“Things feel good right now, it’s a good time to end it, you know… before it gets bad again.”

Even with the spreading of awareness, the sharing of the stories, the breaking of the silence, the silencing of the shame, there are just some feelings you’ll never be ready for.

It was summer— nice weather always drastically improves my general mood. I had been taking on more events, my instagram was filling up with more than just selfies, I was showing my grind side. My DMs were flooding with people interested in what I was doing. I had just finished a body paint runway set that I was stressing over for months but once it happened, I received a response great enough to pacify my self-criticism. My event calendar was beginning to clear and I was settling into a restful and fulfilled space. My sisters came out to my show and after it was done we had our usual summertime sleepover, complete with mimosas and an afternoon by the pool.

At some point I found myself alone in the living room. Basking in my completeness when it hit me. “Things feel good right now, it’s a good time to end it, you know… before it gets bad again.” The was no clear trigger aside from a moment of me taking inventory of my peace. Peace is a trigger?! This was new. Like clockwork, memories of all of my latest run-ins with stress, worry, anxiety, fear and loneliness came sauntering into the open field of my once rested mind, reminding me of all that could go wrong again. I was terrified. It wasn’t the things that could inevitably go wrong that worried me, it was the fact that depression found a breech in a place I’d never expect it to infiltrate, in a way that I’d never see it coming. It was the moment I realized that my achilles heel had an achilles heel― I felt more at risk than I ever had before.

The worry came because although the thought was clearly temptation to fall back into a negative space, the concept was indisputable. Sure, things were good but there’s always a test around the corner. A struggle of mine had always been things that required maintenance ―clear skin, bills, cars, relationships―they were all triggers for me. I’d put so much effort into maintaining them and they just continued to need more. Multiplying that effort by the rest of my life was an overwhelming concept and being human became more of an ordeal than an experience.

The solution didn’t come instantly. It took some brooding over my new found plight, a lot of intense caution and the realization that I had avoided living in order to avoid triggering depression. What good was peace if I wasn’t actually enjoying it?

I slowly began to allow old triggers back into my life as a rebellion of sorts. If I was going to be depressed anyway I might as well enjoy it. I rebelled most against my diet and my self-imposed celibacy, the two things I needed the most show of control in. The junk food binges were a little less damaging. There was only so much my stomach could hold before it stopped me but the heart gives a little bit more leeway. I wasn’t ready to embrace love so I made it a point to let go of physical entanglements as well but in this moment, I found myself embracing a man that I knew wasn’t good for me. I had been so starved of affection that I’d rendezvous with his toxicity, drown out his presence with weed and wine, consume his lust as if he were someone I could curl up with and enjoy after spilling my love, then I’d go home to silence and self-loathing to pray away my guilt. I couldn’t make it a regular thing, he was too intensely bad for all that I tried to build in between those moments of self-destruction. I’d return to celibacy after using whatever the extent of his desire for me was to fulfill my need to be wanted. I’d avoid him, thoughts of him, memories of our times together until I needed more. Then I’d avoid thoughts of how he made me feel mentally and emotionally long enough to validate the idea of going back to him physically for another round of self-destruction.

After a string of ill feelings towards myself for allowing someone to bring me to odds with myself, I came to my senses. It was no longer worth the sacrifice to be touched by lips that couldn’t speak kindly to me when there was a difference of opinion. My self-esteem wouldn’t allow me to take any more of a beating.

Somewhere in-between all of that, I found the idea of a balance between cautiously existing and fully living. I had always been the person who needed to go from one extreme to the next before finding a comfortable place in the middle and this was no different. My middle, living cautiously. The difference is in existing and living. Striving to do everything in ways that I could be sure there’d be zero negative blowback was killing me just as much as ignoring consequence was. There’s a balance between flirting with the edge and creating boundaries for myself that I had been afraid to find.

It took me writing a book about control and shining light on my journey to mental health to show me that while I had begun to take back the reins of my life from the negative forces that were at work, I had also allowed myself to be pushed into a “safe” corner. It took being in that “safe” corner to discover that my lack of movement stemmed from fear and that anything done from a place of fear, even peace, would inevitably have an adverse effect.

My path to mental health has proven to be balance, more importantly, finding what that means for each moment, each step of the way. It has proven to be different for each phase so the battle will always be new and somewhat unfamiliar. It has also proven to be completely worth the fight.