Still Breathing

The following story was submitted by Tara from Even At Your Darkest. We admire the courage, vulnerability, and radical honesty of this heart-felt retelling.


I’m tucked into this cute bungalow, feeling its good vibes, listening to my dogs wrestle, seeing the flowers blooming outside the window in my yard…but I am still sad.  The sadness aches and throbs.  The betrayal fresh like it happened yesterday.  I sip my wine.  I said I would not drink, especially with the new medication, but I cannot seem to bear the weight of this.  The wine ebbs the tide of pain.  For a while.
Need to find the quiet in myself again.  I’m always so tightly wound now, shoulders hunched, breathing irregular – and take another sip – Breathe in…Hold it…Breathe out slowly…
Why do I still love him?
In therapy, we talk about preparing for situations that may arise, like seeing him somewhere, how I would conduct myself.  I think I would totally fall apart and be hauled back to the psych ward.  So I sip again.
I know all the steps I have to take, I know everything will take as long as it does, but I want closure, I want answers!  It may never be clear.  He is a part of my story but he is not all of it.  I could die tomorrow in a freak accident, and what is to show for my life?  Suicide attempts, lost loves, some bits and pieces of stories.  Get it out, I tell myself.  Don’t keep it trapped away in your head; it only eats you alive.  I am supposed to tell this.  And I breathe and tear up.  That’s fine.  One of the girls in the hospital had a tattoo on her wrist that read, “It’s okay to not be okay.”  And it is.
My soul aches.
I think I started cutting when I couldn’t write anymore.  I stopped writing and harbored the demons within, trying in vain to keep them locked up.  They crawl around inside me, lurking in the shadows, waiting to show themselves.  I thought drinking would numb it, keep them at bay.  But the demons had to escape somehow, and since I no longer let them flow out through words, I watched as they flowed out in my blood.
I’m a gem, this I know.
I feel like all the signs are saying I’m supposed to be with him.  Some say coincidence, but there are too many instances that keep my heart tied up in him.
I have to face the darkness, like my therapist said and my history has taught me, because if I ignore it, it will only resurface over and over.  What I was doing before was simply surviving; I see it now that I have medication.  Not to say the medication is helping me not think of dying, but ironically, I can write again.  I wish upon stars, I wish when the time reads 3:33, I wish on my eye lashes that keep freaking falling out.  I ask God, Grandma, and Aunt Kathy in Heaven to take away the worst of the pain.  I come from crazy for sure.  As my brother says, I got the crazy and he got the asshole.  But I also have the strength of the women in my family.  It is a quiet and reserved strength that comes from hardship, from heartache.
Unfortunately, I battle with the other side of me too often.

Just gave away my guitar.  Only I don’t think of it as mine, I think of it as his.  How he played, how he loved to play.  How he created songs for me.  How talented he is.  I’m sitting here, with a glass of wine nearby, still in my work wear, tears streaming down my face.  I am a mess.  And I’m sobbing.  Does this get better?  I want to bleed, I want to rage, and I want to do anything but feel this right now.  I don’t know if I can do this.  Everything, everything reminds me of him, of us, of what we had.  How did this happen?  How did it change so much?  I don’t understand.  I don’t get it.  Am I so fucked up that I am unlovable?  Pretty enough to get the guy but not good enough to do what it takes to keep him?  Pretty fades.  It’s fading fast.  I feel like I am poison, I am toxic.
The sound of the pouring rain is not soothing.  The wine isn’t touching this.  My breath catches, snags.  I have to keep forcing air in and out.  My chest is crumpled, my head aches… and my heart no longer exists.
This is the path I have helped to shovel.  I kept going down instead of forward, I guess.  Trying to level now – well, not at this moment because I feel half way down that pit I dug — but I do choose to go forward.  To write my way out of this.  To put it out there, how this shreds me.  How I’d rather be physically in pain than emotionally.
I wanted to call my brother when I started crying or text a girlfriend, knowing that they have all said I should do so.  I just can’t sometimes.  I don’t feel like anyone else should have to help me with this burden.
I feel like I bring out the worst in men.  That I destroy people, that I break them.  They walk away so easily.
Time to put it on the page and leave it.

I ride with my sister-in-law as she goes to work.  She navigates the slippery roads, the early morning still, cold, and dark.  I know if I do not go, I will find a way to die.  We walk into the hospital together.  She hugs me and says she will be by later to check on me, then she goes to her floor for her job; I head to the Emergency Room.
“What are you here for?”
“I’m cut and I can’t stop the bleeding.”
They motion for me to come back behind the windowed partition; they want to get my vitals, all nonchalant, until they ask how the cuts happened.  I take my coat off, roll up my sweatshirt sleeve to reveal all the blood, the stab wounds.  I try not to cry, but I can feel it settling, the adrenaline gone and now the aftershock.  They quietly ask what happened.  I say I did it to myself.  They get me back to the beds quickly.  In a room, they ask me to remove all of my clothing and put on scrubs while some bored tech woman watched.  Like I was a prisoner.  I flash to him saying, “I will see you in my prison and I will spit on you every day.”  The tears are beginning.  I am ushered to the bathroom for a urine sample to check for alcohol or drugs, but for once, I am stone sober.  Again, as if I am a prisoner, she watches while I hover over a cup.  This takes a while, since apparently I am averse to urinating as someone stares at me.  She takes me back to the room.  Another woman comes in to take my history.  A doctor comes in and begins to clean the wounds on my arm, scrubbing with something that feels like fire.  He says he is going to have to staple three of the wounds, not really to me but to the girl entering my information into a computer.  I brace myself.  I am trembling; I hear the click, click, click, as the doctor staples my wounds and then puts liquid adhesive on the others.  Staples are new to me.  He leaves, and the girl entering my data picks up a vial on the counter to read the label and says, “He didn’t even use the lidocaine.”  Then I am alone.  I am shaking and crying.  I cannot stop.  I feel everything, the reality and weight of it sinks into me, choking me, sucking the very core of me.  I cry hysterically for quite a while before someone comes in to give me a shot of Ativan.  They take my blood pressure 100 times.
“Do you have high blood pressure?”
Sob.  “No.”
They take it again.  Same question.  Over and over.
“Are you sure?  It’s awfully high.”
How about I just went through something completely devastating and traumatic and life altering and I cannot breathe, I cannot figure how to get to the next moment, that is why I am here because I have to get to the next moment, I cannot have my sister-in-law, my brother, or my mom think that they failed me and I died because of something they feel they did or did not do?  Then the medication mercifully kicks in, and I stop sobbing.  I am exhausted but feel like my heart is going to explode.  How did this happen?  Is this real?  The pain sure feels fucking real.  Why would he do this?  If he could do this, then I know absolutely nothing about anyone.  I do not understand this world.  Why, why, why…then sobs again.  Eventually someone nice comes in and turns the TV on, gives me some ice water.  My sister-in-law comes to visit during her break.
I am in the E.R. all day and into the evening.  My insides feel like I need to run, to scream, but my body is tired.  There is no sleep.
A porter arrives with a wheelchair, a security guard in tow.  They take me up to the fifth floor.  Psychiatric ward.  I immediately regret my decision.  The atmosphere feels chaotic, disorganized.
“Why is she here?”
“They said to bring her up.”
“Well, I don’t have the transfer papers.”
I have copies of the paperwork.
“You’re more on top of things than they are,” says the porter.  Yeah, that’s me.  Always prepared.
I want to hide away and cry for the rest of my life, not deal with other crazy people.
They take me to my room, which I thankfully have all to myself.  I sit in a far corner chair in the stark nuthouse room.  Holy hell, am I sitting here in scrubs, forcing cold English muffin down my throat, balled up with a pillow on my lap as if it were a barrier to protect me… in the fucking loony bin?  My nurse is kind.  She administers my medication.  I crawl into the hospital bed with a book.  I am out before I know it.
I wake up, and I think it is morning.  I hear people down the hall moving about.  I feel like I have been in a coma.  I have to pee, and as I stumble to the private bathroom, I see something on the floor.  I pick it up.  I think it is scrub pants, but I am groggy and see poorly with my glasses; I drop the garment.  I go to the bathroom.  Then I smell it, the heavy stench of urine, and not from me.  I scrub my hands.  I go out in the hall and find someone who looks like they are staff.
“There appear to be pee-soaked pants in my room.”  The girl is nonplussed, but apologetic.  “Oh, that must have been Gladys; I thought we stopped her before she went in your room.  We’ll come and get it.”  Really?  Some stranger came into my room, while I am in a heavily medicated sleep, and took her pants off?  They come get the pants.  It still smells like urine, and I cannot figure it out.  I sit in my safe chair in the far corner and smell it worse.  There it is, behind the door.  A dried puddle of urine.  So not only did a crazy psych patient wander into my room and take her pants off while I lay unconscious, but she also peed in the corner first.  Sure did.
The corner chair is no longer my safe chair.

Check vitals time.
“Is your blood pressure normally high?”
“No.  It is always perfect.”  Perfect like my lost love.
“It’s pretty high.  Let me take it again.”
Sure thing, nice technician, but it is elevated because I am awake and aware of how my life has quite suddenly become unrecognizable.
Honestly, I am surprised he would cheat on me.  Our intermittent fights were complete blowouts, and things had escalated as I learned of small lies he told me.  His personality had changed in the weeks leading up to this.  I knew something was going on.  The man who daily laid his heart out for me, who always told me how beautiful and amazing I am, how he was so lucky to have me, how I was his best friend, had suddenly become mean and hateful towards me.
I have constant anxiety.  I want to spin off into oblivion and scream and cry and scream some more.  I eat alone in my room, read my book, write, and remind myself to breathe.  Most people probably think that is odd, to remind yourself to breathe.  When I’m all caught up in my head, feeling every emotion inside of me but unable to outwardly express it, I find that I hold my breath, and I don’t realize it until I remind myself.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Slowly.

Therapy begins the second day.  I answer question after question with my head up and no tears.  I am determined to find a way to get better.
I walk the halls in the afternoon for hours, just go, go, get away from the horrible sick feeling that threatens to annihilate me; my love is gone, my love is a monster, my love betrayed me and ended any dreams we shared together.  Just three days prior, we went away for the night, to regroup, reconnect.  We looked at houses and talked over wine about our dreams, how well they entwined, excited for our future.  In one terrible night, it was all over.
Walk, walk, resituate the bandage on my arm, stop and take meds, listen to how high my blood pressure is, and is it normally high?  No, it is not.  Hello, I just fucking found out the love of my life was not the person I thought he was, bashed him over the head, and then stabbed my arm so I would not feel the emotional pain.  Perhaps that has something to do with my elevated blood pressure?  Speak when spoken to, be nice to the nurses and techs, nod to the other patients who seem cognizant, and DON’T SCREAM, DON’T SCREAM.  Write.  Read, try to escape from my thoughts.  Read the worksheets the therapist brings.  Try not to tackle her when she says he wasn’t the one, there is love out there for me, and children are still a possibility.  There is no one else, he is the one, don’t any of them get that?  The devastation is like a poison that pumps through my heart, eating away at my insides, devouring anything good I have left in me.  I have to remind myself to ask after my dogs, my poor dogs, when they were always number one on my list of reasons to keep my shit together.  I’d like to think the reason why I didn’t worry about them was because I knew they were safe and sound with my brother and sister-in-law, but I’m being brutally honest, so I have to say I just didn’t think of them very often.  My anguish overrode everything.
Take more pills, feel heaviness in my brain, feel half-sick, feel like I am going to burst out of my own skin.  Dance with Why, scream at Why, fuck Why, beat Why down, ignore Why.  One does not think that the body and mind can actually keep this up.  Maybe the nighttime medications help; being in an almost comatose state for eight hours and being able to completely turn off is quite nice.  Too bad as soon as my eyelids open the realization that it is all over, that this is beyond terrible, slams back into me.
“Your heart rate is pretty high, as is your blood pressure.  Is that normal for you?”  Fuck.
I make myself presentable in my scrubs and slipper socks without even a passing thought about my humble attire.  Normally in heels and something fashionable, make-up and jewelry just so, I am a picture of everything is fine, I got this under control.  Make everything look pretty on the outside, and don’t let on to the depths of the dark that my mind swims in daily.  Don’t let on that I often want to peel my own skin off.  Smile so people won’t for one minute think I have a nasty, hateful voice in my head that tells me I should not be in this world, that I do not matter here.  I walk down the hall to get my breakfast tray; I focus on the task at hand.  Uncover food, take lid off coffee, and prepare plastic utensils.  God forbid they give us crazies a knife to cut our food.  What kind of detrimental weapon would we scheme to make?  I feel like we are always eating.  Clean up, straighten room… then it’s only 9 a.m.
The therapist wants me to join a group session.  It is for higher functioning folks like me.  I feel like a privileged Crazy.  I go and I listen to other people’s problems, which I like.  Let’s focus on you, what your problems are, how you’re dealing with them.  Me?  Bypass me, please.
No such luck.
I’m sitting cross-legged in the chair, picking at my bandage.  I say I had a fight with my now ex-fiancé, it got really bad, I hurt myself to calm me down, because cutting focuses me.  I did not intend to stab instead of cut, but it did the trick.  I knew if I did not go to the hospital, I would find a way to die.
What I do not say is that a stranger had become a part of my life.  That I realized, too late, I could not fix him, I could only fix myself.  Ironically, I had scheduled to start therapy the next week.  His drunken night, him stumbling in the back door, me hugging him and saying I loved him.  That was the last time I touched him in a loving way.  I had written a note for him to find in the bathroom so he would see it when he was getting ready for work in just a few hours.  It basically said, “I am sorry I have been distant lately.  I have set an appointment to go to therapy next week.  Please don’t abandon me.  I love you always.”
What I get is someone calling him at 1 a.m.  I look to see who it is, and it is a name I don’t recognize.  I let it ring.  Then a text message comes through, “Why didn’t you answer?  Talk to you tomorrow, dear.  Xoxo.”  I scroll through hours of texts between him and some girl.  I tell myself to keep it together, but suddenly I am trembling, my brain shuts down, and raw emotion takes over.  I go into the living room, and before I know it, I have smashed a glass over his stupid, cheating head.  Then I launch myself at him, and his drunken ass is slowly coming around.  I am screaming, screaming, I want to destroy everything around me, and I throw everything I touch.  I can’t even remember the next few minutes, but then I am in the kitchen, and I grab a knife, he continues to scream at me; I stab, stab, stab my arm.  The blood pours out; I can feel it dripping down, splattering on the kitchen floor.  And then the calm.  I tell him to put the fucking knife in my chest and end it because he already murdered my heart.  He takes the engagement ring and puts it deliberately in the trash.  He screams at me that he didn’t cheat, I’m a crazy cunt, I’m a psycho bitch, he will see me in his prison and he will spit on me every day.  He’s watching the blood drip onto the floor, and he says, “Go fucking kill yourself, you psycho cunt.  Put your family out of their misery.”  And it clicked.  That is exactly what I will do.
I get my keys out of my purse, take the knife, and in my socks walk through sleet to my truck.  I drive to Lincoln Park on the cemetery side, nearly sliding off the road several times since the ice keeps layering thick on my windshield and I can barely see.  I park.  My left hand cannot even grip the steering wheel; I can’t get my fingers to do what they are supposed to.  I grab the knife with my right hand; bring the blade down into my left wrist, ready to bleed out quietly.  But the knife does not go through my skin as it had so easily just minutes before; it collapses against my bleeding arm.


By the dashboard light, I see that the knife has broken.  Broken.  I think, Really?  I can’t even do this?  Failure, failure, failure.  I try to do the other side, but my left hand is still not working.  Then I see that there was no way that knife was going to cut again.  The handle came apart and would no longer stabilize the blade.  If I were going to do this, I would need another plan.  I’ll go back to the house, get the dogs, drop them off at my brothers, and then figure it out.

He is on my cell phone, the cell phone that does not work right because five days prior it had taken a plunge into the toilet.  So I could not dial out, as the screen was black.  He says, “She’s here,” and hands me the phone.  It’s my mother.  He starts screaming at me again, through phone calls with my mom, sister-in-law, and brother, with each of them saying get the dogs and get out of there.  He is screaming that I busted his face, to get the fuck out of his house; he hopes I die in a fiery car crash.  I quietly tell him he’s a liar and a cheater as I gather some things.  He yells the texts are from a guy friend he hunts with whom I had never heard him mention before.  I remind him he referred to her as Jess in one of the texts, not Bo, which was the name that showed up on his phone, and the picture she sent shows she is trash, his ‘hunting friend’ was clearly a girl.  I am in some warped version of Hell; I can see myself from above going in slow motion.  He is pacing around, and I realize he can’t find his phone.  I look in the jeans he had taken off, slip his phone into my pocket.  I have some sick desire to pour slowly through their text messages and torture myself.  Plus, I thought I would need evidence to show I did not just go crazy for no reason.  I’m walking out the front door he says, “I’m fucking bleeding everywhere,” and stupid me, I stop, turn, and ask if he wants me to take a look at the wound.  While I’m dripping blood on the floor and have no use of my left hand at that point.  He of course declines in a gentleman’s way.  The dogs and I leave.

I had no clear thought beyond dropping the dogs off with my sister-in-law, taking off and figuring what to do later.  But as I’m sitting in my truck outside her house going through the text messages, my sister-in-law comes to my door and opens it.  Seeing her face, I remembered the reasons why I could not kill myself: I could not do that to my family.  I could not have my family know that I was at their house and then drove off to die.  I did not want them to blame themselves for my stupidity, my disease.

I say none of this to the group.
A girl, maybe 18, tells her story.  She says, “I do self-harm as well,” looking at me.  Sweet Jesus, I am 36 years old and still cutting to deal with what’s in my head.  I do not want to be 40 and still cutting.
The last woman to speak is being discharged that day.  She says, “We all in this room fight to die.”  Those words resound in me.  I have fought to die, and I do not know why I keep breathing, but I do.
My parents come that evening.  It goes better than I thought it would…Until my mom says, “He called me that night crying.”
“He was crying?  He called you?  On my broken phone?  How does that happen?”  I had assumed she called my phone and he answered, even though the apocalypse had occurred sometime around 2 a.m.
“I don’t know.  Maybe I was the last person who called you, and he somehow dialed me.”
I start to cry.  I tell her, “I promise I was good with this one, I did everything I was supposed to; I thought we were happy, I promise I was good.”

The echo of his absence seems to never end.
No one can understand the devastation I feel.  They say words meant to comfort — this too shall pass, there is someone else for me, God has a plan — and I absolutely love them for that.  How can I explain that the love I felt with him was all encompassing, that I truly and whole-heartedly believed he was the reason I experienced all of the turmoil years before meeting him, to prepare myself for this relationship.  I appreciated every moment and thanked God each night for him, for what we had.  Others saw when we were together we shined oh, how we shined!  We were so respectful, so loving, so affectionate, and so incredible to each other.  I felt blessed and lucky that I met such a man.  I honestly did not believe it would ever end, especially the way that it did.
It ended epically.

The doctor makes his stop.  He needs to hear me say, “I do not want to hurt myself or others” three days in a row before considering letting me out.
“Do you feel like hurting yourself or others?”
Say no, say no…
Keep up with therapy, wound care, medication.  Write.  Read.  Breathe.
When they deem me ready for release back into society, or my insurance won’t cover any more time, I go to live with my brother.
I live in my brother’s basement…

I feel so helpless when I get out of the hospital, so lost.  It feels like I’m living someone else’s nightmare.  My head never, ever shuts the hell up.  I would welcome the disconnected feeling I usually felt before.  I can only do minutes at a time.  Now I’m up, I let the dogs out, I wait to get into the bathroom, I get ready for the day, and I go to work.  I cannot even pretend to be okay because it takes everything I have not to not fall to the ground and scream until my throat bleeds.  I continue to think of him constantly.  Why the fuck am I here?  Why the fuck do I keep screwing up?
At least I have a place to live, as do my dogs, and I am grateful.  The days and weeks after my hospital stay are fraught with a deep, dark sadness I have never known before.  The extreme despair engulfs me. Tears, panic, and anguish have a vice grip and I fear I will never get through these days.  I love words, but there is not a string of them I can put together to say exactly how broken I feel, how sad.  It’s as if he died.  The person I thought I knew is gone.  I lost my best friend.  I had fallen in love with his little boy as well and looked forward to the day when I would officially be his step-mom.  They are just gone.  I grieve for their loss.  I go out to my truck during lunch and sob hysterically, then again when I drive from work.  Even the mention of his name brings me to breakdown mode.  When he texts my brother I have “30 days to get my shit out of his house,” I call him.  He tells me about his injury.  I say I am so sorry.  I ask if we can meet and talk this through.  Even after all I’ve been through and how difficult it is for me to reach out, I still stupidly thought, “We said we would get through anything together, we can fight through this.”  He tells me he could never trust me around him or his son anymore.  It’s over.
My heart breaks over and over and over.  I want God, or whomever, to tell me why I had to meet him, why we had to fall in love, why it seemed so perfect, why I had to lose him.  There is some angry spark in me, something in my very core that tells me we were supposed to fight for this, that our story was not over, so why is it over?  How did I, a cynic of love, allow another man behind my wall?  Did I not pray enough?  Was I not thankful enough?  I feel like someone has played a terribly cruel joke on me.

I gather a couple of my girlfriends and tell them what happened.  When I get to the part about the knife breaking, my dear friend laughs.  She says, “I’m sorry, but the knife broke?  God was watching over you, sis.  That’s amazing.”
Of course, this whole time I have only thought FAILURE when the knife broke, but over the next couple of days, her statement sinks in.
Maybe there is a reason I am still here.
The support I receive from family and friends keep me from huddling in a corner and screaming until I go completely mad.  The countless times my sweet brother hugs me while I cry and shake and sob, so strong for me, telling me over and over he was going to get me through this.  The way everyone at work is so respectful and kind.  How my friends listen, do not judge, and are there for me every step of the way.  How my beautiful sister-in-law deals with me, five dogs, a cat, a rabbit, my brother, school, and work like the rock star she is.  All of this and more helps remind me to breathe every day.
So begins my journey of healing.
I do not want to continue to exist just because I am still breathing.  It matters that I am still breathing.
I am more than darkness, shattered pieces, scars, and open wounds.
I do not destroy people; I do not have that power.  It’s okay that I do not have all of the answers.  It’s okay to cry, miss him, and love him; it does not mean I am weak.  Because I am sad now does not mean I always will be.  I can find success as I once dreamed I could.  I can find that voice again, but this time it will be the voice of a woman and not the whisperings of a girl.  My voice matters.  My losses do not define me, but they have helped make me who I am.
If I acknowledge this festering disease and don’t ignore it, don’t worry about dressing it up with platitudes or making it presentable, I can fight off the dark in a healthy manner.  I can continue a good path and machete the tangled webs of sorrow, self-doubt, and self-loathing out of my way.  I am empathetic, creative, kind, reserved, outgoing, bitter, warmer, and smarter.  I am strong.
I am fucking Fierce.

12 thoughts on “Still Breathing

  1. Losing weight is freaking hard as can be, especially with so much information out there on the right way or wrong way to lose fat. Foods we can’t eat, exercises we gotta do, it’s enough to drive somebody crazy.

    It ain’t just about eating less and moving more or counting calories and weighing all your food. Sure, that stuff works for a little bit but it only gets you so far and then once you stop that diet you just gain it all back (and usually extra weight!). My boyfriend and I lost right around 115 pounds (between the 2 of us) in just under 3 months ( and it’s all about a life change. Starving yourself, doing cardio till you drop and popping diet pills don’t work and it never will.


  2. People leave coz they have to…….I have given many explanations to this. My favourite is because our Karmic accounts are over. No blaming anyone and most of all us. I do not mean to sound preachy but just want to say do not punish yourself for what some body else’ action.

    Take care and be blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

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