It’s 2019 and this year I’ll be 39! Not really a big deal I guess. I mean, it seems like after age 21, the only birthdays that are socially acceptable to go all-out for are the decade ones. This year, however, is the 10th anniversary of something, though I don’t think it’s worth celebrating. Let me explain.
As of this year, it’ll have been 10 years since I began receiving disability income for what was supposed to have been a temporary disability. In fact, my doctors actually insisted I take a break from life when, during the presidential election of 2008, I was hospitalized again. It was the last hospitalization in a series of annual inpatient psych hospitalizations that began in 2003, skipped 2005, and resumed in 2006. All but the first were related to suicidal behaviors with 2008 being my last one (for the next five years at least). It happened after I’d moved back to Flagstaff in an attempt to return to university. Sadly, I couldn’t cope with school and working full-time along the other myriad of stresses piling up around me that all my friends seemed to think I was overreacting about. Feeling trapped with nowhere to go, I checked myself into the hospital, but they discharged me too soon. Less than week later I found myself back again only this time I had to be treated in the ER first for self-inflected wounds. The second time I was discharged, I really thought I could do life on my own again and I tried. But it was still too hard, so, reluctantly, I moved back home for a much-needed break from “adulting.” I never dreamed back then that I’d still be here now.
10 years ago, not long after settling in, my weight climbed to the highest it’s ever been. For the first time in my life I had to start shopping exclusively for plus-size clothes. My clothing size is the same now that is was when I was at my heaviest in 2009.
But weight gain seems like a mild nuisance when I reflect further on the last 10 years. It’s been….
- 10 years since I’ve pursued a traditional job
- 10 years of growing comfortable with a life I never wanted
- 10 years of financial dependence on government and family
- 10 years of feeling terrified to answer whenever anyone asks me what I do for a living
- 10 years of maintaining my French in every way I can without ever knowing for sure if I’ll get to go back
- 10 years of not believing I’m good enough
- 10 years of feeling shame and stigma for living as I do with this often-misunderstood mental illness
Furthermore, it’s been….
- More than 10 years since I’ve been in a romantic relationship or even tried to find one
- More than 10 years since I’ve felt at home in any church
There have, of course been a few good things to come out of this unexpected living-arrangement. For instance, it’s been….
- 10 years of remembering to take my medications as prescribed and going to regularly scheduled mental health appointments
- 10 years of off-and-on, as-needed counseling and group therapy
- 10 years free of self-harm and suicide attempts
But as encouraging as those may seem, the positive outcomes are still small in number. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of unhealthy habits I need to unlearn and replace with healthy ones.
There’s no easy solution to this problem, either. My parents are aging and they’ve needed me here a lot over the years as a caregiver and chauffeur after surgeries and to help with chores they’re physically can’t do anymore.
My older sister also lives at home. Neither of us gave our parents grandkids and we often don’t see eye-to-eye. But I’ve come to understand her better now than ever and I don’t think that would’ve happened if we hadn’t lived together again as adults.
As a family there are many things we disagree on. We don’t share the same taste in music or movies, we tend to take opposite sides in politics, my parents go to a different church than my sister and I’ve felt uncomfortable in most church settings for a very long time and don’t go to church at all. Peaceful and productive communication with my family can often be a challenge, but I probably wouldn’t hear much of their perspective if I weren’t living with them. My close friends and my blood-relations are radically different.
I know as well that my own development into adulthood has been stunted and I feel misunderstood by most people. But I can’t say I completely hate being called childish. A younger mind retains the imagination so many adults shed with age. Something’s got to change, but I will always cling to my sense of magic and wonder. I will always marvel at sunsets and dragonflies and dandelions and dew drops. I’ll never stop seeing the curious faces in the clouds or rocks. I’ll always see the castles and magical creatures hidden in the nature all around me.
As for my grown-up plan? It’s a work-in-progress and I’ll probably need some help. I’m just not quite sure what kind of help to ask for yet. But at least I’ve already begun some of the most important steps.