I’ve been having a lot of milestones lately that indicate some pretty great progress. I spend a lot of time talking about the daily struggles, but sometimes it’s nice to look back and realize some of these incredible milestones, because they really take my breath away. These are very tangible milestones, such as it being 5 years since starting my blog, or 3 years since I was in a hospital, but there are a lot of milestones that I’ve had that I didn’t even know about. Slight shifts in my mentality or thoughts, small movements towards a healthier perspective, and new positive thoughts and experiences that I didn’t realize. Some of them were so slight that I only realized it months later, and some felt like they happened slowly and then all at once.
Healing takes time, and to see that this much time has passed since the worst of the worst, the more confident I feel. I still get scared about things getting bad, but it’s starting to feel more like a distant memory rather than a monster lurking around the corner, ready to jump out. Now, because of that, sometimes the bad days feel a lot worse, because I’m crashing down from a much higher place. It scared me at first, until I realized that it’s a good thing. In fact, it’s a huge step to be taken by surprise by a really bad day, because it means that they’ve started to become an anomaly, and not the norm. My experience with mental illness feels less like trying to sprint through a never ending haunted house, and more like a bit of a rocky boat ride, with highs and lows, but something I know I’ll get through.
There are still stormy seas, and the waters are deep and can be dangerous. I get a bit scared when they come, but I’ve weathered them before, and can remember what calm waters feel like. It’s easier for me to take a deep breath and trust that it will pass, because it’s passed countless times before. I used to exclusively experience sea sickness, but now the sea sickness subsides after a while, and I can enjoy the wind in my hair and the sun on the horizon. Sometimes the waters seem calm, and out of nowhere I’ll hit a patch of rough water that throws me off balance and makes my heart sink, but I navigate out of it with more ease than ever before. I’ve accepted that I can’t control the water, and by understanding the water conditions are never permanent, I embrace the fleeting and temporary nature of the moment. Because I’ve sailed rougher waters than most people I know, a clear day, even a clear moment feels like a gift. A gift I am beyond grateful for.
I’ve always been grateful for the second chances I’ve been given at life. I remember as soon as I realized that I was going to be okay (physically, definitely not mentally) after an attempt, I would have a rush of gratitude. That gratitude would quickly be replaced with fear and pain, and even sadness, but there was always gratitude. See, even though at that moment I didn’t want to live, I was grateful for a chance to find a reason to live. Grateful for the opportunity to fight another day (even if I was tired of fighting).
But, I wasn’t glad to be alive. I feel a pang of guilt saying that, and it might not make sense because of my above sentiments, but I really wasn’t glad. I felt like I had nothing to look forward to, and I didn’t think I could ever be happy. Part of me thought happiness was a myth that didn’t really exist for me. I was sad that I would have to keep fighting, keep going through my hardest days, and keep clinging onto non-existent hope that I could make it through.
When I was at my lowest, I didn’t understand what I was grateful for. I was just trying to find hope that someday I would understand.
I think I’m starting to understand.
I have moments now, moments that I’ve never had before, where I stop and think about how good I am in that instant, and how beautiful the world is. A few weeks ago it happened when I was out with friends, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I remember saying “I’m really happy right now” and I felt like I was a little kid. I paused and felt a rush of gratitude that I had been able to experience that. The other day it happened again – it was an ordinary moment that suddenly became so special. I had grabbed a coffee like I’ve done countless times before, and walked to the harbourfront. The sun was hitting the water perfectly, and no one else was around and I felt that rush again. For a slight moment, I forgot what it felt like to be depressed, to be anxious all the time. For a single moment, I was okay. I was happy. And I thought, if I could have one moment like that, maybe I’ll have another, and another, until there is a consecutive string. A few seconds later, reality came back and I made my way home, but the little spark of hope stayed. Hope that I wouldn’t just have to survive anymore.
Hope that I could just…live. And that feels pretty damn amazing. You might even say it makes me feel a little glad.
Surviving by Living.