Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.
For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.
The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”
The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.
It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.
Whoever finds this post and is struggling: It really DOES get better. I promise.
I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life. I wish this message had found her. Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is. Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.
I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself. I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.
Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel. I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too. I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter. I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.
I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever. For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light. I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it. I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it. And I see now how my experience can benefit others.
That’s everything this blog is about.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die. My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life. I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did. But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within. It was a glimpse. It was a glimpse at what could be. And for me, what now is.
I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this. There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this. I don’t even know your names. I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.
If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.
I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly. I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision. But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it. The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others. To those you loved most. No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life. Through sharing your struggles with others. Through finding your joy.
None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.
It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there. But you WILL get there. It may feel like more than you can bear. But you CAN bear it. You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.
It really DOES get better. I promise.
IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
“Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.” ~Friedrich Schiller
I heard a song recently that brought up a lot of new emotions for me. Some of you may remember it “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C. Don’t judge. I don’t know why I download this crap, but I do. It started playing, and at first I wanted to turn it to the next song, but I didn’t. As I listened, it wasn’t far into the song that I burst into tears. I don’t know, blame it on hormones. It is a pretty awful song, but as I listened to it, it suddenly hit me how old the song was, and how old I am. I started thinking about how life was when I was in high school, and how it felt like every single day was going to last forever. Days go by so quickly now, that years are over before a blink or a breath have the opportunity to complete themselves.
“The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked.” ~Tillie Olsen
I have been struggling a lot lately with this, as I do twelve step work. I suddenly feel like all the time I spent “living it up” was time wasted. All the years that actually last for a minute, are gone, and I barely remember them. Now time flies so quickly that I see people around me getting married, having kids, having second and third kids, doctorates being earned, marriages ending in divorce, and/or lives ending, period; and I’m left with my head spinning, still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.
There’s this sinking feeling in my gut, like everyone who was ahead of me by a small head start has now nearly completed their lives, and my proverbial clock is ticking. Not even my reproduction clock! I can’t even support myself at this point. It is my death clock. My death clock is now ticking, people. This is serious.
“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.” ~Dion Boucicault
I get that my life hasn’t been a waste. It took a lot of ups and downs to land me in the spot where I am now standing, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have the growth, perspective, and relationship with God that I now have. My relationships with everyone around me have improved. How could they not? We’re maturing.
I know myself well enough to know that this is what it took to get me here, and nothing short of it would have sufficed. I am stubborn and hard-headed and feverishly determined. It is just that this is the first time I have started to put those qualities to use toward something productive.
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Look, I matured an unnatural amount with in an incredibly short period of time. In the time between last August and now, I have learned so much, and evolved so much. I love who I am, and the opportunities I have had are such an incredible blessing that nothing I could ever do would be enough to thank God and my loved ones for the support it took to have them. I also realize what a privilege it is to have had the kind of treatment it takes to overcome the things I have struggled with. I never forgot that while I was in treatment. I was pained to see what a small portion of the population has access to that kind of healing, and I had to keep pushing forward because I knew if I wanted to be a part of any positive change in this world, I had to start with a positive change in me. It took a lot to accept such a huge gift.
So now, in the interest of candor, I will tell you what I face.
As soon as Vitmain C’s song ended, Eminem came on. “Lose Yourself.” I know this was a God wink. 😉
It is like God was saying: you used to have your whole life ahead of you, but time has passed, and before you even know it, your whole life will be behind you. Time to jump in with both feet. This is not the time to hold back or freeze up.
I gave you this life, LIVE IT! This is your chance, USE IT!
“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.” ~Roger Babson
(Finding a Balance Between Jesus Christ and King of the Hill)
I was initially hesitant to post too soon after my last entry, but after really evaluating, I decided to try to catch my audience before they disperse.
I’m not even sure where to begin. My last two posts were about people we lost too soon to tragic circumstances, though my perspective in each instant contrasted starkly. One was written 5 days before my most recent suicide attempt. The last post was written a month and a half after that attempt. My thoughts seem transparently similar, but there’s a mystery smeared between those two posts, like something spilled on the few pages of a book that contain the climax. The pages are stuck together, and everything between “before” and “after” is almost inconsequential; or at least, that’s how it seems.
Let me plead that this is not so. I realize the posts are eerily similar, both addressing people I only knew at a distance, after their lives were lost in tragic circumstances. Both even pose my conflict about why some lost the battle, and others like myself, have a chance at survival.
It seems as though, since my post about Amy Winehouse, her parents have suggested that she lost her life from complications attributed to alcohol withdrawal. In my opinion, these circumstances make the story that much more tragic. She was making an effort, but the addiction consumed her in the end. I was almost astonished at how long it took most media outlets to come out with these details. When I got out of the hospital, I googled the story and found this explanation, and yet it was 2 or 3 weeks later before the media spoke about it.
Friday, my sister and I discussed the multi-faceted nature of mental illness, and the mystery that is our brains. We talked for a moment about how various mental issues seem to have similar characteristics. Though it may stir controversy, I’ll give an example. My dad recently saw the HBO film “Temple Grandin” about a woman born in 1947 with autism. It was very enlightening. I didn’t realize that autism was even acknowledged back then, but it also irked me to realize how much more misunderstood it was. I thought it was bad now, but it was far more misunderstood then. The doctor’s initially blamed Temple’s mother for her condition, but she refused to accept the accusation. With diligent attention from her mother and aunt, Temple excelled in life, and even more so in academics.
My dad was moved by the film, and sent a copy to my sister and myself. As I watched it, I identified things about Temple that I related to myself, and that I had observed in others. For instance, as is an issue with autism, Temple was overwhelmed and anxious in situations that offered an excess of audio, visual, and tactile stimulation. I completely understand this. I was recently started on a medication for ADHD because I had been withdrawing, and increasingly irritable in social situations for the very same reason. I ended my day on Saturday with a grocery store panic attack due to this issue. So many people, noises, products, and the agitation of my shirt shifting, and my purse strap rubbing against my neck.
Similarly, one of my former boyfriends was diagnosed with schizophrenia toward the end of our relationship. The illness didn’t present itself blatantly as hallucinations and paranoia, like most assume. It started progressing in his speech, which was disorganized, and indirect. It got the point where I just couldn’t understand him. Also, he started to become hyperaware of details. If in a room full of people, he would notice the way a dust bunny in the corner of the room was dancing atop the hardwood floor. When sitting with his mom in a diner one day, he started talking about a rabbit, as if his mom should know exactly what he was referring to. It wasn’t until she turned around and saw the painting of a farm with a rabbit in it, that she understood the origin of his thoughts. Temple was similarly observant, noticing and understanding things that no one else really had the awareness to note, or the ability to care about.
The brain certainly is a mysterious thing. Being as such, I am often frightened by what the brain can do.
Alzheimer’s is another example. It has been arising in the news more and more. I told my sister that I couldn’t cope with losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s, because it would be so similar to how I lost my ex to schizophrenia. I cannot stand the feeling of having lost someone who is still physically right in front of you. I do realize that they are making many great strides with Alzheimer’s… I just wish they’d do the same with mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
There is so much we have yet to understand about our brains. The brain is simply powerful, and being as such, it can either serve as a powerful motivator or a powerful hinderance.
When I look at my post on July 25th and compare it to my post from September 16th, it would seem as though the same person wrote it. And yes, in literal terms the same body sat at the same computer to bang her fingertips against the keys and make words. Perhaps even the same brain was behind what was thought and said. I suppose you could determine though, that the difference was completely spiritual.
I had gone down to Asheville with my parents for my cousin’s wedding. As I mentioned earlier, social situations are not my forté, though I manage surprisingly well most of the time. July 29th was not one of those days. I went to the rehearsal dinner at a local restaurant, greeting old friends and family members whom I have not seen in a while. The room was hot and crowded, and I had already been stuck in a car for 4 hours with my parents, which is quite a feat. The drinks that night were incredible! Freshly squeezed mojitos, margaritas, and sangria with fruit. I’m not sure how many I had, but I remember the food being equally as satisfying. There was so much commotion, that I don’t recall much else besides that and the heat. After eating, and feeling like was about to die through the sentimental slide show, I grabbed the car keys and split. I went to the car and sat with the air conditioning full blast until my parents left and we headed back to the hotel.
The next evening was my cousin’s wedding. We had been warned about the heat and mosquitos, so I had already decided that I couldn’t do it after my anxiety the night before. The situation seemed pretty simple to me, sometimes, social situations can just be too much. My sister gave me positive feedback for my boundary-setting, and the rest of the day is a blur. The only thing I remember from that day is getting car sick while my dad explored the wealthy neighborhoods of the city. Besides that, I recall that my dad took me out to a Mexican restaurant after they returned from the wedding.
I’m uncertain as to why everything else is a blur, but I remained in that state until Tuesday morning, when I woke up completely back to normal in a women’s psych unit.
Apparently, in the wee hours of July 31st I decided to end my life. I say apparently, because that’s how it appears. I do recall being somewhat melancholy, mainly about my future with regards to relationships and my chances of survival with mental illness. Other than that, it really wasn’t much out of the ordinary. A friend of mine was alarmed by what I had said to my ex, and my sister reflected that she should’ve been alarmed by the things I said to her. When I had a chance, I glanced back at those conversations, and if I had been them, I wouldn’t have been alarmed initially either. I’m typically a dark person, with an even darker sense of humor. Despite my recently blossoming spirituality, I have a significant past of depression and suicidal tendencies. It would appear to be a thin line with me.
The truth is, though, that I haven’t felt that way since March. I made a significant spiritual commitment to God in March, and dangerous depression hadn’t really been an issue since. I’m uncertain as to why, 4 months later, I would decide to end my life without much of a warning. In the past, the spiral downward for me has been lengthy and gradual. This was sudden.
My only medical explanation is that I had started a mood stabilizer a week and a half prior. Many psychiatric medications can have unintended counter-effects; so that is a possibility. I had taken the medication in the past, but only in the context of a complete medication cocktail. I had not been on any psychiatric medications since March.
As for spiritual explanations, I have a few. I’m not sure this is the time or the place to delve into that. If anyone has questions, I’ll be willing to answer them, and I’ll probably stick with basics for now.
So that Sunday around 3 am, without explanation, I overdosed on 100 dramamine and 40 ativan. My dad and several police officers found me the next morning. Everything until Tuesday morning is a blur, and most of what I know now is what has been told to me by people who were with me. I was taken to the ER in an ambulance, and stayed there until midday on Monday, August 1st, when I was transported via ambulance to another local hospital to be admitted into their psychiatric unit.
When I woke on Tuesday morning, and as the day wore on, I started to realize everything that I had been through. What started to really dawn on me, was the miracle of my survival. I spent the week that followed, bonding with women in similar situations and in prayer. I also spent a good amount of time reading the bible, and was diligent about attending morning devotions. It was unusual to be in the unit at that time, because when I woke up, I went back to being my “normal” self and otherwise basically “sane.” I recognized within a few days that I was good to go home, but it doesn’t really work like that in psych units. I was patient, and participated a lot. At one point, I started to feel so desperate to get out and do stuff, that I thought being there might make me crazier. This is a big contrast to the times I’ve gone in before. My previous experiences in such a setting left me fearful of returning to life, uncertain if I could handle life’s curveballs after being in such a controlled environment for a week or two. As eager as I was to get back to life, I made an effort to utilize and appreciate my time there. I developed friendships with some really incredible women, and learned some new things about myself.
Spiritually speaking, I will contribute this: prior to this experience, I made a commitment to God, but after doing so, carried on with life as usual. I suppose I expected things to unfold like I’ve heard people promise… “make that commitment, and all the baggage you’ve been carrying will dissolve.” I basically spent about a month and a half on my couch, watching “King of the Hill,” and waiting for my issues to go away.
It didn’t quite work like that.
I had gone to 6 am prayer at my church a few times in the 2 weeks before my suicide attempt, and spent the time praying, but also in meditation, focusing on developing my bond with God. I focused closely on the prayer that the people around me wouldn’t become distractions in my relationship with God.
See… basically, I’m a bit different from the majority at my church. I think outside of the box, and I’m far more liberal than most. No… like FARRRRR more liberal. As for politics, though, I really don’t see how that should affect spirituality and vice versa. My problem was that, I was capable of putting myself in that setting and being open enough to listen to what had to be said about God, but in casual conversation, I allowed minor opinions to affect how I felt about everything that I had grown to love. I also felt like I was often overlooked and invalidated because I am so liberal. The gist of it is: I could open my mind enough to go there, and they could open their minds enough to welcome me, but it stopped there. If they couldn’t otherwise accept my views, then that wasn’t really my problem, and it was just another opportunity for people to get between my relationship with God. I started to feel like the people around me wanted me to change my ways of thinking to look more like theirs. That’s when I bailed, and turn to “King of the Hill.”
I think a lot of people have that sort of reaction. Most of the people I know who cringe at the thought of “Christians,” do so because of people they’ve encountered who use their faith as a weapon of judgment and condemnation. I don’t blame them. Until recently, that had been my main experience of Christians too. I realize now that my experience of “Christians” really has nothing to do with my experience of God, and how I feel about Christ. Nope, those were two TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS.
My experience of survival after my suicide attempt, however, made me realize that my relationship with God was far more important than any judgment I had previously faced from people who claim Him, as well as any judgment I had previously put upon people who claim Him.
I realized a lot, actually. In the days after my literal reawakening, I had an increasing spiritual reawakening.
I had always heard the quotation that said “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) I came to understand that giving up on people because of the ways they judged me was hypocritical. If I expected them to not give up on me, I had to offer the same. My experience was sort of like God whispering in my ear to add, “people aren’t the point of spirituality anyway.” I do appreciate fellowship, but I also realize that I’m never going to fit into the mold of what people associate with followers of Christ. That’s fine by me. I had previously grasped onto all my bad habits, addictions, and toxic patterns because I assumed they held my identity. I didn’t want to lose my empathy, my creativity, and my quirkiness for the sake of dropping the negative. My experience made me realize that wasn’t an issue anyway. I realized that my past wasn’t haunting me anymore, and yet, I was still unique. I was focused and unmoved by things that used to break me, but just as determined to be an advocate for people with mental health issues and survivors of sexual violence.
I could pretend like it was “just” a suicide attempt, and nothing more, but it was more for me. When I got out of the hospital, I was surprised by people from my past who reached out to me for support. I also had a new outlook on life, and new thoughts on spirituality and mental health.
I used to think that suicide was a conscious and calculated decision. In my past experience, that was the case, but this was different. For whatever reason, I was in an altered state that went beyond not thinking rationally and became more dissociated. I realized that there are times in people’s lives when they will be in that state and take that drastic action without ever having made any decision at all, and without having much, if any, control over their actions.
For this very reason, I realized that I’m only in control of so much. I can take my meds, stay on schedule, respect my boundaries, and still fall short of taking care of what I need to survive. That’s when I realized that God is far more necessary than I had ever admitted. It is also when I realized that people are too insignificant for me to accept them as obstacles between God and myself. And on top of everything, I finally let go of the baggage I had lugged around for so long, because I knew that there are things that I can’t explain, things that are far bigger than myself. I had enough of a glimpse at the bigger picture to understand the purpose of my suffering for personal growth, and yet, the insignificance of it on a universal scale.
I would lie, and tell you that everything has been hunky dory since, if I thought compromising my integrity could serve some greater purpose. It won’t. It has been a struggle. I have faced speed bumps in my day-to-day life. I have argued with fellow church members. I’ve gotten in fights with my parents, and had moments when I felt helpless.
I see those moments as fleeting more than I ever have before, though.
I used to think that upheaval was a constant state of being. I used to feel resigned to my plight. These days, I’m more of a fighter. When conflict or turmoil arise, I reach out. I talk to loved ones and I pray constantly. When I’m being completely honest with myself, I see the obstacles as insignificant, and I’m overwhelmed by gratitude. When the past starts to creep back in to haunt me, I simply acknowledge that allowing it to haunt me will serve no greater purpose in this world, especially if I aspire to help those who have been through the struggles that I have been through.
I’m nowhere near perfect, which is fine. If we were perfect, humility would be difficult. I tried to keep that in mind when I felt the twinge of humiliation when reflecting upon being found naked in a hotel room, incoherent and surrounded by vomit. We all have our moments, and none of them look the same. It isn’t important to dwell, but it is important to acknowledge what we’ve faced and allow it to be an opportunity for learning and growth.
I feel more capable than ever. I don’t feel limited by my circumstances, because I realize that all things really are possible now. I’ve started pursuing new paths that I’ve known were in my future, but have consistently put off due to a nagging fear of failure.
Are there days when I’m fearful? Not really… but moments? Yes. I do sometimes fear that my past will creep up, like a gaining wave, and overpower me. Do I let that cripple me? No. Well, yes, but not for long. I’m human. I make mistakes and bad judgments, but I’m learning, not only about life, but about what I am capable of as a new person. I’m learning about myself in a spiritual context, and considering more and more who I am to God and who God is to me.
It is an odd thing to carry the possibility of hindrance in your brain, while everything else you feel is completely new. I suppose, in the end, it all comes down to being motivated by your newness, and always keeping your brain in check.
In closing, I want to share some important scripture with you. I focused on Psalm 91:11 while in the hospital, for the sake of reminding myself that God is watching over me. The only translation I had in the hospital was the King James Version, which isn’t my favorite. When I got out, I read each translation of it, and I settled on The Message’s version of the passage. It is awesome, and motivating. Whenever I have doubts, these words help me feel safe.
Psalm 91:1-14 (The Message)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence…
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon…
no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance…
Yes, because God is your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes
p.s. I also want to add that my month and a half with the Hill family of Arlen, Texas wasn’t completely useless. I did learn this:
Lucky: You took the wrong message from what that preacher was screaming at you. You can’t go throwing stones at others until you’ve thrown a bunch of stones at yourself.
Bobby Hill: I guess you’re right.
Lucky: Besides, saving souls is not your job. That position is taken, in Heaven by the Big Man, and on screen by Morgan Freeman.
I recently watched seasons 1-5 of “Weeds” on Netflix streaming. SPOILER ALERT: When U-Turn dies and Nancy gets a U-Turn sign tattooed on her ass, I was inspired. I actually considered doing the same. It just seemed like a funny message, and a clever/convenient double entendre. Similarly, I’ve always been moved and energized by the (now classic) “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake. You know… Here I go again on my own! Going down the only road I’ve ever known! Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone… You get the point, there’s a lot to be said for travel euphemisms? I don’t know. I figured I should start my first post in a while with something nonchalant and silly. But the truth is, I’m writing tonight because of a realization I had today. I figured, at this point, if I have an audience, I don’t know who they are, and I’m a lot less concerned about that. I don’t have an agenda, besides telling my story. For a moment there, I got so caught up in delivering a hopeful message, and doing it a certain way, that I lost myself, and stopped writing.
This morning, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead. The rumor is that an overdose is what finally did her in, at the ripe ol’ age of 27. It startled me for a second when I realized she was 27, and then saw her birth year. I’m 27. I too, was born in 1983. We all know the rock star references that are made here… Jimi, Janis, Jim, Kurt, etc. I’m no rock star, but I’ve been calling myself one for about a year now. I grew a little worried after proclaiming such a title and then realizing my age. My blog before this one was called “Musings of a Self-Proclaimed Rock Star.” It was amusing, but also cathartic, and often raw. I’ve decided to make it public again and you can find it. Even since closing the blog, I’ve been tweeting under the name @RockStarMusisings. Yes, I’m coming out. I’ve come to realize you either hide nothing, or you hide it all. Hiding shit is far too much work, and I’m far too lazy to work that hard to keep other people comfortable.
Amy’s death jolted me into this moment in a way nothing else has. I read the parts of Russell Brand’s blog post on her, that were shared on msnbc.com, and I realized that Winehouse and I have a lot in common. As for addictions, mine have come and gone, and the only one that has ever REALLY threatened my life, is food. Mainly because cocaine is expensive; alcohol can be miserable; and sex become tedious. Man! Whew! I had forgotten how refreshing honesty can be.
All that aside, I felt like Brand was really making an appeal to non-addicts to realize that addiction is a serious illness that kills people, and otherwise saying little about Winehouse besides the fact that she was distant, and a genius that we only saw at a glimpse. Now, I know you’re wondering where I am in that description, but I’ll elaborate. I don’t think I am a genius, but even now, it breaks my heart to realize that I, much like Winehouse, have held the world at such a distance that if I died, the world wouldn’t realize what it had lost. I agree with Brand. I think Amy Winehouse was incredible, and the media reveled in her slow demise, and mostly missed the light that she brought to the world. And this is our world. It is shitty. But what hurts me about what we have lost with the death of Amy Winehouse, is that we have no idea. That sultry voice, that deeply rich, dark soul. She had such a wealth within her, and we will never get to know it. We can joke all we want. When I first heard of her death, I blah blah blahed about who was next, Lindsay or Charlie. But Amy wasn’t just another troubled soul, and musical genius aside, she was a human being.
I’ve heard through social networking that Amy’s mom commented about making mental preparations for this day, knowing it would (or thinking it might) come. This takes me back to the days after my suicide attempt, when my mother was staying with me. During a heated argument one day, she admitted that it is hard to move forward, and stay involved, because on some level she knew I would do it again, and I might just be successful next time. She voiced to me that her distance was an attempt to keep herself safe, and to cope with that remaining chance that I won’t survive. As inexcusable as that may be to many of you out there, who have no idea, I understand it. Amy probably understood that. As much as she probably wanted to be sober, and not let herself and her loved ones down over and over again, she probably understood their distance. She probably knew that they had to keep themselves safe.
Tonight I was reflecting on addiction and I realized that it is a thin line between giving up on, sticking by, and enabling an addict. You have to love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries. You have to draw a line, but you have to let them know that you always want what’s best. I know that a lot of times, to an addict it looks like loved ones are walking away, when in reality, they’re doing all that they can to save the addict’s life, and maintain their own sanity/safety.
I was truly blessed to have dodged hard addictions, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of my room, next to a stain on my wall. The stain is from my last suicide attempt, and the vomit left behind. My walls are a pale purple, but around the stain, you can see an aura of pale blue, where friends came and tried to wipe away the evidence before I got out of the hospital.
I get that Amy Winehouse was one of those whose death was “bound to happen,” out of all of us… I get that. But I also agree with Russell Brand: She didn’t have to be. I know there is a misunderstanding about artists. Most people think that your best work is done while you’re in the pits of despair, but one can only survive down there so long. I get that you can’t enable, but I wonder who was fighting for her. From where I’m sitting, there were jokes about her condition, just as there continue to be, but little else. Of course, I don’t know about her personal life, but usually the people who are consistently surrounding an addict, are also addicts. Generally speaking, addicts, when battling head-to-head with their condition, have one priority, the drug. All others are simply extras in the movie reel of their lives, just background music. Life isn’t lived as a series of moments, goals, accomplishments… life is composed of getting high, and the plans that you devise between highs to achieve the next high. Funny how something so simple can completely consume you.
So, I’m not a musical genius. So, I’m not in the public eye. So, I’m not wealthy or producing records that are going platinum, or performing in front of thousands. So, I’m not hooked on heroin. So, I’m not caught by the paparazzi, wandering the streets at night, disheveled and distraught. Do I need to be? Frankly, I feel that this world knows more of me than it did of her, despite her fame and notoriety. She was a ghost to us, and now the presence that we felt subtly, though oft ignored, is gone. Will we realize the void, no matter how quiet, that remains in her absence? Perhaps, not. But this little earthquake that has left me thinking, and sometimes speaking out loud, to myself and those around me, “I can’t believe Amy Winehouse is dead,” perhaps there is something to be said for that. I believe it is possible for our souls to ache for something that we don’t even realize that we’ve lost. When someone accomplishes so far below their potential, we all lose something very great, especially in the way of art, which can inspire us so deeply and undoubtedly change the world.
I am 27. For so long, but especially so over the past few months, I have held the world at a distance. I am uncertain of why. I suppose it is mostly out of fear. There is always the fear of what people will think, and fear of failure. As a survivor of sexual violence, there is also a fear of being revicitimized. We fear trying, but not reaching our potential. And to the contrary, there is a fear of reaching your potential and being disappointed. I’ve feared losing people, only to push them away in the end anyway. There is a fear of living, and all that “living” entails. The rush of love, and the pain of loss; two things that, as hard as we try to force them apart, are always packaged together. And there is a lot of pain, and certainly plenty of loss to be experienced out there. People leave because they want to, or leave because time rips them away from us. There are stubbed toes, broken bones, burns, cuts, and bruises. There’s rejection, and dismay. There’s fear. Oh! The crippling fear. It all comes full circle.
I realize now that there are people out there, who are so gifted, constantly stuffing down their potential, for whatever reason. I imagine Amy had something inside of her that haunted her. It could’ve been huge, or just a twinge of pain that she couldn’t stand to feel. She wanted to shut it up, numb it out, or kill it. And eventually she succeeded, but for that, what did she lose? And on a universal level, what have we lost? Another little bit of hope that could’ve inspired the next step in improving this damned world? Perhaps it was her voice on a tattered CD out there, that was playing on repeat for the kid who would grow up to do something great for this world, simply because her voice kept her/him going. What voice will that kid hear now? Or maybe Winehouse’s voice was the last of its kind, an endangered soulful echo that has now become extinct; and because of our blatant lack of appreciation, the voices of generations to come will resemble that of Ke$ha or Rebecca Black. Dear God, the horror.
I understand that there are parts of my spirit that ache, but I’m willing to withstand it for the sake of something good. If I have anything to offer, no matter how great or small, I do not feel it is my right to destroy any remnants of hope this world may have. For all the fear, for all the pain, I have to believe that there is purpose.
Do I believe that there’s a reason that I (or any other troubled talents out there) am alive and she isn’t? Well, besides the fact that heroin is like playing russian roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun, no. Eating yourself to death takes more time. I attribute my failure to stick with addictions to a short attention span, an empty wallet, the fact that I’m easily bored, and a fear of commitment. In the grand scheme of things though, she and I have both toyed with our mortality, and any way you look at it, the game can only end one way. When the game is over, one fact becomes blazingly obvious, there was a human being who is now gone. On top of that, she was a human being who held a wealth of talent, the depth of which we can never know. I think that’s what frightens me the most. If I have more to offer, as I believe I do, it is scary to think that being entangled in fear and doubt could stifle that gift. I too, could die without having shared of myself, or utilized my opportunity to contribute goodness to this desperate world.
We all have the potential to offer beauty to this world; in the end the big question is whether we will fight it or let it flourish. I’d like to think that this realization is a bit of something good coming from tragedy, but I suppose only time will tell. It is nice to believe that every screeching halt in one life’s potential, can cause a u-turn in another. If someone was headed towards an early end, another sudden silencing of greatness, maybe Amy can be a reminder that there are other options, and so much more to see along life’s detours.
My deepest prayer for you, Ms. Winehouse, is that somewhere out there, you’ve been blessed with a peace that you never managed to discover on earth. And if you’re down, I’m hoping that even on your cloud, you’ll still step up to the mic from time to time.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”