10/100 of emotional badassery - In which we get to the f*cking point we didn't even know we had

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
Sitting everyday in front of that blank screen always brings up so much fear. 
I’m used to doing things while being scared of them. I learned how to the hard way. 
 
But for the longest time, I did those terrifying things because they felt like survival and necessity, not like a choice.
I had operated for the longest time under the assumption that I will most likely die at 36 years old. Part of me still believes this and this is partly the reason why I am writing to you today. I’m turning 36 next year. I hope I will survive, but barely can imagine a future for myself past then. So telling that story feels like a kind of "now or never" thing. I’m more of a "now" kind of woman when it comes to those.
 
36 might sound random, but it wasn’t for me. 36 was the age my favourite aunt died from a devastatingly agressive brain tumour. I have always loved and admired deeply my Mom, I still do. But my aunt was the woman with a life resembling the one I wanted.
Like everyone in our family, she was working really hard, and was brilliant at her job in finance, but in an ocean of seriousness and talk about the importance of duty, she was the one who embodied the idea that enjoying our time on Earth is crucial too. 
Excruciating grief taught her that we only have one life. She had that solar quality, filling people around her with joy and acting as if something as simple as going grocery shopping could turn into a little adventure. 
When she died, this certainty seeded in me : if she can’t pass 36 with all of her life energy, there’s no way I can.
 
I just had barely overcome a few years of depression as a teen, which started when I realised how cold and sad the life adults were living was. It seemed to me like they were drowning in comfort and duty, working themselves to death, so they can buy stuff over and over. I liked the stuff and the comfort too, but I couldn’t see the point of the whole charade
 
Only a few months after feeling like I could breathe and feel joy again, the day before I turned 16, I had that terrible car accident. I almost died and had to learn how to walk again for a year. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The first thing I ever had to do while being terrified and not having a clue on wether or not it would work, if all that terrible effort would add up to anything. Where I learned that I was capable of perseverance and had some incredible hidden power inside of me. I was rendered disabled for life, before I even felt I had a life at all, and it would never be the same, but I did it, I walked again. 
 
I was 18 when she died, only a short year had passed and I was still barely standing on my feet. It felt like I was 80 and ready to give up on life, that had been way too hard. Like the sun had set with her and would never rise again.
 
Losing her parents five years later just added to the load. They were the place that felt the most like a warm and loving home, where I was allowed to be myself and loved for it, not despite it.
 
But if I only had 18 years before me, I had to honor her memory and their love, and make them as good and brave as humanely possible.
There are lyrics that come to mind often when I try to describe some of the next 10 years of my life : “You live so much, it’s like you’re dying". There was so much of everything… And in between of those times of excess, long periods of depression, where getting out of my bed felt like a miracle. Shit… When breathing felt like a miracle.
 
The epitome of that kind of intense living was a year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, consuming new knowledge like some obsessively snort cocaine, and in my spare time, over-partying, over-drinking, filling up my time with lovely and crazy people, shopping, going through a lot of fun and random sexual adventures, smoking way too much cigarettes and weed, eating delicious food, forgetting to read and sleeping only when my body couldn’t bear to do anything else. Going through the money the trial of my accident left me with, because “What would I do with it anyway?". 
 
Until I met my favorite person in the world. Then Paris started to feel dangerous. Like we could die doing just that, drinking cheap wine and Vodka tonics, eating delicious food, smoking pot, listening to wonderful music and talking non sense until the sun comes up. It was fun and so liberating for a while, but not if I’d imagine doing only that for the rest of our lives. I started to suffocate in comfort and pleasure, he was getting restless and depressed. It was time again for some drastic change.
 
Waking up in the coldness and harshness of London a few months later felt like the sobering up I never asked for. Without our comfy environment, we were lost, sad and scared. We both took horrible jobs, and started to suffocate in another way, buying for a while into the myth that having a shitty “normal" life is just what we have to do until things turn out to become wonderful through the magic of money.
 
I stopped drinking because I stopped partying, and I never thought alcohol was that fun. only some liquid courage to face the overstimulation of clubs and the grossness of strangers thinking my body was their property because I was on a dancefloor, daring to act like I was free, dancing the night away. He stopped because he was afraid of his blackouts and how he was with me when intoxicated. 
 
He lost himself in work. I started smoking weed everyday, so I could sleep. So I could go to that job I hated that was draining me out of all my energy. Hurting each bone in my body, so much that I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. And starting to have the suicidal ideas that had left me alone for a few years again. I thought smoking was a habit of a few months, until I’d found a way to be the only thing that would make sense to me, psychologist, and from there get myself a life on my own terms. I had my first patient a couple of months later. But the addiction to weed? That lasted 8 years. 
 
Eight years that turned my whole life around. Eight years that taught me more than I could ever have imagined. I stopped smoking weed early July and am not sure this is forever. So this is not your typical “I got sober and finally started to have a life” story. This is about a life not defined by addiction at all. Or rather about using addictions as a tool to get a life. About finding my roaring self, radical love and my way to others, in the midst of addiction and depression. I call bullshit on the idea that mental illness should be conquered before having a life. I believe that's one more way our patriarcal world keep us docile and silent, complicit. 
 
This is not the “post struggle” story either. The struggle is here, and it’s real. I don’t expect it to end soon. Maybe ever. This is about living with functional addiction : with what you probably call “taking the edge off” or “going through the day”, choosing to either use it as an excuse to not live your life or as a mean to actually live it. This is about the idea that many mental illnesses are just as addictive than any substance or behavior. That maybe none of it is actual pathology, but rather a normal response to a fucked-up world and a protective way of going through it the best we can. About the idea that none of it, all that pain, and the fear, and the shame have to be a reason to hide from our life. That we can still suffer that deeply and have a good and full life. This is a story about choice. 
 
Love,
L.
 

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