Author: Erica Kristine
Living in the Clouds
So there I was. An empty pill bottle lying on the bathroom floor, a bottle of cheap wine beside me, and my body naked in the bathtub. I had never gotten this far before, and I was a little exhilarated. The beauty of life near its end was a remarkable experience, for awhile. The weaknesses of my past had faded away, the pain left in waves. I began to sink down lower into the warm water, aware of my chin hitting the ripples as though entering a new dimension. My eyes began to darken and sleepiness filled the blood in my veins. I looked around, thinking it would be my final time gazing upon the world, and then I shut my eyes.
I can remember being depressed as a young child. I was always different, misunderstood, and lonely. My father wasn’t around and my mother had remarried a man that I despised. I began to curl up inside of myself, and a distance grew between my mind and my body. Adults didn’t understand me, and children couldn’t keep up. I preferred the company of the friends inside of my head; I preferred the company of the trees in the forest I played in every day. I was destined for greatness in that castle I built in the clouds, and because of that belief, I survived the traumas of my childhood.
Then I grew older, and the magic began to fade. I was awkward and strange to the outside world. I talked to myself a lot, had emotions that were too big for my little body, and was growing suspicious that something was definitely defective about me. I was also sad. Very sad.
16 hit me like a ton of bricks, and I slipped away. There was no longer a castle up in the clouds promising my success. Instead, there was a pit in hell calling my name. I went so far down into that darkness that I am still crawling out of it today. To say that I was depressed seems too pretty … no, no, I was fucked up. Completely and utterly fucked up. I was hopeless. By this point, I was a foreign object to most everyone. Cutting, drugs, an eating disorder, and a try at running away later, I was still sad.
It wasn’t until I turned 20 that my brain went completely psycho; that this bipolar thing came out of its hiding. I was abused by two men in a six month span, and while I know that my mental illness was there beforehand, the traumas were the trigger that the crazy had been waiting for. In the course a year I almost killed someone driving drunk, became addicted to prescription pills and cocaine, went from having only slept with one person to sleeping with many, cheated on my longtime boyfriend, lost my job, had my brand new car repossessed, got tens of thousands of dollars in debt, lost my apartment, and moved across state lines with a man I had met off of the internet. It was there that I tried killing myself for the first time. Details aside, nothing came down the barrel and I lived. I went to sleep that night, not knowing whether to rejoice or to go find a bridge to jump off of the next day.
At 22, I was in a mess again. I just couldn’t seem to get my shit together no matter how damn hard I tried! My life was on repeat. A cycle of try, & fail. Everyone told me, “Get over it already, just make the choice to be happy!” or “It’s time to grow up, to snap out of this.” I laughed in their faces. They would never understand. I couldn’t keep a job, I couldn’t be in public places without having panic attacks, I couldn’t stop drinking and popping pills, I killed my brain with huffing. And I was losing another apartment. The medications weren’t saving me and my therapist didn’t believe me when I told her I wanted to kill myself. She didn’t believe me, and so I decided to show her.
My entire body was covered in water. Then, I was running, all of a sudden running. Surrounding me were creatures made of fire, faces blurred. They were cheering, chanting, “Run, run!” What was I running from? I didn’t know. I got to a cliff and stopped. There was no bottom, just endless black. The cheering halted, and I turned around. A bubble made its way up from my stomach to my throat.
I came to and was crouched over the toilet, puking. My roommate had found me, dragged me out of the bathtub and brought me over to the porcelain god. I was alive, again. I cuddled up to her for hours, sobbing, begging for her to not tell anyone, and swearing that I would never do this again.
And I haven’t. It has been three years since then, and I have kept that promise. The comforting thought is still there though, in the back of my mind. My life is still shaded with that darkness, and my mess is still on the floor. I have come a few good feet up that hole, but still find myself buried. There are good days and there are bad ones. Days I say, “Okay, so I still have a long way to go, but I’ve survived the worst and I can survive this.” The bad days? There’s too much I have to make up for, too far I have to climb just to break even. It is hard to move on and upward with your past still burdening your every movement. The debt collectors call every hour, my life is in two suitcases, still working on that college degree that I’m not even sure I want.
But I am still alive. Though I still have my problems, and though people make comments about “locking up the gun cabinet” when I visit (you know, because all people with mental illnesses are going to go on a shooting spree), I am still alive. And that is my choice, that is my strength. I will always be different, a little off. I will always have my best conversations when talking to myself, and I will always walk around with my head in the clouds. I am messy and jealous and screwed up and imperfect, I am crazy and uneven and perpetually loony, but I am also brilliant. I am crazy in a way that keeps people smiling, and I have a heart that is endlessly loving. I am worthy of respect and open-mindedness. And I am worthy of love. My mental illness does not mean I am defective or scary, nor does it mean that I want or need pity. It just means that I am part of this group of insanely strong and courageous people … and that I have some pretty radical stories under my belt.
One day, I decided to be okay with who and how I am; with the second-hand tools that I have built myself with … and on that day, the castle came back to those clouds.