Earlier.

More noticeably than ever have I been noticing the pull of polarisation that BPD brings. It comes with an anxious tremor, and a silliness fringing on hypomania, and impulsivity and outrageousness. But it also comes with dark thoughts and dark urges and the lure of punishments desecrated across my skin.

Tonight I have experienced every single of the above emotions. I have been silly and happy, enjoying time with friends. I have been anxious, shopping, the type of anxiety that makes me outrageous and loud and impulsive. I have been low, and thinking of pain, and finishing a bottle of wine alone.

A few days ago, I wrote this in my journal:

It just hit me – literally, just then – how big of a deal it actually is that I can enjoy study again. It hasn’t been days or weeks or months of anhedonia for me. It’s been years. It’s been almost a decade. It’s been practically my entire adolescence. But I’m finally not punishing myself by isolating and studying to meet my unrealistic high standards that I can never, ever attain; I’m studying and I’m genuinely passionate about it. It feels good that my head is brighter, and that without a little of the darkness, this is what my mind can do. This is the gift that God gave me to use that’s been hidden beneath a murky layer of depression for so long. It feels good to have a reveal, even it it’s only brief, I’m going to savour it like an individual portion of peanut butter salvaged from a cafe (seems an appropriate comparison). 

And by brief, I meant less than 24 hours. Because the following night, I had one of the most distressing phone calls with my mother ever, in which I screamed at her and essentially told her she didn’t care about me and she didn’t do enough (which I believe, somewhat). And the night after that, I invited her to my baptism. And the night after that, I giggled in the pouring rain at the bus stop. And then tonight, even as I feel the alcohol hit my system, I just want to keep on drinking. And I think, wow, I’m pretty sure I’m not meant to drink on my current medications. But fuck it. 

The ultimate highs and lows of BPD, ladies and gentleman.

The ultimate highs and lows.

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.

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.

 

 

These are not my only needs

I need to draw to calm my anxiety, but I’m shaking so badly I can’t hold a pencil steady.

I need to stop shaking because it’s freaking people out, but I’m so agitated I can’t stop.

I need to look after myself, but a worthless person places all others’ needs above their own.

I need to stop avoiding sleep, but I don’t want to sleep when sleep just means a brief and peaceful interlude after which I will wake up and have to do this all over again.

I need to starve myself in order to be perfect, but I keep failing because of this thing called “being a human who needs energy to survive”.

I need to exercise more to lose weight, but the weight of existence is exhausting me.

I need to relieve some tension by taking it out on my body, but I’m trying to self harm less.

I need to get out of bed in order to face the day, but I just can’t bring myself to.

I need to focus on the present, but I’m struggling to let go of the past.

Need and can’t and won’t and shouldn’t and couldn’t and would and could and should and wish and want don’t get me anywhere. Those words are a path paved with shallow possibility, that leaves me in a darker place than before I left the dusky shore. Each time I cross from the darkness to a brighter horizon, my standards are reset, until I find myself in the blackest place yet. Why must it come down to self harm, and suicidal gestures, and the extremes of my mental illnesses before I am noticed, before I am heard. Why must there be such a divide between the existence I live, and the one that you see. You think I’m better – I hear you whisper it to the person next to you – and you even congratulate me face to face, but you don’t see the tears soaking into my carpet, as I clench a knife in my fist, desperately trying to resist the overwhelming urge to punish myself, the pain I so desperately deserve, and the release I so desperately desire. You ignore the clenched fists and tense shoulders as if they are normal, and for me, they have become normal. But they are not. Normality is based on a timed spectrum, but a decade of suffering doesn’t make mental illness less real.

I need to get better, but I also need to cling to this pain and anguish and despair, because it’s the only part of me that’s left intact. It’s the only part of me that I know anymore. When I fail to meet all my other needs, there’s no point giving myself a chance if it means being let down again. So here I rest, clinging to the past, worried over a future I may not ever reach, yet trapped in the present thoughts and dark demons patrolling my mind. It doesn’t matter what I need. It doesn’t matter what you think I need. 

It just. doesn’t. matter.

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.

Some Things

I had no idea what to write today. Most of the time, when I sit down to write, or to blog, or to journal, whatever it may be, I have a pretty clear idea of where I’m heading and what I want to achieve. Lately, everything is a mess. It’s so much of a mess I can’t untangle all the thoughts and turn them into words. So instead of writing something, I’m going to write about ‘some things’. Here are some things that are going on for me and my super sad melodramatic mental health club as of late:

I’m exhausted. My body is heavy. I’ve been pushing the exercise hard. I need to lose weight. The only way I know how to do that is push myself to exhaustion. Burn off every calorie I consume. Check that I’m really hungry. Feel for the bones. Make sure they’re still there. It’s weird to try and return to something (anorexia) you once so desperately wanted to be free of (and still do) yet this time, it’s intentional. I never wanted to have an eating disorder, it just kind of grew on it’s own until it evolved into a beast which consumed me. I feel like now, because it’s intentional, because I want Ana back, that’s the reason why it’s not working. I haven’t lost any weight in the last six months. It’s disgusting; I disgust myself. My best efforts have failed. My body can no longer stand starvation. It resorts to binge eating and no matter how calories I burn off, the binges aren’t negated – even though they used to be.

On the bipolar front, I potentially had some hypomania happening but chose to ignore it – stupidly. I didn’t share it with my psychiatrist, although I did tell my usual therapist. I probably should have. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel real. It feels like something else I’ve made up to cope with everything. It doesn’t feel worth mentioning. Maybe, just like with self harm, I want the mania to increase in intensity so people can see how bad things really are inside my own head.

On that point, I haven’t self harmed for nine days. That would be because nine days ago I had a scary SH experience where I should have gone to hospital but didn’t and freaked myself out and don’t want my housemate to find out because that happened last time I was in a sharehouse and was one of the reasons why I left the environment. It makes things awkward. My housemate isn’t my friend. Just someone to split rent and bills with.

I’m shaking a lot. It could be anxiety. It could be the caffeine. It’s probably a combination. Trying to disguise exhaustion with caffeine and then anxiety with exercise and then exhaustion with caffeine does not work. Neither does procrastinating, which is a new thing for me. It goes against every fibre of my perfectionistic being, so I’m not exactly sure why it’s begun now. Exams are soon. I’m scared. Procrastination helps me avoid work, and worrying, and anxiety, and failure. And I’m not exactly at peak motivation right now with the emptiness caressing my soul. And the sadness consuming my brain. And the urges I fight with tensed fists and scattered eyes. The anxiety I fight with exercise. The shame I fight with binging. The guilt I fight with restriction. And on it goes.

I love learning, but studying is hard when my entire mental capacity is filled with so much stuff.

Because I’m trying to be less pessimistic (or bitter, or sarcastic, or whatever you want to call it), let’s end with some things that aren’t so fucking awful and emotionally exhausting. It’s autumn over here in the southern blogosphere, and the leaves are so pretty. I didn’t realise how happy autumn made me until the leaves started to shift from green and brown to red and yellow and form heaps on paths and front yards. People find it annoying, but I think it’s beautiful.

Lastly, I’m going to get my next tattoo (I have one already that’s almost 12 months old now) once semester ends. I’m designing it myself based off Rupi Kaur’s illustrations. More on that later. Believe me, the tattoo will be in a post all of it’s own.

Love and hugs and kisses and all that sappy sentimental shit,

Rosie Bogs.

Hatred

It’s been a tough few weeks. It’s been a very tough few weeks. The suicidal thoughts have returned, just as strong as before. I hate this. It’s something I repeat to the friends I reach out to, over and over and over: I hate this. 

I hate not knowing myself, I hate that I can’t seem to control my mood on any given day. Will I be depressed, numb, anxious, lonely, distressed, suicidal, manic – or normal for fucks sake. I’ve kinda forgotten how normal moods work if I’m being totally honest. It’s been a long time. I see glimpses, little fleeting surprises where a moment completely captures my attention and drags me out of the depths of my thoughts, igniting a smile, or maybe I burst out laughing at work from something that popped into my head, that only I can see and understand. Awesome, now they really think I’m crazy.

I do really, completely, hate it.

Most of all, I hate myself.

I hate not fighting back against the bitch that shattered me in high school, the fists she threw, the kicks she landed. I hate the moment that I retaliated, and was punished by the school for physically hurting another student. She was never punished, not even once I revealed the full extent of what she did to me. I hate that I lost my childhood to anorexia, and my adolescence to bulimia, and my adulthood to a fog of suicidality and attempts at medication and hospitalisation and isolation. I hate that I feel like I’ve only ever made wrong decisions, but I know if I hadn’t moved to Sydney, and had stayed where I was, things would probably not have been all that different. In fact, if I hadn’t moved to Sydney, I’d probably be dead already. I hate that I can’t articulate to my therapist the stream of self-deprecation in my head, but I’m perfectly capable of sharing my deepest, darkest, innermost thoughts to strangers on the online international blogging forum. I hate that there’s something inherently wrong with me, that my mental illness(es) are chronic, that I might not ever be fully recovered from years and years of eating disorders. I hate that even though I know how bad certain behaviours are for me, and the damage they cause to myself and everyone who knows me, I continue to engage with them anyway. I hate the scars. The ambivalence. The trial and error. The money I spend on therapy that doesn’t seem to achieve anything.

I hate myself, for everything I’ve done and didn’t do. I hate myself for recovering from anorexia. I hate myself for wishing I hadn’t recovered. I hate myself for developing bulimia in its place. I hate myself for being chronically depressed. I hate the lure of the knife, the prescriptions, the busy road and waves that call to me from afar.

I hate the progress I’ve made, and the distance I have left to cover.

I hate this. I hate feeling this way. I hate it’s unfamiliarity. Mostly though, I guess I just hate myself.