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.

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.

Anxious Human Here (4.0)

Turns out, there’s still plenty on my mind. Here are some of the things that are making me anxious:

People on buses who sit too close, whose clothing brushes against mine. People on buses who cough, or sneeze, or rub their hands against the seat, or avoid sitting next to me when I’m wearing short sleeves (because they must be looking at my scars, why else would they choose to stand?). Buses which are late. Running late because of late buses. Running late. Lateness in general.

Trying to figure out if I have OCD because I pick at my skin and pick at my pimples and scratch my body when I’m in distress. Picking at fluff and dust and hair on clothing when there’s nothing really there as a coping mechanism for thoughts racing through my head. Different thoughts to normal anxious thoughts about being late and exams and study and my appearance and social situations, which just make me frantic and worried and panicked. Are these coping mechanisms really disproportionate? Are they in response to intrusive thoughts? I have always been obsessive and sometimes compulsive but they don’t necessarily follow on from each other so is that the same thing as having OCD? I don’t know.

Visiting home. Seeing my parents. Seeing my sister. My sister and my parents seeing my scars. Seeing their reactions. Potentially opening up to my sister, who I have never spoken to about my mental health struggles. It will go wrong. It always goes wrong. It will be my fault because nobody likes me and everything is my fault because I’m a failure.

Going to emergency for a self harm wound which I thought needed stitches but apparently didn’t and now it looks infected and I’m not sure what to do about it, but the doctor said it was fine so it must be fine, right? It looked deep to me. Deeper than usual. Does my opinion count for anything or nothing or is this just an example of splitting where I can only self-harm superficially or so severely that it kills me? Is splitting one of my BPD traits or a facet of my eating disorder or is it normal? The nurses and doctors and psychiatrist on call must think I’m a burden. I’m always a burden. Why am I such a burden to everyone around me? If I had taken the opportunity to go deeper, in a different spot, a little lower down, right about the artery that I learned about in physiology, then I could have bled out just like I wanted. Just a little deeper. Just a little sharper. Just a little more dead. Why am I always so stupid. 

Something is eating the house plants. The indoor house plants.

I need to clean the floor. Doing yoga in the lounge revealed to me just how much dust there was. But if I clean my housemate will notice and that might make her feel weird. I also want to do her dishes but maybe that will make her feel weird too. Does she think I’m a clean freak or have that stereotypical portrayal of OCD that revolves around hand sanitiser and cleanliness and neat organisation that can be observed simply by comparing her fridge and pantry shelves to my own.

I wasn’t supposed to eat today but then I did and I can’t remember how many crackers I’ve eaten and that’s important because I need to burn them off and I can’t do that if I don’t know how many there was because then the calorie count will be off. Instead I must overcompensate regardless, and not eat afterwards, because that’s how weight loss works. I worry this will only cause me to binge, and then to restrict, and then the whole fucking bulimic cycle will continue.

Not only am I struggling with intrusive suicidal thoughts, the intrusive anxious thoughts are also very loud.

Anxious human is done now.

But to see some other things I get anxious about, here’s part one, two and three.

Whispers – please don’t go

The Verge Becomes The Edge

I don’t generally include trigger warnings on my blog posts, but as a forewarning, this post deals pretty explicitly with suicide and suicidal ideation. You know yourself. If this isn’t a safe topic for you, please don’t read on.

It started on Wednesday. I say that’s when it started, but of course it’s difficult to know for sure. In fact, this breakdown wasn’t unprecedented. I was expecting it.

So, it started on Wednesday. I’m not sure why this particular Wednesday was difficult. It just felt bad. I felt bad. The sort of negativity and numbness and self-hatred that I have come to recognise as signalling the distress which will soon follow. It’s a whole new realm of emotional dysregulation. It’s own category of sadness and despair and hopelessness and regret. Memories were pursuing me as strongly as ever, laying a trap which would become impossible to escape, threads of triggers tying me down and rendering me hopeless and defenceless. The torrent of memories and past failings and present failings and future failings brought with it a torrent of anxiety, and finally, a need to suppress that.

So I binged. And binged. And binged. And binged.

And I curled up in bed, and the dark thoughts consumed me.

On Thursday, I made a plan. I went to work. I bought blades on my break. I intended to slash my wrists at the end of the shift. I would do it at the beach. I would do it at the beach because the beach is the only real home I’ve ever had.

I was no longer treading the edge of the precipice, no longer dancing around pieces of facade crumbling around me. No; I was submerged between the cliff and the river, I was dangling, I was unsafe.

And I kept repeating the same things, over and over and over.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this anymore. Please don’t make me do this anymore. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.

A friend picked me up at the end of the shift, and she saved my life.

We didn’t go to hospital. Because my values have always been fucked up, and even though I have never felt so utterly worthless as I did in that moment where I collapsed in her arms in her parent’s lounge room, sobbing uncontrollably, inconsolable and in my darkest place yet, I knew that I couldn’t go to hospital because I had an exam on Saturday.

I didn’t kill myself because of an exam. 

I think I seriously need to re-evaluate my life.

Anyway. I got through Thursday night.

And on Friday, the suicidality returned with a vengeance. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About the knives and the scissors in my friend’s house. About the busy road a short walk away. About the nearby bridge I could slip off. About the fucking knives. About the knives. About the knives. About the knives.

And I melted. I melted again, for the second time. I can’t remember what happened that desolate soulless Friday night. This isn’t uncommon for me. I know there were memories being regurgitated, but that’s not what truly triggered the distress. I know that I was trying to hide my tears, and my face, and my shame. I know that I was lying on my back, dissociating, crying, and someone touched me, and it was triggering, and I started sobbing, and curled up and wanted to scream and run away and act on my plans. In that moment, I was more suicidal than I have ever been before.

And then, I slept.

I slept it away.

I sat my exam. I made a safety pact. I went home.

And I have taken a step back from the precipice. It still lingers there, in my periphery. It still glistens in the distance, in the charming disguise of “an out”. An end. An escape. But it’s fading again. And sometime soon, I hope to be okay again.

On The Verge

The emotions pile on and on and on. Anger and frustration and sadness and anxiety and stress and fear. On and on and on am I swathed in irresistible urges to hurt myself, to binge, to cut, to do something worse. On and on and on it goes. It’s an endless hurt mapped by scars and stretch marks and bones and harsh memories that hide in the dark recesses of my brain where nobody will find them, because they’re too dark even for me, and the best way to deal with all the bad stuff is to suppress it.

On and on and on I repeat myself. I hate this. I can’t do this. I hate this. I’m never going to get better. I’m a failure. I’m worthless. I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m stupid. I’m a failure. I’m worthless and fat and ugly and I deserve to die. Kill me.

I hate this.

I can feel it deep within my soul: I’m on the verge of a breakdown. I’m reaching the point where I snap, the point of no return, where stomachs become concave and bones appear in new places and the muscle I worked so hard to rebuild fades away against a backdrop of malnutrition and starvation. Ana calls to me, louder, murmurs become shouts that are impossible to block out.

Just breathe, they say, as if it’s easy.

Just don’t, they say, as if it’s possible to just get out of bed on the difficult days, to just stop myself from cutting, to just eat, or to just stop binging – to just get better.

It’s not fucking easy.

And as I lay here, alone in the dim light of my laptop with the faint noise of the highway that reduces our rent, and the sound of my housemate watching Netflix in the next room over, I wish I could cry, but I can’t. I want to scream, but I can’t. I want to burn something or punch something or run into traffic or just run and keep running, into the cars or into the ocean or into the night and just. keep. running.

I’m on the verge.

My toes dangle over the precipice between the facade I uphold, and the other side. Chunks of facade are falling away like rock on a shaky cliff face. Each time my toes dangle further over the edge, and I am closer to falling.

The breakdown is coming. I can feel it.

My Self-Harm Story

The first time I hurt myself I was sixteen. I used a pin, and scratched the part of my body I despised the most at the time – my hips. I blamed myself for my brother’s cancer diagnosis. I blamed myself for the shouting that accompanied his move back in with my parents. I blamed myself for the failures I encountered daily, for every small mistake I made – the flickering in people’s eyes when I made social errors, the disappointment from teachers when I got B’s instead of A’s, and the isolation I felt no matter where I went. I didn’t feel safe anywhere. Not at school, where I was bullied incessantly. Not at home, where there was shouting constantly. And there was nowhere else for me to escape to except the beach, where I didn’t feel safe because of strangers, and suicidal ideation, and hypothermia from being so underweight.

I might have lost anorexia, but self-harm filled that space. It served the same needs. It has the same purpose.

The first time, I was angry at myself. I had made a promise to myself that I would never follow in the footsteps of my friends (friends who had by this time stopped self-harming), and scar my body. They told me it was addicting, but I didn’t believe them. The next time I hurt myself, I was angry at my parents. For ignoring me, for not believing me, for neglecting me. I took a pair of nail clippers and I slashed my calves. The time after that, I used a pair of surgical scissors stolen from my mum’s nursing office at the hospital.

Then, I turned to more dangerous implements. The typical ones. What started out as an immediate release for anger and rage became a coping mechanism for any emotion at all. If I was numb, I hurt myself to feel something. Sad, I hurt myself to focus on the pain. Angry, I hurt myself to find relief. Dissociating, I hurt myself to feel real. Worthless, I hurt myself to be punished.

What began as small, localised scars that soon faded, became deeper, more dangerous wounds. And I clutched them tightly to my chest, like memories I needed to cherish. The thing about a starved brain is that it will do everything it can to conserve energy. It will divert energy from memory-making to keeping your heart beating, and that’s it. So there are spaces in my mind, years, where I have no memories. It’s black. The only points of reference are the first time I cut, and the last time I cut before moving out of home, and the lies I told my family when they asked.

After that I move to Sydney, and it becomes a blur. A monthly release becomes a daily habit. Single scars on single limbs become messy thighs. I always hurt the parts of myself I hate the most. And I always need a clean space. So once the thighs have been filled, I move on. The wrists are next, so that people can finally see how much pain I was in. Look, I invited, when I didn’t try to hide my wounds, look and help me. For fuck’s sake, help me.

I was told that self-harm was an addiction, but never did I think it would become a desire. It went from being something I needed to do in order to cope, to a way to punish myself, to the only reliable part of my existence I could count on to keep me from falling apart. I have self-harmed at home, crying on the carpet. I have self-harmed at work, hiding from coworkers. I have self-harmed in psych wards using earrings or my fingernails. I have hurt myself inside and out. The wounds were external, and the scars are external, but the pain remains internal. The shame is internal.

The last time I hurt myself was yesterday. Ana was screaming at me – you ate too much you fat pig. where are your bones. where are your bones stupid girl. where are your bones because there are no bones anymore. I had binged, and I’m not allowed to do that. I convince myself beforehand that it will make me feel better, but it never does. Neither does hurting myself.

Hurting myself also doesn’t silence Ana, and it doesn’t silence the thoughts inside my own head, but it does satisfy a need. It serves a purpose. It helps. I know it’s bad for me, but it helps.

It helps.

Anxious Human Here (3.0)

It’s me again, your regular anxious Rosie. Here are the things that are making me anxious:

Do people even like me, or are they just pretending? My colleagues laugh, but is it with me, or at me? I sing aloud as I slice bread; do they think that it’s weird? Are they pretending to like me to get close to me, because they need my help with something, or to pass off the bad jobs to me, and once they’re done with me, they’ll toss me aside for another person to play with? Is my housemate pretending to like me, when she nods at my sarcasm with a smirk plastered on her lips mirroring mine? Is she pretending when I ask her what she’s been up to, and seems genuinely happy when she answers? I wonder, does she notice. Does she take note of the scars. The odd eating habits. The isolation in my room. The declining of invitations to go out, to eat together, to ‘bond’. I worry, yes she does.

I have exams starting next week. I have taken on too much tutoring, and there’s very little time for myself. On the other hand, it’s nice to finally have money. I can’t spend it though, because what if something bad happens? If it’s not a necessity I don’t need it. I don’t deserve it. I don’t want it anymore, even though the cute cable knit sweater caught my eye, or the boho backpack, or the fresh bundles of flowers with exotic scents calling my name, or the smell of incense drifting from fair trade hippy grocers, and bath salts from the candle stores. What if I spend my money on nice things, and then something bad happens? I don’t deserve nice things. I don’t deserve self care. And besides, shopping is just another thing to be anxious over. I worry about my finances, even when they’re fine. I worry about my grades, even when they are so beyond fine I don’t need to study at all.

My final grades for second year semester one will be good, but not good enough, because nothing is good enough for a perfectionist. A perfectionist with depression must force people to believe that the sadness is strong. An intelligent perfectionist with depression must force people to see past the grades that act as a mask and ask what the purpose of studying is. My grades are inversely proportional to my mental health, but why doesn’t anyone believe that? Why can’t I be smart, and suffering? Why can’t people see beyond the facade of non-failure and see the anxiety hidden beneath high distinctions? I worry nobody will care to ask until I crumble inward into another mental breakdown.

My nose won’t stop trickling. I want it to stop. People must hate the way I sniff. It’s so loud. I can’t touch the poles on the bus because then I might get sicker. I can’t touch the buttons on the pedestrian crossing because then I might die. I can’t touch the sponges on the kitchen sink unless the water is hot and they’re soaked in soap because that sponge could kill me too. I worry that I have OCD, because I think everything could contaminate me.

The smell of soup is comforting, but I want to have a bath as it boils, and what if it boils over and catches fire and I burn down our apartment building. I want to have a bath to take my mind off the study and the sadness brewing behind my eyes like a nasty headache, but seeing the fresh scars – even though I put them there, even though I needed them at the time – will be triggering. I’m not ready to explore anything. It will make me think of sinking beneath the hot water, the scalding water, because I need my skin to blister and crinkle and buckle, and letting go of my breath as I gulp in the scented water. If I light candles while I soak, what if something catches fire? I’ve always been a cutter, but maybe I should try burning. Just a little. Just a touch. Do I really need more scars? I worry about being judged.

Do I want my next tattoo on my left arm, as I had planned, or my right, where the skin is un-puckered? Am I ready to bare my scarred arm to a stranger, as they decorate my messy flesh with permanent art? Having art on my left arm might draw attention to my scars; having it on my right might detract from them – good. If I get it on my left, I can’t show my parents. Or anybody. I worry about the efficacy of a tattoo to keep me safe.

It’s going to rain. It’s trickling down the windows where the black, possibly poisonous dust collects. I like to dry my washing in the sunshine, but there is no sunshine today. I worry about doing my washing so frequently and other people in my building seeing me go up and down the stairs.

My body hurts. My meds are being increased. My moods aren’t stabilising. My eating disorder is taking control while I’m unwell. If I lose weight while unwell that might be the spark I need to ignite a relapse which is scary but not unprecedented – and maybe even welcomed. My brain hurts from studying and suppressing emotions. My heart hurts. I feel heavy. I worry about the adjective “atypical”.

I’m going to have a bath while I boil soup and light candles and continue to be an anxious human despite it all, and my brain will continue to hurt as the same thoughts circulate through my cerebral cortex, and my sympathetic system will respond to the absent stimulus and cause fear and the familiar sensations of panic will consume me. I worry that I make things up. That it’s all in my head – but where else would you expect to find it? It’s a mental illness.

But it’s all okay. Because I have anxiety. And I’m an anxious human. And everything will be okay in the end, because if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.

Everything will be okay in the end.

It’s not okay.

So it can’t be the end.

Anxious human is done now.