‘It can’t be time already’, thought Alana. She could pretend the shrill ring was a part of her dream for only so long. The dream was not even that great. Just another stress dream where she was late for a class that she needed to graduate and turns out it was the wrong day and she did not even know the time or place and she had forgotten to sign up and...
“Enough!” Alana forced her eyes to open and felt around for the phone. Finding it, she turned it off, masking sure to jab the screen a little harder than usual to prove a point to no one but herself. Silence.
Alana laid in bed. It was her third alarm. She had slept through the 6:30 and the 7 and was finally going to allow the 8 am to conquer her. She needed to get dressed, feed her animals, eat breakfast, and drive 45 minutes in thirty minutes. Not enough time.
Alana laid in bed. The sunlight peeked through the curtains. It provided just enough light for her and her ‘secret’. Her hands itched. She did not have time for this. She had things to do and she had taken a week off work to do them. It was Thursday and she had not left the house. Still. Her hands itched. Her hands itched.
“No,” she told her hands, “not this morning. We have shit to do.”
Her hands itched.
She looked at her phone. Two calls from Mom and three texts. Bless her industrious mother. She typed back ‘sorry’ and then called.
“Hey honey,” said the wam, familiar voice. The narrator of her childhood and the comforter of woes. Her mother. The happy feeling Alana got when she talked to her mother was confusing. She felt the same way about her father and brother. She was calm and warm and safe with her family. Always had been and always would be. So why the secret? Why the problems?
“Yeah, just a late start.”
“Oh honey. It’s ok. Want me to meet you there? We can get lunch after,” her mother said, judgement free.
By Wednesday, Mom had recognized the signs and had done the grocery shopping for Alana. She had flitted into the small guest house behind her own large one and put the groceries away, cleaned, and cooked supper like taking care of your grown daughter who still lives on the property was normal. The grown daughter had sat, drinking hot tea and listening to Mom’s stories. Nevermind that her outfit (black tank and Saints football pants, left behind by the big ‘mistake’ after being served with the divorce papers) had been on for several days and her hair was a rats nest. Mom just made life better, funny, and happy. Alana had food and a clean house now.
“That sounds great.” Lies and she and her mother both knew it. Lunch was great, hanging out together was great, but one had to go out and go to the appointment to get to the lunch part.
“Ok, sweetie.” The sound of her mother chewing on her lip came through the receiver. Pangs of guilt hit Alana. Why did she do this to her poor mother? Why was she like this? There was no reason for it, but yet here they were. She realized she was saying all this out loud.
“Alana, enough. It’s all going to be ok. Have courage. You’re enough and I love you.”
Alana responded back and disconnected the call.
Her hands itched.
The thought alone panicked her. Why couldn’t she stop feeling like the waves were drowning her? There was so much to do, so, so much. She started thinking about what to wear. Unconscious of her movements, Alana fell back into that comforting feeling, that pattern that was destructive and she kept trying to stop and couldn't, no matter how hard she tried. She held the strands of hair up to the sliver of light in the window and could see all problems with her hair strands. Her hands twisted and pulled her hair, separating strands and looking for split ends, little imperfections that could be fixed with just a rip and tear and there you had it: no imperfections, no problems. Everything perfect. She picked and twisted and tore and lost herself in her mind, a cacophony of dreams, fears, hopes, and everything in between.
An hour later, her trichotillomania in full swing, Alana paused. An hour. She lost an hour. And an appointment. She had been waiting for the appointment to get more meds for like a week and she had missed it.
“Enough!” Alana screamed at herself and launched out of bed. Her cats went scrambling and the tornado of every morning began. Clothes flying, rushing around, no food for Alana, food for the cats, and a hollered goodbye and a reminder to be good boys.
Alana drummed on the steering wheel and drove faster than she should have. Her mind raced. Why was she like this, why was she like this, why was she like this. How did people have such normal, such full lives and never break down, yet she couldn’t even make a doctor’s appointment.
A horn blared, shaking her out of her reverie. She had been at a stoplight and was picking, twisting, and tearing, unaware of her surroundings and sobbing.
She was still sobbing when she got to the therapist. The receptionist took one look and walked calmly to the back. Alana’s hair was in a tight bun (can’t pick, twist, and tear hair that isn’t there!) and she had her sunglasses on. The therapist walked out.
“Oh, Alana,” she sighed. Without another word, she wrote the prescription.
“This is all I can do without an appointment and I shouldn’t even do this.” The little piece of paper exchanged hands.
“You have to remember, tell yourself constantly, ‘I am enough, I am enough.’ Come in tomorrow and we will work it all out.” She patted Alana’s shoulder and walked away.
Alana sat in the car and cried on the phone.
“Mom, I missed it.”
“It’s ok, sweetie. You were so brave to just try when you didn’t want to. We’ll try again. I’m going with you though.”
‘I am brave, I am brave.’ Maybe that could be the new mantra for the day.
Alana continued to listen to the soothing voice of her childhood and squeezed her eyes shut. How easy it would be to be done with it all. To release her mother from this ridiculousness, to not have to burden everyone with the stress of taking care of Alana. There would be no more pulling, twisting, and tearing, no more tears, no more medications. Just a quick end and some grief and then freedom. Mom would be sad, but she would get over it.
She pushed the phone between her shoulder and ear. Pick, twist, tear, pick, twist, tear, pick, twi...
“Alana, are you listening? Are you there? Put your hair in the bun, sweetie.”
She did so. Alana dug her nails into her wrist, right where a knife could slice through the thin skin and empty her life. The pain felt good and the marks looked like little crescent moons.
“I am, Mom. What?”
“Let’s get some tacos, whatcha think? Maybe some shopping afterwards? I have so many work stories I need to tell you.”
She laughed and launched into a small story about an ongoing problem employee. Alana listened, interested in the latest part of the ongoing drama. She leaned her head back and breathed and listened.
“Can you even believe it? Totally going to have to do something about them, but it can wait. Tacos and then shopping! Meet me at Taco House in ten minutes? Is that enough?” The sounds of getting things together, of her mother abandoning her job to save her grown daughter from herself, came through.
Deep breath. She immediately mapped out the route to Taco House. That was doable. She rubbed her wrist where the marks were already fading. She pulled out her hair and fluffed her curls, still intact after all these years of abuse.
Another day to go. One at a time. She couldn’t be done forever today. There was tacos to eat and shopping to do. Maybe another day.
“It’s enough, Mom. I’ll see you there.”
It was enough for today. Tomorrow was another story.