Third Degree Burn
“Time is an illusion.” — Albert Einstein
Sometimes I wonder if they didn’t let me out of the psych ward too soon. I told my therapist at our first appointment after from paternity leave almost a year ago, which is not the reason I checked myself into the psych ward, I’m sure. Although it probably didn’t help that the one person I wanted to talk to about my therapist being on paternity leave was on paternity leave. Paternity leave: good for him; terrible for me. The actual reason I checked myself into the psych ward is because I wanted to die. I was going to do whatever it took to make sure that, this time, I did die. And I couldn’t have that. Because no matter how much of me wanted to die, there was — is — still this part of me that wanted (wants) to live. And that’s how I ended up in the psych ward on a forty-eight-hour hold.
Anyway, I’m sitting in my therapist’s office at our first appointment after he’s been gone for a month. He wants to know what happened, not that it wasn’t the right move, because trust me, it was. But because he was concerned. Who wouldn’t be concerned if a patient they’ve been treating for a year goes off the deep end.
How did this happen? It’s like all the years of denial and pain and repressed feelings finally caught up to me. After working through them rigorously for a year, it’s like they finally decided that enough was enough: it was time to die. It’s not the first time I felt this way; it wasn’t even the last. But it was the worst time — the I have to leave work now and have someone drive me one. That’s the hardest part of life. Dying is easy; life itself, that’s the hard part.
The first night I spent back at my apartment after being released from the hospital, I spent convincing my dad not to take me to the ER. I was making a burger on the stove, and grease splashed onto my exposed arm, burning me. I just came from the hospital. I don’t want to go back.
A third-degree burn cared for at home.
My dog licking my face woke me up the next morning. She needed to go out. I took her out before she peed on the carpet of the apartment I had only been in for two weeks. What time was it? Had I overslept my alarm? Did I even set an alarm? not that it matters because I slept on the bathroom floor. I was just going to shower. Then the shower turned into a soap drama: me, sobbing, sitting on the floor of the shower, water falling on me, and by the time I got out, I was drained: emotionally and physically. Sleeping on the bathroom floor seemed easier than walking the five feet to my bedroom.
It was only 7:30. I still had an hour and a half until I had to leave for Partial. Partial: the place where you go when you’re too sick to return to work but well enough to leave the hospital. 6 hours of supervised living so you don’t do anything to harm yourself.
That’s really the reason I miss working the most — supervision, not that I’m at risk, but I’m still not sure I trust myself completely to keep my self safe. That, and I have this tendency to isolate. Drowning in isolation is easier than explaining to everybody what’s going on inside my mind. My therapist says I have to stop doing that. I have to reply to text messages. I have to make plans with friends. Worse of all, I have to follow through on those plans. He’s forcing me to get out of my comfort zone — out of my little depression bubble. And I hate it.
Anyway, there’s this quote by Fabienne Fredrickson that reads, “To create a big ripple effect, stop keeping yourself a secret.” It’s sort of been my life quote over the last few years of blogging and writing. Writing is the way I process things, learn to let go. And sometimes it brings up old wounds that I’d rather not talk about, but sometimes it also reveals something I never realized before.
It’s like that third-degree burn scar on my right arm: every time it gets bumped, it bleeds a little inside, but it heals stronger than the last time.
By all accounts, I grew up in an idyllic family. My father wasn’t abusive, and my mother wasn’t either. But I’m starting to see the way mental illness plays a course in my heritage, runs through my DNA, reverberates through my bloodline, is passed down from generation to generation like a family heirloom. I see echoes of it in my childhood, echoes of it in the stories my father likes to tell, echoes of anxiety in the way my grandmother and I both lie awake at night worrying about different things.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe in the ripple effect. The way a rock dropped onto the surface of water ripples outward. Tracing the ripples backward, can you pinpoint their origin, where they came from, the ghost of what once was? Can you pinpoint the moment when everything changed, when the waters were no longer still?
I got an email once asking me how I can still believe in a loving God despite all that’s happened to me.
I responded: some days, I don’t. But, if anything, these periods of doubt have made my faith stronger. You see, if God wasn’t real, I wouldn’t be here right now. The nights I’ve attempted suicide, He’s saved me from myself. I never ever would have found the strength to ask for help, to be so honest and open and raw and real about what’s been going on in my life if I didn’t have faith. Believing in hope when all seems hopeless takes tremendous faith. I believe in God because he’s strong when I am weak. I believe in God because he helps me through the days when I can’t stand. He holds it together when I feel like I’m going to fall apart.
That’s why I believe — why I still believe that God is good — despite, or maybe in spite of, my brokenness.
I believe because I have no choice. And honestly, I’m not sure I’d be a Christian today if it weren’t for the battles I’ve faced. My doubt has made my faith stronger. My struggles have made hope that much more beautiful.