Changing the Guard

There’s this image in my head of a soldier, dressed in armor pacing back and forth, back and forth along a wall guarding my heart and myself. It’s hypervigilant, never able to rest – no stopping, not even for a sip of water. Just back and forth, back and forth.

So many years, back and forth with no change of guard.

I was taught early on that you don’t show emotion in public. This meant regardless of a horrid fight in the car, when we arrived at a dinner event there were to be no signs of upset. I was to sit up straight, cross my legs, smile, nod, pretend I liked shrimp even when it made me gag, and make polite conversation. I wasn’t always great at this. But I tried very hard. I tried to contain any emotion or feeling or thought that would disappoint my parents. I was a doctor’s daughter and a figure skating judge’s daughter and that’s simply what was expected. There was no giving into my emotions and letting down my guard.

There was no letting down my guard many times in my life. I had to be perfect at school – assignments done early, show up to class early, stay late, work hard. The same as an employee and a skater. I had to be on guard for the times when I might let my guard down. Because letting my guard down – saying the wrong thing, showing weakness, being impolite or needy might have dire consequences.

As a patient again there has never been an ability to let my guard down. For the most part, there haven’t been others to delegate my protection to. When you are your own and only advocate whether it be because you’ve gone alone to a doctor appointment or because you’ve pushed everyone away and find yourself being pushed on a gurney into surgery, you cannot let your guard down. You cannot let down your guard when you wake up and come back to the reality. There is no time for rest or recuperation in the way it is needed.

As a type 1 diabetic, there is never a moment that you are at complete rest – the constant and unrelenting job of being your own pancreas cannot be delegated until there’s a cure.

In celiac disease, the very essence of life on food and drink must be constantly attended to lest I ingest a morcel of gluten and set off the autoimmune reaction that will affect me for weeks on end.

In chronic pain from arthritis and occipital neuralgia and so many other injuries and illnesses, in endometriosis, the body screams that it must be attended to again and again.

I think mother’s know this feeling of hypervigilance well – ready to respond when her children cry out.

What then happens when one must be in guard at all times? When there is no mother’s arms to fall into that I might feel safe, no caregiver to take the heavy burdens that eat at the very core of your being? Where does one find repose? For this constant watch cannot be sustained.

Some may find it in family. I have no family. Others may find it in a god. I believe in no higher power. And others find such comfort in the arms of a lover. I am not loved as such.

For a long time now I have desperately wanted someone I could trust to allow that guard inside me to rest. A changing of the guard so that I can collapse – to cry, to scream, to sleep, to breathe.

I think there have been very few people I’ve entrusted with that task. Most have painfully and cruelly failed.

Others left too soon. I miss them desperately now.

I need a change of guard – to watch over me body and mind for a little bit. Provide for me safety, shelter, food, comfort, medicine – much as you would a child.

To an extent I can allow some to join me in that guard, lowering the vigilence but never ceding it.

The image that comes to my mind when I see this soldier able to allow another to take guard and walk away from his post is one of shedding the armor, laying down the lance, becoming a child who crawls to the back of her closet where it is quiet and dark and calm. She can draw her knees up and lay her head down, close her eyes, and simply rest.

I was recently talking to a friend of the security I found behind my bedroom door and more so in the back of my closet, where the skidding door was always broken and no one could come get me. She said it perfectly:

Ah the bedroom/closet/bathroom door.  Always the safe haven- depending on if it locked, etc. I believe someone should do an essay based on that concept. So many kids who were scared had a lot of faith resting on doors.

I wish I could find my way back to. That safe place. I wish I could let the guard in me rest.

But the days and nights are filled with terror and responsibilities. And there is no one to trust.

There can be no changing of the guard. Yet I am so very tired.

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