I went to the therapy sessions with a new determination. I allowed myself to let the feeling of shame that was buried deep, bubble up the surface, and fully experience it. I recalled the people and early experiences that had impacted my self-perception. The therapist compared mental health issues to having diabetes, when I thought of it like that, it didn’t seem as life-defining.
I’m in no way ashamed of having most likely inherited this condition any more than a cancer patient has with their condition. Someday people will see those who struggle against biochemical imbalances that manifest to suicide as a much more severe battle than almost any other illness.
When I’m in my hospital togs I feel connected to those days when I stayed in the wing with ten other patients, each battling their own demons, each stronger because of it. For many of us, the common denominator was suicide. So much sorrow in one room could prove cathartic once the sharing began. The stories would start and the faces would change from withdrawn and sullen to hopeful and brave.
Love has kept me alive, on some level, surviving. The kind words and warm hugs and genuine concern from people that love me has kept me holding on by a string all these years. I can imagine that without multiple interjections at just the right moment, I wouldn’t be here. But unfortunately, love from others hasn’t been a strong enough power to make me want to thrive. It wasn’t until I had tools that I could master and manipulate that I began to want to try a little bit harder to do more than survive. Before, I just stuck around for the people that love me, feeling obligated to stay alive to thank them for their unwavering love. I figured I didn’t want to disappoint them anymore, so I would try each day to continue. But now, I get up for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t love and live for my family and loved ones too. But for once, I live for me as well.
Last Tuesday, I sat on my psychiatrist’s couch and explained everything. I told him all there is to tell and he said what he has said so many times before, “Begin again.” That’s the exciting, daunting, stupid, fantastic news. When this happens, no matter how you got here, the only thing to do is begin again. This treatment plan, Begin Again, can feel insultingly oversimplified, but it is the truest thing I’ve learned about my illness.