What I am truly thankful for. You'd be surprised.

Dear Reader,

I’ve thought about what I’d write in this blog post for several days. I was hesitant to write it. I didn’t want to come off as insincere and trendy.

Heaven forbid that a blogger and podcaster do something trendy!

I didn’t want to be #thankful or #grateful.

But I am. All those hashtags. See, before being thankful, this was me:

  • Four and a half years ago I almost took my life.
  • I hated everything about myself.
  • I worked in a location and in a career that cared not about my mental health.
  • I moved home where I swore I’d never return.
  • I was penniless.
  • I didn’t have any fight left in me.
  • I begged God to take my life because I couldn’t do it on my own.

The year of my attempt I was so lost. This was from my essay, “Confession of a Surviving Liar”, published in Dear Hope in November 2016.

Nov. 2015

I didn’t think I’d have anything to be thankful for by the time my family and I sat down to a turkey dinner.

About a week or two after that July night, I was fired. It took me less than 10 minutes to pack my entire office in twin banker’s boxes and 15 minutes to make a decision. It was time to go home. There was nothing for me there, no friends, no projects or relationships. I existed for a job and a situation that wanted to end me.

I can write about the adjustment of coming home after not living there for 12 years. I could allow it to be fodder for a comedic, feel-good movie starring an up-and-coming starlet. But it would be a lie and I’m not a liar anymore.

So, on Thanksgiving 2015, I was home, in a job search, and counting pennies like I did when my family was on welfare. And yet, there was so much to be thankful for — the air in my lungs being the top of my list.

“I didn’t sleep last night,” Mom said yawning in the middle of the day. She was still in her pajamas and the TV set roared with someone singing during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

“Why?” The smell of roasted turkey made my stomach crazy.

“I was watching you sleep.”

“Why were you doing that,” I asked, surprised.

“I’ve been doing that since you came back,” she said in her Guatemalan Spanish. Her tired voice trembling. “You don’t sleep. It’s like you’re fighting with someone. You’re not yourself. You’re not the daughter I know.”

She’s right. I am a stranger to her now and a stranger to myself. Depression doesn’t stop because you’ve flushed the pills down the toilet. Depression doesn’t stop because your mother watches you sleep in fear. Depression continues. It changes you, often. You become a kaleidoscope changing so often it can be difficult to recognize yourself from an hour ago.

Sometimes, I cry for no reason. Sometimes, I’m quiet and don’t speak for hours. Sometimes, I think what’s the point. Sometimes, I just prefer not speaking.

Here’s the truth of my life: there will probably never be a time when I don’t remember that bitch of a year or when I don’t realize how close I came to being seduced into not existing. This experience has become my litmus test when meeting new people or doing new things — would this person care if I lived or died, can this situation make me feel helpless?

Returning home wasn’t about trying to bounce back or licking wounds. And just because you change cities doesn’t mean you stop wanting to kill yourself. This isn’t about coping either. It’s survival. In this war between living and dying, I choose neither. I choose truth, to not lie, to take my battle wounds and make them beautiful, to use words like bandaids.

I choose confession.

I hug my mom every time she says I’m not the daughter she knows. In the months after that July night, she has said it often, each time it’s a surprise to hear. Each time I explain that the old Icess, the daughter she knew, no longer exists. It’s just this one, the woman who lives moment to moment making sure she does just that — live.

“Confession of a Surviving Liar”, November 2016.

So, if I have anything to be grateful for it’s my suicide attempt. It changed everything. It forced me to change everything. I had no choice.

  • And I returned to my childhood home. Ended up being not so bad.
  • I entered a career that I was going into anyway at the time of my attempt and it was the exact right decision.
  • With the love of my family, I gained strength.
  • My fight returned. I fight for myself and others who cannot.
  • I learned to put up boundaries. I learned where my “line” is and I’m constantly working to protect and re-establish those lines.
  • I work at the BEST place in the state. It’s literally documented as such. And I work with some AMAZING souls. I feel at home.
  • I can speak about my struggles as a way to destigmieze mental health issues. I became an advocate.
  • I have a platform — this site and the podcast — to speak about these issues. And I have found other advocates and together our voice is mighty.
  • I am closer to my family and everyday we are healing our pasts. Together.
  • I’ve gained some amazing friends so accept me. All of me. And ditto.
  • I returned to writing in a BIG way! My writing is advocacy, it’s justice, it’s mine. Finally.
  • And I live. I live. I live.

Sometimes, you have to be grateful for the hardships as much as the wins. It’s only through that balance that we can grow and truly know ourselves.

So, yes, I’m grateful for my attempt because I lost what needed to go and I gained an entire new life. And I love each moment of it.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

Love yourselves,

~Icess

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