1,2,3,4,5,6 Turn. 1,2,3,4,5,6…turn.
At some point, her hand had learned the rotation and was moving reflexively. The melody of the made-up song rang in her head. That was how her mom taught her how to brush her teeth when she was four and it never left her mind. Two decades later, she still found herself making the counts-otherwise, her teeth never felt quite clean.
The grip she had on the toothbrush was firm, she held it tight. Despite her efforts, the trembling from the rest of her body reflected on the brush. She put some toothpaste on the bristles, wet it a little bit and started her chant. 1,2,3,4,5,6. Turn. 1..2..3…
She kept brushing in the circular motions and the froth in her mouth slowly increased with each round she made. She was no longer counting, at this point, her hand made the circles with vigor. At first, the sound of the water from the tap blended with the music in the background, the rays of lights coming in from her bathroom window dissolved in her drapes, while the reflection of her naked body poised before a mirror was absorbed leaving her staring at emptiness. Everything faded while she stood there subconsciously brushing the life out of her teeth. The familiarity of that moment was unnerving. The color of the froth had a slight red stain. Her gums were bleeding from the friction and endless strokes the brush that was now a hostile weapon was inflicting. There was a distant muffled voice begging her to drop the weapon. The voice was shaky but the fright within it was loud. She wanted to listen to it, grab it and let it pull her out of the trance but she couldn’t move.
It was always small things. They were the ones that made all the difference, the ones that had sustained her all this time. Those small moments were how she could feel the warm embrace of non-existent rays of sunshine dripping down her skin at 3 a.m. Her eyes would be shut from reality and her essence spread out searching for a moment in time that was worth one more night, one more breath. Unfortunately, those small things were reducing as her mind found a way to negate them all and turn them to a painful thought. The last few months had been tough. Life had moved through her so fast that she had no time to practice her coping mechanisms. Her fight had been dimmed down by the fatigue of being in a constant battle with her mind.
She found herself with nothing to hold on to but a toothbrush and the fading melody of a made-up song. Everything else felt like raw acid on her skin and filled her mouth with nauseating bile. While her self inflicted torture continued she saw something in the mirror. She was four years old and was standing on her tippy toes next to her mom. The two figures were singing the toothbrush song while brushing their teeth and her dad’s distant whistling of the same tune diffused into the bathroom from the next room. The little girl stared at her and smiled with foam dripping from her mouth.
I’m sorry. I know it hurts but you can’t be here. I won’t be around much longer if you keep staying here.
The little girl’s smile faded into a concerned grimace. The girl knew her and had a deep understanding of the complexity of her situation. At that moment part of reality kicked in bringing her to the realization that her face was wet with tears, she was freezing, and her mouth was burning from the bruises she had caused.
It’s actually okay not to be okay and we need to allow ourselves and other people to find healing and courage to get through the hardships that come with mental disorders. Very many people constantly struggle with mental health with and this is a topic that is often stigmatized out of conversations. In the case of women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mental wellness can sometimes feel like a losing battle. One minute you feel fine and the next you are crouching in a bathroom stall crying your soul out. It makes such a huge difference when we can acknowledge that mental health issues are real and factors such as PMS can actually trigger some mental health problems such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders and even eating disorders. Doing this allows affected people to feel seen and reduces the weight of feeling like “it’s all in their head.” because it isn’t.