archives, wisdom

I Want to Live, and Run with All the Wild Horses of Our Tribe.


It wasn’t until I called a suicide hotline that I realized I don’t want to kill myself, I want to kill the pain.

I want to kill the memories of being an innocent, helpless child who had night terrors and hypervigilance around sleeping.

I want to kill the half-remembered nightmares and knowing of an adult woman whose body and mind know that her father climbed into her childhood bed and whose daytime temper controlled her. I want my little-girl arms to be wrapped around adults who could hold her, but instead, was betrayed by a family who gaslit her to the point of believing she would be better off dead.

So she died a little more every single day, hoping this would make them love her.

But they never noticed because they can’t see her.

I want to be seen.
I want to be heard.
I want to matter to them.

I want to bury my family secrets in a shallow grave and invite the Earth to swallow my shame. To return them to ether and encourage wild velvet roses to run riot in the place where X marks the spot.

I want beautiful things to erase the violence that rocks my inner compass. To show me that with every sunset and every sunrise, I exist.

I want to run with abandon, with all the wild horses of my tribe streaking across the twilight sky, calling out our names and demanding the night to release us.

I want to tear off my skin, vandalized by words of hate and discouragement to reveal my stark, blank canvas.

I want to say everything and nothing, and let my survival do the talking.
I want. I want. I want.

Want: the soft space that lies between being broken and feeling safe.

Want: a dirty word, a foreign land, a place that was forbidden.

“Do as I say,” he said.
“Just don’t upset him and he’ll stop,” she said.

“Don’t tell,” he said.
But I did.

Nothing… she said.
She said nothing.
And it didn’t stop.

So I stopped wanting. Because wanting meant taking ownership of my soul, and this was not encouraged.

I forgot to breathe. I forgot to grow. I forgot to thrive.

Because it was easier to shrink and wilt and choose not to water my own garden. It was safer not to bloom. To slowly choke my own life force with the weeds of their fear and their broken spirits.

That was the unspoken agreement. That it was okay for me to cut off my own air supply in the fog of their abuse because they needed that to survive. They needed to strike me down in order to feel alive. So I got intimate with death. I lay down in the dirt each night and slowly dug my own grave.

I bargained my pain with my life, promising that each time it got too much, I would slip out of this skin into stillness and non-existence.

But I want to live.

I am alive.

I exist.

And it wasn’t until I took my turn on a suicide hotline that I heard myself speak. I really heard my own voice.

I was embarrassed to make a fuss.
I felt like I was taking up too much space.
I was discussing the pain of wanting to end my own life, and suddenly I saw myself, performing my role for my family. And at that moment, I stopped the show.

I stood still with myself, and heart hammering in my chest, I let my body drop and sag and I chose to inhabit it. I took my body back. I took my mind back. I took my soul back. And I felt all parts of me fall into formation. For a long time, I had floated somewhere outside of myself, disassociated and traumatized, so sure I didn’t have the right to exist that living had become painful.

It took a stranger inquiring about my death for me to stop wanting it. To stop needing it to live. To stop lying in the dirt with it. For the first time in my life, I truly knew that I mattered. I acknowledged my depression and my pain and my sadness as a friend, not an enemy. Their voice was the truest voice in my head because it was the voice of a survivor. And survivors live. They have to.

Their voice was that of the little girl in me, asking to be saved. I heard her, and I loved every part of myself for protecting her all these years. And I want to stay for her. She deserves a loving childhood, and I think I can give her that.

So when the kind lady on the other end of the phone asked me if I had support, I answered truthfully, “Yes.” And I do. I have people in my life who didn’t give birth to me but who love me. And while I am wounded by my family of origin and have every reason to be in pain, I don’t want their pain to be my pain. I don’t want to die to stop taking up the space they tried to own.

I want my life back.

I want a second chance.

I want healing air in my lungs.

I want more.

I saved two lives that day. And tonight we will run with the wild horses of our tribe streaking across the twilight sky, calling out our names and demanding the night to release us.


Dani Cheval is a wanderer, a poet, and a survivor. She finds solace in nature, animals, and the truth of the pen. Words heal.


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