• Lauren Morris

The Girl on the Cliff

I miss the days being surrounded by creatives with razor-sharp wit and lightning-fast reflexes. The world of improv is out of reach and foreign to me now. No longer am I inspired by something that happened on stage that can be applied to one’s everyday life. I’m not even sure I believe in it’s magic anymore. In fact, I don’t believe in much of anything anymore.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I believe in pain and lots of it. The companion to pain is grief, loneliness, and sadness so deeply embedded there are no words. I write often looking for words to convey the human condition.

This is also the longest stretch of time I’ve spent exploring me. I don’t like it. I had a good grasp of how and why I operate. I understood why I was on edge and what makes me the person I am right now. I entered therapy because there were was so much colliding at once. I didn’t expect my vestibular system to break down nor did I know that nightmares locked in my mind would be set free or that a pandemic would run amok. From there it’s been a free fall.

Things weren’t perfect because life is imperfect. I constructed a system to adapt including cutting off parts of me. It served its purpose and now it’s gone. There is a wonder in magic. An audience sits enthralled at the magician waiting to see what’s about to unfold. When you learn how it works, the curtain pulled back to reveal the levers and pulleys, the smoke subsiding then wonders cease to exist. That’s what therapy has done to me.

Sure I was using dark magic and it was a false narrative but it was magic nonetheless. It’s as if the only part that has been left for me is the funhouse of mirrors. This isn't a "fun" house. Each mirror shows how distorted I’ve become. Each week in therapy I look at a different mirror and then am left alone in the dark surrounded by all the other mirrors. It is up to me to navigate forward yet there are too many mirrors so I collapse in the middle of the room, alone and scared.

And that’s perhaps what hurts the most. It seems when I’ve needed people the most they leave me in the middle of the room alone and scared. They could help but they don’t. In fact, they harm. There is a breaking point. I’m not a magician and I can only tolerate so much.

Every week I stand at the edge of the cliff deciding if this is the week I quit. There is the ongoing debate within that the pull to quit now is a result of vulnerability. It isn’t safe to trust another human with this type of knowledge. Knowledge is power and it can be used for good or evil. I tell myself this is all ego trying to protect me. Then there’s the other small voice that reminds me how every small step forward has only led to more acute pain and suffering. Every time I think ah, this has to be the end of suffering, a new level of agony opens under my feet.

Pandora’s box has been opened. I do not like this metaphor because of how this narrative perpetuates anti-woman bias and most forget the entire story that she pushed through all the horrors in that box and also found hope. I can’t think of another metaphor right now, I definitely do not believe there is hope at the bottom, and I’m too worn down to find another way to describe what is taking place.

Now that I cannot unsee, life is even more intolerable. The obligations of my everyday life, the physical limitations of my injury, and the hauntings of my past are shattering what’s left of me all while the mirrors gaze back in the middle of that dark and cold room.

I don’t quit because I have a child in therapy. I now carry yet another burden. It isn’t fewer burdens I hope for but broader shoulders to carry them. My shoulders are not that broad and I’ve been asked to carry so much already. I am the one they look to as a role model for mental health. I’m the reason they can share, express, and begin to manage all the emotions. This was a gift I never received. How do I take that away from them? The answer is I can’t.

I’m convinced that it’s me who can’t navigate the contradictory nature of therapy. Feel your feelings but have them questioned constantly. Trust a person but know you are actually alone. The path of healing requires you to continually feel like shit and dismantle all you've known. What happened to you was not okay but consider how tormented they must be. What has been untangled are an onslaught of images, interrupted sleep due to nightmares, amplified emotional states, and the emphasis that the only person who bears witness to my suffering is me. That I am the only person who I can rely on. That I alone will find the way.

I can no longer be the person I was and I miss many parts of that existence. I’m alone on that cliff and I know no one is coming to stand beside me and marvel at what I see. So it’s back to the house of horrors with its warped mirrors and no more magic.

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