Title: Thank you for Noticing
Characters: Syd - Katie
“I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything”
-- Trent Reznor
I was meeting Syd for dinner.
I wasn’t really feeling up to it. Today had been tough, well really it had been a tough week, maybe more accurately I was just having a shitty life.
But, there weren’t many reasons I could use to cancel out on her. Over committed usually lead to a lecture. Playing sick, never a good idea with the Colonel. Bad mood didn’t work because; she would want me to taaalllllkkkk about it. Occasionally, I could get away with just not up for it…but, since the reason for not up to it usually lead back to sick or bad mood, I decided not to risk it.
Syd was good at making me talk stuff out, and that was really the last thing I wanted to do today. I was hoping I could talk her into a movie. At least that way I could keep our commitment, and not have to talk.
Usually Syd and I just met someplace, but she was being unusually indecisive about what she wanted to do tonight and asked that I pick her up at the Victorian before we went out. As I was pulling up in front of the house, I called her on my cell phone to let her know to come down and meet me.
Syd informed me she wasn’t quite ready and could I please come up to her flat.
Chris and Verge’s Flat was dark, so I headed straight up to Syd’s on the third floor. I knocked and heard Syd yell for me to come in. “I’m in the bedroom, come on back.” I wandered through the flat to the master bedroom. Syd was in sweats and dusting. “You don’t look very ready.” I stated.
“I thought it might be better for us to stay in.” She said as she started to place items back on the freshly dusted dresser.
“How come?” I asked.
“You’ve had a tough week, I thought you might need to talk.” She said, sending me a serious look.
“Yeah, the week hasn’t been good to me. But, I’m up for going out. Maybe a movie?” I suggested.
Her expression softened a bit, “Ahh, I see you had already formatted a plan to get out of talking.”
“No, no, I just thought a movie would be fun. I’m cool, I don’t need to talk.” I’m not even sure I was buying it.
Syd moved across the room and tweaked my left nipple. “Owww, that fuckin’ hurt!” I exclaimed.
“Well, maybe if it didn’t have a ring through it, it wouldn’t have.” I was now getting a very stern look. Syd moved me over to her bed, sat me down and pushed up the sleeve on my sweater. “I think we need to talk about this.” She said as she tapped the bandage on my arm.
“What? I cut myself doing the dishes.” I said, pushing my sleeve back down, turning away from her and looking down at my hands.
“Yes, that is ‘the excuse’ I heard. Was it an accident or did you do it on purpose?” She asked very firmly.
“I don’t have to put of with this shit.” I got up off the bed and started out of the bedroom.
“SIT DOWN, YOUNG LADY.” The Colonel had a very commanding voice. I returned to the bed and sat down. “I asked you a question, Kathryn. Did you cut yourself on purpose?” I stayed silent. “First, your beautiful hair disappeared,” rubbing her hand over my grade one shaved head, “then in the last few weeks, numerous piercings have appeared on your body,” She motioned to my ears, nose and breast. “…And on Tuesday your arm required stitches for a cut, that seems as if it may have been self inflected.” I sat fidgeting with my thumb, very intrigued by my hands. Syd placed her hand over mine. “Did you cut yourself?” She asked. Tears began to well in my eyes and I nodded. She moved her hand up to cup my face. “Why?” She asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. She sat silently and waited for me to speak. “It makes it stop hurting.” I mumbled.
“Makes what stop hurting?” She asked.
“Life.” I said.
Tears welled in Syd’s eyes and she brought me into a tight embrace. I rested my head on her shoulder and cried. We sat like that for a long time. Eventually I pulled away, sat up and wiped my eyes and nose on my sleeve. Syd tried to pull me back into an embrace. “Not comfortable.” I muttered, “My legs are falling asleep.” She pushed herself back so that she was sitting against the headboard. She pulled me along with her. I rested my head on her lap and began to sob as she gently rubbed my head.
I didn’t realize I had cried myself to sleep until I woke to realize I had drooled all over Syd’s leg. I sat up, wiped my mouth, and gave Syd a very apologetic look. She smiled at me, “I raised three kids, and a little drool isn’t going to kill me.” She began to get up off the bed. “Come on, let’s go have some dinner.”
I followed her downstairs and sat at the breakfast bar. “Turkey sandwiches okay?” She asked. I nodded. I sat silently as she put the sandwiches together. “Causing yourself physical pain to avoid feeling emotional pain isn’t acceptable.”
I sat quietly for a while. There was so much I wanted to say. I had waited for someone to notice, to be there to help. But, I was scared out of my mind. How bad of shape was I in that it was so evident to others that I needed help? I wanted to explain, but the words just sat in my brain; they couldn’t or wouldn’t make the transition to speech. Syd just waited patiently for me to speak. I was horribly uncomfortable with the silence. She looked unphased, just calmly waiting for me to speak. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I whispered. “I can’t help it. It’s the only thing that makes the pain go away.”
“Does it really go away or are you just less likely to notice it when you are feeling the physical pain?”
I placed my head in the palms of my hands, to hide my eyes, hoping the room, this conversation, Syd, my pain would all just go away. Syd reached across the counter and placed her hand on my chin, lifting my face out of my hands. “Does it really go away?” She asked, holding me with not just her hand but also her eyes.
Again, the tears began to fall. I had been holding them in for so long. So fearful that once they started, they would never stop, and I would drown in my own sorrow. “No, never.” I said, almost inaudible through my tears.
“When was the last time you went to therapy or to see the psychiatrist?” She enquired.
I wiggled my mouth, scrunching my lips together and raising them to the side, and dropped our eye contact. Sydney let out a soft sigh.
“I thought you were still going to therapy. When did you stop?”
“I didn’t like her.” I replied.
“That wasn’t my question.” Syd said firmly. “When did you stop going to therapy?”
“A few months ago.” I answered
“Are you still taking your meds?” she asked.
“I ran out.”
“Mmmhmm. There is this thing called a refill. You call the doctor or pharmacy and they get you more of your medicine.” Syd can be a sarcastic bitch at times. “When was the last time you slept through the night?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“When was the last time you slept through the night?” She repeated.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to fall asleep.”
“I don’t want to close my eyes.”
She stood waiting for me to continue. My voice fell to barely a whisper. “I see him when I close my eyes. Even just when I blink. I hear him take off his belt and pull down his zipper. I feel him rip my underwear. I can feel him on top of me. I can’t breath. I feel the hair on his body against mine. I smell the dirt. I taste the dirt. I feel my blood mixed with his sweat, his semen, and caked with dirt on my legs. I feel him thrusting inside me. I feel his knife against my throat. I feel his breath on my neck. I hear his voice. I have to keep my eyes open. I have to keep them open or he is there.”
“Those are flashbacks.” Syd said very matter of factly. Syd had a lot of experience with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Her husband suffered horribly from PTSD after the four tours he served in Vietnam. As much as she tried to help him, he withdrew into the pain and committed suicide just two years after returning home from the war.
It made my heart ache that my problems brought back sad memories of her beloved husband.
“I don’t care what the fuck they are. I want them to go away. I need them to go away.” I cried.
“It takes a lot of work to make them go away.”
“It’s to hard. I can’t do it. It hurts.”
“Yes, it does hurt. You are in a lot of pain, but the things you are doing are dangerous, you’re hurting yourself…you need to be healing yourself. And that will be hard, and baby I will help you everyway I can, but it is your work. I can’t do it for you. I can be here to hold you when you need to feel safe, listen when you need to talk, I can take you to your appointments, pick up your meds, my shoulder is yours to cry on, but I can’t do the work for you. You have to do that for yourself. You have to want to do that for yourself. You can do it. You’re a strong, intelligent, funny, tough, warm and caring woman. You’re a fighter. You may not believe this, but everything you have been doing, the piercing and the cutting is you trying to fight this. But, the fighting you are doing now is hurting yourself not healing yourself. You need to learn behaviors that are going to help you heal and stop doing the things that are hurting you. We need to talk about what might work as a deterrent to you hurting yourself and an incentive to you attending therapy and taking your meds.”
Lovely. I could tell this wasn’t going to be good.
“I think you need a lot of help right now.” She looked at me for some type of recognition to her statement.
“The kind of help I can give you, that I am going to give you, is a lot of structure. You are spinning out of control. Tonight we put an end to that.” Again, she looked at me for some type of recognition.
I nodded again. Tears rolling down my cheeks.
“So, what has worked for us in the past?”
“No way! For Christ’s sake Syd! I’m 30 year’s old, you are not going to spank me!”
“I am going to spank you.” She pulled me to her side and undid the button and zipper on my pants.
“You can’t spank me because I’m having memories of being raped.”
She redid my pants and sat me on the floor in front of her. “Is that what you think? Do you think I am spanking you because of your flashbacks?” I sat silently without saying anything. “Katie, is that really what you think?”
I shook my head.
“Why do you think I am going to spank you?” She asked. I shrugged. “Katie?”
“Because, I’ve been hurting myself.” I answered. “But, it’s not fair.” I started to protest.
“Sugar, sorry to burst your bubble but life isn’t fair.” She said standing me back up and again undoing the button and zipper of my pants. “You have been making a lot of bad choices that are hurting you. And as much as you are hurting, you will need to deal with the consequences of making those choices.” She pulled my pants and boxers down to my knees. “It is time that you start making healthier choices. I am going to help you with that.”
Tears welled up in my eyes and I turned my head away from her with a quiet, “Hmph.”
She reached over to the dresser and took hold of her wooden hairbrush. My eyes widened. “Please Syd, please don’t.” I cried. Syd pulled me down over her lap. “I promise not to hurt myself anymore.”
“Good,” she said as she landed the first of many strokes of the hairbrush on my butt.
When she had finished turning my butt a rosy shade of red, I got up off her lap, pulled up my pants, turning away from her and the comfort she usually provided after a spanking. “That really hurt!” I cried.
“Did that help to relieve any of your ‘life’ hurt?” Syd asked sarcastically.
“NO.” I said.
“Good.” She said. “Life hurts. You have to deal with it, talk about it, and process it. There aren’t any quick and easy solutions. If you choose to hurt yourself again, you can expect more of what you just got.” She came up behind me and spun me into warm hug. “You’re staying hear tonight. Tomorrow we make an appointment with your psychiatrist to make sure you are on the correct dosage of medication. If you really don’t like your therapist I will work with you to find a new one. You will find a new one, and at least for the next couple of months, I will take you to and from your appointments.”
“Syd, that is really nice of you, but I can take care of it.” I responded.
She applied a swift swat to my bottom. “Obviously you can’t or you would have. I have already lost one person I love to PTSD; I will not lose another. This is the schedule, your option is to follow it or be 5150’d. Got it?”
I nodded. The thought of needing Syd this much scared me, but I also knew that there was no one better to support me through this. I leaned into her hug. Syd’s embrace and support filled me with physical and emotional safety that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
After settling into the realization of my newfound support, I looked up at Syd and asked, “How did you know about my nipple piercing?”
Syd smirked. “I guessed, but the fact that your left nipple has been a lot COLDER then the right one, for last week or so, aided my suspicion.”