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.

Eggs For Breakfast

My eating disorder, who I named Ana, (even once my diagnosis became bulimia) took a lot of things from me. She took my memories, she stole precious experiences, friendship, smiles and joy. She took energy, warmth, strength, focus, self-worth, concentration and control – the irony of that last one is not lost on me. She took my health, my womanhood, my childhood. She took most of the pleasure out of my life.

She took away a long list of bad foods.

She took away eggs.

She took away breakfast.

She took away lazy Sundays with tea and toast and a book and a blanket. My mornings were replaced with strenuous exercise and meticulous calculation of calories in and out for the day ahead.

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This morning, I had eggs for breakfast. I was met with a torrent of guilt, a wave of uncomfortable emotions, and the familiar berating voice of my best friend and worst enemy as I took each bite. But I didn’t listen. I didn’t let Ana control me. I ate my eggs, I read my book, and I wrapped myself in a blanket on the first cold day of the year (winter is my favourite season) before migrating to my desk to study. There was no compensation. That’s what I would call progress.

Reasons to Recover

I was thinking about my eating disorder, as I do, as I always do. I was ruminating, remembering the sensations of anorexia. I remember, even as I try to forget, to force the images from my mind, the memories of bony reflections. I try to forget these tainted memories, the lies that Ana feeds me, the experiences I am convinced were good, were wonderful, even as I am simultaneously aware of how fucking awful this illness was, and the toll it has taken, and continues to take, on my mind and body. I made a list. Because lists are great, and deeply satisfying.

Here is a list of things I need to remember, as I am trying to forget. These are my reasons to recover:

The good things about anorexia:

  • being thin and perfect
  • feeling powerful, purposeful and fulfilled
  • feeling good about my body (this one’s more complicated than it first appears: I have a love-hate relationship with my body, then and now. I hated bones, but I loved them too. I loved what they represented – success, achievement, and perfect and total control)
  • having a very reliable, way too effective coping mechanism
  • having a channel and outlet to suppress uncontrollable emotions by restricting and over-exercising
  • being incredibly fit, never sweating, and having no acne

The bad:

  • I was no longer able to run, I physically did not have enough muscle mass to sustain a sprint beyond ten or twenty metres, and I love running
  • Constant cold
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Constant preoccupation with food and exercise
  • Constant weighing, and a mood dictated by the number I saw
  • Constant counting, calculating and measuring 
  • Broken friendships
  • I looked like I was “dying”, and people constantly commented on my gaunt appearance and yellowed skin, which only increased my insecurities and need to hide my disorder
  • Insecurity in general, about weight, eating and appearance
  • Fear of being discovered and of Ana being taken from me
  • Isolation and social avoidance
  • Social anxiety
  • Regular anxiety
  • Eventually being excluded from social events altogether after constantly turning them down because I couldn’t allow any interruption to my rigid routine
  • … Being controlled by a rigid, completely fixed routine
  • Becoming extremely distressed if I could not follow my routine
  • Losing my childhood
  • Losing my womanhood
  • Losing my strength, muscle, and physical health
  • Losing laughter and smiles
  • Losing hope

Isn’t it strange how the list of bad far outweighs the list of good, yet I still want so badly to return? It’s a sign of the disorder that still pervades my thoughts, and taints my memories, and clouds my judgement until I can only see what Ana wants me to see, and nothing else, until I lose my reasons to recover altogether.

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.

I’m not sick enough

I’m struggling with my eating disorder right now. I’m not struggling with weight loss, or with severe restriction, or with calorie counting, or excessive exercise – I’m not struggling with anorexia anymore. I’m struggling to comprehend that I wish I was struggling more. I wish I was still underweight, and dying. I wish I was still anorexic. 

When I wake up, the first thing I do is look in the mirror. I body check. I pinch my thighs, my butt, my arms. I measure my wrists. Have I gained weight today? Can’t tell? Then better restrict just to be safe. Just to be sure. This is the same morning routine I have had since I first established it, when I was eleven. Except this time, the fat isn’t in my mind. The fat is visceral, it is real. And that intense preoccupation with shape and weight isn’t so unwarranted anymore – because society abhors fat people, and I am fat now. I have never been fat before.

I have also never been good at acceptance. I can’t accept that the reason I gained weight in the first fucking place is because after six years of starvation mode my body decided to cling to every calorie and gram of fat it could grapple out of my bloodstream, and when you binge on peanut butter, which is essentially pure fat, you gain a lot of weight.

I need to buy scales. Because scales will motivate me to lose weight, and Ana says that losing weight is the only way I’ll ever be successful, or fulfilled, or loved. I am nothing if I am not thin. 

The worst part is – I worked so hard to claw my way out of anorexia. Alone. Without medical assistance. Without dietary assistance. Without my family knowing. With very few friends knowing. Challenging fear foods alone. Gaining weight alone. Going through body changes alone. Getting my periods back, hitting the “normal weight” threshold, seeing bones fade behind fat, cycling through piles and piles of clothes as my weight normalised – all alone.

And now, as I sit here, having told myself I will not eat breakfast, immediately before binging, immediately before the waves of guilt and shame and plans to restrict – I am alone in this. I am alone in the way my body has gone from emaciated to overweight, alone in the bulimia I suffer from, and the stigma that carries with it, especially because I don’t purge. There’s more than one way to have bulimia, just as there’s more than one way to have an eating disorder, but apparently that’s a little difficult for most people to grasp.

I can remember what it felt like to be thin. I can remember where the bones were, where clothes hung loose and useless. 

I can remember being constantly hypothermic, even in spring, and I can remember the pale skin, gaunt face, dark circles, and collapsing from exhaustion every day.

I can remember Ana – screeching. Berating. Deprecating. Screaming and screaming and screaming. I can remember how awful it was. How awful it still is. How awful she is.

But I still want it. I need it. I need anorexia. Anorexia kept me safe. Anorexia kept me alive, even as it was killing me. It gave me a purpose, a sense of self, a reason to exist, even if that reason got smaller and smaller everyday.

I have no reasons anymore. Bulimia has no reasons. Why would I want to stay alive in a cesspool of shame and disgust and guilt and compensatory behaviours and destroying my body through cycles of binging and restricting and exercise and laxative abuse? I have no reasons to do this. I have no reasons to stay alive.

I should have let anorexia kill me.

The Book That Ruined My Life

I love to read. I love all sorts of books, I love to savour every word, every syllable like a sweet morsel to dangle off my tongue. I love adding new words to my extensive repertoire, words like surreptitious, superfluous, vernacular, kintsukuroi, and petrichor – all of which are very real, very beautiful words you should look up the definitions for immediately. I love to caress the covers of new novels, and old ones too, and the smell of the pages being turned, and losing track of time in bookshops and spending money I don’t have on books I don’t need because the best books are never found in libraries.

When I was ten, I read a book that ruined my life. This book gave me ideas that would contribute to me developing anorexia. I’m not going to share its title, but if my description of it sounds familiar and you or anyone you know have any sort of predisposition to disordered eating or currently suffer from an eating disorder, then I am pleading with you to avoid it at all costs.

Even before I turned the pages of this book, the cover itself sparked a wave of anxiety. It is a cover emblazoned with the words “you ate too much you fat pig”, with a picture of an apple core. My sister sardonically pointed it out to me, when I was ten years old, and said “this sounds like you”.

Sorry sis, but that was a terrible, terrible idea.

I read this book, and it gave me ideas, which is ordinarily a very positive outcome for a book to have, but not this book. This is how my eating disorder started: it started with the sit ups, and the push ups. It started with measuring, and label checking, and calorie counting, and offhanded comments by people who didn’t intend to damage me. It started with social isolation, with an exercise addiction, and with dietary restriction. With cutting out entire food groups, and with weighing myself every day, multiple times a day.

Exactly as this book described.

This book was not intended to be one which sparked eating disorders amongst its readership. In fact, it’s a semi-fictional semi-biographical novel written by a girl recovered from anorexia, and her experience of inpatient treatment. It was probably intended as a warning.

Yet somehow, this was the book that ruined my life.

 

Chronic Depression, My Old Friend

When I was younger, before all the bad shit happened (read: anorexia followed by years of intense bullying which only reaffirmed that if I was just thinner, things would be better) I thought depression was purely episodic. I thought it only occurred during grief after a death, that it was a really intense sadness that hung around for a couple weeks and then disappeared.

Seven years later, and I’m still depressed. Because depression can be chronic too.

Earlier this year, I think I experienced my first manic episode. Not irritability or hypomania, true mania. I was buzzing. I couldn’t sleep and didn’t need to, I was planning and fantasising wildly, I spent two weeks pay in five days (as a normally frugal person who spends half of every pay on therapy), I was over-committing to everything: I was go go go, fast fast fast. Talking and thinking faster and louder. I’ve never been formally diagnosed as bipolar, and although I recognise patterns of mania in myself, I definitely identify more with borderline personality disorder. I’m also not a psychiatrist, no matter how often I read the DSM, and like to believe I mostly know what I’m talking about. Something to know about me: I try to keep my intelligence kinda hidden because it’s gotten me into trouble before, and at the risk of sounding like a total dick, I am pretty fucking smart, and pretty fucking confident I know a decent amount about mental health.

Anyway, prior to that weird little manic week, for the first time in those seven years, I actually felt content. I can’t use the H-adjective, because that word alone always seems to trigger another wave of numbness for whatever reason, but it was like my mind just wanted to tease me with the possibility of a depression free life. I was satisfied with work, with my savings, with a few tentative plans for the future. I felt at ease, not anxious, not stressed, not fearful. I wasn’t overly focused on my eating disorder, and I was actually sticking to meal plan. I had come up with a vague sort of self-soothing routine which involved touching leaves on every tree I passed on my walk to the park, and stopping to meditate and practice yoga before returning home. It was a very mindful couple of days.

Then the mania hit.

Then the anxiety peaked.

And now the sadness has returned.

For some reason, I’m welcoming it back into my life. It’s an old friend, safe and familiar. Even when I am a danger to myself, at least it’s familiar. But this happiness thing? That’s foreign territory. And I don’t like it. I don’t like the mania, I don’t like the anxiety, and I definitely don’t like the BPD emotion surges.

Depression is my friend. It keeps me from feeling all of my feelings, in the same way my eating disorder helps me avoid things that need avoiding. Depression also keeps me from having nice things, like recovery. It keeps the metaphorical marble rolling down the same metaphorical ruts, the same neural pathways strengthening, the same core beliefs coursing through my mind every moment of every day – I’m worthless. I’m undeserving of life and love. I let everybody down. Killing myself will release the burden I put on other people. I’m fat, and ugly, and stupid, and useless. I’m never going to get better. I never make any progress.

I cling to these thoughts because I don’t know any different. I’ve never found lasting comfort in any of the suggested places. Yes I’ve tried yoga, and mindfulness, and art therapy, and writing, and regular therapy, and inpatient treatment, and day treatment, and medications. They don’t work for me.

Intuitively, I know that none of these beliefs are the truth – just as I know that according to my BMI I am not overweight. But even when my BMI fell to 14 and I was on the verge of involuntary hospital admission I thought I was fat. So why should a stranger telling me to smile lift my mood? Why should someone saying I look upset, make me any less upset?

Chronic depression, in fact, any depression, is not just sadness that passes. It’s sadness that stays. That fills my entire being with darkness and despair. It whispers harsh words in my ear, and ways to escape. It twists every object in my house into something I could use to hurt myself. I become dangerous. I become bitter. I hate my depression. I hate everything it’s done to me. But for some reason, I cherish it too.