She reminds me that each day brings us closer to when the days start getting longer again. That in thirty-three days it will be as dark as it’s going to get. I try to remind myself of this when I’m outside smoking a cigarette at 4:30 PM and the sun is already sinking below the horizon. When I’m wrestling with my brain to get me out of bed to go running without light. We’re getting closer to it getting bright again.
Like every year, I take my vitamin D, I try to remember to eat, get enough sleep. And like every year I struggle to take care of my most basic needs while I’m living in the dark. All the things I know I need to do to feel better seem to be just out of reach.
My therapist tells me we’ll work on motivation. My psychiatrist tells me we’ll figure out if my medication is draining me. My sister tells me she’s only always a phone call away. My mom sets up my old apartment in case I need to be somewhere else. Chuck says I can stay “for a night, a week, forever”. Andrew checks in on my wellbeing over and over. Vinnie shares smoke breaks with me. We’re rallying.
There has to be a way to get through this again. I’ve managed it this long, it’s silly to think I won’t be able to this time. But every day my alarm clock goes off and I can’t make myself get out of bed. Today I slept until 9:45 when I had to be at work at 10:00. It’s hard. Everything is so hard. My mom tells me how much fight I have in me and follows it up with, “I just wish you didn’t have to use it all the time.” And I find myself wishing that, too.
I don’t want or need life to be easy. I just need it to be a little gentler with me. But I guess like anything it just comes with practice. It’s just muscle memory.
Photo courtesy of Jason Leem.
We get coffee while it’s dark out. Our reflections bouncing off the window back at us. The barista plays a Dashboard Confessional album I haven’t listened to since about 2004. He hadn’t either. Something in the air made him want to put it on. Something about the mood. Like we are all going backward.
I remember what it felt like to be in high school. Remember the growing pains. Journal after journal filled with questions about how to survive, but no answers. Just postpone. Always just postpone.
My sister tells me that suicide does not put an end to pain, it just transfers it. And that’s the only thing that has ever really sunk in. I can’t imagine making someone feel the way I feel.
But there are also moments. While we share our warm drinks. While I answer customer questions at work. While I walk with music blasting through headphones. While we drive home at 3 AM singing loud to pop songs. Andrew’s head resting on my lap while I write this.
There is still goodness out there. There is still goodness in here. We haven’t lost it all yet. Maybe we never will.
Photo courtesy of Alex Wong.
Last night I went to the ER for an infection. A burn I got on Thursday, instead of healing, started to get red around the edges. Spreading up my arm, swelling. The intake nurse flew through the questions they always have to ask. “Do you feel as if you are a danger to yourself or anyone else?”
She didn’t notice the pause. Where I weighed out if it was worth another ambulance ride, another week in a psych ward, another stack of bills I’ll never be able to pay. More missed work, another set of unanswered phone calls. Hours in hospital beds waiting for social workers, doctors, nurses. Was it worth it?
“No,” I said. And she moved onto the next set of questions.
“How tall are you?”
What I should have said was, “Of course I am. I was released from a psych ward at the end of October and it’s not as if much has changed since then. They turn you back to the real world with no more coping skills, just a different set of medication and legs in need of shaving. Of course I’m a danger to myself. I sat in front of my sister’s house for forty-five minutes before I convinced myself I could drive home without jerking the steering wheel hard to the left and smashing into a barricade. Of course I am. My brain is a running list of ways to stop existing, interspersed with a few warm thoughts of my family, my partner, my friends. But how long before those aren’t enough to keep the fire burning? Of course I am. I’ve been toying with the idea of suicide since I was twelve-years-old and I’ve still yet to learn how to keep those feelings at bay for any significant amount of time. Of course I am. I am always a thread away from throwing myself off a bridge. But I haven’t yet, so maybe I never will.”
Instead I kept answering questions and waiting for a doctor to come look at my arm. Kept on point for what that visit was about, then Googled more inpatient psychiatric facilities as soon as I got home. I keep wondering if I’m going to have to give up my job, my apartment, my life in this city for another stint in a psych ward. For an outpatient program. For something else than what a therapy appointment a week and a monthly check-in with a psychiatric nurse practitioner can offer. But I guess we’ll see, won’t we?
For now I just keep my nose down. Play Taylor Swift albums loud. Try to remember to eat well, not sleep too much. I focus hard on existing. I’ll figure it out.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Zeller.