New Shoots

Trigger Warning: This post contains references to suicide that could be distressing.

For some, life reaches a point where it derails you completely. It is the moment where you feel that death is preferable. Some refer to this as ‘Rock Bottom’ and when I reached mine, it may not have felt like it at the time, but it was the day that I began again. I was 30, and as the first third of my life came to an end, so did the walls I’d built around myself. My persona, my mask, and my pretence began to rot and decay, along with my twenties and I was scared. I feared there was nothing underneath, that I’d just disintegrate and dissolve to nothing.

I didn’t.

This Rock Bottom was painful. When I’d made the decision to take my own life I had crossed an invisible line in the sand. It’s the strangest place to be; a bit like sitting in the departure lounge waiting to get on a plane that will take you to a place you can’t even begin to imagine. The panic of ‘before’ was over, I was packed and ready to go and there was even something relatively calming about knowing there was no going back.

But I didn’t die. I got on the wrong flight instead and found myself in a different land: one I hadn’t wanted to visit. In the psychiatric ward I was exposed and raw, like my skin had been peeled away from my body; it hurt too much to be alive and I didn’t understand how one could survive feeling this terrible. I did survive, and I disclosed the secret that was the cause of my breakdown. Whilst it took many more years before finding the right help to process the trauma, when I disclosed, I sensed new growth within me. It started with honesty. I began to speak the truth occasionally, to others, not often, but sometimes, I’d explain why I was ill. The shoot began to grow. My shame was a limpet, but I learned how to trust my instinct and share anyway, every now and then, cautiously and carefully.

Sometimes I regretted sharing. Sometimes people reacted badly. A couple turned away entirely, leaving me feeling ashamed and vulnerable.

And yet the shoot got bigger.

I would find myself crossing the invisible line many more times but nothing I did seemed to destroy the shoot. It weathered the storms and waited patiently for me to survive, before continuing its slow growth.

“Life begins the day you start a garden.”

Chinese proverb

When each year comes to an end, it is like a death and as it begins to decay, it makes room for the next year. I’m closer to reaching the person I was always meant to be. The last Sunday in November is Stir Up Sunday, an important tradition in my house. I spend the day making a huge Christmas fruit cake and my children and I take it in turns to make a wish. It’s a moment we all take very seriously. I won’t tell you exactly what I wish for, as it won’t come true if I do, but it is along the lines of progress and I’m slowly beginning to see these wishes come to life. It may be later than I hoped but, at the age of 44, I’m more than happy to say goodbye to my youth. To bury it deep underground and stick a gravestone on top. It was a strange and unhappy place for me and I embrace my middle age and above with total acceptance and look forward to my future.

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