and here’s the narrative I just presented to my class

So it’s kinda weird to have 20 full minutes to talk about my experience, my strength, and my hope. I mean, I talk about myself and what makes me ME quite a lot; I’m lucky enough to have friends and family and a therapist who listen and understand and make me feel heard. But this feels different, and I’m honored to be sharing with all of you.

I’m gonna read something I wrote a long time ago that I reworked yesterday in order to make it better for this narrative exercise.

But before I do that, I just want to give a quick summary, through those five words Emily had us pick yesterday. Mine are: more, anorexia, personality, sexuality, and bipolar. They go in chronological order for the most part. And they help me understand chunks of my life and categorize them into…I guess into lessons I’ve learned.

“More” because I learned at a young age that my reactions to things were bigger, more emotional, and more dramatic

“Anorexia” because I spent the majority of high school locked in the lonely hell of starving away my problems, and because those years and the first few months of precious, innocent recovery shaped me tremendously

“Personality” because I’m proud of who I am and what I’m like and how I behave, even though I can be a lot to deal with, and I very much enjoyed the process of becoming me

“Sexuality” because my identity played an important role in my development and without my journey with it, I wouldn’t understand who I am and I wouldn’t be with my boyfriend who I love

And finally, “bipolar” because it explains things, it helps me make sense of things, it’s put me through a ton of shit but I’m still here standing next to it

When I was ten, it tugged at me.

At the time, I was merely confused. Maybe a little curious.

It felt weird more than anything else.

A vague and unfamiliar sensation that wouldn’t seem to go away.

I felt more, in every regard. Was that possible?

Something…wasn’t right.

I didn’t know what, but it didn’t really matter.

I distracted myself by learning to crochet and going about my regular fifth-grade business.

.

When I was thirteen, it pulled at me.

At the time, I was already agitated, as every new teenager is. I grew annoyed with it.

It was confusing, but no longer curious to me.

A troubling nuisance, forever in the back of my consciousness, on top of everything else.

Something was wrong.

I didn’t know what, and I didn’t have time to figure it out.

I distracted myself with writing and all the normal preoccupations of an eighth-grader.

.

When I was fourteen, it yanked at me.

At the time, I was stressed and upset and annoyed.

No longer confused, just pissed off with it.

A stupid, scary presence…a lingering sense of discomfort, and it was spreading.

My stomach soured in the presence of food,

Waves of sickness rippled through me at the mere thought.

I wasn’t good enough, could never be good enough, oh god, was it too late to try to be good enough?

Something was wrong. Very, definitely, completely wrong. Was it all related?

I didn’t know, didn’t care either. Still had no time to figure it out, nor the willpower to try.

I was too distracted to distract myself. Fucking ninth grade.

.

When I was sixteen, it ripped into me.

I was depressed.

It was empty. Hollow sadness that radiated into every aspect of my being.

Anxiety that pervaded every thought and action.

A dark cloud looming over me, terrible fears caving in on me.

Everything wrong. Nothing okay.

How did it get that way? How could it have gotten that way?!

I wondered how, and why, but had no energy to figure it out.

I distracted myself by starving my body into oblivion and cutting open my own skin.

Thinnest of blades drug over scars, one on top of another.

Ruined innocence, soiled purity, was it worth it to take one goddamn breath?

Fuck.

.

The darkness was first punctured when I was seventeen.

Light washed over everything.

It was like moving through a familiar world by means that were infinitely more fun.

Less painful and chaotic.

I was happy that the weight had been lifted (figuratively, at least).

It felt weird, but it was a relief more than anything else.

An oddly satisfying sensation that grew more comfortable every day.

It was finally okay.

I had the goddamn pizza AND the goddamn cookie.

I was proud of myself, and it felt good.

I celebrated by smiling at the beauty of the world around me.

.

I was eighteen when I fell again.

It was like tasting freedom only to realize it was all some sick joke.

Suffocating sadness juxtaposed next to pure happiness…

A throwback to three years wasted, a body wasted.

Something. Wasn’t. Right.

AGAIN!

Why, for the love of God, WHY?!

Exhausted, I cried to the universe for an answer.

And instead, I went crazy.

.

A respite came when I was nineteen.

A diagnosis.

“Are you on cocaine?” he asked.

“No.”

“Then you’re bipolar.”

It was confusing more than anything else.

But when I finally caught my breath, it started to go away.

A short punctuation, a precarious pause…

And then insanity.

Something was wrong, or right, or something, and what was I talking about?

I didn’t know.

I distracted myself with self-mutilation.

.

I was twenty when it came and went.

Repeatedly.

A roller coaster of twists and turns.

One flash flood after another.

I was twenty-one, I was twenty-two, I was twenty-three.

.

I was twenty-four, and you know the story by now.

Exhausted.

Clawing my way back up, climbing and scaling and reaching…

And falling.

The ground ripped from underneath me.

Again.

Get back up. Again.

Pushed back down. Again.

Sick frustration. Twisted, gnawing lack of energy.

Double fuck.

.

Fifteen years later.

Perspective and knowledge and maturity behind me.

Up and down.

I knew enough to center myself and ignore it.

UP and DOWN.

I was hanging in, struggling, but holding on.

Up down up down

It threw me off balance, but I had muscle memory from years of it, so I remained standing.

Up. Down.

Something’s right, something’s wrong.

As it always is.

I didn’t know why, but didn’t have to.

I pushed back,

Distracted myself by living my fucking life.

Easier said than done.

.

I was twenty-eight when I said enough was enough.

(When I begged the universe to see that enough was enough).

I wandered into the depths again,

Trudged through the muck again,

Fell too far again, I couldn’t get out again.

I threw myself deeper and farther and couldn’t bring myself to stop it, but

Life came to a grinding halt

(the way I’d been begging it to for so, so very long).

Blue paper scrubs.

Cups full of meds.

Visiting hours.

Coloring pages.

Hospital unit.

Groups and groups and groups.

Pacing the halls, laughing out loud, crying and shouting and breathing and…

.

I am twenty-nine.

And it’s been eight months.

I’ve been stable for eight months.

Almost three times as long as I’ve gone without spiraling into chaos

In more than half my life.

You know when you’ve been running for ages and it hurts so bad and you can’t catch your breath and finally you stop and rest and there’s a glorious influx of air into your lungs?

That feeling when you’ve lost you’re footing and you’re sure you’re gonna fall and you clench your body in preparation but you regain balance?

You know that feeling when you finally get that thing you’ve been wanting?

It’s called happiness.

It feels lovely.

.

I’m sitting here with my right hand on my ribcage, where the words that were tattooed upon them ten years ago remain, the reminder of a lesson I had learned and would continue to learn and shall most likely continue learning still…

It takes rain to make a rainbow.

Look, I’m not under the impression I’m going to be running through rainbows for the rest of forever. I’m not gonna sit here and be unrealistic. Life is full of ups and downs, and though I’ve certainly had my fill of them, that doesn’t make me exempt from future fluctuations.

The difference between ten year old me, sixteen year old me, twenty-four year old me…the difference between my past and my present is simply the fact that I’m living here now, doing what I can with what I have, and I’m ready to take on the next portion of my adventure.

It takes rain to make a rainbow. Take from those words what you will, but I for one am glad to have some perspective.

.

Experience = the full life I’ve lead for 29 years

Strength = communication, resilience, compassion, understanding

Hope = that little fire in my core that tells me to reach out when I’m struggling, to keep fighting when I don’t think I can, to love bigger and stronger and louder; the thing I’m struggling to find the words for, because right now, things are (dare I say) STABLE

So for the class I’m taking, we have to share our narratives. Our stories, our struggles, our hopes.

We talked this morning about how powerful it is to be vulnerable and how it’s sometimes difficult. I felt a bit disconnected from the conversation because I’m usually able to be vulnerable very easily. At least with other people. I’m good at relating to other people. I’m an open book, I know that I’m worthy of love and kindness, and like…all the stuff we spoke about in regards to sharing excited me. Some others were excited too. Some weren’t. But I really am looking forward to the next few classe.

Anyway, I’ve been reviewing a few pieces of my writing so that I can read one out loud while I share my narrative. I think I’m gonna go with something that I’ve already written and rework it a little. But as I was figuring that out, I smashed the keyboard and something fun appeared on the screen. Something about me walking into the unit at the psych hospital for the first time, being emotional and overall just scared as shit. It isn’t finished, but I’m eager to share it with the interwebs…

They took my elephant. Sickness swirled in my stomach. I looked again, pushing everything else around frantically. I swallowed hard, hoping to suppress the rising panic at the fact that my elephant wasn’t in the brown paper bag that held (most of) the other belongings I’d brought with me. Leggings, shirts, hoodie. No notebook. No stuffed elephant. Why was I frantic? Why was I starting this whole process by having a meltdown, why was I panicking over a stuffed elephant?

I was sitting in a chair like the ones behind the desks in my old high school. I was wearing something that was basically paper. I was cold. I was grossly depressed, exhausted from weeks of it, no– years of it. And my goddamn fucking elephant wasn’t in the piece of fucking shit bag.

A yell across the unfamiliar hallway broke me from my sad-angry mixture as I helplessly stared into that stupid brown bag. I inhaled deeply, unsteadily. But before I could exhale there were more yells from the same general area, way down the hallway of the unit that looked pretty much what you would’ve expected it to look like.

I brought my hands together with stiff arms, fingers laced, thumbs alternately massaging the opposite palm: a visible representation of my twisting, writhing anxiety. 

The screaming got closer, along with banging and stomping and other voices arguing. Something happened to my right, and, oh god what was this place? What did I do to myself? Were they going to–

“Sweetie, are you okay?” said the guy who’d minutes earlier been screaming violently about the staff being idiots. He put his hand on my shoulder to comfort me, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, although I had a hunch that he was harmless. Regardless, I didn’t have to ponder too long because two men in blue scrubs jumped on him to pull him off of me in a manner that was incongruent with the tiny interaction I’d just had with him.

I rocked back and forth as the scene unfolded in front of me and they pulled the man somewhere around the corner, and I didn’t realize I was sobbing until a nurse came over to the little chair where I was folded into myself, crouched down on the floor in front of me, and asked me if I was okay. I looked at her quickly and concluded that she was trustworthy (I’m good at those kinds of determinations).

“It’s so stupid,” I gasped. “I’m 28 years old and it should matter.” I wiped my nose on the sleeve of the paper scrubs they’d given me to wear. “They didn’t give me my stuffed animal, I brought him, I packed a whole bag knowing what was going to happen to me, I knew I’d come here, I need this, but my elephant…” I sobbed in one long exasperated breath.

I don’t remember how she answered. But I remember going into a little room with a table and absurdly heavy chairs with her and explaining a bit about my history for her charts while I calmed down. And I remember when we walked out of that room she handed me a blank marble notebook that she’d grabbed from the closet. I knew she’d just given me one of the most important tools I’d get in that place.