I never expected this life.
I never expected to be able to step out the front door and walk down the street; before, I was not allowed to leave the house by myself for any reason.
I never expected to be able to check my own mail; before, I never even had a key to the mailbox.
I never expected to be able to lock my bedroom door and sleep at night without fear of being abused; before, I could never rest easily, knowing that my mother could come in at any time.
All of the things my mother told me would happen, they haven’t come true.
She told me that no one would ever like or love me, but I’ve made friends here.
She told me I would never amount to anything, but I’m doing great things.
She told me I could never live without her, but I’ve been living without her now for 13 months.
I wish I would have known that my life would be this different before I did the things I did when I was hopeless.
For a long time, I was a prisoner serving a life sentence with no chance of parole. I tried to reach out for help, and people turned away. I tried to run away from home, but my mother found out every time. I tried, for so long I tried to get free, and instead I ended up trapped even more. So I gave up. I lost all hope. I believed that I was going to spend the rest of my life in that hell.
I was living a shell of an existence, leading a life of pain I didn’t want to prolong any more than I had to. I had no access to a gun, or I would have ended it right then and there. I made several attempts to end my life as early as six years old, but none of them worked. All it got me was damaged kidneys and an even deeper sense of hopelessness.
So I found covert ways to slowly kill myself. I swallowed pills like tictacs, knowing they would damage my kidneys even more. I banged my head against walls and gave myself concussions, hoping one time that I would pass out and never wake up. I drank until I blacked out, hoping I would eventually get to a point where it would be enough to finally crash my system.
And I smoked. I knew that smoking was a guaranteed risk for me. I had already been struggling with asthma and chronic pneumonia since I was 14 years old. I knew that smoking would make me sick. I knew that it would further damage my already damaged lungs. This. This was my ticket to death. This was my escape from hell.
I smoked for years. Even as I felt the pressure building in my chest, the familiar feel of fluid accumulating in my lungs, I continued to smoke. It got to a point where breathing was no longer automatic; it was an effort. It was painful. Not being able to breathe is a scary feeling, one I’m not even sure I can adequately describe to someone who has been lucky enough to never experience it. But every time I became gravely ill, every time I could hear the crackling in my lungs with each breath I took, I secretly hoped it would be the end for me. The pain it caused was nowhere near the pain I felt existing in the prison I was in. I was hopeless.
I did not expect to make it here. I did not expect to escape. I am free now, but all those things I did when I was hopeless have followed me. The scars will fade, the bruises heal.
But my COPD will not go away. And I can’t help but blame myself. I know that it’s not just one thing that caused it. I was medically neglected. I lived in filth and breathed in mold spores every night. I worked five days a week in a dusty warehouse, inhaling so much dust that I would cough up gray mucous every night. But I also smoked. Because I wanted to die. And that’s all I can think about.
When I see an older person on the street, I wonder if I will ever make it to that age. I think about all of the things I will miss out on, the good and the bad. I missed out on my entire childhood. I lost my adolescence. I lost 11 years old my adulthood. And I’ll likely lose most of my elderhood. All because I was so hopeless, I did things I knew would kill me, because I never expected to be free.
When I was first diagnosed, I existed in a world of conscious denial for a while. I told myself that I had nothing to worry about, that I was young, that I didn’t need to take my medications because I felt okay. I acted like I was invincible to the effects of the disease. Then I learned that someone had passed away from COPD – a woman who was only one year older than me. I grieved for her, and I also began grieving my own death. No longer could I tell myself I’m young. I could end up dead. I am not immune.
The irony is that, if this were two years ago, I would have gladly accepted death. I wanted it, because death was the only way I thought I could escape my mother’s abuse. But I don’t want to die. I’ve experienced a life I never expected to live, and I don’t want to lose that any earlier than I have to.
While there is a small part of me that still holds on to hopelessness, that still wants to die, there is a larger part of me that wants to live.