A Word on Being Alone

For the first time in my life, I have experienced true alone-ness. Not loneliness, the longing for other people, nor deliberate isolation where my eating disorder could fester. Not a desire to be by myself. But a whole new experience – ‘aloneness’. I lived alone for just over six months, and, retrospectively, I have realised a few things about that experience.

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this picture is pretty but largely irrelevant and there is no deep inner meaning to it

Growing up, I was never truly alone. I am the youngest of three, but even once my two elder siblings moved out I was extremely lucky in that both of my parents were always around. I rarely spent a night by myself. I relished alone time as an introvert, but the house was never empty, it was never silent.

Then I moved to the other side of the country. My first experience living away from home was a very odd sharehouse situation that I’m electing to brush over because it was awful and painful for a few reasons and not all that relevant either. Put it this way: you do not want your housemates to discover you struggle with mental illness because you need driven to hospital in case you bleed out. Not. Good. After that, I chose to live alone.

During my childhood, even though I was constantly surrounded by people – at school, work, youth theatre and home – I always felt isolated. Ignored. Invisible. But not alone. I guess the introversion possibly caused by this isolation gave me the idea that living alone was for me. I thought that if I was still depressed despite being surrounded by people, thought that because I remained suicidal even when surrounded by ‘friends’ in inverted commas, that being alone could hardly make things worse.

Here’s the truth:

it did.

It did impact my mental health. Being with people keeps me safe, because even when I feel alone, I am not truly alone. When I was living by myself I self-harmed daily. Now that I have a housemate, I still self harm, but not as badly, for fear she’ll find me. It’s also not as often, for fear she’ll see the scars – or worse, fresh wounds. So having a housemate hasn’t ceased my self-harming behaviour, but it’s certainly a deterrent. Only time I’ve ever been grateful for anxiety.

Being with people keeps me safe, because even when I feel alone, I am not physically alone.

Living alone wasn’t good for my eating disorder either – its function practically shifted entirely from control to suppressing emotions. Bulimia became a comfort, whereas anorexia had been an escape. Conversely, now that I could control everything around me, around food I felt totally out of control. Interesting. Living alone isn’t bad in and of itself, but I know others were concerned about me, and I was concerned about myself.

Maybe things would have been different if I hadn’t lived on my own for a little while there. I don’t think it necessarily matters. What matters is that I’ve learned being around people keeps me safe. Being alone, does not. Introvert or otherwise, I do need people, as scared as I am to admit that.

Nurturing Internal Wounds (AKA therapy sucks)

Since my last period of extreme suicidality (okay, so essentially the last few months of 2017), I have had a “treatment team” looking after me and my mental health. This includes a GP, psychologist specialising in mood disorders and a psychiatrist. During eating disorder treatment, this also included two eating disorder psychologists, an occupational therapist and a dietitian, but I am not in contact with those four anymore.

Generally, these professionals have been great. I normally feel supported. I normally feel safe and comfortable. Vulnerable, but because of the weird friend-professional relationship, not because of their personality or mannerisms.

Until last week.

When both my GP and my psychologist said some hurtful things. As if physical wounds weren’t enough to tend to, now I have internal wounds to nurture too.

My GP asked: How is the study going?

Me: Good. Studying isn’t an issue for me. My grades are fine.

GP: So you’re able to concentrate?

Me: Yes, but my grades have never been a good indicator of my mental health. 

GP: That tells me you’re able to control your depression. Most people come to us because they’re failing all their courses; their depression is really severe.

Me: Are you saying my depression can’t be bad because I’m not failing?

GP: Well, it shows you can concentrate.

How about no. How about my grades are no indication as to my mental health because I’m an intelligent human being who has never failed anything in her life except for her first driving test. Whose grades never dropped below a high B, even when her brother got cancer and she started self-harming. Whose grades are at their highest, when mental health is at its worst. How about I am an extreme perfectionist who cannot bear the thought of not submitting an assignment, no matter how distorted my thoughts are at the time. Suicidal or not, I will study. It’s called a distraction. 

I’m going to be seeing a new doctor from now on.

Oh yeah, and then this happened:

Therapist: Why are you still self-harming?

Me: Because I feel like shit and I hate myself

Therapist: Does self-harming make you feel better?

Me: Not anymore. But it hurts.

Therapist: …

Me: …

Therapist: Is it rewarding for us to talk about self-harm? Does raising my concern perpetuate your self-harming behaviours? Because it has gotten more frequent throughout the time we’ve been working together. Know that your frequency of self-harm doesn’t affect how often I see you, but if you are continuing to engage with urges in order to continue seeing me then we need to stop talking about it.

How about no. How about I have been self-harming more in the past year because I have been severely distressed and my eating disorder switched from anorexia to bulimia and I went through an extended period of suicidality where I wanted to die everyday and couldn’t care less about adding more scars to the mess I’ve made of my thighs and wrists. How about we deal with the fact that there’s this belief that I deserve to be punished and deserve to hurt and deserve to feel pain even when I’ve done nothing wrong and I don’t know why that is. How about this is the only space I have to discuss self-harm and the fact that you show concern is actually motivation for me to stop.

My therapist is great. But he implied I was self-harming for attention and this isn’t true. Maybe it’s because he was the one to diagnose me with borderline personality disorder and thinks I’m doing a “BPD thing”. To be fair, I have been super ambivalent lately. I also have stopped trying to hard my scars / cuts, so maybe for the first time he’s actually been confronted with the extent of my self harm.

I don’t know. I will not be getting a new therapist, because I’ve been down that road too many times to count. I will be getting a new doctor, because apart from that little “You can’t be depressed if you’re not failing” spiel, she has also told me that everyone has an eating disorder, and what makes mine special enough to need treatment? (This was prior to asking for a treatment referral).

So basically, I feel very let down right now, and for once I’m writing a rambling vent-style diary-entry post, even though I have never liked doing that because it is less aesthetic and conflicts with my writer ego.

Oh well.

Over and out.  For now, forever, who knows, anything is possible. I’ll probably be here to write another post, but we’ll see. Ciao.

Resigning Myself to Recovery

Sometimes I sit. I sit in half-lotus, or collapse, whatever best befits my level of exhaustion (there’s no in between, it’s go hard or go home for me when it comes to black and white thoughts), and I think. I probably dissociate a fair bit, but mostly I think. I think about how things are getting bad again, how I didn’t eat all day, how I’m finally hungry again, and how proud I am of that. [I don’t feel proud.] I think a little about the sharp objects I have left, because I had to get rid of most of them as a treatment requirement, and I think about the easiest one to find, and use. The one requiring the least effort. I let emotions and urges wash over me, wave upon wave of sadness, of hopelessness, of despair. They linger in every corner of my being, even when I smile, even when I giggle, even when I seem “well” or “fine” or “better”, at least from the outside.

And as they linger, they whisper to me that things will never be different. This sadness will always consume me, the temptation to hurt myself will always be there – whether noticeably, with a nice, sharp object, or more subtly, with the lies. I lied when I said I ate today. I lied when I said I have a better relationship with exercise now. I lied about hurting myself – I still do it. These are fresh scars. So yes, I am a liar. I’m working on that. But, as these things washed over me today, a new development occurred. My fragile head-space was disrupted by a fragment of something a little different, a little strange.

Instead of resigning myself to mental illness, to depression, to BPD, to bulimia, and to becoming anorexic again, I resigned myself to recovery. It was a simple act, but an act nonetheless. 

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I don’t always want to get better. I definitely struggle to let things go. (Anorexia, I’m looking at you.) Recovery isn’t easy, and maybe it won’t ever be. But I will get better, in tiny increments, in small steps, and minor wins.

I’m supposed to enjoy “fun foods” every day as part of my meal plan. Chocolate is my prescribed medicine – I’m serious about this. To me, fun foods still have connotations of bad foods / binge foods, and maybe they always will. Normally I avoid having this component of my meal plan, and replace it with a safe snack instead. But today, today, I ate a muffin. Because I wanted to. A chocolate muffin. Every inch of my being was screaming at me to have a single bite, and then throw it away. But I ate mechanically, I ate it all. I didn’t lose control. I wasn’t in a binge mindset. But I told Ana to fuck off. With a fucking chocolate muffin.

I feel guilty. Ana encourages the guilt with every ounce of her being, because thin people don’t eat muffins, thin people don’t eat anything. Thin people are perfect people, and I want to be perfect, right?

Maybe. Yes. Who am I kidding? I’ve never weighed this much before, and I would do anything to be thin again, even if it means returning to the hell of anorexia, in fact, especially if it means that, because it’s a slow suicide, and I still think about how I threw away that opportunity.

Not in this moment. In this moment, I am resigning myself to recovery. Ana tells me I want to be thin again, but I don’t want to be sick again. 

So yes, I ate a muffin.

Winning.

 

Why do I keep hurting myself?

I deserve to be punished. This is the belief that drives every behaviour I engage in, but none more than self harm. I deserve to be punished, so I deserve to hurt. I deserve the scars. I deserve to be ugly.

So I cut.

FYI this is not going to be a particularly nice post. If you want nice, you’ve come to the wrong place. Whatever this is, it’s not nice. It’s real and raw and relatable but pretty fucking dark too. Just a warning of what’s ahead.

What did my body ever do to me? More importantly, what did ever do to deserve pain or sabotage or starvation? But mostly, why do I deserve to hurt? I don’t enjoy it anymore, I don’t really want to, although I guess, sometimes I do. Part of my borderline personality disorder is that I have an unstable sense of self. One of the reasons why I think I have continued to self-harm – and in some ways, such as keeping sharp objects nearby and not getting rid of scissors etc like my psych insisted, deliberately kept the cycle going myself – is because self-harm is a part of me now. It’s a piece of my identity. I have never felt like I’ve had one of those, so I’m holding on as tightly as I can, even though it’s damaging, even though it’s an ugly, blackened side of me, blacker than the rest. Even though it hurts, physically, literally, and mentally, figuratively, letting it go would hurt more. Then I’d have nothing! Then who would I be! I’ve already lost my anorexia, and you know, my entire childhood because of it. I can’t lose another ‘part of me’. Yes, I know, there are other things that have contributed to my identity – I’m intelligent, I write, I draw. But these things are shifting. They move in and out of my life as fast as I open and close doors along the way. But self harm has been my friend over the past few years. I needed it, when it was my fault my brother got cancer (it wasn’t, that’s impossible, but yeah). I needed it when I was so intensely angry hurting myself was the only possible release. And I needed it when I failed, which is always.

I need this. I need self harm.

There are times I want people to notice, if I’m really hurting. The more I cut on my arms and wrists instead of my thighs (a mess I’m normally careful to cover up), then the more I want people to see. Let me be clear, this is not because I’m “seeking attention”. It’s because I am seeking help. 

Self harm feels so, so very good, and so, so very deserved, and that is part of the addiction. We’re in a love-hate relationship. I love the rush, the pain. I hate the clean-up, and the scars… and the pain. The fear I’ve gone too deep this time. The panic that follows. And then, the calm that consumes me. I have a very blase approach to it all now. Even though, as my psych continues to remind me, it is possible I could slip. I could kill myself. Maybe that’s part of the appeal, and that’s something I don’t know how to describe.

It’s good. Until, what was supposed to be a solution, a release for overwhelming emotions, or a cure for numbness, stopped being an uncontrollable addiction and became a desire. I like it. I’m a twisted piece of shit and even as I write this, that other part of me, the not-so-twisted part of me, murmurs no. No, Rosie. You don’t.

I cling to things. I cling to my eating disorder, I cling to my sadness because at least it’s familiar, and I cling to self harm too. I cling to the pain because it’s a symptom of the internal pain I can’t even begin to express. A revolting mess of anguish from my struggles with mental illness. It reveals itself in my scars, this shattered mess of a body I drag around lifelessly, if only it was thinner, if it only it was gone altogether.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

Anxious Human Here

Here are some things that make me anxious:

Being unexpectedly touched, like when people sit too close on the buses, and their thighs or sleeve touches me, and I have to press my face against the window to escape, but then my skin is touching dirty public transport glass and then I feel unclean, and have to choose between two different sources of panic.

Being stared at, because people are constantly judging me, because why wouldn’t they, it’s because I’m constantly making mistakes, isn’t it? People staring at my scars is worse, especially when their eyes dart back and forth between my thighs, wrists and eyes. People commenting on my scars – strangers – is the worst of all, because just as I thought it would be okay to wear shorts for once, and actually felt confident enough to do this, some nosy stranger has to point out how I have mutilated myself. Not. Necessary. This week the waiter at the cafe I was eating at glimpsed my legs, and said “wow you need to tame your pet”. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you so. very. much.

Being questioned about my decisions.

Being asked why I am studying what I am studying, what sort of job a degree like that would get me, what sort of person would choose two conflicting fields (science / English literature) and what my career aspirations are.

Being told my clothes make me look fat, or people commenting on how much or how little I’ve eaten, or people watching me eat. Body checking. Body comparisons. My Body with a capital B.

People seeing me tapping, because I tap to relieve anxiety… if I’m caught out at it, it only makes the tapping worse. And then it’s easier to notice, and now I’m more anxious and need to tap more and then I have a panic attack. Cool.

People commenting on how fast I type, or how fast I read, or that I work too many jobs, or that I’m super talented, or super busy, or super smart, or super nerdy, or am too stringent with my money, or don’t have enough fun, or can’t have fun because I don’t drink. People suggesting if I had a drink, and that then maybe I wouldn’t be so stressed. I’m not stressed, I’m anxious.

Lists. Even though crossing things off lists is deeply satisfying, I don’t know that the process of list-making is actually helpful.

Dirty sponges. Dirty towels. Dirty sheets. Dirty floors. Dirt in and of itself is actually kind of soothing, but not when it shows up in places it shouldn’t be. Like yeah cool I love to hike and garden, but soil in the kitchen is not okay. Dust. Acne. Acne scars. Ingrown hairs. Scars from picking ingrown hairs. Ingrown hairs that refuse to stop growing inwards.

Unexpected knocks. Unexpected phone calls. Unexpected spontaneity. Unexpected loss of control.

Unexpected loud noise – especially sirens.

Anxious human is done now. Bye

*whispers* please don’t go

 

 

Hold on

Two words. Two syllables. Two girls sharing emotional stress silently, as busy commuters and parents hurry past obliviously. Two hands reaching across a dirty bakery counter. Two arms stretching across space into a wordless void. One arm was heavily scarred, still bleeding in places, the other covered by long sleeves.

I have to wear short sleeves at work. I have self-harmed on my wrist before, but this normally isn’t an issue, because I self-harm more on my thighs and the scars on my arm aren’t too noticeable. Except for this week. When I wanted people to see. When I wanted people to know the pain I was feeling. I sliced up the inside of my wrist, without first considering the consequences of short sleeves and that fresh mess.

They were still raw when I went to work on Saturday. It was unavoidable that I reveal them – in my experience, bandages only draws more attention. People were looking, I could tell. But only a single person had the courage to say something. It was a quiet afternoon, there were not many people around. A girl approached me, my age or younger, and asked if we had some plastic spoons. We didn’t, but I thought I should look anyway. As I was opening and closing drawers under the counter, she starts to speak.

She says I’m probably overstepping my boundaries here but I’ve been self harming for five years. Hold on. 

I stopped. I looked into her eyes. I reached across the counter and clasped her hand in mine. Squeezed it.

Thank you I said.

And she walked away.

Never before has a person also experiencing emotional distress approached and revealed this to me. Never before have I had a supportive comment regarding my scars from a stranger. Never before have I felt that odd camaraderie with a stranger who shares my battle, when words aren’t needed, when all that’s needed is eye contact, and mutual understanding.

Until this moment. Until this girl. Until two words reminded me to keep fighting.

Hold on.

It’s been one day since I last self-harmed. As the urges have ebbed and flowed, this girl has been in my thoughts. And the words she spoke have emulated through my veins, more powerful than the lure of any knife. She is a stranger. I will probably never see her again. But she reminded me of my own strength. I just need to hold on.

Binge Eating Aftermath 2

i wish i had died i wish i had died i wish i had died i should have let anorexia kill me i wish i was dead i want to die

They say to use coping phrases, that feeling full is not the same as being fat, but it is, I’m full to the point of feeling sick, I’m full because I’m fat, I binge because I’m fat, binging makes me fat and keeps me fat and I’m always going to be fat. They say to use opposite action, because these emotions do not align with the facts of my situation but they do: I’m disgusting and so I feel disgust – I disgust myself. They say to meditate, because it will calm the mind and body and soothe the soul and is a form of self care, but I don’t want to emerge from my bed, from my depressive shell – I don’t want to face reality.

thin people are perfect people thin people are perfect people thin people are perfect people i will never be perfect if i am not thin i am worth nothing if i am not thin

I am worth nothing. My worth is inversely proportional to a number on the scale. The number is massive, it is a number that horrifies Ana, that horrifies me. It is a number we never thought we would allow ourselves to reach.

where are your bones thin people have bones and thin people are perfect people i need to be thin if i am to be perfect i need to be perfect i must be perfect where are your bones where are your bones stupid girl where are your bones she cried

These thoughts are disordered. I know that. This stream of consciousness, this emotional purging – it doesn’t make the thoughts go away. Just like it doesn’t change the calories I consumed, too many to even count, too much that I can’t even remember what exactly I ate. I like to think that writing helps, but I’m not sure of the truth of that. It helps me manipulate people, I guess. Helps me manipulate myself into thinking I need to manipulate people to better shimmy into the BPD box. I had a close friend, one of the first I revealed my borderline personality diagnosis to, tell me that the doctors are wrong. That I can’t possibly be a borderline because borderlines are manipulative and awful creatures, and they don’t have friends, and I have friends, therefore I cannot be a borderline. I ignored this comment. But the words stung, and have subtly weaved their way into my days, into my blog posts, poisoning the people I’ve met and scaring those who know me in real life, as more than a name and a gross photo. I’m being manipulative because borderlines are supposed to be manipulative and acting like a “proper” borderline will help people realise my diagnosis is accurate. Which is essentially the very definition of manipulative. I am a shell of a person, endlessly adopting traits that I shed like skins. A chameleon.

I think I need to quit my job. Bakery + bulimia does not go so well together. Not well at all. I actually slipped the B-word (bulimia) into a conversation with my parents the other day –  I was met with silence. If I was thinner they would have believed me (although, they never noticed the anorexia, so perhaps not), they would have believed the scars are a sign of true pain, the exhaustion is a symptom of emotional unrest, the three jobs I work to pay for seemingly endless appointments I attend that I need but don’t see the benefit of, and feel guilty over because I’m wasting my paychecks on tears and misguided guidance instead of spending it on getting drunk like I’m supposed to as a struggling student, except I’m not (financially) struggling, and I don’t drink alcohol, and I probably never will. I have never been drunk.

I’m rambling.

I should stop that. But my brain is foggy from the sugar.

These thoughts are disordered, but recognising that won’t change them, nor the fact that tomorrow I will restrict and I will exercise and I will punish myself in any way I know how, and rely on bad coping mechanisms and add to the messy collection of scars that adorns my wrists and thighs like some sort of deranged art series in various stages of decay.

All I can do is pray, even if God isn’t listening tonight. I hope He is. I hope He hears me. If suicide is a sin, does suicide exclude me from His kingdom?

I need things to be different. But I’m scared. I can’t remember not having an eating disorder. My childhood was anorexia, my adolescence bulimia. I’m scared for what it would mean to lose another part of me, to lose Ana. I need her. She needs me. We have a somewhat strained symbiotic relationship.

 

Goodnight. I wish it was goodbye. But I’ll be here tomorrow. I will. Probably.