When I think of the word “crisis,” I’m reminded of an earlier life. Not in the sense of Shirley McLaine living past lives but in the sense of my years before and my years after my own life-changing crisis. It was the ultimate crisis, the one that prepared me for every other one—even as they come for me now.
The old saying, “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle”—well, it’s not one I buy in to. I believe we torture and smear ourselves up in our own personal crises and then God pulls us out of the muck. If we’re willing. I am surrounded by “muck survivors,” and I promise you, God had nothing to do with the pain inflicted on each of them. But they are all survivors, and thankfully, so am I.
I grew up the youngest of three daughters, separated in age from my sisters by the eleven and seven years between us. My father, the best man I ever knew, worked at three jobs to provide for us. Seems now like he worked the better part of his life. My mother, a woman with extraordinary Movie Star looks, suffered from mental illness—schizophrenia.
My beautiful eldest sister left home at 18 to marry a man she did not love. She sacrificed her dreams and her body to find some form of unattainable inner peace. She searches for it even now. My middle sister ran away a month later, to escape the private Hell—our own dark secret—we lived in. She was only 15-1/2 but she was strong and grew into a fearless warrior of the streets. My father would frantically search for her and then drag her back to “safety,” only to find her missing again. Finally he gave in.
When you’re nine and left behind, you have no choices really. You’re too young to make any. I clung to my father whenever he was home, taking in all of his kindness and his unspoken heartache. He did what he thought was best for me at the time and I did everything I could to please him.
When he wasn’t there, I was left in my Mother’s “care” and I was just too small to know how to fight back. (He later discovered that his youngest daughter with the beaming smile was just not strong enough.) I learned to turn inward, to hold it all in, trying to escape the madness that surrounded this terrified, shy little girl.
I learned to never ask for help, never to draw attention to myself, never to tell anyone about my home-life, never to show anything but absolute harmony and my big wide grin. I faked my way through school, church, and every friendship I managed to cling to. I survived by performing, as if in a hideous play that never ended.
Eventually, blessedly, I grew up, moved out (that’s a story in itself) and scraped by with what money I had. I landed a good job, a nice home, and a wonderful partner who I thought I would hang on to forever. I had done everything by the book—working hard, not making waves, and never, ever showing a sign of weakness.
Things were going well until at 30, my “perfected life” took a nosedive and I lost my forever partner. I was tougher by then, plus I was still young, so I dusted myself off and kept my head high knowing I had weathered far worse.
Within a month, I got laid off from my job. A fingers-tightening-around-my-throat panic started to seep in. Within six months I lost my beautiful home and everything else that I thought defined me as a successful, “normal” person. I moved in with a friend, and for the first time in my adult life I had to admit defeat.
From there, it was a small step from a life with fulfillment to a life without meaning and I became totally enveloped in the old terror of the past. I got up, ate, went back to bed, slept and maintained that cruel existence without understanding what was happening to me, nor knowing I needed help—badly.
There’s an insidious thing called “depression” that eats at your soul, making you feel unworthy. Most of us have been down that road at some time in our lives. But within my family tree, there’s a villain that is far worse—extreme psychotic depression. If your life takes that road, chances are you will not return whole, if you return at all.
At 30, I knew nothing of either ailment and when voices began to fill my head, they seemed to have an answer for finally eliminating my crisis and all my pain. Oh, I fought them with everything my will had left, but my will was scarred and battered. Eventually, I lost the battle.
I stood at the mirror and watched another person—a weathered, beaten version of myself, older in body yet terrified like the little girl—put her hand to her mouth, repeatedly, and swallow the pills. I was helpless to stop her.
I awoke in a strange bed with no recollection of where I was or how I had arrived there. I remember a woman talking to me, her voice full of fear, saying she had just driven her car into a tree but somehow survived and that she would try again. I was later taken to a room to be evaluated by a Doctor who gently told me that I was in the psychiatric ward, in a wing for the “less dangerous,” and that I had survived swallowing over 400 pills. I believe the words he used were “a damn lucky walking miracle.” The pills had no lasting physical effects.
Here’s what happened in my biggest moment of crisis: everything I knew before that moment became my past and every minute aftewards became my future. My future, now crystal clear, was all the life I had in front of me, come what may.
I was released within 48 hours, completely altered from the ghostly human that had arrived, reborn as someone new. As God as my witness, from that moment to this one now, I have never looked back for an answer or questioned why I survived. I knew.
There were 21 people in the entire world that knew this story. They have honored me these past 20 years with their protection, their silence, and more important, their love. And now, there are more who know.
Today, I take each crisis as it is. I deal with it the best way I know how, and I move on stronger than before. Everything from that moment taught me how to live, how to forgive, and to have absolute faith in miracles. And as I age, I grow younger. I’m now a laughing child whose heart is free.
Robin (*not her real name) is a friend and fellow creative spirit. She wrote this piece in response to red Ravine post, WRITING TOPIC – WHERE DO YOU GO IN TIMES OF CRISIS? Because of the personal nature of her story, Robin chose to use a pseudonym.
Here’s what she had to say about writing this piece: It was tough to write those words, but I thought maybe anonymously, I might be able reach someone who’s in trouble or thinks they’re alone in their own crisis. People close to the edge are not as easily recognizable as the general public seems to think.
Thank you, Robin, for sharing your story with red Ravine.