I realized one day that I avoided my own gaze when I looked into a mirror.
Even if I was fixing my hair or putting on makeup, I rarely looked myself in the eye. I’d see myself in pieces – the redness around my nose, the sun spots on my cheek, the paleness of my lips, the way my clothes fell. But I avoided my gaze, not wanting to look myself in the eye.
I’d see the monotony of my day-to-day routine, the manuscript that sat without updates for months at a time, the amount I overslept, the severe melancholy and anhedonia that often consumed me under a mask of cheerfulness that I projected.
I had lost myself – I just had all these fragments, and I didn’t how I could weld them together to be a person.
Over the last few years I had wrapped myself in a shroud of loss, despite being self-aware and actively in therapy. Sure, I had all of these coping mechanisms, and I tried to be kind to myself, but the light had largely gone out of me, and when I did rarely look myself in the eye I felt as if no one was looking back.
My difficulty in discerning my waking life from my dreams became more profound. At times, I couldn’t be sure what had happened and what had merely been a REM cycle trying to wake me back up from my own life. I was desperate to escape from reality, and equally as desperate to find my way back to it.
I had forgotten myself like a glass of soda on a hot day, left out on the counter – the ice had melted, the glass condensed, waiting to be washed and refilled with something refreshing.
But the world around me hadn’t lost me – I was still very much a part of it.
I was promoted at work. I started eating more intuitively and listening to my body. I left a relationship that had stopped working. I moved to a space that I curated as my own. I started to schedule appointments with sleep specialists, psychiatry.
I misjudged things I thought I was ready for, started to push myself a little more, and set boundaries I wasn’t willing to let anyone cross.
I woke up.
When I was 21, I had tried to kill myself. I’m 29 now, and I remember it vividly – it’s a haunting memory, but still as clear now as it was then.
I hadn’t wanted to die – I wanted to feel alive.
I’d read a phrase somewhere about waking up after an attempt – “waking up alive.” It describes the sensation of waking up after an attempt and seeing the different paths you can move forward with – all because there are still paths in front of you. Nothing was erased, and the possibilities come to the forefront.
That’s how I felt – as if I’d woken alive again, 8 years later.
Because some part of me had tried to die again, against my own volition.
It’s strange when I look back on the last few years compared to the last four months – I feel as if I’ve entered a whole world that had been out of my reach.
It’s not necessarily easy going – I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say that my life has completely changed.
But there was recognition in my eyes again, and the simple act of being doesn’t feel so veiled behind the doubts that I’d filled myself with.
It is constant work, and often exhausting. But even with that exhaustion, I can see myself more clearly. Not still a whole person, fully mended, but perhaps a silhouette.
I’m finding some joys that I’d forgotten, some confidence in myself that I’d long ago misplaced.
I’m talking about my passions again, occasionally prying open books and devouring their words. I’m remembering things about myself that I couldn’t before – not memories of the past but faint aromas of my inner self. Joys, fears, ambitions.
I’m awake again, after a long hibernation.
And though I’m bed sore, it feels so wonderful to stretch again in this new day.