Sometimes, you sit on the floor of the shower and breathe steam until you can cry. Sometimes you breathe steam so you can go back to breathing air. Sometimes, you chew your nails to rags and avoid looking at the razor hanging on the wall.
You can sleep for twenty hours a day. You can sleep for twenty minutes. You can feel the panic-rat scuttling around the corners of your mind, digging in with its surprisingly adorable claws until the chest pains begin.
You go for days, weeks, months at a time, in recovery, feeling strong and capable and positive about where you are headed in life; feeling the old power rising in you whenever you say no. Whenever you say yes. Whenever you say what you really want instead of temporizing, hedging because you are worried about what the inquiring person will think.
And it's okay, when you make it through these days, even if you wake up the next unable to breathe or think or see, even if you did it to yourself, trying to re-educate your brain on the subject of abuse. It's going to be okay. Some days, it is not okay. And that is fine, too.
But in every minute and every breath, there is the possibility of fear rising in you. Irrational and rough and blood-warm, or acid, or colder than you've ever felt before. At any given moment, you are vulnerable to surprise, to the wrong word, to a stray thought or idea. You fear being brittle, or too inflexible, too pliable. Too broken.
You are not broken. You are going to be okay. Even on the days you are overwhelmed by all this feeling? We get through. One breath at a time. One step. One word.
Every part of you is a victory. You have breathed steam and air, you have given tears and thought and time. You have eaten, you have hydrated and rested. You have not cut. You maybe cut only a little. You thought very seriously about hurting yourself and decided against it? You win. It is okay to make mistakes, and you will. Because progress is not a straight line, or a race, or a contest.
Every time you think, "It could have been me," you can also remember: You are still here. You are important. You are alive and you matter and you will, eventually, leave all this behind for whatever you want of normality.
Leaving things behind is not bad, or heartless, or cruel. It can be necessary to breathe steam instead of smoke, more oxygen than nitrogen. Leaving things behind can be a necessity. You can still remember with love, but you do not have to carry them with you.
I am not a role model, I am only stubborn. I sit on the floor of the shower and cry, and I have to remember to breathe, and I think, "it could have been me."
But it wasn't. And I do not think I will ever allow it to be.