A Visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, by Kimberly Anderson
I have been wondering how my 2018 was going to pan out. Especially since I have been spending a few months contemplating an essay I published on 12/31/17. It was titled “13 Reasons WIDKMLY (Why I Didn’t Kill Myself Last Year)”. I wondered when I wrote it, and particularly when I published it, if I would make it through 2018 and be able to write a follow-up piece. If so, how would it turn out? What would I have to say about 2018? Well, I am here to return and report and I have a few things that have been on my mind for a while that I feel like sharing today.
I have wondered if I would fit into my Size 10’s. I am happy to report that not only am I fitting into them, but they are zipping up nicely…one pair of skinny jeans even feels a little loose. I work in mental health and am learning the pain and struggle of those with eating disorders and body image issues. I do not wish to play into those challenges with my success. I know the struggle of food, both enjoying it, not enjoying it, having enough, and not wanting to eat at all. I am working to find a diet that works with both my goals as well as living a healthy life. I am not as militant about my diet as some would be, and I do find myself indulging from time to time, either when I feel like I need to, or that I just plain want to.
I am have been more active this past year and I have worked up to a two-minute plank. This was impossible for me last year and a very painful 30-second plank was where I started. I am walking a lot more, mainly due to the days I am spending at the elementary school where I am doing my practicum hours finishing my Master’s in Counseling Psychology. All things considered, I am happy with my body shape now. This is something I was not able to say for many, many years. I am also quite satisfied with the way my relationship to food and exercise is developing.
I am five months from graduating. On May 16th of this year I will walk across the stage wearing my Master’s Robe and hood from Utah State University and get my 2nd hood and Master’s Degree from the University of San Francisco. I am starting to step into my new training with a newfound confidence. I am seeing that I am able to help in specific ways that I am experienced in my life as well as the particular training and supervision I am receiving. I feel that I am reaching students in ways that are unique to me. I know I am making a difference with teachers and staff at my training location. I have helped many through difficult transition challenges and have developed wonderful working relationships with them.
Even the Lunch Ladies have taken me under their wing and are bringing me into their community of people with unique jobs of serving at the school. Their home-made tamales are excellent. They have helped me with students who do not have food at home and struggle during their sessions with me. I am working at a Title One school. Food is critical for many of my students and they help me with various children as needed. I am grateful for the team that I am on and feel fortunate to be part of their machine of service.
As I am moving through my education, specifically receiving training and education regarding trauma, I am more fully able to understand and categorize my own. I have started a project where I am processing the trauma of my adoption. I have begun photographing significant locations regarding my adoption this past year. I have been working through the dates and locations that are indicated on the paperwork I received a few years ago from my adopted father. When I visit these locations i imagine the events that surround these places. I am photographing large-format 4x5 negatives and making cyanotype prints from them. This project is only intended as a process of working through the trauma for myself. Others seeing this work is not a consideration. It is an internal project that will take years to finish. There is no deadline for processing trauma. I will say that this project is having the intended result.
I have confronted my Suicidal Ideation in ways that have informed me regarding myself and my relationship to suicide. If I scale my SI from 0–10, zero being no thoughts of suicide and ten being active and planning an attempt, I live at a constant 3-ish. Suicide is always on my mind. It is always present. It is a result of trauma that I have experienced so young in my life I have no conscious memory of it. There have been events this past year that have taken me to a 6 and a 7, but those events are short-lived, temporary and external. I know that I can handle myself during those events and can wait it out with safe people who genuinely care for me. These periods are not fun. They are incredibly painful, and when my higher functioning brain regains control I am able to process the triggering event and the resulting pain much better. In that time that my higher functioning brain is not in control, my lower brain is aware enough to just keep myself safe.
I have designed my life so that in moments of SI, I have no means and no plan. I can ride out these episodes like a boat in a storm. Some of the storms are very bad. Usually there is a storm that I can see somewhere on the horizon…hence the constant state of 3-ish-ness.
I visited the Golden Gate Bridge last year, a few days before giving a QPR suicide education and prevention workshop. This particular time was different than the hundreds of other times I had visited the bridge. I drive for Uber in San Francisco and I cross the bridge often. One morning while driving, the rides had become incredibly slow. I took some time off to go visit a location that I had been simultaneously confronting and avoiding for the previous two years.
I learned a lot about myself that day as well as a lot about the Golden Gate Bridge. I spent a good chunk of a day there walking back and forth along the sidewalk that stretches from end to end. I was there for some serious people watching, so I watched. Locals, tourists, workers, each had a different walk, different peer group, and different objectives for visiting there. I saw no law personnel and wondered where they might be. I spent a lot of time touching the bridge. Listening to the traffic, feeling the energy of the wind and wheels and how it made the railing of the bridge vibrate with an undeniable electricity. The vibrations increased as I approached the center mid-span of the bridge.
Once at the center, the peak of elevation and the greatest distance from the road bed to the water below, the suspension cables, which are three-feet in diameter, can be touched by someone who is tall enough. They are at their lowest when the road bed, which crests in the center of the bridge, is at its highest. I stood there and felt the vibration of the railing which was mesmerizing. I looked up and realized I could reach and touch the suspension cable. As I touched it, I felt an incredible calm. A stillness that was in direct contrast to the energy of the railing. They felt solid and secure and although I knew that they technically are moving, there was no sensation of movement at all. I felt my body calm down, my heart rate decrease and my breathing even out. The suspension cables gave me calm where the bridge roadbed and railing incited the opposite. I will always look at those suspension cables with admiration and awe. They are a metaphor for the type of person I am trying to become and the kind of therapist I want to be with my clients.
I may write more about that visit in the future. For now though, I can say that I understand those who decide to depart this life at that spot better than I did before my visit.
This past year has seen the beginning of a slow process of reconciliation. Communication with my children is still difficult, but I am patient. I am allowing them to proceed at their pace and I am grateful for the generous gift of time that I am able to get when possible. I also have two younger brothers, the oldest of which has reached out to me and indicated that he would like to reconnect and keep in touch. His wife has been a dear friend over the years and I welcome any kind of healthy relationship that we are able to build moving forward.
I am indeed still doing laundry at friends houses. I am currently staying with some friends and am doing laundry as I write this. Those who continue to invite me into their homes for short, and sometimes longer stays, feed me, let me feed them, and do my laundry with them, are showing me the kind of love that I am trying to show others. It is an incredibly beautiful cycle that I am part of, both giving, and receiving this type of love.
It is clear that my life is not perfect. However, I am entering 2019 with an incredible amount of optimism and excitement. This will be a year of major transitions for me, possibly the largest of my entire life. I am looking for the area that I will be living and working in for the next 2 years while I advance toward licensure in the state of California. I am ready for more growth in interpersonal relationships with those that I care deeply about. I am ready for next steps.
I must stay alive.
Kimberly Anderson -January 1, 2019
Here is the link to the article on Medium which I published last year:
This piece originally appeared as a blog post: https://medium.com/@kimberlyanderson_78421/a-visit-to-the-golden-gate-bridge-fd71cf5129a?fbclid=IwAR0KCwMcbfQh0A447mpjN6PuI5WqoOYKE3f_TJlY2iRC7KyGxPZxMJ9TmTE