Journal Entry No. 17
By Rachel DeAngelo
March 26, 2019
I feel like I am always grasping at time. I wake up with a sinking feeling that I am in the wrong place, aching for the person that I once was... five years ago, six months ago, two weeks ago, missing out on who I might be right now. If only I could stop watching the sand slip though my fingers. Let's count how many grains we've lost. And how many minutes? Everything I've ever loved is dripping in nostalgia. Lives that I haven't lived yet already wreak of it and all that I touch seems to fade out in front of me, fleeting like the light of winter. Here I remain, still grasping at it with clumsy hands.
A pile of old journals is splayed out on my bed, spanning the last decade. Infused with ink, tears, trauma, heartbreaks and breakthroughs, even profound moments of awakening. It's all right here – each terrible beautiful phase of a manic metamorphosis, each hospitalization, every past love and many unhinged nights spent frantically scribbling my racing thoughts – chronologized and bound within these pages.
I spent this New Year's Eve moving back to my childhood home. The journals are the last thing I've yet to unpack and I am particularly vulnerable right now. In truth, I am always vulnerable. I am good at it and proud to say that I've gotten to a point where I am comfortable there, but I wasn't always. It took a lot of breaking to realize that my sensitivity is a superpower.
When I think back on my childhood it is a blur of intensity. My mother is a wild untamed woman, and I love her for it, but her mental health went unchecked for years. From early on, I was exposed to much manipulation, toxic projection, and was often berated. My father is an alcoholic with a lot of sleeping rage, and he can wreak a great deal of havoc. Together they were a perfect storm. Every day was unpredictable. Chaos and abuse was the norm. I was a shy, deeply sensitive child. The dysfunction made it particularly difficult for me to truly develop a sense of self. Now I see that both of my proudly passionate parents display qualities of narcissism, which my therapist discusses in relationship to cumulative trauma.
As I grew older, I began seeking escape. By the age of thirteen I was smoking every day and drinking every weekend. I was running in search of highs and anything to fill up the emptiness that was quickly welling up inside me. By this age I was showing signs of poor interpersonal boundaries and a self hatred I had yet to recognize. At fourteen I was raped by a friend in a cemetery. The irony in that is f***ing disgusting, because something inside of me did die that night. I wish I could say that this was the only time something like this had happened. How many times have you died and been resurrected in this one little life? Do you know how beautiful you are when you rise?
I began to carry myself with chronic shame. This is what I am ridding my body of. By my late teens I was isolating all of the time in tandem with hopping from one codependent relationship to the next. I am still learning how to not hide, how to honor my energy, how to be home inside of my skin. If you tried to hug me, I would hold my breath. I oscillate between extremes. I am still unlearning the fear of being seen, of showing up in the world. I began to experience bouts of mania and depression as a young adult. I wouldn't be able to sleep for three or four days straight. I'd rearrange all of the furniture in the house, go on reckless drives, shave my head on a whim. I would stop eating altogether. My impulsivity was insatiable, until the low hit. Then all I could think about was wanting to die.
With this move back home, I am leaving behind my apartment and my partner of four years, my solace and my safety. Our life together was the manifestation of everything I'd dreamt of for so long. But I see now that it did not matter because I did not know how to nurture it. In my mind I was still living in the turmoil I always had been, and I could not protect our place of refuge from myself.
We met in group therapy after my second stay in a psychiatric unit. I have been hospitalized for my mental health a total of five times. Each time was different, and each time was the same. Time works strangely in the hospital. The clocks hardly move. Everything feels suspended like in some sort of fever dream. There are always pay-phones and little paper cups of pills. A refrigerator stocked with only cranberry juice. Constant supervision. Someone screaming in the distance, often calling out a name. On occasion, I found that I was that someone. Usually my stays were involuntary and thus involving handcuffs and bruised wrists. A quiet quiet room and a needle of Haldol. I recall blood stains on the floor. I recall kicking like a feral cat before it all went black. What has stayed with me the most are the people I have met. I've crossed paths with so many gorgeous souls whose voices and faces I carry with me still and always. No masks, no filters, no pretense. Just raw expression in an inherently vulnerable place with seeming strangers. These moments of tenderness showed me the true power of transparency.
What I want you to know is that I'm grateful for all of it. There are moments when I mourn for my younger self and the versions of me who have died, but I know I am exactly where I am meant to be. I surrender to the questions that have no answers. I let go of all I thought I lost, knowing now that none of it ever belonged to me. I am learning how to mother myself. Sometimes nothing is okay, and that is okay too. I invite you to look people in their eyes more. Bear witness, bare soul. Cry in public spaces. Let the wound breath. Steep in your feelings from time to time. Expand into the discomfort. You must know by now that healing is not a pretty process, but there is much magic to be found in the work. It's the silence in between words when two people can be present for one moment of radical acceptance. Hold space for each other here.
25, Libra Sun, Aquarius Moon, Sagittarius Rising
From: Lyndhurst, NJ
Lives: Lyndhurst, NJ
Immersed in: Poetry & prose
The Forme & Sens journal is curated by Tiana Petrullo in collaboration with a beautiful community of contributors who have offered to share their personal experiences with mental health. To encourage a contribution of the most raw and real experience, minimal guidance has been given. All stories have been willingly shared and written to reflect what is personally most prevalent to the writer. Together we offer knowledge, awareness and acknowledgement.