifically inclined, she might have been asking for a prism, some elusive way to harness, control that rainbow, to - just occasionally - bundle the strands back into to a simple clean beam of light again. Instead, she tried to capture the feelings in stories, in songs, weave that word basket back around her mind to see if that might entice the feelings back.
That helped, to write things down, even if she might never publish. It helped to corral the colours her own way. The words helped to filter, to allow the colours to be bright but not to wound. When needed, the stories made a barrier, and kept her level, just sparkles of colour getting through. Then when able she could let more through a bit at a time, until she almost coped with nothing there but daily words, daily life.
One things was certain. She wouldn't give up. She was strong, she knew that, and she would get there eventually, one little step at a time. The rainbow was elusive, but worth it, and she wasn't ever going to stop looking, however much glare she might get along the way.
As she tolerated the emotions a colour at a time things seemed all the more possible. A sense of calm began to return, and she put less pressure on herself. She was getting there, a little at a time, she had many more years of life to rebuild, to find a new self, a strong colourful self again. She would get there in the end.
There was no rush.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Please excuse lots of commas, it's part of the semi stream of consciousness way this was written. It is meant to be a bit of a jumble, as that is how the recovering Joey is often feeling in this story.