by Evelyn C. Sweeney
I should have sought help when I first got back from Afghanistan in 2013. I should have sought help when the rage started spilling on other people. I should have sought help when the heat on my face from a hug took me back to Afghanistan. When the rumble of the road under the tires of a Subaru made me flinch, and the thought of someone being too close to me on the road or even in the grocery store was too much. I should have sought help when I wouldn’t let food stay in my body. I should have sought help when the thoughts got darker. I should have sought help the first time I picked up that knife. I should have sought help when I couldn’t let my own husband touch me. I should have sought help when he told me to. I should have sought help when the verbal abuse and emotional neglect started. I should have sought help each time I felt scared. I should have sought help with each bottle.
I think about you sometimes, o shoulda-woulda-coulda. But not as much as I once did. Once I came to the realization of what I had done to myself, you were all I could think about. I wanted to be accountable for you. To right my wrongs. To ease the pain I caused others. But, the more I tried to, the more you consumed me. That’s the problem with you shoulda-woulda-coulda. You aren’t for me. You are about me. What is the point of thinking about you, shoulda-woulda-coulda, o shame and guilt that tries to haunt me? It seems like every time I do, you just pull me back into the cloud.
You are not for me. You are about me.
If you were for me you would know what it was like to be so deep into that cloud that you lose sight of the sun and all you see is darkness. You would have seen me trying to crawl out in the only ways I knew how. You would have seen me for the good that was also in me. You would see all the times I have gotten help since then. All the times I made the choice to take myself to the hospital, or to ride the wave and use coping skills. All the times I accepted treatment. All the hours in therapy. All the progress I have made.
If you are for me, you would just be a reminder of where I came from. Just a rally cry. Just a story of strength. Just lessons. When you are for me, you are acceptance. You are what I could do with the resources and barriers that I had. You would keep me humble and bring me back to earth when needed. But most importantly, when you are for me, you are possibility. Lessons in the darkness. A path forward. A motivation to love myself now and to appreciate myself for who I am becoming.
There is no space for you now, shoulda-woulda-coulda.
You are not for me. Thank you for what you taught me. But, you are not for me.
RBP – 16 Nov 2023
Write a story about not seeking help when you ought to have. (This can be past or present.)