14 January 2018: Day 1
I march into my therapist’s office ready for celebration.
“Everything has been a lot better lately,” I tell her, delighted when her face lights up. I tell her about the fear poem I recite to myself when I’m scared, and Superwoman, and how I’ve started to make my room wall a safe space of positive mantras. I relate to her my epiphany that I should focus on the good parts of my life. In the months leading up to today, I had asked her about whether the path to freedom was like wading into sunny water step by step, or simply walking from shadow into the light.
She answered that it would be back and forth between shadow and light for awhile until I could step into light and stay there. But I wanted quick results. When my brain betrayed me in the dark, at the desk, and on my therapist’s couch, I dropped every ball I was juggling in my panic and it frustrated me. If I couldn’t even control my own brain, what power did I have?
I could flip and switch and just be happy, I knew I could, if only I could find said switch. I shoved my demons into a shoebox. I abandoned them in a cold, faraway place where they could never, ever find me again. Whenever an emotion surfaced from the edge of my subconscious, I scrambled desperately for bleach, chainsaws, the closest weapon I could find.
I was happy. I was brave, taking every minute as an opportunity to shock, mold, stretch, and harden myself into growth.
The last thing my therapist said that day was, “You’re making progress. Things change, opportunities change, but this is a step in the right direction.”
And my stomach flooded with intense fear.
I remember sitting at a publishing meeting thinking bad things about myself. I remember when my demons flooded the big room, breaking chairs and casting everything in darkness while I looked on, unable to move or scream. I remember needing to murder myself.
I could not see the city lights through my panic. I considered buying a bottle of ibuprofen from the drugstore and downing it in my car, but upon further research, I learned that all I would do is throw up. I re-read an old email from my psychiatrist urging me to call the police or check myself into an emergency room if I was contemplating suicide.
By then, I probably looked like Will Byers possessed by the shadow monster. I fell to a bench at my college campus. I fumbled for the happy switch, but there was none. There is no happy switch.
I dialed 911.
That’s where it all ended. And that’s where it all began.