The ball drops, and fireworks. Another year come and gone, and with the strike of midnight, it’s all washed away. Midnight signifies tabula rasa, a blank slate, another year to finally get it right. Resolutions are made. The disappointments of the previous year fade into insignificance, and the promise of the new one is on the horizon.
Welcome to midnight.
Welcome to midnight is an idea I borrowed from TWLOHA founder Jamie Tworkowski, who wrote his own Welcome to Midnight post, which you can find here. TWLOHA has been a pillar of strength for me since 2010, when I stumbled upon the Facebook page, and I haven’t strayed away from it. If anything, I love the organization more now than ever.
The people who know me best know that I speak candidly and frequently about mental health issues, which include my own. I write about it frequently in my works and on my blog (see Darkness, My Old Friend, here), and on Facebook, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t like, engage in, or share something about mental health awareness.
The thing about depression is that it doesn’t just mean feeling sad or blue for a little while, at least not for me. While there may be fleeting moments of happiness, and days where I don’t have to force myself to get out of bed, and nights where I don’t toss and turn for hours, and outings where I’m not counting the minutes until I can bow out gracefully, depression is always somewhere watching, lurking, waiting to greet me like an old friend.
And that’s exactly what it is. Out of twenty three years of existence, depression and anxiety have been a constant for nearly thirteen of them. When my life is going just how I want it to, I can always count on mental illness to resurface and remind me that it’s not done with me just yet.
And I don’t think that it ever will be.
After a turbulent year, there is something so hopeful about a blank slate.
I started 2016 with the idea that I would accomplish everything I set out to. I was in line to be hired permanently at a job I loved. I had more book ideas than I knew what to do with. I had wiped my hands clean of toxic, heartless people. I had just moved into my first apartment. And, like a recent high school graduate who hasn’t yet seen how ugly the real world is, I was optimistic.
With January came the death of Alan Rickman, and something inside me broke a little.
With February came the day I was finally hired, and I should have been happy, but I wasn’t. There was that aching, sinking feeling within me that something bad was about to happen.
In March, I crept further and further past the deadline I’d given myself for my next book release, and Loving Gabby, the little book that tested my faith, remained untouched.
With April came my two year publiversary, and I felt more like a failure than ever. But I had an upcoming trip to Los Angeles, so I swallowed my disappointment and pushed forward.
In May, another self-imposed deadline passed me by, and my belief in myself died a little more as the days went on. But then, something magical happened. My best friend, Efrain, the boy I’d loved since I was sixteen, messaged me on Facebook, and the light inside me shone a little brighter that day.
In June, my mother came to visit me, and she told me she was proud of me. We spent all her time here together, save for a day that I had to work, and I missed her the minute she left. The rest of June passed by without consequence until I got home from work one day, sat down to eat my dinner, and I got a call from my dad. Those who know me, know that I have an awful history with my dad, and so the minute his name flashed across my phone screen, I just knew something was wrong. He’d never call me for no reason. Within a second of answering the phone, I knew that I was right. My dad was crying, and I’d never heard him cry before. He told me that my sister was shot, and after a few minutes of convincing, he agreed to pick me up. The first thought I had while I waited for him was, “I need my best friend.” So I text him. And despite an outpouring of text messages, Facebook messages, and phone calls, he was the only one I wanted to talk to. And just like old times, he was there without fail.
July passed in a blur of sleepless nights, visiting my sister, not enough food, too much alcohol, going out to keep up the façade, and assuring everyone around me that I was fine.
When August came, my anxiety multiplied a hundred fold. I was going back to California for a few days for my mother’s wedding. I was also going to meet my best friend Elizabeth’s beautiful newborn, and I was going to see Efrain for the first time in five years. If you guessed that I was mostly nervous about seeing him, you’re right. I still loved him, and I knew I always would. But I’d never told him that, and all I could think about was how hard it’d be to keep pretending. When I saw him, I kept pretending that I was comfortable just being friends, and I was amazed that even after all the time that had passed, it was still so easy to be myself around him. And GOD, did he look amazing. Time had been very good to him. When the night was over, he hugged me (P.S.- he still smelled amazing, and just like I remembered, he still gave the best hugs in the world), and when I went into my room, I felt more alone than ever.
September was by far the worst. It started with World Suicide Prevention Day, when I wrote Darkness, My Old Friend, forcing myself to relive my demons. It continued on the 27th, the ninth anniversary of my stay in a mental institution. I forced myself out of bed and I went through the motions of work, and keeping up the charade, but at the end of the night, I turned to my playlist of sad songs and absolutely lost it.
I was so far from where I wanted to be. My heart ached for all the things I knew I was missing. I’d spend days bound to my bed with a debilitating migraine. I’d go days without speaking to anyone I didn’t have to speak to. I’d go days without eating. So much felt like it was missing from my life. I felt like I was spiraling and nothing could put me back on my feet. And I thought isolating myself was the answer to my loneliness.
But, as it turns out, loneliness doesn’t cure loneliness.
Every day, I’d look at myself in the mirror and I’d see an immense failure. I was ugly. I was worthless. I was a fraud. I was a disappointment.
I’m not delusional enough to think that I’m the best writer there is. And I’m not a bestselling author, or even just a selling author these days. But I know I have a story to tell. Mine, and Nickayla’s, and Madilyn’s, and Ash’s, and Shai’s, and so many more. And I know I have those stories in me, and they’re just begging to come to the surface. My characters are the most outspoken people in my life, and they aren’t afraid to chew me out when I’m not showing them enough attention. But my heart stopped being in it. The sight of a blinking cursor was usually exhilarating, and made my heart beat with excitement. The promise of a blank page was just another canvas for me to create my art. For the majority of 2016, the sight of that cursor was the cause of my anxiety. That blank page wasn’t full of possibilities, but instead, it was empty, taunting me with all the words I had yet to write. And my characters got louder. And louder. And louder. And louder still, until they were screaming and keeping me up at night and some days, only liquor would silence them.
Self-medicating is different for everyone. Some people choose prescription medication. Some people choose marijuana. My drug of choice is alcohol. The only time I really let go is when I’m intoxicated.
On one particular bad day, my phone was silenced, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’d spent seventy percent of my day crying, and the other thirty percent was spent sleeping. And I was happy with this. I’d felt refreshed after a long day of getting all that out of my system.
Like clockwork, every day, I check my On This Day on Facebook. I automatically wake up at or around midnight, just to check it, and then I go back to sleep. But I knew something was different, the minute I awoke. Then came the text message.
October and November were the brightest of them all.
You remember the boy I loved since I was sixteen? My best friend? The only one I wanted to talk to when I had no idea how serious my sister’s injuries were? The one who gives hugs like no one else in the world?
He loves me back. By some miracle, he loves me back. And his presence in my life as a friend, as a lover, as an overall amazing human being turned my world on its axis. One of the first things he said upon us getting together was that I had to keep writing (there’s a recurring theme here, from most of the people who know me best. They don’t allow me to become Less Than, and they push me to be and do and reach for More. And I love them every single day for that).
I didn’t want to tell him that I hadn’t been writing in a while. I didn’t want to tell him that I had tried and tried and tried and the words just wouldn’t come. So I just told him that I wouldn’t let anything stop me from writing.
The next day at work, though, that changed.
I sat at my desk, and calls were few and far between, and I couldn’t process that the boy I fell in love with in high school loved me back. I had to let it all out somehow, and figure out how not to bottle my feelings. So I opened a Word document, and I glared at the blinking cursor and the blank page. I took a deep breath, cracked my knuckles, planted my feet firmly on the ground, and I began to write.
And the words didn’t stop.
And they haven’t since.
I still haven’t finished the book I set out to publish in 2016. But it’s not just sitting on my laptop, either, taunting me with the various chapters yet to be filled in my Scrivener document. I’ve worked on it more in the last three months than I did all year. I’ve started a new book. I’ve made teasers. Hell, I wrote this blog post, and it didn’t scare the shit out of me. I smile a lot more.
And guess what?
I even sleep.
As a matter of fact, I sleep more than three hours a night.
Everything is new and shiny and bright and perfect.
That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days.
Long distance relationships are hard work. Flights are expensive. Not having enough time off sucks. I miss my mom. I miss my dog. I occasionally mess up at work, and I beat myself up for days.
But tonight, we have midnight.
Midnight and we’re new.
Midnight and the slate is wiped clean.
Midnight and we leave the past behind.
Midnight and the future unfolds.
To my parents, Debbie and Ernest, I am not yet done annoying you, stalking you on Facebook to make sure you’re awake before I call, tagging you in memes, baking for you, visiting you, or bitching to you about the weather even though I secretly love it. I’ll never stop checking in or offering advice when it’s asked of me, and I’ll never stop trying to make you proud. Welcome to Midnight.
To my sisters, Jade and Lanita, this year has collectively been a bad year for the three of us. But it has also been a great year. The bad days we experience help us to appreciate the good ones when the sun finally starts shining through the clouds. There is still breath in our lungs. There are still springs in our steps, despite the many attempts to knock us down. And, as one of my favorite authors once said, “The world keeps spinning because your heartbeats exist.” Welcome to Midnight.
To my beautiful Beta Babes, Danie and Jenn, I am so sorry that I’ve failed you this year. And even though this year has been an endless stream of missed deadlines, broken promises, unfinished projects, and cliffhangers, you lovely ladies have stayed by my side, cheering me on, believing in me, accepting my apologies for my shortcomings, and getting excited for every new idea I pitch and don’t finish. You are the only two left from the first draft of Losing Me, to the unfinished pages of Wrapped In You (maybe next Christmas?). And you never fail to support me, both in my writing, and outside of it. I’ll try not to let you down in 2017. Welcome to Midnight.
To my best friend Elizabeth, you have been my biggest cheerleader this year. You’re always there for me whenever I need you, and I know you know it’s the same vice versa. You also gave me my honorary niece and nephew (we’ve been friends so long, I’m basically, family right? Even though you have to translate for me lol), and I love them so very much. You are one of my favorite people in the world and I look forward to spending more time with you this year. I love you. Welcome to Midnight.
To my best friend Chelsea, my drinking buddy, my shoulder to cry on, my fellow foodie, my late night therapist, my early morning listening ear, and so much more, I wouldn’t have gotten through this crazy ass year without you. From start to finish, you were by my side without fail. You are one of two people who refuse to believe me when I say I’m okay. And you stay with me until I actually am. You keep me laughing. The days we spend driving and singing and shopping and eating are some of my favorites. I don’t know how or why God decided to put our crazy asses in each other’s lives, or how he managed to take two people who are exactly alike and make them best friends, but I am so thankful for you. And I love you. And 2016 was just the start. Welcome to Midnight.
Last, but certainly not least, to my best friend, my boyfriend, love of my life, Efrain, you have been the greatest surprise of them all. From the time we were sixteen, your presence in my life has been too much, too complex to explain. You know me better than anyone else in the world, far better than I know myself sometimes. When I tell you I’m okay, you always immediately ask what’s wrong. You ask how I’m doing more than anyone else. You make sure not a second goes by that I don’t feel loved, cared for, and special. The days we spend riding in the car, singing together, or at the beach with the dog, or at the movies, or going to different restaurants are the best moments of my life, because they’re spent with you. I have scores of memories of moments we spent learning about each other and falling in love in high school, and I can’t wait for all the ones we have yet to create. I am not done with you yet. Here’s to midnight, and 365 new opportunities for me to be stubborn when you tell me to take my makeup off before bed, to tell you that I love you a million times a day, to bitch to you about how my day is going, to make you laugh when you find out the “serious question” I have to ask is about which lipstick I should wear, to steal touches and kisses each time I pass by you, to play in your hair, to hold your hand in public, to cook with you, to open up about the things that hurt me, and so much more. Here’s to midnight, and 365 brand new days to fall more in love with each other, to learn more about each other, and to grow with each other. Here’s to the future, and all it has in store for us. Welcome to Midnight.
I’m not foolish enough to think that midnight will erase the past, or that the strike of midnight means a year of perfection. But I do believe that midnight is a celebration of all we’ve overcome, and all we have yet to overcome, all the memories we have yet to create, and all the chances we have to change the things that made the previous year anything less than spectacular.
To quote Jamie’s original post:
“Change takes more than a moment, but maybe there’s also something to this celebration of a moment, something to the way it speaks to us, something to the way we fear it, and dream it to be true. Maybe it’s the most honest moment of the year.
It’s possible to change.
Welcome to Midnight.
Here’s to the possibilities.”
Happy New Year.