“Come out here Jordan!”
My knuckles were white from gripping the ledge of the pool. My feet weren’t touching the bottom.
“Just let go and swim to me.”
There was no way in hell. My legs tried to latch onto the wall. I held on for dear life but I couldn’t get a good grip. I was slipping.
“Here, take my hand.”
Still clawing to the wall, afraid of the black hole I was sure would swallow me up if I let go, I turned my head to see my friend reaching towards me. I started to weigh my options. My arms were sore. I had scraped my chin. My legs were cramping. I couldn’t cling to the wall forever. In a single move, I lunged towards him. But before I could get to his hand, my legs started to sink, my arms flailed, and I was gasping for air as my head bobbed underneath the water.
I was drowning.
I thought I wanted this. My friends were able to do it seemingly unscathed. But here I was lying in bed with a man that I did not care about and I didn’t care to know.
Long hair, short hair, green eyes, brown eyes, strong chest, broken smile, it was becoming a blur of features. Nothing was learned. The only thing gained were a few moments of control. The whispers were sweet, the mood saccharine, but the reality was fractured. I could see it and I wondered why they refused to.
I didn’t know what I had expected. Some kind of awakening? Some kind of revelation? I did not feel a loss of innocence like I was told countless times in Sunday School. I did not feel any less valuable but with each horizontal exploration I felt a vertical descent into something else and further away from myself. I was being reckless, but it wasn’t with my body.
“I think I love you.”
My back was to him when he told me. I tried to pretend that I was still asleep. But I had heard. He sat in the silence. I broke because of it. I wasn’t some femme fatale seductress. This wasn’t a game with pieces to move across the board. This wasn’t Sex in the City. This was real life. I was so willing to do anything to regain some sense of control in my life that I’d become emotionally reckless. I felt sick.
The water was starting to fill my lungs. I couldn’t make it up to the surface as much. I was growing tired. The fury and panic were beginning to subside.
Where was Joshua? Where was the lifeguard? Why wasn’t someone coming to save me?
I felt myself going under and I knew it was for the last time. No one was coming to get me. There was no use in fighting. My eyes were closed as I felt myself drift further down. It seemed like an eternity passed before I felt my feet hit the bottom. My head was pounding and my lungs burned as they tried to hold on to the last bits of oxygen they had left.
I swore I heard someone speak directly to me.
The truth is your greatest ally in obtaining happiness. It stings because the truth is often inflammatory. The longer we stray, the worse it burns. I’ve been running from mine for ages. I learned at an early age to lie to people in order to make them comfortable.
When I was being molested in the 5th grade and my mother would ask how my day was?
When I started having panic attacks and my sorority sisters wanted to check up on me?
“No problems here, everything’s great.”
When I would daily contemplate my suicide mere minutes after hanging out with my friends?
I don’t communicate the bad. None of us do. We post our filtered photos and inspiring tweets. We blog about our great travels and moments but when it really counts, we retreat from our vulnerabilities in order to appear stronger than we are. But hiding from the root of who we really are and what we really feel is what’s cowardly. If the past few months of death, mass protest, outrage, and violence has taught us anything it’s that we all have our demons. We all have secret parts of ourselves that we hide from people but in the long run it doesn’t do us any good. Our warts and scars concealed with a flick of our wrists and a layer of foundation only mask the reality of the situation. The pain of a secret isn’t vanquished by the shadow of its concealment but my the illumination of its unveiling.
In the past three months my PTSD has gotten a hold of me. Insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, and impulsive decisions have led me on a downward spiral. I retreated from the people I loved the most, the things I loved to do, but most importantly and regrettably, I retreated from myself.
It’s easy to look at the timeline and think this was all a hysterical reaction to a breakup but this has been brewing inside me for some time. I was running out of options for how to distract myself. Years ago, I found it in the rigidity of litigious religion, then food, then in school, then in alcohol, and I’ve recently returned to men. But with each distraction, the realization that “it” was still there rushes in like the water in my lungs. I’ve been drowning for a while, expecting these external treatments to lift me up and out. But how can anyone help you if they don’t even know you’re in the pool? At some point you have to to fight yourself for yourself and that’s ok.
Don’t let your fears misconstrue your strengths as weaknesses. There is no shame in feeling lonely or broken. There’s no shame in feeling afraid or left behind. There’s no shame in feeling like a ship without an anchor. These things are what define us and propel us to our greatest joys. These pains are how we learn to find our way back to each other and inevitably ourselves.
Instead of masking it, instead of running away from it, run towards it, crash into it, proclaim your arrival and wrestle it to the ground, defeat it, or just