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?)

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.

 

 

Here it Comes

It’s happening as I check this label one more time, just in case I was wrong. It’s happening as I add and subtract endlessly in my head, always overcompensating just to be safe. It’s happening as I consider the lowest carb, lowest fat meal I can construct from the vegetables in my fridge. It’s happening as I step on and off the scales because they’re lying to me again. Why are they always lying to me? It’s happening as I pinch my sides and glance at my thighs as I pass by windows. It’s happening as I fast the time away, as I run, as I cycle, as I shake from exhaustion and low blood sugar, and feel the familiar dizziness of low blood pressure take hold. It’s in the lies and the fake smiles and the dim eyes and dark circles. It’s in that haunted tilt of the head as I eavesdrop – are they talking about me? It’s because I weighed more today, isn’t it? They can see it. They’re staring, they can see it. They’re gossiping about it. They can see it. I knew it. I knew it too. I told you. I told you they would notice. You need to try harder. You need to eat less. You need to exercise more. You need to do better. 

Isn’t it funny, how fast a relapse can take hold? How quickly this disorder latches on to a moment of stress, a moment of weakness and of sickness, and turns it into an opportunity?

Here I am, noticing the relapse begin to unfold, the patterns begin to set themselves in place, yet I feel powerless to stop it.

Or maybe I just don’t want to.

Starvation: the all-too familiar sensation

This sensation claws at my chest, crawls inside my belly, and shivers beneath my hands, an internal shaking that I cannot cease. It’s relentless, and stronger than my heartbeat, stronger than every intake of breath. Clinging to counter tops, resting on chairs, nodding the wooziness away, headaches and brain fog and heart murmurs that don’t recede, and an overwhelming exhaustion, fatigue deeper than my flesh – this is the sensation of starvation.

It returns to me, like an old friend that I once cherished, and parted ways with. Alas, this friend returned without invitation, without so much as a warning, and has squeezed her way back into my life. Ana returns, gnawing at my sides like the growling of my belly. She whispers to me, how much better these jeans would look if you were thinner. How much more they would appreciate you, if you were thinner. How much more they would notice you, if only. you. were thinner.

She whispers to me, praises me, for what I have done. This is how it’s supposed to be, she says. It’s supposed to be constant. Can’t you feel the weight slipping? Can’t you feel that I’m winning? 

And every time she whispers these words, that voice only grows, and multiplies. It only takes a small stumble to lose yourself in a crevasse.

But you need to be exercising as well, she adds. It’s not enough to be hungry before eating again, but you need to be beyond hungry, you need to be starving. 

It’s been a long time since I’ve restricted quite so severely, and for this long. It is both familiar and unwanted. These pathways – the starvation pathways, the rituals and routines and obsessions – were fixed for five years. They are not difficult to find myself slipping back into.

And I can’t even bring myself to care.

I miss my eating disorder – my real eating disorder, not this disgusting bulimia that has taken it’s place. I miss bones and my old body and I miss being thin. I miss the call of death, the oh so close call of death. I miss Ana. I miss anorexia.

There are lots of aspects to this monster that I don’t miss, the things that I couldn’t bear to return to, the things that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody. But I’m ignoring them. My judgement is clouded by her, and her only.

Because if I just listened, Ana would make things right.

So this will continue. And my pants will continue to loosen. My bones will continue to re-emerge. Finally, she will return, starvation will return, and everything will be okay again, because everything will finally be right.

The Family Effect

To be perfectly honest, I have been under such a firm hold of dissociation that I can’t remember whether I already wrote about this or not.

Just before my nineteenth birthday, I almost killed myself. As in, the only reason I am alive today is because of one person who believes in me enough and trusts me enough to actually take every word I say seriously. Unlike countless psychiatrists in the emergency departments of various hospitals, and unlike doctors who don’t believe the severity of my mental illness(es), she understood. She knew that I was serious. That I was on the edge. I had shared my plan with her, and she listened. I shared my hope to die with her, and she saved me. I shared the ugliest parts of myself at my most vulnerable, and she still protected me from myself. This person saved my life.

It’s been about three weeks since that night. It’s been a rough three weeks of self-harming, eating disorder behaviours and dissociaton. It’s been rough visiting my family and having to keep all of this bottled up because mental health is taboo in this house, and we hold only shallow, superficial conversations. This is the problem. 

The problem is, that I can’t discuss suicide with the people who are supposed to be my biggest supports. Who are, for some / most people, their biggest supports. I don’t have that support. I cannot share anything about suicidality, self-harming, anxiety, or my eating disorder with either of my siblings, nor with my parents, nor with any other extended member of my family. The closest we ever come to a conversation about mental health is if I mention I am feeling particularly “down”. Sometimes, even this has no effect. It’s hard to be under the same roof as people who don’t understand me. It’s hard to return to an environment I deliberately isolated  myself from by moving interstate. And it’s an environment I’m not sure I can return to.

When I lived at home, I tried and tried and tried. I suppressed and suppressed and suppressed. I got sicker and sicker and sicker. All the signs were there, all the clues were laid out like the map of scars across my body, yet still, my family couldn’t acknowledge, and wouldn’t accept, my mental health.

They won’t accept that BPD exists. That I had anorexia for seven years. That I was bullied so severely during high school that I developed PTSD – and had the strength to recover from it. That I take medication for bipolar disorder and depression. That I avoid certain things like loud noises because of anxiety and panic attacks. They don’t understand.

And it affects me intensely. In every text, every phone call, every video chat and every visit. There is a subtle undertone of the unspoken, of things never seen nor heard about, and a tinge of disgust. Are they disgusted by me? By my brain, which can simultaneously think in hundreds of parallel directions, doing calculations and problem solving and applying logic, yet is inherently faulty and damaged? It’s as if my own faultiness, is my own fault.

The very fact that this is a belief deeply ingrained into my person reminds me of the family effect. Of the effect my family has on me. I wish I could say it were a positive one, but I’m not one to leave things unsaid. To my family, who are unaware even that this blog exists, I am not sorry. I am not ashamed. I am Rosie, and I am the same person before and after I reveal my struggles with mental illness to you. I am Rosie despite the scars traversing my wrists and thighs and forearms. I am Rosie despite the medication and hospitalisation and therapy. I am still me, even when that’s not good enough for you. I possess a superpower called The Rosie Effect, and it is the antidote for The Family Effect.