Mental Health · Personal Development


dawn – a modification of darkness” © Jenny Downing, 2012. CC BY 2.0.
Hopeful and angry. Desperate and begging. Shedding our skins. Bursting forth all raw and tender.

We’re furious. We’re terrified. We dissolve into tears on a daily basis. Every time we walk over a bridge we hold our breath and stare at our feet. We can’t look at the skyline without wondering about how to get to the balconies. Everything hurts and life is completely overwhelming.

But we’re not staying quiet about it anymore. We’re making the phone calls. Asking for medical leave. Requesting new appointments with psychiatrists. Keeping all our therapy sessions. And when they ask if we are dangerous, we look them right in the eye and say, “Yes.”

This is progress. This is forward motion. This is the cusp of settling.

A calmness is climbing in. Filling up the spaces between our ventricles. Wrapping tight around our spines and holding us up tall. Refusing to let us suffer in silence.

We will not sit idly. We will move and we will not go back. So we strip down to the bare minimum. We focus in. We put all our fight into this.

It begins to feel less like the end. More like the moment in the morning when the birds don’t even sing. The whole world holding its breath, waiting for the sun to signal another new beginning.

Mental Health

The New Low

dark moment on the road” © enki22, 2013. CC BY-ND 2.0.

I rode the wave for a couple of weeks. Could see the bottom, but my feet weren’t touching. Skirting the edge. Always.

Then, in the morning while I was standing in the bathroom doing my make up it finally caught up with me. Sinking. Gasping for air. Heart pounding. I was thirty minutes late for work.

When I got home my husband was still out. So I took a walk to nowhere in particular. Leaned against brick walls. Circled city blocks. Anything to not be home. To not be alone. Searched out safety.

Today I made it to the gym in the morning. But I didn’t make it to work. Laid on the couch in my gym clothes until noon. It got me.

Nothing “happened”. It’s always undramatic. The final switch flipped off, but the light it connected to was barely illuminating anything to begin with.

A slow sinking. A sun setting. Hurt that creeps in slow and disconnects me piece by piece until even the couch cushion I’m sitting on feels far away.

But somehow the work email was still checked and responded to. I didn’t drag myself to the store for bourbon or cigarettes or pints of ice cream. At no point did I curl up on the bathroom floor and sob. I didn’t take one of those five hour walks where I scrape my knuckles along concrete. Where I stand on the ground and look up at bridges and tell myself stories about how this all eventually ends.

Instead I watched a movie and a bunch of Seinfeld. Took a nap. Sat on the couch and stared out the window and texted my best friend.

And at 3:45 I got up, showered, and dressed. Sat down at our dining room table and wrote it all down. Tried to make sense of it. Tried to shake out patterns and identify sources. Pulled out fragments of my inner workings. Pieces of a pocket watch strewn in front of me. Each one serving a purpose I could name, clean off, and put back in.

It’s not getting any easier, but I’m getting better at it. At taking a breather and getting up again. If this is what bottoming out looks like now, I think I can deal with it.

Not gracefully. Not easily. I will not escape without wounds to lick.

But I think I can deal with it.

Addiction · Mental Health · Personal Development

Living in the gradient

Looking back” © Brandon, 2014. CC BY 2.0.

Rivers cut new channels into valleys. Minerals in drops of water pile on the ground to create stalagmites taller than I am. The sun pulls itself slowly over the horizon line and a new day creeps into existence. Then back out again.

We know everything takes process. One small thing connected to another, pushing us gradually in the corresponding direction. But I still find myself struggling to give credit to each little piece.

There’s point A and there’s point B. The line between? AB. Defined by its end points. Always. And if I can’t make it–guaranteed–from one point the other, I have a tendency to abandon mission.

What a toxic way of thinking.

There is no “finish” anyway, right? Not in earnest. Most important things will never be “complete”. Nothing is only accessible by following one specific path.

Come on, kid. You know this.

Nothing is certain. Nothing guaranteed. You could do everything right and still fail. You could do everything wrong and still accomplish everything you set out to do. The only thing I have any control over is the little things.

And I’ve been ignoring them. Acting as if they don’t count.

As if every day of sobriety will be worthless if I ever slip up. Every word ever written wasted if I never publish a book. Every weight I lift won’t count for shit if I never deadlift over 300 pounds. Every day I feel good about will never have existed if I fall asleep sobbing on the bathroom floor again. Every moment of peace, of beauty, of love is meaningless the next time I find myself feeling like I just can’t fucking do this.

A painfully effective way of creating an environment you cannot grow in. You feel trapped in. Where nothing matters for as much as you want it to. Where nothing matters at all.

It gets stuck in your throat. Coils itself around your head, whispering soft in your ear. Non-stop explanations of why you can’t do this, why it doesn’t matter, how pointless the fight has become. It forces you into the extremes.

But I want to live in the gradient. Those small and gentle spaces in between. Where everything counts for credit. Where as long as you’re still conscious in your movements you’re doing everything you should be doing.

Where as long as you’ve picked a direction and you’re taking steps you are successful. Where distance traveled is measured in something other than, “Are you there? Yes or no?”

Because we never will be. But we are still moving.