This week we again celebrated your birthday. Without you. For the past nine years on that day I have tried to think of some way to honor all you gave us, but every year at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve fallen short. There is so much that I still need you for. I’m sad, angry and confused that I have to battle this illness without you, when I feel certain that just hearing you say “you will be okay” would fix everything. When the full force of your loss finally hit me, it hit me in such a way that convinced me I somehow had the power to make sure I never had to feel that way again, and that it was my responsibility to make sure that I, and those around me never had to feel such a great loss ever again. But in trying to do so, I actually created another loss. Made them experience that sense of fear and uselessness one faces when you can see a loved one diminish before your eyes. And this time what I took from them, was me. This year on your birthday I wasn’t able to honor you like I wanted, I wasn’t able to feel anymore sadness, gratefulness or simply just remember, because I couldn’t feel any more. I already feel so much that my body feels full with it. Every inch of my body feels the weight of it, even my fingertips feel heavy and useless with it. All of the many fears and emotions filling me up as a result of my OCD and depression, make me feel almost numb to everything else. And I realized this is the same heavy nothingness that filled me the last time I experienced a huge loss; the loss of you. Because I am, we all are, still in denial of the loss of me. It’s time to accept and mourn the loss of the person I used to be before my illness took over. That doesn’t mean I have to accept who I am now, but to accept and understand that I need to find my new self. Time to say goodbye and honor the person I once knew, the person that looked back at me. Here lies her, and now here stands me.
“I need to find a new way to survive, a new way to love, a new way to be.”
But this year on your birthday as I’m finally realizing it’s time to say goodbye to who I once was, I also realized that the girl I’m saying goodbye to is the one that knew you, was raised by you. And I let that girl down. She fought hard after she lost you, but I took her down with OCD. But it’s okay, because some form of her will survive with me, and she will be made even stronger for surviving this loss too. Because you taught me that I’m ready for anything whether I realize it or not, and that even when you’re not expecting the disaster, you can still survive it.
It’s not going to be easy, moving past grief and loss never is. And maybe we never totally move on. But I think this is one of the hardest things to understand and accept about mental illness, that it does change who you are, there is a loss although not a physical one. I know that I don’t feel the same, see the world the same, or interact the same as I did before. But holding on to that, and trying to fix everything and make it the same as it was, is what is actually holding us back. I need to find a new way to survive, a new way to love, a new way to be, while still honoring who I once was. And you taught me how to do that.