Today I felt myself again. Today I wandered through unfamiliar streets with no real purpose or direction. Today I held my head up and smiled at strangers.
Today I noticed the little things. An unexplained purple-paint hand print on an otherwise bare concrete wall, the way my shoes sounded a little bit like horse hooves when I click them on the pavement just right, and that particular smell of fresh cut wood and burning metal indicative of construction sites.
Today I didn’t feel drained or scared. Today I felt curious and hopeful.
Today I felt like stardust.
I talk a lot about mental health. Depression is something that has plagued people I love for as long as I can remember. My father, my sister, and my brother, who we lost to suicide in 2013. It has been a hard and painful road, watching them struggle with their own versions of a unrelenting disease. On some level, I was grateful for this intimate insight, because it meant I would be a strong ally to my friends who dealt with similar struggles.
What I did not expect is that understanding and experience could be used against me.
There is a fine line between aiding and enabling. And it’s never easy to see when you’ve crossed it. Usually when you do realize, you find yourself miles away from it.
A few days ago I realized I had spent nearly two years nurturing an unhealthy relationship because I was still trying to save my brother. There were so many red flags. At more than one point this person had threatened me with self-harm, and I had ignored it. There was a continued pattern of disrespect, and I ignored it. I had become a financial and emotional crutch with no effort to ever relieve me of this burden, even after over a year. I ignored this.
And my reasoning behind this was maybe, just maybe, if I tried hard enough, if I sacrificed just a little bit more of myself… I could save someone. I could save someone where I had failed to save my brother, and at the time it didn’t matter if that meant killing myself in the process.
The mental health we don’t often talk about is you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, and if you try, it will destroy you piece by piece. Because that person wants to control you. Because that person has been controlling you.
So I finally left. It hurt, and my mind screamed against me that I was cruel and making a mistake. I felt guilty for days. I felt like I had gone back on everything I’d promised in being an ally for mental health.
My friends were kind and supportive. They let me talk and talked me through what happened. I admitted to things I’d been too ashamed to talk about in regards to this toxic relationship. And then I no longer felt guilty, I felt incredibly foolish.
Then a dear friend offered to take me with her to Chicago on a work trip. And I spent time alone, and in doing so, I found someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Today, I truly let go.
Today, I forgave myself for loving me.