I’ve had many people say to me in passing, “fall down seven times, stand up eight.” And every single time, I have resisted the urge to knock out their front teeth, for quoting something so incredibly cliché, to describe something so incomprehensible—or so it seemed, anyway.
“You just don’t get it.” I’d say.
I’d convince myself this was true, because there was no way in hell that the rest of the world was that good at acting. I was very young, when everything in my life started to become increasingly frightening. But I think the scariest realization I had, was that even as a child, I intentionally tried to lose myself within the thick sludge of paranoia and turmoil whenever possible. There were times—there still are times—in which I’d purposely spiral downwards in anticipation of a giant crash, just because it felt justified. It probably wasn’t, but it really felt like it.
It started after my brother’s accident; I was seven years old and he was eleven. I watched him get run over by a 4X4 while visiting our family in Australia. He almost died that day, and I was lucky in a way that no one wants to be. I saw it happen, and then we saw a counsellor to help us cope. But the damage was already done. Things escalated and the post-traumatic stress seeped out of me in unexpected and disturbing ways.
“Don’t do that! You could bleed to death.”
I remember my friend yelling at me through the house phone. I was eleven then, and had just learned to counteract emotional pain with physical pain in order to survive. Little did I know at the time though, I was just speeding up my descent into madness.
As life progressed, I could barely keep my apprehension at a safe distance—the world felt wrong, and I felt cheated. My bedroom, once bright and filled with love, was now dark and hollow. My safe haven had become a torture chamber for my feelings, filled with sick, twisted thoughts that managed to keep me awake most nights. I denied it at first. I’d push the bad images out of my head, and further down into the pit of my stomach. This is normal. I’d tell myself. But it wasn’t, and in hindsight I think I knew it wasn’t.
As a child, for as long as I can remember I was always starved for attention. But Mom didn’t have nearly enough hours in a day to keep everyone happy. This unfortunately just emphasized the sticky, disgusting feeling residing somewhere deep in my gut. A fear of abandonment so strong I dreaded it would manifest into a giant, sinister monster chained to my heart, sabotaging all of my future relationships. The biggest clue was my vivid night terrors that managed to usually be about my mother leaving me behind, in some form or another. Most of the time I was paralyzed in place, unable to make a sound while my lips mouthed the words, “Don’t leave me!” as I watched her silhouette walk away into the distance. Only to wake shortly after, cheeks hot with tears and shivers down my body.
There was no doubt that I hated sleeping as a kid—even sometimes still. Many nights I spent anxious and curled up under the covers, coddling my teddy bear and whatever electronic device I had at the time to distract me. I’d load it full of music to help me get to sleep at night, since my thoughts never let me rest. It didn’t exactly help with my problem, but it was better than laying in silence. I was around thirteen years old when I started to spend many nights listening to music, replaying over and over again in my head, pictures of a different life. It was always the same pictures—not because they were better than real life, but because they weren’t. I dreamt up a whole other reality for myself. One in which everyone I loved was gone, and I was alone.
I wanted to lose everything. I wanted to break down.
A modern day Sylvia Plath; immersed in the beauty of what made me battered and bruised.
I wanted to scream, but I just couldn’t.
I had to keep it together, but I just couldn’t.
Time and time again I struggled to keep my head above water. It wasn’t until years after moving on from high school, when it finally hit me. The world wasn’t out to get me; I was out to get me. So after many years of feeling defeated, I finally learned that it’s nice to want more for myself, not less. And after years of seeing counsellors and experimenting with medications, I learned that it’s nice to feel stable—even now without them. I’m currently twenty-one and through meditation and inner reflection I have found my spirituality, and therefore found myself. So nowadays, whenever someone quotes to me words of wisdom in my time of self-loathing, I usually just smile and laugh. I smile for shedding some light on my darkness, and laugh because as unoriginal as it may be, I know now that they’re not wrong.