She is my light in dark places

You know that place where the feelings disappear?

Where there’s nothing but silence, a companionable silence that has no meaning behind it, just acceptance of whatever is, and that vague sense that what preceded this place was the snapped-elastic sensation of giving up on everything, all at once? And now there’s no resistance, just a weightless silence of nothing mattering anymore.

You feel relief wash over you, like you’re bathing in it, swimming in it, just floating in freedom from yourself, but there, under the water is a current. If it had colour, it would be a cartoonish wisp of blackness that tickles your toes and reminds you that this isn’t a dream.. that this is real. You’re finally here. You’re at the place where the noose hangs from the tree, the poison sparkles in the bottle, the pills pile up in your hands, the gun glistens in the moonlight.

It’s when that brings no fear that you have to tread most carefully.

I was lucky.

It was the feeling of pure calm that made me realise it wasn’t me who was holding the reins that night. No, they were being held by The Girl Who Lives Inside – the little downtrodden one who finds her voice when I find the middle of the bottle.

I used to feel sorry for her, when I realised she was in there. She’s the little girl me, the girlfriend me, the one who kept trying to tell me to leave these harmful people and I kept telling her to shut up.

I don’t feel sorry for her now. She isn’t a nice girl. She is made out of knives and bee stings and hatred and vomit and just like those people she kept warning me to leave, she also tries to hurt me.

She hates that I know about her now. She hasn’t been allowed out because I haven’t opened a bottle. I haven’t left the shores of sobriety for seven months – not a single escape tool has passed my lips – no cigarettes, no alcohol, no drugs.

I suppose she’s in there just biding her time, knowing that in a few very short months, my main reason for keeping the lid on the bottle will be out in the world, no longer sharing my blood, my oxygen, my body.

And I wonder if she will pounce. If she will take me back to that weightless place a month or so into my lack of sleep, when the sound of crying causes me to do the same. When the responsibility of being someone’s world becomes too overwhelming, will that elastic snap again? When it all piles on too heavy, I know she will be there with her bee stings and dagger-eyes, laughing at me for thinking I could get away.

What she may not have taken into account is something I’ve just realised – She’s never met me. Not this me.

This me is someone who is now needed by someone who won’t go seeking a better version of me elsewhere. For someone, I am finally going to be enough. I’m going to be their mum. And nobody is going to make me feel like she would be better off without me.

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The Other Side

It’s been a very strange journey for me this year, to have experienced the ultimate low in life; the moment where you decide, and plan, to take your own life.

As someone who has consistently seen suicide as the most selfish and cruel act to inflict on the people who love you, it was a truly terrifying experience to make a plan, and feel the calmness, the complete and total relief of knowing that I had now made that decision – that I could, and would, take that blissful way out, to make it all just end. An escape route that I kept secret to ensure nobody could stop me from doing it.

I sat there, feeling a calmness I have never in my life experienced. It was so perfect, it was like floating… but I could also feel the darkness in it, the wrongness. That the decision hadn’t been made by the Bri who has been the leader of my life for the past 30 years, it was made by the Bri who comes to visit once every couple of years, the one who makes all the mess you have to clean up later.

As the calmness stilled, I realised I didn’t want to end my life, just this facet of it, this Bri who hadn’t just called in for a brief visit in the guest room, but had seemed to have brought all her belongings and unpacked them into a wardrobe in the main bedroom.

Although I had decided not to take my life at that point, I still kept my plan secret. I still didn’t tell anyone about it. I still wanted that option available to me, just in case…

A few days later, I started to come out of my depression on my own and looked down at the shadowy place I’d just come from, unable to reconcile the vast distance that now separated me from that place. Just a few days, that’s all it was.. a few days after I very nearly ended my life, I found my way back to the sunshine.

And that is the part that terrified me. To know that I could have ended it all, just to end that pain… when the pain drifted away on its own just a few days later.

I was so scared by that, I decided to tell people I had made a plan. I even told one of them what it was.  That was my way of proving to myself that it was over. That I wouldn’t use that escape, ever. I am fairly certain that one of them suspected I’d had that plan, as she didn’t want me to be alone that day, and begged me to stay there, at her house.

It felt horrible to know that I almost did something so cruel to people I love with all my heart.

And that’s the moment I decided to give up the fight against medicating.

Frankly, it’s the best decision I’ve made in a very long time. I’m safe from myself now, and so very excited to be alive.

This experience made me realise how lucky I am to be surrounded by the most supportive and loving friends, family and colleagues, who all shouldered the burden of caring for a person whose mind was not entirely her own. They made allowances for me, they gave me space when I needed it, and they made sure I understood that there was nothing they wouldn’t do for me, all I had to do was ask.

I owe them all a greater debt than they realise.