Trigger warning: this post has potentially distressing references to self-harm, mental health, suicide, grief.
Today is heavy. And still. And silent. Even the ocean is consumed by the fog.
Of course it’s not the only heavy day in my life, although they seem to be more scarce now than they have been in the past. Funny how they sneak up. Without warning signs, like tripping over a book on the floor. Sure, there’s always the days with tough mornings or a bumpy afternoon. But the heavy days have a different texture. I wander through every moment, aware of my gravity – aware of the weight around me. I’m sure there is a rhythm to their happening; but for now I have no idea what creates the ebb and flow.
These are the days that have in the past found me on the floor; curled into a tiny ball. Inflicting pain as a way to focus on something else. Anything else. Anything fresh; because heavy and still and silent felt dangerous. Like a monster I couldn’t fight. A monster that could swallow me whole. Like a grief I didn’t know how to carry. It brought the fear of being trapped in my own heart forever. And the only way I understood to cope with the fear was to walk into pain. Because pain was something I could understand.
But today I have learned how to walk through feelings. They were not meant for me to carry; simply present just to be felt. An invitation, a space to ask questions. Not looking for a final answer; just a deeper understanding.
I know that these are the days I need a little more space (and that’s okay). I carry my scars of yesterday as a reminder of strength. But my heart also carries a new(er) found love of stillness. A love affair with “process”. Because only through can I go deeper into my own life; there is clarity in the depth.
And so these days bring a reminder to slow down. Breathe deep to fill every corner of my lungs with fresh air. Letting it go in it’s own time; moving through grief and sadness and anger all the way back home to love and joy and beauty. Because through the fog another sunrise will always appear.
I can now understand the fog isn’t here to drown me; it’s here to create space for letting go and moving through; simply a way to cleanse. Because even when focusing on action, the rest is as important as the movement. The most efficient way of moving forward involves focusing. And I focus best when my world is still. The foggy days are when I can remember all the things I haven’t said; all the memories I carry that have molded my truth and shaped my strength.
Some of my most intricate memories are from days I hadn’t planned to carry with me. Days that all began like any other day, and somehow turned into the moments that excavated my heart and made a mark that will never fade. On the heavy days, the memories can feel louder than my current world. The day I started walking away from rock bottom – the foundation of my journey home – is one memory I can quickly find myself lost in whenever now feels too big.
I don’t remember much about that morning, aside from what was surely a typical day in my first fall semester of college. But I can remember every breath from the moment I knew. Even today, almost ten years later. Hundreds of miles away, watching the tide come in from the coast.
The beginning was saying goodbye to my friends at lunch and starting the walk over to my advisor’s building. Turning by the bike rack; only three bikes parked for the day. I can still feel the door handle, heavy and cold in my hand. Waiting for the elevator; seconds felt like infinities that would never end. I can see every picture on her desk, staring back at me as I shared my story with her. Like an egg cracking open, spilling into her office. Going over the details in my head – the feelings that were overwhelming my brain. Begging me to walk away from this world; the fear that I couldn’t keep myself safe from my own thoughts. Suddenly they know every complexity of my world and I’m in the back of the police car on my way to the hospital. Fear racing through my veins for the entire drive, but it vanished as soon as I walked into my room at the emergency clinic. I sank in to knowing that everything was out of my control; it was all going to be okay. There were more nurses. Retelling my story again and again and again. Trying to sleep on the cold hospital bed as the hours ticked by. My door closing when the “potentially dangerous” patient walked by. A visit from my advisor. And as suddenly as the trek began, I found myself at the behavioral health clinic. Surrounded by a treatment team that set me on the right path. Morning group sessions that the introvert in me despised; art sessions that taught me how to channel my feelings into color. Meetings with doctors. The challenge of walking in shoes without shoelaces. Meals in the common area with the only other patient currently on suicide watch — a would-be-stranger from the same university; crisis, at times, can make for fast friends. I will forever be grateful for the 72 hours I spent there. There is no doubt it saved my life.
I’m almost certain my heart likes to wander backwards into those moments on the rare foggy days because that juncture feels oddly comfortable; one of the first spaces I felt safe. And so it stays with me, loud and clear when I need it most. The days full of fog; begging for some space to just breathe. Find my center. And soak in all the love around me today; which inevitably carries some grief as a souvenir. Just a small side effect of leaning in.
For me, the bookend of a heavy day is a long bath and climbing into bed to snuggle with my pups. Ready to start fresh and clean tomorrow; having moved through old and new memories all the way back home to myself again.
If you’re having a heavy day, I hope you remember to give yourself permission to pause. Space to breathe. And know that through the fog you will find another sunrise. You aren’t alone in the wilderness. We all have foggy days; it doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong. One day, the fog will remind you how bright the sun can be; the memories a reminder to love with our whole heart, lean in and dive deep.
Over and Out,