Emergency Department Trauma

I’m not unfamiliar with trauma. I suffered emotional abuse as I was growing up, and was physically and verbally bullied for many years. I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result, when the intrusive flashbacks and nightmares were at their worst. There’s the scale trauma I experience every time I am asked to be weighed, and the defensive mechanisms that spring from an inability to be touched by strangers, no matter how innocently.

On the eve of christmas eve, I attempted suicide. It doesn’t matter why. (And I’m still trying to work that out anyway).

But I was so intent on death that I refused treatment. I tore out the drip that was infusing me with medicine that would save my life, and prevent organ failure. I curled into a ball as they tried to replace it, and I remained silent when the psychiatrist spoke to me.

All I can feel is the hands.

The hands of a disproportionately high number of nurses restraining me. The hands that held me still as I was sedated. The hands that gripped tighter the more I squirmed, and the hands that didn’t loosen until I began to fall asleep. I can feel them on every part of me. Three on each leg, two on each arm, and one on each foot to stop me kicking. I can feel the strength of their grip, and the repulsion that bubbles out of my chest.

I have never felt so powerless.

And I can’t stop the feeling from flowing. I can’t stop feeling their hands.

I needed them; I did. I needed to be restrained in order to be saved. This isn’t a post about the misuse or overuse of restraint. This is a post about how to cope with being held down against your will.

How do I forget this feeling, when all I can feel and see is hands? How am I supposed to return to drawing, when the body is the focus of my art, and my body has become tainted? How am I supposed to return to the emergency department in the future, knowing that there’s every possibility that I will need restrained again?

How do I forget their hands?

New Year, Old Me

Every year, I tell myself things will get better.

They never do. The pain is endless, and I am mostly left feeling distraught.

As 2011 ended, depression had a firm grasp over me, and anorexia was beginning to infest my soul. By 2012, all the behaviours of my eating disorder had appeared; excessive exercise, calorie counting, restriction, binging and fasting. In 2013, the bullying I was experiencing was severe, and so was anorexia. I hit my lowest weight. I tried to reach out so that going to school wasn’t such a fucking nightmare, but those words didn’t hit hard enough, and my grades weren’t bad enough, for it to have any real impact.

2014, the bullying continued, and I saw a psychologist for a first time, as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me (have you heard of anorexia? they asked. Yes, but no, I don’t have it – liar).

2015, and my weight had marginally improved, but the depression hadn’t and I was still barely existing under a cloud of darkness that weighed me down. Somebody pointed out I also suffered from anxiety, because I was constantly worried about everything, even when there was nothing to worry about.

2016 was the year I finally reached a weight that meant I was considered physically recovered from anorexia – just. But I self-harmed for the first time, panic attacks began to emerge, I was diagnosed with PTSD and borderline personality disorder, my brother was diagnosed with cancer, and I grew more suicidal with each passing day. In the midst of all that, I graduated high school.

2017 was chaperoned in by moving to the other side of the country, alone, to study at a university that was apparently one of the more prestigious ones in existence. That wasn’t the reason I had chosen it; I picked it for its distance away from everything that triggered my broken soul. The self-harm worsened and my thighs became peppered with silvery tracks. I finally started to see a therapist consistently. The binging got out of control, and my highest weight was double my lowest. I was hospitalised four times, and spent many hours on many other nights waiting to be patched up. I was humpty dumpty, and medicos were struggling to put me back together again.

Then, in 2018, the depression lifted for the first time since it began, but the emotional rollercoaster of BPD plagued me daily. I was addicted to self-harm, laxatives, and the delicious binge-purge cycle that left me feeling empty and punished, yet didn’t satisfy me like it once had. I desperately tried to avoid hospital. I attempted suicide, twice. My perfectionism disapproved of my sore attempts to finish the second year of my double degree in physiology and English. I spent Christmas alone, avoiding a place I loved to prevent being triggered by memories I hated. I welcomed the new year in sober, then drank the next night away.

And what of 2019? I pray that this year will be different, and I try to cling to hope, but it’s like grasping at a bubble on the surface of the sea. The year beckons me closer, as if inspecting it will help me survive it. In reality, I am an unknown quantity, and survival is impossible to predict.