For most of my life, I knew how to live in my pain, and wore it like a safety blanket that reminded me who I am and what I know. I know how to self-sabotage. I did it well, and I did it often. It was a part of myself I had no respect for. The writer who helped people with her words was the biggest hypocrite of them all.
Happiness was a concept placed on a shelf too high for me to reach. I could see it. Sometimes the tips of my fingers would brush it, so close to grasping it and holding it to my chest, only to misjudge the distance and fall back on the floor. The devious mistress that liked to tease me with the promise of forever, coming into my life to reel me in and then excusing herself when the going got tough. For a long time, I was sure I was stuck in a tango I didn’t know how to excuse myself from, dancing with my demons until I couldn’t hold myself up anymore.
I didn’t feel brave enough claiming my experience as my own. I liked to think of myself as a framework, a shell for others to find the recovery I didn’t know how to embrace. I thought that my pain was what made me accessible. I was afraid that if I tried to step out of the darkness and embrace the sunshine I would burn through the one thing I knew how to do. I poured all my secrets into my words, hiding them behind the use of second person in the hopes that someone might put themselves in my shoes instead of pointing a finger and saying, “look what you have done.” The praise and understanding I received for putting my misery on display made me think that it was all I knew how to do.
If I said there was a sudden burst of clarity that took my hand and led the way to a place of joy, I’d be lying. There were no bells and whistles. I didn’t dress my recovery in lace or satin. Honestly, enough was enough. I was tired of the merry-go-round I had put myself on again and again. I realized that knowing what recovery was and embracing it were two completely different entities.
The whole process was illusive. Recovery was like an opaque mist that would settle all around, shrouding me in vagueness I didn’t know how to live in. It was waking up every morning with fresh, baby pink skin raw to the vulnerable state of potentially messing it all up. Going through it, I learned that recovery was knowing I’m better than the guilt I felt for being only human. Recovery was knowing I owe myself more than a finger down my throat whenever stress tries to sink me to the bottom. Recovery was knowing that the heaviness of my depression isn’t stronger than the muscles I’ve built to push it off of me. It was knowing that I could have love, and at some point, I had to let it in. It was looking at him, looking at me, and knowing that the feeling I felt blossom under my skin was one that I deserved, and could finally give back. Just because happiness was a lightness I wasn’t used to didn’t mean I needed the lead in my joints that depression brought about.
There’s nothing concrete to happiness. It’s all sewn together with helium hearts and feathery fingertips. It’s floating with your feet on the floor. It’s an unaware state of living, because happiness does not make a spectacle of itself. It is comfortable in its translucent skin, just letting things be whatever way they need to. You don’t even realize how high the sun has soared until you realize you don’t remember when sorrow-struck nights feel like.
And the truth is, I’m not good at this. I was never proud of the mess I lived in, but at the very least, I had a lot of practice. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared out of my mind. I would be lying if I said I no longer go nauseous whenever stress occurs, simply out of habit. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sometime still struck with stop-dead-in-the-streets anxiety, just because. I’m not ashamed of where I’ve come from. I keep a crescent moon tattoo behind my ear, right next to where the darkest thoughts used to be housed. Most people think I did it because I simply like the moon, but I keep it as a reminder of the nighttime that I came from. And although there is always beauty in the breakdown, at the end of it all, I would rather be stumbling in the light, than walking solidly in the dark.