3 4ths

1. Sparkler in hand you run barefoot among the rows of seated families, watching in awe as the flame lingers in the air, your retinas burning. You return, cackling, to your mom, waving the sparking stick too close to her face for comfort. The white light falters and fades away. The grass is wet, the sky dark except for the strip of city glow on the horizon. You’re waiting, time stretching on forever. Fireflies rise in the grass from in between your toes and you try to catch one, finger outstretched and hopeful. The first boom startles you. Fire erupts in the sky as your mom gathers you onto her lap, smiling in wonder at the way she can see every light reflected in your eyes. These were the days when the show lasted hours, one stunning shower of lights after another. Later you’ll realize it was mere minutes.

2. You drove here, you must’ve. Yes you definitely did. You run back to your car in a panic, the prospect of being near pseudo-strangers, (enemies?) too daunting. The sky is exploding as you slam the car door shut and dig your nails into the skin on your wrist. You scratch and you scratch until skin is coming off in layers and your nails are sticky with blood. You glance longingly at the cement ledge. Whose smart idea was it to park on the top floor of a parking garage? Yours probably, but you don’t remember anything before this moment. Did you take something? You don’t recall. You’re crying and crying and you can’t breathe but you’re shifting into reverse and speeding down the ramp. The only fireworks you see that night are in your rear view mirror. These were the days when you thought these people mattered, when you wanted both their pity and respect. Later you’ll realize he didn’t care enough for you to worry so much anyway.

3. You’re late. Your head is foggy as you shuffle down the street in your pajamas, not even intending to make it all the way there. You follow the popping until you catch a glimpse of a yellow starburst. You climb onto a ledge at the end of the street, the hot stone chafing your bare legs. You look up, catching the rest of the show from between tree tops and with the glow of a streetlight. You think of blankets, of hands held and smiles upturned and dewy grass beneath you and you blink. You blink again and again until it’s gone. You’re shaking but there are no tears. You sit there long after the sky returns to blankness, wishing the minutes still stretched like they did when a firefly looked big in your hand and you could fall asleep in the car on the way home. These were the days when every moment alone felt lonely. Later you’ll realize you were better company anyway.

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Misc

I forgot what it feels like to be sad at night, walking through dark streets, passing intermittently under the orange street light glow. To feel your skin burning with the desire to run, to burn, hoping that the quiet air assuages that fire. Walking and walking and running and walking to shut up your brain and the crawling on your skin. But lighting up anyway. But marking yourself up anyway. It doesn’t count if you don’t do it at home, right?

This is what it would’ve been like, you imagine, if you hadn’t been too busy in high school getting high and destroying your skin in your parents’ windowless basement, fighting the night and fighting yourself, punching walls at school and trying to stay on the right side of the road on your way home. But now you’re alone and you’re crying and you’re screaming and you’re trying to walk it off but you’re failing you’re failing you’re failing. Perhaps it’s not the same after all. You’ll never really know.

I’m Glad I Survived – World Suicide Prevention Day Reflection

It’s been nearly 3 years since the last time I tried to end my life. It was a Saturday night, after dark. It seemed everyone else was enjoying themselves, out with friends. But there I was, alone, for the millionth weekend in a row. It was my own fault, and I knew it. I had pushed everyone away. Everything had built up, and I was threatening to explode. I was tired. Tired of the cycle of my eating disorder. Tired of self-harming. Tired of the small world I’d built for myself by self-isolating, with all its strict rules and high expectations. There was only one way out: through the morgue. I didn’t even consider recovery an option. It was too slow a fix, too huge a challenge, too much change.

That night, October 13th, 2012, I sat alone in my dorm room. I listened to the laughter in the hallway. I shed a few tears. Then I opened my bag of pills that I kept just in case. I took a handful and swallowed. I waited. The effects started to kick in. I left my room, not wanting my roommate to have the trauma of finding my body. I walked out into the night. As my head started to swim, I realized the gravity of the decision I’d made. I had a moment of panic. Then I hopped on a bus and headed towards the hospital. I called my mom and confessed what I’d done. I called my therapist and did the same. When I stumbled into the ER, I was greeted by stony-faced nurses, tired from a long shift. I was embarrassed by my inability to follow through, and the icy treatment I received only made it worse. I was just another troubled teenager pulling a stunt. They clipped a neon pink bracelet onto my wrist that signified that I was not, under any circumstances, allowed to leave. They took my belongings and locked them away in a paper bag. They hooked me up to IV fluids in a barren room at the end of the hall. I floated in and out of consciousness, occasionally wandering out to the lobby to ask to call my parents. Mostly I sat in the chair in my room, shifting around in discomfort. Sometime after midnight, when I was stable enough to move, they brought a wheelchair. A nurse and a security guard wheeled my up to the 15th floor. Thus began my second stay on the psychiatric ward.

I spent the next 5 days shuffling across the white, tiled floor, dressed in a hospital gown and wrapped in a blanket. I was woken up each day to have my vitals taken. I was interviewed several times a day, constantly asked how I was feeling. I was fed pills once a day with a little cup of water. I chose my meals, carefully picking the most comfortable option. Twice a day we migrated down the hall to the activity room. There we did crafts, listening to the radio (Home by Philip Phillips quickly became my hospital anthem). There were books, exercise bikes, a computer, and a pool table. I made bead bracelet after bead bracelet. There was a camaraderie on the ward. We understood each other. Our experiences were slightly different, but yet the same. The alcoholic, the bipolar, the borderline, we were all in the same boat. We’d all proved unable to cope with real life. We’d been deemed unstable and unfit for release.

I saw social workers, therapists, doctors, and psychiatrists. They would all come to see me and take me away into a tiny room. Then they’d interrogate me about my feelings, and my plans. After 5 days, and with some manipulation on my part, they decided that I was well enough to be released. After being discharged, I entered more rigorous therapy. It took 9 months for me to decide to get better. When I did, I took a year off school on medical leave to focus on my recovery. I got tested and diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I started a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program for the third time, and gave it my all. DBT played a crucial role in my recovery. It gave me the skills I needed to get through intense emotions and urges. I reduced my self-harm behaviors. I took suicide off the table as an option for escape. I started to relearn how to feed myself. I found a medication balance that worked well. I got and kept a job. I worked hard to accept my situation and be willing to change it. I started to slow down, and really participate in life. I learned to take pleasure in the little things like the spring flowers and fall leaves. Soon my negativity was turned into something a little more positive. I learned to take care of myself and to love spending time alone. I began to enjoy life.

Now I’m starting my second year back at school. I’m still working on building my life worth living. Right now it consists of taking pleasure in the little things. Running into a bunny on my walk home. Taking pleasure in the way I dress. Watching my pet frog hunt his crickets. Listening to music on my way to class. I try to dive into my school work which can help take my mind off my insecurities and other problems. I do a lot of cheerleading and pumping myself up. I’m even starting to plan my future, something that once paralyzed me with fear and that I was convinced I didn’t have.

Things are still hard though. I haven’t been cured; I never will be. I have to fight every day to avoid sliding backwards. I struggle with finding a balance between alone time and being social. There are still days when I don’t want to get out of bed or leave the house. My mood still fluctuates, rising and dropping, though not as severely as before. I still go to therapy each week and take my medicine every day. What’s different is the ratio of good to bad days. There are more good days and moments than before. And I have hope. Hope that I can accomplish the things I want to do. Hope that my life will continue to improve. Hope that I can survive.

Recovery is undeniably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. When I started I honestly didn’t believe my life could improve. But it has. Through therapy, medication, mindfulness, dedication, and hard work, I have slowly built my life worth living. I once was skeptical, and very jaded but I’ve come to admit that recovery is hard, but it’s worth it. A lot has changed but what has changed most of all is my perspective on life. After years of wanting to end my own life, the gratitude and appreciation I have for the years ahead of me are indescribable. I’ve fought hard for the opportunity to make a place for myself in this world and to leave my mark on it. The future is much more valuable and powerful to me because I didn’t have one for so long. It’s not something I’m going to risk giving up again.

Now, three years later, I’m glad I survived.