Warning: F-bombs up ahead.
I’ve got a big Before and After in my life, now.
Before I overdosed, and after I overdosed.
Last night I was chatting with a friend about memories of stuff we did three years ago, and it felt so, so, surreal. Whenever I find myself in moments like this—reminiscing about memories from my life before I overdosed—it always does.
I have to remind myself that I’m talking about me—my life—because it almost always feels like someone else’s. It feels like I’m telling stories about the life of someone I was close to, someone who’s life I knew intimately but didn’t actually live myself. It rarely feels like I’m talking about my own life, or me.
And in a way, these memories did happen to a different person—the person I am after my overdose, is so different to the person I was before, so no wonder these memories feel hard to connect to.
What happened completely changed my life—it knocked it upside down, flipped it inside out, and left me shoeless and butt-naked trying to navigate my way along a path I had no fucking idea how to walk down yet. Two years on, I still feel like I’m learning to walk it. I probably always will be, I just doubt anything will be quite as intense, full-on, confusing, and damn-right fucking hideous, as the life that hit right after I overdosed.
Fuck, it was hard.
I don’t think any words can do it justice yet, because the fact that I’ve actually come through the other side, and am able to talk of it as something that happened—rather than something that’s happening—is the thing that leaves me wanting to write and write, and talk and share.
My heart bursts open with warmth and admiration for myself, and the nakedness of relief and gratitude overwhelms me whenever I realise this that I’m now able to talk about it in this way.
But I also feel so afraid that this ground I’m now standing on, rather than the quick-sand I seemingly inhabited for so long, isn’t real or will disappear if I say one word about it. I feel scared that it’s not mine to keep, and that my psyche is just playing pretend with this newfound edge of stability, understanding, and self-compassion, in relation to my attempt.
I forget the change that the overdose brought, a lot.
I so often feel swamped with hate, shame, worry, fear, frustration, and anger, about where I find myself and my life now, and the future I’m seemingly going to lead when I’m looking at it through the eyes of my critic, that to try and cultivate gratitude, feel joy, or celebrate how different I am and how different my life is, feels like a punch in the stomach.
In so many ways, my life has sucked, and been so fucking hard, since the overdose—in so many ways, it couldn’t be further from where I thought it would be, and I couldn’t be further from where I thought I would be.
But, I’m also doing everything I’ve needed and deserved to do, for fucking ages—to rest, let-it-all-out, get support, learn to parent myself in ways I was never parented, and to begin to cultivate self-compassion, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, self-love…
And, ultimately, to begin to heal.
My overdose brought me this—an entirely different life to the one I knew before.
There have been elements of external change—I’m getting to know my style more intimately, and am allowing it to speak out. But it’s been the insides that’ve been changing the most—my internal goings on, the way I live my life, the way I know what I want and need, the way I see my future, and the way I see myself.
The way I know myself now, is miles ahead of how I knew myself three years ago, or even just two.
I know exactly what I want, and exactly what I need.
I know the things or people that nourish me, and I refuse to do anything different, unless I’m the one choosing it—choosing to do the option that doesn’t nourish, or choosing to do the thing I don’t need to do, out of a seeming need to self-destruct. But the fact I can make this choice between nourishment and destruct, is huge—and things are never as extreme as they used to be.
I can hear my instinct louder than ever before, and I listen.
She’s always been there, I just didn’t know how—or that it was safe—to listen, before. I now feel so grateful for the way she guides me, and the way I’m continuing to deepen and listen.
I listen to my body as she speaks, too, to ensure I feel safe, and comfortable or confident with my decision. My relationship with her is continuing to grow—the trust, respect, and love.
I can see exactly how I want my life to be, and I feel determined to go and get it. This tends to be the knowing that leaves me feeling fucked-off and full of sorrow and grief, about my present—the life I want to lead isn’t the one I’m leading yet.
My present often feels like it’s getting in the way of this beautiful future I see myself having, and know I can have—and want to have. But if I put my glasses of self-love and compassion on, I see that what I’m doing now is actually laying the foundations for this life to come. It just feels fucking messy.
This intimacy I now have with myself still often feels strange, and I can easily forget that I didn’t have it before my overdose. But any moment I realise where I am now, within myself, compared to where I used to be, I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
As I continue to grow, so does the intimacy and knowledge of myself.
It’s been, by far, the most significant event of my life, and one I definitely didn’t plan.
I’d planned it in my mind, many, many times before—I dreamt of it, idealised about it, longed for it as an escape from the almost unbearable reality—but when I was planning, I was planning for a Before and an End.
Instead of an End, I got an After—-something I didn’t expect, but something I’m so fucking grateful that I did get.
When I lay in the back of the ambulance, having just made the call that saved my life and brought me help, I remember so clearly feeling—beneath the foggy haze, the pain, the terror, and the confusion of what was happening around me—a flood of dread wash through my body.
Dread that I now was going to have to face the life that would follow what I just did.
But somehow, in that moment, my decision—and my desire—to live, was stronger than this feeling of dread. Despite a longing for the ground to just swallow me up and for me to hide forever, I sat there in the back of the ambulance, terrified, but cradled by my courage, knowing that was the decision I needed to make.
These last two years have been heartbreakingly hard, painfully isolating, and so fucking weird, but they’ve also been something I’ve gotten to do, and come out the other side saying I did—I got to live, and I’m so glad I did.
I’m now getting to shape the life for myself that I want to live, and the relationship with myself that I want to have—that feels like the ultimate act of self-love, and the greatest gift I can now give to myself, after making the decision to be here.
I didn’t get to know an End.
If anything, I got to know a beginning.
This is Part Four of a series.
Read Part One—Waking Up From a Dream—here.
Read Part Two—I Can’t Predict The Future—here.
Read Part Three—My Internal Wardrobe—here.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Moh Rafiee; elephant archives; Amani Omejer