The first disappointment is realizing that no one is going to erect a gold statue in my honor or place a crown of laurels on my head while I run victory laps. There is no personally signed certificate of mental health to frame and hang on the wall, which really seems to be a missed opportunity.
Here is the thing: it happened so gradually that some days it almost seems like it never really happened at all.
But I’m all better now. That’s what they tell me.
These days, people are gentle with me. This is the second disappointment.
See, at first my mental health issues were on just this side of cute and adorable. I was “quirky” because, as far as anyone knew, I spent my time flicking light switches on and off and practicing phone conversations before I ever even dialed.
It was sweet, they said. Bless my heart, they said. They didn’t call it weird until they found out about the counting. (And the impulsive thoughts about throwing myself out of windows.) That was just weird, capital W, sometimes with an exclamation point. Weird! Other exclamatory phrases included “But you can overcome this!” and “Just take it one day at a time!”
So I took it one day at a time until I no longer needed an hour to prepare for a phone call and didn’t think that the house would catch on fire if I neglected to press on the fridge door seven times. I’m a success story now. That’s what they tell me.
I’m one of the lucky ones, but I don’t always feel lucky. Sometimes I feel exactly nothing at all.
I just wish that someone would slap me and ask, “What’s the matter with you?” just so that I could say, “Nothing. Not anymore.”
I’m free now. That’s what they tell me.
This freedom is paralyzing. How many seconds of my life have I wasted while checking and rechecking and rechecking and rechecking to see if the front door is locked? How many minutes? Hours? I’ve mostly stopped counting, and now there’s so much free time that I’m paralyzed by indecision. What are you supposed to do when you get your life back? What do I build out of the little pieces of the person I once was?
I’m back, bigger and better than ever, soldered into place so carefully that you almost can’t see the seams. They’re there, though. I’ve counted them again and again, and it seems that I might always be counting the things that no one else can see.
Here’s the thing: it’s comforting and it’s not and the sunrise looks much the same that it always does.
(This is the third disappointment.)
I’m happy now. That’s what they tell me, and so I believe it.
I’m counting on it.