Lessons

Just because they say they understand, doesn’t mean they do.

Just because they texts emojis, and kind words, doesn’t mean those sentiments are actually reciprocated.

Just because you’re good at your job, doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of being fired.

I lost my job. This isn’t to say that I’m unemployed, but I lost my consistent
“real” job (I’m still a tutor, after all). I lost my job because I spent time in hospital to ensure I wouldn’t kill myself. And when I returned to work, they told me that my “situation” (i.e. my mental health) made me unreliable, and I was fired, despite being a pretty great employee.

They said they understood; they provided a long sleeve shirt to cover my self-harm scars, they let me take extra breaks if I felt too anxious to continue. But when it came down to the real hard truths of my life with mental illness, they didn’t understand at all.

The first time I called in sick was two days after a suicide attempt. I was an involuntary patient, and couldn’t make my usual Saturday shift. The next time, the time that led to me losing my job, a friend had me admitted so I wouldn’t hurt myself. And I begged her not to take me. Because I just knew that I was going to get fired. She – and the hospital staff – convinced me that my anxious mind was pounding my with impossibilities, and I believed them, and allowed myself to spend time in a safe space.

And then I returned, and my world crashed down around me, and my sense of security and self-confidence were torn away, and I was left crushed and jobless and contemplating death. Work kept me alive. Sometimes, a shift was the reason I woke up the next day.

Even though I could, I’m not going to fight the fact that I lost my job. It’s an unfortunate fact. And even if I could somehow get my job back, why would I want to return to an environment that only provides false understanding?

No; instead I’ll treat this like the lesson that it is.

Some people will insist they understand, when really, they don’t at all.

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.

People keep asking – A Poem

People keep asking me if I’m okay and, quite frankly, I don’t know what to say.

Do I smile as usual, resist the urge to smirk, as if my emotions are connected to my self-worth?

Or do I say what I’m thinking, as I’m collapsing, confess to myself and to them I’m relapsing?

Into what, they wonder, and so do I: into a pit of darkness and eternal night.

People keep asking me for the why and how, as if the ageing of time will trigger memory now.

The latter is easy; a handful, a bottle, onlookers and rescuers I’m tempted to throttle.

The former is blurry; the sarcasm appears, because I’m sure the why is an unresolved fear.

People keep asking, and I continue to refuse, at least until the sensations diffuse.

Inside my soul the incessant itching, the arms and legs constantly twitching.

I can’t help it; I’m distressed, I’m anxious, distraught, for it is only with thoughts of death I am fraught.

Twice now, I’ve survived, barely scraping through. Twice now, I’ve survived, but survival’s nothing new.

Humpty Dumpty

I slipped. I broke down.

I went to emergency, where, just like humpty dumpty, they glued me back together again.

(FYI the glue didn’t hold a day. I was insisting on stitches, but the doctor wouldn’t listen)

I don’t have any words. I don’t know what I’m supposed to write here anymore. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about, it’s more that I feel like I can’t do my feelings justice with times new roman in pt 12.

Returning from the irreversible

There were many things I have told myself I would never do. I never thought I would let myself gain weight, but I have been physically recovered from anorexia for two years now. I never thought I would self harm, but now I have a body covered in the scars of my self-destruction. I never thought I would call myself a suicide attempt survivor, but now that is part of my story too.

I can’t bear to write this elegantly, but eloquence is in my nature. I never thought it would be an unfortunate trait for a writer, until it comes to a topic like this.

It was both eerily calm and satisfying, but horrific and terrifying. There was numbness. There was defeat, as I stared at the stars and listened to the waves; I always said if I was to die, it would be at the beach. Then there were sirens. And a frantic friend. Rough hands, broad shoulders, deep voices and a gurney. 

White walls, unbearably white walls, and a hard chair to sit in, and wait as the overdose kicked in. I began smashing my head against the wall as if that could smash the thoughts from my brain – unsurprisingly this achieved very little. I shouted and screamed and pushed my friend away – all this earned me was heavy sedation. 

The aftermath though. The relentless questions. As if there was a deeper reason behind my suicide attempt. I told them over and over and over, but still they questioned. They didn’t believe. It’s just like always. People don’t ever believe how much power she holds over my still. 

I told them the truth. I told them that I can’t bear to live in this body anymore, that it disgusts me, and there were too many memories in my head from before, and I wanted all of the bullshit to disappear.

Apparently, that answer isn’t good enough.

Some Struggles of Late

Not sleeping. 

Not eating properly. 

Discovering alcohol. Which, as it turns out, makes me 1) not sleep, and 2) suppresses my appetite. So it’s both a problem (because I’m more exhausted than ever) and a solution (because I don’t want to eat anyway).

Self-harming to punish myself for not eating properly and discovering alcohol. My body is scarred. And finally, I look down and there’s a flickering thought that maybe I didn’t deserve that, at least not all of that. But I shake that thought away. I remind myself that I’m a bad person, and I deserve to be punished, and because I’m not strong enough to kill myself, I just need to hurt and desecrate myself as much as possible instead.

Exams. Wow, so before I had like a support system and stuff, because I had nothing else to do with my life, all of my energy – and I mean, all – went to studying. But now, people want to, like, see me because they, apparently, like me, and suddenly I’m not studying as much as I would like, even though it’s still more than almost everyone else I’m comparing myself too. And exams are less than a month away, and sure I’ll be fine, but also I need the best possible marks I can achieve if I’m going to be a doctor at the end of all this, and that means every quiz, every 1% assessment, counts. Why can’t people understand this? I’m a perfectionist. Anything that’s not a high distinction doesn’t count. And if I manage a HD, rather than being proud, I berate myself for that 10%, 7%, 1%, I could have gotten, I should have gotten, if I’d just tried a little harder, stupid piece of shit.

Grades that aren’t high distinctions. Because of the whole perfectionist-needs-perfect-grades-and-by-perfect-I-mean-exactly-100% thing. I got 66% in a tiny assessment last week and it absolutely shattered me. I mean, really and truly shattered. It triggered a week of self-harming and re-instigated that good ol’ restrict-binge-purge cycle that’s so dear to my heart.

Failing friendships. Failing to reach out. Failure.

Struggling to maintain any sense of okay-ness while my head reminds me how fat, ugly, worthless, stupid and useless I am, and always will be. Being unable to get across to others the truth that those adjectives hold to me, and feeling misunderstood as a result.

Waking up and immediately thinking “What a good day to die”. 

Be prepared for a long chat if you ask how things have been lately. Maybe get an ambulance on standby too.

(This post practically oozes with anger, isn’t it delicious?)

Whoops, guess what I discovered?

Alcohol.

In that single word I can see all of the mistakes I’ve made in under a month. I have been sober my entire life, despite growing up in a town with a heavy drinking culture, despite desperately wanting to fit in at university where it seems damaging your liver remains the best way to stay cool, and despite all my emotional upheaval, I have never had a drink. Until the past three weeks.

It started with the bottle of wine I drunk sort-of-not-quite accidentally while making risotto. The day after it was a few too many glasses with friends to squash my anxiety. Then last week, it was three beers and two cocktails in an attempt to drown the thoughts in my head the way they portray it in movies.

I discovered it doesn’t work that way. Because 18 hours after getting the most intoxicated I’ve ever been in my life, I found myself in a very unsafe place, having some very dangerous thoughts, making plans, and eventually standing in a friend’s kitchen with a knife in my hand, unable to resist it’s insatiable pull. So off to the psych ward I went.

(Just on that note, I’m discharged now. No, I’m not okay. It was only for a few days – it’s only a short stay unit because the acute ward in my local public hospital has a pretty bad rep for young people. But yay, freedom and stuff)

Anyway, I get addicted to things. I got addicted to exercise, and to dieting, and to calorie counting. I’m addicted to impulsivity and bad decisions and spontaneity at all the wrong times. I’m addicted to hurting myself, and I’m addicted to replacing old coping mechanisms with new ones. Because learning to self harm less means I need another self-destructive behaviour in its wake. So I guess that’s what I was seeking when I finished the bottle, when I felt myself getting lost in hot cheeks and fatigue and agitation all at the same time.

The weirdest thing though is that alcohol seems to exhaust me, yet it also makes me insomniac? Probably a med interplay that I’m electing to ignore. I don’t want to think about the meds. I’ll just take them anyway and hope for the best and wish I was strong enough to gulp down an extra handful.

So here I am on another not-drunken but very-regretful sleepless night, starting a puzzle at 2 am with a massive pot of tea and soundscapes to keep me company.