I feel like every year I always say the same thing. It’s been hard, it’s been painful, it’s been chaotic. But this year has a different tone. It’s been life-changing in all the ways that transformative years have.

I never thought I’d come this close to death again, at least not outside my head. This year I gave in. I found myself filling up the glass so high that at one point I just did not remember any reasons to keep going. That’s so painful to write and read. I didn’t believe in myself and honestly, I didn’t believe anyone around me. I found myself disproving all the love I was given to hold and in the process, self-sabotaging it. 

Mental struggles have always been something I was pushed to be ashamed of. Never believed or held, just pushed to ignore and “move on”. Nobody has ever taken the time to sit and listen and really think about what I was feeling and why. Until someone that did came along. And they cared, so much. That, in its totality, was terrifying. I’ve gotten so good at lying that I forgot to be honest with myself about the stake of putting someone I care about in the midst of fire between me, my head, and my demons. I have been mourning the loss of someone I love for more than a pandemic. 

I’ve been mourning loss since I was conceived. 

And honestly, that being the truth I don’t really know what else to say to make it real. To make people listen and believe me. But all I can do now is focus on the ones that do and are here present with me on this journey. 

It’s weird looking at age as a construct and also as timestamps for accomplishments and milestones that are hard to stomach. I did not choose this life to be so hurtful but once again I have to deal with the consequences of sincerity and breaking point. Yet, there’s so many more highlights I want to champion. 

In the span of a few months I have excelled at something I never thought I’d be doing, I’ve started believing in myself and my creative practice more than I ever have before, I have met some incredible people that have held me accountable and present in ways I didn’t know were possible, and I continue to rebuild my relationship with my mother and brother as the centers of my family union. 

This all started with moving to DC and coming upon independence once again. I left Miami escaping cynicism and superficiality, and then I came North to fall in love with it all over again. Coming here was the most impulsive decision I have ever made, and trust me, I have made some pretty impulsive decisions between trotting countries. Everyone was surprised, nobody asked if I was happy but rather they asked why? How? Are you coming back?

Coming back home became a coddled experience  for less ambiguity than the one I shared about my decision-making process. But it was good, it is good. I started a wave of depression that I could not beat alone, but this time I wasn’t alone. I was just heartbroken. It took every inch of me one day to not lose sight of my purpose in this life which is none other than to be the person I am around the people that I love. Centering my life around people is not only the understanding that I have of community, but it also allows me to stay humble and remember that I can’t and shouldn’t be selfish because the same way I have suffered from someone’s decision, there will be loved ones that will suffer due to mine. 

That sums up my first session with my psychiatrist too. He said firmly that mama and abu coni would be so disappointed and hurt if I left this world and most of all, that they already felt my sadness with me through their love. I never want to disappoint them, and I’m glad I beat those feelings day by day, hour by hour. 

Going to the hospital for suicidal ideation was not something I expected to do, nor did I want to do, but that I’m very glad I did. Being on suicide watch for the entire night at the ER brought back some medical trauma in ways where I already thought I had entered death as I knew it then, but in a much different context now. Being in that room smelled like my blood and soared through my IV scars. I physically felt sick to my stomach, and I was, too, literally bleeding already. I had tried to kill myself as I got my period that month. How poetic. 

When they asked questions like what was my plan, how I would do it, when I’d do it, I answered like a bot with a script. Knowing I couldn’t hold in the answers to those questions to myself anymore. I repeated, my name is Barbara Valencia, my DOB is … and I want to kill myself. I will cut my wrists, I will do it alone in my apartment, and I will not tell anyone. My preferred method of pain is cutting, I do it when I want to leave my pain in permanence, and I used to cope through this with permanent ink on my skin to deflect the fears that empty patches are canvas waiting to be reminded of this external pain. 

I don’t want to scare you, nor did I want to remember these painful details of what happened so soon and so raw. However, I had to tell someone that when I was alone sitting in that ER waiting room full of people and desperation, of COVID-19 patients, drug addicts, and dying folks, I was fucking terrified of how far my mind had come for me to end up there. 

I want to take a pause to break the stigma around mental illness and getting the help one needs to live in safety. I don’t describe this experience as a horror movie-like plot to scare or deteriorate the image of the life-saving resource that getting help really is for these cases. I am just a person who was taught to take my trust with me in and swallow it with my pride because nobody would care enough about another woman not feeling like herself in this world, over and over and over again. So this is where my hesitation comes from, and it was implanted by addicts that I know too well. Sadly, in a lot of ways, I too partake in this vicious cycle of belief at times and it’s the most destructive behavior I am challenging myself to break.  

ANYWHO, being alone physically has been hard. Yet, so intra-necessary. I have once again leaned on my friends for support when I needed the most and they showed up in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I am so happy to be part of their lives and feel very thankful for them being a part of mine. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m trying, trying really hard to be there for myself and my writing right now. And for once in a while, I am hopeful.


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