Understanding

I wrote this a while ago, when I was dating someone horrible and feeling isolated and constantly misunderstood. It’s still just as important today, though. 

“Focus on me,” she would say. When I was panicking about nothing, or when my life was actually falling apart, or when my dad was in the hospital and I was sure he would never leave. “Focus on me. This is a good thing here.”

Today I realized why I never felt alone with her: she understands. She understands exactly what it feels like to have a brain like mine. Because no matter how much someone loves you, and how much they do for you to prove it, and how much time they’re willing and able to spend with you, if they don’t understand this feeling of drowning in your own mind, you’re going to feel alone with them.

She was the first person who understood, and as of right now the only. I remember the first time she said that, “focus on me.” It was twenty minutes before I was getting ready to stick an actual needle into an actual person’s vein for the first time, and I was losing my fucking shit, convinced I was going to accidentally cause permanent nerve damage to someone. I called and told her that obviously I was going to fail at life forever and never amount to anything because I was positive I wouldn’t be able to go through with sticking a needle into some random guy’s arm. I was so scared I couldn’t breathe.

“Arrêt!” She yelled so loud it literally startled me. “You’re talking to me in this moment. In this moment, focus on me.” And the way she said it, like she knew how necessary it was, was calming in itself.

And that’s what we did. When one of us would lose our shit, we would focus on the other. Everything was directed to one second of the right then and there. No one tried to plan the future. No one called anyone crazy. When we focused on each other, we were grounded… Because there was someone at that moment in time who understood.

Until today, I hadn’t spoken to her in months. We’re both in new relationships, and our last conversation felt forced, so I think we both knew enough to let it go. But I’ve been struggling– with my girlfriend and her kids and my life or lack thereof. My world felt hopeless, and I sat down and thought about what I needed. What did I need to feel? Not successful. Not loved. Not desired. I needed to feel understood. And despite my best efforts to help others understand, she’s the only person I could count on.

“I need you right now. I know that’s weird.” I held my breath after I texted her, because I had no idea what kind of response to expect. The length of her typing indicator bullshit stress bubble concerned me, and I fought the urge to tell her, “just write it in french so it will be quicker,” but when I finally got her reply it took my breath away.

“What is it? are you down? Tell me without discretion. I’m here.”

And unless you are someone who is perpetually misunderstood, I don’t think you could possibly understand why that response made me sob. She stayed up past midnight. I told her everything. i focused on her, and I know I’m going to be ok. It’s weird when I tell her things, because after I do, it’s like I’ve been cleansed. No therapist or friend or family member has ever made me feel that way. And after twenty minutes of talking about my bullshit, we were talking about her niece and puppies and strange movies like we didn’t go a day without speaking.

I don’t think she will ever find this, I don’t know how she possibly could. But I hope she knows how much I owe to her. I hope she knows what a rare kind of person she is. I hope she knows how much she will always be loved and appreciated from my little stupid corner of the world.

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