On World Mental Health Day 2020, in a year that has truly been like no other, I took some time to reflect. To reflect on the year that has been. To reflect on where I was at within it all. And to reflect on how our attitudes towards mental health and caring for our mental health, have and have not changed within 2020.
She sat at her dressing table removing her makeup, she was exhausted. Earlier that day some memories popped up on her Social Media of people telling her how inspiring she was and how they just wish that they could be more like her. She remembered how then she was so motivated. She had so much drive, passion and commitment to succeeding and helping other people succeed.
In my twenties I knew who I was. I was smart. I was strong. I was awesome! I had a great body, but I played tennis, swam, did yoga. People said I had the golden touch. Everything I did worked out. I had great friends. I had the best men in my life. Handsome, educated and eight pack abs. So, what happened?
It started out so innocent, we met on that popular dating site. It was a normal day for me. I came home after a long day of work and hopped online to check my messages. It was starting to look pretty boring until I came across your profile. Your profile intrigued me, you seemed to have such an easy going demeanor about you that I wanted to know more about you and this is why I took the first step and messaged you.
Ever since I can remember I’ve felt chronic dissatisfaction with ordinary. I think being average is something that I fear more than being singled out or ridiculed. Perhaps that is why instead of shedding the skin and identity I loathed so much, I submerged it in sprawling intricacies. Illustrations, depictions of the damaged soul inside. Many view it as art and just as many deem it as constructive self harm. I have come to recognize it as my evolution, just like an animal surviving in the wild. I changed my colors, distorted my appearance to mask the fact that I am vulnerable. I have many tattoos, some that cost several hundreds of dollars and quite a few hours of my life. Despite the fact the I love them with a fiery passion, they are too easy. I know because I’ve done 90% of my piercings and tattoos myself. I process pain better than most, sometimes I feel like it’s my biggest motivator. If it’s not hurting, did I do enough and did I do it right? The most extensive, grueling, painful and rewarding body modification I’ve subjected my body to is lobe stretching. Also known as ear gauging, it requires intense patience, a high pain tolerance and delicate mindfulness. It’s risky, it is almost unbearably nagging, the way it aches and burns. Because of my sensitive skin, I worried that I’d have to cut my losses. But my lobes and I have been together for almost 8 years now. They have long since healed and soon I will be due to size up. Just as one finishes a career goal to set a higher goal, my projection for my lobe size has increased exponentially over the years. I remember promising my mother I wouldn’t stretch them past the circumference of a number two pencil. As far as I know she’s forgiven me for not committing to that. I am at 1 ¼ inches, I am not done and this is the story of the artful self mutilation I am most proud of.
While ducked under a bed that had been untouched for months, I could sense his presence in the room. Trying to conceal my cry and squeezing my mouth shut only made the situation more unbearable. At the time, I believed the closest hanger could provide me protection. As I shortly came out to discover, it did not. I watched as he pranced around the room for a few moments waiting to see if I would surrender. He laid down on the floor and snatched the hanger out of my tight little grip. I overestimated the strength of a girl my age. It was a dark misty night, therefore there was no shadow I could follow on the floor of the bedroom. I instead listened as my drunk father walked around the bedframe, slightly clanking his beer bottle against the metal base as he passed. After a few seconds, a charge of adrenaline rushed through my body as I wiped my sour tears away and decided enough was enough-or so I thought. Broken beer bottles and their shards cut through my tiny toes as I crawled out from other the bed, darted towards the door, and away from my college-bound brother's bedroom.
***Names and locations have been omitted for privacy, and out of respect for the victim.***
I was so pleased to find this on my computer as I began it as a writing exercise of sorts. But it is now also a beautiful reminiscence. A look into the very beginning of my relationship until now. Little vignettes, moments in time. We are together ten years so far, and it was beautiful to see the little shapes of us in these brief moments through this writing.
Living is supposed to be enjoyed. So why can't your death be that?
I went to get the emissons tested for my car today. There were long lines, I had a million things to do, it was a standard Monday and this was just one more thing that needed to be checked off my list. I waited in line behind an older man in a red convertable, I was four cars away from it being my turn. I sat listening to some generic music playing on the radio, nothing upbeat or inspiring, just standard background noise on this cool, overcast day.