Phase III

I don’t really understand how the healing process works. It’s so long and there’s so many parts and people involved. And emotions. It’s difficult to name or describe such a big thing. It happens in fragments. Pieces that take you off guard. And the next thing you know you’re on your knees weeping. Tonight was the first time in my life I have wept from joy and not sorrow. I recently decided to stop overdrinking. I’ve been avoiding it through my recovery from bulimia and then again throughout the spiritual process. But last week I gave it up. I saw my future self calling me from across a river bank, beckoning me to join her on the other side. She looked healthy. I suppose I trust myself now because I followed.

Today, on Saint Patrick’s Day, I left a party early after discretely pouring out my beer and headed to a park to watch the sunset by myself. I did a walking meditation. I breathed the fresh air and felt it on my skin, realizing that nature is what my soul has been calling for for so long. I missed my ex-boyfriend. I sat on a bench and watched the ducks diving under the pond. I was present, and then not. I got home and prepared a bath with oils and salts and visualized my old emotions and patterns of behavior as scabs, turning to dust and being carried off by the wind. A dew descended and covered my new skin, nourishing, healing.

I realized that I would, after this day, never be the same. There are some things you can’t undo. I had transformed. It brought me to my knees. I wept at this final shift. I felt it coming on for a few weeks now, this great letting go, a release of such sadness and destruction and safety. I wept at my strength and my beauty and my ability to hold myself, to care for myself, to love myself and protect myself, and I wept for the power of all the work I’ve never given up on for three years. Tonight was the time. The time to let go and move on. To release the fear around my power to control my life and who I want to be for others. The power I have to love each person I meet for who they are and expect nothing back. The power to love myself the same way. The power to feel discomfort arise and simply be.

Tonight I stood over a toilet, for the first time in my life embracing its cold porcelain to support the weight of my weeping body, not because I was purging or numbing out or fucked up or drunk, but because the totality of this healing work set upon me tonight and I had the strength of someone who has supported the world for so long that she couldn’t hold herself up while it all came out, releasing hormones in my tears, leaving my body once and for all. Tonight I wept because I am a woman of self-care, of love, of understanding of my faults, embracing my fuckups, my insecurities and missteps and misguided attempts at bettering myself and the world. I wept for the loss of who I was. I wept for the sanctity of what I have always pictured my life to be, realizing that, in that moment, my life had come to embody everything I had always wanted it to be, and accepting how long the journey of recovering truly is.

A letter to the editor

Dear Sarah,

Maybe it will prove challenging to write this letter, but only because your adorable cat won’t let you type without putting her face in between your hands. It’s pretty cute.

Anyway. Here we are, the many parts of us that we have discovered along the way. The part of us that is a tiny little girl, confused and looking for comfort and approval from everyone around us, to the teenage punk kid who doesn’t give a shit what anyone says and blacks out to avoid the pain that life has delivered unrelentingly for so many years, to the wise woman who quietly sits and observes it all, to the put-together work woman that provides, the brilliant student, the long-term girlfriend, the caring and consoling friend, the fearless beauty, the vixen, the saboteur, the bleeding heart, the truth teller, the socially awkward one, the lonely girl with an eating disorder, and the woman who sits behind the keys, the one where all of those parts are represented equally.

Today I write you a letter, future Sarah, to remind you how difficult this journey has been. And how long. To write from a different perspective of a journey that has been undertaken in the name of mental health. It is easy to think back on the past and come from a place of shame. Shame has underlain almost every suicidal thought and destructive behavior I have engaged in. It is a second home. But it would be a lie to say it is something I have conquered. At least I can say it is something I loathe. But the future is not emboldened by any past behavior. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that. Now I stand at a great forking of my paths. To the right is a future where I envision and make happen everything I’ve ever wanted for myself. I harness all my power. And to the left lies a softer, gentler struggle through the same muddy swamps I have been navigating for years. I am ready to let go. I am ready to become the woman I was meant to be.

I do not write this last sentence with any disregard for how difficult my journey still inevitably will be. If choosing to become the person you want to be was an easy choice, everyone would do it. The world would be different. But I am acknowledging for the first time I am aware of the power I hold in getting to that destination, and reminding you that, no matter how many times you fail from this point onward, it is our responsibility to continue to forgive ourselves and try. Because, of all the lessons that have been learned these past three years, forgiveness reigns supreme if the self truly wishes to grow and continue to move forward. There will no doubt be missteps. A lot of them. Wide ones that last forever. Ones that make us forget what it feels like to really live, unforgivingly so, without doubt about our true beauty and purpose in this life. Thoughts of suicide will come to pass, and with all strength and grace this world offers, we will see them through to the side of safety as we always have. That personal statement didn’t mean anything if I wasn’t honest about seeing others through as well.

I will tell you this, if you will believe nothing else when reading this letter again in a time of desperation or solitude: You are destined for great things. You will figure out what it is you are supposed to be doing one step at a time. You will study whatever it is you’re supposed to study. Become a therapist or a doctor or any variation thereof. Whatever you choose, you will be great. Because you have deep and caring compassion. And whatever is standing in the way of your self-esteem and your goals today are just that: they are obstacles. Life is filled with these. Keep forging on, my fierce and brilliant beauty, and someday the world will feel like home. And if it doesn’t, then at least we may have changed it for one person. One soul. One heart who bleeds the way ours does, who is desperately groping in the dark for answers. Let’s give them all we’ve got. We will never forget what it’s like to be hungry.

I love you.

Sarah

The Human Condition

I realized today the expansiveness of the human inability to inherently experience negative emotions. Why is it so hard to do? Why do we avoid it like it will kill us? It happens to everyone. The pervasiveness of it is what is baffling to me. We all run from it in some form or another. It is what drives the madness of the world, the unending suffering. The inability to sit with anger instead of acting on it, or the need to run from loneliness and into the arms of those who aren’t right for us, the itchiness that boredom brings, the escape we find in drugs to remove ourselves from the pain we don’t want to feel, the dark and rich abyss of an alcohol-induced blackout instead of drowning in our shame, the satisfying twinge of pain of biting our nails over the anxiety that plays on a constant loop in our heads, the need to feel some form of relief to the extent that we stuff ourselves to bursting and throw it all up or starve ourselves to death to feel some level of control in our lives. The irony is biting.

We do things that will kill us instead of sitting with an emotion for thirty seconds that isn’t actually harmful, yet we associate it with levels of discomfort so unbearable we wind up putting ourselves in real danger. Is this societal or is this the human condition? Can the answer to this be learned as whole? And better yet, taught? Must we continue to suffer as a species or can we evolve? I wonder how many times these questions have been asked by greater thinkers than myself, by smarter and more studied philosophers and buddhists and everyone in between.  Why can’t an answer be synthesized into something more tangible? I want a pill to swallow. Why must healing and suffering be so complex and so personal? Something with the answers to nourish my body if I drink it with a glass of water. Why can’t there be some simple, step by step solution to explaining this process to someone else? Instead we’re all running from our fear, or at the very least turning our backs steadfastly to it, if not drinking or fucking it away. So we suffer.

The Fire

In all the parts of self-growth and discovery, being honest with yourself has to continually be the most difficult piece. It never gets any easier. It always evades you, even when you want to see it. Even when you open yourself to it. Even when you’re asking for it. And then half the time it blindsides you.

I was walking along Highway 37 last night. There were hundreds of other people walking with me. We were escaping. The hills around us were on fire. It was closing in on us all, hundreds of us shutting down the highway without a car in sight. My mother was in front of me when I realized the fires were going to engulf us. I asked her what we were supposed to do, and she moved forward into the crowd and gently let go of my hand. I was alone. I felt a deep sadness knowing my time was over. I pulled out my cell phone to text my ex. I told him I would never see him again, but I wanted him to know what a deep and aching love for him I still had. That feeling of needing to touch but you’re just too far away to reach. It’s an inexplicable sadness that aloneness creates. It’s shattering. It’s so quiet. I couldn’t tell if my text was going through.

After I awoke I laid in bed this morning for a while realizing that my relationship was over. I spent all day trying to feel anything. I can’t tell if I’m heartbroken over the idea of us not ending up together or whether I’m actually facing being alone now for the first time, even though it always feels like the first time and I’m always still just running away in some form or another. I convince myself I’m doing the work and then it hits me from the back. I never see it coming. There’s been a numbness to my sadness these last few weeks. To my life, really. Am I ready to move on? My life here has become a small blossom of beauty, but mostly I feel adrift. Always at sea.

In the beginning, there was sadness

There is a sadness that underlies all things I do. It is my dominant emotion. Somewhere, maybe, there is a universe or a parallel where I am whole. I don’t want to be living my life overrun with emotional strife or conflict, yet here I am, embroiled in it once again. Living with mental health issues really is a battle. Each day is a fight. Whether it’s getting out of bed to face the world, to connect with myself, to fight off a panic attack, taking a look at my behavior, hovering over a toilet, deciding whether or not to overeat, taking responsibility for my actions, deciding to meditate, talking myself out of suicide (again) as an option, or reminding myself that I am still breathing and there is nothing really to be worrying about, there’s always a thing. And it’s exhausting. When I am spiritually connected, I don’t struggle as much. But ever since I started being honest with myself about how much I battle with suicidal ideation, I haven’t been able to return to my baseline level of sanity. It’s slowly driving me crazy. There’s always been a place in my brain that’s convinced someday I will do the worst, but a bigger part of me that knows that isn’t who I really am and it sure as hell isn’t my legacy. We all need to feel something. My something is relationships. They make me feel connected and needed and loved. So not being in one is hard. Difficult. Impossible. But here I am and here I will remain. Single and off to college to get my degree and along the way to try and be open about what it’s really like to struggle with mental health. Because it’s not pretty. It’s draining and sad and frustrating and no one wants to talk about that part of it. Of course I want to be normal. But maybe normal isn’t an option for some of us. Those of us that are just trying to stay alive. If you’re reading this, keep on fighting. I promise I will too.