seven years

Seven years ago today, I walked through a door that locked behind me into a facility I never intended to enjoy. I was skeptical. I was there to check a box — “cool,” I thought, “when I die, at least my family will know they did everything they could.” 

Psychiatric hospitals don’t necessarily sound fun or fulfilling or wonderful. The hospital I attended was all of those things. I was surrounded by doctors and staff who worked very hard and learned quite a bit in order to be good at their jobs. They said, “you are here, you can tell us anything.” And I did. I did not think that sharing my thoughts would change anything about my decision to die. And then it did. 

So, that is how the first few weeks of six months in psychiatric care went. It has been seven years since that day. I have worked very hard. I continue to deepen the love I have for myself. More than ever, I am giving myself permission to be exactly who I am. 

I’m not cured. That’s not why I do the work. The whirlpool of doubt still sometimes consumes me. Attitudes come up that I thought were long gone. That’s just as wonderful as the good stuff. A lesson in every moment. I’m not here to conquer. I’m here to learn. I’m here to wonder. I’m here to dance and act silly. I’m here to casually thank my friends for not killing themselves. 

Here are just a few of the big pieces of my messy puzzle that have helped me feel absolutely wonderfully good about being alive. 

Meaning 

I think about the meaning of my life (to cultivate authentic connections with others in a way that lifts all of us up) and how I can fulfill it on a daily basis. I don’t always fulfill it, it’s just good to think about and work toward. It’s a good measuring stick that I use to check in with myself about the direction in which I am growing. Where do you find meaning in your life? What are you doing when you feel totally safe and invigorated? 

Values 

Living according to values is an Acceptance Commitment Therapy thing that has absolutely revolutionized a bunch of things about the way I live my life. Especially the way I make decisions. Like meaning, values are a good measuring stick. If I’m somewhere I don’t want to be, if I’ve been shitty, if I am having uncontrollable critical self-talk, I ask myself, “What values have I neglected that may be contributing to this state?” 

Gratitude 

Gratitude is the best thing ever and that’s that. 

The word, “yes” 

The fear of social interactions (/rejection) has kept from making many wonderful potential friends. This year, I have said “yes” to new experiences, social situations, friends, ideas, dreams, and fears that stopped being fears as a result of my yes-ness. 

The word, “no” 

The fear of being left behind has kept me from a lot of self-care and self-advocacy. If I don’t want to, if I don’t feel comfortable, if I am annoyed — I can say “no.”

thanks, past sim

I am so grateful to be alive. My friends are grateful I’m alive, too. And I’m grateful they’re alive. In the last seven years, I have experienced heart shattering pain. I have faced the biggest waves, the most gripping undertows. I have felt such pure joy. I have gained a broader understanding of what it feels like to experience being-ness from my spot on the mountain. From this view, I see what I am willing to see. And I come to new levels of willingness all the time, expanding my view just a bit.

I love it here. I love being alive. It is cool. It is so weird. What an interesting experience this all is.

There is one more thing I must say. I have to tell you that if you have ever wanted to die, I am so glad you didn’t. You’re here and you’re reading this and you’re alive. Maybe life sucks and maybe it’s the coolest or maybe you just try not to think about it too much. Whatever. There is always joy in the darkness. It’s pretty fun to see.

Simone DeAngelis