We often describe times of emotional turmoil as storms. If we embrace this analogy, the last 18 months of my life have been a Category 5 Hurricane. The damage is widespread and catastrophic. The air is still, but has a feeling of instability about it. If the conditions are just right another one could come at any time. Lives have been altered forever. It could take months, perhaps years to completely assess the totality of the damage caused by the volatile system that is my mental illness.
Aside from a couple of really bad days, my mental health has been more stable in the last six to eight weeks than it has been in a couple of years. The suicidal thoughts have gone away, the voices have faded into the background. The compulsion to self harm, which has been front and center for the better part of two years has subsided. I have run a razor across my flesh just once in the last eight weeks, a remarkable turn around from it was a nearly daily occurrence. I have hundreds of scars on my left forearm, which to me feels like a warning siren, directing all others to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible, lest they get caught in the hurricane themselves.
As I emerge from the storm cellar and scan the horizon, there is debris everywhere. The wreckage is unfathomable; a once stable and familiar landscape shattered into a billon unrecognizable pieces. As cleanup begins, there is the realization that things have been ineradicably changed. It might be possible to build a reasonable facsimile of what was once was there, but things will never be the same.
I stand and look at what once was the foundation of everything… love; and see a gaping hole. Two partners who got to see parts of me that I had never shared before hate me and want nothing to with me. The most rewarding and fulfilling job I have ever had… being a parent has been stripped away. Three children whom I adored and would have killed or died for, are gone from my life forever; their parents not allowing me to have any contact whatsoever. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to any of them.
My career has been irreversibly damaged. The thunderstorms and lightening that preceded the hurricane burned it to the ground. I am not hirable in my previous field. Forced to seek something different just so I can survive, I now earn less than I did fifteen years ago.
All is not lost though. Like a lighthouse surviving the worst of the storm surge and acting as a beacon for the ships lost in the storm, friendship remains. Friends near and far have helped me survive the hurricane, providing food, shelter, guidance, support, and a shoulder to cry on. Standing beside me when the storm was too violent to see them, they are my rock.
The hurricane it seems, is over for now. The time to clean up and rebuild has come. I climb out of the dark hole, the proverbial storm cellar, close my eyes and take a deep breath, feeling the sun shine upon me. Rebuilding won’t be easy, the wreckage is so widespread I don’t even know where to begin. Hopefully I can build the walls a little bit thicker, a little but stronger, so I have a better chance of surviving the next storm. Like a hurricane, my mental health wreaking havoc over an unsuspecting populous is not a question of if, it is a question of when.