“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”
– Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
Yesterday I finally got my hands on a book that I should have read ages ago. There’s the movie coming out soon and I figured, I have to read the book first, I always do. Gosh.
The Girl on the Train made me forget that I had boiled the kettle and that I actually really wanted some tea. I didn’t notice my phone flashing next to me. I only got up to pee and feed the cats. I read it in one sitting – literally. I sat in the same place, just turning each page until I reached the end.
I think books mean different things to different people at different times. What I take from this one today may be quite different to what my future self feels in 10 years time reading the same thing. See, the thing is this: It’s obvious that Paula Hawkins is a brilliant writer. You don’t sell over 10 million copies of your book cause you’re average. But that isn’t the only reason I loved her book. It’s more because it made me feel something so familiar by living through her characters. On so many pages that was me. That was him.
The main character, Rachel, is an alcoholic and there was an unusual way her addiction started sounding a lot like the way bipolar disorder inside me does. Her relationship with her ex-husband was strikingly similar to one of my previous relationships that totally turned my tortoise world on its back (they even share the same name – spoiler alert). The big moment for me, though, was that Rachel always felt guilty and ashamed the night after she got drunk. She would say sorry for destroying lives again, for making a fool of herself again, for going too far…again. Sometimes she would say sorry for things she couldn’t remember doing.
When I was going through my worst bipolar swings and slides, I would be repeating the same words over and over again. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean it. I couldn’t help it. I’m such a terrible person. Oh god, I’m so sorry.
Then, this afternoon I was listening to an interview with Glennon Doyle Melton, the author of Love Warrior. And she said this:
“It’s not the pain that takes us down, it’s the shame about the pain.”
And you know what, that’s exactly it.
Once again we fucked up… How do we face the world again… Will we ever be good enough? Those same, pointless thoughts riding in circles on the pink plastic pony at the carnival. Shame, shame, shame. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, all over again.
Then I hopped on over to Glennon’s blog and I saw that her most recent post was about suicide awareness and she shared some of her own story:
“So, there was this one night in college when things were really bad. I was so sick and couldn’t really function and I felt so lost and broken. I was failing out of school and I’d just hurt so many people, so many times. And there is this thing that addicts think at times like these and it goes like this: This is IT. I’ve run out of tries. I can’t ask for forgiveness again. I’m out of forgiveness. I’ve used up so much more than my fair share. I should do everyone I love a favour and just disappear.
So that’s what I was thinking, there on the couch in that dirty basement alone. And that’s when I thought of suicide. That’s when I decided that suicide would keep me from having to face my people and my pain and shame yet again. And so I imagined suicide and it felt like scary, sweet relief and the imagining lingered much too long to be safe.”
Here is the truth: There is no running out of tries. Life is forever tries. Every heartbeat is proof that you’ve got another try…No matter how much you have screwed up, you must be fiercely on your own side. If you are not, no one else will ever, ever be. You must hold your jacked-up, medicated head high. You must remember that even if it hasn’t been pretty, you’ve made it this far. You must tell those shame and fear voices to back the hell off. Life is hard. You are being as brave and as good as you can…
One day, if you let the despair monster come and go and come and go and you refuse to follow his insane directions, you will learn this: Those with the capacity to feel great pain are also those with the capacity to feel deep joy. Those who fall hard, RISE gloriously. Those who are deeply wounded become the greatest healers. Those who come close to death often become those who are MOST ALIVE. You might be one of the extra bad ones — but that means you are also one of the extra good ones…Please, please stay. Stay. First the pain, then the rising. You must stay for the rising.”
I know that there will be times when I screw up again. I know that there will be mornings of oh my god, I’m so sorry. I can guarantee that the same pink pony “I want to die” thoughts will try and keep me in the creepy carnival.
I also know that I was brave enough to start this blog almost exactly a year ago to celebrate the fact that I was alive and that I chose to rise above the shame. I proudly got inked on the same day. I declared that I was a warrior and that I was fighting to live. The semi-colon is there to say that my life’s story isn’t over yet – not even close.
What I am seeing more and more, through authors like Paula and Glennon, whether through fiction or memoir or simply normal women living life and saying something – we do none of this alone. Whenever we share our truth there is an echo somewhere else in the world…
That’s all I wanted to say today.