They say mental illness isn’t a disability, but what about the hollow feeling I get when I haven’t taken my meds in a week? The shakes and the headaches, the electric shock sensations and “brain shivers” that give me a sense of vertigo, making me wonder if I’ve been drugged when really it’s the absence of drugs that leaves me only half able to function. Every movement feels like an out of body experience, like I’m on autopilot but the steering system is broken, and I can’t help but notice the tremor in my hands and thank God it’s not for a more sinister substance as I desperately twist the bottle cap open and swallow.
out of control. stomach pressing against my ribs, pushing through my skin as i speed walk to the empty bathroom; everyone’s at the game. elbows on the plastic toilet seat, knees pressed against the cold tile floor. toothbrush jutting back until it hurts, until i heave and my guts spill over the bowl, tears streaming down my face. release and a rushing sense of control in a life that feels anything but. my best friend asks me why i do it and i reply that i don’t know – it’s not exactly a lie. maybe i’m fucked up or maybe i need to feel something; maybe i’m out of control and this and exercise are the only ways to feel right. how did it all change so quickly, revert back to eighth grade in a matter of moments this summer when it all became too much and i became not enough?
cerulean skies, palm trees swaying in the wind, all leafy green and spindly, warm sand that never gets too hot and saltwater that sticks to your skin as the sunscreen melts off and swirls in the ebb and flow of the waves. grenadine and sunshine and stretching my body toward the horizon at eight a.m., the sea breeze tickling pastel verandas as lazy days spent lying on a canopy bed drift past, wooden slats making the sun and shadows dance across me to a song only they know. reading Jack Kerouac and listening to LANY and wondering where it’s all going, all these bits and fragments that make up my life, that never seem to make sense until i turn around and look back and aha, there it is. hindsight is 20/20 but you can’t blame yourself for knowing things now that you didn’t then. so i run mad but never faint, feeling my core tighten while trying not to pinch myself in the wrong places. sometimes i want a cigarette even when i don’t need one – you never need one – and i don’t yet know the difference between learning from the past and carrying baggage i should’ve left behind. how do i protect myself without hurting someone else? i think a lot now about being alone but sometimes it’s lonely and i worry i’ll cave in the end; old habits die hard. how can it matter though, when there’s a great big world out there filled with adventures and experiences and growth, when i’m twenty and still have so much more living to do. i’ve taken eighteen flights this summer and i’m already dreaming of my next one, images of a green and blue landscape, white surf and wildlife floating through my mind. there are so many places to go, so many people i haven’t met yet. don’t you know only fools are satisfied?
Turkish coffee over a wooden table, steaming with sugar. Silly nicknames and a dark mane full of curls tied up in a knot. Green eyes like you’ve never seen before and pale skin, paler than you’d expect from someone with such strong Mediterranean heritage. Feet stepping in sync on the way to buy drinks; a two liter beer split between us and then some. Snickers in the back of the car as we act like we’re twelve years old, pear schnapps and a kids meal shared between us as we laugh and talk for hours in a dimly lit room. A blunt invitation, promptly accepted, and cigarettes passed back and forth as I tell him about home and he points out constellations in the starry sky. It was a whirlwind in the best kind of way.
Back at his place, all creaky stairs and a slanted roof framing a cozy cabin-like room lit up by an orange quilt and white lace curtains that seem wholly out of place. They do little to hide our bare skin from the world beyond, but that just adds to the thrill of it. Hours go by in the pale moonlight. How consumed we become with our flesh; like wolves hunting in the dead of winter, paying no heed to the howls we leave in our wake.
A half-hearted sleep in a tiny bed, very civil given the circumstances. It wasn’t that kind of fling, the touchy, cutesy, maybe-we’re-in-love kind that grew old for me after last summer – I know better now. No, this was passionate, carnal; we were connected but less feeling. After all, I’ve built a fortress around myself and have no intention of lowering the drawbridge for anyone so soon.
Twice more, his hand on my foot, my calf, then all over me, touching parts of me I didn’t know I had. More coffee, salted cashews, a steaming shower. Then me, backpack hoisted over my shoulders, sauntering off to catch my bus. Legs shaking, but not from the weight. Better than anything I could have dreamt up, and well worth the wait. And to think that I would have missed out on it all had a small-minded boy back home simply realized I was enough.
Life is funny sometimes, but in this, I had the last laugh.
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
– Robert Frost
it took three weeks to be okay. three raging, sorrowful, desperate weeks. three weeks of not recognizing who i was, and of that terrifying me. and then it was like a switch flipped and suddenly i was myself again. i don’t think about it much anymore; i’m surprised by how little he crosses my mind. it’s incredible how the heart feels like it will never heal and yet, it does. we’re more resilient than we think, aren’t we?
i can’t even begin to describe how refreshing it is to be me again. it was like waking up from a dream, or emerging from a warm bath after holding my head underwater. i feel so much lighter, more free – like my future is wide open with possibilities again. i’d nearly forgotten what that felt like.
it’s easy now to remember how big and magnificent the world is, and how many amazing people there are to meet. to not be sad that he isn’t mine anymore, especially when who he’s become in the last month is a stranger to me. and to relish in the happiness that independence can bring. i’m not looking for anything, wasn’t looking when he stumbled into my life, but i know i’ll love and be loved again. it was a beautiful thing while it lasted and i learned so much about myself and what i want (or don’t want) in a partner someday. i wouldn’t go back and erase it, despite how badly it ended and how much i hurt.
you can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain
i just hope this newfound peace lasts.