Roots

I don’t want to be normal. I want to feel until my very bones ache from the weight of it.

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It’s what I’ve done my entire life. I enjoy it in best and worst ways.

I think my doctors look at me like I’m seriously messed up because of it. I do my part, I promise you. I have my reserve of coping skills and my safety net for when those fail. I’ve gone to therapy. The thing is, though, my identity is so deeply rooted in the very depth of my emotion that the two are entirely inseparable. It is like trying to separate a tree’s roots from the soil and expecting that tree to continue living.adventure-boho-explore-forest-Favim.com-2699873.jpg

It is simply impossible to erase the range of my feelings without erasing who I am.

I am particularly bothered by this notion today after reading some notes a doctor wrote about me. I’ve done charting, still do in my current jobs, so I know plenty well how it works. No stipulating, only facts and direct quotes from patients if you’re going to include any. So, what is going into the chart is not opinion, but observations that have now become fact. It does not matter if you, the patient, disagrees with those facts, because they are the truth and the truth is the word and the word is the law and you will not and cannot argue with the words in the charts because the charts are sacred.

It seems as if my emotions are off-putting to my past doctors. Which, to be honest, catches me off guard. I am typically very controlled around medical personnel for the obvious fear of being locked up again. So, you might understand my confusion and following indignation upon discovering that they found my “issues with previous rape” to be an issue for them.

But I digress.

city-lights-girl-vintage-Favim.com-925952The thing is, I look around this world and I see so many people robbed of emotion and action and reaction and I don’t want that. I refuse medications that force me into that mold. I look for other solutions. My greatest fear is that, someday, I will no longer be allowed to make that decision for myself permanently. It won’t matter that I’ve worked on the other side of the desk. I will only be the girl with emotion that must be stopped.

The Bipolar Architect wrote a post not too long ago about how he actually hopes he doesn’t see the day there is a cure for mental illness and I’d actually have to agree with him on this. I can’t imagine being robbed of the creativity that comes with mania and hypomania – forgetting the songs I’ve written or poems I’ve drafted. I won’t even begin to think of losing the works of writing I’ve done or pieces of music I’ve discovered or feelings I’ve felt while in the midst of depression.

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Mental illness is…color. Brilliant, luminous color. It is light. In my humble opinion, it keeps this world turning.

I am my emotion and my emotion is me. I don’t want to be normal. I don’t want to give up the largest part of my identity for acceptance.

Accepting that? That is keeping my head above water this day, after working 48 hours in just 4 days this week. After trying to kill myself again last month. After reading those words written by a doctor I had trusted.

But still, I float on, buoyed up by my feelings and all their heavy weightlessness.

I hope you are still swimming with me, or floating nearby. Don’t give up just yet, okay? There’s still more. There will always be more.

 

 

A Look Inside

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Today I am writing a letter to those who were hurt in the aftermath of my latest mood swing and its accompanying actions. I am terrible at face to face confrontation, so please forgive me for writing this out. I just felt the need to get these feelings written out for all of us.

I am ill. Truly, seriously ill. There are four serious mental illnesses coexisting quite inharmoniously inside my head. On top of that, I suffer from multiple physical ailments. Those are of lesser consequence at this time, but suffice it to say that they, by no means, ease the burden of their mental cohorts. At this time, I would like to explain these four mental illnesses to you in some depth so that there may be some understanding reached. I do this with no arrogance, but simply with the hope of all of us gaining a better understanding of each other.

images-5  My first diagnosis was PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is fairly simple to understand as we hear about it all the time in the cases of soldiers coming home from wars having seen and experienced terrible things. What most people fail to grasp, however, is that PTSD manifests in victims of trauma in general. Those who have suffered abuse, rape, been witness to death, a horrific event, etc. It affects a part of the brain known as the amygdala, which controls your fight or flight response. If you are exposed to something that reminds you of the traumatic event, your amygdala is triggered, and the fight or flight response begins. Panic ensues, anxiety attacks may kick in, there are often flashbacks, etc. Other symptoms include nightmares, lack of sleep, irritability, change in personality, resistance to personal contact, etc.

I was given the diagnosis of PTSD because of several of these symptoms. Because of the months of sexual abuse I suffered, I am easily startled, I don’t like being touched, and am prone to flashbacks. Due to witnessing my mother’s death, I often have flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety attacks come often. This takes a nasty toll on my daily life, to be honest. Rest assured, though, that I did spend most of my on-campus college years in therapy and learned and progressed quite a bit. I am much healthier than I was even a year ago.

The second diagnosis I was given was Bipolar I Disorder, and it came just on the heels of079a633b065a422767620f3338bab775 the PTSD diagnosis. It terrified me. I cried for days. I locked myself in my bathroom, convinced I was a monster and at a loss for an identity of my own. You see, I’d been caught in a mixed episode (a form of mood swing in which you experience depression and mania at the same time, which I’ll explain later) for nearly two months. It had destroyed relationships, my grades, my self-esteem… I was suffering. However, my roommate and now very good friend Kate also suffered from Bipolar Disorder (hers being type II) and was able to help me cope. She got me into counseling and to the right doctors. She walked me through the medications and how to manage them. Because of her, Bipolar Disorder doesn’t scare me so much anymore. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s still a terrifying thought that I could wake up tomorrow with my mood spinning out of control, but now I know how to get help.

To explain Bipolar I, I’ll go over the different types of mood swings experienced. First off, there is depression. That is fairly simple. The thing to understand about it, though, is how dark and empty that feeling is. It is accompanied by lethargy, suicidal thoughts, weight loss or gain, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in activities, etc. Research suggests this is caused by an imbalance of serotonin (a chemical) in the brain. The second mood I’ll discuss is hypomania, which is actually quite glorious. You become hyperactive, need significantly less sleep, and your productivity goes through the roof. However, it often frightens people because your speech pattern speeds up and there is always a crash at the end.

Mania is the exaggerated form of hypomania and occurs only in Bipolar I. It is all out chaos. It is grandiose thinking and wild behavior and sometimes delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations. It is almost no sleep for days at a time and either the most intensely happy mood or intensely agitated. I once ran around in the snow in a dress, barefoot, for days and then hopped the fence into a waterpark. Tried to swim in a frozen river, climbed pine trees on campus yelling Marco Polo…My friends had to put a tracking app on my phone so they knew where I was. Clearly, I survived, but they had to be clever to keep me alive. Especially after I tried to bail out of a moving car.

The mood I most want you to understand is the mixed episode. It is what I experience most often and it is the most terrible, painful experience I can imagine. It is the clashing of mania and depression at once – a literal war of chemicals in your brain. You have all of this energy, but you’re also so terribly depressed, and your brain is moving one million miles per hour, and it’s coming up with so many ways to die because you’re so sad and miserable and everything hurts and you’re suddenly more than smart enough to think of   a way to kill yourself with just a ballpoint pen in an ER waiting room. Your brain feels like it’s exploding. Tears stream down your face. You are begging your brain to shut off. You try to communicate. It comes out in a mix of whispering and screaming. You try to control it. Can’t. The pressure in your brain is tearing your skull apart.

If that disturbs you, I’m sorry. I’m just trying to be honest. It is terrible. It is what I was experiencing just a month ago when everything went wrong. When everyone was fighting. When I yelled, when I cried, when I left in the middle of the night. When I swallowed all of my lithium.

amazing-beautiful-brain-cool-Favim.com-1211859My third diagnosis was OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This is also tied to serotonin levels in the brain. You’re incapable of letting things go, hence the compulsion to repeat things. My case is fairly mild, and I manage it with skills I learned in therapy and medication. You may not notice my habits, like pushing certain buttons three or five times. Or getting stuck on certain words, so I have to whisper them to myself until I feel satisfied. Or having to trace over particular numbers and letters (ooooh #4 I hate you) until they’re dark enough when I’m writing by hand. I’ve gotten much better at coping with these things, but they still stress me out and they are embarrassing.

The fourth diagnosis may be the most important next to Bipolar, because it is a 18581154_699676270243414_1348703581590519808_nconstant battle in which I am engaged and it is one we as a family have not discussed. During my first hospitalization, I was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. This terrified me. I work in this field, I study these illnesses…this one, by far, is treated with the worst stigma imaginable. Why? Because it is so hard to treat. The creator of the current therapeutic treatment for it, known as DBT, compared its sufferers to third degree burn victims because they have no emotional skin. What she meant by that is they have no protection against triggers outside of themselves. Any outside influence stings so badly that anger becomes rage, sadness becomes despair, happiness is elation, and so on.

Feeling things so deeply leads to behavioral issues. Self-harm, suicidal ideation/attempts/completion, drug use, inappropriate anger, fear of abandonment, unstable self-image, trouble with interpersonal relationships, etc. It is the rollercoaster from hell, if you don’t mind me saying so. The condition responds to some mood stabilizers, but that treatment route is still young and rarely taken as the research is still small. The most utilized treatment is therapy, and it is intensive. There are not enough specialists currently available to even help every BPD patient.

The difference between Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder lies in the brain. Bipolar Disorder is usually genetic, and lives in the chemicals of the brain. It has to do with a physical imbalance that is treated with medication. BPD, however, has to do with life experience that has changed the pathways in the brain. It is thought the be the result of untreated PTSD or a significant disruption in childhood – such as loss, abuse, neglect, bullying, etc. The pathways in the brain (how one thinks) are virtually permanently altered, changing the way they are capable of processing their own emotions as well as other ways of thinking.

4f3b8382302cacbaf19f81b2e40dee0b Now that you know what it is that is happening in my head, I hope it can help you understand why it is I did what I did. Why I yelled and cried and wanted to die. Why I was unkind. Why, at times, I seem like a mean or entirely different person. That is not me. Those are the symptoms of illnesses I am trying so desperately to manage. They are the result of malfunctions in a very important organ in my body.

That being said, I am very sorry for the pain it has caused you. I never intended to hurt  anyone. I never do. For anything that was said, for my actions, I do apologize. My heart aches for you just as well. I want to be happy, and I want you to be happy. I know that my mental health takes a toll on everyone around me and I will not apologize for being sick, because that is not my fault, but I will apologize for its fallout because I see the pain.

My head is above water now, and I truly, sincerely hope yours is too.

All my love,

Emma

And that is good.

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Today, I am alive and that is good.

I may not be grateful for it every second. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have to be. It’s kind of impossible to be, really, for anyone in this world.

But, today, I am alive and that is good.

I may not be happy for it every second. Truly, I don’t even choose to be happy about it a lot. Sometimes, I wish for the peace and quiet I’ve felt enveloping me at the edges of death and long to go back to that silence just to escape the noise in my head.

No, I repeat, today, I am alive and that is good.

Sometimes, the fear of everything more that could go wrong wraps me up in its arms and whispers about the past. I cry and it’s so hard.

Still, today, I am alive and that is good.

Today, I saw old friends. I interviewed for a counseling job. I bought a new ring (and earrings, so sue me). I listened to good music. I saw my brother and sister-in-law. I played the piano. I wrote music. I laughed. I loved and I felt loved.

Today, I lived and it was so good.

Tomorrow, I want to continue living and making it even better.

The old man in the hospital told me to take care of my life.

I am trying to now, sir. I am.

My head is safely above water water today and that is good.

“Take Care of Your Life”

e11240b99efab7ba87efff0e84391386Well…I’m back.

Let’s skip the part where I artfully beat around the bush and then we all come to the same tearful realization together…I tried to kill myself again. Which, really, shouldn’t be all that surprising based on the tirade I posted here and the warpath I was on outside of my computer screen.

Yay mental illness! *insert confetti and balloons here*

I can’t even begin to explain the mixed bag of rage and paranoia and despair and energy and depression that made up this mixed episode. Oh, but it scared the hell out of anyone in ten foot radius. There was yelling, crying, homelessness, and finally an overdose that may have outdone my last two combined. In fact, I’m sure it did, considering every time they draw my blood, I get this sad, concerned look before the doctor tells me again the course we’re on with my kidneys and renal system in this condition. Not to mention whatever the drugs did to my heart and potential neuro damage…I stopped listening weeks ago, to be honest. I’m alive, right? I mean, it was a little sketchy there for a minute, but I’m here for better or for worse.

Word to the wise, though – DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT overdose on lithium. Of all things, this was the most brutal experience of my life. The pain was enough to completely cure me of wanting to die in that moment. I called 911 on myself.

After a week on the cardio floor in a medical hospital, I was (begrudgingly) sent to another behavioral health place in which I simply existed for about a month. I mean, I made friends. I loved those friends, but they come and go and it got lonely and boring and scary sometimes and I definitely kicked a few doors and punched a few walls. I cried a lot. I acted like I didn’t have emotions a lot. I spent a lot of time coloring, reading, and arguing with my doctor about medications and diagnoses.

I was released yesterday and truthfully, I have no clue what I’m doing right now. I’m wandering, completely lost, and waiting for someone to point in a direction and just say walk. At very least, I don’t feel like I’m drowning anymore, and I have some very good people to thank for that. I hope I can also thank myself one day.

For now, I just want to thank the very incoherent old man who hugged me when I was being discharged yesterday. My favorite friend of all, to be honest. He put his forehead against mine and told me very simply:

Take care of your life.”

Keep kicking, guys. Swim harder. I know this storm seems impossible. Somedays it really is…but I’m alive still, so you can be, too. Just hold on.

I Will Not Apologize

I will not say that I am sorry for attempting suicide.

I will not apologize for having bipolar disorder, OCD, BPD, or PTSD.

I will not be the one to apologize for being sexually abused and assaulted.

I will not say that I am sorry that you missed all of this, when it was happening right under your damn nose.

I have spent the last three years living in my own personal hell, with no one but Satan himself to talk to. I allowed myself to be tortured, humiliated, talked down to, mocked, and abused. I made the decision this week, that dammit I am done being the victim. I chose happiness. I walked away from a situation that was draining my mind and heart and soul completely.

And because I chose myself this once, I am being faulted on all sides.

Tonight, I called the National Suicide Prevention hotline and sobbed to a woman named Heidi for half an hour. I begged her to give me a reason to stay. She has been the only person to tell me I am not crazy, and that I am capable of doing more than the people around me think. She gave me the numbers to multiple support groups and talked me off the ledge that I first stood on nine months ago.

When I tried to talk to my dad about this, I was once again shut out. Shamed. Because he was tired. Good Lord, aren’t we all? But you can’t spare fifteen minutes to talk to your daughter who has been living in hell all alone for years?

I’m throwing my hands up in the air, guys. I don’t know what to do. I have no clue. Someone please tell me what it is I need to do to get my family to understand that they are only making things worse. Somebody, give me some advice, because I am drowning here. I am slipping below these waves so fast that I don’t know if I will ever get back out.

My head is not above water tonight, I can tell you that. Somebody just please help me.

Move Along

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If there’s anything this last year has taught me, it’s that standing still isn’t an option.

In the last twelve months, I have moved eight times. I have lived in three different cities and three different states. I have nearly died at my own hand. I have carved over 100 new scars into my shoulders. I have walked away from people and been walked away from. There’s been very little constant in my life other than Bear (the service pup).

I don’t adapt to change well. It usually throws my bipolar disorder for a loop and manages to snag my OCD along with it. However, through this last year, I’ve found myself learning (rather quickly) that the pitfalls of life are not meant to be excuses to stop us from moving. You can’t bury yourself under insecurities and bedcovers and expect to wake up one day completely healed and normal. It just doesn’t happen. You have to be proactive, to help yourself, to make changes. Life doesn’t hold still just because you are. The atoms that make you up are still moving, so why are you so still?

I asked myself that question this week. I looked at the happiness that was slipping through my fingers like sand and knew that I needed to act for once. I couldn’t continue allowing myself to be the victim of circumstances that I actually can control. So, I made a drastic change and cut ties that ran too deep and walked away from something I thought was my dream. That probably doesn’t make much sense without specifics, but just trust me that this was probably the most difficult week I’ve experienced since October.

It doesn’t really give me an excuse to stop living life, though. I took Bear hiking nearly every day this week to clear my head. I reinvested myself in my relationship with God. I reconnected with an old friend and mended fences that should never have been broken. It hasn’t been so easy. I’ve cried, held onto Bear for dear life, and begged God for just one more minute with my mom. It’s been hell, but it’s also been full of lessons I needed to learn – like that I can completely disassemble my king-sized bed and move it with no help, or that I am capable of doing things that terrify me, or that I am capable of humbling myself and admitting defeat.

It hurts…but it’s a good hurt. It’s progress. Growing pains, I guess.

Don’t be afraid to make changes, to choose yourself. I know this sea can be so daunting at times, but I promise that if you just keep moving, you won’t drown. Be safe, be happy, be healthy, and remember to keep your head above water.

I have complete faith in you.

Sail On

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So, here is basically how I’m handling this most recent bout of depression.

1. Coloring.

I’ve set up camp in my bed with my adult coloring books and pencils and I am distracting myself with this. Pretty much, I am coloring an animal or two a day, and that is the most productive thing to report.

2. The Office.

I am watching copious amounts of The Office. It’s a little ridiculous. I’ve watched this show probably four times already, but keeping it on is keeping my thoughts from spiraling. Also, Michael Scott is perhaps the closest thing to a cure for depression.

3. Breakfast food.

Usually, I really don’t eat when I’m depressed. The last time this happened, I think I ended up losing somewhere near 13 pounds before my brain totally resurfaced. I’m trying to be better this time, though, so I’m eating my favorite food and that’s it. Pancakes, eggs, waffles, etc. You name it – if it falls into the realm of breakfast, I’m probably eating it (or at the very least, making it, and then staring at it on the counter).

4. Talking.

I’m a pro at isolating myself. Ask anyone – I really don’t need a phone, because I rarely answer it anyway. However, I’m doing what I can to fake it this week. I’m answering when people call and responding when my roommate talks to me. That’s a step forward, right?

5. Dealing with it.

In the past, I’ve denied all symptoms of my disorder and tried to carry on like normal. I’ve pushed myself too far and too fast and made things worse for myself. So, this time, I’m just dealing with it. I’m taking the time to let myself sit on the shower floor and just be, and curl up under my blankets and cry.

It’s okay to be depressed. Just keep yourself safe. There’s nothing wrong with you, I promise. It’s a condition millions of people are dealing with and it is treatable, but it takes time. Be patient with yourself. You can’t think the chemicals in your brain back into  order, but you can allow your mind the time to heal. It’s going to be okay. Just find a way to cope for now – something or somethings that can get you through one hour at a time.

The waves are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean they’re unsurvivable. You can do this.

Head above water.

Way Down We Go

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Have you ever woken up to find that your mind has been replaced by a black hole?

That’s how my week started.

I haven’t seen a mood swing since January, but lo and behold, the disorder is ever present. The moment my eyes opened, I knew my mountains had been cut down and my valleys hollowed out. All that exists for me in this black hole is emptiness and apathy and agitation and mists of despair.

To be honest, I should have seen this one coming. My lithium levels got too high, so my doctor pulled me off of my meds for a few days and then lowered the daily dose by 300mg. I don’t even know why the thought didn’t cross my mind that hey, maybe this might disrupt the waters, I was blissfully ignorant until this week.

I’ve found myself entirely incapable of communication beyond leave me alone, I have a headache, which doesn’t quite sit well with most people. Truthfully, if I try to even think about communicating the fact that I can’t communicate, my mind launches into an anxiety-riddled shame spiral. Which, in turn, just makes me more agitated, so I turn up my music and bury myself deeper underneath my covers and refuse to answer my phone.

Clearly, I’m a load of fun to be around right now.

I do have something positive to report, though.

Yesterday, I fled to my dad’s house to ugly cry on his shoulder about how I suck at life and how screwed up my brain is (you know, the standard depressive apocalyptic pity party). Two years ago, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my dad and I suffered a major rift in our relationship. Suddenly, it was like we didn’t know each other. He couldn’t understand my behavior and the scars on my arms terrified him when they now had a name and a story.

Fast forward to now, I found myself crying on his couch, feeling like he was the only person in the world I could incoherently sob to. You know what he did? He made me a PB&J sandwich and held me like I was a kid again. I’ve never felt more loved in my entire life. Truly and honestly.

Bear (the service pup) is laying on my feet right now, where he’s faithfully been since the mood swing set in. He keeps the self-harm thoughts at bay, and at least gives me a reason to get out of bed. My head is still an abyss, but between him and my dad, I’ve got a couple life preservers to hold onto in these waves.

The sea doesn’t always stay calm. I relearned that lesson the hard way. Just remember that eventually the waves will pass again and you will find yourself on the other side, stronger for it. Find your lifeboats and hold on tight. There is safety in the storm.

Keep your head above water, okay?

Addicted

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So, I figured I’d address one of the darker parts of mental illness. I mean, it’s really all pretty dark, but this was the shadowy, really secretive abyss for me, personally.

I found myself addicted to a couple prescription medications as a teenager.

They were prescribed to treat a very real condition, but I found myself abusing them on particularly bad days. Eventually, it wasn’t just the really bad days, it was when minor inconveniences came up. I found myself unable to tolerate stress without a pill or two and eventually four or five.

In college and working in a professional environment, that was difficult to hide. I thought I was being careful around roommates and friends, but apparently many were aware that I either was developing or already had developed a problem. Things slowly, and then very quickly, spiraled out of anyone’s control.

When I overdosed the first time, it was a major wake up call for everyone…except for me, I guess.

I mean, I thought I was pulling it together. I got out of the hospital after a week and went back to work and found a new apartment (with friends) and got my dog back. I was actively involved in sorting out my life. I even called two friends to help me go through my medications in order to take away anything that I didn’t need any longer or that could be potentially dangerous. Except…that vice still had a hold of me. I kept a secret stash, just in case. I hid it in case of a bad day.

I told myself I wouldn’t use it like I had in the past. I would be careful.

I overdosed again one month later.

One more week in the hospital and I had to figure out real quick what my next step was going to be.

I could allow myself to continue down this path, or I could choose to make it to next year. With the help of good friends and doctors and therapists, I am still here. I am clean. I have been for months. It hasn’t been easy. I was on heavy painkillers after surgery, and the thoughts were definitely there. My body wanted that feeling. I knew, though – I knew how dangerous that path was, and so I chose a different way.

That is so much easier said than done. Addiction is a disease within itself. It is the farthest thing from easy to fight – especially when you’re suffering. The thing is, everyone is scared to talk about it. I know I still am most days. My family knows nothing about any of it. They think the overdoses were purely suicide attempts, and not the result of long-time abuse. I’m comfortable letting them believe that for now. That doesn’t change the fact that addiction is still a prevalent issue for those dealing with mental illness.

Working in mental health, I’ve seen it time and time again. Patients struggle and fall and fight and succeed and stumble again. It’s a constant fight – but it’s one you can win. I’ve beat it, am still beating it, and know others who are doing the same. There are so many resources out there available to you if you need help. I know it’s not easy admitting that you may have a problem, but you can’t keep secrets from yourself. Fight for your life and I’ll always be here, doing what I can to help.

Remember, head above water, no matter what.

Emma.

6 Years Ago & Today & October

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Today…is not a good day.

Today marks 6 years exactly since I held my mom in her hospital bed and felt her heart stop beneath my fingertips. I was only 15 at the time. I don’t know why I was even allowed to be there for all of it. I don’t know why I stayed other than the paralyzing fear of walking out of that hospital without her.

I’m at my dad’s house – well, my step-mother’s house – because Easter and family dinner and blah. I’m hiding in the office and writing because my brain isn’t really working quite right today. I want to be held so badly, but I also want nothing more than to be alone. My service dog is laying on my feet right now – very alert to the fact that my emotions are only being contained by my pale skin and pursed lips. He’s looking up at me like I might shatter or breakdown any second. He might be right – this is his job, after all.

This anniversary has been the hardest one yet, I think. Which, considering the timing, might be odd. Six years? That’s quite some time. In those six years, I’ve gone to college, moved almost ten times, lived in 3 different states, and started my career. This last year was different though – and she wasn’t so distant over these last 7 months.

If you’ve been around here, you know that in October I attempted suicide by overdosing. It happened over a three day period. What very few people know, however, is what happened on that third day. I don’t even remember the majority of the 48 hours leading up to it, but I do remember the last pills I took. I found my last two pain pills in my bathroom drawer and took them without water, just desperate to finally fall asleep and not wake up.

It was all a haze. I couldn’t walk straight or see beyond my own two feet. I remember falling into the wall between my bedroom and my bathroom. I couldn’t breathe. I could feel everything in my body shutting down.

And then, I heard her.

I heard my mom’s voice clear as day.

If you don’t get help right now, you are going to die.

I panicked and the tears came to my tired eyes. This isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to leave this world behind just yet. Not like this.

By some miracle, my phone was close enough, and with just barely enough battery life. I texted three friends – the most recent three in my messages. I could feel myself fading, and so I crawled to my bed and pulled myself onto it. I remember looking at my phone one last time and then it falling from my hand.

Then I felt her. I felt her all around me. Maybe she was there to take me home or to make sure I stayed put long enough for help to arrive. I don’t know. But there she was, and I can’t deny that it was her that saved me.

So, this year’s anniversary of her death is fresh. It hurts. It feels like I’ve lost her all over again because she was just so close.

I’ll be okay, though. I’m not thinking of anything other than her, and I’m doing my best to make her proud. So, I’m taking my medication, using my therapy skills, and asking for help when I need it.

And I’m praying that she stays close by, if she can.

I don’t know what your religious or spiritual beliefs are. You can call me crazy for putting so much stock in this. Maybe my mind made it up to safe itself. I don’t really care. What I do hope is that you have your own lifeline when you’re at the end of your rope and about to descend entirely into darkness. Whether it is a person or a dream or a feeling – I hope you have that.

Keep your head above water, today, yesterday, and always. Hold on when the waves rise and don’t let yourself be defeated. There is still so much more world to experience.