I don't remember how it began. I don't remember exactly when it started; whether it was back in fifth grade or freshman year. But I can tell you how I started slowly sinking, how everything hit me so fast but slow enough that I didn't have time to run.
It was October, sophomore year. I was at school late, dad picked me up, drove home. He kept swerving, he was tired, not very happy, I could tell. Heart lurching, stomach dropping, I never liked it when he drove at night. In my dreams, the streets weren't empty. Every swerve meant goodbye or good morning. Three in the morning. I'd wake up, dream fresh in my system, images clear, lights flashing. I could feel the glass, see the scars, my mother's tears, my dad still angry. I fell back asleep only to be greeted with the same dream. Stop. Repeat. Three more times. Three more nights. Three more weeks.
I was tired, couldn't sleep, counting pills instead of counting sheep. I was tired, didn’t want to sleep. Every night, I’d see a replica of me, crying on the bathroom floor, wrists looking like an essay handed back, crimson red highlighting every mistake I’ve made. Only the pill bottle kept me company in my moments of solitude. It would whisper comforting words. Go to sleep. Go to bed. You’ll be safe in your dreams. That’s what it told me. I told it to hold me. So I held it. Goodbye. Good morning. Three in the morning. Stop. Repeat. Three more times. Three more nights. Three more weeks.
No more counting pills. No more counting sheep. I opted not to fall asleep. I lay in bed, voices overwhelming me, so loud I can’t even hear my own say, “Why, my soul, are you downcast. Why so disturbed within me?” I’d say it again, and again, and again, trying to fight the voices around me. But it was a whisper amongst shadows that surround me. The kind of twisted thoughts that run through my head, thinking maybe you’d love me more if I was dead. I knew it wasn’t true. The more you say it, the more you’ll believe it. But I couldn’t hear it. Can you hear me, God? When will this end, God? Is my stone heart flesh yet, God? Where are you, God? I can’t breathe, God. My room feels so open, but I feel like I’m suffocating. Can you hear me? Because I can’t hear me. Stop. Repeat. I’ve stopped counting weeks.
I don't remember when it started to get better. When the darkness slowly receded. When the voices in my head grew dormant. When the dreams stopped. When sobs stopped rocking my body to sleep. The fog started lifting, slow enough that I didn’t notice. I don’t know if I got “better”. I don’t know if I’ll get worse. I don’t know if it’ll stop. Repeat. And I’ll go back to counting weeks.
The air isn’t as thick now. I can breathe easier now. I guess the tears put out the fire consuming what little sanity I had left and left me a poet. Goodnight. Good morning. Mornings are okay. There are no more shadows darkening my day. My voice still shakes when I tell this story, my body follows its example, hands quiver like they’re still reaching for the pill bottle. I don’t need it to hold me. There are plenty of hands stretched open for me. The voices can no longer lie to me. I am happy.
Stop. Repeat. I’ve stopped counting weeks.