I wanted to be good for you. I wanted to fill you with hope and warmth and instead I made the gaps bigger and the dark places darker. I never wanted you to feel like you had to set yourself on fire to keep me warm. I wanted to be good for you. I am sorry I couldn’t be with you the way I wanted to, the way you needed. You worried that you weren’t enough for me, but darling, it was the other way around.
When I give you a song, it is yours. And it will be forever, and forever is a long time. I may make someone else a playlist, but your song will not be on it. And one day, your song will come on when I least expect it, in an unlikely setting, and I’ll either soften with warmth or I’ll bristle with pain. That song is yours, carved into my being with your initials next to it.
Music is love in search of a word. Sidney Lanier
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m navigating a separation. And living by myself for the first time ever. And I have a job with a lot of responsibilities that requires me to keep track of hundreds of things at a time (my work-life is ruled by spreadsheets.) AND I’M IN A SIX WEEK INTENSIVE COURSE ON TOP OF IT ALL.
Some days I feel so fucking great, I’VE GOT THIS! SLAYING THE EMAIL DEMON! SOLVING ALL THE PROBLEMS! I CAN SEE EVERYTHING CLEARLY, I KNOW WHERE ALL THE PIECES FIT AND I AM CHARGING FORWARD! DEADLINES ARE MY BITCH!
And other days my executive function evaporates and I feel useless and anxious and like a massive failure. I can’t focus, I can’t do what I know needs to be done, and I can’t commit to anything. I try very hard to redirect my attention to things I would rather do in the name of productivity. But… the pandemic makes this worse. Working from home makes this worse. Going through a separation makes this worse. Doing school work in addition to a full workday makes this worse. All of these things combined with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and bouts of insomnia?
It’s overwhelming. It makes me question my ability to do my job. It makes me question if I can be in project management long-term. Am I even any good at this? Some days, YES. Most days, yes. Bad days are allowed, I tend to forget that. I had a bad day yesterday and today isn’t great. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back on track?
But my therapist reminds me that this is a lot, that all of those things would be hard on their own. But all at once? That’s next-level overwhelming, it’s NORMAL to feel completely swallowed. Most people aren’t doing all of this. Most people aren’t doing all of this with a brain disorder, clinical depression, anxiety, and running on less than five hours of sleep on a given night.
I’m actually doing really well. I’m still showing up to all of it. I may not be as productive as I want, and the timing might be all over the place, but the work is getting done. I picked the worst time to do a 180 on my life, but you know what? I’m HAPPY. I’m grateful. It still feels right, even though it’s overwhelming and stressful, and that’s normal. It’s normal.
for turning my disorder into poetry
for saying that I’m a work of art
for listening to the music I posted
for your art
for your words
I had to actively keep choosing to live in 2019.
There were scary moments of suicide ideation, when I felt like I was so far away from everything I’d worked so hard to achieve, moments of ambivalence and quiet acceptance that this is it for me, it will never get better, I will never contribute to anything good again. I was able to say those things out loud. And with a supportive doctor and a loving therapist, I was given the space and tools to heal, and the colour seeped back into my life.
And then one day in October I was unusually tired, and the lymph nodes in my neck and collarbone were the size of small rocks. And within days, everything slid down a mountain and I was in a hospital, slick with sweat and unable to open my eyes under the glaring bright lights of the emergency room. There I was, with a fast-growing and deadly infection, with an incompetent ER doctor who prescribed antibiotics that were never going to work with a raging fever, a doctor that didn’t ask the right questions and missed huge red flags in my blood work, a doctor that didn’t listen to begin with, and provided a misdiagnosis. Screaming, unending pain in the side of my head, fevers that soaked my bedding every few hours and made me delirious and dizzy like I’d consumed a whole bottle of wine, vomiting until I felt like my insides had been wrung out to dry. Another trip to the ER, a scary diagnosis, intravenous antibiotic treatments that put stress on my heart and disrupted electrolyte levels, and antibiotics that made me vomit until I had stars in my eyes. At times I wondered if the treatments might kill me if the infection didn’t. Tests. Tests. Tests. Treatment, tests, reassessment, home. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The fevers subsided, and after six days of out-patient care, I was discharged to continue treatment at home, every six hours, for ten days. I was prescribed anti-nauseants given to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy because those oral antibiotics had to stay down or I’d have to go back to the hospital. And yet, in those weird and awful moments, there was laughter, and hand squeezes, and love. There was overwhelming kindness. There were people pulling for me everywhere.
But I had to choose to live. So many people don’t have that luxury. Friends in their thirties have died unexpectedly of heart attacks and drug overdoses, leaving behind young children and devastated friends and family. Friends dying the long, slow death of cancer. These people wanted to live. Every day of their lives had meaning.
Life is inherently good, and I want to share my guiding principles that have seen me through the roughest moments time and time again.
- I am trying to love my life as I am living it. There are nonnegotiable moments of discomfort, of course, but there are places where I have power to turn away from things that aren’t serving me.
- Life is so short. Today matters. I want to be ready to die at any time, to know I’ve lived life to the fullest, tried all the strange and wonderful things that I could have, embraced the opportunities, failed, and learned every step of the way.
- I’m scared of everything, but that hasn’t held me back. I try everything once, and if I hate it, I know that I don’t have to do it again. But often, I’ve tried it again, further down the road, and was overjoyed to discover I felt differently, and sometimes, overjoyed that I passionately still hated it and I was RIGHT!
- I’m allowed to change my mind as I fail, learn, and grow, in whatever order that comes in.
- Failing is important. Everyone needs to fail. It’s hard, it can be shameful, but the value is in learning from it. Did you really, truly fail if you came out of something better and stronger?
- My self talk is important, and I had to go to therapy to learn how to be kind and empathetic to myself. This is not about enabling or placating bad decisions because they feel nice in the moment, but it is about listening to the uncomfortable feelings and allowing myself time to be sad and angry and disappointed, without shaming myself for feeling those things or placing blame for them.
- I’m trying to live a life I’m proud of. I’m imperfect, but it helps to be able to take stock every now and then and reflect on the things you feel good about.
I used to think you only live once, but my mom recently corrected me. You only die once, but you live every day.