dark to full, revisited

CW: suicide, self-harm, depression

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five years ago this week was the first time i tried to end my life.

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it wasn’t the only time. but that first effort, that first tumble into darkness, that first time waking up realizing that things hadn’t gone according to plan - that was five years ago.

some days it feels so recent, and i can still taste the shame and regret on my tongue. other days i can almost forget it happened, and those desperate days feel like they belonged to someone else.

i wasn’t a meticulous planner. those painful, terrifying moments happened in a time of desperation, of loneliness, of complete and utter darkness. i needed to be out of my skin, needed everything to be still, needed my body to let me go. it was the only way of escape i could see, the only possibility i had left. i couldn’t envision a future that included my survival - and yet, i survived.

twice.

in the five years since, so much about my path has changed. i’ve moved four times, started regular therapy, come out to my family as both bisexual and someone with major depressive disorder, and found the right medication. i’ve started reading tarot cards, built a queer community, done significant work on my marriage. i write daily, reflect daily, check in with myself daily. and by some combination of effort and magic and science, i haven’t had a depressive episode in almost two years.

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i don’t miss my depression, not exactly, but i do have powerful, sometimes overwhelming memories of what it felt like to be lost in those shadows. it’s exhausting to be a person, especially right now, as a chronically ill queer woman in america - someone who longs for this world to be safe for everyone regardless of their race, culture, gender, sexual identity, religion, family, job, health, status, or choices. depression is miserable, terrifying, wretched - but it also gave me an escape from daily life, one that i rarely find otherwise. my idiopathic insomnia means that sleep is fleeting, and some weeks completely out of reach. my freelance schedule means i drift through my days, in full control of my time but able to easily slip through the world without a trace. and my propensity for dreaming, for quiet, for introspection, means i’m often lost in my own mind, exploring my darkness, wondering who i’ve become and may be becoming.

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last spring i was awake in the middle of the night, gazing at the moon, remembering those days of unrelenting pain and sorrow. the memories of those dark decisions still haunted me, and i knew sleep would be impossible until i made some kind of effort to write down my memories, to release the ghost. and while i’m not sure i’d write it the same way now, dark to full still reminds of me of the trauma i’ve experienced, the sensation of being trapped and alone and utterly, completely hopeless.

yet somehow, in the midst of all the suffering, i still see glimpses of hope in these reflective words. i see someone who wants to be seen, who’s longing for escape, who’s trying to look forward. i see possibility.

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growth isn’t always linear, and healing isn’t always permanent. sometimes we find new ways to tear those scars open, pulling ourselves backwards, creating unexpected methods of self-harm that force us to wander lost in our own darkness again. and although it’s so easy to feel alone in this kind of pain and grief, in this endless cycle of remembrance and release, i hope that sharing this small, fragile piece of my story reminds you that so many of us are struggling, and you don’t have to be isolated in your sorrow. i promise that someone loves you, even if you don’t remember it right now. i believe that you have options, even if they feel too scary to consider. and i know that healing is possible, even on days when it feels you’re being torn apart.

i’m not sure where i’ll be in five more years, what my reflections will look like. i don’t know where my story leads. but i’m grateful for the progress i’ve found, and that the journey i’m on includes dreams for the future, hopes and plans and aspirations. i’m finding potential where i once saw none, and that shift changes everything.

i haven’t always looked forward, but i’m starting to move my gaze from the moon to the path ahead.

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thank you for being here, for reading, for letting me be vulnerable in this space. and if you feel trapped, please reach out to someone, ask for help, make a call. it’s possible to find hope again.

reclaiming my masks

today is the beginning of the last quarter moon, a time of releasing burdens, acknowledging struggles, and forgiving ourselves. i've been reflecting a lot on the challenges of last year, and the cards i drew today feel very encouraging, both in light of 2017 and in the face of a new year. IMG_2883.jpg

what to accept: three of pentacles. cooperation is not a dirty word. finding a community, learning from and leaning on others, discovering strengths and weaknesses - combined power is how we get shit done. collaborating with friends and neighbors, strangers and new acquaintances, gives us fire and energy and passion. it can give us that push towards a new goal, and help us actually reach it. this is a time for finding others with similar passions, and seeing how we can work together.

what to forgive: ace of swords. there's so much potential in this gorgeous, powerful card - but truth can be brutal sometimes, can cut through what we think we know to the beating heart of the matter. this past year brought a lot of difficulty, but it also forced me to be honest with both others and myself about what i need. i may not flawlessly execute every idea, and i may not always express my truth well, but i'm trying - and i need to forgive myself for the mistakes that were made.

what to learn: five of cups. there is a place for grief. there is a place for sadness. there is even a place for loss. but learning to let go is something i've struggled with my whole life. as a scorpio (and a half, honestly, i'm such a scorpio it's ridiculous) i find it nearly impossible to put hurt aside and forgive graciously and fully. my sadness and pain and anguish run so deep, they're a part of me. but honestly? maybe that's okay. maybe i can find strength in it. maybe the pain will make me better, more empathetic, more kind.

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like so many others, i felt that 2017 was an intensely difficult year. i vacillated between checking the news obsessively and working to ignore it, finding myself constantly drowning in the political horrors that seemed to occur by the minute. it was a tough year for all of us, but especially women, people of color, lgbtq+ folks, immigrants, muslims, the disabled community, the lower classes - basically anyone that wasn't a rich, straight, white "christian" man woke up with a feeling of dread each morning, wondering who would be on the chopping block.

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personally, 2017 was also a major struggle. i worked hard last year to open myself up, to shed some of my protective layers, to be more honest and real with the world. i came out to friends and family, even those that i worried would shun me. i attended my first pride, and pushed myself to find a place for myself in the queer community. i began working with a therapist, had several sessions with a psychiatrist, practiced yoga, started a tarot instagram, and gave myself permission and space to find new ways of healing that resonated.

but being open comes with a heavy cost. i've worn masks my entire life - not out of choice, but out of necessity. growing up bisexual in a very conservative church plant, with a pastor that was vocally anti-homosexual in our church and community, meant that i had to hide in plain sight. navigating a lifelong chronic sleep condition means pushing myself daily to perform normal activities, to stay alert, to remain focused - often while simultaneously accepting advice and judgment from well-meaning friends and strangers about a form of insomnia that most don't really understand. and suffering from major depressive disorder means i face a daily battle between being honest about how hard things are and locking the darkness up inside, where it can only hurt me.

in 2017, i pushed myself to remove some of the masks. not all the time, not with everyone - just with a trusted few, when it felt safe and right and accepted. and at times, it felt amazing. when my conservative family members accepted my bisexuality with open arms, when i walked into queer public events and nobody told me i didn't belong, when i opened up to my therapist about the Things i never talk about - it was such a relief to stop hiding, even for a few moments.

IMG_0296unfortunately, i also learned a devastating lesson in 2017 - my masks are absolutely necessary almost all of the time, and especially when dealing with my depression. reaching out for help is hard, but stretching out a hand and finding that no one is there? it's impossible. i made the mistake of being honest about how tough my depression was, and it scared friends and family away to the point that i thought i'd lost everyone. when i finally emerged from the darkness, i found myself terribly alone. and if i'm being perfectly honest, i still feel that way. i've apologized, made amends, acknowledged my errors, but i know now that i can't be my whole self with anyone, that i have to wear masks to protect others, that i don't have a safety net to fall back on. maybe i never did.

2018 offers so much promise. i have new goals in mind, new things i want to accomplish, new ways i want to push myself. but i'm also giving myself permission to lock certain things back up, to smother them in heavy blankets, to hide again. my depression is a dark, scary part of me, and while i wish i could find relief in sharing it, i know that it's too much of a burden for anyone to bear. i have to hope that the practices i've put into place, and a lifetime of experience wearing masks, will keep me safe this year.

in the meantime, i will greet this new year with strength, humility, and a hope for something better. and if you're reading this, i hope you find those things too.

 

reaching for freedom

i'm finally feeling more like myself, after a very long period of darkness and depression. rather than marinating in it, i've been trying to get back in touch with nature, with the world, with the people i care about. it's been a time of healing, of reconnection, of mending some of the damage i caused while drowning in mental illness. but i want to spend more time in this space again, allowing myself room to sit with the lessons of tarot and learn from the wisdom in the cards. instagram prompts have been helpful in challenging my practice, and today's guidance was simple: something i should do for myself. i pulled the eight of cups, a card that popped up yesterday as well under a similar prompt (what could make me feel better right now?)

IMG_2353the eight of cups is walking away, rejecting something that isn't working, breaking up with a person or situation that's been detrimental. we leave behind our current reality, aware that something about it is broken beyond repair. there is nothing left to salvage, no way to turn this ship around - we have to find a new path, move into the unknown, and embrace the mystery ahead.

this card is challenging right now, since i finally feel more whole after my depression. i hope i've been able to repair relationships that were damaged, and i'm trying not to harbor any hurt or resentment over things that happened. but perhaps this card is speaking of something larger, something that i haven't let myself dwell on too long. i asked for a clarifying card.

the five of swords, a card of self-harm, damage, humiliation, abuse, or a victory that IMG_2355pleases no one. some battles cannot be won by any party, and when we fight ourselves, we always lose. sometimes we have to find mercy, give ourselves a break, and work to move on from these self-destructive patterns. i wrote about some serious self-harm issues in september, but left out the phrase suicidal ideation. what i didn't say is that i made a plan, wrote a will, chose a date, and constructed to-do lists to make my choice as easy on those left behind as possible. it broke me to do it, but i couldn't seem to stop. and in the aftermath, the plan still exists, whether i followed through or not.

the date i chose was yesterday, and it passed without much fanfare. both my therapist and my partner inquired about my plan in general, neither knowing the actual date i had picked, and i felt seen, recognized, and loved in a way i haven't in a long time. someone had remembered, someone cared. i didn't go through with my plan, and that was the right choice.

combined with the eight of wands, it feels clear that i need to work to abandon these dark thoughts that keep creeping in, leave behind my self-loathing, and work to find the good in things. i am not a failure. i am not worthless. i am working hard on my recovery.

IMG_2356how do i leave all of these shadows behind? judgment, one of my favorite cards in the major arcana. the fountain tarot's depiction especially speaks to me, as she rises forcefully out of a deep cup, overcoming adversity and challenges and pain and darkness to stretch her fingertips into the light. my scorpio heart and watery soul feel emotions so very deeply, and often my struggles are internal, self-inflicted, and feel so big i drown in them before i can even identify them. judgment asks us to be brave, to forgive ourselves, to give ourselves the chance to be reborn.

i am trying to find joy in my life right now. i'm running outside and practicing yoga, caring for my physical self. i'm meditating and reading and taking long walks, giving myself mental space. and i'm trying to be positive, to be kind to myself, and take an emotional break from all the darkness. it's difficult, however, to not continue to beat myself up for things beyond my control. i know that i didn't intend to hurt friends and family with my depression, never meant for them to take on responsibility for my mental illness or personal safety, but that happened anyway. i tried to ask for help, and things fell apart. and i can accept that bad things happened in spite of my efforts and release it, or i can keep stewing over the past, feeling guilty and hurt and misunderstood and abandoned, and never let anything go.

i want walk away from the pain, stop hurting myself mentally and emotionally, and show myself enough mercy to pull myself out of my shadows. i can only be responsible for so much - some things are beyond my control. planning to take my own life may have given me a sense of power, but choosing not to go through with it really is power. i am not a slave to my depression. i will not let it take my life from me.

i have overcome two suicide attempts and one period of suicidal ideation. and while i know that depression is a strong, all-consuming beast, one that i will certainly struggle with again, i also know that i am strong too. i am learning to wield tools that help me fight back. i am learning to speak my truth, and embrace real honesty. and i am learning that what feels real in the darkness looks very different in the light of day.

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i don't know what will happen next time. given this last experience, i am more afraid to ask for help than ever before. but i hope that i can find the strength to overcome this demon, and learn to love the light again.

seeking october

september has been a difficult month. my depression has dominated these past weeks, culminating in some very serious self-harm issues that terrified me. i've felt so alone in these dark days, wondering why i'm still struggling, trying to find any beams of light that may help me. but september has also shown me how much i've grown, even though i'm feeling so low. making the effort to see a therapist regularly (and not skipping a single appointment, no matter how terrible i'm feeling) has made a difference. reaching out to friends and family to be honest about what's happening has made a difference. telling my husband when things are getting desperate has made a difference. and i truly believe that working with tarot, pushing myself to connect with the tarot community, and reading even on difficult days has made a difference. it's been a really hard month, but i'm still here.

i haven't been particularly consistent with this instagram challenge, but i've really enjoyed mixing the prompts in with my regular readings. and as i look to october, hopeful that the fiery colors and crisp air and cooling waters and rich earth will help bring me back to center, it feels like there's room for a few cards of reflection.

27. where & how are my fears holding me back?

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the world, a card of completion, balance, and wholeness. an interesting card for fears and hesitation, but this sense of peace, unity, and fullness is something i struggle with. the dark parts of me, my depression and insomnia, my struggles, my jealousy, my shadows - they are just as much of a part of me as my better qualities. i may not be a perfect person, but i am a complete person, and the light and dark sides of me are both important.

i pulled the fountain for my theme card for september, a card from the fountain tarot that also represents a firm sense of self, contentment, learning to simply be. we are connected to the universe in a unique way, but we are also complete in ourselves. learning to accept who and where i am, understanding that all the parts of me combine into something that is whole even when it feels broken, has been a real struggle this month. there are so many pieces of myself that i despise, and i wish i could shed them, leave them behind, or turn them into something better. but these reluctant feelings, this desire to change the core of who i am, is driven by fear. if i can learn to accept this broken self, and see the cracks and flaws as signs of strength and perseverance rather than as fundamental failures, perhaps i can find new strength in myself.

28. what can use more of my time?

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the nine of cups is a lovely card of contentment, quiet, and letting things be. the circle of cups is not yet complete, but there is a stillness, a gentle pleasure to this card that feels incredibly soothing. this card always feels like permission to relax, to enjoy the moment, to be grateful, to indulge in the small things that help us find peace and rest. it's a card of self-care, of relaxation, of generosity.

i often struggle with self-care, finding it difficult to fully rest into any one moment. i may treat myself to a bubble bath or an at-home facial, but i find it hard not to still check my email, read about whatever latest hideous thing our idiot-in-chief has said on twitter, worry about friends and family, wonder how i can boost my career, and on and on and on. i may try to take time for tarot, but i find myself irritated with any interruption, constantly distracted, feeling like the whole thing is ridiculously self-centered. several doctors have all told me i need to adopt a regular yoga practice to help my severe major depression and idiopathic insomnia, and i find it impossible to do this as it somehow feels like a selfish indulgence. i feel like i don't deserve anything, like i shouldn't waste money and time and energy on things that only benefit myself, like i don't do enough for others to also indulge myself. but depression takes everything away, and finding ways to physically and emotionally tell myself that i am worthy, that i am valuable, that i am important - that can have a huge impact on recovery.

29. what should october leave behind?

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i love the daughter of swords. i love her honesty, her directness, her agility, her intelligence. she assesses situations calmly, considers the best solution in a straightforward manner, and refuses to play games. she doesn't make things more complicated than they need to be - rather, she has a gift for boiling issues down to their more simple, basic principles. she trusts her instincts, relies on facts and reason, values the truth above all. why would i want to leave her behind?

perhaps it's simply to make way for growth. the daughter is the youngest member of the court, often called the page or the novice, and while she feels like a pure expression of the suit, she still has much to learn. being so analytical, so focused on truth and facts, can definitely be taken too far - and applying so much mental energy to something as nebulous and complicated as depression hasn't been super helpful for me. reading articles, talking about it nonstop, being unable to see anything through any other lens - even my tarot readings always come back to my mental illness, rather than any of the other things going on in my life.

in this context, i think the daughter of swords is asking me to make room for some other approaches. it may be time to get out of the sky and get back in touch with nature and the earth, to let myself feel all of these messy, water-logged feelings, to acknowledge the bits of fire that will hopefully start to spark again. it's time to get out of my head and learn to trust my own instincts, even if they aren't always based in the element of air.

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comparing this with my three cards from the first day of september, there's a lot of similarities. my theme card is reflected in this fears card, reminding me to embrace all the pieces of myself, even the ones i'm not proud of. my strength was guarding myself, staying safe, and here i'm also encouraged to take care of myself, to remember the good, to find healing in stillness and quiet and solitude. and my weakness was burden, exhaustion, which i appear to have countered by swapping passion for prudence.

here's hoping for a more balanced, energetic, positive october.

positive & present

i'm continuing to focus on my instagram challenge, but today's cards were so fascinating that they deserve a deeper dive.

day 17: where should i focus more on the present?

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the six of wands, a card of victory, escape, and release. this card appeared just last week to represent my personal intentions, and really spoke to me of hope. sometimes it takes a long time to untangle ourselves from the darkness, but that patience and perseverance will ultimately help us free ourselves from whatever we're trapped in. my mess of wands is this persistent depression, a smothering of my inner fire that i cannot seem to reignite. the dark chaos below her brilliant wings reveals no easy paths through, no obvious tunnels or beams of light to follow out. the butterfly had to make her own way, and i imagine it was painful and difficult and frustrating at various moments. but this card is her triumph, blasting free and soaring up and out on her beautiful wings.

this fight is still my present, and it's easy to lose in the hazy struggle of every day life. just getting dressed, doing my job, caring for my dog and my husband, staying in touch with friends feels like too much - i also have to fight off these miserable tangled shadows?

yes, the cards whisper. keep fighting.

day 18: what can use a more positive view?

the ten of wands, a card of heavy burdens, overload, giving up, too much of a good thing. all those brilliant burning fires have exhausted themselves, run out of fuel, been smothered by too many other wands, and everything has been extinguished. all that's left IMG_0312is a pile of leftovers, energy that has burned out. this card was my weakness for the month of september, and has been challenging me this month.

feeling so drained of fire, utterly exhausted, and having lost passion and light and interest in even the most basic of activities - it's miserable. and it's hard to find positivity in such a dark and discouraging card, one that seems to reflect my mental state over the past three weeks. but saying yes to everything, smiling and acting like everything is fine, all to try and force my way out of depression - that isn't the answer. i have to remember to find joy in one thing at a time, to relish those little victories, to focus on what's positive in my life rather than letting myself drown in all the negatives. having opportunities is wonderful, but saying yes to every single thing is not.

i had a conversation the other day about wishes, and giving up mental illness and challenges if we could. and while my idiopathic insomnia and major depressive disorder are not characteristics that i love or enjoy, they are such massive parts of me and my life that it's hard to imagine who i would be without them. if i slept normally, would i be more positive, more energetic, more friendly? if i didn't deal with depressive episodes several times a year would i be more popular, more optimistic, more spontaneous? it's impossible for me to know. and while the idea of not having insomnia or depression is certainly appealing, i'm not sure i would want to lose them both - because i don't know who i would become. what if gaining hours of regular, uninterrupted sleep impacted my creativity? what if not descending into the shadows and darkness made me less sensitive to moods, and damaged my intuition? would those losses be worth it?

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both of these cards remind me that for better or worse, i am who i am. this dark depression, these murky shadows, the tangled branches and twisted thoughts and difficult struggles are all part of me. but fighting through it, trying to find those bits of light, pushing through all the pain and hurt and this aching, overwhelming sadness to eventually find freedom and space and room to breathe? that's part of me, too. and staying engaged in that fight, finding one wand to wield rather than just burning them all to ashes, and remembering that i'll escape eventually, are lessons worth repeating.