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My Mental Health Story: Changing the World

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My earliest memory is a happy one; I must have fallen off my grandmother’s couch. I can see the orange carpet come closer and closer until all the fibres separate into a universe of its own. I sink my face in and intertwine my fingers in yarn. I get lost in the details and time passes.

My brother told me that if you land in a falling dream you will lose your life.  It isn’t true. It doesn’t matter where I fall from in my dreams I always land smiling on my grandmother’s floor.  For many years sleep was the only place where I had a safe place to hit the ground. I hope when I die I free fall into a textured reality somewhere outside this painful planet.  I want to be buried face down on orange shag.

Do you think some of us are meant to suffer so we can learn to change the world?  In touching the lives of many people is there a risk of never being held?

Today I felt the enormity of the task at hand. I said goodbye to the international support who has helped me the most.  In that moment I wasn’t sure I would survive this next crash. I didn’t want to die without saying thank you.

I wandered away from work and stood paralysed at a crosswalk light.  Inside, I was lost in the details of a more inviting space.  I just wanted to go home. I am not sure how many times the walk signal changed.  When I came back from grandmother’s house the light was counting down again and I was shivering.

I put one foot in front of the other. I was teetering on the edge of a burned orange altered state while working for the very system that had locked me up for less. I found a restaurant. A sheriff stood in line behind me while I decided what version of  normal would best preserve my freedom. Sometimes eating quietly in the corner of a sandwich shop is the wisest safety measure. I would hide in plain sight.

I sent messages to a powerful support knowing that if I slipped off the edge of reality he could still find me because I had left him a trail of orange yarn. I didn’t know what else to do. In my email I confessed that thinking I could change the world was my first delusion. My life had come full circle.

I landed hard with a new awareness of the desolation. What if the doctor was wrong?  Is it possible that I was robbed of 22 years that I could have used to change the world?  When I added this punishment to the probability of dying too soon it all felt too connected and too evil. Was there a system-wide conspiracy to break superheroes?  

The torment from everything I had lost was now leaking from my face and I was powerless to stop it. People looked away while my heart screamed. Frantically typing, I explained how I didn’t fly too close to the sun and melt my wings. I never got that chance. The psychiatric system held me down and burned them off. I couldn’t escape.

Today I saw the cracks from being dropped into mistreatment so young. The damage is considerable. Sitting in that restaurant I was that same hospitalised child all over again. I held on tight to a patch of carpet in the shape of a work phone. Somewhere on this planet the messages went to a trusted support who I will probably never meet in person and that’s OK.  It isn’t even important to get an answer. I just needed a soft place to fall.  

Pain is educational. This week I learned a lot. By the time my lunch break was over the agony had settled down enough for me to go back to work. I sat at my desk and for the first time read the website of the person who has helped me for months. He talked about being human on earth and finding a way home. I shivered at the connection. I cried out of relief that someone I chose randomly and on instinct understood so completely. I felt my grandmother hug me.

I am ending the year with a few days of silence. The calm has allowed me space to write through and process the importance of what just happened. In the quiet, I have decoded that changing my internal world is paramount for a superhero finally back in training. Losing time at the crosswalk showed me the comfort and protection I carry with me. I can fall inward onto orange shag anytime I want. I can go home.  

Next time I need to reach out across continents I am going to hold that terrorised child first.  She walks this world as though her certification was never lifted. I will remind her that the hardest part is over. She got out alive.

Ronda Richardson is a consultant, coach and advocate looking to bring awareness to the stories of people often made invisible by diagnosis and trauma.

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