Nine days ago, it marked a year and a half since my entire world imploded, leaving me the marvelous, anxiety-ridden mess I am today.
I hadn’t really thought about it much. My first year or so, I’d treat myself to ice cream at Feddy’s every month, marking more and more time outside of the sadness and stress of what my life had become. But as life went on and I continued to work on things, I think, at a certain point, that I no longer saw the need to keep celebrating each month.
Mostly because of all the other things I had to celebrate.
Happy kinda sneaks up on you.
In the past few months, I’ve started working more, being more social, and working on connecting with friends. Even more than that, the quote about needing to glow yourself before you can be a light for others has been nagging at me, constantly reflected on the new songs I add to my Spotify account. They’re all about doing more, being more, chasing all that you’ve been missing. Celebrating and living and getting off your ass.
Life is full of adventures, friends, and hard work. There are certain things I sacrifice, my body needing the rest on a daily basis, but when it comes down to it, that stuff I do do becomes so much more meaningful. If I save up a week of energy so I can go out with friends one night or another, then that one night is magical and fun.
My right hand is going tingly, though. A sign I’ve been in this chair too long.
Yes, my lovely body, the one I battle constantly, has started going selective numb in a way that has me off my ass and calling doctors….for an appointment I should have made in March. Most of the time, I can’t feel half the fingers on my right hand, or am driven crazy by the burning through them.
But other things are changing, too. I’ve made a budget and am slowly recovering my finances. I clean more and cook more. I don’t feel like an overgrown teenager, a non-adult, someone who has lived awhile but still feels….inadequate.
Every day I feel like more and more of a whole person. One who’s been shattered and painstakingly put together again, glue expanding in the sharp edges of each sliver, white lines snaking through the once vibrant patters that covered the surface of my soul. Coming alive again after trying to simply survive for so long is like breaking the surface after sitting at the bottom of a pool, competing to who could stay down the longest. It’s dark and cool and safe down there, in the murky depths, but becomes more and more painful the longer you stay down there. It takes work to break free, as though I’ve been swimming with weights on my ankles, holding me back. As the water gets clearer, the sky distorted by the water’s surface, you think you’re alive again, but you’re not. Those weights are still there, tugging down as your arms cartwheel at your sides.
These are the demons. The ones I never had before, or maybe, I’d simply been keeping them small since I was a little girl. They camp out in my head with me all day, whispering to me in the soft tones of a loved one. You have nothing to offer. You are lazy. Your pain isn’t really that bad. Why are you even trying? When will they all leave, or get sick of me? A constant litany, spoken like a prayer.
Some days, they drag me back under. I dip into the darkness but am no longer afraid of it. I’ve been down there before and survived it. And yet, each time I go deep, I fear the day I go down as far as I once did, three months spent planning my own death, over and over again. And how I barely made it back that last time. How I was very nearly lost.
A few weeks ago, I was nearly tempted. Against unbearable pain, I kept to what I had, and didn’t go back to the meds. I didn’t hurt myself either, which can be very hard to do, as that ache ripples under my skin and electrifies every part of my being. If only I could release it in some way, let it free. It makes my teeth hurt from where I clench them, my hands kept away from my body. Those waves are hard to ride, but I know what to do when they begin to build. I made it to the ER the next day.
But it wasn’t until last week that I felt that pop that comes from launching from the water. The refreshing chill of the cool air hitting my skin, goosebumps rising along my arms, hair in my face.
I don’t think I’ll be able to do the feeling justice. I’m sure there isn’t much of a difference in how I look (aside from cutting off a bunch of my hair and dying it red, perhaps). I still wear the same jeans and t-shirts. I carry the same backpack to work every day. I hang out with my close friends on weekends. My humor and sarcasm is coming back. I’m less afraid to speak up, and even stick up for myself where I used to cower.
But I hope there is something. When I first saw people after all that happened, many said I had a light in my eyes I’d been missing for awhile. I didn’t believe them, feeling low and worthless at the time, but now, looking back, I’m sure that spark of wanting to live lit up my entire being.
The demons have shrunk for the time being. The anxiety has calmed after the spike around my car issues, culminating in an epic panic attack in a less-than-deserable part of downtown Los Angeles. For awhile, I could barely breathe.
This won’t last forever. I’ve come to terms with that truth. The demons aren’t gone, just sleeping, tranqued by good eating and even better decisions (okay, better-ish decisions; I’m still me). I feel lighter, aware, awake.
Knowing it’s going to end isn’t pessimism. I’ve gotten through so, so much already. But even more than that - I have people I can trust. I don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. I don’t have to carry it all on my own. And I’m fucking blessed to have people like that in my life. I know it every day, with a certainty that goes to my core. No matter what the demons whisper, I know I am loved and that people would miss me if I were gone.
I went through some of the shittest years of my life thinking I’d never see the light at the end of the tunnel. I thought I was stuck in the middle, forever lost, never found. I’ve lived with the echoes of where hope used to be. And I felt life would never, ever get better.
So happy snuck up on me.
There aren’t many things here I would have expected. I thought I had to grown an arts career to be happy (instead, I torpedoed that and then stayed around for the waves). I thought I had to be living alone in a perfect apartment (I live in a house I really like with a cool roommate). I thought I’d be in less pain but bedridden still (I lay in bed to sleep…does that count?).
So you don’t need that stuff to be happy. You just have to realize that this life is all you’ve got, so it’s time to go for as much of it as you can. I’m not wasting another fucking second. I’m grabbing on with both hands and swinging out over the river.
And if I fall, well, I know how to get back up again.