It’s like suffocating. Your lungs on fire in your chest, heart smashing its way through your rib cage, your synapses screaming at everything that you’re fucking dead if you don’t breathe soon. And the panic, the panic that touches every inch of you, that slides through your veins like liquid nitrogen chilling your bones and shutting you down so that all your brain can think about is
and hopeless you are.
Except you are breathing. And your lungs keep burning. Air’s flowing in and out but your heart’s still trying to shatter your sternum. Your chest rises and falls, synapses frenzied because none of their signals are being heard.
It’s like walking around all day with that dream falling feeling in your gut. That split second when you drop, just before you wake up, and you think it’s all over. But you don’t wake up,
you just fall,
Eventually the sheer terror and desperation and confusion gives way. A human being can only withstand so much physical and emotional distress. It burns you. It starts inside, spreads through your tissues like necrotic poison, creeps slowly into every cell and every fiber you’ve got. And when everything’s singed, it fizzles, and you’re a shell of what you were. Hollowed out, everything you were, gone. A zombie ruled only by the basics – eat, sleep.
Your friends, your family, they see something that used to be a person they knew, something that used to be a person. They know something is deeply wrong, but you can’t form the words to explain what, because that would make it true, so you avoid them. You sink into the empty cave inside your head and wait.
Sometimes you wonder if you want to die, but you can’t muster the energy required to care that much. You reflect on the fact that at least it wouldn’t hurt because you’re so numb.
One day you look in the mirror and see an approximation of the human you were. The outside’s roughly the same – it’s only the inside that’s a wasteland. You force a smile onto the mask that is your face. You arrange clothes on the frame of your physical existence and you let your feet carry you out into the day. You play at being a person, at work, with your friends, for your family.
After a while you’re surprised to find you don’t have to try so hard. You’re surprised to feel surprise. You remember you like laughing. You feel things again, which is good, but also bad, so you focus on making the good outweigh the bad.
You focus on the way grass smells after a pouring rain. You focus on the wind rushing through your clothes when you hit 80 on a motorcycle. You focus on the way your ribs tumble together in your chest when the beat slams through the speaker, the way your dog’s ear feels against your cheek, the way the ocean crashes endlessly against things that would block its way and never gives up fighting.
You become you again, an updated version. You live, out there in the world, you face it, and live through another day. Every day.
You nurture the scars, keep them as a reminder. You bandage the cracks and splits and remember the big break that caused them. You clean the wounds and let them heal as best they can.
You forgive. Because you have to, to be you again. Hate is the slow, secret pain that kills you while you’re not paying attention. To ever be able to feel the way you did before it broke you, you let it go, because hate takes
too much space,
too much time,
too much effort.
But you do not forget. You will never forget.