Content warning: The following story makes references to self-harm, including cutting, pills, and suicide ideation, which may be triggering to some readers.
“One Day at a Time,” Robert Alberts
Growing up in a conservative family is one thing but growing up in a conservative family while being Queer is something completely different. I spent many years hiding who I was. Once I started coming out, first to friends and then to parts of my family I was still worried—what would my parents do when they found out. I was lying to them all the time and I was hiding my life from them, I couldn’t be who I really was in front of them. Then I started getting depressed and I didn't know what to do. I hated myself, I hated my family, and I hated the world around me.
I remember the day that I cut my wrist for the first time; it was euphoric. Then one cut wasn't enough and I had to cut several times at once. Then I started thinking about it more and more. It was the only way I could cope, digging down into myself and showing how awful I felt on the inside was a reflection of what I felt inside. Finally, that wasn't enough. I remember the day that I considered suicide for the first time. It started off pretty tame. I was just thinking about if I wasn't around if it would make everyone's life better. That's when I realized that could become a reality. I was already taking medication for depression and I knew that if I just swallowed the whole bottle it then it would stop. It would all stop. Stop hurting, stop feeling hopeless.
One day, enough was enough; I swallowed the whole bottle of pills.
I woke up in the hospital and I felt again like a failure. Like I couldn't even kill myself right. Again, I just spiraled further down my dark hole, like Alice but the world I was falling into wasn't filled with white rabbits but self-loathing and despair. The hospital staff was asking me questions about my scars and self-injury.
I could see my father's facade crack and crumble as I gave answer after answer: "Yes, I cut myself." "Yes, I restricted food from myself." "Yes, I isolated myself."
The first time since I was little that I truly saw emotions coming from him. That was also the first time I'd ever seen my father cry. He was never one of those parents; he never showed me his emotions or let them seep through to me. That's how men are supposed to behave in his opinion. In my teenage years I never got a hug, or an “I love you” or an “I’m proud of you.” However, when I saw this reaction I knew then that I had to do something to change. I knew that my Dad loved me and in some way that helped me understand that he would always care about me. I spent months in and out of the hospital.
Then there was one day that my life turned upside down. The hospital wouldn't release me to my egg donor—the person who gave birth to me and was supposed to love me endlessly. She was mad that I couldn't go home with her and finally, she looked at me and said she didn't care anymore, I wasn't her son anymore.
It's been 8 years since that day and I've never been more grateful that she's gone. However, losing someone like was like a flood of emotions none of which I could process or understand. I was unable to hold my world together. I remember being in my father's arms and sobbing, telling him that he couldn't leave me. He just held me as I cried and promised that he wouldn't. That's when I really knew that I had to change my act and I had to get myself together. I spent more and more time in the hospital trying to fix my life.
There are still days I struggle.
Being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder felt like the day that I understood who I really was. I felt like I was more in control of my life now that I have words and understanding to place to my emotions I don't feel so scared of them anymore. I don't feel like I'm unable to keep my world together. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t still think about cutting myself and even on the bad days, I can't say that I've never thought about suicide again. It’s the best way I know how to cope.
I’ve learned to take every day, one step at a time and lean on those that love and support me.
One. Day. At. A. Time.
About the art:
I was thankful that Robert asked me to create his art for him. I also have a history of self-harm and I knew that I wanted to summon the shear struggle of what that looks and feels like.
Robert's piece covers a few instances of self-harming and the imagery that popped into my head was of hand sort of reaching for help/standing up to reclaim its purpose in life. I feel Robert has had to reaffirm his strength many times in his life, so the image seemed to fit.
I modeled the hand idea off of the album cover of You Fail Me, by Converge. Granted, I didn't want to replicate it, but make it somewhat my own by adding the filligre that I put into a lot of my pieces and juxtapose it with some splatter and a black bar. The phrase, "One Day at a Time," is pulled from Robert's story and serves as a great reminder for him moving forward in life.
I am glad I was able to make this for Robert and I am so thankful he was willing to share such a personal and powerful story with the world!