Three weeks ago if you had asked me how I was doing I would have told you, with a smile on my face and a wicked gleam in my eye, wonderfully. I was on a spiritual journey that was going to redefine who I was, what I believed about myself, and teach me the perfection this world holds. I understood three weeks ago that my muse would leave me, my darkness would return; but I also understood that I was on a precipice of something that only happens once in a life time.
I like to think that I am still on that journey, but perhaps these last days have simply been a detour to repair that which has been broken longer than I have been alive. Perhaps the journey includes these times of destruction, the times of agony that characterizes mental illness, or even shows that no matter how high our dreams may be there is still a very real reality.
Today I left the keys of my car in the ignition, with the car running and the doors unlocked while I went shopping with my two children in Walmart. Many may see this as a forgetful moment that ended well – my car wasn’t stolen. Many may see this as a desperate call for help. I see it as a rather small, and in the scheme of things insignificant, sign that what I had hoped was a spiritual journey was in fact the long and arduous journey in accepting who and what I am.
I thought this journey was going to be about empowerment, but I learned today it is going to be about simple recognition. I thought this journey would take me to places I had never seen and it may do that; but it will do that within the prison of my mind; the mental illness that can ignore the drugs it is fed as easily as it can ignore the love of those around me. I thought this journey was about forgiving myself but I don’t think I can ever truly do that.
There is one aspect of mental illness that is rarely talked about; the need to feel death and the need to give to death the permission it has been waiting for. Doctors, medical professionals, even those who profess to know mental illness miss one crucial component – there is a reason we are alive and there is a reason we don’t wish to be. Even believing that you are an expert, without knowing intimately the words those of us who have survived this long hear on a daily basis, you are nothing but a person with a lot of paper.
If you don’t know what it feels like to one more time hear the repetitive reframe encouraging the darkness forth, you don’t have mental illness. If you don’t know that voice that takes your greatest fear and whispers the tune of promise, than you can not call yourself an expert. If you have never felt the talons of an unmistakable truth once again turn to you who and what you are, you can’t help.
I wish that I could explain to others the fact that each and every one of us hear voices in different languages, in different dialects, and in different pitches. The words change, the sentences are formed differently, the notes accompanying the emotional can not be heard by the same two people; and yet the message is the exact same. For those with mental illness the melody flows through our veins to our ears, our soul, to our very breath – and it destroys us as easily as Cigarettes and Coffee. It takes while it promises a series of notes from the angels above.
There are days like today when I am not sure how many more times I can run through a cycle I thought I conquered. And each cycle comes with the illusions of success. There are times I don’t know how many times I can look at my children and determine that they need me; that I am not destroying them. I don’t know how many times I can convince myself that my children are safer, happier, and deserving of even my memory. At what point must we come to terms that the disease and the voices will eventually destroy the only love that keeps you alive? At what point is the loss eventually given help those we love the freedom to truly live? At what point do we realize that who and what we are, while still a mystery to those innocent minds, will one day become a resentful hatred or worse an embarrassment?
Who are we without mental illness; the truth is we can’t know. There isn’t a way to live without the brain sitting on your shoulders and still feel the world around you. There isn’t a way to cut out the darkness in order to only see light. There isn’t a way to feel complete without the mental illness that we live with; it doesn’t exist.
So we continue on this journey – no matter that for one day you thought it would produce the better version of yourself. We keep moving forward not because we want to, not because the voices convince us, but because rather than there being any hope we walk the world without it. Because you can live without hope, you can live without a realization that anything is worthy, and you can live without light. You can believe the unbreakable truth that your presence on this earth takes rather than gives and still live. There isn’t much choice.
I don’t know why I am still alive much less willing to continue on a journey that will take a lifetime and teach me so very little. I already know so much of the lessons this journey is suppose to teach, the difference is I am actually supposed to live the lesson. But today I will exist one more time knowing that the voices win more than they lose. I will live one more time knowing that it doesn’t matter what the experts say or what drugs are given, life is a series of repetitive realizations that you once believed could be changed. And no matter what, the journey will cycle and you will be here again very, very soon.