She’s a deep one

In one of the many stories I have written, I describe how a character stitches her own foot close, and the black thread that wobbles across her heel like a tree branch, because she couldn’t stop her hands from shaking as she sewed herself back together again. It’s a chilling detail, but recently I imagined myself doing this. Would it hurt? Would alcohol help? Would it be like in a movie, where the person who stitches themselves back together again are hardcore and had a lot of practice at such a task?

It’s Thursday night as I write, but forty-eight hours ago, I cut. And badly. I went all out. Fat bubbled up from under the skin immediately, and I knew, I just knew, that I’d gone too deep. I poked at it a bit, tried to squish it together with some steri-strips and tape and it popped right back open, more globules of yellow gelatinous tissue spilling from the edges of the wounds. The bleeding was slowing, but nowhere near stopped.

Bugger.

I considered stitching it closed myself, with a needle and thread and no anaesthetic and some vodka to control the shaking.

I was seriously considering it. I don’t do well in emergency departments. The noise – sirens, shouts, moans, alarms – is too much for my hypersensitive soul, and time always dissolves away into a vacuum of dissociation as dark thoughts are compounded by a long wait. I looked at my sewing kit. I looked in the pantry, top shelf, for alcohol – nothing. I looked at the sewing kit again, sighed, and didn’t do it. I exhausted my list of friends to call who could drive me. Eventually one answered. [I probably could have driven myself, but that would have been dangerous, considering I drive manual (aka stick shift) and need both hands.]

It always rains when I go to the emergency department.

Breaths bubbled in my chest, caught between my ribs, as doctors and nurses pass who’ve previously had their hands on me. And then it is my time, and apart from my anaesthetised arm, the rest of my body trembles with anxiety, as the doctor speaks in soothing tones to keep me calm. As always with stitches and blood tests and the like, I watch. I see that crooked branch of black thread form, fascinated by the process. It twists and turns but I’m grateful for their neatness and their smallness. Finally, she pauses between sutures, and asks,

do you want to talk about it?

I say no, but I mean yes, and then the words are bubbling out and she listens intently even as she continues to wipe blood away and jabs more anaesthetic in me (ouch) and then more adrenaline to stop the bleeding and then pulls and pokes and prods with more stitches. I can’t help it. I’m so emotionally exhausted that I lose all control over my feelings. I’m at peak anxiety levels, but this doctor still tries to soothe me. I’m a helpless mess, but this doctor is helping me. I’m a waste of time here, but this doctor took the time to fix me.

She pauses again, and inspects her work,

that shouldn’t scar too badly.

I smile, and weakly remind her of the other scars that traverse the rest of my body, the ones that were never stitched, the ugly, jagged, raised scars – some pink, some white, some grey. A compulsive burst of laughter bubbles out of me, and then tears fall. One after the other. Drops collect on the white sheets beneath me as I fall silent. Not all doctors have treated me with such kindness, not with a notes list full of scary terms like “BPD” and “verbally aggressive” and “sedated” and “self harm”.

Are you certain? she asks. I’m happy to listen.

My heart blooms but my head shakes despite her generosity, and off I go, all stitched up, into the cold, wet night.

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.

Feeling okay makes me not okay

This phrase we’ve accumulated: it’s okay not to be okay, has taken a unique turn in the general shittiness of my life. I’ve discovered that feeling okay, that feeling content, less depressed, more energetic, anything that goes beyond the usual neurotic distress, very quickly makes me not okay. I find it uncomfortable to the point that it becomes just as distressing as all the other urges I suffer through every day.

I can’t handle being okay. I can’t handle ‘happiness’. I don’t even know what that really looks like. Because, for the first time since I was a very, very little girl, I am having good days.

Today was a good day. I slept (properly). I ate breakfast (restricted). I studied. Cycled to the health food store. Studied. Practised yoga. Studied. Did some watercolour. Cooked dinner (deliberately portioned). Had a bath. Watched TV shows that make me smirk. Today was a day that has left me feeling content. But, there it is. That inexplicable sensation. The withdrawal. The beginnings of emptiness spreading outwards from my being, just like ink beginning to curl away on a page.

Why does feeling okay make me feel not okay? I feel so deeply that I am worthless and will always be worthless that I cannot account for these times where I feel okay about myself. Where I might possibly find life. Where I find balance in the things I must do (study) and the things I love (yoga, and art, but also study too tbh).

I don’t understand it. How do people tolerate this feeling of contentment? Is it the same as tolerating anger, when you’re not a borderline well accustomed to the tear of a blade across your own flesh to release it? Is it the same as tolerating anxiety, when you don’t knock hard surfaces so rapidly that the skin of your knuckles tears? It is the same as tolerating euphoria, when you don’t have manic episodes coercing energy through your veins?

Maybe, just as with all the other feelings, I need to stop thinking of them as obstacles that need to be removed. Just as I need to learn to coexist with anger and sadness and distress and anxiety, so too do I need to learn that feeling content is okay. It doesn’t diminish my struggle. It doesn’t weaken my fight. It’s just not something I’m equipped to handle yet, and I guess that for now, that will have to be okay.