Getting into bed at 5, 6, 7, 8 – early or late, anything to make the day end because the next day has to be better. Tossing and turning. Getting up. Walking around the room. Getting back in. Giving in to the tears. Picking up the phone to text someone, desperate for love or comfort. Not knowing what to say and putting it back down. Sometimes saying random things and feeling like an idiot. Praying. Begging. Falling into a restless sleep. Waking up in panic. And today, finally picking up a pen instead.
Over the past many years, as I’ve struggled to fight the past that keeps entering my present, I’ve often wondered what a breakdown looks and feels like. Does it actually exist as separate from everyday anxiety and panic, the fight to get through each day? Apparently it does! All the times that I felt like I was on the brink of a dark hole but didn’t know if that hole exists – well, it does. And it’s every bit as scary and awful and lonely as I imagined.
A breakdown looks like just physically not being able to go on anymore. It feels like numbness and pain all at once. It makes you cry for your mother except not really for your mother, because she’s never been that comfort or that feeling of safety. So it makes you cry for the family you made for yourself and then it makes you cry because they aren’t actually your family. It looks like falling into a crying heap on the street because the next step feels impossible. It looks like ending up at A&E, shaking and crying, and being faced with a misogynistic ‘mental health nurse’ who makes you feel even worse. It looks like realising that while love and hugs don’t fix the problem, sometimes they are all you need to feel like maybe there is a point after all, and that maybe it will get better. At the same time, it also looks like not being able to ask for love and hugs because you are scared you won’t get them and it will break you even more. It looks like not even knowing why you are crying, but not being able to stop the tears. It looks like being afraid of everything and everyone and not knowing why.
I am writing this because one day, when this is over but life is hard, I can look back and know that I can get through anything. I survived years of abuse. I got through time after time of seeing the man who abused me trying to play with my head. I live through flashbacks and panic attacks every fucking day and still manage to make sure it doesn’t keep me from living my fullest life. I go to work. I go to university. I get my essays in on time. And I am preparing for an exam and am going to fucking ace it in the middle of this hell. If I can get through all this, I can get through anything. And this is my reminder to myself.
In the words of my absolute hero, Audre Lorde, ‘I am not only a casualty, I am also a warrior.’