I’ve been sitting here, trying to come up with the most poignant way to say this, because it’s such a dirty memory that I need to clean it up somewhat, I need to make it presentable. It’s not something I’m proud of doing, but it’s something I thank God I survived every day. My own weakness and stupidity, my own loss of faith, my own failure at my life.
Four years ago today, I was crumpled in a heap on my bathroom floor, double-fisting bottles of pills. They were falling all over the floor, rolling into those dark, dirty places in the bathroom that seem to get overlooked. I didn’t care, as I raked my fingers behind the toilet, grabbing handfuls of pills and cat fur. Just another reminder of one more thing I had loved and lost. I shoved the handfuls into my mouth, dry-swallowing as many as I could before he, my ex-husband, got through the door. As I lay in a pile of disgust and self-loathing, he looked down at me and asked me if I was still going to drive him to work.
I pulled the car over and heaved the meager contents of my stomach into the cornfield. I could have been more embarrassed, I suppose, but the hot acid in my gut demanded my undivided attention at the moment. I’d never taken so many pills before, and had no idea what it was doing to my insides. I couldn’t believe I was still conscious. I had to have taken thirty five, thirty eight, forty? Why couldn’t I just die already?
The woman at the other end of the line leered at me. I could picture her grin, spreading across her face as I bit my lip, trying to keep my shit together. I explained for the umpteenth time that I had zero dollars to put towards paying that debt, and no matter how many times she called me, no matter how hard she ridiculed me, I still wasn’t going to have the money to send. I had kids to feed, I told her, to which she replied “what kind of mother could you possibly be?” What kind, indeed!
I left work. I knew I had to get out of there, all those small rooms in that long, never-ending hotel corridor. I couldn’t stand seeing one more someone else’s normal life, just another piece of something I thought I had but really just imagined. I couldn’t distinguish one from the other anymore, just enough to get me through the day without someone taking my girls from me, and apparently enough to fool everyone into feeling justified in turning a blind eye. But if that, then just barely. I think I thought I saw more than I actually truly saw, by which I mean I was hallucinating or imagining myself into someone else’s life, not any one in particular just something other than my own reality, to the point where I couldn’t decide if I were real anymore. I left work that day, breathlessly telling the boss, “I’m dying. I’m dying, I’m sorry, I’m leaving, I’ll be back. Probably not, but please.” I drove myself to the hospital, thinking that if I could actually ask for help, I could actually get it. I had the guts to do it now, and I better do it before I’m convinced otherwise.
The hardest part about finding help was getting past the feeling that I couldn’t ask for it. I had been raised to take accountability for myself, responsibility for my actions, and follow through with what I set out to do. I was raised to be ready to die for anything I dared to fight for. I fought for my freedom, for something that resembled me being in control of myself. At seventeen, I made a choice to be my own God damn woman and I made the mistake of doing so right before someone who was Hellbent on finding himself a Basic Bitch (because, let’s face it, his unemployed ass couch-surfed and lived with his mother and he couldn’t afford a Real Woman) stepped into my life and made me believe that, at seventeen, I couldn’t possibly be real at anything because I hadn’t experienced anything. Thus, he set forth on teaching me all of life’s “What Not to Do’s” and derailing my oh-so-carefully guided train onto a rickety, reckless path of the most epic crash-and-burn proportions.
He taught me how to fight. He taught me how to be angry, and to allow everything to anger me because anger evokes power and power equals control. For five years, we fought over who could be angrier, and at the end, it was just a running contest of who had more of a right to be angry.
I sat at the hospital, in one of those tiny grey cubicles with a small exam-style bed. I lay in a fetal position, staring at the wall, knowing now that help wasn’t coming. “I don’t believe you’re going to kill yourself, at this point, so how about you go home and call this number, okay? They will help you. I think you should keep seeing your counselor. Enjoy the rest of your day, okay?” His face was Indian but his accent was barely foreign, not personable at all. Just a tin voice coming from a human robot, another blurry face on a living shell. He wasn’t cold, but I could tell that he could sleep well at night, something I could no longer could, and even if he were gravely wrong about his diagnosis or lack thereof, I knew he would sleep well tonight, too. I sat up, the slip of paper in my hand, with the number for the mental health hotline scribbled on it in doctorspeak. I shrugged my sweater back on, slipped back into my shoes, and left. I deliberately slipped past the cashier so as not to be asked to come up with a co-pay I knew wasn’t going to magically materialize in my purse. I was ashamed. I was ashamed of having to ask for help, and I was ashamed of them for daring call themselves healers.
I sat in the car in the parking lot and sighed. More phone calls. I’d gone this far, to be told that I didn’t have to go home, but I couldn’t stay here. But this phone number was a flame in the dark, a match quickly extinguished by another human robot voice, a timid and a bit put-out probable office assistant, “Um, I’m sorry, there’s nobody here to take your call, so you should try calling back tomorrow. Okay? Just call back in the morning and you can talk to somebody then.”
Call back tomorrow.
For those who feel there is no tomorrow, or cannot bear the thought of yet another tomorrow, being told to call back tomorrow is like telling someone not to commit suicide right now because it is an inconvenience. But then again, the rest of your life has been a wasteful, terrible inconvenience to the rest of the world thus far, so who really gives a fuck? Oh, I’m sorry, that’s not anything like telling someone that – it is LITERALLY telling someone that.
I drove home. I drove back to the place that I hoped could be home, for a little while. It was only supposed to be a stepping stone, a place to stop and gather what we needed to move on. I never could have imagined it going as badly as it did. In a matter of months, everything I thought I had done with my life, the web of reality I had created, the family, the work, the routine, the household I had maintained by some miracle for about four years became an unraveled mess of all the things I had lost control over. I lost everything, threw it away, let it go, whatever you want to call it. I was robbed of it as I watched helplessly, my sick and desperate alter ego become more prevalent every day, my Mr. Hyde, the ugly side of being bipolar, of being both shamelessly and shamefully broken.
I don’t want to talk about the fight that ensued when I got home. It was loud, obnoxious, and unnecessary. I don’t know where it came from, only that I remember thinking, “God dammit, why couldn’t you have pushed me harder? Why couldn’t you have just hit me in the face?” I cracked my head on the corner of the trunk in our bedroom, and felt nothing but a slight ache. It convinced me that I could no longer feel pain.
I could feel nothing. A loneliness unlike any kind of empty you could ever imagine.
I stood, screaming something incoherent at him, as he stood in the doorway, his arms above his face lest I come charging at him with my fists flying again. I stomped to the bathroom, slamming the door behind me with such fury the entire trailer shook. Never one moment’s peace in that house, never a private second to myself. He picked locks like the expert criminal he was and for the entire four and a half years we were together, he never once allowed me to assume I had any right to privacy. He barged in whenever he felt, sometimes if only to experience my discomfort at his imposition. I thought to myself, “If he follows me into this bathroom I may actually kill him.” I stopped. I listened, and heard nothing. Then a soft sound, and the laugh-track of a television audience. He was sitting on the couch, waiting for me to finish my tantrum and come to my senses.
I’d lost them all, and if I hadn’t by that point, at that point, I did.
As I sat there, at the bottom of my fall from grace on that dirty bathroom floor, I wished Allen were there. I wished he were there to hold me, to tell me it’s okay, to tell me he’d follow me into the dark.
But he wouldn’t be there, because he didn’t know. And if I were gone, he’d never know, because there were very few who knew how deep that undercurrent went, and those who would be allowed into the grisly scene I left behind wouldn’t have a clue how to say what needed saying to him.
So I had to live.
And the rest, for now, is history.
Today, I woke up, and Allen kissed me good morning. We got up, and I made his lunch. He woke the baby up and I brushed our son’s sandy blonde hair out of his face, taking in every single blessing I’ve been afforded since that day four years ago.
I don’t know why I didn’t die, because I deserved to.
I don’t know why I wake up every day, but today, I have never been more grateful.