My arm itches, my wrist itches, so do my ankles, parts of my hips, and the scratches on my leg. My cuts are all itching and it’s hard not to scratch.
But itching isn’t a bad thing. It’s not from mosquitos or some other bug bite, not because I’m allergic to my detergent, not because i have some exotic skin condition. Itching means healing.
My cuts are healing, but am I? The last week has been mind numbing and full of studying, cramming, and endless outline creation. I peeked my head out from under the piles of books today for a short while for a much needed break and outing with friends.
I haven’t been thinking about my condition, or my feelings, or my personal problems for a few days. My brain just hasn’t had the room for it. Even now, an open, highlighted book haunts my peripheral vision although I’ve decided that I’m done studying for the night. But just that short break, being outside and not studying, brought me back to the weight of my sadnesses.
We went to the zoo. Great weather, fun outing, a “to-do” before graduation checked off the list. But even picking out what clothes to wear involves some sort of mental gymnastics. In spite of the itching and healing, I’m still covered in cuts. This means I have to choose among the following:
a. Putting massive bandaids on my ankles to hide the scratches (I think this looks almost as suspicious as going bare), wearing long pants, or going bare;
b. Wearing tights or long pants to hide the scratches on my legs and thighs, or going bare; and
c. Bandaid-ing up the scratches on my arm– there’s one that looks enough like a burn to get away with, so it doesn’t figure into my calculation–, wearing a sweater, or going bare.
Going bare. That’s what I choose. The weather is nice, low 70’s and sunny, and I just don’t feel like making the effort to cover up. And we’re going to the zoo. So who cares.
I get dressed, wearing a black tank with running shorts that go well above the knee, and tennis shoes with socks, no bandaids.
I didn’t realize how exposed I was, or that I even cared, until I took my second study break of the day, going to a friend’s to watch our weekly show. It was a little colder by then so I threw on a small cardigan, abandoned my tennis shoes for flip flops, and left the house, again bandaid free.
But sitting down on the couch next to the group of friends who had all come to watch the show, I started to notice how prominent some of my scratches really are. There’s a big one over my right knee. Seated, I felt like it was glaring at me and shouting to everyone else. I crossed my legs to cover it. I noticed the scratches on the top of my wrist. I pull the arms of my sweater down past my wrists, balling up the ends in my tight fists. I didn’t think about the big scratches on my ankles and luckily no one commented.
The itching is starting to subside. And that scares me. Because most of my scratches and cuts look the same, just without blood. I’m scared that this is how they’re going to look for a long time. These might be the scars I didn’t want to think about while I was cutting my way out of my pain. And as long as they’re there I’m going to have to decide between the following:
b. Cover up?
c. Go bare?
The itching is subsiding but just because the physical itch is gone doesn’t mean I’m healed. When the itching started, this is what I was hoping for. But the itching is starting to subside. And today, after poking my head up from the piles of books that have surrounded me and distracted me for a week, I don’t feel all that healed. I’m still mad at the people who left me. It’s still lonely in my apartment and the white walls in there still drive me crazy. Some of my anger is turning into a bitterness that I don’t like. Maybe I shouldn’t have poked my head up from my books. Maybe if I’d just endured another week of frantic studying before looking up I would feel better. Maybe the cuts would fade, not just heal.
But I didn’t wait another week. And the pain, bitterness, and anger I feel towards the friends who have abandoned is still there. It hurts and I have to stop myself from clenching my jaw, grinding my teeth. Even numbed by my study coma, I am surprised that I still have the energy or emotion left to be angry.
But I am angry.
My cuts are healing, and for that I am thankful. But there has been no equivalent itching of the soul, mind, or memory to bring healing to those wounds. Those wounds that have briefly been numbed by studying. But after a few moments back in the real world I can see I still have a long way to go. Anger is a part of the grieving process and maybe the anger I’m feeling right now is a part of my grief for the loss of the friends who left me and cast me off.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. But for now I’ve got another week of studying to do, another week to wait for my self, my actual self, to start itching and heal on its own. But I’m afraid that even if the itching does begin again I’ll still be left with the emotional scars from the wounds inflicted upon me by abandonment.
So for now I guess it’s back to studying. Maybe, in a week, when I finally make it out of finals and poke my head into the real world, maybe some healing will have gotten done. Only time will tell and although they say time heals all things, I’m pretty sure a one week deadline is not enough notice for our friend, Father Time, to come and heal me. When I emerge from finals I imagine my choices will be the same: bandaid, cover, or bare.