New Year’s Eve 2018, as neighbors were shimmying their way into 2019, I was sprawled on my couch, boob poking out the side of my worn tank, nipple chafing against the torn fabric. The dirty couch cover had long since fallen off. Anticipating the fireworks to come, my PTSD was acting up and my heart beat was already racing. This trigger I could never avoid. Hot and cold, a clammy stickiness clung to me. Count 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch. Something like that.
Sitting up and looking around my studio, I saw trash. Lunchables and pissed stained clothes, ruined sheets and blankets, moldy dishes and flies circling around pizza boxes. I smelled more than I could see. I was on the couch because that was the only cleanish surface left. I didn’t wanna look at this, much less touch any of it.
The day after Christmas 2018, the apartment manager had put a notice on my door that they weren’t renewing my lease. I had a month to get rid of this crap, pack up what was salvageable, and somehow find an affordable place to move into. After many frantic voicemails left for the office and talking to some other folks in the complex, we realized they were not renewing the leases for a bunch of apartments that hadn’t been renovated in a while, our collective assumption being they were going to switch out the old fridge, throw on a coat of paint, and up the rent for the next person. Either way, each day I woke with an anxious rubber band ball stretching and growing in the pit of my stomach. How am I gonna get this done in a month?
By New Years Eve, that rubber band ball had spread throughout my entire being, on the verge of snapping. I closed my eyes, tasted the wet salt that was leaking towards my mouth and slept my way into the new year.
Before starting my blog, I rarely spoke about my mental health. Often, I was on the precipice of falling and permanently breaking, but I only screamed internally. A year ago, I was at the bottom of a well and drowning deeply. I went to my then job and felt threatened, came home and was dizzy at the thought of ‘getting it together.’ Showers overwhelmed me, even washing strategic places at the sink. Nowhere in my body did I feel safe- I felt like my brain was betraying me, turning my body against me inch by inch.
As 2019 ran into 2020 and we counted down the end of the decade, and BuzzFeed had increasing “Best Of” articles, I realized I was happy. Content with who I am. Proud of some of the things I had done for myself recently.
I survived 2019. Really. For most of the year, I didn’t think I was gonna make it out. The demons were winning and, more often than not, I desired death. Anything other than this shell of a life I had. But I made it out alive, and the fact I did makes me do a little happy dance.
Another reason to put on my boogie shoes and boogie with you is I started going to therapy again, and was intentionally selective about which therapists I even reached out to first. Besides confirming they accepted my insurance, I wanted a woman of color who listed trauma informed therapy in their profile. I have enough of a backstory and balls of yarn inside my brain to sort through without explaining the nuances of generational trauma and microagressions. I almost skipped the intake the day of, but realized they would charge me a cancellation fee that insurance wouldn’t cover and I couldn’t afford another bill to pay. So I went. I’m on a 2 week, it’s already penciled in rotation with Hannah. Admittedly, there are some therapy mornings I wake up and don’t want to go, and it’s only that damn cancellation fee that gets me out the door, but overall I’m proud of myself for focusing on my mental health.
I was holed up in my apartment to avoid the holiday shoppers, jingles, and overflow of red and green to keep my mental health in check. Holidays aren’t for me. At all. With my free time, I wrote down a list of what I enjoyed doing during the winter and what I wanted to continue doing. At the top of the list was volunteering.
I’ve been volunteering in different capacities since high school and often go back to a quote I heard then, attributed to an indigenous woman in Guatemala: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you understand that your liberation is tied to mine, then let’s work together.” Getting that advice early on helped me realize that marginalized groups don’t need a savior, and I learn more from these communities. As much as I’m giving some sort of service, they are giving more of themselves, and I choose places to volunteer at where I know I can learn from the empowering folks of that community.
I currently volunteer as a community outreach volunteer with the ACLU, and with two different domestic violence advocacy agencies. Between the peer mentor groups, training volunteers on the dynamics of intimate partner violence, and being able to connect with other survivors of sexual and physical assault, I’m proud of myself for giving a voice to and speaking on the unspeakable. My volunteer community has turned into not only a support network but knowledge base as we learn from each other and lift each other up.
What are you proud of yourself for doing? What’re your goals and ways you want to improve moving forward? Let’s engage in the comments below!