Oh, 2016, what a year. What a fucking year. Basically everybody died and then everybody else died some more. From where I'm standing, globally and personally and everything in between it was an absolute train wreck. One of those "at least it can't get any worse!" AND THEN IT DOES. Let's sort through the shit together, shall we?
I started off the year with my BPD in full swing. The paranoia and the splitting, the anger and harsh accusations, purposely dragging down the few closest to me because if I'm not in some dramatic turmoil, they have no reason to stick around, right? If I'm not the damsel in dire need of saving, they're going to save someone else, right? The fear of abandonment dictated my life so entirely that when the one person I loved more than anyone or anything was preparing to move across country for a job opportunity, I shut down. I was in my somehow unknown five-month major depressive episode (after nearly a decade with this diagnosis I still found ways to convince myself the episodes weren't really there, I was just in an unusually good mood with lots of energy! I was just tired, I worked hard, I needed to sleep more than the 11 hours I was getting!). It reached its fever pitch when I started hallucinating. I didn't sleep or eat for a few days, and at night I was terrified that everything from my furniture to my neighbors to some mysterious "they" were coming to get me. If you've been following my story, this is where I checked myself into the psych ward.
Fast forward. I was out of the hospital, taking my meds, making strides with my treatment team. I felt good! But... it was time to realize that my partner, my best friend, would soon be physically out of my life. His presence was what kept me feeling sane in the midst of all my chaos, his patience with me was what gave me the little hope I had left. Losing that physical connection and knowing I would no longer get to see him every day broke me. Just like when I lost my cousin, I felt worse than abandoned. It was as though I were standing in the ocean, feeling the intense pull of the water as it receded from the shore ready to come together in a massive tidal wave. I can feel it building, building, building, but I can't turn around to face it. I'm too afraid. Finally accepting this heartbreaking loss pushed me back into that headspace and I dealt with it the only way I knew how: self harm and suicide. Except for the first time, I had an audience. I wanted him to hurt the way I was hurting, so staring him in the face I poured an entire bottle, 60 pills to be exact, into my mouth. It never occurred to me in that moment what I done to him, only that I had nothing left to live for and nothing left to lose.
Right around that same time, my aunt died. She was the only sister my dad had, and she passed away on his birthday. We were close, or as close as we could be living so far apart. We had the same crooked teeth, the same weird growth spurts in college, the same creative drive to seek something different from the world than what the societal norm tells you to do. Our last visit had been years ago when she made the trip out to Ohio. She was nervous about going out in public without her wig, but she decided screw this, I'm a cancer survivor, I'll do what I want! It was a good visit: we bonded over art and the beauty and calm of nature, and since she had no daughters of her own, she gave me a ring that her father had given to her. It's the first and only family heirloom I have and I'll treasure it until the day I die. We swapped emails and promised to keep in touch... only I kept forgetting. "One day I'll reach out and say hi," I told myself. But that day never came, and the cancer came back. The guilt I felt threatened to overwhelm me- I was already so damaged and fragile from trying to repair myself, and then losing someone before I had the chance to really say how much they meant to me because of my own laziness was unimaginable pain. "It can't get any worse," I thought, "it can't, you'll be all right, you can get through this."
And then my dad nearly died. He had stomach issues that put him in the hospital immediately, and his white blood cell count was so low the doctors feared for the worst. Visiting him right after he was admitted was almost traumatizing, you could just tell something was horribly wrong. It wasn't my dad, it was a frail wisp of a person shuddering and barely able to move or talk. It still shocks me when I think back on it, how quickly I could've lost one of the most important people in my life. Thankfully, miraculously, his numbers were back in a safe range nearly overnight after a long and terrifying weekend. But all of this happened two weeks after losing his sister. It made me wonder, how can life give people such shit hands sometimes?
Yet after all of that, there was light starting to creep back in. My job starting offering me more opportunities to learn and grow and be part of very important photo shoots that no other local assistant had before. I started to feel more valued, an important part of the team. It was a good feeling, especially after having to have fought so hard to make a career in the creative field. They don't call it starving artist for nothin, I can tell you that, but after years of blood, sweat, and tears, it felt like it was all finally worth it.
On that same creative note, I was finding new ways to care for myself and make myself recognize the beautiful, unique person I was (and am!). I can scream it from the mountaintops all day for anyone else, but I never once saw myself as a person, let alone someone who was worth anything. I started having fun with makeup, which I'm still pretty iffy at, and all I know is I loveeees me the shiny and the glittery. I also started reaching out to some badass photo ladies to be *gasp* in front of the camera! And it was SO. MUCH. FUN. Even though I have Resting Morrissey Face aka looking like my mom left me at the mall. Getting to see myself through someone else's lens, figuratively and literally, made me really appreciate who I am exactly the way I am. Plus, it doesn't hurt that my tattoos make me see myself as an actual work of art- bonus!
And even though we're almost 2000 miles apart, it feels as though I've grown even closer to my partner now. I miss him terribly, but I know without any doubt I would do anything for him. I will support him and put his needs before mine no matter what, I'd go through hell and back if it meant one less burden for him. Having him cheer for me as I make milestone accomplishments with my therapist is honestly the greatest thing I could ever ask for. We find ways to surprise each other, he makes me laugh all the time, and he loves me more than anyone ever has before. I wish I could be by his side, but I have to be patient. Besides, I'd wait 1000 years and cross the entire world for that handsome goon, aaaw, sappy lovey bullshit, deal with it!
Does this mean I don't struggle anymore? Aaabsolutely not. In fact, today in my therapy session I realized I've been in a depressive episode for a while now. Could be related to the change of the seasons, could be anything, really- I'm just managing it so much better now. I had a few days of manic episodes sneak up on me this fall, but it's almost like I'm viewing it from outside of myself. I can recognize it sooner now that I've been working so hard in my recovery. The only bummer is some of the bipolar psychosis is making its way back in, but I have hope that I'll continue to use the skills I've built with my treatment team and finally start learning how to live my life on MY terms, not my illnesses'!
"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path." Buddha