What Changed?

Every time my mom tries to seriously inquire about my mental illness, she always asks this question in some form or another.  What happened?  What caused this?  Why aren’t you the same hard-working, successful person you were before?

I never really know how to answer this question because to me, nothing has ever changed.  I may present differently than I did back then, I may not appear as successful as I was, and I may not appear to be putting in the same amount of effort that I did back then, but in reality, much of that was actually the facade.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve displayed BPD symptoms.  I remember feeling depressed as early as 4th grade; I first realized it in early middle school.  Anxiety wasn’t far behind, and really started in full effect starting in high school.  Intense and unstable mood swings were always the norm – the number of emotional outbursts I had in just elementary school are more than enough to count on both hands.  Impulsive behavior was pretty common, too.  I can remember very distinctly being scolded by the principal in 1st grade for doing stupid shit just because in the moment it seemed like a good thing to do.  Distorted self-image was definitely present back then, as well.  And suicidal thoughts?  Well, that definitely started in late elementary school, and they’ve only gotten more prevalent since then.

“But you always had good grades, had a good work ethic, and rarely got in trouble.  What happened to that?”  Well, honestly, that isn’t really true.  The good grades and work ethic were more because I had nothing else.  If I didn’t do well, I was punished.  If I behaved poorly, I was punished.  When you grow up being as scared to death of punishment as I was (thanks to paranoia and anxiety), you don’t really have much of a choice other than to toe that straight edge.  Combined with the fact that there was basically nothing to do anyway as well as not having access to any meaningful social life outside of the school environment, it wasn’t like I had any other way to assuage the constant and persistent boredom.  Reading, schoolwork, television, and the scant few video games were all I had, and oftentimes everything on TV was a rerun and I’d played every game I owned so many times I could play them in my sleep.

The stakes were way lower, too.  If I didn’t do some of my work, it didn’t matter because my grades were so high that most of the time one or two assignments couldn’t affect it much.  Failure just meant that whatever I was doing was over.  Yeah, too much failure led to bigger consequences, but pretty much everything was too easy to fail anyway.  Not to mention little risk meant little to worry about.  My biggest problem has always been that I was risk-averse to the point of inaction.  When almost nothing had a negative consequence, I was much more willing to go along with doing anything.

It didn’t hurt that I somehow managed to stumble into the best support groups I could ever get in both grade school and college.  My friends were just as messed up and dysfunctional as myself, and because of it, we understood each other and really pushed each other forward.  Yeah, suicide was always on my mind, but I could actually talk about my feelings to those around me and we were all feeling the same fucking way.  And when everyone understands and accepts it, it’s a hell of a lot easier for the group to deal with it as a whole.

At this point, the fear of failure alone is enough to paralyze me.  Each minor disappointment continues to chip at my will to move forward.  Each rejection throws me into another whirlwind of negative emotions.  And with the support groups I had when I was younger all but gone, everything only gets worse and worse.

And so you ask what’s changed?  To me, absolutely nothing.  I’m still the same directionless, unmotivated, exasperated, depressed, and terrified girl I always have been.  It’s the world around me that’s made it so obvious.

Step 5: Resolution

The motes of light eddied and flowed across the edges of the doll’s face until each speck was sucked into its velveteen lips. The doll began to emanate a brilliant light as the dust trickled in, glowing brighter and brighter with each grain.  All colors of the rainbow splashed across the room as the doll became more and more blindingly bright.

Suddenly all the light in the room flickered out, covering the room in the shadows of the window’s drapes.  The doll before me began shedding its threads, the baubles and gemstones clattering to the floor beneath.  The braids of its hair unwound and spooled beneath it as the cloth itself slacked and fell from the figure.  Still suspended above the pile of supplies was Dahlia’s flesh and blood.

Her eyes opened wide in shock as she gasped for her first breath since her death.  Patches grabbed her as gravity was again taking hold on her and carried her to the bed.  The other apprentices stared agape from the corners at Dahlia’s corporeal form.

Fianna and I locked eyes, a look of shock and awe on her face, one of accomplishment and relief on mine.  The same thought was going through both of our minds.  We did it. It worked.

I felt the weight of my body hit the floor as everything went black.

Step 4: Execution

I slowly unraveled Fianna’s heart from Patches’ left hand and restitched it into my own.  As the final loop slipped into place, I could feel the extra power of Fianna’s soul begin to flow through me dark and bold, yet warm and comforting.  This is exactly what I needed.  The extra willpower to figure out what to do and the strength to pull it off.  “Dahlia, I’m going to need you to stand very still, okay?”

She nodded.

“Then let’s begin.”

I whisked forth a bolt of white satin from the other room which began wrapping itself around Dahlia’s presence.  Each pass around seemed to tighten its shape more closely to Dahlia’s than the last.  White silk thread straight from the loom followed, weaving itself into delicate braids from the tip of her head to the floor.  When the braids reached roughly her waist, my needle began to work.

It started at the feet, hemming in the creases between her toes, the subtle wrinkles in her ankles, the ever so slight blemishes on her knees.  It stitched tight the line of her hips and waist, and pulled back her navel from the flat surface of the cloth.  The needle pulled back the cloth around her hand into the slight and nimble fingers of one born to work thread.  And it finished with pulling back the silk over her face into a small button nose, a pair of slight, folded ears, and a strong but soft brow.

Then began the detailing with other beads and other colored threads.  Rainbow fish scales were stitched at the end of fingers and toes.  Each individual pore and body hair was pricked into the surface.  A bright red patch of cloth was sewn over the mouth.  And two bright sapphires were set over the eyes.

An exact, life-size cloth replica of Dahlia now stood before us.  The patches had done their job, and now it was time for the runes to work.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on each transmutation and restoration spell inked into my skin.  One by one the runes began to give off a faint glow; greens, reds, yellows, blues, and violets sparkled across the walls and the faces of each onlooker.  My eyes opened and spilled a vivid amber gleam across the room.  Dahlia’s patchwork body was now lying before me, floating a few feet off the ground.  I somehow gathered the lights themselves from around me into my hand now filled with some sort of bright, warm dust that emanated all the colors of the rainbow.  I knelt before the doll and blew what was in my hand into its face.