No one can support all the grief I hold. I’ve known that for a while now. Sometimes it makes me whisper: I can’t do this anymore. The funny thing is that I could have been laughing and chatting up a storm with different people over the course of an evening and then boom I end the last call and it hits me. I’ve said over and over again that if the demons win this war, I will go quietly with everyone wondering why they weren’t warned or why they didn’t see it coming. It’s precisely this! Like this evening from 7 to 9:30 with four different people. After I hang up with the fourth person I’m alone with the silence and the demons. People say your brain lies to you, so don’t believe it. I say try not believing! Ha! Some days it is utterly impossible. Every year as I cycle through the highs and the lows, I think why do I live to do this again another year? Yup! Same time, next year, it seems to say to me as it sashays out the door in May. I know no one can support all the darkness I have so I try to lighten up. Not be so moody all the damn time. Try to shake it off. Think positive. Pretend. My favorite: smile! They say it helps to smile. I say I’ve tried it. They say maybe try harder. So I hang up tonight and think the night looms long and dark. Everyone has since moved on from when I spoke with them. I alone sit here trying to draw from the bank of belly laughs and corny jokes of prior conversations with old friends and Bae. I sit here staring at the phone wondering if I should call someone else to chitchat a while longer. But even then, for how much longer can I stave off the dark? Wondering if there will ever be anyone able to hold all this darkness. Wondering why I continue to go around the sun one more year, each year.

It has been 5 years this April of being discharged from when I checked myself in the first time. 5 years of living the new normal that my case manager handed me the day I signed my discharge paperwork. Susan. That was her name.

You will have a new normal when you leave here, she said, almost too cheerily. I was too busy worrying the tissue in my hands to hear her explanation of the new normal. When I checked into the facility, I had been skeptical about how much help she could offer me. Now I was being discharged and I knew she had helped me go from planning to drown myself to making the decision to quit the unpredictable scenarios residence life job that had landed me there.  You will have a new normal. In order to stay in recovery, you will need to do things differently. I had packed up my car earlier that morning with all the things I had slowly filled my dorm room with over the 6 weeks that I had been a patient there. Your new normal means that you will need to be vigilant about tracking your moods and triggers and reducing your stress and anxiety as much as possible. Put all the tools we have given you to use. You seem to be doing well on this new regimen and I believe you will do well in recovery. That word irked me. There was no recovering as far as I saw it. A chronic illness had no recovery. Only death could remove me from the vicious cycle. I smiled weakly at her and tried to shake off the thought. I signed the release papers and she stood up to hug me. I lost it then. Thankfully my now ex was impatient to head home so knowing any extra tardiness on my part wouldn’t bode well, I hugged Susan tightly, swiped my tears, and spun around to walk to the car.

5 years! 5 years of surviving this trying-to-stay-alive gig. 5 years of starts and stops in 4 cities. My new normal over the last five years since hospitalization doesn’t really resemble the recovery they preached. In order to settle into so-called recovery, I first gave up a job I loved in res life, then moved in with my now ex so I could have a support system. Essentially, someone to keep an eye on me in case the demons struck again and succeeded this time. I looked for and acquired a new job (one with stability) which sucked the very life from me. None of the variety that had kept me in res life for so long. When I finally made the jump to starting my own business, I felt I was living again but the bout with depression that year was the worst since I’d been diagnosed in 2007. Several disappointments and an injury later I took a job doing something similar to what had sucked the life out of me before I started the business. In the five years I’ve lived in 4 cities, which means four moves. I’m 9 months into this most recent move and although I absolutely love my job, I’m feeling antsy again. Sometimes I wonder if it’s the lows or the highs that are to blame for the constant moves. I know I take myself with me wherever I go so I don’t move to escape the darkness. This time though I have found love that is rooting/rooted and it is challenging me to build something more solid. She is stable. I have a perfect combination of love and work I love and a sizable city with access to almost anything I want and a small business on the side. I ask the demons where they’d like to go this time and why do we gotta leave again so soon? No answers. Just chaos, raucous laughter and sleepless nights. Lots of back to back calls to stave off the darkness until it’s not possible to call anyone except the hotline. Five times around the sun. Is this what recovery looks like? I ask you: why would anyone keep signing up for this?

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