One year later…

This winter went on too long then, just when I thought I couldn’t stand another grey day, the trees burst forth in blossoms of lime green. I’d forgotten how soft they looked pressed against the sky. How brilliant the green contrasts against the blue. How the weeping willows look like they’re dancing with veils. How new leaves glisten in the sunshine.

This time last year I was convinced my life was over. There was nothing to live for… no one who cared. I was going to jump off my balcony and land in the dumpster seven floors below. My thoughts at the time was it would save my family money for a burial. Somehow I figured the truck would simply take my body away with the trash. Obviously I wasn’t in my right mind.

I wasn’t going to leave a letter, I didn’t think anyone cared enough to read it, but a former friend of mine convinced me to post a note on Facebook saying how I felt. I didn’t see the point and then he dared me to. If there wasn’t a point then it didn’t matter? Why didn’t I try?

So I did try. I posted and my sister almost immediately replied. So did my Mom and countless others. People did care. I did matter. I’d cried until my eyes swelled shut, I was a mess, and people still cared.

If life were a made for TV movie, everything would be perfect now. I’d be back to work, my relationship would have magically healed itself, and music would softly swell over a picturesque ending. But life doesn’t work that way.

I didn’t jump that day. Thankfully. But my soul… my self… shattered and it hasn’t magically fitted itself back together again. I’m still fragile. I take a handful of pills a day to function.

And yet…

Just like the softened new blossoms are distinct and real against a twilight sky, my thoughts coalesce and form into a whole. I might not be perfect but I’m me. And I’m glad to be here.

Finding the shape of my days…

CN: suicidal thoughts

It was Friday, February 10th and my mental health worker had just arrived. I was… in not good shape. I’d gone to cut my pills the night before and found myself mere millimeters away from slashing the hell out of my arm with a ceramic knife. I managed not to but it was close and I wasn’t in a good mindset.

The worker asked how I was doing, I told her the truth and she called 911. Within minutes the police and paramedics were here. The paramedics left just as quickly as I didn’t need medical attention and the police promised to drive me in to emergency. Did you know they don’t have seat belts in the back seat of their cars? Also, being escorted in by a police officer garners a lot of attention.

Everything else was the same as the last two times. ER doctor, crisis nurse, and psychiatrist… all with copious amounts of waiting in between. Then the psychiatrist asked me if I wanted to go home or stay. If I stayed, I’d end up in the ER all weekend because there weren’t any beds. She left me alone to make up my mind and I burst into tears and called myself names. Then she came back in and walked me to the ER. I was upstairs in the psychiatric ward by 10pm.

The first thing I realized was that my intense homesickness last time was nothing of the sort. It was the same severe anxiety I always have. The second thing I realized was that anxiety faded away with Clonazepam.

I quickly found a routine for myself. A nap after breakfast, walking around the halls to get my 10,000 steps on my Fitbit, chatting with the other patients, a second nap after lunch, reading, more chatting, and cards after dinner. Ironically enough the game of choice was Crazy Eights.

Mood wise I’m doing a lot better. I’m on a handful of drugs now. Effexor, Abilify, Clonazepam, and Lithium. The lot act like tiny balloons, lifting up my feelings. Tiny sedating balloons. Right now I’m groggy from the Clonazepam but I’ve been assured that will lessen over the coming month.

I got released on Thursday and find myself struggling to fill the shape of my days. The hospital had a set routine and I’m finding I need something similar at home. A pattern… a routine.

My alarm is set for 8am daily and I’m going to walk at the local walking track every morning (starting tomorrow). Otherwise I haven’t come up with anything. I’m sure it won’t take me too long to fill in my days.

kathleen-at-the-hospital

Me on my hospital bed

Falling into autumn…

I walked home from the hospital under a canopy of new leaves. Now those leaves are reawakening in hues of scarlet and gold and I’m finding myself curiously adrift. I’d never planned on being alive this long and am at a loss on what to do next.

If my life was a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces would be in mid air, falling out of a featureless box. Each piece an unknown, tumbling down to who knows where.

I’ve applied for disability and have been told they routinely turn people down. But Canadian Mental Health Association will help me appeal when (if) that happens. Jeremy and I are on waiting lists for subsidized apartments… that we’ll get some year. Maybe two years… maybe four? And I’m writing away at novels with no real idea of how to get published.

two-years

I’m watching Jeremy transform into someone I love but don’t always know. They alternate between endearingly sweet and incredibly annoying and lately act traditionally masculine.

“I don’t want to go to PFLAG tonight. As a straight, white male I don’t feel comfortable there.” Jeremy informed me.

It doesn’t happen much but they left me speechless.

“Umm, I thought you were agender,” I commented after a few seconds. Jeremy snorted.

“Mo-om… that was three weeks ago!”

We have potatoes older than that and besides…

“It was yesterday,” I pointed out and they sighed.

“Well I don’t believe in gender and don’t feel like I’m a gender but if I had to choose between male and female I’d pick male.”

Clear as mud?

“You acted and felt more female than male not that long ago.”

Jeremy nodded. “I know. I felt like that then and maybe I’ll change again. I just don’t know.”

“And straight? What happened to ‘hearts instead of parts'” I asked.

Jeremy looked incredibly uncomfortable. “Don’t worry about it,” I said honestly. “Sexual orientation is hard.” They nodded and dropped the conversation so fast.

The ironic part is we actually talked about equal rights that night at PFLAG and how men’s rights need to be worked on too, which they would have loved. I reminded Jeremy that I missed a meeting on relieving anxiety because I was too anxious to go. Stuff happens and sometimes it’s as ironic as fuck.

The pieces of me changed this spring and they haven’t finished falling yet. So far all I know is that I’m different and there’s going to be a heck of a lot more glitter. Jeremy will have to sort themselves out on their own. I’m willing to bet on a fair bit of glitter and strands of coloured lights there too.

 

I will not apologize for being me…

Pain is a powerful deterrent. The emotional pain of seeing every adult look over at me with patronizing expressions and knowing nods because, once again, I was doing something that was normal to me and odd to everyone else. The physical pain after school when my classmates ran after me or chased me down on bikes because I was an easy target since I stood out. The humiliation of being ostracized repeatedly because no one else wanted to be tarnished by my presence.

So I shrunk myself small and hid myself close in an attempt to fit… and was still seen as odd.

I married the first person to date me. Years of thinking no one would ever want to date someone as weird as me turned into worries that this would be my only chance at marriage and children. Which is so not a good base for a relationship. Then I had kids and worried that my weirdness would hold them back from making friends. If the parents thought I was too weird, would their children be allowed to come over? And I shrunk even more.

Then came work. I needed a job to raise the kids and needed not to stand out, so I put on the most normal mask I could make and tried to be quiet but productive. I tried my hardest and hid until I could no longer find myself. And I never really noticed. It took a year before I noticed I’d lost interest in reading. Me, who read a book a day for years. I spent a year and a half without writing. I’ve been known to write for 12 hours at a time and carried a notebook and pen with me.

I never noticed when my shrinking turned into apologizing for everything that I did oddly, until I was apologizing for my mere existence. For using the air the more normal people needed to breathe.

I never really noticed until I found myself standing on the ledge to my balcony pondering how long it would take to fall and how quickly the pain would stop. My mask broke then and it’s never going back on again.

I will not apologize for loving bright colours and glitter
I will not apologize for loving stuffed animals and butterflies and rainbows
I will not apologize for hand flapping
I will not apologize for squeeing when I’m happy
I will not apologize for singing (yes, even in the grocery store)
I will not apologize for caring
I will not apologize for my thoughts being a step off from expectations

If I continue to apologize for being born autistic in a neurotypical world what am I teaching my autistic offspring? I’ve told my kids for years that, as long as I pay my bills, it doesn’t matter how weird I act. It’s time for me to believe that. My life depends on me believing that.

hand drawn daisy

I drew this at the hospital. The perspective’s not the best but I also haven’t drawn anything in twenty-five years.

So I’m reconnecting with myself. Writing poetry, reading, scrapbooking, sketching, and editing my novel. I’m singing again. To Jeremy, to the cats, and most of all to me.

Tomorrow I have errands to run, appointments to attend, and a cake to decorate. Then Jeremy and I are joining my parents for a family camping trip. I’m going to be 100% myself, even in front of the rest of the family. It will be fabulous!

don't shrink yourself