One of the things I lament most about my crappy brain is that people can’t look through a window into my head to see what kind of day I’m having. For their sake and mine, it would solve a lot of my interpersonal problems! They could look inside the window before deciding how to interact with me…
Is it the kind of day where Tim can take a joke, laugh when his kid spills orange juice all over the dog, or listen to his wife’s news-feed from her day without wanting to blow his brains out when she delivers a sad piece of news like someone’s dog dying?
Is it the kind of day when even happy noises from his children make him want to gouge my ears out (is that a thing?) so the world will shut the hell up? Or when seeing a dead squirrel in the middle of the road makes him shoot God the bird, saying “Hey there, nice world you’ve created where random and senseless death and violence seem to reign, even for squirrels…keep up the great work, Old Man!” (Yes, I really say and think these thinks…and worse!). Or when the people who are sad, lost, and pathetic make him pissed at God while the people who think they are on some Right Road make him pissed at their self-righteousness?
After assessing the situation, others could proceed in interacting with the version of me that has taken over my body for that hour or day.
A couple of days ago, this wish for a brain-window became more acute than ever as I scarred my almost-7-year-old daughter for life: I had just gotten home, so the family wasn’t quite sure exactly which version of dad/husband had arrived. I was on the precipice of the mire, but I wasn’t yet entirely in it…yet. Then I walked in the door. It was almost bed time so the kids were testy. My kids immediately wanted my attention to show me their latest earth-shattering discoveries (“Daddy, Daddy, look! Did you know that when you mix water and dirt, it makes mud?! Look at this giant mud pit I made in the front yard! Isn’t it awesome!)…my son (he’s 4) pitched a short screaming fit, probably about wanting a fruit gummy shaped like a Polar Bear when these were shaped like fruit (when do those fits end, exactly?)…my wife, understandably, was edgy with the kids (“If I hear you complain one more time, I’m locking you in your room until you’re 13! (She didn’t really say that…she’s a very nice person, I promise)).
I entered the mire, but there was no damn window into my head so the family would know to steer clear for a bit.
I tried escaping into cyber-world, picking up the computer, looking for some mental escape. Over walks my daughter and says, “Daddy, I want to tell you a secret!” With as much patience as I could muster, I leaned my head over for the secret and was greeted with a very loud and not-entirely-dry, “PSSSSSSSST!”
My body sprung back, my jaw clinched, my eyes narrowed, and I took one of those count-to-ten-thousand-before-speaking-Tim deep breaths as my daughter’s eyes widened to their max, knowing she had just picked a very bad moment for playing this very old trick on daddy. She immediately began saying “I’m sorry” over and over, but I hadn’t yet made it to ten, much less ten thousand, so I was still sitting mute. My wife didn’t see what happened, but she saw my face and knew it was not good. She called our daughter over, asked what happened, and comforted her like any good parent would do in the face of the other parent’s shitty behavior.
Eventually I calmed down enough to talk to my daughter rationally and to try to undo whatever damage I had done, but I’ve been a child, and I know that those moments when you think your parent might actually harm you physically are not easily healed. I’m still dealing with a few at age 38. And if I hadn’t caused any before (let’s be honest; I’ve caused plenty!), I have certainly caused one now.
I’ve told people before that I sometimes envy those whose struggles/disabilities are easily visible. I have some friends with severe arthritis, and I’m not asking for that to be added to my plate, but no one looks at them like they are assholes when their bodies are visibly swollen and they are limping through the day, literally. People accommodate them, in fact! Or I’m even guilty of envying people in wheel chairs or with seeing eye dogs. When they struggle to cross a busy street, they might even get some help from random strangers who can see the battle they’re fighting.
But when I act like a jerk even though I actually want to act like Hitler, I don’t get any credit for the battle I’m fighting. I just get labeled a jerk, or a bad dad, or a bad husband, or a friend whose panties are in a wad.
I suppose I’m just writing a self-pity post here. Everyone has his cross to bear, and I’m sure it’s not nearly as blissful to be a blind person as I’ve implied above. But a window in my head might really be of some help, scientists, so how about it? Or at least invent a mood ring that really does work! Then, next time my daughter comes to tell me a secret, I can hold up the ring so she will know if now is a good time to take Daddy’s frayed nerves and rip them even more to shreds with a loud, startling PSSSSSSST right into his nearly-imploded head.
P.S. After writing this post, multiple people who read it suggested that I develop a “code word” that I can say so the family knows that now is not a great time to play a practical joke on daddy or the like. I’m still working on my code word (my wife says I can’t use “leave me the hell alone,” so it might take awhile), but I thought this tidbit would be worth adding both for sufferers and supporters.