Today is March 1. This is the month I celebrate reaching that huge milestone in a woman’s life. You know that number we are supposed to fear. The number that means it’s only down hill from here. The number that means our beauty is fading and our value is diminishing. Screw that.
40 or XL. I like XL. One because it’s Roman and they believed in the power of the goddess and with age we become more wise in our goddess abilities but also because in our modern world it stands for XL. Okay so being called XL as a woman is not a compliment but I’m ready now to live an XL life from here on out. Or an EXTRA LARGE life.
See I almost didn’t make it to 40. (Hang in there this story has a happy ending and a point.)
That number seemed so heavy and when I would look in the mirror I did not like the newly discovered line on my face or my pores seeming to expand daily. I noticed more and more the drooping of my once perky breasts and the banana forming under the crease in my ass. Stand in the mirror naked – I dare not. Self help books even took it to a whole new level and told me to dance naked in front of the mirror. That was insanity. I spent hours looking in my mirror obsessing over the loss of my beauty. As lines grew deeper the darkness in me grew or maybe the lines grew deeper because the darkness grew. Which comes first? Chicken or the egg. This was all superficial though. There was something deeper in me that made me hate the woman in the mirror. There was something darker and uglier than my reflection could ever be.
I will never forget the day I stood on the deck off of our bedroom and contemplated suicide. Three years ago last month I stood with bare feet wielding a kitchen knife, tears pouring and only a single drop of hope left in my heart. My soul had been smothered and my mind had a herd of elephants running through it daily. They say once all hope is lost there is nothing left. Hope is a gift we all are gifted with our first breath of life. Just as easily as it can be given it can be lost.
I remember the fine mist of rain in the air, the sky was a grey and the sun – well it had not shown itself in my life for months. I wore an old faded out navy cardigan. It had been my mask. I felt safe wearing it. It hid the weight I had gained. I slept in it. I wore it in all seasons. I wore it inside out half the time. I haven’t worn it for years but it still hangs in the back of my closet – a memory of this day.
As I traced the vein on my left arm with a knife the herd of elephants ran wild. Or maybe the herd of demons. I truly believed my family would be better without me. I was always angry and disappointed. I was withdrawn yet overextended. I yelled. I cried. I had someone at our house a few days a week to pretty much be my companion so I could make it through the days without asking Jarred to come home or sitting in the closet hiding from whatever was out there. I was completely lost. I felt worthless and really no longer had a purpose in this life. I was deep and I mean deep in the throws of depression. Suicide, or me leaving this life that caused pain upon everyone around me, was going to be a gift to and not a selfish act. Please remember that the next time you hear suicide is selfish.
The scary part is I never told anyone I was contemplating suicide. I had for a month. I had made the comment I know why moms leave a few times and I didn’t want to live this life anymore but maybe no one heard me. I never said suicide out loud though. I had withdrawn into myself so deeply that I rarely spoke to others besides my husband, my kids, my therapist and the woman we had hired to “watch” me. I felt shame. I felt if I told anyone they would think I was being dramatic. I should have. I should have written it on a flag and ran laps in the neighborhood announcing it but instead I hid it all inside.
That drop of hope though remained. A beautiful gift that I still held. As I sat down on the hot tub cover I cried hysterically. I was cold and shivering from the fear and rain. I dropped the knife and realized how close I had came. I returned to the bedroom where I took a hot shower and returned to the wife and mom who was still walking the edge of life. I have never told this story to my husband. He knew how deep it was but not this bad for I hid it from him. I had already placed so much upon him.
A week later I made an appointment and confessed to my therapist what had happened. Luckily I was in therapy already with an amazing therapist and psychiatrist who kept check on me. They knew I was not doing well but they can only help you if you let them help you. I was immediately medicated. The drugs numbed me and I slept a lot. However I came out with a new appreciation for life. The battle was only half way over though. Today I am blessed to say the war is over.
So this month is my month of 40. I will over celebrate this time in my life. I now look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman and yes I do stand naked in the mirror and say I love my body. No I don’t look at my wrinkles and think “Awesome a new one” but I don’t hate myself for them. I will brag about myself and embrace the beauty of myself. I will celebrate me! For thirty one days I will gift myself with something be it tangible or not. I may even keep going after 31. Maybe we should all gift ourself with something daily. Today is a day to celebrate the birth of the new woman I have become – a woman of strength, faith, love, compassion, joy and knowing that I deserve love in all it’s beautiful forms.
I share this because I walked out of the flames (after five years) and I know many are still in the flames fighting for their life – often quietly. We all have a purpose and a gift to give whether we can see it at times in our lives. As women most of us will hit a mid-life crisis, depression will set in and along with it your faith in yourself and the beautiful woman that you are will be tested. I am here to say fight damn it fight! I will even fight with you. When you walk out of those flames you will rise and it is glorious!
So why put my darkest nights out there into the world. Isn’t keeping your dirty laundry in the closet the southern way? Well, I like to buck the southern mindset.
Going in this hell I feared so much – including close relationships with women. I had some real trust issues. As I turn 40 I now know my new purpose which is to help and encourage woman through stories of the struggle and that there is always hope. Isn’t it ironic? My purpose is to be honest and raw about what I went through so I can help others. I know other women are struggling and scared and uncertain. Their world is overwhelming and dark. It can be fucking scary yet they go through their days slowly falling apart. Mid-life crisis and mental issues are real and not to be ignored or hidden yet we’re told to keep them hidden and not talk about it – that is the worst advice the world can give a person. They are judging themselves for not being the perfect mom, regretting not following dreams, crying quietly in their closet, filling their nights with bottles of wine just to survive…I could continue on. They are stepping into the hurricane or trying to figure out how to get out.
Listen to me – you deserve beauty and what is yours. It shall come if you reach out. We can’t do this work alone – that was a hard lesson to learn. I have become who God meant me to be and know that God or whatever you call the Divine Power that guides us is in you and will fight for you.
National Suicide Help Line