Wake up, rub the sleep and flaking mascara from your tired eyes, drag yourself out of bed.
Stumble to the bathroom, wherever it is in this empty quiet house that probably isn’t your own.
Stare yourself down in the mirror. You look like some kind of 1950’s horror movie extra. Lips are so chapped they’re burning, and every crack in them is stained deep red. Left over lipstick or wine, you’re not quite sure but you presume the second.
Splash water on your face. Try to get the stale taste of last nights drinks from your mouth with toothpaste.
The room spins just a little. Not drunk anymore, probably just a combination of exhaustion and nausea. A once empty stomach now contains a strange mix of whatever drinks you came across the night before. Chug three glasses of water.
Curl up on the couch in the cold. Empty, quiet morning. The nausea will pass soon. Drink more water.
Shower. Wash the alcohol from your body. Scalding water, scrub your skin until it’s red raw. Rinse your hair more thoroughly than you have in years, it will wash the night away.
Everything is quiet. Surreal. Floating, tired, a few seconds slower than it should be. Clean clothes, makeup. A cup of coffee, more water. You feel pure now. Clean, new. It’s okay.
Leave. Go to work or college or wherever you need to be. You’re tired, but you’re clean now. The past is in the past, gone, over.
The morning after a bad night is the same.
I think part of recovery is learning to wash last night off in the shower each morning.
I don’t mean put on some makeup and pretend that everything is fine. I’ve been there and done that and it’s actually far less helpful that I like to pretend it is.
Ask for help, reach out, have a cry if that makes you feel better. Do what you need to do to be okay.
But wash last night off.
Night time is hard, particularly when you can’t sleep. It’s quiet. Quiet can be healing, other times silence becomes an empty canvas that everything wrong with anything gets painted across in the boldest colours.
I can sit up for hours and everything I want to forget comes back with a vengeance, things you think you’re done with decide to reappear. Just when you think you’re headed in the right direction a bad night will come along and make you doubt all progress.
I’m good at getting myself into a state. A bad night can feel like the opening titles of yet another episode of a show I don’t want to see but can’t seem to stop watching.
A bad night would happen and I would feel like all was lost. I’d get up with what the night had started playing through my head in high definition and at full volume. Look in the mirror and the narrative is playing across my forehead, I can see it reflected on the side of my coffee machine, I hear it in the buzz of my hair dryer and the running bathroom tap. It would keep playing as I left the house, and it made me feel filthy, but I thought I had to keep it on. I have to finish this episode, the storyline has got me, I have to find out the ending, even though I’m pretty sure I already know it, I have to keep it going.
No, you don’t.
I’ve had a few bad nights recently and they started to get to me.
I felt like I was letting people down. I thought I was getting better, now it seems like as soon as the clock strikes midnight my wise mind heads home and leaves exhausted, sad, irrational Britt to just try and cope. This rarely goes well.
Despite all this, the morning still comes. The sun will rise, and we will try again.
I get up, I get in the shower, and I wash the night off. Clean, new.
It doesn’t mean I’m okay or that I don’t need to make choices to keep myself safer, but it gives me a clean slate. A new canvas so that I can paint my own story, I don’t have to frame the one a bad night made for me.
Often I’m not the best at this. Most of the positivity that I write is me speaking to myself more than anything, trying to change the narrative that has been dictating my life. It’s a journey, I’m learning, but wow am I a slow learner.
I broke down in front of my psychologist this week.
Too many bad nights. Too familiar. I’ve seen this storyline too many times. I don’t want to watch this again but I can’t pull my exhausted eyes away. It’s going to play out again, I know the plot line inside and out.
“No. No, you don’t.”
Internally I roll my eyes. What do they know about me and my life? I share what I want to, this team met me during a good episode, they don’t know the bad yet.
I think she sensed that I was heading back into my shell.
“Things are different now.”
“You’re doing the right things now. More than you ever had. You’re recovering.”
Actually, yes, I am.
Things will be different this time. Things are hard, wow are things hard. But different. Better, even if only slightly, and in a convoluted, confusing way.
Wash the bad nights off, let them swirl down the drain, it happened, but that doesn’t mean it has to replay.
Get out of the shower. Find some clean clothes. Dry your hair. Put on your makeup.
Let your mornings be new.
All my love,