When you’re drowning, you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come help me,’ you just scream.
Growing up with my mother was like almost drowning every day of my life, a chronic repetition of being swept away by the current, a vicious fight against the rip tide, followed by a slow, languid dance underwater, and a decision ultimately made my biological reflexes. Drowning is a terrible way to die. First, you’re conscious. You realize what’s happening and you try to fight it, sending yourself into a panic, which causes you to hyperventilate, consuming more and more oxygen. Once submerged underwater, the body begins to accumulate carbon dioxide, the gas that stimulates the need to breathe. Eventually, your brain takes over and says “I need air,” not knowing that the air cocktail outside has been replaced by water and involuntarily draws in a breathe, but when the water reaches the airway, the body sends another reflex to cough, which begins a vicious cycle of water in, water out, followed by more water in. Your throat contracts, trying to seal off the organs, but your stomach fills with water and your body gives in to sleep. You fall unconscious while the remaining process happens on autopilot while you leave your body.
But every day I fought it, this urge to submerge. Every day I fight this feeling in some way, shape or form. It is a learned behavior after so many years as a victim to my mother’s wrath. She is my riptide, the thing that sucks me under when I least expect it; the feelings of rejection, guilt, sadness, emptiness. The feelings that both ignite and extinguish the fire inside me.
I often find myself on resting spots, tired, damaged, but safe and ready to be rescued. I have flirted with the fine line between the two sides that I can’t remember a time when the choice for life was a conscious one.For most people, living is a simple reflexive function without thought or question. But for me, every day is not so much a choice, but a battle. While most float in an inner tube down a lazy river, I am white water rafting uphill in the middle of a thunderstorm to get somewhere as simple as the grocery store. Not to minimize anyone else’s battles, because we are all fighting noble ones every day.
I am exhausted and I just want to get out of the water, but despite the fact that my father once taught me never to turn my back on the ocean, I still do it, and I find myself overtaken by the waves.