Eight Years Of Learning

Content warning: Suicide, self harm

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How I felt waking up this morning

In years past, I would use old versions of this post/blog/however I got it out to shape the current one. Considering I publicly talked about my trauma for the first time this summer, I felt like this needed to take on a different format this year. Partially because there’s been a lot of good and a lot of bad, but mostly good.

It usually gets easier every year, but I just stared at my iPad for five minutes with a knot in my stomach, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to convey. Part of this feeling stems from the fact that there are still things that should have been taken care of following my time at St. Vincent that still hang in the air. That frustrates me to no end, partially because I felt like my life would be in a stable enough place to talk about certain aspects of my life by the time this date came along.

But no, things have not been taken care of as I’d hoped. I still carry a lot of pain and anger, both feelings I had hoped to eliminate by this time, even by the time 2020 rolled around. With that, I had to skip a counseling appointment recently because my counselor was on maternity leave and I had to skip an appointment with my psychiatrist because I couldn’t afford it. Thanks to complications with insurance, I had to skip a dose of my meds one day and that threw me off to the point where I could barely function. There are so many spots in my life where I still feel like I’ve been failed somehow, by something, by someone, I can’t fully place it.

But there’s also so much good—more good than I ever could imagine having.

I hold this date in celebration now, rather than dread. March 26, 2012 was the day I attempted suicide and began my time at Community North’s adolescent psych ward (0/10, would not recommend—St. Vincent is 500% the better, even more competent choice). This date used to make me feel sick to my stomach, but it’s almost become my “You’re A Badass!” day.

So today I celebrate the fact that I’ve made it eight years since that night that broke me and remind myself that no matter how much I’m hurting now, I’ve come so unbelievably far in those past eight years.

Is that eight years without self harm or feeling actively suicidal? No and it pains me to say both of those things have occurred in the past year. In that eight years, I’ve tried four different antidepressants, a mood stabilizer and my Xanax prescription that I’m even too anxious to take. There are parts of my life where I still feel like I’m spiraling, especially when I began experiencing different symptoms and while he wanted to wait until he saw how the mood stabilizer affected me, my psychiatrist said that if I “were a test question, bipolar 2 would be the correct answer.”

Like I said earlier, though, there’s so much good in my life too.

At 16, the idea of talking about what happened to me when I was nine terrified me. I was embarrassed even confiding in the friends that I did, afraid it made me weak. As many of you know, I overcame that this past summer, putting almost everything on the table, having that be something that could potentially pop up when people Google my name. Doing so helped free me from the heaviest of weights on my shoulders so while I still struggle with pieces of it today, I’m in a much better place than I was from age nine to age 23.

At 16, there’s no way I could have a job like mine. Talking to people I didn’t know terrified me and I was afraid to have my own opinion. I loved theater, but if you told me I had to go on camera (on a national simulcast, no less) I would have had an anxiety attack. Now at 24, I speak up in meetings, even when my opinion differs from the group. I start conversations with people I don’t know, and not just for my job. I even look forward to the little spots on the simulcast, as I feel that’s one of the many things I do that’s helping me grow as a professional.

At 16, I thought being single meant you were totally alone and I clung to my high school sweetheart (and looking back, probably longer than I needed to) and I was desperate to have someone love me. At 24, I know that not all love is romantic and that platonic love is one of the most beautiful things. I’ve also learned to love myself (most days) and became comfortable with being alone and learned that when I find my person, that’ll be great. When I find them, though, I’ll have my own life and have built who I am on my own and be excited to bring them into it.

At 16, I was getting my feet wet in terms of my faith. I was getting ready for Confirmation and only recently had learned the power of God’s love. At 24, I bend over backwards to help with youth ministry at St. Susanna and have led 16 retreats since my own Confirmation. I’ve learned ways to bring faith into my life and while I know this doesn’t make me endlessly knowledgeable about it, I finally tackled my goal of reading the Bible cover-to-cover.

At 16, I thought hurting myself was the only way to cope with how I was feeling. At 24, I now have a trunk full of coping mechanisms to use, whether I learned them from myself, a friend, my counselor or my time at St. Vincent. I can do things like meditate, write, play with Balaga, read, speak positive affirmations, knit, play with makeup, take a long shower, reach out to a friend and so many other things.

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Taken a few weeks ago while getting ready for a date (spoiler alert, not The One)

While I sometimes feel like I’m floundering a bit because I truly didn’t expect to live this long, I also recognize it as a way to write my future in the best possible way. Like I said back in July, I’m building a beautiful life for myself and I’m determined to stay bright and insistent on surviving. I’ve been reading Chanel Miller’s memoir about going through her legal battle with the Stanford swimmer (whose name I will not type) and at one point she writes, “I saw the part in me that insisted on surviving.” That might be my second favorite quote, as it brought me to tears the moment I read it.

So while this quarantine has been a little anxiety-inducing for a myriad of reasons, today I think I’ll sit back in some pajamas, binge watch The Office, do some knitting and possibly order myself something special for dinner. I’d also like all of you to acknowledge this day by saying at least five things that you love about yourself and by reaching out to the people you love simply to remind them that you love them and that they’re important to you.

And who would I be if I didn’t include the Sierra Boggess quote that holds the place as my all-time favorite:

YOU ARE ENOUGH

YOU ARE SO ENOUGH

IT IS UNBELIEVABLE HOW ENOUGH YOU ARE

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