Coming up for air

I come up for air and my head breaks the water. I’m nine years old and I wipe the salty sea out of my eyes as I stand up, feet sinking into the muddy bottom of the Mississippi Sound. I squint into the sun, looking out to Cat Island in the distance. The water comes up to my belly and I sink back under the water, unimpeded by the gentle waves of the Sound. You’re not supposed to open your eyes under water, but I do anyway. In this moment I break the rules and open my eyes under the warm brown water. You can’t tell from the beach, but under the water I see that it is brown, like the mud mixed with the sand at the bottom, but lighter. The sun makes it in through the surface, illuminating the brown gulf. There’s not much to see under there. I look down to the bottom, which I am afraid to touch. It is a mix of sand and Mississippi mud, encrusted with broken shells and bits of sea grass drifting through with the tide.

I come up for air.

The water is in my blood and has been with me since my birth. These last few weeks have been rough. Hardest in my life? Too soon to tell. But slowly, my days have been getting easier and my nights less lonely. I’m no longer drowning. I’m swimming up towards to the light. I’ve come up for air.

I’ve had to learn some lessons I never wanted to learn. I believed in the tolerance of my friends, in their loyalty to me, in their goodness. I believed that my friends would be impervious to the stigma attached to mental illness; I believed they were loyal; I believed they were my allies.

But I’ve had to learn that I’m not always right. A hard lesson to learn, especially for me in all my self righteous vanity. Friends really can vanish. They really can leave you. It doesn’t matter how many times you were there for them, how many times you’ve listened to them cry, how many times you’ve checked on them to make sure they were ok. It doesn’t matter, not in the end, because no matter how unfair it seems, you can’t make people like you; you can’t reason with friends who don’t want to hear the truth; you can’t change a mind that’s stubbornly been made up.

I’ve been sinking. But lately I’ve found the strength to swim. The outpouring of support from all you of you who are kind enough to follow my blog has not gone unnoticed and has not left me unaffected.

Water is in my blood and maybe I was born to swim. And swimming is what I’ve started to do. Although the emptiness of my apartment still reminds me of a friend lost, I’ve begun to accept the silence and grow in spite of it. You see, each night that I survive, each day that I fight off my loneliness and keep living, is a stroke upwards. These strokes add up and slowly but surely they are bringing me up from the depths.

The support of the few friends that have stood by me, the love of and acceptance of newly found friends, and the help of my family has increased my buoyancy. I’m no longer sinking. I’m no longer crying myself to sleep. The listlessness has slunk away, taking with it pieces of my depression. The support of true friends is beginning to chip away at my loneliness. I’m beginning to fight the undertow, the pull of my illness which wants me to drown in the depths.

I’ve come up for air. My head is above the water and the world around me is no longer so empty. Graduation is looming, and the stress of finals with it. But I am no longer afraid. My fight to swim from the depths into the light has strengthened me. I have energy again. And day by day I’m getting closer to the shore.

I’m still in the water. But I’m no longer sinking– I’m swimming, I’m fighting, I’m coming up for air. The shore is in sight and water is in my blood. I will weather the storm, the same storm that, days earlier, I wasn’t sure I would survive. But the water is in my blood and I still have the will to live. Every new found friend and source of support puts force behind my strokes and keeps my head above the water. Looking down into the depths, I see the ones who’ve left me behind. The ones that left me alone. The ones I burdened. The ones that betrayed me. They’re still at the bottom of the depths. But with each stroke I get closer to the shore and farther from the obstacles and undertow of failed friendships, each one trying to keep me underwater, away from the light. With each stroke and with each passing day, the scars begin to fade. And with each day, less painful than the one that preceded it, my strokes grow stronger.

I’ve come up for air. And I’m not going back down to the depths. I have the strength I need behind me and soon enough I’ll make it to shore. Having water in your blood doesn’t protect you from the dangers that water brings. But, when you want to, it does help you stay a float. And, when you’re ready, it does help you find the shore.

I’ve finally come up for air. And this time I’m not going back down.


9 responses to “Coming up for air

  • Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

    I really relate to a lot you have written. It truly does feel like gapsing for air often. I hope your writing continues to help you. You are very strong xoxox

  • Kaylee

    You’re writing shows that you are full of strength and wisdom. It took me a long time to learn these lessons. There is always hope. People come and go but new friends, boyfriends, fun, and experiences are there when we invite them into our lives. I hope that you can keep swimming, and soon forget all about these people or feeling betrayed. Believe me those “friends” aren’t worth your pain or time. Giving myself permission to just let go of people cleared up so much room in my mind and life for better and happier times. You are about to graduate into the wide world, there are so many wonders waiting beyond the shore.

  • riselikeair

    I’d like to ask your permission to reblog this on Rise Like Air. I think your description incredible and would be helpful to others. If you give me your permission, I’ll reblog it this week.

    Thanks and best wishes. I’m so glad you’ve broken through the surface and can breathe again.

  • napperscompanion

    Swim, woman, swim! Good thoughts your way.

  • cabrogal

    “I’ve finally come up for air. And this time I’m not going back down.”

    And if you do, you know you can come up for air again.

  • riselikeair

    Reblogged this on Rise Like Air and commented:
    “I’ve come up for air. And I’m not going back down to the depths. I have the strength I need behind me and soon enough I’ll make it to shore.”

    I’m reblogging this piece with the author’s permission. A Girl Divided opens a window giving each of us the opportunity to experience mental illness from the personal side, the good days and the bad days. People like A Girl Divided continue to challenge us to throw away the stigma of mental illness and to understand what it really does to people, and how we can help.

    A Girl Divided is so eloquent in her use of swimming as a metaphor to describe what it feels like when life drags us below the surface. When it’s trying to drown us in our own despair, and how sometimes others feel like we’re pulling them under with us, so they abandon us as they save themselves.

    A Girl Divided shows us that we can still swim to the surface, we can still survive, we can make it to shore. All we have to do is swim. But sometimes, even the best swimmers need a life preserver.

    Are you a life preserver kind of friend when the going gets rough or are you a fair weather only type of friend?
    or Dare…
    Be a friend to someone in need today, even if it’s a bit rough.
    You’re allowed to choose both.

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