Frozen Terror

from my journal for February 1971.  I was living in a big house in Portland Maine with my sister.  I was 29 years old and had left California after a breakdown and all I wanted to do was hide.  I had no idea how cold and lonely that winter was going to be.

My mind is going around in circles and banging into stone walls.  I keep running across interesting ideas and when i try to imagine carrying them out in my own life i run smack into something frozen, something confused and jamming and stuck.  I can’t decide how to attack the next moment: shall i force myself to do something i think i want to do though there is no internal motivation, or shall i plunge deeply into my own despair hoping that the way out is through it rather than away from it.  Should i try to find a creative job that will give me a sense of confidence, or will it be impossible to find that job without a sense of confidence?  at the moment i am avoiding job-hunting, i do not seem to have the energy for an all out effort, i do not really care.  are these the symptoms of breakdown?

I went “home” to Cincinnati to stay with my parents in the house where I grew up.  It was very very cold, too cold for our house (inadequately insulated and without storm windows) so I was cold the whole time.  I don’t remember interacting with my parents at all, though I must have done.  There’s a way in which they weren’t there, just as they hadn’t been there in my childhood.  While I was there, I watched “The Night of the Iguana” on TV.  It’s darkness suited my inner darkness.  The four lines below are from the play.

how calmly does the olive branch
observe the sky begin to blanch
without a cry, without a prayer
with no betrayal of despair…

wow. two whole weeks of terror — standing at the edge of the Abyss and looking down.  utter lack of meaning — that is hell — that is the sin against the holy ghost.  seeing myself weak, shabby, ineffectual, a typical ‘old maid’  (but not a maid!)  a pitiable creature, without even a job to redeem her.  I even came to a final cold place where suicide seemed the only alternative to terror  (a betrayal of despair, though)  and my fantasies were of how to get the sleeping pills, not how I would be rescued.  walking through a long dark tunnel — no sign of light ahead, no memory of light or warmth behind  (the cold, the cold is so appalling)  and I keep walking because the pain is so great and worse when i stop.  praying the plane will crash.  ogod.  wishing i could still believe in god.  praying to apollo and knowing it won’t work because i don’t believe — I have plunged into weaving as an antidote.

I have achieved limbo — no hope yet, but suicide no longer a reality — have decided to stick with despair.

still further from the abyss.
out of terror into a space of sunshine

(what is it, i wonder, between the darkness and the daybreak that makes us ride, wild-eyed, to seek the tumbling noon)

what caused or created my salvation?
weaving as if my life depended on it.
watching TV and reading the paper.
stopping to see david & trudi on the way to the coffee house.
weaving as if my life depended on it.

then there was the night that david seduced me — woke in the morning in silent-screaming-terror, but since then the terror receded like a tide.  so what then?  i can’t always count on having an attractive male around to bring me out of it.  or do they show up when im already on the upswing — like lowell did

snow-whitened city
snow blind and snow silent
muffled before dawn.

i feel black and grim, used and hurt, hopeless again as usual.  naked on the rim of the world turning in space.  cold.  no one to talk to, no place to go.  what i really need is a man to love me.  take care of me emotionally.

shit.  the person i have changed into is angry.  she is angry at david for using my body for sex and only buying me lunch in return.  she’s angry at leah for using my enthusiasm and sense of responsibility to put on a show for a bunch of kids in an intolerable situation.  i don’t understand this new person — she’s cold and hard.  she’s not afraid to get angry, she doesn’t give a shit about being nice.  david’s an OK fuck and thats all.  he’s not that good but if you’re desperate — just out of the valley of the shadow of death — then any physical contact seems like the warmth and meaning of life  [“sappy!”]  any physical contact will keep away the fog for that short brief time.

bad day today — confusion
what i so desperately need is a place to rest my mind.

i think i will go back to collecting sleeping pills
the pain is so great and the rewards are so small
what is the point of endurance?

‘i am a rock, i am an island’
to be like the rock and endure…my life is only a flash in the life of the rock after all. ‘nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will’
i feel so paranoid and ugly and lost, and i know that i do it in my own mind, but i can’t change it.  could there be a worse hell?

stumbling across the frozen waste, the sun glints off a piece of ice, fresh and cold here and i have left the company of thirteen far behind.

The “Company of Thirteen” was a fantasy I was writing.  Some of its pieces ended up in a book that I published, called “The Feminine of History is Mystery.”

another night of the iguana to be faced & feared through
i am afraid to go to sleep.
yea though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death

what do i do wrong?  why has no one ever loved me — why do they all leave so quickly?  am i too involved or too cold?  i don’t know!  i don’t know!  i must be an incredibly awful person that no one has ever loved me.

yeah, even david.  two screws and he’s done.

how can i get those sleeping pills.
it just isn’t worth the fight any longer.

i’ve been reading over my journal — it seems like i’ve been severely depressed for an awfully long time.

there’s also a chance that im pregnant.  peachy.  for a man who wouldn’t even give me any sympathy much less hold my hand while i had the fetus scraped out of my womb.  god knows id never bring a poor child into this world with me as its mother.

well then at least i would have had an abortion.
SOMETHING would have happened to me.
god what bitterness — all this written in a sarcastic voice.
i hurt – i hurt – i hurt


whatever im going through is so strange.  first the terror and now the numbness and confusion.  i can’t seem to bring my mind to bear on anything.  it chatters on and on, i can’t even find a place of silence to rest it, and yet i can’t make it work for me either.  can’t make it focus and grasp and follow one current of thought out to its conclusion.  a strange blankness — not the emptiness of silence for which i would be grateful, but the blankness of immovable conflict.

i keep going through the same sets of images.  what can be done to break the ice jam and get things flowing again?

At the time I didn’t know much about depression.  I was seeing a psychiatrist and taking an anti depressant which gave me a rash.  I know now that I never got the dose up to where it would work.  I experienced the psychiatrist as judgmental, so he was no help.  Looking back, knowing I’m dealing with PTSD, I see this winter as the “freeze” stage in trauma.  I feel enormous compassion for that lost girl and her suffering.

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