Chloe Mackenzie: Yoga, Stories & Second Chances

Chloe Mackenzie is a vinyasa yoga teacher, music lover and storyteller.

this I vow

recovery is all about relationships... your relationship to the world, your relationship to those you love and your relationship to yourself. I have never lived in a truly recovered body and mind over the past 4 years of marriage. and still, somehow, Josiah was able to see through the disorder. he was (and is) able to see my soul self even when I can't see it or find it. these are my new vows to you, my love... the product of this recovery journey, what has been and what is to come.

I love you.

For the past four years I have loved you with everything that I had.
And that was only a portion of me.
From this day forward I vow to love you
with my whole being.
My whole being I am finding,
now and forevermore.

I promise to never stop fighting
for me and for us
until we reach eternity.
And when we find heaven, 
I will still be standing by your side.
I will walk with you through the storms.
I will stand with you in the fire.
I will sail with you in any weather.
I will live with you forever.

Our love has proven to be unbreakable.
Together we can do anything,
go anywhere,
be everything,
as long as we keep loving
with the same grace and truth
that has ushered us through these years.
I will dance with you in joy.
I will weep with you in sorrow.
I will sit with you in pain.
I will journey with you
I will seek with you
I will pray with you
I will live with you

Everyday I wake up I will choose you.
I will choose life.
I will choose us.
If I ever forget, please remind me of this.
For where you go I will go, 
and where you stay I will stay. 
Your people will be my people
and your God my God.
Have faith in me.
I have faith in you.
I have faith in us.
Forever.

diary of a mad recovering woman

The following is an assignment I was given to communicate my anger & emotions towards my insurance company. Two weeks ago, insurance decided to cut me from residential treatment for two reasons: 1. My BMI was "apparently" what they deemed as "healthy". (even though an eating disorder is a mental illness and not a physical illness last time I looked it up in the DSM-5... but ya know whatevs.) 2. I was "complying" with the program well. (...except when you don't comply with the program you get kicked out of treatment? So you have to follow the program, but not too well. You have to stay sick enough to be in treatment... I guess treatment isn't supposed to help you, it's supposed to make you sicker?) I mean... I'm not bitter.

Thus, I wrote this letter. On Thursday, I am presenting another more personal (and a little more refined, yet still honest) letter, via my therapist, to my case manager to fight for more time in PHP (day treatment). Insurance is already wanting to cut me again after three weeks for the same reasons. Whatever the outcome of the review, I am going to try my hardest to keep doing the work with the resources I have within and around me. Thank you all for your support, your letters, your care packages and kind messages... you know I'm not going down without a fight. Thank you to all of the therapists and insurance liaisons who have fought for me to the point of tears behind the scenes. You are my angels. I have watched far too many fighters on this same journey walk out the doors far too early because of insurance bullshit. It's time we make our voices a little louder... A LOT louder. #YOUDONTKNOWME

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Dear Insurance,

How would you feel if I threw you on a scale and said, "Well you're healthy so you don't have to eat anymore!". Yes, that's dramatic. And... that's what you told my eating disorder when you cut me from treatment after a month. You've obviously never been to treatment or you would know that after one month of settling in and eating the damn food, you're just now starting to get somewhere... if you're lucky. I didn't yet know how to feed myself or even begin to comprehend all that living in recovery means. I had just started to believe I was exactly where I needed to be and I was committed to staying as many months as it took to grasp what recovery could feel like. And three days later you told me, "nope, you're done here." You are inhumane and greedy. You don't get it.

I wish you could see inside of my head... actually, I don't wish that upon anyone. But, for the sake of my case, I wish you could live in my mind for a day... maybe even an hour. And you would see how much I need to be here. You would see how debilitating and infuriating my mind feels. Every hour of the day I am tormented by thoughts of exercise, panic, depression and restriction. On paper, it may look like I'm doing fine, yet my body tells another story. My brain feels like it's on fire. I cannot unravel eleven years in 50 days. You don't know me and my story... or at least, if you do, you don't care. I need help. I need a lot of help. That is painful for me to admit... and it's true. That is what our healthcare system is for: to help people. And still, you pulled the plug.

How is it that you keep handing out medical marijuana cards like pennies to (some) people who abuse drugs or sell the product... and you won't support someone who is actually showing up and sacrificing their life for treatment? You pay billions of dollars every year for pharmaceutical drugs (some) people don't even take, but rather sell for a profit. And yet you only care that I cost you $1,800 a day... $1.25 a minute. Apparently, my life has a price tag... and I'm not worth that much.

This was my last straw. Did you know that? Did you know that I have carried this monster for almost half my life? Did you know that I had given up on recovery altogether? Did you know there were days I didn't want to live before I got to Rainrock? Did you know I crawled in the doors believing this was my last shot at life because I (literally) had nothing left to lose? And still, you pulled the plug.  

I'll give you credit for something: you're ignorant. So you believe I'm at a "healthy" BMI... by whatever equation you use. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. I don't know who to believe anymore. I do know recovery is not a number or a percentage. My team says I still have a pretty good ways to go. Do you know what that does to me when I hear you say, "you've gained enough"? Do you know how hard you have made this already grueling process of body acceptance? You've really fucked with my head. And now I'm raw and confused and unsure and mad-as-hell and my mind is a war zone.

You cut me once and now you want to cut me again because I am "complying with the program". Did it ever cross your mind that I am "complying" because my life literally depends on it? Yes, I have gained weight because I'm following my meal plan... which is required to stay in treatment. I am choosing to gain the weight because my body has been tortured for half my life and I cannot live without extra nourishment right now. I am following the meal plan because I actually, truly want recovery.

So, it's obvious. I'm really damn angry. And... I refuse to let you dictate my recovery. I'm confused and a lot more hesitant now that you've altered my path. By some miracle I'm still here. It isn't even about the money (though I cannot stay in treatment without your financial help)... it's about the message. It's about you telling me "you're fine, you're good." I'm not fine. I won't even fake fine. I'm a shitshow and this shitshow is still showing up to the table six times a day to eat the damn food. The damn food you don't want to pay for anymore. No matter what you say, I'm going to choose life. I'm going to try my damn hardest to choose life, even if you don't. My choice is the hard choice, and I'm going to choose. I choose life. This is my life.

Pissed off and grateful,

Chloe

I am recovering to:

an excerpt from my journal to reread over and over and over. replace "Chloe" with your own name and read this to yourself. 

7.25.2017

I am recovering to contentment.

I am recovering to waking up with a clear mind, instead of a mind held captive to rules and scheduling and numbers and sweat.

I am recovering to dreams. To dreams being possible. To going back to school. To the hope of the next few years being mine and mine alone. To the days of claiming my own joy.

I am recovering to freedom. To the unleashing of chains which have bound my hands behind my back for half my life.

I am recovering to faith. To truth and uncovering what makes sense to me. To embracing what makes no sense at all. To the possibility of finding a God I never knew. A God who will meet me in my darkness and bask me in light.

I am recovering to intimacy. To a love and trust I have never known. To the arms of a being who loves me more than anything in this world. To allowing myself the privilege of fully loving with all my being. To tasting, feeling, accepting, embracing all that is love.

I am recovering to power. To discovering my unique strength as a woman, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, a friend. To claiming ownership of life and my twenty-four-hours-seven-days-a-week. To not letting lies seize my independence from bondage.

I am recovering to struggle. To experiencing pain and grief and anger and loss and sorrow. To welcoming them as my color palette, my saving grace, my greatest strength. To honoring my past with love and reverence.. that with connects my humanity with yours. 

I am recovering to uncertainty. To the dance in-between black and white. To the thrill and terror of the great unknown. To surrendering myself to purpose and belief. To black space between every star.

I am recovering to grace. To the permission to forgive myself. To the mercy underneath my skin. To the love of this holy vessel. To the mystery of what it means to be human. To be woman.

I am recovering to humanity. To being a part of the universal cry for justice and peace and understanding and equality and compassion. To joining in on the song of the outcasts, the strugglers, the left behind, the lost, the broken, the bleeding hearts, the misunderstood. To being a voice for those who do not have one. To empower the souls this world silences.

I am recovering to me. I am recovering for me. This time, I am recovering for me. Because you and I depend on each other. I am me because you are you. You are you because I am me. I am recovering to Chloe. Because this world needs Chloe. You need Chloe. I need Chloe. I want to know Chloe. To laugh with Chloe, to love with Chloe, to weep with Chloe, to sit with Chloe, to dine with Chloe, to sing with Chloe, to dance with Chloe, to believe with Chloe, to live with Chloe.

To live, to live. To live.

goodbye, goodbye, my love

through many tears, I release you. I release me.

this is in honor of the city that forever changed my life, my soul. forever.

I am sorry I have to say goodbye. I am so sorry.

july 27, 2017

my beloved city, my dear New York,

how do I say goodbye? I don’t know if I can. and the longer it takes for me to say those two words: good. bye. the more my heart is pulled apart day after day. I never got the chance to come home and give you a proper goodbye... a proper “see you soon”. I never got the chance to stand in an empty Harlem apartment with tears streaming down my face, wrapped in memories, in the sacred presence of who you are... who we were. I am sorry I could not come home to you and sprinkle the B & C trains with the dustings of honor and reverence. someday, I will make it back to say goodbye. until then, this is all I have... words and pictures and flashbacks and visions.

New York, I will admit. you scared the shit out of me at first. you threw challenges at me I never imagined I would face in my lifetime. you made me jaded and tough. and you cut heart open... my bleeding heart day after day. you made me love humanity and curse it at the same time. you revealed to me a world I have never known, a world that captured my heart and shattered it into pieces on the floor. you showed me pain. you brought me up-close-and-personal with our universal pain... the groaning of a fallen world and the grace and redemption in our struggle. you unleashed my creativity and my voice. you simultaneously nourished me and emptied me. your adrenaline pulsed through my veins and your colors set my heart on fire like I’ve never felt before. without you, I feel lifeless... what did I have to leave you? I know why. and I also don’t know who I am without your sounds, your rush, your heat, your melody, your poetry, your mystery.

I didn’t mean for it to end this way. I am sorry, sweet city. I am so sorry. I know you probably don’t miss me as much as I miss you... it probably doesn’t keep you up at night or cause tears to well in your eyes or shivers to radiate down your spine. I can still feel you, I can still see your eyes... thousands of stunning eyes. I can still smell the grit, the raw life seeping from the street. yet, I cannot touch you. I cannot embrace you with poetic rhythm and pictures of sunsets. I cannot heal the wounds you left wide open. I fear only you have the power to release me from bondage, from the longing of you and what used to be. only if I say goodbye. only if I can say goodbye. 

New York, I love you. you gave me my passion, my drive, my guts, my fierce edges, my forever love, my life. New York, I hate you. you nearly took my life, you supported my addictions, you whispered me lies, you convinced me I was nothing without an image. and still, I cannot hate you. because you are home. you are where I loved, where I was alive, where I was someone, where I mattered. I have not gotten over you. I don't know if I ever will... because you and I are connected. we can never be fully separated. because you are home. you chose me and I chose you. not because of your glittery lights, because of your narrative... your authentic, grimy, tarnished, scarred, glorious stories. stories imprinted on my heart, my body... forever. maybe one day in another time, another space... I can come home to say goodbye. or, I can come home to a "welcome home". for now, I have to say those two words that sting. those two words I've been holding back for eight months. those two words that feel like a dagger through my chest: good. bye. 

New York I love you, I hate you, I will always love you. I am because you are. in this moment, I have to let you go, I have to release you. I have to release me. maybe I'll see you soon... maybe I won't.

goodbye, goodbye my love,

chlomackie

until now: the masks

7. 19. 2017

you always told me

look on the bright side

hope in all circumstances

be joyful always

and I felt sorrow

deep, smothering sorrow.

and so I put on the mask of unshakable joy.

it made me presentable

it made you happy, so happy

it made me acceptable

it made me likable

it made me bubbly and light

it made me confused

it made me - the real me -

disappear.

it made me shrink.

it made me bury it. 

all of it.

it made me miserable

and it made you content.

as time went by

I fooled you

and I fooled me too.

until now.

 

you told me to die to self

you told me to serve

you told me to put others before myself

always.

you praised my selflessness

you were pleased with my helping hands

remaining perpetually open.

and my hands became

empty

I became empty

less than empty

and so I put on the mass of radical servanthood.

and I held you together

as I slowly fell apart

I gave you my whole self

and I lost myself.

you assured me me that this

was the path to joy...

giving up myself.

and I felt hollow

you made me believe this was the way

and so I believed you

and I didn't have needs

until now.

 

you told me I was good at everything

there was nothing I could not do.

I was amazing. 

I was intimidating.

I was gifted.

I was the envy of all.

and so I feared failure

fiercely

because failure was not allowed.

I did not fuck up.

that wasn't me.

anything less than (blank)

was not chloe.

and so I put on the mask of perfect.

you looked up to me

I could not let you down.

you aspired to be me

I could not met you down.

you praised and adored me

I could not let you down.

and I loved that you loved me

I had no other choice

backed into a corner of wonderful

and I thrived in this corner

until now.

 

you always needed to feel good

you always needed to have power

you implied my feelings didn't matter

just my smile

just my forced nod.

you told me to shove it down

no matter what it was.

you told me I didn't have an opinion

it didn't matter

so I put on the mask of smile-and-nod

and it made things easier

a hell of a lot easier

it never ruffled feathers

just smile

it made you feel heard

just nod

it made me a bobblehead

it made me invisible

until now.

 

you told me I had everything under control

you told me I was 10 going on 30

you told me I never needed an adult

I never needed help

I was strong and wise

and the truth is... I needed help.

I needed a lot of help

but that was not allowed

because it was already said

it was already decided

so I put on the mask of have-it-together.

have-it-ALL-together

it made you trust me. 

it made me feel confident

it made me feel trapped

it made me believe everything was okay

and if it wasn't okay, I could make it okay.

I could arrange it nice and neat

and filed away

I kept myself tight and contained

and organized 

and tidy

until now.

 

I refuse to let myself put on the masks

it stops here

I am exposed and uncomfortable,

messy and confused,

vulnerable and wandering

in the desert of my being.

you used to have power over me

until now.

I choose to wander.

I choose to be exposed.

I choose to be less pleasing.

I choose not to apologize.

I choose me. 

 

unraveling

Yet through all,
we know this tangled skein
is in the hands of One who
sees the end from the beginning;
He shall yet unravel all.
— Alexander Smith

I'm going to keep this as concise as possible. I've gone back and forth and back and forth in my mind, in my ego, in my soul... and finally, my deepest of depths told me, "You've told it all, why stop now?" I've shared this before, one of greatest therapists I have known once told me, "The stories we don't tell rule us." And so, I'll continue to tell, to write.

Last August, I did the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. I realized I had no other choice, if I wanted to stay alive, but to leave everything behind and admit myself into a residential treatment facility. At the time, I left silently and shamefully. Now, I have no shame at all. Because shame cannot exist where truth is spoken. I was in intensive treatment (on the "8th floor") for about 10 weeks. It was my first time in a residential treatment setting and I had no idea what it was going to be like. It was hell, it was worse than hell. And, it saved my life. Truly. It's why I'm still here today. When I discharged, my whole treatment team told me, "We believe in you. You're going to be the one we say goodbye to, you won't be needing to come back here. You are so strong." 

I believed them. I believed them with my whole heart. Until... I spent a few weeks in the world again. Feeling everything, trying to make sense of things on my own and figuring out how to live again with all of my go-to coping mechanisms gone. I quickly found myself back in a day treatment program wondering why the hell I was back here... How did I let myself slip? Why am I so weak? What the hell is wrong with me? Did I even remember all the hard work I had done? Where did it go?

I realized that my first time in residential treatment had one main purpose... to save my life. To ensure that my heart kept beating. I cracked open a few wounds, I journaled and grappled with words, and I talked with my therapist a bit about the past... yet, most of my work was: "How am I going to stay in treatment and accept the challenges that come everyday?"... not: "How am I going to live in recovery in the real world and face the demons that will surface?" It didn't take me long to understand, that I wasn't one-and-done. The deeper and deeper I dug into my story with my outpatient team, the more I could see what was underneath.

One day I opened my eyes. I looked down inside and saw this:

And that sounds like:

every. minute. of. the. day. (and that was only a 45-second sample)

Yeah, I know. HOLY SHIT THAT'S A F$%&ING MESS! I have tried and tried and fought every single day (with the help of my incredible outpatient team) to find the end of a few skeins, to start unraveling this mess (aka shitshow, if you've been around for awhile) and to silence the voices. No one does this on their own. No one can. Seeing a therapist once a week to make sense of this tenacious chaos just isn't possible... no matter how "strong" or "self-aware" you are. And so, day after day of staring down at this tangled mess, helplessly scouring for earplugs and feeling like my hands are tied behind my back, has driven me into the deepest, darkest, most crippling depression I have ever known.

I am always the one saying, "You are not alone, we can't do this alone." It's hardest to take your own advice (that's why therapists have therapists). The hard truth is: I can't do this alone. I can't keep unraveling this and fighting this depression safely on my own. So, I'm going away, for the second time (different facility), maybe not the last time... for some intensive-unraveling... to spend time in a safeguarded, supportive home where I can continue to uncoil this 26 year-shit-storm-knot and hush the voices one by one. 

One day, these tangled strings will be woven into something I cannot even fathom at the moment. It may be 10 years, 2 years, 20 years, 50 years... I do not have rose-colored glasses on anymore. Nevertheless, I will never stop unraveling, never stop fighting until this mess becomes something. some. damn. thing! Sometimes... we get stuck. We need extra help. We need people to shine a light on our own strength when we cannot see it for ourselves.

She wasn’t afraid of people in need because she wasn’t afraid of needing others. She didn’t mind extending kindness to others, because she herself relied on the kindness of others.
— brene brown

Even though it is the right thing. It is the hard-as-hell thing. I'll be missing my third wedding celebration... I'll be missing my husband's birthday... I'll be missing our fourth anniversary... And I'm doing this for all of us. For my family, for my dearest friends, for my fellow recovery ass-kickers, for my unbelievably patient and generous  husband, for my unrelenting parents... and for you. 

Yes you, because we are all connected, and I'm fighting for us. I'm fighting to be the best me for the beloved you.

I will miss you all deeply. This time, I will be (mostly) entirely cyber-disconnected. (Therefore, the internet will have a lot less Beyonce & cat posts for awhile) I love letters, and will still be writing daily, so if you would like to be a part of the unraveling and/or would like a companion in your own unraveling (I'm a good listener), please contact me, send me your address and I will send you mine. It is my honor to continue journeying with you. Thank you for your unconditional love, your wholehearted grace... for your support and messages and songs and speechlessness and love letters and prayers and tears and gifs and laughs and you-go-glen-coco's.

one thread at a time,

to the moon and back my loves,

chloe

500 days of sober.

And it still sucks ass.

Every damn day.

Yes, sober people swear a lot, because now we have to actually feel all the feels. And if you're me, feel all the feels that were already too many feels for any person to possibly feel at any given moment because God blessed me and cursed me with a shitload of feels. It hurts sometimes. It hurts a lot. It hurts every day. It hurts bad. 

When I shattered the wine glass on the floor, an explosion happened. And keeps happening over and over and over, everyday I have to feel (which happens to be every day). It becomes physically and emotionally traumatizing after awhile. Not a cute explosion, like popping open a champagne bottle (yeah, i'm allowed to make that joke)… more like underground bombs trail-blazing the pathway for a new metro system. Everyone feels the quake, not just me. That’s what hurts the most.

Still, I am the lucky one. I found husband that has chosen, thus far, to journey these 500 days with me (510 to be exact). I can’t quite find the words to describe how marriage looks and feels sober. It was new territory for the both of us. Everyone is love-drunk in the first six months of marriage, whether you are actually consuming alcohol or not. And when that rubbed off, we figured out nights were more pleasant when we added wine into our evenings because I was able to calm the hell down. Naive, innocent and just gigglly. I miss that girl everyday. I grieve her freedom, her laugh. I knew it was a bad idea. The drinking. And I didn’t say anything because it worked really well. Too well. Better than my medications (which I decided to stop taking because that was totally the best idea I ever had, “I didn’t need them anymore”). People liked me, the giddy, giggly "another glass" Chloe. I could escape from myself and, besides, everyone else is drinking anyway... I mean it's just what us millennials do, right? It's the "given" of socializing now. This world has become too much for all of us to actually come together without taking the edge off.

Being completely sober, not just the "dry January detox" (or whatever it’s called)… is a completely different mindset. Like, if you didn’t have a tough day today and don’t have to drink, but you do have rough day tomorrow and could really use a harmless glass of _______  to take off the edge of your boss or kids or politics. The idea that it is there and it is accessible, alters the brain. It's not forever. Forever is not a word for the faint-of-heart. We use forever too much these days to really feel what it means. 

510 days ago, the voices were begging me not to say forever... to just commit to drinking on the weekends, or just one _____ a night, or just take a month off, or just... or just… no. I knew I had to say done. Entirely. Forever. Because I know what an addict's mind would do. Because I already had experience with that. Me and the alcohol were over.

They never tell you that becoming sober makes you an outcast. Yeah, your friends may say you are brave and they are proud of you... and you're still on the outside of happy hour. They never tell you that you may never go to another social event because who the hell wants to be the only one actually "there" and having zero fun? They never tell you that you are going to be really damn bored at night. They never tell you that the games you used to play under the mask of Pinot Noir will light a fire of PTSD. They never tell you that you will be afraid of the night. Terrified of dark streets and all of the seductions that lurk in the dim lights of restaurants. The glimmers of light sparkling off of all the liquor bottles at the bar.

They never tell you that every time you go grocery shopping for cheese, you're going to be asked what kind of wine you like, and it feels like a dagger going through your chest. every. damn. time. They never tell you that you are going to have to fight off the voices, the terrors, the panic, the worry by yourself. Chamomile tea doesn’t do that. They never tell you it's going to feel like your skin is on fire at the hour of dusk. They never tell you that life will never be the same. They never tell you that it is okay to grieve it. It is okay to mourn. It is okay to be really fucking mad. It is a process that takes time. More than 500 days.

They never tell you that becoming sober will rock your marriage. Yes, it will ask you to lean on the other with your life, it will solidify a bond unlike any other... and, it will change the way you spend your time, it will change the way you communicate, it will change your hobbies, it will change who you can trust, it will change where you go, it will change how you feel, it will change the nights. every. single. night. Now, you don’t have the glass to pour your day into… you only have each other… and figuring this thing out to the best of your two, imperfect abilities. You have to find out who you truly are, down to the core. Me and you. Us. No hiding, no medicating, no taking the edge off. We are raw. We are shining a floodlight into the places we wanted to keep dark. In me, in you. There’s nothing we can reach for the fix it any more. We just have to sit and stare into the abyss. Sometimes silent, sometimes processing, sometimes crying. And we do it together. It’s messy and unpleasant. It’s brutal and terrifying. Night by night, we make it.

My husband doesn’t have the DNA of an addict, so I cannot speak for him. God bless that man for putting up with my crazy-as-hell self. For me, there has never been a night, in the 500 plus days, that I have not thought about it. That I have not yearned for red liquid to ease the pain of one who feels too much. And I still haven’t given in. One day, it may happen. I do not know anything for certain.

What I do know is that this isn’t going to have a nice conclusion paragraph. Much like the movie, 500 Days of Summer, you’re going to be left unfulfilled. Probably with lots of questions as to why you just spent time reading this. I don’t even really know why the hell I wrote it… other than, the reason I continue to write… to reach out my hand to you and tell you, you are not feeling, living or struggling alone. 

You do not have to be sober. You do not have to struggle with addiction. You do not have to be crippled by your feelings. You do not have to be married. You do not have to struggle with mental illness or addiction. You do not have to put down the glass tonight. You do not have to put the glass down ever. You do not have to agree with every sentence. You do not have to know me. You do not have to respond. 

Somewhere, in these 500 days, in this story… I believe you can find yourself. I believe that if we tell our stories authentically, maybe on the edge of, too-much… we will always find connection. I'm willing to take that risk. Maybe for you, it’s relating to navigating life-altering circumstances in your marriage. You will make it. Maybe for you, it’s the freedom to not have a clear ending. Maybe for you, it’s the permission to grieve what you have lost, even if what you have lost was toxic. It still hurts like hell, it meant something to you, it served a purpose... and it’s okay to scream about it. 

Maybe it’s the reassurance that someone else out there feels way too much, too. Maybe it’s knowing that someone else is also yearning for the drink tonight. Maybe it’s finding another outsider to sit with you in the floodlight. Maybe you find yourself judging these words... which still means I hit a tender spot. If so, hold on and dig deeper. Maybe it’s proof that honesty won’t kill you. Even when it feels like it will. It will loosen the chains, my friend, it will loosen the chains. Every time you own your story, the chains release a little more. 

Until, maybe, just maybe… one day we will be free. I can't promise it. And, I still have to believe, for you… and for me. We will be free. 

or else, what's the point?

I have a hard time believing anything or anyone anymore. I was once that girl, that young woman who always believed. Always believed there was a way out. Always believed there was a reason. Always believed somewhere there was a rainbow. And then real life happens. It happens on a different level for everyone. There's no way to put this gently, to make this sound tender and light. Life is exhausting. Sometimes, life is just damn cruel and unkind. And we can't understand it. And for so long I tried to cover the ache, the sting, with a veil of silver linings. I pulled everything under the magic tree of relentless, protective optimism because that was acceptable and praised. It made people feel good. Maybe for awhile it made me feel good, too. 

As seasons have come and gone, I have found myself in a place where everything I believed in and hoped for has one-by-one come crashing down at my feet... including my own being. I'd give anything to be one of those people who can replace the sorrow with visions and hopes resting "somewhere over the rainbow". And I've found that I am not those people. And it isn't because I haven't tried.

I have a hard time believing anything anymore. And it's confusing as hell to be in the mysterious, dark abyss between what I must accept, what is real and what is a hopeful balm that will bandage the wound until the bandage is fully saturated and red begins to run down my leg again... and I'll have to slap another bandage on. Over and over. I never said I didn't believe anymore. It's just getting increasingly more difficult to hold on. So, I knew it was time to return to one of my favorite passages of all time... from The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring:

...I realized that I wasn’t standing at the magic tree anymore. I was standing at the place they call “bittersweet”. That place that, if you could find it on a map, would be the mountain that sits between happy and sad. And I thought bout how when you stand on that mountain, you can almost feel God’s hand on your head and you just know, deep down inside, that even if you don’t understand everything that happened to cause those mixed feelings, you still know there was a good reason for them happening... then I smiled and reminded [Aunt Verdella] of what she and Winnalee had both once told me. That you have to go on believing anything’s possible, or else, what’s the point?

...you have to go on believing anythings possible,

or else, what's the point?


As I've been journaling this week, I decided to I take myself on a journey back through recent times when I had no other choice but to trust and believe if I wanted to keep living. I grip my fists so tightly I tremor. I take myself back and try, and try, and try to persuade myself that I can still trust, I can still believe... or else, what's the point?


I see you: In all of my years, I've made one of my therapists cry... twice. The first time, was in our first meeting when I sat on her sofa attempting to stammer out words in between heaving for breath through my tears. The expression on her face said enough... as I painted a picture of what was inside and allowed her to see the lesions on my hands and back from my empty body hauling around the sack of sharp rocks slung over my shoulder. She sat with me in a place where silence was the only suitable response. And in that long silence, we both weeped. In my closing session with her, we once again sat in the place of holy tears. Still carrying the heavy load and still beaten and bruised, inside and out, she looked at me... once she gathered herself enough to speak, and said, "You know what the best part about my job is Chloe?... It is getting to work with women like you and having the privilege of seeing the healers you are becoming and where your story is leading before you can see it, before you can believe it." Gazing upon the wet vulnerability in her eyes, was enough for me to understand the vision she held for me.  ...you have to go on believing anything's possible, or else, what's the point?


Never leave you: During my first go 'round in a residential treatment facility, it didn't take me long to understand... this is probably not going to be the last time. This is a lifelong battle, no rest days, no time off, no cease fire. It takes us all a different amount of time to heal. We all enter into healing with different amounts of pain. Some of us sought help after one year... others of us have been fighting for twenty. When I first arrived on the "eighth floor", I said I was going to be that one who broke the record and never came back. I was holding onto hope with my life then. It is the only thing that kept me alive. It didn't take long for the reality of daily life and mental illness to capture my rose colored glasses. Last year during my first residential stay, I met my soul's sister, *Coco. Our sisterhood has carried us both through hell and back and back again. I wish, for the both of us, that our strong bond could protect us from relapse and the voices that drive us mad.. and I cannot say that is the truth. Nearly one month ago, I drove over to the building where it all began again, to wrap her in my arms and tell her I loved her and nothing would change that... knowing this may be the last time we would see one another for who-knows-how-long, because I, too, would shortly be going back into treatment. When you are in and out of treatment for what seems to be an unknown infinity, you are left with the fear of losing everyone you love because they will eventually get tired of the disease and it becomes too heartbreaking to be in relationship with you. And so, as we embraced one last time, for now, we vowed, I will never leave you, no matter how long it takes, no matter how much my heart breaks, no matter how dark the night gets, no matter how many others may leave your side... I never will. You will always have me. ...you have to go on believing anything's possible, or else, what's the point?


I'm alive: It was a Tuesday night when I got the news. I was just stepping onto the sidewalk on the corner of Market and 15th when I got the text. The text that told me a dear friend had tried to take their life and doctor's were thinking this was the end. My legs went limp and I fell right next to the curb. I have walked the streets of Seattle many days with tears streaming down my face (because what normal person doesn't do this?! I mean come on.) and not one person has even looked my way or asked if I was okay. Talk about cold. In Manhattan, the city that's supposed to be so emotionally-stale, I would always have someone ask if I was okay. This one night, the ice cracked. I don't remember what he looked like, but a man walking around the corner saw me and helped me up and escorted me over to a bench. He made sure I was okay. I couldn't speak, so through hand gestures I let him know I was okay. Looking back, that was a sign of what was to come, the possible impossible. When I had stopped believing people cared or were kind, he showed up. The rest of the story is not mine to tell. Only this... three days later, after grieving and accepting that I had said a forever goodbye, I got the text: "I'm still alive, which as the doctor said, is a miracle..." ... you have to go on believing anything's possible. "...we're all going to make it. In fact, not only are we going to make it, we're all going to come out of this and make a real difference... rumor has it that the greatest rewards come after the toughest struggles." ...you have to go on believing anything's possible, or else, what's the point?


You're going to be okay: Last week, I went back to North Carolina for a visit. I used to say I was going home, and I'm still trying to figure out where that is... so, for now, we'll say I went to the beach. I wish anxiety was stress, I wish depression was sadness. Stress you can breathe away, sadness you can cheer up. I wish I could have left everything behind and let sun and hugs cure the illness. And that's not how mental illness works. I had just gone through and incredibly emotional 24-hours and it was Sunday, my best friend, my person, was driving hours down to Carolina Beach to spend time with me. I wish I could tell you everything was like it used to be. I wish we could laugh until our stomachs hurt and let words and smells escort us into the past... without my heart breaking within the memories of a girl who was free, a time when life made sense. And still, we were here together. Out of the blue, I got an email from another friend telling me she was planning on taking her life, which sent me into a catastrophic breakdown. "IT'S TOO MUCH!!! IT'S TOO FUCKING MUCH!!! I AM DONE, I AM SO DONE. I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE. I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS!!! I DON'T THINK I CAN LIVE ANYMORE. THE PAIN OF LIVING... IT HURTS, IT HURTS, IT HURTS!" My best friend and family surrounded me for what felt like an eternity, with little words to offer... no syllables strung together could respond to what was happening. I stumbled up the stairs to take a shower, where my best friend sat outside the door to make sure I wasn't left alone. I emerged from the bathroom, sopping wet from water and tears. And she grabbed me and held onto me squeezed me so tight to her chest I could hardly breathe. If you could suffocate pain, it would have died right there. Still dripping wet from the shower, she held me longer than I've been held in years. When she finally let go, she put her hands around my face and made me look her straight in the eyes, "Listen to me. You're going to be okay. You're going to be okay. You're going to be okay..." and the words kept washing over me again and again, until we both could believe that maybe, possibly, they could be true. ...you have to go on believing anything's possible, or else, what's the point?


Show me you hear me: No surprise to anyone, over the past year my faith has been tested and tried and held at the stake. I don't know who I can trust. Words of promise have not come true. My prayers feel as though they have been buried under the Pacific Ocean. Just when I feel as though I can trust my legs to stand, I am struck back down to the ground. I have a hard time believing anything or anyone anymore. I've never been the charismatic believer who asks for specific things to happen and miraculously have a check appear in the mail that covers all that I need. I've never had prophetic dreams. I've never seen any clear "signs". Through various seasons of my life, there have been times when I have cried out, "God, PLEASE TELL ME IF YOU CAN HEAR ME!" I don't need an answer to my cries, I just want to know Someone is there listening. And many times, I have looked up and the sky has been painted purple, my favorite color. I can hear you. I can vividly remember a few weeks ago, I was driving in the car caught in the throws of a deep depressive episode. I was weeping so fiercely, I had to pull the car over. And I cried, "Please, please tell me if you can hear me." I looked up... and I saw this. ...you have to go on believing anything's possible, or else, what's the point?

The raw, hard truth is: life may never be what we hoped for... recovery may never look like what I thought it would... "time will heal", and time may be far longer than what I actually mean when I utter those words. I may have a hard time believing anything right now. Maybe you feel the same, my dear friend. I'm holding on to the truth that we have made it through every day until now... that is truth with evidence. That is something we can trust. And still, I hope, still I pray, still I will keep repeating, even when I don't believe it...

When we are standing on the bittersweet mountain in between truth and pain, life and death, laugher and trauma, sickness and healing, music and silence, then and now, may we keep asking each other, 

"...we have to go on believing anything's possible,

or else, what's the point?"