**Please note, the post below may be triggering. It’s probably the hardest post I’ve ever written and I still am a little shocked that I even pressed publish in the first place.
Today I worked from home – still recovering from my unpleasant, skinned hands (although I will admit, after yesterday, I was also reluctant to deal with the folks at work). It was a seemingly normal day, until I received a phone call from L. If you know L, you know he’s more apt to decline my phone calls while he’s at work (I still don’t understand how my story about the jerk who cut me off can wait until we’re home) than to call. I immediately felt uncomfortable – this is not how we do things. Between muffled sobs, he told me we needed to go back to North Carolina immediately. So I clumsily packed our bags and we headed back to Charlotte where he’s from.
The hardest part of writing this blog is understanding tact – something I’m naturally bad at. There are lots of stories that are so important to tell – but sometimes they’re not mine to tell. Right now I’m grappling with how to communicate the devastating situation we’re dealing with as a family, without violating everyone’s right to own their own lives – so I’ll pivot to my own story. I’ve struggled in ways that I tend to relegate to the dark corners of my persona. I’ve been at war with my mind and my body, and I haven’t always been victorious.
I can pinpoint the moment where my world shifted. I was going into my freshman year of high school. Earlier that day, I ran an unimpressive pre-season practice for cross country. I was sitting on my front porch eating blueberries when my dad came home from work and told me in his calm, matter-of-fact voice that he had cancer. The rest of my night was normal in the cliche sense of the word – we ate dinner, we watched the Red Sox. Then, when I was sure my dad went to bed, I went back downstairs and got a knife. It was a cumbersome knife but I still tried. The next day I back to another cross country practice. I was still a living, breathing human. I still spoke out of turn and rode my horse and cleaned my room. Nothing had changed on the peripheral and that’s how I wanted it.
Over the next year, I went through waves. I didn’t talk about my coping mechanism because it was such insignificant part of my personality. My dad died and three years later I was still taking it out on my own body. I know some people think that self harm is a cry for help, but for me, it was an alienating punishment. When I felt numb from the pain of, but it helped me feel. When I wanted to be alone, it was my comfort. I knew that I had an addicting personality, just based on my family, but I never realized that it would become my crutch, my secret, hidden behind long sleeves and a bubbly personality.
Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of – even though it’s shrouded in secretary and shame. Today it’s been probably around six years since I’ve done anything. Unlike when it started, I can’t pinpoint when I stopped. I don’t think it was necessarily a decisive moment, but rather millions of little decisions steering my life in a new direction. I’m still embarrassed by my arms when I’m in board meetings, but I also am proud that I made it out on the other side. While I’m doing much better now, there’s no cure to mental illness. I still carry my past like a winter jacket dragged through an Atlanta summer. But things do get better – sometimes with time, sometimes with professional help, and sometimes with medication. No matter who you are, you have a support system. You are important. You are loved. You can get better.
**If you, or someone you know, needs help please please please reach out to Hopeline (via call or text) at 919-231-4525.