So the journey begins…
Since I had my first session, I actually feel a bit better. I am hopeful for the first time in a long time that I am on the right path to healing from everything. I am hopeful that I too can get a silver lining to the seemingly perpetual storm clouds that have been plaguing me for far too long. For the first time in a long time I have realized that I deserve to have a silver lining. I deserve to have the happiness that everyone finds. The work to get there will be tough, but I am hopeful.
When I look back at my life, I see someone who used to look at the world and see all of the possibilities that were there. I never used to think about the bad stuff that could happen. I never used to think that those things…rape and abuse…would happen to me. I was used to being the support system for everyone. I was used to being the strong one, the one everyone came to with their problems. I was the fixer, the advice giver, the listener. Then I became the one who fell apart while trying to hold everyone else together. I thought that this was my role and there could be no deviation from that. I didn’t want to let people down. I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t be there for other people while my life was falling apart. I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to be weak.
I am learning that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to tell people you need a break to deal with your own life. There is nothing weak or selfish in that, especially when you are barely hanging on by a thread and you are too depleted to make sense of anything other than existing on the most basic of levels: sleeping, breathing and going through the motions of life.
If you ignore your basic needs you begin to teeter on a dangerous edge. It is the edge of existence versus the edge of oblivion. Do you take care of yourself or do you allow yourself to die? Unless you have had to consciously make that choice, or known someone who has, it is tough to explain the dynamics of what happens in your mind and spirit, not to mention the wreckage that is left behind. I have been on both sides of that line. I have been both the decision maker and one of the ones left behind.
When you are in that dark place, common sense is not present. Your basic survival instincts are not present either. You just want the pain to stop. You want to be free of it in every possible sense. You feel like death is the only option to achieve this. Some people say it is the most selfish act. While that may be true, I must respectfully say that things look a whole lot different when you are there. You don’t see it as selfish. You don’t see it as anything other than a way to make the pain and torment stop. Unless you have been through it and made it out the other side, you really have no frame of reference for what this feels like. It is chaos personified. It is every law of nature and self-preservation gone horribly wrong inside. It is a million steps beyond your breaking point. It is your personal hell on earth. I am blessed beyond measure because I had a friend who recognized that something was terribly wrong with me. Because she was stubborn and demanded to watch a movie with me in my dorm room I am here today. She knew what I was trying to do before I even fully realized it. She stayed with me all night. She called my parents to let them know I was going to be ok and she got me help. Alison, I will be forever grateful to you. You were my guardian angel all of those years ago. I owe you my life.
I was on the other side of this 5 years ago today. I lost my step-sister, Carolyn, to suicide on February 22, 2008. She had a beautiful spirit and a big heart. When I found out she died, I cried and mourned her loss. Then I was hit with what I had put my parents through when I was teetering on that edge more than a decade ago. I felt the most profound sense of guilt and woke them up at the crack of dawn to apologize for what I put them through. I was heartbroken because of Carolyn’s loss and guilt ridden because of the anguish I had put my parents through.
Losing someone to suicide is one of the most twisted grieving experiences imaginable…or at least that I have ever experienced. The traditional stages of grief didn’t come in the regular order: denial, anger, blame, depression and acceptance. Instead it was all jumbled up and twisted around. I was in denial for about 10 minutes then I was angry, confused, deeply saddened, depressed, angry again, pissed off, depressed again, then finally, after bouncing back and forth for a while, I reached the point of acceptance. I hate that word “acceptance,” in terms of grief. Yes, you accept that the person is gone, but that doesn’t take away the fact that you would give anything to change it. It doesn’t take away the hole that is left in your heart. Acceptance doesn’t make the loss less painful or easier to bear. In Carolyn’s case, acceptance doesn’t give us the full answer as to why she felt the need to do this. We knew her mental health status, but she seemed to be getting better. We were hopeful, then we were blindsided. Acceptance doesn’t make that magically go away. 5 years later and I still miss Carolyn. I miss the random phone calls I would get from her. I miss the crazy, funny, or just plain weird emails that I would find in my inbox at 3 a.m. I miss the notes just saying “Hi,” or “I love you.”
If nothing else these experiences have been life affirming for me. While I still have rough days, and I know there will be more to come as I go through the process of fully healing, I have to believe that it will get better and there will come a time in which I feel full of life and happiness again, instead of it coming in waves and moments. I am hopeful and looking forward to what will be.