Monday, November 22, 2010

Breathing in time. Monday, November 22, 2010.

“Ouch I have lost myself again / Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found / Yeah I think that I might break / I've lost myself again and I feel unsafe” – Sia, “Breathe Me”

I bought myself a bottle of perfume a few days ago. It was an inexpensive brand, nothing fancy – anyone who knows me knows I like to be beautiful on a budget – but the important thing was that it was a scent I’d never purchased before.

You see, I’d noticed that every morning, as I stood in my bathroom putting on my makeup and cologne, I’d suddenly feel a wave of grief. I finally realized it happened when I was putting on my perfume – a luxurious brand my girlfriend gave me for Christmas two years ago. I’d been wearing the scent during the period of time that I sank into a depression and a mixed state. Given that the sense of smell is the one most closely linked to memory and emotion, I guess it’s not surprising that my perfume was triggering upsetting memories.

When you pause to consider it, a suicide attempt (and the emotional state that precedes it and follows it) is an extremely traumatic event. There may be some Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder around it. And although my attempt was in the spring, it was right around this time of year two years ago – Thanksgiving, going into Christmas – that I began my emotional descent.

Situationally, it had been a month since our company’s “restructuring” had begun. We were hemorrhaging staff, causing all of us to wonder if we’d still be employed after Yuletide, and the reality of our uncertainty about the future was sinking in. Medically, my P-Doc was making changes to my prescription regimen, and had taken me off one particular drug that had been extremely helpful for me.

And at home, my husband and I were just finishing the “Six Feet Under” DVD set. We’d gotten the HBO series from the library, and had watched a couple of episodes a night for a number of weeks. I had become alarmingly attached to the show; the characters seemed real to me, like a second family, and the central theme – death – had wedged deeply into my consciousness. The night we watched the final episode, when (SPOILER ALERT) all of the characters die, I sobbed for hours. I attributed it to work stress and going through menopause, but it was really the beginning of a bipolar mixed episode.

This morning at work, I popped a random CD into my player. (Quiet music in the background helps me write.) Partway though the morning, I became conscious that tears were rolling down my cheeks. I realized that the song playing was “Breathe Me,” by Sia. This deeply emotionally evocative song – truly, one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard (listen to it if you don’t believe me), was featured in the finale of “Six Feet Under.”

“Breathe Me” makes me want to curl up inside of it, letting its haunting melody surround me. But it also takes me back to that time two years ago when I began to lose myself. When I heard it this morning, it was as if no time had passed. I am sitting here in a fall outfit that I wore two years ago …writing for a publication I worked for two years ago … listening to a song I first heard two years ago.

If I don’t turn and look at my calendar, the only proof that time has passed are the scars on my wrists.

I wiped the tears from my face, and I hit the “repeat” button. I have been listening to “Breathe Me” for three hours now. I love this song, and I want to be immune to its power. I want to hear it so many times it reminds me of today, not two years ago.

At the same time, though, I am breathing in my new perfume. It’s a reminder that while pain has occurred, so has healing.


  1. This was a beautiful article you wrote. I really am inspired when people, like yourself, have the courage to speak about challenges that they've experienced in their lives. There are so many that just post inspiration quotes and the like...which is awesome, but sometimes it's nice to be able to read about how someone is feeling as they share their truth about their emotions (whether it be positive or negative). Society sometimes teaches us to always put on that happy face...which can sometimes lead people to become a facade while never really developing the ability to feel real emotions. I am inspired by your courage to write about difficult times in your life. That, to me, is the definition of courage. You write very well, and thank you for sharing your story. : )...

    Continued: I just read some of your past blogs, and I have to say that you are an increadible woman. You are living with an illness, yet you take responsibility for your healing (along the way also helping others), have all the demands of a family, career and all those other things we didn't have to deal with when we were, oh let's say...13. To me, this defines the meaning of SUCCESS!
    I, myself, suffer from depression and anxiety, and seeing how you are taking on life gives me hope for myself. Keep up the great work! And, thank you for all you are doing for others who are suffering and need a little "love and compassion" from time to time.
    Julie Telgenhoff

  2. Wow, Julie, you've got me crying. Thank you so, so much. -Alizah

  3. So empathetic. You sound so sincere, Julie. I just know you are a great mother and you must be a great partner to your husband.... Mel

  4. <3 so beautiful... thank you