I have dwelled in the shadows for so long I can accurately describe the taste of darkness.
Musty dampness with a hint of mothballs.
I have lived in the recesses of my mind to the point where I know ever mark on the walls, every dent, every scratch, every happenstance pen mark.
I have treaded what seems to me like oceans of guilt and shame. I have drunken so much water while trying to keep my head above it's waves that the salt content has etched into my esophagus like finely frosted glass panes .
Surely that is why when my anxiety flows away from me, I am unable to speak. It is why I do not utter a sound lest my glass throat shatter.
I have absorbed those oceans through my skin and that is why my tears are salty and why there is so many of them able to fall in one setting.
That must be why.
I know what it is to live but be lifeless. To exhale but not be really breathing. I know how badly soap stings when it seeps into the dried hardened cracks of overly washed hands.
I know what it is like to be so exhausted just breathing seems like a monumental task. To be so tried that one can not sleep. To pray to dream about something other than what is going on in my life. To dream of being someone else. Someone more whole.
But I also know what the sun feels like on my face. I know what warmth feels like. Like a hundred million tiny glimpses of light beaming on me from the clouds. I know how little condensation drips when the light of life thaws your soul.
I know what it feels like to laugh. Like the coziest fuzziest hairs on your favorite blanket touching naked skin. The prickles of glee penetrating my consciousness.
I know what happiness is and I cling to those moments like a buoy to a person in the act of drowning.
I know what life can be and what it will be. It will be hard. I will always tread water. I will cry myself to sleep some days. But other days I will laugh too. I will hold on. I will keep going. I will overcome. I may lose battles with this mental illness but I will not lose myself.
I am no longer bothered by other people's stigma. They have not lived as I. They do not understand me and that is okay. I no longer allow other people's judgments bother me. Stigma can only control you if you have fear of it and I am not afraid.
For I dwell there no longer....