19 Good Things From The Year I Turned 19

Today is my birthday. Today is not a day I expected to see. For the first time, today it truly hit me just how incredible it is that I have lived nineteen years on this earth. I have survived severe anorexia, depression and multiple suicidal periods. In fact, just ten days ago, I came my closest yet to ending my own life. But, just as my newest tattoo reminds mehere I am living despite it all. 

Something I have struggled with almost every day of those nineteen years is pessimism. Mostly directed at myself and my future, but also at the world and others as well. So I challenged to create this list, of nineteen good things that happened between this birthday and my last.

24/06/2017 – 24/06/2018

  1. Having a beautiful birthday picnic for my 18th on a beautiful day, with beautiful new Sydney friends (that’s it above)
  2. Getting my first tattoo
  3. Getting my second tattoo
  4. Painting props for the university theatre society – even though I didn’t perform, I was still a part of something (and got free tickets!)
  5. Leaving veganism behind me
  6. Making incredible and unexpected friends during eating disorder and psychiatric treatment
  7. Becoming a Christian
  8. Getting to meet the alpacas at my parent’s new property in South Western Australia when I went home for Christmas AND THEN one of the alpacas gave birth
  9. Ticking off a bucket list item by hiking to the Figure 8 Pool in the Sydney Royal National Park
  10. Re-joining the gym 
  11. Moving from my tiny solo place into a 2 bedroom apartment with another hip person
  12. Reading the Vegetarian by Han Kang before realising it was quite psychiatric and a little triggering, but excellent nonetheless. Along with lots of other incredible new reads such as Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  13. Creating my largest t-shirt rag rug ever, for a custom order. It’s a massive 1.5 metres wide, which was no simple feat to sew by hand. Finding energy to channel into my Etsy store.
  14. Teaching myself to sew clothes – I’ve always been able to sew, just never clothes
  15. Doing lots of headstands in new kick-ass places
  16. Also learning to do fore arm balances AKA Pincha Mayurasana
  17. Finally starting actual physiology subjects now that I’m in the second year of my science / arts degree – and loving them!
  18. Completing my first ever eating disorder specific treatment in the eight years I have suffered from anorexia / bulimia
  19. Surviving to see my 19th birthday, which, because of a near suicide attempt ten days ago, I wasn’t even sure I would be celebrating. The other things on this list are great, but this the best one of them all.

The A-B Battle

I am torn between two impossible choices. I’m torn between the presence of bones and the absence. I’m torn between starvation and binge eating. I’m torn between a complete emotional breakdown or numbing out with self harm. I’m torn between plain rice cakes and fruit and vegetables or bread and cake and peanut butter. I’m stuck between two impossibilities, and the further I stretch towards one, the further it leaps out of reach. The further safety leaps away, along with my sanity.

I am torn between anorexia and bulimia.

There are memories in the blank abscess of my brain, not many but a few. Starvation fucks with your mind. I can remember the book that started it all. I can remember the nose dive into excessive exercise, and orthorexic habits, and obsessions, and weight loss. I can remember the fear, taste its coating on my tongue: I was afraid of fat, and carbs, and sugar, and gaining weight, and people, and my parents, and failure. I was terrified of failure. I can remember the sit ups and push ups secretly on my bedroom floor, the inescapable urge to repeat exercises because I hadn’t done them right. I can remember the weight going down, and every drop brought with it only more elation. Every increase, however minor, brought with it self-deprecation, and punishment. I can remember the day I realised I had an eating disorder, and how it shattered me. I remember the day I called her Ana. I remember the text I sent to someone, the first person I ever opened up to about her. Have you met Ana, I asked? Ana who, she replied. Ana-rexia?

I remember doctor after doctor after doctor because my mum just wouldn’t fucking admit to herself that was the failure. That her perfect golden child was seeking perfection, and it was killing her.

I remember the anxiety. And tears, and the suicidal thoughts to come. I remember the utter intensity of pain and anguish that I felt. I remember being threatened with hospitalisation. I remember it was only 500 grams away, but it was 500 kilometres away too.

I remember that nobody noticed. Nobody dared to ask lest they face the wrath of my bitter sarcasm.

Bulimia is not like anorexia.

They are both eating disorders, but that is all. Bulimia is grounded in shame and desperation and hatred, but anorexia is placed on some sort of pedestal, even in our own minds. Even in my head, I value the bones I’ve lost during weight restoration, I envy the people I see and I think to myself, they know Ana too. Bulimia is misunderstood, more so than anorexia. As soon as I confess that I don’t purge by vomiting, because I physically cannot (I wish, believe me), my concerns are pushed away, as if there’s not more than one way to purge, and not more than one way to have an eating disorder.

The two battle against each other. I eat to combat Ana, but I exercise to fight eating. I binge to cope with emotions, but starvation suppresses them too. I’m no longer underweight, but I can’t help thinking that I was better off dead, when I had the chance, when I had the opportunity, and I was oh so close to heart failure, even if nobody knew it at the time. I can’t help thinking that this shift from anorexia to bulimia shouldn’t even be important, but it is. It is. 

There is nothing worse than your own head, nothing worse than memories which plague you. There is nothing worse than swapping one disorder for another, instead of recovering properly, like I was supposed to, like I should have, like I wasn’t good enough for. There is nothing worse than praying for a relapse, because I know, deep down, that this time, a relapse would kill me. 

And that, after all, is the final goal.

The Verge Becomes The Edge

I don’t generally include trigger warnings on my blog posts, but as a forewarning, this post deals pretty explicitly with suicide and suicidal ideation. You know yourself. If this isn’t a safe topic for you, please don’t read on.

It started on Wednesday. I say that’s when it started, but of course it’s difficult to know for sure. In fact, this breakdown wasn’t unprecedented. I was expecting it.

So, it started on Wednesday. I’m not sure why this particular Wednesday was difficult. It just felt bad. I felt bad. The sort of negativity and numbness and self-hatred that I have come to recognise as signalling the distress which will soon follow. It’s a whole new realm of emotional dysregulation. It’s own category of sadness and despair and hopelessness and regret. Memories were pursuing me as strongly as ever, laying a trap which would become impossible to escape, threads of triggers tying me down and rendering me hopeless and defenceless. The torrent of memories and past failings and present failings and future failings brought with it a torrent of anxiety, and finally, a need to suppress that.

So I binged. And binged. And binged. And binged.

And I curled up in bed, and the dark thoughts consumed me.

On Thursday, I made a plan. I went to work. I bought blades on my break. I intended to slash my wrists at the end of the shift. I would do it at the beach. I would do it at the beach because the beach is the only real home I’ve ever had.

I was no longer treading the edge of the precipice, no longer dancing around pieces of facade crumbling around me. No; I was submerged between the cliff and the river, I was dangling, I was unsafe.

And I kept repeating the same things, over and over and over.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this anymore. Please don’t make me do this anymore. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.

A friend picked me up at the end of the shift, and she saved my life.

We didn’t go to hospital. Because my values have always been fucked up, and even though I have never felt so utterly worthless as I did in that moment where I collapsed in her arms in her parent’s lounge room, sobbing uncontrollably, inconsolable and in my darkest place yet, I knew that I couldn’t go to hospital because I had an exam on Saturday.

I didn’t kill myself because of an exam. 

I think I seriously need to re-evaluate my life.

Anyway. I got through Thursday night.

And on Friday, the suicidality returned with a vengeance. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About the knives and the scissors in my friend’s house. About the busy road a short walk away. About the nearby bridge I could slip off. About the fucking knives. About the knives. About the knives. About the knives.

And I melted. I melted again, for the second time. I can’t remember what happened that desolate soulless Friday night. This isn’t uncommon for me. I know there were memories being regurgitated, but that’s not what truly triggered the distress. I know that I was trying to hide my tears, and my face, and my shame. I know that I was lying on my back, dissociating, crying, and someone touched me, and it was triggering, and I started sobbing, and curled up and wanted to scream and run away and act on my plans. In that moment, I was more suicidal than I have ever been before.

And then, I slept.

I slept it away.

I sat my exam. I made a safety pact. I went home.

And I have taken a step back from the precipice. It still lingers there, in my periphery. It still glistens in the distance, in the charming disguise of “an out”. An end. An escape. But it’s fading again. And sometime soon, I hope to be okay again.

Permanency

I have tattoos.

People are genuinely surprised to hear this, because my first is on my hipbone and so not visible. My second is freshly done, and definitely visible (it’s on my bicep) but it’s winter now and hidden beneath layers of soft knits and scarves. Maybe people are surprised because I don’t look “the type” for tattoos; I’m not a barista. I’m not an overly muscular male pumping weights at the gym. In other words, I don’t fit the stereotype. I’m a tiny five foot nothing human, I’m a tutor expected to act as a role model, and I plan to become a doctor – eventually anyway, once I figure out my own health first. So maybe they’re just not expecting someone like me to have had ink permanently etched beneath my skin.

That’s kind of the point. The reason why I have tattoos is because they’re permanent reminders of where I am and where I’ve been and how far I still have to go.

The first is on my hip bone, and it’s a quote in cursive which reads “do not go gentle”, from Dylan Thomas’ poem by the same name. It represents the struggles I’ve been through and come out the other side of. It represents strength and perseverance and bravery in the face of adversity. It represents not giving a fuck. I will not go gentle into that good night. I will not let darkness consume me so easily.

On a slight anecdotal tangent, during eating disorder treatment, I was asked what kept me motivated in my recovery. I volunteered this poem as evidence. When I graduated the program, my team presented this poem to me, as a reminder. I told them I had had the quote tattooed on my body six months ago, and carried the reminder with me permanently.

I got my second tattoo a few weeks ago. I designed it myself based off of Rupi Kaur’s illustration “and here you are living despite it all”. Underneath, in my own script, is the word courage, and the O is replaced by the NEDA symbol. It represents being a badass, and reminds me to approach life as one. Recovery is one of the hardest things I have ever faced, and it takes courage, but here I am living, despite it all. Because recovery from anything, even just living with mental illness, makes us all badass.

Maybe people are surprised because my tattoos are not purely for aesthetic reasons. Maybe people are surprised because my tattoos mean something, and only to me.

They remind me of my own permanency, and my own fight. They remind me to keep on fighting when the struggle is dark, and now, each time I go to hurt myself, I will be reminded that I am living, despite it all, and with just a little bit of courage, I can move forward.

I will not go gentle into that good night, no matter how much I may want to at times. The lure of death may be strong but I will rage and rage and rage against the dying of the light. I will not give in, and I will not give up. I will not go gentle. Depression will not take me. The battle against my own brain will not take me, not yet. 

So yeah, I have tattoos.

Because here I am living, despite it all.

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Chapter Zero: A Brief History of My Time with Mental Illness

I’m going to tell you a story:

There once was a girl who was slightly insane, with eyes so bright they matched her brain. She had no troubles of what the day might bring, and when it was silent she would secretly sing. There is still a girl who is more or less sane, but behind not so bright eyes, she hides layers of pain.

There was once a girl who was so energetic people described her as “crazy”. She had a wild, untameable personality, and loved nature, acting, art and school. She was proud of her intelligence, and she didn’t let being different stop her from doing anything.

Then her mind turned against her, and everything changed.

Looking back, things probably changed earlier than the date I’m going to call ‘the beginning’, but I think starting high school was the trigger for a spiral into mental illness. There were signs I suppose, before then, that I was not like the other kids, in more ways than one. Signs of BPD, precursors of anxiety, hypomanic episodes. I hated making decisions. I couldn’t stand it when I wasn’t in control. I was a perfectionist, and couldn’t make mistakes for fear that I would get in trouble and everybody would leave me.

In 2011, I started high school. All my friends from primary school except one had moved to other schools, or other towns. I was alone. I was isolated. I started to retreat to the library during lunchtimes. I was constantly irritable. I was constantly alone. This is what depression felt like to begin with.

Around the same time, I developed an eating disorder, which I’ve written about pretty extensively here, and here, and here, and a little bit more here, and here. It started when I realised I was never hungry. I needed to be hungry, otherwise it meant I was consuming more calories than my body could handle. No wonder I was so fat! (I was not. I could see ribs, even at this point in time) It started with sit ups and push ups and being really ‘healthy’ by not eating carbs or sugar or fat or anything over x number of calories that I had arbitrarily decided was the magic number for weight loss. I had a growth spurt, because, you know, puberty, and that was the final trigger. I weighed myself every day. I counted calories every day. I exercised every day. I needed to be hungry. I needed the numbers to go down. I needed to be perfect. Slowly, I saw hip bones creep to the edge of my shorts, I saw ribs peek through beneath my tummy, which was gradually falling away. By the time I was thirteen, I was at my lowest weight. I was emaciated, malnourished, exhausted, and alone. My inconsistent periods became non-existent, and wouldn’t return until my final year of high school. I was constantly anxious, self-conscious and insecure. The depression had also gotten worse. I was suicidal.

Oh yeah, and I was being bullied at school. Physically, verbally, and online. It only emphasised to me that if I was just thinner, if I was just better, that she might stop tormenting me. I tried to open up and was told to ignore it. When I retaliated, I was punished by the school for physically hurting another student. So I made a promise to myself that I would never open up. Two years later, when I eventually told the principal the whole messy story, the culprit was still never punished.

(Tears are starting to drip onto my keyboard)

I was sitting by myself every day. I was taunted every day. My eating disorder was at its worst. I had stopped socialising completely unless it was absolutely necessary. Not that I had ever been very social, but I honestly felt like my ‘friends’ were treating me horribly. They hadn’t noticed, they didn’t care, they weren’t interested. They could see my being bullied, and to this day I cannot understand why they didn’t step in for me. I maintained high grades – I remained top of my cohort year after year. I maintained a facade. Eventually, this facade shattered, and came crumbling down around me.

The strangest part throughout the development and maintenance of my eating disorder is that to me, this was normal. There was no problem with this sort of behaviour. Not for one second did it cross my mind that I had an eating disorder. It took me two years to realise. It took until I lost control, and until Ana consumed me entirely, and I couldn’t distinguish between myself and her anymore. And when I did finally realise my behaviour could be classified as both anorexia and bulimia (this came much later), that’s when things got really bad. Because I knew that if someone found out, they would try to take Ana away, and by this point, she was the only friend I had.

But at least I felt good about my body, at least my body was lithe and petite. Although, I hated buying clothes because nothing would fit. I didn’t feel like a woman. I didn’t feel alive. All I ever feel is numb. Exhausted. Hungry. But still, I thought this was okay. This was good. But I knew I could do better. It was a challenge, and I accepted it. It’s 2014.

Then, something changed. I don’t know what. I guess I looked up from the scales, and into the mirror, and I saw a skeleton staring back. I couldn’t believe it was my reflection.  From that moment, I started fighting. It was difficult. I wasn’t really gaining weight. I was still alone. But I was trying, trying, trying. Still on my own. For whatever reason, I began to eat more, consciously made an effort to try and eat more. I actually lost weight. I thought I had been in control. I wasn’t and I never had been. Every single thought was conflicting. If I felt strong, and ate a little more to try and combat these thoughts then I would instantly feel awful, instantly it was like another person (this voice is who I named Ana) had put these horrible horrible thoughts into my head and that little bit of extra food quickly disappeared when I went for an hour long bike ride, or a run, or obsessively engaged in sit-ups and push-ups until I was certain I could still get hungry.

I hated my skinny wrists. I hated getting my picture taken. I hated myself for doing this to my body. I hated myself for considering getting better. I hated eating for making me feel fat. I hated exercising for making me feel skinny. I hated a certain member of the female species for monumentally fucking me up. I hated my friends for leaving me on my own. I just had a lot of hate inside of me.

At some point, I told my mum that I was worried I couldn’t gain weight. I had lost control. Ana was in control now, and Rosie was fading away, a ghost for her to leech off of. Even now, I did not mention anything at all about an eating disorder. I did not really know it was an eating disorder. I knew I was doing it deliberately, I knew what anorexia nervosa was, what bulimia was, but I didn’t know they could manifest in quite this way.

My mum didn’t get the hint. She took me to doctor after doctor after doctor who all asked the same question “are you starving yourself?” and “the next step is a psychologist”. Over the next two years, I gained a very measly amount of weight, just enough to keep me out of inpatient treatment. Just enough so that nobody would try to take Ana away from me.

It’s 2016 now, and my weight has increased to just within the normal range. My eating disorder is still bad. Ana is still loud. My brother just got cancer. I’ve started self-harming. I’ve made plans to kill myself. I cry myself to sleep every night. I have finally started seeing a therapist. My parents still don’t know about Ana, or about depression, or about being bullied. My hatred for them is stronger than ever. There is constant yelling in my house with my brother at home. It’s my fault he has cancer. It’s my fault they’re always fighting. I worry my parents will get divorced. I’ve broken friendships with what I now recognise as BPD rage. I ask my parents through tears if I’m bipolar, a question that won’t be answered for another two years. Graduating high school is the best thing that ever happened to me, because I can finally leave behind the shithole that promised to protect me, and didn’t. More people who didn’t notice, and didn’t care. I thought I had beaten my ed thoughts but I hadn’t, they’re back. The feeling of being split in half has also returned and, even though I feel fat all the time, I can’t decide if I do or don’t want to be skinny again. Ana says “I’m fat” but Rosie isn’t so sure…

The problem is, when I have ed thoughts, I eat to try and combat them. Maybe I’ll have dessert tonight; that will counteract those thoughts. But then I feel terrible for eating extra, so I exercise in the morning to burn off the calories, and it just goes around and around and around and around. And this is the start of the shift from anorexia to bulimia. The irony is not lost on me. Recovering from one eating disorder by undergoing weight restoration alone, led to the development of another eating disorder. The underlying issues of low self-esteem, self deprecation and perfectionism weren’t addressed – so I never really recovered. Physically recovered, but not mentally. Never mentally.

And so concludes 2016, the year I actually started to open up. After nearly 5 years of endless anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and borderline personality disorder.

It’s 2017, and I’ve moved to Sydney, on the other side of the country. I thought I could escape my past, but turns out that I couldn’t escape my own mind. I thought I could escape an emotionally abusive and invalidating environment, but self-deprecation is its own form of invalidation. My eating disorder has faded somewhat, or so I thought, but it is actually bulimia in disguise, and that was just a fact I didn’t want to face, because being diagnosed with bulimia after suffering from anorexia is a giant slap in the face. I’m suicidal again. I have never been more depressed in my life. This year I will be hospitalised three times, and accumulate more scars on my thighs and wrists than I ever thought possible. I don’t speak to my family. I am still alone. I graduate my first ever eating disorder treatment, but there’s hatred simmering inside of me for the disorder I lost, and the one it was replaced by.

It’s 2018. Things have finally gotten better, just a little bit anyway. Rather than constantly being depressed, now I ride the emotional rollercoaster every day instead. I’ve been formally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and bipolar II. I’ve tried a heap of medications and rotated through a bunch of psychiatrists and doctors who don’t know what to do with me. I’m coming to terms with my diagnosis of bulimia, and the anorexia I so desperately wish I hadn’t left behind.

And I draw on my arms when I feel down, and scribble poetry on scrap paper, and do headstands in dangerous places for the rush, and practice yoga as I revise material for exams, and binge on peanut butter and bread and chocolate, and exercise to cope with the aftermath of binging, and gauge at my skin with sharp objects, and scrape the word fat into the body parts I like the least, as a reminder that good will never be good enough. All in an effort to feel better, to feel safe. To feel okay again. Finally.

Because the only time I have ever felt good about myself and about my body was when anorexia took hold completely.

For much of this time, I never knew that what I had was an eating disorder. It took me a really long time to realise that maybe, just maybe, what I had been doing to my body was what is known as anorexia. I was scared to use the term, because it made what I was doing seem real. Real and wrong, when to me all that it felt was right. I have never been diagnosed of course, and there are very few people who know how I really felt/still feel, and fewer still who have called it ‘anorexia’. I am still scared to use the term, because now that my weight is restored, it feels even more invalidating.

I called her ‘Ana’. Because you’re not in control, there’s another person inside your head, a voice telling you to act a certain way, feel a certain way, appear a certain way. This voice tells you that skinny is never skinny enough and that a single calorie is a calorie too many. She tells me that good will never be good enough, and that only bones will ever be enough.

Sometimes I want to kill these thoughts. I want to be happy. Sometimes I want them back. These thoughts tell me I would be happy if I was just a little skinnier. They tell me that I’m fat, but now that I’ve gained weight, I don’t know if these thoughts are actually true, or if I’m just making them up.

It took four years to reveal I was struggling with depression. Five to reveal I was anorexic. Five and a half to be medicated. Six to be hospitalised so I didn’t kill myself. And now, nearly seven years after ‘the beginning’, I finally come to realise that the first thing I should have done is just say what was on my mind. Instead of waiting, and berating, and getting sicker and sicker and sicker, and more and more isolated and withdrawn and losing more and more time, I should have just spat the words out:

Anorexic. Bulimic. Depressed. Anxious. Bullied. Obsessive. Traumatised. Borderline. Bipolar. Self-harming. Suicidal. 

Eleven adjectives which do not define me, but are a chapter in my history, and a part of my identity nonetheless.

On The Verge

The emotions pile on and on and on. Anger and frustration and sadness and anxiety and stress and fear. On and on and on am I swathed in irresistible urges to hurt myself, to binge, to cut, to do something worse. On and on and on it goes. It’s an endless hurt mapped by scars and stretch marks and bones and harsh memories that hide in the dark recesses of my brain where nobody will find them, because they’re too dark even for me, and the best way to deal with all the bad stuff is to suppress it.

On and on and on I repeat myself. I hate this. I can’t do this. I hate this. I’m never going to get better. I’m a failure. I’m worthless. I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m stupid. I’m a failure. I’m worthless and fat and ugly and I deserve to die. Kill me.

I hate this.

I can feel it deep within my soul: I’m on the verge of a breakdown. I’m reaching the point where I snap, the point of no return, where stomachs become concave and bones appear in new places and the muscle I worked so hard to rebuild fades away against a backdrop of malnutrition and starvation. Ana calls to me, louder, murmurs become shouts that are impossible to block out.

Just breathe, they say, as if it’s easy.

Just don’t, they say, as if it’s possible to just get out of bed on the difficult days, to just stop myself from cutting, to just eat, or to just stop binging – to just get better.

It’s not fucking easy.

And as I lay here, alone in the dim light of my laptop with the faint noise of the highway that reduces our rent, and the sound of my housemate watching Netflix in the next room over, I wish I could cry, but I can’t. I want to scream, but I can’t. I want to burn something or punch something or run into traffic or just run and keep running, into the cars or into the ocean or into the night and just. keep. running.

I’m on the verge.

My toes dangle over the precipice between the facade I uphold, and the other side. Chunks of facade are falling away like rock on a shaky cliff face. Each time my toes dangle further over the edge, and I am closer to falling.

The breakdown is coming. I can feel it.

My Self-Harm Story

The first time I hurt myself I was sixteen. I used a pin, and scratched the part of my body I despised the most at the time – my hips. I blamed myself for my brother’s cancer diagnosis. I blamed myself for the shouting that accompanied his move back in with my parents. I blamed myself for the failures I encountered daily, for every small mistake I made – the flickering in people’s eyes when I made social errors, the disappointment from teachers when I got B’s instead of A’s, and the isolation I felt no matter where I went. I didn’t feel safe anywhere. Not at school, where I was bullied incessantly. Not at home, where there was shouting constantly. And there was nowhere else for me to escape to except the beach, where I didn’t feel safe because of strangers, and suicidal ideation, and hypothermia from being so underweight.

I might have lost anorexia, but self-harm filled that space. It served the same needs. It has the same purpose.

The first time, I was angry at myself. I had made a promise to myself that I would never follow in the footsteps of my friends (friends who had by this time stopped self-harming), and scar my body. They told me it was addicting, but I didn’t believe them. The next time I hurt myself, I was angry at my parents. For ignoring me, for not believing me, for neglecting me. I took a pair of nail clippers and I slashed my calves. The time after that, I used a pair of surgical scissors stolen from my mum’s nursing office at the hospital.

Then, I turned to more dangerous implements. The typical ones. What started out as an immediate release for anger and rage became a coping mechanism for any emotion at all. If I was numb, I hurt myself to feel something. Sad, I hurt myself to focus on the pain. Angry, I hurt myself to find relief. Dissociating, I hurt myself to feel real. Worthless, I hurt myself to be punished.

What began as small, localised scars that soon faded, became deeper, more dangerous wounds. And I clutched them tightly to my chest, like memories I needed to cherish. The thing about a starved brain is that it will do everything it can to conserve energy. It will divert energy from memory-making to keeping your heart beating, and that’s it. So there are spaces in my mind, years, where I have no memories. It’s black. The only points of reference are the first time I cut, and the last time I cut before moving out of home, and the lies I told my family when they asked.

After that I move to Sydney, and it becomes a blur. A monthly release becomes a daily habit. Single scars on single limbs become messy thighs. I always hurt the parts of myself I hate the most. And I always need a clean space. So once the thighs have been filled, I move on. The wrists are next, so that people can finally see how much pain I was in. Look, I invited, when I didn’t try to hide my wounds, look and help me. For fuck’s sake, help me.

I was told that self-harm was an addiction, but never did I think it would become a desire. It went from being something I needed to do in order to cope, to a way to punish myself, to the only reliable part of my existence I could count on to keep me from falling apart. I have self-harmed at home, crying on the carpet. I have self-harmed at work, hiding from coworkers. I have self-harmed in psych wards using earrings or my fingernails. I have hurt myself inside and out. The wounds were external, and the scars are external, but the pain remains internal. The shame is internal.

The last time I hurt myself was yesterday. Ana was screaming at me – you ate too much you fat pig. where are your bones. where are your bones stupid girl. where are your bones because there are no bones anymore. I had binged, and I’m not allowed to do that. I convince myself beforehand that it will make me feel better, but it never does. Neither does hurting myself.

Hurting myself also doesn’t silence Ana, and it doesn’t silence the thoughts inside my own head, but it does satisfy a need. It serves a purpose. It helps. I know it’s bad for me, but it helps.

It helps.