After Wonderland

by Kat

“I’m free,” I thought to myself. After 10 days of fewer choices and disempowerment, I am returning to the regular world of normal people with fewer visible mental health problems and mental illnesses.

But I don’t feel free. I feel lost and without power. I exchanged one set of problems for another. I want to tell the uncaring folks — the too busy and too tired to care more than they are legally bound to do so — to go fuck themselves!

Anger is so much easier than sadness. Because sadness is what sent me there. I hurt until I am numb. Find my tears again in the safety of another mother’s phone call. Not changing, just listening.

I met so many women like me — there are only so many reasons why our brains give up on living and take us down with them: anxiety, depression, trauma. But did anyone tell you how brave you are? For living, for signing your fate away to a locked ward. For losing your safety and yourself to try to stay alive.

To submit yourself to an uncaring system, to learn to live with pain, to find a community of women in pain, struggling through just like you. You are brave merely for trying. For giving up your freedom to find it again. You are finding your own answers, asking what do the labels mean. Do they matter? Do I matter?

What if we are talking ourselves into nothing? I can no longer listen to bullshit words that hide the truths we are too afraid to witness. What if we are broken and that’s okay? What if we are a days missed pills away from another breakdown? I saw another patient on the bus — more lucid, more herself — her pain, her struggle, was louder than mine.

My anxiety, my depression — the pills I take to prevent an attempted murder by brain. I am so much closer to the edge than I like to realize. I am learning to trust doctors again — to insist on my words mattering, that my quiet voice and unspoken fears be heard. That my trying (sometimes failing) is brave enough.

Perhaps bravery is persistence. Another crying phone call. Sitting with the numbness — emotional bubble wrap. Being brave is accepting that existence is exhausting enough. Bravery is saying aloud, I don’t trust you, as I sit across from my psychiatrist and her sitting there listening, believing me. Being with, acknowledging and understanding, not explaining away the hurt.

My therapist thanked me when I explained how little I trusted professionals like her. She kept room for hope, while understanding my sadness. I wept and cursed; she listened. Holding space. Instilling hope. These are clinical skills. But this is also being human.

I left today’s session with unexpected hope. I described a fire that burned away my trust. But seedlings keep finding their way to the surface. Perhaps we will nurture this fragile hope — with water and time — patience and soil — compassion and sunlight — ¬†together.