Sometimes when it’s late
And the stratosphere turns from
Red to black
I can still hear you
In my ear
See your army greens on my floor
The image of everything
We were never supposed to be
But we did.
And we were.
And you made me feel like
The winds of change
Didn’t have to be so cold
Sometimes when it’s late
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is to let of that which I so desperately longed to hold onto.
I’ve experienced death before I was ever prepared for the gravity of it’s consequences. It broke my heart in a way that I was certain I would never recover from. But recently, I have learned that sometimes there are losses we must endure which cut deeper than even the pain of death. These are losses not forced upon us by the cycle of life. You simply wake up one morning and realize that nothing will ever be as it once was. No matter how many different ways you remember it. No matter how much it once meant. The chapter is over. You are not the same, and neither is anything else.
And so you have to let go of things you still love. Ideas, feelings, and people. They’re all still there, within your reach. You can see them and touch them, but they’re not meant to stay with you. So you have to let them go. It hurts because their story does not end when you say goodbye. It will go on without you, just as yours will go on without them. And for some reason that has been harder to come to terms with than the death of anything I’ve ever loved. We can’t control the cycle of life and death, but we can control the path we choose to take while we are alive. Choosing to leave behind something that once gave you life… Resisting the temptation to sacrifice everything in an attempt to get that feeling back. I really can’t think of anything more painful.
Photo Source: Unknown
I always thought I would have my life figured out by the time I reached this age. I’m pretty sure the rest of the world expects me to be a lot farther along in that respect than I actually am. The truth is, I spend most of my time trying to make up for whatever poor decisions I made the day before. I don’t know who I want to become or how I’m supposed to get there, but I know who I am right now.
The truth about being 25 is that although I understand the meaning of the word moderation, I have yet to master the art of applying it to my real life. I eat cookies for breakfast and consider Subway to be a “healthy” alternative to my usual diet of Mcdonalds and pizza. Sometimes I cancel my plans to stay home watching Netflix and I haven’t gone to the gym in over a year.
The truth about being 25 is that I still don’t know how to have just one glass of wine and I always take more ibuprofen than the bottle says I should. I eat french fries in bed and leave the ketchup on the coffee table over night. I don’t ever show up on time unless I absolutely have to, and I spend money on paper plates and plastic silverware because I’m too lazy to do the dishes.
The truth about being 25, is that I don’t know how to change a spare tire and the inside of my car would probably make a homeless man cringe. I can’t seem to remember anyone’s birthday and one of my favorite past times is accumulating credit card debt. I still am, and probably always will be, the notorious “drunk texter.” I have a tendency to open up to the wrong people much too quickly, and to look for love, validation and acceptance in all the wrong places.
The truth about being 25 is that I’m starting to become aware of what I don’t want my life to become, but I have yet to figure out exactly what I do want. I make the same mistakes at least a couple of times and I push myself to the limit in almost every possible way. The truth about being 25 is that I don’t know what I’m doing and for the most part, I guess I’m pretty selfish. I try to make it look like I have things figured out, but I’m still just trying to find my way.
The truth about being 25 is that I’m not perfect and I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what the future holds, or if I’ll make it out alive. The truth about being 25 is that sometimes you lose your way. You make a wrong turn or miss your exit, and you have to take the scenic route to get back to where you were. It’s okay to stop and take some pictures before you get back on the highway.
Because the truth about being 25 is that it’s mostly detours. And that’s best part of the trip.
So I’ve taken that giant leap of faith and somehow ended up sitting here, cross legged on my bed, typing this blog post. I sat here for quite some time, staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen, wondering what I could possibly write about next. The only answer that I’ve been able to come up with is simply that I really don’t know.
All of the small stuff has come to me very easily up until this point. It didn’t take me long to get settled in here or to find a job. I was finally able to let go of the things that made me miserable in the life I left behind. All that’s left to do is put my dreams into action and start building the life I’ve always wanted. Of course, the part that matters the most will ultimately be the biggest challenge. Not only does it require more effort than the rest of this journey, but it’s also much more daunting.
I always come across these quotes, essentially saying that the only thing holding us back from our greatest desires is fear. I have found that notion to be exceedingly accurate, which is both empowering and intimidating. Fear is what drives us all, whether it is simply keeping us safe or holding us back. I would argue that it is one of the most difficult emotions to overcome, because despite it’s vitality in our daily functions, the source of our fear is not always clear. Many times, we have to dig deep within ourselves to identify our fears before we can even begin to put them to rest.
At this particular moment in my life, it seems reasonable that the fear of failure might be my driving force. I’ve always been very sure about the fact that I wanted to be a writer. Recently, that is something that has given me a lot of discontent. Everyone is always asking me, “What do you want to write about?” For some reason, that question is one that almost always results in a certain level of irritation on my end. It’s a perfectly normal thing to ask someone who says they want to be a writer, but I can’t seem to come up with an answer that feels sufficient.
I know that I love to write, more than I love to do anything in this entire world. The thing is, I truly feel that I can write about almost anything and enjoy it- even if it’s a topic that doesn’t personally interest me that much. I love researching topics I know nothing about and writing about what I find. I love writing about my own life, opinions and ideas, as well as those of other people. I enjoy writing poetry and fiction. I just love to write. It’s not that other people aren’t satisfied with that answer. No one has ever told me that it wasn’t sufficient. The problem is that I feel like that answer isn’t good enough. At least not for me.
I’m still left with the question of what to do next. I know that I want to write articles for a publication of some sort, but I don’t have a clear idea of exactly what I want to write about or which publications I want to submit to. I could write a novel, or a memoir, or compile a book of poetry. I feel like there are so many options, and the fact of the matter is that I just don’t know where to start. I don’t really know what my niche is yet or what I hope to accomplish with my writing.
I want to write something that matters. Something that makes a difference. Whether that means writing about my own personal experiences, or creating something much bigger to inspire social change. I don’t have an answer right now, although I can’t say that I’m not actively searching for one. I guess, for now, that’s all I can really do. Keep searching until I come up with something that feels right. I just hope I’m headed in the right direction.
Everyone seems to have an opinion. Something I’ve started to realize lately is that no matter what, there are people who will take any opportunity to kick you while you’re down. Sometimes those people are the closest ones to us, people we love and trust. So when they tell us who we are, we believe them.
I consider myself a very open minded person. It’s always good to see both sides, and I love to listen and try to understand different points of view. But what’s not okay, is when those opposing views are meant to make me feel small and insecure. I think that people like me assume that the rest of the world is the same way we are. I want to believe that people mean well. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing people in this world. I want to believe that most people are inherently good. But we all make mistakes and we are all selfish. There are a lot of bullies in this life, and they don’t stop being bullies when high school is over.
But I’ve begun to trust myself again. I know who I am, who I want to become. I know my worth. I won’t question my intentions or my heart for one more second of my life. Because if we can’t trust ourselves, then who can we trust? No one should ever have to feel that invalidated. So if you’re doubting yourself, then don’t. How could anyone know you better than you? It’s as simple as that. People deflect their own bullshit onto other people, and that’s not about anyone but them. You’re still you, and yours is the only opinion that matters. Trust that. It’s the best part about you.
The other day, I had a moment of clarity. It happened unexpectedly, and for no particular reason. I wasn’t doing anything I hadn’t done before, but all of a sudden -there it was. Happiness, in its simplest, purest form. As the feeling washed over me, I realized that it had been so long since I felt it, I had almost forgotten it altogether. I hadn’t been truly happy in so long that I didn’t know anything different. I didn’t know what I was missing anymore.
If I look back, I honestly cannot tell you a time when I felt this way. I think maybe I never have, even as a child. For the first time, I am becoming the person that I want to be. I feel truly accepted and loved. For the first time in my entire life, the weight of my existence is not looming over my head throughout each day. I feel free. I feel alive. I feel like as long as I keep living my life without fear and without restrictions- I can stay this way forever.
Less than a year ago, I could not come up with one good reason why I should stay alive. Now, I can’t think of one good reason to be sad. Because every morning I wake up, and I get to paint the picture for what I want the day to look like. I get to decide who I want to be today and everyday. And I don’t have to apologize to anyone for it. Because what I’m learning is that I’m actually not as bad as I once believed. I’m actually exactly who I’m supposed to be. I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m good. I’m enough.
Photo: my uncle, cousin, aunt and myself (left to right)
by Karlee Steffanni
I sit across from her in the dark.
Her face illuminated by the glow of a single flame.
Her eyes burn into mine
As the light dances across her face.
They are begging me to feel something; anything.
I inhale, taking in her silhouette
And try to remember a time when those eyes felt like home
But when I exhale, they are still hollow
And so am I.
Reading between the lines…
I wrote this poem last November, the day before I tried to kill myself. When I was writing it, I don’t think I even really fully understood what was happening to me. I knew that I was in a lot of pain. I was tired. But that was my reality. It’s what I had always known. I believed that was how things would always be.
I guess there are probably a lot of factors that play into why I felt doomed to a life of misery. But the first thing that comes to mind is when my parents took me to see a psychologist when I was a teenager. I got in trouble at home a lot, due to the fact that my parents and I did not see eye to eye on what I should and should not be allowed to do in terms of my social life. They would set rules about who I could hang out with, where I could go, etc. I would sneak around and break those rules, get caught, and well… you get the idea.
So at some point, I began seeing a doctor who diagnosed me with “severe major depression.” That was that. It all made sense. I was fucked up. No one ever said anything in particular that would have made me feel like this was a bad thing. My parents loved me and were just doing the best they could to find a solution for the way things were. It was complicated and messy, but I know that no one wanted me to feel like having depression was simply a major character flaw.
Ultimately, that is how I felt though. I was always getting in trouble and messing everything up. Now we knew why. Because I was broken. It felt like a death sentence. Even before my diagnosis, I always knew that there was something different about me. I was forced to grow up at a very young age and I just always remember being affected by things very strongly. It seemed to me like I felt the same things that other people felt, but on a much larger scale. It was overwhelming and confusing. So when I got this diagnosis, it didn’t surprise me. I knew it was coming before anyone confirmed it. What I didn’t know was what to do with that information.
For me, not much changed. I started taking anti-depressants which made me feel weird and tired and stupid. I hated it. And that was basically the end of it. I continued seeing my doctor and talking about things that were bothering me. But I never really understood what all of it meant for me and my life on a larger scale. It seemed like everyone was happy to have an answer to why I was the way that I was. And that was where it stopped.
Very quickly, I developed the mindset that I was just fucked. I would never be normal. I would always be sad. I would always have to fight harder to just be alive and not wish I could die. I thought that if I went on antidepressants I would be a different person, but without them I would be miserable. So some ten odd years later, when my life began crumbling around me, I guess I just decided that enough was enough. I was exhausted. I honestly believed that I had no other option. I was on the edge of a cliff and a fire was closing in on me from behind. Either way, I lost. This is how it would always be.
Looking back, I can’t help but wonder whether or not I would have swallowed those pills last year if I had had a different understanding of mental illness in general. If there had been someone to tell me that I wasn’t broken, and that there was another option. All I knew was that I was miserable, and that it was because of me. If someone had told me that they understood and that it wasn’t something to hide or be ashamed of, would I still have chosen death? I can’t say for sure, but my gut says ‘no.’
As I sit here writing these words, it is with that thought in mind. I don’t want to be quiet about what I went through. The more we treat mental illness as taboo, the more it reinforces the idea that it’s something to be embarrassed about. But it isn’t. If you had any other type of illness, you wouldn’t be ashamed to go to the doctor to get help. For some reason, if we feel like killing ourselves, we think it’s a good idea to just weather the storm alone. We don’t ask for help. We put on a brave face and accept it because it’s just the way it is. It’s life, life sucks. Get over it.
Actually, no. That’s not the way it is. You can’t just get over it. And the only way to fight it is to acknowledge it. You don’t just get a life sentence, that’s not how it works. If you get diagnosed with cancer you don’t just go home and live with it. You try to fight it. This should be no different. We have to be open and honest and we have to support each other. We have to know what it is we’re up against so that we know when to ask for help.
I don’t know if anyone will read what I have to say, but I’m choosing to share my story anyway. Because if there’s one person out there who needs to hear what I have to say, then it’s worth it. So if you’re out there and you find yourself relating to the words on this page, then you have felt what I felt. So there is one person who understands. You’re not alone. You make perfect sense to me. We speak the same language, and so my heart is connected to yours and always will be.
I want you to know that just because your mind has convinced you that there is something wrong with you does not make it true. Reality is so much more than the lies our minds tell us in order to control us. So don’t give up. The world needs people who feel things as deep as we do. It seems like a curse right now, but I promise it is a gift. Your mind is beautiful, and you are loved. You are enough. We both are.
If you’ve been following my story up until this point, you know that Vegas is just a stop on my journey to Los Angeles. In order to get to Los Angeles, I need one thing. Money. So I spent the last few weeks looking for a job. I decided the best route to take would be a tipped position, either serving or bartending. I wanted to be able to make a lot of money without working a ton of hours, so that I still had time to focus on my writing.
I applied to every bar or restaurant I could think of and went to multiple interviews. Finally, this afternoon, I accepted a position as a server at the bar that was my first choice. The pay is hourly plus tips and it’s part time. It’s the perfect fit. My first day is next Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Chapter 1: Part 2 of this journey. It seems like everything is coming together. Sometimes I still can’t believe this is where I am. I really did it. I got in my car and I just left.
The best part is, I think it’s actually going to pay off. That is such an indescribable feeling. I was so afraid of the unknown, so afraid of failing. Yet, here I am making it all happen. Everything I thought I could never do, I’m doing. Will there be some roadblocks along the way? Maybe, but I think the hardest part was just taking that first step. So many times in my life, I have felt powerless. Powerless to change my circumstances and create a reality that I could stand to be a part of. What I’ve begun to realize is that I always had that power. It was just easier to make excuses.
And if there happens to be one soul
Laying awake right now
And day dreaming of me
I’d want it to know
That I make more sense
Inside my own dreams
Let me sleep
As I was driving, I started thinking about where I was actually going to go. Los Angeles had always been the dream and although the idea of going straight there was enticing, I realized I had very little money and things could go bad very easily. It didn’t take long for me to decide the smart thing to do would be to go and stay with my aunt and uncle. They lived in Vegas, which I knew was only about four hours from Los Angeles. Just by leaving in the first place, I realized that I was already taking a huge risk and stepping outside my comfort zone. I thought it might be smart to at least have a roof over my head while I picked up the pieces and put together my new life.
I kept driving, headed West and as soon as I had about four hundred miles between myself and my old life, I began calling my family. First I called my aunt to break her the news that I was on my way. She had always said that I was welcome there, but there was still a part of me that was nervous about how she would react. In the end, she was excited but also a little bit concerned. Let me explain.
You see, last November I spent seven days in a psychiatric hospital in Auburn Hills after I attempted to take my own life. That fall evening, I took a bottle of 30 xanax, .5mg each. I also drank about two bottles of wine, and took 30 trazodone, 50 mg- just incase. Luckily, someone I hold very dearly to my heart sensed that something was wrong with me and drove 40 minutes from her work to my apartment to see if I was okay. She found me unresponsive and completely pale, passed out on the couch in my living room. She called 911, and an ambulance came and took me to University of Michigan hospital, which is where I would wake up some eighteen hours later.
As you can imagine, that entire experience was extremely difficult for both me and my family. No one knew what to say, no one saw it coming. Everyone felt guilty and everyone was worried about me. I was mostly numb. I cried a lot, even after I got “better.” I felt lost most of the time and always alone. Not alone in a healthy way. Alone in the sense that I felt like I may never find where I felt like I truly belonged.
So when my aunt got this phone call from me, she was ecstatic but also fearful. The thing is, I felt exactly the same way. But the reason I never turned around was because for the first time in I don’t even know how long- I felt like I was back in the drivers seat of my life. The only other time I could remember feeling that way was the night in November when I drove my car to the scene which I decided would be the final act of the story that was my life. This time, it was a different kind of control. I wasn’t giving up anymore. I was giving in- to everything I had buried over the course of twenty five years. That day, I wasn’t driving to my death. I had just started living.