The summer before tenth grade, I got a horrible case of poison ivy. For some summer bucks, I weeded my parents' side yard, which turned out to be a healthy patch of poison ivy. Intent on a summer tan, I did it all in my swimsuit. So I spent the better part of too many hours feeling my way through leafy poison with almost no protective outerwear.
I was covered. Covered, I tell you.
It was the worst, most consuming itch. Something itched, always. Always. And everyone around me - everyone, everyone - reminded me not to scratch.
"Don't scratch. Oh, Tricia, don't scratch that. Remember: don't scratch."
Finally, I hit my limit. I said to one well-meaning well-wisher, "Here's the deal: my entire body itches. I wish to crawl out of my skin. It itches always. So if you happen to see me scratching the inside of my elbow ever so carefully, please know, it's not because I forgot I'm not supposed to. It's because I honestly, truly can't stand it for one more minute."
I have remembered that scene many times recently.
Once again, all of me is uneasy, in a wholly different way. I am not myself; too much has been stolen. Familiarity is long gone. And many, many people around me are reminding me to be strong.
"Stay strong, Tricia. Don't give up. Don't give in. Don't let it swallow you. Stay strong."
Here's the deal: All of me aches, all of the time. I am jumpy with anxiety that makes me want to crawl out of my skin. My heart is pierced and heavy. My children are grieving, angry, asking, and confused. I have two gauges: sad and numb. I wish to feel less, feel more, feel at all.
Mostly, I am deeply sad, all the time.
So when you see me indulge in the darkness, ever so carefully, know that it's not because I forgot what lies ahead of me. It's not because I gave up.
It's because I honestly, truly couldn't stand it for one more minute.