Looking back from the opposite shore / by padhia hutton

I used to have two favorite hobbies. The first was Ambien in the bathtub. I’d take a couple and sink down low into the oversized tub, tilting my head back and nodding off as the warm water would slide up my nose and down the back of my throat. Eventually, I’d use the last drop of my strength and pull myself out and pass out in a pile, a wet mess of dead weight, on the bath rug because I had a little skittish dog who found great comfort in me and who wouldn’t understand. My second favorite hobby was climbing to the top of cranes. I loved the way my hands would get damp from nerves and make it that much more slippery. The thrill of reaching the height where the world went silent. The point when fear freezes you like an exoskeleton of ice and you realize you’ve climbed too far to turn back. I’d climb way into the sky just to feel the gravity… just to feel close to the one thing that I knew wouldn’t let me down.

Yet through all of this, I never stopped dreaming of a life where waking up wouldn’t be the most disappointing part of the day. Where I had so many things in my life that I was actively involved in accomplishing, that they would open my sleeping eyes, pull on my lifeless arms, and send a shock wave of life straight to my heart and snap me out of bed with their promises of adventure. A day where the sunlight felt fuel, like pure goodness, and not invasively sharp or turned up to an intrusive level of brightness.

After way too many years of skating on the edge of exiting my life, I found a new doctor. I had been to too many doctors to count and was tired of talking about my problems which never seemed to go away, they would just change shape and morph into new frightening variations. She was different. She wanted to hear my whole story, not just what I had for breakfast or what somebody had said that hurt my feelings last Tuesday. I had never told more than brief, safe excerpts to a few close friends who cared enough to aggressively pry things out of me. I had spent my life trying my hardest to put the past behind me and be grateful that I live in America and have indoor plumbing and can ride a bus without being gang raped.

At first I had absolutely no words for any of it. I never even knew that. It had never occurred to me what a massive problem this was, when you can’t even articulate what you have been through and how you feel about it. I saw for the first time how this affected so many areas of my life. I began to see how all of my closest relationships grew from the barren soil of me having no voice. I realized I didn’t even really know a damn thing about myself. I met with her for a couple hours each week and for the first time in my entire life, I began to speak.

I started to hate her. I blamed her for making me feel brutally angry and sad every second of every day. But then I began to understand that all of these horrible feelings were there all the time, just shoved deep down inside weighing me down like sacks of rotting carcasses with the toxic stench of death seeping up from deep below, poisoning my life. The grief was overwhelming, well beyond the threshold of what I could handle… but it was nothing compared to the anger. I had never felt truly angry before in my life, and now I was so angry that I could feel it in my teeth, in my bones… I wanted to claw my skin off. I could feel the pure violence of the past suddenly awake and ricocheting around inside my hollow body. I was so uncomfortable, even air touching my skin hurt. I lived in constant agony as the months wore on. The whole world was covered in tremendously long sharp pins and everything crashed into me. I begged into the sky constantly for death.

Eventually it got to the point where I stormed into her office and told her I couldn’t do it anymore. I told her I couldn’t live in this constant state of grief and anger anymore. It had all been stirred up, and it just wasn’t dissipating. I had just gotten off spending my entire adulthood doped out of my mind on antidepressants and it was unbearable feeling all of this in its new raw state. It seemed never ending and I was done.

She looked me up and down coldly and said “When I took you on as a patient, I had to believe that you had what it took to make it to the other side… But… maybe…. YOU JUST DON’T.”

In that moment I felt completely alone in the most merciless and furious of seas. No boat, no hint of light in the sky, no one even bearing witness to my death. I felt the abyss below me pulling me down and down with the type of surreal force I’ve only experienced in nightmares. I felt the emptiness of my soul; there was no life left in it. I felt the darkness enter me and in that moment had the deepest understanding of how alone I truly was in this world. I saw her in her little lifeboat pulling away without hesitation and leaving me there completely on my own to drown in much more fearsome manner I had ever drowned before.

And then suddenly a furnace kicked on deep down inside me somewhere… I felt pure fire. Pure fire that started in the center of my being and radiated out until my edges were consumed by it. “FUCK YOU… You have no idea what I am made of. You know nothing about my spirit. Fuck you….” . I raged. I don’t know what happened. I blacked out.

When I finally snapped out of my rage I was bright red and sweating … and she was just sitting there with a big old smile. She knew.

And so I swam to the other side. That was about 5 years ago, but these shores still feel like a whole new world, full of magic, full of wonder. Most importantly full of freedom. I stand on these shores and I look back at the rough black seas and I see people drowning and being thrashed in the waves.

I know all too well that you can’t see the shore from out there, but I want to tell you, it’s here… waiting for you… just a little further…