I started keeping a journal when I was eleven. It was partially because I have issues processing my short term memory, and I was afraid I’d forget my entire life, one lost breakfast at a time.
As I got older, thought, it became a way to make sense of the dread I carried with me, that I was running out of time. What does a kid have to leave behind besides her GameCube and a collection of drawings and scrawled lines?
By the time I was a freshman in college, I’d figured that’s just how I’d have to live. I was surprised I’d made it that far, so if I had to shoulder the paralyzing fear of wasting what little time I had left in order to live, I thought it would be fine.
The panic attacks were a necessary symptom of being alive, right?
I have a hard time reading my old journals. I have almost twenty of them, now. I write and write and write and then I can barely stand to read a single passage of them. The middle years were the worst.
I can feel the pain as if the pages soaked that up along with the rainbows of ink I used. Along with the splashes of tea and spilled watercolor and occasional tear if I was feeling dramatic. I can read the panic attacks and the anxiety that suffocated me in every line. I remember which words were lies, which passages I fabricated to try a rewrite my own history.
I’d try to write away the pain, pretend that if I wrote it differently, if I remembered it differently, I could erase the trauma and turn it into something more bearable.
I used to think that I was my fear. That closing my eyes each night and praying with racing heart that I would wake up in the morning was something I’d carry with me forever. At least it wasn’t the alternative.
This was going to be a story about how I outgrew it. This was going to be a story of how I didn’t quite know when the change in me began. How I started going whole nights and then whole weeks without begging the Powers that Be to let me live a few more hours as I slept.
But as I wrote, I remembered.
The story of your life is written in pen. You can’t change what happened, you can’t rewrite it. Now I’m beginning the journey to figure out how to make the new passages, the new ink stains, leave softer, kinder strokes on my pages.