Amy put out a call to all of us who contributed to Shades of Blue: writers on depression, suicide and feeling blue (Fall 2015, Seal Press) asking us to write something about writing our particular 'shades of blue'.
It meant remembering a life that now feels as far away as Mars.
And that was just it. Writing “Nothing Helps, Except…” brought me back to the decades I spent living on Mars – a barren landscape, barely hospitable that occasionally promised me that life existed there. It took decades of heart-breaking-open work to heal and then transform my assumption that life was and always would be so bleak.
As I recovered my soul, remembering how it FELT to live like that became a distant memory, not a daily reality. And, quite frankly, it was nice to forget how waking up to morning was often like crashing through glass at 90 miles an hour. (While I was drafting “Nothing Helps…” I found in one diary of that time my describing one morning as “I woke up screaming ‘I’m tired of waking up backwards’.”)
On top of stepping back into those long-ago emotional layers, it was daunting to fit a complex and repetitive journey into 3,000 words or less. Many false starts, lots of Buddhist practice, more false starts, even more Buddhist practice. Nothing helped.
Then one day, I visited with someone I loved very much who lives on the other side of the world and practices a much different religion. We were talking about the anthology, when without thinking I blurted out, “Planning my suicide was the only thing that kept me going. For years."
And that’s when I saw how I had traveled out that brokenness and returned to who I had always been. The rewriting of the piece still took tons of prayer but once I got through the sadness of how I had lived for so long, I began asking fellow writers, some who barely knew me, to give feedback. I appreciate their courage and honesty that helped me make the piece even stronger, for I can’t imagine it an easy thing to read how someone lived with such self-hate for so long.
An unexpected benefit came out of all this. That pain is no longer a memory I held at a distance, but a cherished and respected one. I wake up every day so happy – happy that I don’t live on Mars; I live on Earth and there’s life here. Yet, because I reopened those old days, I now also see where that shadow still seeps into my hopes and dreams.
Writing that piece and writing this has strengthened my muscles of gratitude and prayer and each day I take a bigger step back from the ledge and back into my birthright.
It Only Takes One Person