In 2008 I hit rock bottom in my life. I had come close before, many many times throughout my life, as early as childhood. Life just seems too hard sometimes, and the desire to run away and start fresh where no one knows you seems like a dream come true.
In 2008 though, I didn’t want to just run way to where no one knew me, I wanted to be gone permanently. I wanted the pain to be gone. The feelings of hopelessness had taken me over and I wanted my life to be over. I was being ‘bullied’ at work, someone had stolen a lot of money from the club I was President for, I had lost a lot of friends the year before, I had made some really bad choices, and I had had enough.
I changed schools for six months and whilst I was there, I smiled every day and plotted my death every afternoon. I was self-harming (cutting) because the pain would literally be drowning me. I sorted out my affairs. I wrote a will. I organised a place for my cat to go, all under the guise of the hypothetical, as I wrestled with different ways I could die. Drowning myself, similarly to Virginia Woolf, just walking in to the ocean, came closest to winning.
The only thing that stopped me, and the only rational thought I was able to have at the time (upon reflection) was that someone would find my body and that would cause trauma in their life, and that wasn’t fair. I felt that that would be exceptionally selfish. Maybe part of it too was the shame I was feeling, that I wasn’t in control, I couldn’t fix myself, and I was incapable of reaching out.
It came to a head for me, one Sunday at soccer. I fell apart, literally (actually, not literally but you know what I mean) fell apart. All of the cumulated pain erupted from my soul and I collapsed. My friend Jo walked with me, for what seemed like hours.
And it forced me to face the inevitable.
I was alive. I wasn’t going to kill myself. And I needed to pull myself out of where I was. It was up to me. And it was my choice. All of it was my choice.
And I chose life.
I took one step at a time towards better mental health. But it was hard. And there were many relapses. And I still occasionally relapse. But never that far. I see the signs and I take action. I flirt with the idea these days but it is a fleeting flirt. Almost like a confirmation for myself that I chose life.
And I continue to choose life.
The first 37 years of my life were hard. I was sexually abused as a child. I grew up in a dysfunctional and violent home. My mum was poor, struggling to make ends meet (a testament to her strength of character that we never went hungry), but also suffering from a marriage breakdown and what she perceived as betrayal. Dad was struggling with the changes that divorce brought: loss of family friends, less contact with his children, loneliness. Life was hard.
As an adult, leaving home when I was sixteen for a few months (thank you Cathy), and then going back just long enough to finish high school and leave home for university, I had a long healing path ahead of me. I had serious trust and commitment issues. I suffered intermittently from depression, anxiety and then bouts of mania (yep, diagnosing myself). Years of being really messed up but trying to appear normal and be normal (rarely succeeding but thank you to the Corrimal Street gang and my Wollongong friends for helping me through these times).
At times I succeeded and I had normal for periods of time, even superficially. And then, eventually I became better at life, until 2008. But I chose life.
I started a gratitude journal. I listed the things that I had to be grateful for each day. At least three, and sometimes they were a struggle, and sometimes for a few days in a row I repeated the same things. But in time, and a relatively short time in the scheme of things, I started adding more than three things to my list. And before I knew it I was looking at the world from a completely new perspective. I had acknowledged the bad in my life, over and over like a broken record, and now I started to acknowledge only the good. And my lists continued to grow because every day I was looking for the gratitude to write down that night.
And the day came when I woke up happy.
And I stayed that way.
For longer periods of time.
Then I added study. Reiki. Meditation. Bucket lists. Pets. IVF (ironically – my bouts of down in the last few years have resulted from that journey).
And these days, my downs last for very short periods, never longer than a couple of days.
Because I proved to myself once that I had the power to pull myself up from the mud. And that means I can do it again and again, every time I have to. And so, I don’t need to as much.
I became the lotus. And I choose a soft purple with pink in my petals.
You can become the lotus too.
It is your choice.
Even when it doesn’t feel like it.
And Maddy and Casey, I love you both unconditionally. And I wish for you that you see your worth, embrace your worth, and believe that you are loved because you are perfect just as you are, and it will all be okay.
Pain, like happiness, is temporary.
Dark, like light, is temporary.
Tears, like smiles, are temporary.
And it is all okay because we become stronger, more resilient, wiser, and ultimately, happier as a result of our pain. We learn nothing from success. Our failure teaches us everything.
If we want.
I love you.