I’m trying to be okay with being alive. I can’t say it’s going very well though.
Why are am I always like this? Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I shut off this god damn brain?
It comes in waves. One moment you’re laughing with friends and the next you’re laying on the bed, soaked in sweat and tears, and you can’t stop shaking that overwhelming and crippling fear of life. Your skin is clammy, your voice shakes, and your brain is playing reruns of all your failures and all those yet to come. Ah yes, mental health. What a bitch.
Shut up. Get out of my head. But then again… all your points are valid. And I’m tired. Oh, I’m so tired.
When you’ve been fighting for so long, it starts to wear you down. You’re exhausted. Your muscles ache. Your brain is throbbing. Everything hurts while being numb at the same time. You start to dread going into the lab. What if everyone can see that I’m a failure? How do I hide that? Your desk is covered in MCAT books. I can’t write that exam. I can’t handle that failure. Everyone expects so much – I can’t live up to that. You know exactly what’s going on and you’re spiralling out of control. The only way you know how to reach out is by pushing away. Your logical brain explains how you’re not making any sense but logic has no say anymore. Nothing makes sense.
Everything is dark.
Everything is numb.
How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard – Winnie the Pooh
I want to live, but a larger part of me hopes something goes horribly wrong and I finally get to leave this place. I finally get to rest.
It sucks when you’re lying awake at night thinking “if I died, would anyone even care.”
It’s even worse when you know the answer is “no”.
Are you kidding me. I can do this, but I don’t want to do this. I’m tired of fighting. Please just let me rest.
They say that if you look back on your life and the majority are happy thoughts, then it doesn’t matter how long or short your life has been because you’ve lived it. In a sense that’s true, that if you’re 24yrs and you can say with confidence “yeah, there were ups and downs but I won’t change a thing”, then you’ve probably had a decent time on this earth. So you should be thankful. Grateful of all the opportunities and experiences you’ve been given. After all, you’ve done more in your 24yrs than most have done in a lifetime. No need to be upset, right?
What if all of a sudden your life expectancy goes from 100% to 83%? What if you’re in the middle of work and all of a sudden you can’t breathe and collapse in the kitchen? What if you’re told that you, a relatively healthy, active, young adult, has a disease that kills? How do you react to that? Do you say “thank goodness they caught it early and it’s treatable?” Do you sit down and say “well it could be worse?” Do you take the news, let it slowly manifest inside of you, and then burst into tears when you accidentally burn your toast, knowing that you’re not upset over the burnt bread but that after all of the silent battles you’ve had throughout your life, you still aren’t allowed to rest. That you’re expected to “stay strong”, laugh it off with friends, comfort your loved ones, and not mention a peep of the rage that has boiled inside of you, in fear that you’ll come off as “annoying”, “attention-seeking”, “dramatic.” How do you tell those closest to you? Do you even bother bringing it up, or just suffer in silence, as you do for most of the things that happen? Do you talk about it? Can you talk about it? It’s on your mind 24/7 and all you want is a break, but it’ll never happen. After all, the disease never quits, so neither can you. So you sit there in silence, let it take it’s toll as you urge it to slow down, and carry on with your day as though you’re not fighting the battle of your life – literally.
My body hurts. My bones hurt. I want to break down and cry. But I can’t do that. Always keep smiling. Laugh it off. Don’t let them know you’re scared. Terrified. Don’t show weakness. No one really cares about your battle.
How do you bring it up? You don’t. They tell you they are there to help but you know it’s just formalities. No one can help. You keep it to yourself. When you get lightheaded, you hide it. You’ve gotten quite good at that now. You slyly grab hold of a wall, a chair, anything to keep you stable. Your esophagus burns from the side effects of your medications. When they tell you to eat something because you look pale, you give them a soft smile and politely decline. I can’t eat. Everything makes me sick. Chemo does that to you. When a coworker points out how your hair has thinned ever so slightly and is turning grey, you laugh it off, saying it’s just stress from work. I pulled out a small clump of hair in the shower this morning, then I cried. But I don’t think I’m going to lose all of it, thank goodness. When it’s the end of the day and you finally get to lay in your ever-so-comfy bed, that’s when it hits you. That’s when you want to scream. Cry. Laugh. Yell. They don’t tell you that the drugs heighten every single emotion you’ve ever had. That for someone who is used to suppressing everything, it’s like being hit by a tsunami. And all of a sudden, you realize how alone you are.
They tell you it’s a group battle, but they are lying.
At the end of the day it’s just you.
To the friends I had to leave behind:
Know that I will always care for you. That I will always wish you the best and the most wonderful, beautiful life. And that my decision to remove myself from your world was a hard one, one that was not made overnight but one that was analyzed, debated, and internally fought for a very long time.
It might not have been long since I’ve last seen you but it’s been a long time since we’ve been the friends that we used to be. We may have known each other since we were kids, giggling about high school crushes, playing make-believe as we climbed trees, and stressed over university exams or we could’ve been new friends, having only met but felt like it’s been a lifetime. For reasons, some obvious, some still covered in an air of mystery, we are no longer friends anymore and it may sound selfish, but it’s for the best.
I just want to put it out there, I don’t hate you. I never could, there’s too much history between us, at least on my end, and so many fond memories of our time together. I also wanted to say that I don’t think you’re a bad person. Life happens, we grow up and we grow apart, but the respect and admiration for you never wavered. Overtime we grew into the people we are meant to be, started to figure out our lives, and during that time we realized that we no longer fit into each others.
For what it’s worth… I am sorry. I’m sorry that we couldn’t talk it out like we used to. Sorry that we had to end the friendship the way we did, sorry that you think things of me that you believe to be true, and I’m sorry that if I had done any action to allow the formulation of those thoughts. At one point, I considered you one of my good friends but I see now that we were too different of people and were never fully trusting of the other person.
I know you will probably see this as insensitive. That after all this time, I chose my own well-being over yours. It pains me to say that in the re-evaulation of my relationships, the bad outweighed the good in our friendship and I couldn’t force myself to get back up when I wasn’t ready. I was always honest with you and never lied, so please believe me when I thought I would wake up on countless occasions and be over it, miss you, and want to make amends; I never woke up with that feeling.
My dear friend, I can’t promise you many things anymore but I can promise you this: I can promise you that I won’t forget you. I won’t forget our movie marathon sleepovers, the nights we spent sitting on the roof and laughing with the stars. The concerts, the bonfires, and the life-talks. We were there for each other for some of the darkest moments in our lives, and some of the lightest. I couldn’t be more grateful for the time we had. I will watch from a distance as you grow into a fantastic human being and will always be cheering for you on the sidelines, but I don’t see myself coming back into the game anytime soon. I am sorry if I hurt you, that was never my intention, but I hope that in time you will see how this was for the best. I can promise you that if I ever wake up with the feeling that I’ve made a mistake, I will come to you, no matter how uncomfortable it will be.
I don’t write this out of spite, out of anger, or from hurt feelings. I write this from the bottom of my heart, to a truly wonderful human being who we just grew apart, and I do end this letter with the sincerest wish that one day, maybe, we will talk to each other again.
I don’t know if you’ll ever understand, but our friendship grew thin and we needed to let each other go so we can begin to heal.
Let me be by myself for a while, I’m still learning who I am.
Maybe it’s a quarter life crisis. Maybe it’s the constant comparison of your life to that of your peers. Maybe because, at the end of a brutal 12 months that comprised the nonsensical year of 2016, you’re sitting on a couch back in your parents house, wondering how on earth you got here.
All you know is that something is wrong. And it has been for months now. You can’t put your finger on it and that fuels the irritation. You’ve tried to ignore it, play it off, hope that it will eventually go away but there it lingers, your new shadow. You want to scream at it, destroy it, get it as far away from you as possible but how can you run from something if you don’t even know what it is. Why it’s there. You can’t talk to anyone about it. After all, you’re supposed to be the one for everyone else to talk to. You’re the one who takes on the stresses of your peers and you don’t complain. You don’t make a sound. When their worlds are crashing down around them, you’re the one who’s there to pick up the pieces. To remind them that they will be alright in the end. And you don’t mind. Part of you, a large part, enjoys it – you like being the dependable one. You know how it feels to be so completely alone that you refuse to let that happen to anyone else. But what about me…?
How do you say goodbye to your friends? How do you explain to your family that there’s something wrong, you don’t know what, but you need to leave. You need to figure it out. Do you tell them? Or do you just pack up and go? You run through a list of names in your head. You know deep down that some of them deserve a courtesy goodbye, after-all, they did nothing wrong and you do care about them and wish them the best in their lives. At the same time, you can’t help but think, will they even notice if you’re gone? Would they even care? Probably not. So you start. Baby steps first. Delete your twitter account. Then Snapchat. Finally, facebook. You keep one of your social media platforms, but the one that just says “yes I’m alive” and nothing more. A war is going internally. One one hand, you’re happy to be erasing yourself from your old life, on the other, your past shapes who you are today – is it right to let it go like that?
“I’m going away for a while. I don’t know where and I don’t know when I’ll be back. I wanted to say goodbye because you’re my friend and I owe you that much. You’re going to do great things in your life and I’m so proud of all that you’ve done. You are truly a beautiful person. Thank you. “
When the time comes to leave, just walk away quietly and don’t make a fuss. – Banksy
I got a phone call today. They are taking him to court, I don’t know if I can handle it. But it’s almost over.
It comes back in waves. Moments when you least expect it. You could be going about your day, having finally readjusted to moving to an old familiar city, laughing with friends when all of a sudden it happens. A co-worker enters your happy little bubble, her eyes filled with tears, as she deals with what is currently happening to her. And you sit there and stare. As the others congratulate her on doing the right thing, calling the cops, and seeking help, you are suddenly thrown back to 2 years ago. You put on that fake smile, block out the demons that are sprinting to the surface, and be there for your friend. You listen as she tells you about the pills. How it all happened 5 weeks ago and she stopped it from getting too far. How she’s talked to a bunch of people and seems to be doing well. You smile and remind her that she did a good thing. From the worst of circumstances, she did everything right.
And I did everything wrong….
You continue about your day. Bus the tables at work, joke around with customers, review your textbooks as your prepare for your dreaded medical exam. But it becomes harder and harder to concentrate on your movements. The smile starts to fade. You’re suffocating and no one can see it. No one can help you. As you drive home you pass by the house that haunts your nightmares. Salt fills your eyes and blood drains from your clenched fists over the steering wheel. You concentrate on the music playing in the car. It’s something acoustic, folky even. Why don’t I listen to this song more? You miss the turn into your driveway and instead opt for a long, late night wander. Your head is filled with the cooing of the scared girl of your past. Of one drunken evening that changed everything. You pull over. In the middle of a bustling city, there are little pockets of calm hidden from the rest of the world. The waves of the river follow the rhythm of your heart and you look up to the sky to study the constellations. There’s always one that you kept track of, the one that you’ve been following since you got your first telescope at the age of 10 and set it up in the backyard. How your father laughed as you tried to figure out how to properly use it and showed you that if you angled it just right, you can see the planets just as well as you saw each individual moon crater. Life was so much simpler back then.
Sirens in the distance bring you back to your reality. You don’t know how long you’ve been standing at your little house by the sea but it’s time to go. Your heart is heavy as you think of your co-worker and what she’s going through. You want to scream at the world for being this cruel and tormenting someone whose life has never been easy. You know of her struggles. Her childhood life. And yet the universe likes to keep throwing the punches. Well at least she was strong enough to call the police and stop the guy from doing it to anyone else.
Her tormentor was her neighbour. Yours was as well. Hers was a stranger. Yours was a friend. She knew what to do. You panicked.
In the end we all try to do what we think is best. We all do what we know is right. We all want to put our nightmares away and get a peaceful sleep. We all want to be the kid staring at the stars and learning their stories. We want to be there for our friends and help them through their troubling times.
But don’t suppress your struggles as well. They have a funny way of coming back when you least expect it.
I’m a little wounded, but I am not slain; I will lay me down to bleed a while. Then I will rise and fight again. – John Dryden
Visualize. Inhale. Grip the bar. Backward Giant. Straddle back to handstand. Piroette. Fly Away. Stick the landing. You got this. Exhale.
Life tells you “no” a lot. And we accept it more then we should. But eventually you get to a point where “no” isn’t an option. You stand there and ask yourself why you accept defeat so easily. Then you get mad. You get frustrated. And that’s when you decide to change. That’s when you make a difference. Damaged people are dangerous because they know how to survive, and damn, you’ve survived.
It’s been almost 8 years since I’ve used uneven bars. 8 years since everything came crashing down. 8 years since they said I could never do this again. Never is an awfully long time and I’m impatient.
The shadow of your past self lingers in the background. It haunts your every action, dictating your next move and how you should react to certain situations. It reminds you that this world will not give you hand outs, that you must work hard to achieve your goals and even then, it may be taken away from you. It brings back flashes of the kicks and each punch left by your bullies, the “you’re not good enough’s” and the internal bruises from the punching bag that you created for yourself. The shadow pulls you aside on a constant basis, whispering in your ears how you are nothing without it, without the struggles you two have been through together. Maybe it’s time to realize that at one point, it was the reason you worked harder, faster, stronger, and bolder. But it isn’t the reason anymore. Your shadow is abusive. Cruel. And isn’t it time for you to deserve something better?
I could fall again. Hurt myself. Oh I’ve hurt myself too many times. What if I can’t recover this time? I’m still healing… But if I do catch the bar. If I do the rotation. Oh how I can fly once again. God I’ve missed flying.
Leaving your comfort zone is scary. The familiar is something that would tell you that there was darkness lurking just around the corner. That your future was an abyss of unknown and that light in your life could never exist there. It was an irrational fear of second-guessing new friends, staying on edge, all because of your broken, bullied, and bruised past. Mumbles of slanders and insults as you lay awake at 4 in the morning, wondering where everything went wrong, replaying all the lives that you should be living. The familiar broke you. Pommeled the already shattered pieces into dust and blew it on the ground before your bloodied knees and stitched pride. And this is why, your past shadow, your familiar, with all of its cooing and songs, should cease to write its way in your story. It will still have a place in your heart, just no longer in your life. It will be in your mentions, but no more than a passing word or two. It doesn’t deserve a sentence. Over time, your departure from your comfort zone no longer brings fear. Your past has been left behind and the life that you’re creating is so much better than you ever imagined. For the first time in forever you have options. You can leave. The once void of nothingness has transformed into a windy road filled with adventure. Opportunities. Aspirations. By letting go, you are finally free. Free from the judgment that weighed you down. Free from the failure and insults that constantly haunted your smile. You can finally be happy, and not the happy when you put a smile on for the world when you’re actually breaking inside. But truly, over the top, genuine all-smiles euphoric. The kind that is contagious. The kind that brings joy to others around you. You may not be any of these things yet but you will get there. You just have to breathe.
Don’t be scared. Just let go of the bar. I can land this.
Everything is silent. You shut your eyes as hard as you can and let go of the top bar. Fly away. Stick the landing. Your feet come into contact with a hard surface. Your muscles activate as you regain your balance. Your eyes are still closed but you’re grinning from ear to ear. Your friends are cheering. Finally you open your eyes and turn to face the apparatus that tormented you over the past 8 years.