For Tony: who found me
For Cecelia Grace: who helped me find me.
This morning, I drove down my block on my way to drop my son off at school. Singing Baby Shark, and making up silly verses—I hear Michael giggling in the backseat.
What was that?
My heart. Or, what feels like my heart. It’s myself disassociating from my present tense. It’s myself falling into another flashback. These days, it doesn’t happen as often- but when it does, it doesn’t feel good. I stop at a stop sign and turn my head. I can hear my head turning. Oh, yeah- I know what’s happening. Pull over. My heart and my body start moving in different directions while I hear Michael muffled, “Mommy you stopped the car!”
Time slows down while I breathe out what feels like a thousand glass shards through my mouth. My lungs and throat are on fire. Then, just like that, it’s gone. What was once muffled is back to normal, and Baby Shark fades out and starts up again. I start driving and go on my way.
My eyes tear up, and my chest feels like it’s falling into itself. “Just breathe, baby. It’s almost done.” I talk myself out of crying and drive towards the main road. “You are not her. You aren’t her anymore. Be brave. ” You say out loud.
Your son’s question breaks the fog. You’re a mom again. Stop it, just drop him off.
It’s only for an instant, but ten years later, I still cannot place how I got to where I am. It’s like I woke up and I was married, in a house that I apparently bought, with a dog and pregnant. It’s like my body was on autopilot for so long that it forgot what happiness felt like, and how to turn back to manual.
I do not remember anything, and if I say I do, I’m lying. For three years, I was completely on autopilot, trying to make sense of the mess I created around me. Occasionally, I’ll drive around my neighborhood by myself, listening to music from my junior year in college and try to place where I was exactly when I decided to take my own life.
I was walking to the corner of Broad and Olney outside LaSalle University. The weather was turning, and the leaves fell onto the blacktop just in time for me to walk over them. I made my way to south campus when I saw a group of girls in my grade. I didn’t know them, but I had seen them at parties before. One of them waved at me, and I crookedly smiled at her. I looked up to the sky and for the first time in my life, I felt like I didn’t need to be there. There was a peace in the chaos around me. I didn’t care about being their friend, I didn’t care about going to see my friends on the other side of campus– and I turned around and walked back to my apartment.
It’s been ten years. Ten years of recovery, turning off autopilot, and starting to find myself. I still don’t know who I am, and I’m not sure if I ever will.
I tried to take my life so matter-of-factly one afternoon alone in my LaSalle apartment, that it even scares me to think about it. If I can remember correctly, I was on academic probation with my sorority and could not go to a party they were hosting. I didn’t actually care about the party, or anything else for that matter. I would have slept through the whole night if it weren’t for having to use the bathroom.
I woke up from my nap after skipping my class, looked at myself in the bathroom mirror after washing my hands and then …my memory fogs up. The next thing I saw was my friend pulling me upwards towards my couch. I tried to fight him off of me, but my legs dragged underneath me, while he pulled me out of my bathroom. I had blood on my shirt and my razor had fallen into the sink. My wrist and palms had blood all over, while I tried to cover up my newly cut wound with my other hand. He grabbed my phone and called my mom, then my therapist, then my roommates…I think. I wish I had the guts to ask them if he called them, I never knew how everyone knew, but everyone knew by the end of the night.
I wish, in some small capacity, I could tell my friends how sick I actually was. I wish, for a minute, I could apologize for putting them through what I put them through. Not just Tony, but my roommates, my sorority sisters, everyone I knew. I was so sick, and I didn’t know how to ask for help. So I didn’t, I didn’t want to be a bother. So, this is an apology for the friendships and trust that I broke. I am sorry I didn’t tell you how bad I was hurting. I’m sorry for the fights, the screaming, and most of all the distance I put between us. I had to take the distance in order to be closer to myself.
If you’re reading this…be a bother. Always. You aren’t being dramatic, and you aren’t being “unstable.” You are being brave. Remember that.
Tony was my neighbor, and he had come in to check on me. My assumption was that I slept through his baseball practice and I skipped dinner, so he was concerned. I’m not really sure what would have happened to me if he wasn’t concerned. I’m not really sure if I’d be able to write you my musings of what I’ve learned about mental illness ten years later.
The rest of the months after the “incident” have been redacted from my mind. It’s like seeing an old diary that certain entries have been ripped out or scribbled over. It’s so frustrating to comb through your mind while trying to feel what you felt through those couple of months, and coming up with some nondescript answer.
Looking back, I feel like I was underwater for three years. I went through life on autopilot. I took my medicine, went through the motions of going to class and seeing friends—but I was never truly there. I was never fully, all there. I made some huge mistakes in that time that I can only remember in glimpses, and that’s absolutely terrifying. I’ve scoured the internet for pictures of nights I don’t remember having, and I can’t find much. Have you ever seen a video of yourself drunk? Singing, dancing, and doing stupid things…imagine seeing videos or pictures of yourself for three years without recalling any memories. Talk about terrifying.
These ten years of my life have been the hardest years that I could ever imagine. I never thought I’d be able to write this. But, I don’t know when the time will be right to share a reflection so harsh and scary. So, I’ll continue on.
It’s been 10 years that have been filled with learning’s, successes, and beauty. I was given a second chance, and I am so glad I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, dragged my body through recovery and finally reached out and grabbed what I could and didn’t let go. Sometimes, the only way out is through. Through barbed wire and numbing medication, through hurt and years of my brain shutting off memories to save its person from what’s been done.
Even if my mind and body was bruised and hurt, I had to go through the struggle to heal to get to the other side. I had to put in the work, and throw away the shame of asking for help. Once I was able to catch my breath, I was able turn back just to see the mess I left behind. The wreck I made of the very things that tried to wreck me.
I have been able to see the most beautiful days through the harsh realties that are sprinkled into each day. I have made the most of what I’ve been given, and made it into an adventure. I beg you to do the same. Even if your beauty is “I didn’t cry today” or “I put shoes on.” It’s a victory, and remember when you couldn’t stop crying, or when you couldn’t bear to put shoes on.
I would have never met the little person that calls me mommy. Who has solidified my decision to stay on this earth. My little man, the happiest guy I’ve ever met, would not be. My husband would still be in Germany, wondering what ever happened to that girl he dated for like two days in her freshman year. He’d probably still be working in a kitchen, with no plans of coming back to the United States. My parents and siblings would speak in hushed tones about me, if I came up. And, my nieces and nephews would only see me as a photo on the piano. Cecelia and Meredith’s fashion would be a lot less Lilly Pulitzer heavy, and they would have a lot less sparkly pencils. Phin and Colin wouldn’t have an older cousin to try to teach them basketball. The house I’ve made into a home would have sold to some contractor who would have redone my kitchen and fixed this stupid fireplace to make it gas. I would have never found out that I actually do have a runner’s body, and I do in fact ENJOY going to the gym and being competitive. Friends would post a picture of me on their Instagram feed on the anniversary of my suicide, and write to me and tell me all I have missed. And boy, I would have missed a lot.
My heart aches to think of the souls of the people who were so hurt, and so broken that they couldn’t bring themselves to wake up one more day, see one more sunrise, and share one more meal with someone they loved.
What would life be like without me? What would the world be like with one less Katie? One less caramel macchiato loving bitch, that’s for sure.
Please hold on. Please. It’s worth it. 800-273-8255