I am drowning in an ocean. Every time I get my head above water and take a breath, the current sucks me back in again. Guilt; never-ending, all-consuming. No matter what changes I make, I am reminded of my failures time and again.
Living with a disability means I cannot be blamed for our misfortunes, that it is not “my fault,” and yet everything that goes wrong can be traced back to me. Although not “failures” by definition, I am constantly wracked with guilt. In the same way my body is constantly battered with pain, so is my mind with guilt. It pulls me under every time I try to breathe. Every time I try to move up in life, the guilt pulls me back under into the abyss.
I am trying to DO, but my body betrays me. I started working freelance, a few hours a day, my body protests. I was the one who had to stop working because I got hurt. I was the one who financially screwed us seven ways from Sunday. Work makes me feel like I am participating in life, instead of just letting it pass me by, it makes me feel like I can breathe. But just as I feel life coming back into me, I am pummeled by another wave of guilt, and into the abyss I go. Like an alarm that is set to go off every hour, I am repeatedly and constantly reminded that had I been able to keep working, to keep contributing, I would be living in a house right now. Guilty.
I try again to swim, harder, faster. I sign up for acting class. I am happy, excited, there is a hint of life in my eyes that had long gone, when I am once again choked by guilt. Why am I spending money on something for myself? Why am I taking and not giving? Why am I trying to get more education when I already possess a useless master’s degree which my mind wants to make use of, but my body cannot? Guilty.
How can I breathe? How am I supposed to get ahead of the currents of guilt? Every conversation, every argument reminds me that my life is my doing, my debts, my health, mine, mine, mine. And as I think this, one more wave pounds me, forcing me under. This has made me selfish and it has made others suffer. I am the one in pain, but I do not suffer alone, and so my husband suffers for me. He suffers for the pain and the depression, for the failures, for the guilt.
I can’t get through a day without being pulled under, without seeing the pain my disability has caused. In the same way my body screams at night from having sat too long, stood too long, moved too much, my mind is screaming with guilt that it is all my fault…and so I go with it. I stop swimming with the current, feel myself get sucked under…but damned if I don’t fight to get back to the surface. Why? Why don’t I just give up? If I knew why I fight when I desire nothing more than to quit, I would know why I am still here.
And so, every day I am struck with guilt, I fight to breathe and I swim against the current, however futile it may be. I hope to be free of this one day. I hope to understand what peace of mind is. I hope to finally take a breath of air.