O Ye, Of Little Faith Illustration

by Gabrielle Conlon

 

April is the hardest month of the year for me. Repressed trauma banging on the door of my conscious, demanding to be let out is one of the reasons my most intense depressive episodes come up during this part of the year. Having regular depression, anxiety, and PTSD don’t help. So, attempting to write about the greater good seemed like a good idea, but it feels impossible. That’s why I’m trying to write it.

In high school, we learned about love letters. They were signs from God (the universe) that you are loved. As someone with PTSD who suffers from a bit of psychosis and other mental illnesses, one of the biggest difficulties I have is object permanency, especially in regards to good. When you’re abused, your sense of reality warps. The good and bad are rearranged in such a way that you need archaeological tools to dig out the good while it only takes a blink to recognize the bad. So, when something bad happens, I have no problem believing it will happen that way forever, or even if it does stop, there is a possibility of it happening again. That’s PTSD or learning (because if I didn’t understand this, I’d stay hurt for much longer). But, I cannot hold onto good for the life of me. I need constant reminders that good can happen for a long time, that it can come again even when I can’t see it. I always need love letters.

One of the best things was one of those Facebook memes where it’s, “like my status and I’ll do this.” So my best friend liked that post and I wrote something I liked about her on her wall. Then she wrote about four wall posts (this was before the word count was unlimited, mind you) about what she liked about me. That is tangible. That is good I can hold.

I had created a book where I wrote only love letters down. For someone with undiagnosed mental illnesses and who regularly self-harmed, these were the closest to therapy I’d ever get. I thought it would be something that’d heal me faster, whole me better. For a long time, my friends who knew I struggled sent me some. I kept a notebook full of the I love you so much’s given through drawings and letters and Facebook posts and texts. It’s my Brighter Side notebook. The last entry is from summer of 2013 and there’s dust collecting on it.

Many lovely things have happened since that day but I can’t keep them in one notebook anymore. In the movie, Inside Out, the personified emotion, Joy, tries to keep happy front and center and push every other emotion out of the way. She believes this is the only way to keep her person, Riley, happy. But, as the movie goes on, Joy learns that while happy is always great to experience, only having that one emotion will stop a person from being authentic. Pretending that bad things and feelings don’t happen didn’t keep Riley happy, it screwed up her emotions and that kept her from feeling real.

My Brighter Side notebook was like having only Joy working in my body. I couldn’t be real in a very important place because I could only bring the good things to that notebook. For a long time, that kept me stuck. But I had to write (it’s the only way to carry everything), so I started a regular journal. Just notes about my day in little lists, a way to remember that I’m still here. What surprises me as I look back on the entries is that most of my love letters can be found here. Surrounded by my depressive episodes and questionable plans to attain happiness and joy for one and all, there are little snippets of my friend held my hand today and that made me feel less alone and everything hurts but I read this line that makes me feel a bit lighter.

That’s the thing, I think. I’ve tried dividing life into solely good or bad categories, and all the moments I have had started to lose meaning.

I’m learning to stay present through all my moments, not just the good ones. I used to think of my life only through the day I graduated high school [good] or my first dance with a boy [bad, though I couldn’t/wouldn’t understand why] or when my parents found out everything [bad bad bad]. But I lost everything when I remembered like that. I’m getting my most important by tracking everything like this:

 

the day I placed my head in between my arms and my forehead turned red from pressing into the table so hard, refusing to eat. And my best friend lays a chip on my schoolbooks, but doesn’t bring anymore attention to it.

 

starting to dissociate when my therapist says, Something must’ve happened when you were a child to make you feel like people could leave you, un-love you like it’d be the easiest thing in the world. Her saying, I feel you leaving me but it’s just us here, you don’t have to leave, it’s just us here, you’re okay.  

 

dad not knowing what to do during panic attacks but calling softly through the closed door, wreck-it ralph is on. learning that people love in different languages but i’m understanding them better.

 

a friend reading one of my posts and coming to talk to me about how she had never thought something like this could’ve hurt me, and that she’s sorry, and can we set aside time to talk and open this heart we’re sharing between us a little more?

 

drawing your art therapist a goodbye present and her telling you between the laughs and unexplored sadness and the not-be-able-to-meet-their-eyes, I hope you don’t disappear.

 

the tags friends leave in comments and posts when I feel like I’m shouting into the abyss and the abyss is laughing back at me.

 

mom always holding your hand and listening when I think everything will explode inside me disaster. mom always holding my hand through the storm of it all.

 

my sister listening to my darkest with open light, nothing but love in the arms that reach for me.

 

buzzed for the first time but still planting my feet in the ground so I don’t miss this when she grabs your thigh and holds my hand and I’m flying but it’s more wonder and flutter and okay than escape.

 

when the man that always said he’d send me to the moon turns up at the door with stories a whole history I’d been told a thousand times and he comes with another ten sides to the story, opening up the wound I’d been carrying into more light than blood, tells me, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad to be able to talk with you all like this, to be here with you.

 

This is how I learn that good can stay. This is how I dig up love letters and learn how to write back.