I hopelessly dragged myself out of bed as the alarm blared across the bedroom, completely dissatisfied that I lived through yet another night. As I stumbled towards the bathroom and turned on the shower, I tried to remember how much I’d had to drink the night before. I’d never been one to get plastered on weeknights, but as my depression grew after the miscarriage and the days grew longer as we neared the end of the school year, I found myself unable to make it through the evenings unbearable without being at least mildly intoxicated. I just wanted the pain to stop; I wanted my life to stop.
What I didn’t know was that something entirely different was in store for me in the coming seasons. I didn’t know that I would, in fact, transcend the bullshit instead of becoming consumed by it. I would have never predicted that by attempting to die I would actually find myself very much reborn, that I would find ways to free myself from the prison I had built around myself for years previous to the fall.
I really wasn’t surprised that I’d found myself relapsing into self-harm in August. The entire summer had been filled with Netflix and naps. I’d continually told my husband that something wasn’t right, that I was feeling myself drift into a darkness that I wasn’t sure I could find my way out of. The pressure of starting another school year was weighing on my mind and my body like a sack of bricks. If I’d known that the feeling and sound of slicing that box open for a coworker would have been the trigger that awakened the monster inside, though, I probably wouldn’t have offered to help.
Nobody saw the storm brewing, not even myself. How was anyone to have guessed that I would revert to unhealthy coping skills that I’d not used for over a decade? I couldn’t see into the future to know that the first cuts were just that, the first of many wounds that I would inflict upon myself. I had no clue that I’d be wearing cardigans through the southern heat of August and September, desperately trying to hide the physical marks of the emotional turmoil inside.
I froze as I exited her Rouge. She turned and looked at me, reminding me that she was there and nothing bad would happen. I started shaking as we stood at the doors, waiting for them to open. I couldn’t help but worry if they’d want to hold me there once they saw the slices on my arms and heard my ever-increasing urges. She knew I was afraid, but she also knew that I needed help, help only a professional facility could give.
At that moment I had no idea just how frequently I would walk through those controlled doors and greet the ladies at the front desk like I was a regular at the gym or something similar. What I didn’t know was that the hospital would become a sanctuary for me, a safe haven in a time of hell, a beacon of hope in the ever-consuming darkness of my illness. I didn’t know that I would find myself longing for the security of the hospital on my worst days and missing the routine and simplicity even on seemingly good days.
“I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts. You really should consider submitting some of your stuff to The Mighty! I bet they’d love to publish it and you’d probably help a lot of people!” I laughed off her kindness, but the idea of submitting my ramblings for publication did seem enticing. All I wanted was to be heard, I just wanted people to shut up and listen, but I also wanted to help anyone in any possible way that I could. After about a week of constant pushing and encouragement from her, I finally decided to submit a story…rejected.
I had no way to know, though, that the first rejection was only the beginning. I didn’t know that within six months of the initial submission I’d be proudly wearing my free t-shirt around work, boldly sharing my writings not just on one site but three. I would have never in my wildest dreams have guessed that writing would become a big part of my recovery, of my life.
Something about her seemed oddly familiar, but I couldn’t figure out what. Was it that she looked somewhat like Drew Barrymore or that her voice reminded me of my childhood in Michigan? Her smile was warm and genuine, everything she said and every move she made seemed sincere. I’d never had an individual therapist that I felt really wanted to help me.
What I didn’t know at that first appointment was that she not only wanted to help but just how much she would. I would spend hours in her office each week between DBT Skills Group and individual sessions, not to mention the emails and text messages that happened in between when I felt myself slipping.
This morning I felt the emotions bottling up inside me like they’ve done so many times before. I rolled out of bed, the sounds of my husband already in the shower bringing me to life. Try taking a hot shower, wash your hair while being mindful of the smells, sounds, and sensations you feel. As the water ran down my arm, though, all I could think about were the scars all piled on top of one another, running vertically and horizontally, some even diagonally across my arm.
So much has happened in the last twelve months, much of which was nothing that would have ever been foreshadowed or predicted. I think sometimes, actually, oftentimes, we all take the passing of time for granted without even realizing all that happens in the span of a year. Like the opening song of Rent asks, “How do you measure a year?” My year has been filled with daylights and sunsets, darkness that is only beginning to see the light again. The war is never really over when you have a serious mental illness like borderline personality disorder, but recovery is possible. Live for the moments that make you smile, but also don’t forget to live even in the moments that make you cry. Time flies, even 525,600 minutes.