The weeks before my eighteenth birthday were spent in my bedroom at my aunts, my last school holidays, studying for exams that I knew would never make me worth anything.
I said goodbye to my childhood alone, sitting by the lake in my hometown, chopped off hair pulled back from my tired eyes, trying to catch a breath between school books and breakdowns.
I sat cross-legged, making daisy chains and throwing rocks, a quiet funeral to what I thought I’d lost. I was sad then. Everything felt like slow motion, I was still reeling from my last screaming breakdown, my head still bruised from giving up, I couldn’t see anything worth looking forward to. Thick, pea-soup fog.
(Those days my religion was quiet and questioning, tied to nature and the earth, solitary. I’d stopped going to church and spent my Sundays trying to sleep off my depression.)
I sat by myself for hours, praying but not really, trying to turn over new leaves but without the energy to lift my fingers.
I burnt sticks as candle offerings in a cathedral made of pine trees and rotting wood.
There are moments where I laugh at my pathetic need to make these moments significant, but perhaps I feel that I needed some rite of passage to mark my transition from a child.
(I found God all over again in those tired weeks.)
A girl I was only beginning to know took me out for dinner on my 18th birthday after school, and I picked at a burger and chips but laughed because there was finally someone who wanted to stay.
Until I was fifteen I could not light matches. Every advent we would light candles around a wreath. When it was my turn to hold the light I would cry and panic.
Today I light candles around my room without a second thought, I can watch the flame run it’s way up a match, blow it out just before it reaches my fingers.
I sat through English exams while panic tried to paralyse my lungs and the room span around me. I walked out three hours later with a stomach filled with shame and wrists bruised from anxious fingers twisting at the skin. One and a half pages where there should have been nine.
I write essays like breathing now. I fill journals with words I never thought I’d find.
I spent years with words trapped in my throat, pulling hair from my head for every word I did not say. Constant fingers twisting around my neck, dragging thoughts down into my sinking, heavy chest.
I am learning to speak. My voice does not shake so often now. I swallow back fear and spit out spirit.
Twenty has treated me badly and beautifully. Every day has pulled at my strings, snapped and unravelled me. Undoing.
These days I am tired but I trust that in a morning I will wake up new.
(I am 21 now.)
all my love,