After something sudden and violent happens to the body, it switches to autopilot. You're still you, but at the same time, not. A piece of you was stolen, and now your body doesn't know how to function the same way it once did.
You still wake up and eat, but the taste is gone to a point where you don't know what exactly is in your mouth. You brush your teeth and hair and look in the mirror, but the person staring back isn't you. It is a person who resembles you, face blurry, but she still has the same shaggy black hair, cocaine skin; wearing your favorite Tinkerbell pajamas, you can even see a hint of a smile. You know that can't be you because all the joy has been drained from your veins.
You live in your head now, not in the world. You hear people talk to you, you reply but have no idea what they said, or what you said for that matter. You say enough so people around you don't question anything. It's not like you can explain what you feel. You know you would sound crazy saying, "My autopilot shut my feelings off, and I feel nothing."
You are nothing, says autopilot.
Somehow autopilot manages to keep you alive. Makes sure you're fed and that you keep up your obligations. Autopilot even drives for you. When you arrive at your destination, you don't know how you got there and, by some miracle, didn't crash. At this moment, you know you are not living; instead, you are surviving.
You don't know how to switch off autopilot, and you are unsure if you even want to. Autopilot allows this persona of "everything is alright," and you don't have to think about anything else. The false smile hides the fact that you are not okay. The dried-up tears that you refuse to let fall because the whole world would know you are not okay.
Time does not exist on autopilot. Weeks, months, years, they all mix together. You are no longer able to tell time.
While in autopilot, you are captive inside the vessel of your body. The voice of depression visits you frequently, telling you the lies it knows you will believe: It's all your fault. You don't matter. You should die and do everyone a favor.
You know you must get out of autopilot and away from your built-in abuser. You write. You breathe deeply. You color, and you listen to music. You even start to take an anti-depressant.
It's not enough.
Autopilot comes up with the idea that you need to feel pain. It's what turned on autopilot in the first place; maybe it's the way to shut it off. So, you go to the Dollar Tree and buy a pack of brightly colored pencil sharpeners shaped as circles, stars, and hearts. You take them home, stomp on them with your shoe until they are shattered, like you. Pick up the small blade from the sharpener, lower your pants to expose your pale thigh, then you slice. Autopilot takes over to the point that you don't know what is happening anymore. Your thigh is covered in thin lines trickling blood when you come back. You didn't even feel it.
After years on autopilot, five therapists, doctors who know nothing about what you are going through, too many pills to count, a self-harm addiction, a suicide attempt, and waking every day to curse that you are alive. The switch flips. Maybe it's that you found the right pill, or maybe your autopilot got bored and left you to deal with the destruction.
Chelsea Vincenzi studied English in undergrad, where she fell in love with writing. Chelsea lives in Portland, OR, with her son, three cats and piles of books.