Some days I think I really am losing my mind. I can’t stay in one place, physically or mentally: I have wandering feet and heart and mind. I don’t know what I want, or who I want, or where I want to be. So I set out, with no destination in mind, phone in hand. And no one calls. Not one of my friends ever calls me to say hello, how are you, I know things have been hard but are they better now? No one ever calls. There’s no God, no time, and no end in sight.

Most days I’m just surviving. I hide it well. Enough people have commented on my peaceful personality for me to absolutely sure that though my mood hasn’t improved, my acting certainly has. I am not at peace, I have never been at peace. And I do not think it is my role in the world to be peaceful. I think I am meant to be unsettled and never quite happy. Maybe that’s all I can expect from life, these swells of triumph and despair. I will never know an even keel.

And every day, that frightens me. Because I am a romantic, and I want to be with one person eventually. Because I want to be a friend and to have friends. Because I’d like to have my own family, one that isn’t mired in the wallows of religion and dysfunction. Because I want to be free. Of this, of myself, of the thoughts in my head. Most of all, I want to be free of my memories, because I cannot live in them anymore and survive.

I’m getting drunk alone at two in the morning, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. My brain is in a rut. Too much fundamentalism. I write about Islamic fundamentalists. I spent twenty-two years with Christian fundamentalists. Sometimes I can set myself outside my emotional reaction to the subject and analyze it. But sometimes it’s dark out, and it’s raining, and I’m exhausted, and I can’t do it.

So many labels. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we possess this pathological need to categorize each other? We’re liberals, conservatives, evangelicals, agnostics, etc. It goes on and on. And I’m guilty of it on so many different levels. I define myself as a feminist, a progressive. I support civil rights and reproductive rights and GLBT rights and children’s rights. For years, I defined myself by a psychiatrist’s diagnosis, and when I was tired of that I replaced it with something else.

Why can’t we just be humans? People who fuck up, people who try to be better. Can’t we all just believe something without putting it on a T-shirt or pasting a bumper sticker to our car? It’s easy to do that. It’s harder to listen, to admit that maybe there’s something to be learned from different points of view. And therein lies the reason behind my extreme reaction to fundamentalism. It’s so fearful, and there’s no excuse for it. I believe people only adhere so stringently to a chosen philosophy when they are terrified of uncertainty. They are too frightened to learn. I read that Iran has a Council of Coordinating Islamic Propaganda and I get so depressed that I am nearly in tears. This incredible civilization produced Rumi and Ferdowsi and Farid ud-Din Attar is controlled by utter lunacy. So many millions of people around the world voluntarily enslave themselves to fundamentalism. They sacrifice so much beauty and they don’t even realize it. At least in Iran, there’s a resistance movement. In the Bible belt, nobody cares.

Maybe that’s why I picked this topic for my research project. I need to believe this Green Movement can succeed, that it really can implement lasting reform. I need to believe that so I can believe that’s even possible, that fundamentalism in all of its heinously destructive forms is conquerable.

PS: if you don’t know what the simorgh is, Google is your friend. I, however, am tipsy and angry at the world, and therefore I can’t be bothered to explain it. Besides, if you look it up then maybe you’ll want to keep reading about it and then you can share my addiction to Persian literature, and we should all be addicted to Persian literature. Aaand that’s enough beer for one night.

I said goodbye to Cedarville fifteen days ago, and I’m still not sure what to think.

There’s anger, of course. Four years of insults, hate mail, conflict and to top it all off, an incredibly unhealthy relationship with the president’s son. My eighteen year old self couldn’t have possibly imagined going to the police three times over any ex-boyfriend, much less that one, but here I am. I despise the feeling of being ignored and disregarded, but that’s what I got at Cedarville. The topic didn’t matter. It didn’t matter whether I voiced opposition to my school’s GLBT policies, or supported feminism, or asked for protection from a former partner. Nobody cared and nothing got done. I don’t have much hope that Cedarville will ever change. It certainly won’t under the current administration. But I did my part and now I wash my hands of it.

There’s gratitude, too. Thanks to Cedarville, I am able to defend a variety of positions. Evangespeak doesn’t faze me. I no longer have the urge to break furniture when somebody says “I love gay people but they’re still going to hell.” There’s only so many times one can be called a babykiller before it totally loses its shock value. Fred Phelps doesn’t scare me. James Dobson still does, but that is because I believe that fanaticism cloaked in respectability is far more dangerous than blatant extremism. With Phelps you know what you’re getting. Cedarville, and the brand of Christianity it represents, is more insidious. Sexism becomes chivalry or, better yet, complementarianism. Homophobia becomes scriptural truth. Academic inquiry is greeted with a censor in the PR department. But thanks to my four years in the ‘Ville, I see it for what it is, and I know how to fight it.

And there are good people here. Very good people. That night in the hospital could have been my last, and without their support it very well could have been, especially because of what happened afterward. Ben died. Barely a month after I was released and told to invest in a therapist, Ben died. I will never forget that day, the way my brain refused to process the news until I walked out into my yard and saw the coroners and the police for myself. I will never forget the way we sat around, barely speaking, staring out the windows. It rained that day and it rained for days afterward. And the most random memories still hit me sometimes. The first time I met Ben he attempted to guess my major: “No! Don’t tell me! Early childhood education? No? Some other kind of education? Nursing?” He guessed everything but my actual field. It made me laugh.

I’m not sure why I thought of that night. But Ben was a good person. For as long as I knew him, I never saw him do anything to hurt anyone. But he’s dead, and my ex is still walking around. For weeks I raged at the injustice of that, I longed for an answer. I know now that there isn’t one. Ben made his choice. Now I have to make mine.

In the past two months, I almost died, and my housemate almost died, and my ex-boyfriend threatened me, and Ben killed himself. Those two months alone would have radically changed my life. But in the past four years, I left the church of my childhood. I participated in my first protest and experienced censorship. I made friends and lost them. I fell in love and I lost that too. These feet of mine have walked in Appalachian forests, stony Maine shores and Ohio’s endless cornfields. They’ve walked on Welsh castle walls, green Irish fields, London pavement, and the streets of Rio.

I don’t know where I’ll go next. I do know that it will be on my own volition, and I’ll carry these four years for the rest of my life.

Yesterday was a good day. For the first time in a month, I looked back on a day and thought hey, that wasn’t so bad. And then today happened. First sign of drama and I’m back to the land of lead bones and lonely nights that I thought I’d finally left behind. Daily I am confronted with the reality that somebody I’d loved had revealed himself as a deceptive charmer with a penchant for watching animals die.

How did I get here? This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. When I imagined my adult life, this suffering did not feature in my plans. Things were supposed to be easier. Yet here I am, as broken as I ever have been. I am a black hole of a human, I have no more tears, and no more plans. Maybe reincarnation is real. Maybe I fucked up in a previous existence, maybe I was a fascist or a genocidal dictator. Maybe I was Catherine the Great and this is the universe’s revenge for my failure to protect Russian peasants.

But I think it’s much more likely that reincarnation doesn’t exist, that there’s no order to anything and I am fucked by chance. I have this damned illness because my grandmother had it, and so did my great-uncle, and probably other relatives I don’t know about. My great-grandfather killed himself. Blood’s thicker than water, and madness is too. And why the hell is it so  important that I stay around? Why avoid death when I’m already dying inside? Somebody please explain to me what I’ve done to deserve years of this misery, because as far as I can tell my only crime is losing the genetic lottery.

I have always been in two parts, and they have always been at war. Occasionally one wins a Pyrrhic victory over the other, and right now the black hat half is supreme. Congratulations, Black Hat Sarah. Now neither of you gives a fuck about anything and whoever I am whenever the two of you come together is hiding under the bed. You’ve made White Hat Sarah cry.

I pity my new therapist. Not even the mighty powers of the psychopharmacology industry are enough to hold me together.

Nights like this make me think I should give in and go completely mad. It would be easier. It wouldn’t even matter if my ward was shitty because I’d be too far gone to care about anything at all. I think I’d be easy to manage. Except for the random spells where I think I’m a telepathic prophet put on this earth to avert nuclear holocaust, I’m quite tame. I sit and lie around and live inside my head because frankly, I rule there, and here I’m just fucked over. Put yourself in my position. You’d long for madness too, believe me.

I’m supposed to write a memo to the President for my White House internship application. I should put this shit down. I’m a walking advertisement for reforming mental health care in this country. They should put my picture on posters and show me to elementary school children: Guess what, all of you on medication, this is you in twelve years. Take one psychiatric disorder, an unstable home life, a psychopathic ex-boyfriend and shake.

At least I’ve got still got my intellect. I don’t have quite as much hope for my looks. My nose has a bump and my hair is frizzy on top. Maybe I was supposed to be Jewish. That’s what Jews are supposed to look like, right? And black people like long gold chains, and all women want babies, and men have one track minds. Everybody knows.

Well, fuck everybody. There is no justice. There’s no enlightenment. We’re all idiots. We’d eat each other if it were socially acceptable.

Some days I think the only thing that’s keeping me alive is pure stubbornness. It’s certainly not a renewed and enlightened opinion of my own existence. I still don’t know why I’m here, and I still don’t know how I feel about being here. Yet I eat. I communicate. I walk to class, and I walk home. I sleep, and wake up again. I go through the motions to spite my lack of enthusiasm.

It’s very likely that this is an unhealthy motive, but it works for me. There’s an element of curiosity too. I feel outside my life, examining it the way I would a novel. Will my family come to graduation, or will they remain convinced that witchcraft somehow contributed to my suicide attempt? Will I break down and throw my fake diploma at my ex at graduation? In fact, will I ever finish that damn degree?  And for the season finale: GRE scores!

I know it’s hard, but try to contain your enthusiasm. Too much excitement makes my blood pressure drop and that makes me see funny little spots, and I don’t like that very much. It’s much easier to pretend that this life is happening to somebody else as long as I avoid becoming emotionally involved with the outcome.

I see my ex’s mother out of the corner of my eye and briefly cease to breathe. Did she see me? Does she recognize me? What will she do? Her appearance doesn’t help my panic because she’s got eyes better suited to an aye aye than a human woman, and it’s impossible to tell if she’s looking at me or the tasty pastries on the counter. I decide it’s the pastries and I beat it to a table. I pick one in the corner and pile my food on it jealously; I’m Smaug with a pizza and an apple turnover. I’m safe. Then she wanders over to the tables too, and my heart is dancing in my throat. I miss my long hair and the way it hid my face, I wish I hadn’t told the hairdresser one more inch. I’ve got no protection now, only the shadows, and I try to dissolve in them.

The shadows aren’t accomodating and neither is the world. Because there’s my ex’s dad, laughing by the door, and I’m officially in hell. Dante missed this particular circle and I’d correct him if he weren’t so dead, but he is and I’m left to imagine exactly what I did to earn this trip. I look back and forth:  to them, to my food, and them again. My appetite has surrendered. I wonder what I’ll say if they speak to me. I run my options in my head. My reaction depends on theirs. Will I receive the wordless acknowledgement, that soul-crushing piercing look of pity? Maybe they’ll try to be normal. Maybe they’ll ask me how I’m doing.

I could answer: “Fabulous. I don’t even cry anymore.”

I could answer: “Recovering nicely from my suicide attempt, thank you. By the way, I had sex on your couch three times.”

I can’t decide. I don’t want to decide. So I take a page from their son’s book and I cut my losses and run. I ditch my food, I dash out the door and into the rain. It’s pouring, pouring so hard, but I’m still thinking about the question that didn’t get asked. How am I?

So many answers and none of them fit. I’m living, I’m dying, I’m turning my face to the rain and asking the sky why I’m here. The pain in my head matches the one in my heart. If this is what life is then I call bullshit on everyone who’s tried to convince me it’s worth the trouble. My shoes are soaked, my face is covered in tears I never cried. Liquid collects in tiny pearls on my sweater, and like everything else in this world they don’t last.

As always, I am lost. I never have the words for you. I lose my powers of speech as easily and dramatically as I lose my heart, and always to the same ruinous effect. But if I lose my words, I lose myself, and so here I am, staring at screen, casting around for some semblance of the control I prize so highly.

I will state the obvious first.

I am angry with you, very angry. I can’t tell if you tread around me so carefully because you’re afraid I’ll break again, or because you’re afraid I’ll try to break you. It is at least somewhat ironic that on the same night you accused me of plotting retribution against you, I took the ultimate act of retribution against myself. I’m the one who should be afraid of myself¸ not you.

So that leaves us with one option: that you’re afraid for me. Don’t be. I never asked for your pity, even when I wanted it. I don’t want your sympathy. What I did was not a cry for help. It was a deliberate attempt to end suffering. Consider it a botched mercy killing.

And I didn’t do it because of you, either. I don’t see the point in discussing my reasons. I had them, and that’s enough.

But I’m still here and you’re still here and once more, I’m at a loss. I can’t hate you. I’ve tried and tried but you don’t deserve it. It’s not your fault that you don’t love me anymore. Maybe someday I can convince myself that it’s not my fault either, but I don’t plan on crossing my fingers.

I don’t understand, and I hate that. I can’t forget the things you said. I am not that woman, the woman you spoke of that night is a stranger to me. The woman you spoke of thrives on anger and bitterness, and all I want—all I have ever wanted—is love. I don’t understand how you could misjudge me so badly after all the times you boasted that you understood me so well. I don’t even understand myself. I don’t understand why I want to throw things at you and scream at you and tell you that you’re a rotten bastard when not only do I not actually believe you are a rotten bastard, but know for a fact that I would never forgive myself for hurting you.

If this is growing up, I’d like to go back.

I feel so very small. I am diminished. Something in me has died, whether by my hand or yours or the one before you, or possibly the one before that. I am beaten and broken and I can no longer cry, I can no longer scream. I have lain in a bed surrounded by nurses who never learned my name and I have cried out to God, to Goddess, to whatever name I could think of. Nobody answered. There was only the white wall and the empty screens of wordless machines.

Perhaps I am smaller because I am concentrated. I have been burned and what remains is pure. I am simply myself. For now, for good, that is all I can be. It is all I have left, and it is enough, it is all I need.

I don’t need you.

With affection,

always

me.

I am aware that everyone has weeks they wish they could undo. But I’ve never wished that so much before in my life. I wish I could untake the pills, unsay the breakup, unlive every moment in my life that has brought me to this point.

It’s wishful thinking. The (second) breakup happened, along with everything else, and I did take the pills. And for some reason I’m still here. I don’t know why. Everyone says I should be grateful, and perhaps they’re right. I got a second chance and thousands of others do not.

It’s hard to be grateful when you have no idea why you’re still breathing. It’s hard to be joyful about your life when the selfishness of your action is thrown in your face–as if you weren’t already thinking about that enough. When I undress at night the marks are there, leftover glue and rashes, evidence of the machines that monitored my heart (malfunctioning in so many ways) throughout that long night. There are bruises up and down my arms and covering my hands from nearly a dozen needles. I can’t ignore the evidence of what I’ve done because it confronts me every time I look in the mirror. It’s there in the faces of my friends, in the anxious messages from my mother.

I can never unlive this. Maybe I’ll learn to live because of it. And maybe there’s no lesson at all. Maybe I’m just one more lonely woman who even managed to fuck up her own death.

Last night I decided to go back on medication.  I’ve been telling myself for a year that was never an option. I could live without it, I said. And it’s true, I can.  Life lived in pain is still life. It’s just not the life I want.

I have instructed myself that this is not a failure of will. It is no reflection on my strength, my courage or my hard work. It’s merely an acceptance of reality, an understanding that, being human, I sometimes need help to get along. I don’t think of myself as being “ill.”  I’m not disabled or disadvantaged. I’m just in drastic need of some extra serotonin.

Medication was part of my life for five years. I have a particular form of bipolar disorder that struck early and hard. Blame it on genetics, blame it on my home life, blame it on my personality, I don’t care. None of those factors adequately explains why I am who I am and I’m tired of labels anyway. I’m sure that I could find any number of excuses for my current state. There’s my ex, of course, henceforth known as The Douche (he doesn’t deserve a more creative title). I have no doubt that he is at least partially responsible for a depression that has lingered, ailing, over the past two months. Ironic, given his stated reason for leaving me.

Yes, I could find plenty of excuses. But they’re just that: excuses. They’re not reasons. I don’t really have a reason, and that’s ok. I don’t need one. This is how I feel right now and I don’t need to justify it or explain it. It’s my life. I will endure this too.

Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness–
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

-Walkers with the Dawn, Langston Hughes

Over these past few weeks I’ve ceased to recognize the woman in my mirror. She’s gaunt, her skin is yellow, her eyes are swollen from nights of crying. This is not the person I thought would become when a man broke my heart.

Of course, I never imagined a man would break my heart.

Especially not this one, with his wit and charm and intelligence. He swept me off my feet before I realized what happened. Our conversations stretched into the small hours of the morning. He was my friend, only that, until the day he told me he loved me. No man had ever told me that before. I half expected none would, a sentiment born of years spent perfecting the art of being invisible. Indeed, the only remarkable thing about me were my opinions. So I had been led to believe.

That day, I woke up as a quiet girl accustomed to the sting of unrequited affection. I went to sleep as a woman who was loved and loved back. My world had been shaken, my perceptions of myself destroyed. I was beautiful: no one had ever told me. I was intelligent: that much I knew, but never before had it been sexy. For that matter, neither had I.

I loved him. Never doubt that. Insecurities I possess in excess, but even though I did not love myself, I loved others. And I loved him like I had never loved anyone. He was the smile on my face at work, the hope that motivated me to endure long days. He promised me many things. I would never be alone again, I would be loved for the rest of my life, I need never worry about anything again. He told me he wanted to marry me. I told him I wanted that too.

So it was settled. I departed for my semester overseas more at ease than I had ever been in my life. Worry’s a close friend of mine, so close, in fact, that no dosage of anti-anxiety medication ever dreamed up by any psychiatrist ever has been able to banish him. I’d grown accustomed to his presence the way you get used to a bad smell. But he had faded. I was no longer alone, I was loved for who I was. The world was mine.

It continued that way for four more months. Then winter came, and brought depression with it.  For I seem to be a human plant: I crave sunlight. Without it, my brain hibernates. My neurotransmitters play dead. A light box is my weapon of choice, but I had not brought it overseas. I was unarmed but for the support of my friends, and the love of the man I thought I was going to marry. It would be enough.

It was for a while. The depression was manageable. I had good days. But one night I admitted to my lover that I was sad I would not be able to spend the holidays with him, and he decided he was done. That’s what his Facebook chat message said, at least. He was done, he could not handle my depression. I had to ask the man who told me he would never leave me to do the courtesy of breaking up with me over the phone.

I cried for days.

While I cried, and became too sick to eat, he went on with his life like nothing happened. There was no visible sign he was affected by leaving me. On the phone, his voice was steady. On video, his expression never changed. The depression worsened, I became suicidal. My clothes no longer fit. Every betrayal I had ever experienced rushed to the surface. Worry had his hands around my throat and depression held me down. The hall wardens arrived at my door, sent, they said, by friends who were concerned for my safety. I lied. They left. I endured the therapy sessions until I decided that as usual, it was useless.

But I began to eat again. The worst of the depression lifted. The wardens did not come back to my door. And even though sometimes I still cried in secret, it was always in secret. Then even that too stopped. I went back to class. I went out. I began the monumental effort of catching up with my coursework. And three weeks later, I am still here. The pain is not gone. The betrayal is still devastating. Nothing can alleviate the knowledge that the man who referred to me as his wife, called me his soulmate, and swore he would never leave me did just that–on Facebook, for having depression. I think I will carry that with me always. He’s planning his holidays and celebrating his birthday “with people he loves,” or so he told me. I doubt those people know he said that he is the most important person in his life.

But I made it. And really, I should feel lucky. I escaped a one-sided relationship that would have eventually crushed me. Someday I’ll even believe I’m lucky. Until then, it’s one foot in front of the other.