I have this tattoo on my lower right belly; directly over the ovaries. As this was my first tattoo – of what I hope to be more – I had no idea that sticking a needle in that vulnerable flesh would cause that much pain. I put the tattoo on my stomach in the hopes that every time I looked in the mirror I would be reminded of why I put that tattoo on my body in the first place. Instead I am sad to say that I am more apt to study those horrendous bumps of cellulite than be inspired by my tattoo. And the tattoo was always supposed to be inspiring, stating the words: courage, strength, faith and love.
I didn’t put these words in a language I could not understand, and I tried to make them a part of my mantra since the moment I first conceived that a mantra is ridiculous in practice but incredibly useful in repetition. This mantra was going to save me; this mantra was going to at least get me through that extremely difficult yoga practice.
But none of this really happened. About ten days after the pain left, that tattoo was as much a part of me as my nose; and therefore just as important. Tattooing my body was supposed to be symbolic, instead it is just a nice picture on my skin. Not something to regret, just not really ever remembered.
I have always believed in courage, strength, faith and love. I honestly believed that with these four things I could do the things that I only dreamed of; and I think that I am right. I think that finding courage and the rest allows us to proceed in directions that in some cases we are dying to go and in some cases become the places we must go.
So there it is tattooed on my body; and according to my therapist for the first time in my life I am beginning to pay attention. My therapist challenges me on many levels, often asking questions that while easy to answer not altogether comfortable. Or just the opposite happens and she asks me a question and I have to look at her in horror by the mere answer I had never even thought.
When do we change? When do we decide to change? Is it an event that says ‘okay, you can’t be this anymore’? Is it a day, a week, a year? And if this change is catastrophic what is the price? If this change is big enough to write about who loses from it? Because there is one thing I know more than any other: there is always a cost.
Things are changing in my life. I am changing in my life. I suppose that there are those that notice, but I imagine beyond my too perceptive son, not many. I don’t have many confidantes that can watch this change, and I can’t make any change fast enough to be a brilliant star in the sky. My life may be changing, but it is changing in ways I could not have imagined.
I have been lying. I have been lying for three years to those that I love. This is not a braggart statement except to say apparently I am good at this. I have lied easily and with skill. I have lied about some of the biggest things that affect the day to day person that I am. In many cases I had to lie in order to begin the metamorphosis that is coming, and in others it was simply a case of ease – not going to lie it was easy.
I am a good liar. It protects me and keeps me at a distance from everyone that I know. I know what to say to make those I love more curious and I know what to say to manipulate people to leave me alone. I think this is as much part of a mental disease as the crazy insurance forms you have to fill out every time you get sick. But I also don’t think that it is a bad thing – it protects those I love. Not only from the truth, but from the changes that are coming.
I have never been great. I am not great looking and I am not a great friend. I am simply a girl trying to find her way in a world that is upside down. I fight not only those who are supposed to love me, but I fight myself as well. There are thousands of opinions about what is wrong with me – and not one of them comes from me. Those closest to me see me in the greatest clarity – no matter how many times it breaks my heart when they get it wrong.
In the last while I have begun to change, and it is a hidden change. It is a hidden change because I don’t want the derision, the disappointment, or even the disbelief that I could be anything other than a sick human being. It is a hidden change because that is the only way that I will find the courage, the strength, the faith and the love to actually make myself into a better person.
I had someone I trust insist that I try on these glasses. They were tri-focal or something crazy and they made the world look nauseating. I couldn’t look at the world for very long through those glasses, but that wasn’t the lesson. The lesson was simple: we look through life through the glasses that have been given to us, when what we should do is take them off, throw them away and see the world for its reality. Not always a beautiful reality, but a real picture of what it can be.
Most of us with mental illness live inside our heads. We move there, we live there, and eventually we will die there. It is who and what we are. But what if, one day, without much thought we realized that we didn’t have to wear those glasses at all. What if one day, maybe not even through conscious thought, we started to believe that there was more than what our husbands wanted us to see, what are parents were comfortable for us to see, even what our Pastors believed we should see? What if one day two years from now you woke up and realized that despite the fact you didn’t think about those words tattooed on your body each day, you were beginning to learn how to find them?
My therapist made me write a time line for the last couple of years in a practice to try and figure out what has caused this desire to change deep inside of me. When did the status quo stop being beautiful? When did our reality start looking an awful lot like the reality on our favorite TV show?
I will never show anyone my time line; certainly not the people I love. It is a list not of those perfect moments, but rather the opposite, a list of all the things that life threw at me these last years. It was an exercise to look beyond the full contents of the years and look at the days. It was an exercise to begin to see not only what was beginning this change but who was bringing this change. It was an exercise to begin seeing that sometime in last couple of years – my glasses have been slowly and carefully coming off.
Do I know what it means when I finally find the courage, strength, faith and love to live? Nope. Do I know what it means when I can finally stand up and say this is the way? Nope. Do I know what it is going to be like to listen to the world and only hear those that truly hope for me? Nope.
But I might be getting closer. I might be finally trying to figure out why it is that six months ago I insisted – despite having no insurance – changing my medications. I might finally be trying to figure out why my husband and I have gone from a perfectly bland marriage to one with fights and purposeful hurts. I might have begun to figure out why those who are suppose to love me, love the disease more.
And I might, just might, finally see that yellow brick road in the midst of all the weeds; and the day that comes, when I find the road and the courage to walk upon it – I am gone. Not from life but rather I will find the courage to be gone from this life.