I’m the loneliest girl in the world in the most dramatic sense. I’m looking over the ledge of a hotel room balcony, twenty-three floors up, night has taken the sky, the wind blows my hair across my face, I can taste it in my mouth. I want to be lifeless in my pretty dress. Whether real or imagined, it’s mine–the loneliness–to hold, examine, live with and accept. It comes from a story that sits in the shadows of my bedside like an old book, the pages tell me I’ve been disregarded, that I’m weightless and insignificant; the story is traumatic, but I keep reliving it because it feels important, it’s a demented concept of having value, negative attention is still attention.
(There’s something in me that wants to get up right now and run from this blog. I want to get out of my seat, grab some chocolate, put in the laundry, walk the house, do anything else but this, do anything other than sit with myself and all the noise. It’s chaotic in here-inside my head–it’s loud and painful, disgusting and embarrassing.)
I haven’t wanted to write. I’ve wanted to write. I’ve been ashamed. Friends have said, “You don’t have to publish everything you write.” But that isn’t the case for me. My ego (I) would never allow something to sit around unread, unseen. I get off–in a sick sort of way–on exploiting my private thoughts, there’s just some smooth satisfaction in it for me that comes from nothing else.(Again with the attention, I guess.) But I haven’t written because I needed to be strong enough first to give life to what’s been on my mind. I wasn’t able to by-pass my secrets by writing about something else. I need to write about this first before I can go any further.
I felt suicidal in late winter/early spring of 2014.
It was a dangerous blend, a transformative time of grief, pain, and a lack of vitamin D. I don’t suffer from clinical depression, like many others, however I did have situational depression along with seasonal depression.
It was at the tail-end of an uncharacteristic winter in Atlanta. It was colder, bleaker, and more storm-filled with ice and snow and wind and rain than any winter I can recall. And I was just the same. My insides felt like the weather outside, an internal freeze. Everything felt saturated with wet-bone-cold or solid like stubborn ice, including time. It seemed to last forever.
I was Miserable. I was still holding onto something that wasn’t good for me, clinging to an idea that never materialized. I wanted to reconcile with a former love but it didn’t happen, and once I realized that her desired communications with me was based on wanting a friendship it felt like losing her all over again. My pain was so great. I couldn’t bare anymore. I knew that any continued contact with her would be like an extreme form of emotional torture. I was that girl, the one I’ve always been, the girl who kept signing up for more suffering, yet blaming other people. I didn’t want to be her anymore. I had a choice. I could keep taking it or I could make a change. So I decided to stand for myself, and the way to do that was to block my ex from my life.
I went through great lengths, made a lot of changes, rearranged my life just to feel safe. She didn’t want to end the communications, but it was necessary for my emotional and mental health. She would send texts, “I want to talk to you.” And then the next day would apologize, saying, “I know these things take time.” Each and every single word was like a drop of acid eating away flesh from the damage. She couldn’t do anything right, like an extremity with gangrene, there was no blood supply between us, it needed to come off. I amputated it by cutting myself out of the situation.
But I wasn’t ready for what happened next. I never imagined the guttural sickness and literal heart-ache that came from having to deliberately remove myself from someone I loved so much. The most shocking thought was this: The person I love causes me so much pain that they can no longer be in my life in any capacity. And fuck me sideways that was a sobering thought. It was devastating and cruel and went against all logic, but all my smarts and wits could not reconcile this fact, and God did it hurt, it hurt so much but I didn’t have a choice.
I knew I was never going to heal and move on from this love if I didn’t protect myself from the injury of it in a significant way. I can remember being in bed at night and actually feeling my heart aching like the feel of any other pulled muscle. It was torn at the fibers and I could feel every pull for her but I knew within the deeper chambers that more of the same–an initial soothing, followed by the tearing wasn’t going to heal my whole heart. My connection to her was going to keep opening and closing the hole, and I just couldn’t do that to myself.
I went through withdrawals the way I assume an alcoholic or addict experiences them: I had a physical, mental, spiritual and an emotional desire to contact her, to get that one little hit but I knew it would only perpetuate the problem. As a friend said, “She can’t be the problem and the solution.” She was all I wanted. She was the last thing I needed. It went like that over and over again. And with it came a deeper level of awareness and a willful struggle with acceptance.
By admitting to myself and (really) understanding that having any communications with her wasn’t in my best interest somehow forced me to surrender, the acceptance of reality: It Was Over. I had never allowed myself to believe this before, and with it I was overcome by my grief and sadness.
The loss of her felt like a violent crime had been committed against my entire being. This feeling came on as spring approached, but winter still clung like old claws, bitter and fighting. The pain felt intolerable, the sky seemed like the grayness of God’s betrayal. I pleaded with God, “Why? And What is the lesson? And where is the sun?” I needed something.
I didn’t want to feel anymore. It had been with me for too long. I had lost ten pounds (which is a lot on my frame) from the sickness of grief. I had been cooped up in the house for months, a friend suddenly passed away in a tragic car accident, and then I caught a wicked virus that kept me in bed and weak for days. And that’s when I started having what a friend told me is called, “Suicidal Ideation,” concerns or thoughts about suicide.
I would imagine this dark, lovely, old-Hollywood-glam version of my suicide. Of course I was beautiful, because I’m still insecure even in death, my white dress was pressed just so against my wet body as I lay stretched out in the bathtub. My lips were made shiny and my hair fell like the feathers of a sparrow around my collar bone, soft, touchable and delicate. And then there was the water, a monochromatic rainbow of reds, the color deepening closer to my wrists.
But I knew better. I took this story to a few of my friends, knowing how ridiculous it sounded. It was my call for help. Whether or not I needed help, I needed help. It was my way of saying, “I’m scared. I’m scared shitless of my feelings.” And then a friend told me, “Yeah, you won’t be so beautiful after you die and shit the water.” We both laughed, this moment of truth and lightless broke my seriousness. But then she became serious again, looked me in the eye and asked, “Do I need to be worried about you?”
“No,” I said. “I go through this and (other hotel balcony stories) in my head and at the end I always see my children’s faces. I would never hurt them in that way. I would never leave them with that type of scar. They are what keep me going.” And this is where more pain and shame come in, that I could’ve even had suicidal thoughts but at times my pain felt unshakable. Even in those moments of weakness and despair I knew that if I really felt hopeless that I would get help. There were a few times I considered telling my children’s father that I needed help but that idea scared me straight. I never wanted to think about losing my kids. The thought of them always brought me back to sanity.
(I have always held a firm stance against being anything like my mother, or making some of the same parenting mistakes, (in my opinion) she made. I always felt like she put too much on me, or leaned on me too much for emotional support. She often brought her complex adult problems to my childhood, these were things I didn’t understand, which meant I didn’t have answers for her, I couldn’t make her better. My late grandmother, Maw-Maw, once told me, “Shannon, we never took you from your mother because you were the only thing she had. We were afraid of what she would’ve done without you. We could’t do that to her.”
I didn’t rely on my children for emotional support, nor did I give them my problems to solve, but they did give me strength, and a lot to love; and they did give me support even when I resisted it, and they did know what was going on because I don’t lie. I did my best to keep things at their level, and I tried my hardest not to lean on them too much. If I’m at fault of anything it’s pushing them away too much during this time as a way to protect them, but even that was wrong. Damn I tried, I tried to be as present with them as I could, and I worked on showing them the healthiest ways to deal with life.
During the nightmare of my sadness I kept my sights on those two little lights. They saved me, the way I saved my mother. I know how things occurred but I still have some guilt, I know it’s not real, it’s just fear of hurting them in some way.That even my grief injured them, but I know no matter how hard I try I will hurt them in some way. I’m human, it’s what I do, I inadvertently hurt the people I love. It’s almost too much to write about, but it’s important that I do since I’m resisting it, which by definition for me means it needs to be said. I’m also aware that I am doing my absolute best at every given turn. I make a deliberate and conscious effort every day of my life to be better than I was the day before. I tell you, I am worth fighting for, I am worth showing up as my best-self.
A friend said, “She learned how to love herself and forgave God,” and well, that sums it up. I’ve learned how to love myself and I have forgiven God. It was the turning the point.
It happened a few weeks into spring. I was twelve again (or so it seemed). I was home alone on my yoga mat kneeling on my forearms and knees, I was sobbing, wailing with my whole body, shaking. I pounded my fists on the ground and demanded of God, “Really? Is this really what you want for me? Why? You tell me why? Why did you take her from me? You better have a good reason. I am so angry. I want to die. I hate this feeling, please God, take it away. Take this from me. I can’t do it anymore. Fine. You must have a reason.” I cried hard, and then something happened. My tears changed shape.
I understood, it came to me, “Ohhhhh. I can’t give her any more of my attention because all of my love and attention needs to be right here, it’s for my children and me. This is why. This is why I’ve suffered so much. I’m learning how love myself.” I was laughing and crying, both tears of sadness, relief and surrender. I had finally let go and handed it over to God, and I had finally understood that sometimes doing the hardest, most painful thing can be the best thing for me.
I’ve it heard it said, “Courage is Fear that has said its prayers.” Unknown
“But in the end, one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.” Albert Camus
Thank you for reading.
With much love, humility and gratitude,
(Throughout this process a friend helped me see that I did’t really want to die, more so that there was a part of me that needed to die so that my whole-self could live. The part of me that needed to die was that particular “story”. But the real story continues, it just keeps changing.)