After my first hospitalization at 13 for "suicidal ideation" as it was called - a term I became well acquainted with over the next decade - I began to feel my desire to disappear into the ether spiral out of control. I became "unsafe" and "dangerous to myself" once or twice a year and found myself in the hospital, away from what my life had become, for long enough for me to grasp on to some slippery sense of hope and light long enough to recommit to life. But it only lasted so long.
Through my zealous academic pursuits, I graduated a year early from high school. But this was also, largely, due to the pain and social anxiety I felt through high school. I was worn out by hiding my pain from everyone else and I wanted to rest. I left in a hurry trying to run from anyone who might be able to identify my fear, my anger or my pain.
I tried school away, in Colorado for a few months after high school. But I wasn’t stable. Hadn’t learned to deal with my issues, my emotions and was soon hospitalized after leaving. I came back, feeling defeated and hopeless.
I became pregnant within six months of coming back. Which was a blessing. I had been dating Kyle before I went o Colorado and upon coming back in December, we moved in together.
After the birth of my son, I started to look at my life, my value, differently. I had found some stability through being a mother to my son and grabbed onto the beginnings of a sense of grounding in that identity as a mother.
I used to see death as an opportunity. A way to get way. After my son, death started to mean instead that I was leaving someone behind, someone who needed me.
And as much as I struggled with that at times, as I did feel suicidal quite intensely through my marriage and through the divorce and custody battle that ensued, I couldn't ignore the truth that leaving him like that would damage him. As much as I hurt, I knew I couldn't hurt him like that. I tried a few times to convince myself he was better off, but that was all smoke and mirrors and as I grew in stability and strength, the more those thoughts faded in their own strength and stability.
By my son's third birthday I had been accepted into Dartmouth and felt propelled to finish my undergraduate career, for myself and my son. That gnawing desire for fulfillment through education hadn't faded away, something I am thankful for to this day. While at Dartmouth, I found the space, away from this place, home, that had held me tight in anxiety, anger and fear. I was thousands of miles away from my home, the trauma.
I began to allow the part of me that felt the compelling desire to protect, to rest. It was little at first. I seemed to be on guard, still, most of the time, at first. Which was similar to at home: I was feeling pain but no one except those closest to me knew. But unlike before, I started, in this new and distant place so far from what I had known, face those rooted emotions of fear, anger and anxiety. I stopped running from them. Because I was so far way. I began to uncover the wounded little girl that I had been protecting for so long. I didn’t even know she was there, she was so well hidden.
I was still in the middle of a long, drawn out custody battle for the first few years I was away. But through that, I found strength and wisdom through people who I'd known all my life and from new friends who helped me to see things in me I hadn't yet recognized in myself.
I would come home, but not longer than a week or two. That was a long as I could stand before the panic or anxiety attacks took hold and I couldn’t stay at home and be safe. I fled my homecomings, year after year, terrified of who I would become.
I worked. With many people on many things and little by little, I began to accept the trauma.
Little by little, through learning to trust and love myself, I began to feel less heavy all the time, and at times, even kind of light.