Content Warning: Depression, Suicidal Thoughts and Self Harm
It all gets to be too much sometimes.
Like everyone else, I’ve been living in the cloud of covid. I haven’t been sleeping well, my temper is closer to the surface than ever before, and I haven’t felt like myself for a long time. A lot of that has to do with having to take Mavenclad. It’s odd to think that there is a drug in my system that is slowly eating away at my immune system.
I’ve been so focused on just getting through each day, but that’s been difficult. I’ve been using my ever-present positivity to mask my real emotions. I figured that if I just kept going, if I just pushed through, that it would be okay. This was the wrong way to go about things. With the clarity that hindsight brings, I can see that now.
My body is still trying to heal itself from the onslaught of medication that is normally used to treat leukemia. I told myself that writing all the time, painting all the time, creating non-stop was part of my therapy. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. However, there came a time about two weeks ago where the well of words that is inside of me went silent.
This was a new thing for me and it was frightening. Normally, there are thousands of words in my head, hundreds of characters waiting to have their say and tell their story. Now, when I looked inside of myself, there was nothing; there was no constant chatter, no worlds waiting to be explored. I should have been fine with that. In the past two years, I’ve written three novels and two novellas, tons of short stories and a multitude of poems. I should have been okay with the calm of the silence, but I wasn’t, no matter what I tried to tell myself.
Without the words to distract me, the sadness came. My husband and I have been trying to figure out what to do with regard to the holidays. I currently have no immune system so the likelihood of us going anywhere for the holidays or seeing family wasn’t very good. I kept trying to rationalize the thought of going out, told myself that my friends and family were being safe, that they were all right for us to be around, but I knew that this wasn’t the case.
I had taken the onus upon myself. I felt horrible about the fact that we were going to miss Christmas with our families and friends because of me. I know now that none of this was my fault, that I didn’t cause the multiple sclerosis I live with, that we were taking these precautions to keep me safe, but the more and more I tried to tell myself it would be okay, the more and more I sunk deeper into the dark forest because I knew what had to happen and what we had to do. I blamed myself for this, for denying my husband the chance to see his family. In my mind, all of this was fault. The trees from the forest sprung up around me without me having any real idea that they were there in the first place. The dark forest has become such a familiar part of my life that it almost felt comfortable, being within the leaves.
I began to have dark thoughts, some that I haven’t had in a long time. They would creep into my head when I wasn’t expecting them or when I was tired or exhausted from lack of sleep and body and brain fatigue from the MS and the Mavenclad. I thought that if I was no longer in the picture, that if I took my life, that my husband could have the Christmas that he deserved, that he could see his family. I just felt that I was causing too much trouble, that all of these changes that we were making for my safety were taking away too much from us and that it would be easier if I was no longer here.
I thought it would be better without me. I don’t think I would actually have done anything, but the fact that I was even having those kinds of thoughts in the first place should have been a warning sign for me. That way of thinking, those thoughts that would find their way into my mind, should have alerted me to the fact that I should just enjoy the silence, take a break and rest. I’ve never been very good at rest.
What with all of this in my head, it’s no wonder that I lost my temper. It happened in the simplest of ways like it normally does, over something simple. I can take the bigger life moments in stride. Money problems, losing someone, job issues, I can take those in stride. I tend to lose my temper over the little things, the times or circumstances that I can’t control. This time it happened when I was watering my plants.
My plants are my babies and part of my therapy. Taking care of them and seeing them grow because of the care I give them is a joy to me. Last week, I was trying to water my plants and wasn’t paying attention to the fatigue and the brain fog. I was trying to reach for Draco, my cactus that was given to me at my divorce party from my ex-husband. He’s up high on a shelf to keep him away from our cat Anakin. I should have listened to my body; I know that now. If I had, the rest of it might not have happened.
I had difficulty reaching for Draco but got him down and gave him some water. It was when I was trying to put him back that I had issue. I should have left him where he was, asked my husband to help me when he got home, but this was something I had done without thinking. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do if I could do this one thing. I got him up on the shelf but when I tried to put him back, my hand must have hooked on the plate his pot sat upon and Draco came flying off the shelf. The pot shattered on my head and Draco landed on my desk.
I became so angry. All of the anger that I had been ignoring, all of the frustration that I had been pushing down, all of the anger over the Mavenclad, the lack of information from my doctor and neurologist, the Christmas we couldn’t have, the lack of words and the silence from the well of words within me, all of this anger blew to the surface. It exploded and the only thing I could think of doing was to hurt myself, to feel something, some kind of pain. I was lost so deeply within the forest at that point and could see nothing but the burning fire of my rage.
I began to hit myself with my fists on both of my sides. I hit myself on the head and hit my sides again. I was so lost at that moment, so deep within the dark that the only way that I could feel anything was through pain. I cried out, letting out these sounds that I’ve never heard myself make before. They spoke of a deep sadness, a rage that I had been holding on to. It was sound without words and I don’t ever want to hear that sound again. Again and again I hit myself, as if to punish myself for everything that had happened. I still felt that I was to blame in some way, that I deserved what I was doing to myself.
It was only when our cat Anakin came up to me and meowed at me, rubbed his body against my legs and purred at me, begged to be picked up that I stopped. I bent down and picked Anakin up and held him close to me. He rubbed his muzzle against my jaw, licked my cheek and let me hold him, purring the entire time.
I put him down again and began cleaning up the pottery that had shattered. I gathered up Draco and apologised to him over and over and I apologized to Anakin for frightening him. I got a new pot for Draco and replanted him, hoping he would be okay. I swept up the pottery shards that I had missed, took out the vacuum and started cleaning. As I cleaned, I tried to let my mind go blank so that I could not think about anything but putting things right. With every bit of pottery that I picked up, with every bit of soil that I swept up, it was like I was picking up a part of myself that had fallen away.
After I finished cleaning and putting Draco on a new and lower shelf, I took stock of myself. The bruises had formed right away on both of my sides. The one on the left was huge and black with a blue centre and a white line that ran around that blueness. To me, it looked like water over the nights sky. The bruises on my right were smaller, but no less black. There was blood on my face from where the pottery had cut myself and where my wedding ring had cut into my skin. I cleaned up the blood and rubbed lavender oil into my bruises.
When my husband came home, I told him what had happened, and he just held me. I beat myself up for a little bit, but not for long. For some reason, there was a bit of clarity and a light that came through the leaves at that point. Normally after losing my temper like that, I would berate myself for days but for some reason I saw no point in that now. It happened, it was done and there was nothing I could do now. I couldn’t take it back. I could only move forwards and take things one day at a time. This was part of my journey and part of my story. There was no point in making myself feel horrible about what had happened.
Each day after my incident has been easier, thankfully. It’s like that burst of anger has helped me to shed a few things that I no longer needed, and I had been holding onto. I don’t know if this will happen again, but at the very least I will be more prepared for it if the anger comes again.
I spoke to my therapist the other day about all of this, and it was the first time that I had talked about the self harm to someone else other than my husband. She asked me how I felt talking to her about it and to my surprise I didn’t feel ashamed of it. My anger and my temper are part of me and I haven’t lost my temper like that in so long when it used to be every day. I told her about how it felt right now that I was trying to find my way through the forest and every obstacle, every rock or log or boulder, all while focusing on the light that was trying to shine through the leaves of the trees around me. A little bit of light despite the darkness that I found myself in. My therapist said that it sounded like I had a bit of clarity and a lot of growth. When I asked her what she meant by growth, she said that every other time I had described the dark forest, there had been no light. Now there was.
I have no idea what the future will bring but there are a few things I know for certain. The multiple sclerosis and my cerebral palsy aren’t my fault, that everything is being done to make sure that I remain healthy and that I have so many people around me that love me and only want to make sure I’m safe. There is love all around me and I’m surprised to even feel some self-love towards myself. I am not the one causing the disappointment, but the situation is certainly disappointing. There is so much that I have in my life to be thankful for.
Love can move any mountain, even the ones that we put in front of ourselves. Every day is a gift, no matter what it brings.