This is where I put a trigger warning for self-harm. Take care of yourself.
The last time I overheard my dad, while yelling at my brother, say, “I don’t want you to be like her,” meaning me, I grabbed a bottle of allergy pills, eyeglass cleaner, and craft scissors and locked myself in the bathroom with the lights off so he couldn’t find me. If there could be any relief in the pain I felt, it was in the thought that I had the power to wholly escape from it and it would be. So. Easy.
In her conversation on Super Soul Sunday, Glennon Doyle told Oprah that we are all wired to tell the truth and if we cannot tell the truth in healthy ways, we tell it through our self-destruction. We tell the truth through our credit cards, our eating habits, our alcoholism, our unkindness. At the time, this was the only way I could think of to tell the truth of my anger and fear.
Using the flashlight on my phone, I read the directions on the pill bottle to take no more than 6 in 24 hours, so I poured 7 pink and white plastic capsules into my hand. I took the first with tap water from the sink, squeezed the second down my throat dry, and then texted some friends to tell them what I was doing and threaten to unfriend them if they told my mom. They thought I was kidding until I said I definitely wasn’t taking them to get rid of allergies. I took a third pill, trespassing over the recommended dosage.
I didn’t know what I was hoping to do when I went into the bathroom that night. I know I did not really want to die. I only wanted to get away. I wonder what would have happened if my friends were not by their phones at the time to tell me not to do it, that I could end up in a wheelchair or having seizures for the rest of my life. When I said this to my therapist, there was a moment of silence.
“I don’t like having these kinds of conversations with my clients,” she said. “What you just said makes me really concerned for your safety–which isn’t a threat, by the way.”
Last night, I heard him say it to my brother again in rage over the soundtrack of Grey’s Anatomy and while the rest of my family continued on in the dance of dysfunctionality and make-believe as they always do, I felt my hands twitch again for a means to destroy myself.
But I didn’t. Since my brain had gone MIA, I forced my body to move. I found myself searching for breathing exercises on YouTube. I surfed the waves of my emotions, broken and choppy and black, each wave stronger than the last, and I survived the act of feeling without searching for life’s OFF switch. I listened to Glennon Doyle’s talk with Oprah. And I finished the collage I had been working on all day by filling in the holes of her hair with this message: I would rather be broken and love than be unbroken and not care at all.
You might notice her hair is big and colorful and fractured and even a little bit crazy–well, so am I. So are all of us. What scares my dad more than anything, I think, is that I am 100% uncontrollable and unpredictable. And so I hide myself from him emotionally and by physically cramming myself into my closet and dark bathrooms when I have to protect myself from my every move being scrutinized and criticized. I try to physically destroy myself to protect myself from getting hurt, but when I am whole and real and big and colorful and broken, I can move mountains. As for him, I would rather he break me over and over again than for me to numb up and emotionally or literally disappear from the world. I was born a truth-teller. Who I am is beautiful and I unconditionally belong here and I cannot, will not make myself smaller for anyone.