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Sad Coming of Age

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

I look down and can‘t help but be afraid of the fall. It‘s higher than I initially thought and yet, at the same time, not high enough. How many seconds would someone fall until they hit the ground? And, on the way down, would that person wish it to be longer? What would someone in that situation think about? Or would it be the first time they didn‘t? Would it be bliss or a tragedy? I look up. It is a beautiful day. The perfect day, really, but when I close my eyes I can‘t hear the birds chirping or the river hundreds of feet below. I can‘t feel the sun on my too pale skin or the smooth railing beneath my cold fingers. No, when I close my eyes, all I feel is numbness. It‘s ironic how sometimes the outside can be the complete opposite of what a person is feeling on the inside. 

I close my eyes and take a deep breath as I feel my thoughts begin to spiral again. I am not okay. 

I breathe. In, one two three. Out, one two three. When I open my eyes I find myself looking back on everything I‘ve been through in the last couple of years. First it started slow. My grades went from straight As to Bs. Jokes weren‘t funny anymore and I stopped making plans with friends because I didn‘t see the point of it. I stopped making coffee in the morning, although it had been my favourite part of the day. I stopped smiling freely. I put on a facade and hid behind fake laughs. Looking back, that was the scariest time of my life. For the first time, I was losing control, not only over my thoughts and feelings, but also over the life I had built. I began to shut down. I was desperate. I felt like I needed my control back, before someone could sense that something was wrong. Nobody could know. Nobody can know. I was fine. I just needed to work harder. So I did everything that I thought one is supposed to do. I did the medication and the breathwork and the self-help books and basically made it into my next assignment to find control over my emotions again. I did everything that was recommended to me on the internet and in those books without an ounce of complaint, all while feeling like someone is trying to push me to the ground. I felt as if I was on the right path until one day, I wasn‘t. I can‘t help but laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all as I look up at the sky. I am so angry and confused and lost and I don‘t know how to deal with these emotions anymore. I feel someone looking at me and turn to smile over my shoulder as a couple is crossing the bridge I‘m standing on. They smile back. It really is a beautiful day today. I laugh again, when I feel tears dripping down my chin. It is a good day. I want to stay here forever. 

I try to control my breathing, but the tears keep coming. The thought of returning to my life scares me. It is nice here. The sun is shining. I‘m so tired. I don‘t want to get back up again. It sounds easy in theory: I imagine a movie montage in which the protagonist realizes she‘s too good for the shit she has been dealing with and decides to start taking her life into her own hands. Including getting out of bed in the morning, showing up to things in brand-new outfits that make her feel accomplished, cooking her own meals and simply being the best version of herself she can be. And all of that with a smile. I love these sequences, I really do. I think of another version of this story. Normally you would expect it to end on a high note with the protagonist finally getting the life she wants. Not in this movie. After this montage in this specific film, the main character has a high for a few days, meets friends, shows up for the things she loves and even manages to gift herself a smile in the mirror each morning. After those few days, however, the movie repeats itself from the half-point mark. Breaking down and standing up. Over and over and over again. That wouldn‘t be fun to watch for anyone. It‘s not fun to live it, either. 

I look down and loosen my hands on the railing. I admire its smoothness and look up as birds fly by. I like birds. The sun blinds me and I close my eyes. I feel so heavy, like I am made out of lead. I can feel a weight on my shoulders and on my head urging me to crumble. To push me down. To make me give up. I laugh, thinking back on all the work I put in and where I am right now. I know it must have all been helpful somehow but I just.. sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn‘t done all that on my own. Would I stand here and still feel the same way after all these years if I would have felt safe enough to talk to someone about it? What would have happened if I had just opened my mouth and said ,It‘s too much. It‘s too fast. I need a break‘? If I had just said ,I am hurting‘?

I hear footsteps again, but this time I don‘t turn around. Concentrating on the calming effect of the water beneath me I let myself daydream. Of a world like that. A world in which I would not have been alone. I would have talked to people, would have opened up about my feelings and dreams. What are my dreams? Happiness, fulfillment and the feeling of being perfectly satisfied? I know that those things exist. I also know that those feelings don‘t last long. There would have always come times in which I would have been sad. But maybe I would have someday realized that that is what makes those moments special and unique. Maybe I would have appreciated them more when they did happen and, on those dark days in between, I would have had something to look forward to, something to go on and to fight for. I would have realized that to stand up day after day, depressive episode after depressive episode, is a sign of strength. Someone would have told me so. I would have been honest to myself, and yes, sometimes my first instinct would have been to criticize myself. But the more I had grown, the more I would have learned that when I don‘t lie to myself, when I‘m brutally honest- that‘s when I get to know myself better. That‘s also when it hurts the most. Maybe by each downfall, I would have tested out the waters, learned my triggers and my limits. I would have become the person I was supposed to be and yes, sometimes that could have felt like losing myself, the self I grew up with, who had been through it all with me. But losing would be the wrong word, really. It‘s more like I would have learned to understand that version of myself better, feeling sorry for it, to comfort it as best as I could and then to put it to rest in a place where it‘s safe. It deserved to rest. And maybe, I would have taken it out every now and then and shown it what I had made of myself. How far we had come. A lot of work had to be done and mostly that would have included getting back up. I would be an adult toddler trying to figure it all out and you know what? Maybe I would have been okay with that. I see it so clearly in my mind now- the life I could have had. A perfect solution. 

I can feel the image in my head slowly crumble as my doubts creep in. I stand up straighter. Yes, maybe it would have been like that. Or maybe, I would have been right from the start. Opening up and sharing your demons is tough. I imagine it being immensely emotionally draining. I would have been tired all the time, not nearly achieving as much academically as I have now. Maybe I would have been silent when I would have wanted to be loud, and numb when I would have wanted to act. Yes, maybe my mind would have eventually felt lighter, my wounds would have begun to heal or at least be seen for once. But I feel like nobody talks about the strength it takes to do all that. I can‘t even begin to describe what it takes to get up every time I fall down and analyze my every step. Doing that and letting someone be a witness to your struggles.. that must be one of the hardest things one can go through. Maybe I would have felt like someone was challenging me to get better, watching and annotating my every move. I would have still fallen down and would have been supported by people who would want me to get up. People, who I would have eventually disappointed. It could have been hard to see the sense in that. In a life like this. I know that life is supposed to be made up of highs and lows and many people are struggling with day-to-day life as is. But.. is that it? Is that all there is? Falling down, wasting three days in self-loathing, and then dragging myself back up again? Again and again and again? Would it have been worth it in a life like that? Would I have wanted that? Even now, I know that there are beautiful things in this life, there are moments when I want to jump around and dance and laugh. When everything that I‘ve gone through seems so incredibly worth it. Life is a gift that comes in the form of unconditional love for the things and people you care about. But it is also challenging. It can tear you apart and put you back together all in a span of a few seconds. It‘s both agony and joy. It‘s everything in-between. Finding the balance, however, after falling down and fighting to get back up so many times? Maybe it would not have been possible, even with help. 

So which maybe would it have been? Happy or sad? Bliss or tragedy?

It feels like I am made up of these bellowing voices starting fights in my head, whereas on the outside I am frozen in place. Sighing, I lean over the railing again. My stomach flutters and I am suddenly so sure that it is not because of the height. I smile freely for the first time in years. I know what I want to do. It really is a beautiful day.

November 19, 2022 00:04

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2 comments

Debbie Curtin
16:10 Nov 29, 2022

True feelings we may all go through. You show us that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Tricia Shulist
21:42 Nov 21, 2022

That was heartfelt. And brutally honest. Thanks for this.

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