Since August 3rd I have been on a Contiki group holiday travelling from Los Angeles to New York. At the beginning of this article, I am in a hotel abutting the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida. For most people, this state of events is ideal and has the potential for wonderful times and indescribable adventures. Sadly, as you will all have picked up by now, I am not most people. Neither my brain nor my heart will permit me to compute the idea of a month of such glee or merriment. I simply cannot stress enough just how frustrating it is to me that I so desire to join in the fun and have a great time with the new friends Pippa has made (for reason I address myself in 3rd person here, see..) and yet, there never comes a time when control of the requisite organs to appreciate my situation rests in my hands. My illnesses are constantly usurping my power and forcing me to conceal the true madness behind the mask (yes, I am a Phantom of the Opera fan!).
The Pippa I was before I became medicated and up-to-a-point subdued and diluted would have been standoffish and shy to a fault, but eventually she would have found her feet and met her lobster (Friends has been playing on the coach!). Sadly, the Pippa who survived assault and constant mental, emotional and physical abuse with scant comfort to punctuate the suffering, attempts to fit in and finds her lobster but buckles under the strain of being so constantly watched and masked in front of strangers. That is what has happened in the midpoint of this wonderful trip that has been eagerly anticipated for years.
Precisely halfway through my sojourn abroad my mood took a nosedive. My sleeping hasn’t been too bad, which can sometimes lead to depression, yet just before a wild night in NOLA (New Orleans), most of which I do not recall, I felt as though I had no reason to live. I had just seen the most beautiful natural sight I’m sure I’ll ever see: the sunset over the bayou in Louisiana from an airboat floating on calm waters. I’ve included one of the pictures I captured of the moment that nearly brought me to tears but though it is a cliché thing to say, you really did have to be there sitting at the front of the boat with spray hitting you and showing you just how alive you are at that moment in time. I felt free and alone in a crowd. It was perfection. There was no pressure, there was no suffering, there was no thinking or living. There was just being. I thought it God’s gift. Sadly, as I have previously said, the greater the gift from God, the harsher and greater the payment owed to the Devil. The Devil took his payment in full not three hours later (even Faustus had more time to settle his debts!) when I determined to drink my way down the notorious Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It has been said that I was “drinking like I didn’t want to live” and I am forced to agree with my travelling companions. I did not want to live. Life will never be as perfect or easy to deal with as it was on that boat in the middle of the swamp seeing a spectacular sunset, and somewhere, subconsciously, my broken brain told my broken heart that both should go down after a high like that and then my entire system was in agreement that Bourbon Street would be a location where I tried to die happy rather than England where I have attempted to die miserable many times.
I remember the entirety of Bourbon Street, including the bulimic attack I had during a helping of gumbo. I even remember being cogent enough to request the Uber to take me and my two friends back to our hotel. The last thing I remember is getting into bed at probably about 2am, but after that, I have no clue what befell me or my roommate, though I am told I was a very abrasive drunk.
Since then, I don’t know if I am almost disappointed that I am not dead or if I am just reacting to the poor opinion of me that the other passengers now have, but my mood has refused to be improved. Despite my proverbial inhalation of my SSRIs and antidepressants, my bulimic attacks have not slowed up or gone away and I cannot get into the spirit of the trip as well as I was before I grew tired of wearing the mask that showed the rest of the world the portrait of a sane person, while beneath there resides a broken, bat-shit crazy bitch.
When I am back home, I wear a mask to a certain extent with people I do not trust or have only just met, but when you are spending a month in the company of the same people and without resorting to Facebook and Instagram stalking – something I refuse to do with my time – you have no idea who they really are as much as they cannot tell who you are. When it’s a fortnight or less, it’s not so bad because I can keep it together (more or less…) for that duration of time, but I’ve never had to maintain a constant mask for over four weeks and to paraphrase the great Tennessee Williams, I’ve never had to depend on the kindness of strangers for so long. It’s exhausting and it made me think about how often I don the mask and thereafter how long I wear it in the company of others.
I have since made up my mind and decided that none may know me as long as I live, save my children and the only love of my life. They are the only ones with whom I feel – or will feel – safe. As such, I wear a mask to all others to protect myself from being further broken and rendered unable to show my face to those who have to see it, who deserve to see it, who must see it.
Anyway, I’ll leave you all with that thought as I sit watching my roommate get ready to go to a club in Miami Beach that according to a club promoter I am too ugly, too big and not sufficiently “Miami” enough (yes, I am using Miami as an adjective that’s how low my self-esteem is currently, that without the mask I’m still too warped physically for the world that the Grammar Nazi in me has checked out for the night!).