Things Change + A Poem

I made a fairly big call recently. I decided to return to my home town in regional coastal Western Australia. It is a place seething with bad memories, and as I have made very clear on this blog before, the source of much trauma.

As I was flying in, I realised something.

This isn’t a bad place. It’s a place where bad memories were made. And this week, I have had an opportunity to make new memories, and this place doesn’t seem so bad anymore. It’s uncomfortable to walk the streets, I have more anxious sweat then I ever realised was possible for a human to produce, and it’s triggering some very unstable mood shifts. But it’s been… okay. It’s been good. I saw my drama family (AKA my youth theatre of twelve years), and it has made me happier than I have been in a long time.

I suppose things change, and I’m glad that for once, they’ve changed in a good way.


Bad memories lurk beneath green rolling hills,

simmering with seasons toiled by decay,

a land marked for its absence and its lack,

even by those who choose to stay.

This place festers with bygones and

the wayward lost, to vices disguised

as adolescent adventures.

This place hides hurt beneath

roiling waves that crumble against the collapsing coast.

Salted waters sting against scars

leaving breathless gasps to mark their paths.

This place is one of hatred and despair,

with privileged joys mistaken for burdens,

with experience lost through ash coloured glasses,

that which cannot be returned nor replaced.

This place is underestimated, with its

stifling heat, and broods of gossips gathering;

the single skyscraper, barely reaching the clouds

that graze the sky rarely and tenderly

to drop an ocean desperately sought

by those governed meticulously by time.

This place is powerfully loaded, and painful,

and desecrated – not unlike myself –

But this place is mine;

this place is home.

Anorexic is not an adjective

This week, I saw something that frustrated me.

It frustrated me to the point of ‘borderline rage’, the kind that hasn’t consumed me for a long time, and the impulsivity that accompanies this. In this case, the impulsive act didn’t cause much corporeal damage – I posted a long, deeply personal post via Facebook. The outcome was that I felt more hurt than I had to begin with, and guilty, and sad, and nostalgic for Ana, and everything that I left behind when I recovered. Anyway.

The topic which frustrated me is a topic which has been in the media so much lately, too much. It is a topic dear to my heart, too dear. It is a topic that is being promoted, and that disgusts me. And yes, despite being weight restored, despite fulfilling the psychiatric definition of “recovered”, the anorexic behaviours, thought patterns, distortions, obsessions and compulsions still consume me.

Anorexic is not an adjective. And it is one used as such too often, by people who don’t understand, “celebrities” like the Kardashians, who have the reach to make real change, but are instead the ones blocking the way. It doesn’t matter who you are: you do not get to joke about an illness you have never experienced, an illness which takes more lives than any other. In fact, the more famous you are, the greater your capacity to create change by not stigmatising the illness any more than it already has been. I’m not one to “keep up” with these particular ladies, but what they said amongst themselves hurt me. It hurt me because they joked over an illness that nearly killed me. It hurt me because they joked over the mental illness with the highest mortality rate of them all.

Anorexic is not an adjective. Anorexic is being hypothermic in summer, and collapsing from exhaustion every night. It’s losing your childhood, your womanhood, your friends, and laughter, and smiles. It’s looking at your reflection and counting bones from your clavicles to your hips but believing you still need to lose weight. It’s yellow skin and a gaunt face and sunken eyes and hair that falls out as you stroke it. It’s wearing children’s clothes because nothing else will fit. It’s being controlled by numbers and calories and food and weight and exercise and a voice in your head that compels you to behave in certain ways, all whilst maintaining a facade of control that you yourself still believe to be true – even as this control spirals away like the soup you’ve been pouring down the drain. It’s hiding beneath baggy clothes, and a web of lies so intricate that a single breath could cause the whole system to come crashing down. It’s eating a single cracker, and punishing yourself for days and days or crying over a carrot that you’re being forced to eat. It’s narrowly avoiding hospital admission by convincing yourself and your doctor that you’re fine, that everything is fine, that nothing is wrong, despite the fainting, the collapsing, the low blood pressure and the anaemias, and the messed up hormone counts and missed periods and reversal of puberty that you brought upon yourself. Being anorexic means having a life cemented in obsessionality and despair and anxiety over the smallest changes to a rigid routine. 

Being anorexic means never being quite enough: not thin enough, good enough, smart enough. Just never enough. Being anorexic means giving up your life, physically, emotionally and mentally; and for some, even literally.

Anorexic is not an adjective. So please, don’t use it like one.

 

Finally Learning to Self Advocate

I saw my psychiatrist today. And for the first time since I started seeing any mental health professional (we’re talking a span of years), I didn’t leave angry at myself. I left satisfied. I left feeling like I’m actually going to get somewhere – even though I’m sick, even though I’m struggling, even though I’m an anxious mess engaging in eating disorder behaviours here there and everywhere, I was able to speak. 

I said what has been on my mind since I started to read the DSM 5.

I asked if I had bipolar disorder, and BPD, and depression, and anxiety. And PTSD at some stage. And bulimia. I asked if that was even possible.

And he said yes. 

Finally, a mental health professional actually confirmed what I have known for a long, long time. And he will pass it on to everybody else who provides support for me – or tries to anyway.

Maybe it’s a bad thing. Maybe it also confirms that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me, which is a belief I’ve held for a similar amount of time. Maybe it just confirms that I’m struggling, and will be for a while, and that’s something I will just have to accept.

But it’s also a great thing. I no longer have to squeak out in the emergency room that I self harm because I’m depressed. That I’m experiencing suicidal thoughts and feel unsafe. I can self advocate. I can say: I have trouble regulating my emotions. I can say: I have also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety; self harm and my eating disorder are like symptoms of those underlying difficulties that I haven’t been able to face for so, so long. I can say: call my psychiatrist if you have there’s an issue.

Something else I’m proud of? I stopped seeing that doctor who told me I couldn’t be depressed because I wasn’t failing (aka a naturally intelligent perfectionist with unrelenting high standards who couldn’t fail a test if she literally tried). She also used to grab my arms where I self harmed and told me to stop doing it because she didn’t like it. She also used the word “slashing”. So I found a new doctor. And she is understanding, and supportive, and best of all, doesn’t tell me I can’t possibly be depressed because my marks are too good.

I’m finally, finally, after almost a fucking decade learning to self-advocate. It feels fucking amazing.