This time last year, I wasn’t sure I would see it. Wasn’t sure I wanted to. Pretty sure I didn’t.
Yet here I am. I made it. 2011 is done, and thank fuck for that.
I’ve never been a particularly happy person. Part of my charm, I like to think, always ready with a dry and cynical word (often several). I took it as given that this would come with frequent dips into darkness. It was part of my nature, something that had been with me as far back as I could remember. So be it. I always persevered and they always faded.
I didn’t notice as these dips became worse. More frequent. Longer. Deeper.
There’s four or five recent years I can barely remember. I try to think on them, and it’s like waking up in the middle of the night and fumbling your way to the bathroom. I know there’s stuff out there and if I try real hard I can see an indistinct shape or two, but that’s the best I’ve got. And if I don’t watch out, I’m gonna stub my toe and pee myself. Not a perfect analogy.
Then near the close of 2010 the dip became a chasm. I don’t know what triggered it. I never do. But this time it was different. The negative voices in my head, typically a ceaseless greek chorus of ruthless mocking and harsh judgement, had turned destructive.
I began to hurt myself. Flashes of rage and loathing so intense that it’s like I would blink out, I would become the feelings, and I would attack the thing I hated most. Mostly I punched. With every ounce of strength I could muster, I would punch myself. Typically in the arms and legs, leaving bruises in a rainbow of fruit flavours.
It wasn’t enough. I eventually graduated to the face.
I wound up beating myself so badly that I left a knot on my head the size of an egg, and had a few minutes there where I was certain I’d broken my own jaw. In the process however, I had terrified myself. I knew it wasn’t going to stop there. It was only a matter of time before a knife got involved, or a gun, or my car. Was that maybe what I was doing? “Toughing” myself up to exact the final punishment for the crime of being me? I couldn’t say no for sure.
My choices were clear: give up or get help.
Yesterday I passed the seven month mark of working with my counselor. I’m proud to say I haven’t hurt myself since the-broken-jaw-that-wasn’t, and prouder still to say I haven’t wanted to. Those around me – the few who knew I was getting help and the greater number who never knew there was a need – have commented that I seem happier and smile more readily. I’m finding joy and pleasure in things, and allowing myself to feel it. I’m even opening up again, which hey, that’s why we’re all here right now. You have become part of my therapy. Welcome.
I’ve got a long, long way to go. I have an entire lifetime of thought processes to try and rewire, and a horde of demons left to face. It’s been a frightening, turbulent time, which would have been absolutely impossible without the love and tireless support of my family and friends. It’s amazing: as I look ahead, it’s no longer all vague outlines, stubbed toes and a need to pee. Only blue skies. Metaphorically of course; this is Portland.
On Monday, the 2nd of January, an amazing thing happened. Unprompted and unbidden, a thought raced through my mind. A little voice, so soft I barely heard it, so fast I nearly missed it. It was positive. It was positive about me. It was the first time in my entire life that I can remember ever having thought something nice to myself. I was completely floored. I was so incredibly proud. I feel I’ve finally taken that first step. I think it’s really starting to happen.
Let’s go, 2012. Let’s do this.