If you crawl underneath our house on the dusty high desert, you will find yourself covered in a mesh as fine as silk. As you propel yourself through it, there is a sound like the whisper of rupturing bath bubbles. This sticky material is left behind by the black widow. The female is a vicious-appearing, glossy arachnid with a red hourglass on her black abdomen. While most spiders build beautiful, symmetrical webs, the web of the black widow is a haphazard, tangled, irregular mess. I'm sure there are thousands of these spiders under my feet, although they stay hidden in the shadows and rarely make an appearance. They are venomous and can make a person very ill, so I never reach blindly into the dark coils of a garden hose or leave my shoes outside for long.
These days I wake up feeling strange. My brain is working, yet I can't seem to make it do what I want it to, like organize my schedule or steer my body in the direction I desire to go like I used to do. I often forget things.
This is not entirely new.
I have felt this way for a couple of months now. I'm distracted and irritable. There seems to be a sticky, thickening web inside my skull, and the familiar fear of blindly feeling for something in a dark space prevents me from reaching inside to discover just what is there to keep me in this suspended state of being.
Maybe I don't want to know.
Things are generally going well. I have nothing to complain about. Erik is healthy. I take him to therapies and school. While he still weakly protests going to these places, I know he enjoys them once he arrives. I follow the examples set around me when being an excellent mother doesn't seem to come naturally and hope I meet the standards I desire to achieve. Although Erik is challenging enough to create an exhaustion that sinks into my core, I know that he is a generally happy boy, and I feel satisified with that.
Am I happy?
I'm honestly not sure. At the moment, that is simply not a priority. I worry that this is the numbness people experience before they begin insisting on having breakfast in their wedding dress every day, knitting sweaters for various household appliances, urinating in the office coffee pot, or covering themselves in paper mache for no good reason at all. You know. The one thing that triggers a phone call to the authorities by a concerned neighbor or relative. Maybe I would do these things if I had more energy.
But I don't.
Last week I was overtaken by a migraine that just wouldn't die. I am beginning to develop a familiar, painless aura before a headache hits me full force. This is new. Sometimes the aura lasts for a couple of days. I sit staring into space and find it hard to bring the thoughts I want to the surface. I have trouble concentrating. People around me eventually begin to ask me if I am okay. Words seem to slowly drip from me when I feel talkative. I feel like I have just taken the world's biggest bong hit.
Before my support group meeting last week, the pain hit me full force. I felt a need to attend group, however, and ignored the agonizing ache that concentrated itself to pulse inside my left eyeball, practically blinding me. I bundled myself up and got into my Jeep against my better judgment, pulling into a parking spot a block away on a street in my old neighborhood lined with deciduous trees and ancient homes with welcoming, boxy porches collecting bright leaves. I walked through the gloomy chill to the remodeled corner store/deli. The heat inside emanating from the pizza ovens seemed to suck the oxygen from my lungs but began to bake the pain out of my head. I found the last vacant table and waited for the rest of the group, trying not to look as desperate as I felt. I was not alone for long. There were soon four of us.
We emptied ourselves of what was inside of us, although a lot of what ails me stuck in the widening trap built by the silent parasite inside, unwilling to be exposed to the cheerful lighting inside the building. I found myself chattering too much about nothing but found absorbing the words that were used to sketch the struggles around me comforting. Cars made their way down the narrow street outside the plate glass window, and the cones of the light spilling out from their headlights revealed giant, wet snowflakes wildly spinning to the pavement. One woman in our group inhaled sharply in surprise, and when we turned to see the wintry spectacle, we let out a collective groan. A delicious dessert of some kind topped with a merrily blazing candle was brought to a large table in the corner and set in front of a sour-looking gentleman surrounded by a group of middle-aged friends. He muttered a string of words, one of which was an obscenity. We went back to the strange business of being a support group.
Over the course of the evening, my head miraculously ceased throbbing in the presence of the other women warriors. As we left the building, the night air was filled with the sterile, indescribable scent of snow, and I felt even better taking it into my lungs. I was once again a bad ass warrior, ready to take on the world. I thanked my new friends and wished I had more words to tell them what it was that they had given me to carry home inside of me. I made my way home through the snow.
In the morning, though, the web was again present, this time conducting bolts of sickening physical pain in my skull and gumming up my synapses with dirty, spider-generated gobs of silk, rendering me slow once more.
Yeah, I think there are spiderwebs in my head.
But I'm not ready to reach into the darkness to find out.