Everything will become, for lack of a better term, unreal. For at least a little while, but possibly forever. Moments you’ll feel like you’re experiencing human life through the eyes of an alien lifeform, others like you’re two sizes too large for your skull. You will take the Seroquel and/or the Benadryl, just try to get some sleep, lithium when prescribed, conversation with family when not. You will cry more than you ever have before in your life, and then not at all, for large spaces of time. If the trauma lingers a while, which it probably will, it will arrive in the spaces you’ve left for yourself at the end of the day, in between the ADLs and the journaling and the music and remembering to eat when your stomach is louder than your thoughts. You will see the attempt thousands of times over the course of years. Even after treatment. You will learn to live with it, because dying is no longer an option. You have promised this to yourself, signed the promise in ink on arms that you hoped would distract from the scars on same. The scars that have discolored over time, faded, but you can still make out the tributaries you’d made, wide in places and narrow in others, stitch mark scars to join the long lines, notching out all the ways you could’ve been gone for good. There are things that hold you together, after all. You won’t sleep for days, then you won’t be able to get out of bed. Your heart will pound staccato waiting in line at the grocery store, breath will hitch in your chest while stopped at a red light. There will be prescription changes, minute differences, and studying efficacy. There will be rubbing together thumbs and forefingers, counting breaths, wiggling toes in slippers so you can feel something, even all the way down there. There will be despairing that you’ve traumatized yourself, possibly permanently, not knowing how this will end up, and trying not to give air to the thought that if it’d worked, you wouldn’t have to keep on suffering like this. There will be crying so hard and calling family, airing it all out, talking because you know you need to now, that’s part of the promise, and if you’re going to have to hurt like hell to stay alive, then so be it. There will be apologizing for having to call, believing them when they brush that aside and thank you instead. When they tell you to call whenever and wherever, no matter what, please just keep calling when you need to. You will play out Tame Impala: Currents on repeat for a few months or years, then The Slow Rush once that comes out, until the sounds make up the soundtrack of this new life you’ve been given, the possibility of starting over. There will be, in time, the ability to recall without reliving it. The components of the attempt without the debilitation. You will see that you can breathe a little deeper, do this and get through this, and all the rest you’ve heard along the way. You’ll get older, marvel at the lines now populating your face, the ones you never thought you’d get to see. Months will pass of this, then years, until you’ve surpassed any projection you ever had. You will be living and breathing, and not just getting through the spaces between panic attacks. Everything will still be unreal, but the context is different. All changed. You’ll be living in a vivid, complex, beautiful, lucid dream. And you will, somehow, be okay.
Nick Olson is an author and editor from Chicagoland now living in North Carolina. He was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award, and he’s been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, decomP, and other fine places. When he’s not writing his own work, he’s sharing the wonderful work of others over at (mac)ro(mic). His debut novel, Here’s Waldo, is available now. Find him online at nickolsonbooks.com or on Twitter @nickolsonbooks.