March 21, 2021 · Issue 2: Space(s)

The Tower

Looking down to the ground below, wind whips around my body. The gravity allures me, asking me to take the step forward, asking me to throw it all away. I am reassured; my heart gives way to apathy. The yawning nothingness entangles me. I am not okay.

Four years ago, I felt alone. My social ties were strained, constantly put under impossible tests of my own making. I was untethered, a thousand miles from humanity. Support felt like pity and it made me feel lesser. I didn’t deserve camaraderie; therefore I fought against it. These struggles erupted into rifts, and I returned to being alone. I lived parallel to others. The world was filtered through a lens of detachment; I was resigned to viewing people from afar.

Up here, I am not thinking of death. I am thinking of relief. My friends are beside me, but like the distant stars, peripheral. Everything I’ve cared for, all a speck from this bird’s eye view. A strong metal railing bears my unsteady body, but it creaks and complains about the weight. As the bitter taste of alcohol coats my mouth, my mind swirls, blotting out any joy. Images of my family, memories of friends laughing at lunch, all are gone. My eyes are blank, and I no longer feel my fingers. I am not sure I’ve ever been okay.

Three years ago, I hit a breaking point. Anger, the emotion of change, arose during an argument with my parents. How dare they suggest I be grateful? They didn’t understand what I was saying at first. How could they? I thought I had been screaming, but in reality, I had never spoken a word. My actions were passive, impossible to find unless you knew they were there. Years of turmoil came out that night and we ended with my shuddering body embraced.

But then a spark flies through the nothingness. A glimpse of a scared face shouting to stay here, in this world. I’m not sure what changes, but the pleas of friends pierce through my walls. The metal moves with my weight as I stumble to the ladder. The numbness dissipates, leaving fear and nausea. I am terrified and I am guilty and I cannot deal with it. Once my feet touch the ground, I crumple. My hands cover my face, shielding from the terrified looks surrounding me. The salty tears stream down as I am brought back to the house, apologizing all the way. Each step strikes me and brings me back. I am not sure what I am.

Two years ago, I started trying to fix myself. The hidden parts, the self loathing and isolation, were brought to light. Therapy was hard. I was so dissociated that even thinking of my feelings was alien. My emotions were something I feared and yet desperately needed to understand. At times this process felt sisyphean, slipping back into depression. These hurdles cost me dearly, testing my loved ones and leading me to feel alone again. That was the scariest feeling in the world.

I wait on the porch for my family to drive me to the hospital. Leaning on a friend, I feel the stone beneath me. The concrete is rough against my palm. My thoughts start to spiral again, taking on a frenzied life. I thought I was supposed to, I have been trying to, but what if I will never be better? However, I cannot act on these intrusions. I catch myself, feeling the warmth of the body beside me and the cool air on my tear- streaked face. Murmurs of apologies from inside break the silence on the porch. I am still panicking and wanting for this to be over. But I am in control now. With the work put in to being whole again, I know to not throw my life away. Even if I tried, my family and friends would stop me. I am surrounded by love.

One year ago, I started living. For every step back, I pushed forward. My friends, my community, my family: they supported me throughout this time. They provided the environment I needed to find myself again. At my therapist’s office, in my school, in my home: little by little, I came back. My therapist’s questions during our sessions cut through the walls I had made. The answers I found during this time provided me with the necessary tools to become a person again. I began to not just survive, but to continue as someone who is deserving of their life.

I stay the night in the hospital, and am then taken home. The next few days are a blur. My time is spent curled on the bed, distancing from the world. I dream of the tower erupting from the earth. It cradles me, the rigid beams holding my body high above any person. Obviously, I am scared. I fear that the people I love hate me now. I fear that I’ll be alone again.

My world is interrupted by three sharp strikes at the door, a friend. He checks on me, telling me what happened when I left. We sit on the couch and he laughs and he jokes and he is love. There is no pretense. We both know that something happened, yet his eyes don’t show anger, pity, or fear. They are warm and that same look is in all my loved ones. When I return to school, the friends who stood with me atop that tower remain. We walk the streets, our shoulders bumping.