I don't remember the first time the thought entered my head, just the first time I actually decided to do something about it. Looking back, I guess it doesn't matter when the first occurrence was; it's always been a part of me. It's been the shadow following me on the ground, always visible and always just out of my reach.
But that's the point isn't it?
I was thirteen or maybe I was fifteen, that seems closer. It doesn't matter quite how old I was. What matters is that I was.
It hadn't been a bad day. There had been no major catastrophe. No one died.
But someone might have.
It might have been me.
I guess that just wasn't in the cards back then.
Streams of water flowed over her face, her back, her chest, her body. She licked her lips and tasted the salt of her tears and the clean edge of the minerals in the water. She stepped back and opened her eyes, looking around at the peach tiles and many bottles of shampoo. Bottle after bottle on the little shelf and it didn't matter which one you used, they all had the same result.
People were like that. In the grand scheme of things, did one person really matter?
The thought brought new tears and she laughed at the cliché, crying so hard even water couldn't hide it. Pathetic. Disgusting. Worthless.
Her hand had found the blade before her mind had really finished the thought.
Then again, they always told her to follow her instincts.
The average person has a kinesthetic ability to be able to touch a part of their body without looking, or to know exactly where something is, without seeing. She was beyond average. In children's games, she always won "where is the line".
She missed the line.
She hit the side of her wrist and her eyes flew open. Her breath came in a gasp that echoed in the closed stall and came back to startle her. For a moment, she stared, confused as rivulets of red made their way from her tiny wrist into the drain.
It shouldn't have happened.
God, she was glad it did.
That was the first success. I guess back then, I was stupid. Though I can't say that I'm any smarter now. But I was grateful for the experience nonetheless. That first time woke something up in me. It woke up an instinct that had fallen asleep when my father left. That instinct was survival. It was power. It was life. It was rage.
It would save my life the next two times I battled the demon inside of me.
But there would be times that were different.
The tires screamed over the curves and the frame shuddered as she depressed the brakes. The trees ran past, shaking barren branches and the cacti laughed and waved. Moon shined down and raced them, they tried to outrun her but the car wasn't made for that. Regardless, they made it to the top of the hill, the end of Campbell and to the Ronstadt circle.
It was beautiful there. And then, strangely quiet. She turned down the lights, killed the engine and stepped out to look. The city lights blinked and danced while a cool breeze came up from the valley and ran gentle fingers through her dark brown curls. She smiled and shook her head, stepping back into the car and starting the ignition. She locked her doors, flipped through the songs on her iPod and settled on one to echo in her ears long after her dreams left her sleep.
Seconds later, she was flying or maybe she was diving. She hit sixty and then hit the rise on the way down and felt all four wheels leave the ground. Her breath caught in her throat and for a brief second she was blinded by the view. The reflections almost burned her eyes as she dove into a sea of lights and glass.
All too soon, her moment was gone and reality returned. With it, sanity made an appearance. The car came down hard and she felt the tires scrabble for a grip. That was one of the things that made a desert dive so dangerous, the sand across the road was not a friendly influence. She was loosing control, she could feel the spin coming on and now, with her head finally clear and the screaming voice of reason in her mind, she didn't want to die.
God, was with me that night, as I'm learning, he's been with me every night. I didn't die, despite the odds. Somehow, despite starting to spin out on a sandy road, in the middle of the night, in a 1994 Camry with bad brakes and a questionable suspension, I made it. I regained control of that car and learned a little about making turns with an e-brake.
I suppose the irony in the story came later down the road when I passed a cop on the intersection of Campbell and Ina, looking for irresponsible drivers. Life's funny that way though, or at least, that's a more comforting way to explain it.
That time taught me something that was both good and bad. I didn't need to die, I just needed to feel alive. Being reckless made me feel alive, almost dying made me feel alive, adrenaline was the key. Dying was for the weak.
Cheating death would be my new game.
I played it well, and I played it for another six months.
I developed a habit of pushing my car to ninety and weaving in and out of traffic, dodging guardrails and learning this town like I never thought I would. Cops were a constant reminder of the real world, they were the monsters, my own demons trying to catch me. I kept running, or in this case, driving.
I turned twenty almost three weeks ago.
I've never gotten a speeding ticket.
It was her 19th birthday and it had so far gone to hell in a Nine West vinyl clutch. He had stood her up again, for the last time. It was the death of a longstanding friendship and now she knew it.
Her friends had come and gone, with their own expectations of her. Some of her friends hadn't even bothered to come, or hadn't wanted to be there. She was learning something, people didn't like you for who you were; they liked you for who they wanted you to be.
She didn't want to be.
Options crept up, second nature and easy as breathing.
Her mom was out again, like always, and she was alone.
She tried to find some of the rage that had festered in her soul, poisoning her for so long. She could feel it but it refused to come out, to help her. Instead it stayed curled up, contained and content, like she and all of the counselors had taught it to.
Sometimes progress wasn't what it seemed.
She thought of all the pills and tablets in the medicine cabinet. Surely they would aid her. But she knew that they wouldn't. When the battle had first begun, she'd made a preemptive strike against herself, or maybe it was a good thing, who knew? Whatever it was, the careful overdosing of the counter accessible pharmaceuticals had made her almost immune to all medications, instead of slowly weakening her system like she'd wanted. It would take more than she was willing to swallow to do real damage.
She closed her eyes and felt the despair caress the back of her neck.
She didn't want to die, just to feel pain.
To feel anything.
I woke up on the floor at about two am the next morning and was more depressed than I'd been when I started. Smoking out on an empty stomach, when I was already down, was one of the worst ideas I've had. Nicotine affects people differently, for me, it's a temporary high that I can achieve several times but after four or five highs, I start regressing. Smoking through a hookah that's new and still has the acrid factory taste of poison glass, didn't help me much.
I remember calling my mom in tears and her not coming home.
That was a source of anger for a long time afterward.
Not that I blame her for my actions, it was just easier at the time.
We all have our demons.
This had to be the meds. It didn't make sense otherwise. But they weren't working.
Or were they?
She was crying at school. She never did that. Ever.
Breaking down in a locker room was not in her code of conduct.
The door swung and she heard the hinges creak.
"Ness? Hey, lady, are you in here?"
Shit. Steph had never seen her crazy. No one had.
"Oh my god, Nessa, are you ok?"
She could feel her staring, heard Steph move to sit across from her. For a second she distracted herself and looked at one of the posters on the wall. Fun, friendly and family oriented, your local YMCA. Or some other mocking sentiment.
"No, Steph. I'm not ok."
If there was one thing she could do that was smart in this moment she would. So she dug through her bag and handed Steph a set of keys. There was an automatic remote, like a garage door opener and it was covered in bright yellow duct tape. That was mocking too.
"Do you want to talk?"
For once, the answer was yes.
For a little while, I thought that I was just weak and had fallen back into an old pattern. But I went to SAMPHC Behavioral that night and they confirmed what some of my counselors had suspected. I was bi-polar. The medication I was on was an anti-depressant, not a bi-polar approved med. It was the reason for the relapse.
That was in May of 2008. Since then, there have been no relapses. I don't take that as a sign that I am better, but as a sign of God's grace. I'm not able to take medications. My body rejects them and they've found that I regress rather than progress.
I'm not sure if I'm truly bi-polar or if that was just the best that they can do.
Honestly, I don't really care.
Every time I've relapsed, I've had to pull myself back up. Some of my friends are very supportive in this endeavor and some of my mentors as well, but for the most part; it's been me—against me.
I've come to strongly believe that whatever cannot, does not, or fails to kill you; will make you stronger. Three years ago, this year would have buried me. Three years from now, I won't recognize the person I am.
It reminds me of one of the things I like most about humanity and God.
He created humans to be infinitely resilient, infinitely adaptive and there are no mistakes.
Every day we change, adapt and reconcile the newer self with who we used to be. Slowly, this drives us into someone we could have never perceived. And if we can't be perceived, then we can't be limited.
Life without limits.
That's the mission I've undertaken in Ignition. It's a study of my past sure, but it's a chronology of my future, of the return, of the progression.
Every day that I wake up is a victory.
Every day that you wake up is an opportunity.
Life is a series of choices and each one is interdependent upon the other. It's terrifying, beautiful, and electrifying.
Today, I made the choice to tell you my story. I made the choice to move forward. I made the choice to look in the mirror and face my demons.
What choices will you make today?