There’s a stranger living in my bathroom. She’s there when I get out of the shower every morning. Her furtive glances catch my eye, but I quickly look away. I don’t like the array of emotions I see play across her face. This is not a woman I know, not the woman I expect to see.
She’s disappointed with the body she sees. She doesn’t mind the gray hair, the sunspots on the once pretty face, the softening of the jawline. But that body, how did that happen?
I try so hard not to look directly in her tear-filled eyes, for I will feel helpless. I see sadness, heartache, loneliness. But it’s not what you think, because I’m certain there are people who love her. But I am not one of them. I have no idea how to give her the acceptance and love she needs to heal.
This one warrants a trigger warning for survived suicide attempt.
After over twenty years of fighting my demons, I had enough. My depression had become treatment-resistant, and bipolar depression is the absolute worst form of this insidious black fog. My brain didn’t care that I had a loving husband and family, that I was finally financially secure, that the stressors in my life had been reduced to a minimum.
I can’t really remember the chain of events, other than the fact that my husband was washing the dishes after dinner, and I walked into the kitchen behind him, grabbed my bottle of Klonopin and my container of blades that I use to slash bread before baking, and walked out the door without him knowing. It was October, it was cold and damp from a recent rain, I was wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants, and I was barefoot. This plan had been brewing in my head for days, I knew exactly how this would work, and I strode out of the house quickly without making a noise. The tears were pouring down my face, the only light outside in rural southern Ohio was the moon, and my brain was on autopilot towards the final destination of peace and quiet…forever. Past the garden, the skeletons of the long-dead corn stalks and tomato cages seemingly pointing the way, straight into the woods. The ground was cold and wet, covered in leaves, the pain of the sticks barely registered. But then I stepped on something sharp and looked down. The moon illuminated the broken bones of some long-dead animal. I could go no further. Pills in one hand, blades in the other, I stood there staring at those bones, wondering if that’s what the searchers would eventually find. The miasma of the insidious beast gripping my brain muted the sounds of gut-wrenching sobs; I didn’t even realize they were coming from me. I have no idea how long I stood there, feeling the black fog enveloping me, not hearing my husband’s voice calling my name. Then his arms were tight around me. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’m not letting go.” Oh I begged him to let go; I was so tired of fighting. But he kept saying the same thing over and over in a very quiet voice while he took the instruments of destruction out of my hands, slowly turned me around and guided me back to the house, blazing with lights. He sat me down on the side of the bed, washed the dirt and leaves from the woods off of my feet with a warm washcloth, and lay down beside me with his arms wrapped tight around my shivering body. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I won’t let go.” I fell asleep to that loving lullaby, and in the morning I started all over, one step a time, fighting away the demons once again.
Those three words, “I’ve got you,” did more for me than “I love you,” “It’s okay,” “Everything will be fine.” That was about five years ago. I still struggle, I still think about disappearing every day, but I don’t…I keep fighting.
they must be tired of this
but they won’t let me go
they don’t feel the inky fog
enveloping me deep into my bones
they can’t feel the ache of exhaustion
in every fiber of my being
they don’t see the loop of film noir
unceasingly invading my brain
they don’t hear the invectives
reminding me of why
I need to go
sleep with no dreams
and no awakening
My original purpose of writing was to help others. If someone who was struggling and wandering around the interwebs came across something I wrote, I wanted them to recognize that there was someone else out there just like them. I don’t have answers, but I want them to see that I’m still pushing forward despite the demons trying to convince me to do otherwise.
I stopped because I found myself unable to publish anything for fear of upsetting friends and family. They know most of what I’ve been through, and perhaps my daughters intuit what goes through my head, but still I’m concerned about them actually reading in black and white the reality of what has never really gone away. But the people that care about me will still have concerns whether or not I’m blatantly honest. My history doesn’t allow my loved ones a worry-free life. I know this because even though she is doing well, I will never forget seeing my daughter in the ER swaddled in bandages, or drinking charcoal. So I will write again. As always, there are no trigger warnings at the beginning of each post, it’s there on the page, and that should be enough.
I’m not a big proponent of awareness months, weeks, or days. I do understand their importance, but it always concerns me that being bludgeoned by awareness posts will have the opposite effect of what is intended. It’s tiring to be reminded of mental illness, domestic violence, cancer, or any other of the horrors of the world. Pretty soon people stop paying attention and move on to the next cat video. The events that are the most relevant to my history are often difficult for me. The first blast of suicide prevention posts this month reminded me that it’s something that seems to have taken residence in my brain. There is rarely a day that I don’t think about ending my fight. My god, I’m 60 now, and I’ve had decades in this battle with no end in sight. I’m tired, I’m frustrated, I’m scared.
However, as always, I will keep going. There will be a hummingbird flitting by my window in the morning. There will be an unexpected hug from a belligerent grandchild. There will be spiderwebs sparkling with morning dew. There will be a kiss on the back of my neck while I wash the dishes. There will be a warm, purring cat curled up in my lap. There will be that one person who says “Thank you for writing that, I feel the same way.”
There are no delusions that what I write will win awards, make me famous, or change lives. I just want you to know you’re not alone.
At 3 AM, she burst into my brain like a prizefighter after the first bell. She’s usually there every damn day, and I’d gotten used to her almost constant harangues about my faults and failures. Yesterday I managed to shove her out for a while. But, man, she was angry – who the hell do I think I am, posting a picture of my smiling face and giving the impression that I’ve got my shit together despite battling with bipolar disorder. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, I had the audacity to actually think it was a pretty picture of myself.
She moved in shortly after I escaped from my domestic violence situation. In the absence of an abuser, the abused becomes adept at picking up the slack. Until I met another person who actually hears voices, I didn’t realize I did this to myself. I mean, come on, the things I tell myself…never would I say them to another person. Nobody deserves to be screamed at, torn down, belittled, discouraged, or beaten. So just stop, you might say. Sheri, you wouldn’t talk to anyone else like this, why not accord yourself the same respect? But I can tell you, after a lifetime of this crap it’s hard to fight back.
Somedays I think it’s too late for me, after decades of this I just can’t see it ending.