I have stared down a moving train. I am afraid of heights because I don’t trust myself not to jump. I hate driving at night because my mind’s more scattered at the end of the day when I’m too tired to keep trying to keep myself within the margins. I runneth over.
On my best days, I feel like I am carrying a tray loaded with cups of coffee. I glide, trying to keep the coffee from sloshing over the sides. Burning me. Burning other people. On my worst days, I carry that tray full of coffee cups, but I am on rollerskates. Spillage is inevitable.
My mind is incredible. It dreams up worlds and words, spins stories out of split second images that flash against the movie screen of my eyes. It puzzles through problems that exist only in places I’ve never been, and will never go completely.
My mind is also not always my own. My mind waits, waits, waits for me to let down my guard. I am always on guard. If I let it down, if I forget my medicine, or I spend too much time alone or if I spend too much time with other people, my mind looks for the spaces between my judgement and my choices. It works its way in there, and its decisions are almost always the wrong ones. When I am weak, I hold onto the railing when trains pass. When I am strong, I make myself stand there, but not by the yellow line. My strength will carry me only so far. I don’t own a full length mirror. I never will again. Stepping on scales is like cracking open my resolve. Rooftop parties will never be for me. My mind’s too curious about the fall.
I don’t let myself think. I play music or a TV show in the background if I am home alone. I listen to music when I write. Because I’ve learned that my mind, while incredible, isn’t something I can trust. It isn’t safe. My mind is a rooftop edge. If I stand too close, I’ll tip over, and gravity is one hell of a drug.
I’ve climbed out before, from the bottom back up to the sky. Before and before and before and before. I stopped keeping track. I’ve been there before, so I can reassure myself that I know the way out. So when winter comes, in real life or just beneath my skull, I have the compass and the map and the rope leading to the surface.
But each time, there’s the fear that this time, I won’t find my way out. I won’t find my way back to the sky. I won’t be able to breathe again.
It’s this fear that has my throat tight while my fingers tap on the keys right now.
It’s this fear that makes it hard for me to talk about intrusive thoughts or suicidiality or people in crisis. Because for most of my life, no matter what I look like on the surface, I’ve felt on the verge of crisis. And it takes an extraordinary amount of work every single day for me to stay on the verge, and not fall into. (And this is not me saying that those in crisis failed to do the work–quite the opposite. My hardest falls have been when I was working the hardest. Mental illness is unpredictable.)
I speak about so much that people begin to assume I speak about everything. But I am fragile. And it feels like a flood gate. I will talk about this and then I will think about this and then the thoughts about this will stick like burrs in my brain and they’ll keep me from doing the work. From staying here.
And god, I want to stay here.
Forgive me for my silence. I’m quiet now because I hope one day, I’ll figure out a way to do more than just stay on the verge. And then, I will be loud.
For additional reading, please see Shaun Hutchinson’s Suicide is Not a Joke and V.E. Schwab’s We Need to Talk about Tommy. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to reach out for help. I have this poem framed by my desk because it gives me heart when I don’t have any left: Andrea Gibson’s The Nutritionist.
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