I broke my silence today. All day long. In fact, I talked so much there was no silence to be had anywhere near me. Not even my neighborhood was silent, as my voice drifted outside the house and down the alley. Planes flying overhead — not that there really are any here, ever — probably trembled a touch as the vibrations from my voice made their way skyward.
Suddenly, a world was unfolding, one that didn’t seem to have any room or need for me.
It all started when I managed to get exactly two hours forty-eight minutes of sleep last night. First came the alternating cold and hot spells. Then came the clashes between my flannel pajamas and my cotton sheets. (The flannel basically sticks like tape to the sheets, which makes moving around nearly impossible.) Then came the snoring husband. Then the space-invading chihuahua whose sole mission was to ratchet husband and me farther and farther apart until each of us had less than a sliver of space to sleep on.
It’s no surprise that, under these conditions, my ruminating mind turned itself on. How much money had we spent on home repairs in the past year? Would we find a buyer for the house? What would it be like to move back to Kansas City? Can relationships left for nearly a decade be entered into again and, if so, under what conditions?
But that wasn’t all. My ruminating mind decided to kick things into high gear in a pathetic display unlike any its managed to generate since my thyroid disease tipped my brain off its shelf a few years back and sent it into a free fall. Last night, as I lay in bed, I made lists of people who don’t like me, who distance themselves from me, who fail to respond to emails, phone calls and other forms of communication. I made lists of people I don’t like. Of poets I don’t like. Lists of those with character flaws. Of those who call me weird, to my face, and of those who call me weird to my face then try to tell me that’s a compliment. I made lists of those who’ve embarrassed me. Of those who’ve hurt me. Of those I’ve hurt or embarrassed or both. I made lists of those I’ve loved and lost — to death, to disease, to circumstance, to chance, to fate.
I mapped out endogenous and exogenous social networks populated by those who fall into any or all of the categories listed above. Suddenly, a world was unfolding, one that didn’t seem to have any room or need for me. One in which everyone seemed to be pointing and laughing at me as if I were in fifth grade and had just managed to pull my pants — and underwear — down in front of everyone during gym class. (Long story. Also, sadly, a true story.)
All of a sudden, in the middle of the night — which is always how it happens — my mind was a jungle gym of shame and ridicule, and I couldn’t let go of my hold on the monkey bars.
Then something else hit me: cramps. Not just cramps, but CRAMPS. My uterus was full of pounding fists trying to penetrate its sides, the mean little fists of schoolyard bullies. Not only was I pre-menstrual making my way to menstrual, I had also ventured into the territory known as PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder — hence the insomnia, rumination, depressive thinking, negative framing, etc. If you don’t know what PMDD is, imagine trying to go about thinking your thoughts and feeling your feelings as usual, but with emotional explosive devices tucked away everywhere. You can’t make your way from one thought to another without detonating one — or one hundred — of those devices.
This only happens when I don’t take birth control pills. Without them in my system, I suffer from PMDD, seventeen-day periods with only three days of respite before the next period starts, and I bleed so much I might as well be left outside like a sacrificial animal used in a street slaughter.
So why had I gone off birth control pills? When my husband took his new position, we ended up with a lapse in our health care coverage, which means I can’t see the doctor to get my prescription refilled. I thought I could go a month or two without falling prey to PMDD, but I was wrong.
This is all a very long way of explaining how it came to pass that, this morning, I forgot my silence and spouted off a few unkind words to my snoring husband and boundary-crossing chihuahua. Then I rose from bed and reluctantly accepted the fact that I was going to have to speak on the phone to my gynecologist, who could get me back on birth control pills as soon as possible.
At that point, since I had already broken my vow of silence, I gave myself permission to speak all day long, and I did so — incessantly — first to my friend and later to my husband, neither of whom seemed particularly excited to listen to me fill the silence with so many words the air was full of them, the way bare trees sometimes grow thick with crows in fall’s evening light. (It appears five days of silence means you have a lot of talking to do on the sixth day to make up for those other five days.)
I continued to talk incessantly to my chihuahua, who actually did seem happy to hear from me (though I admit I’ve been talking to her a little bit in private each day). She managed to — ermahgerd! — roll in another dog’s feces in the early afternoon, and I talked and talked to her as I got her washed up and brushed out.
I must have said thousands and thousands of words today, most of them unimportant, unmemorable and stemming from a mind functioning solely in service to unanticipated hormonal shifts. My appointment to see the gynecologist isn’t until Thursday, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings — probably more of the same, though I’m hoping for a little peace and quiet on all levels. In other words, I hope I can toughen up and shut up. I vow to do my best on both counts.