Detained.

I don’t recommend drinking cough syrup with suicidal intent. Not because it tastes bad, but because respiratory depression is a rarer side effect than they make out.

Things have been hard again lately. For the first time maybe ever, I thought I might actually been happy – that’s why the blog posts dropped off for a bit there: things were going quite well for me.

But then Ana got loud again. So loud in fact, that I was coerced into suicide attempt number three, which I (obviously) survived. The trigger? I ate some chips, and I’m not allowed to do that, so I had to be punished for breaking the rules, and Ana decided that enough is enough, fat stupid bitch, time to be punished for good. So off we went to the pharmacy, a lie slipping slyly from my lips that my housemate had requested I buy her cough syrup containing a codeine-derivative for her persistent dry cough which she has had for many weeks. Lol, no. I downed it all along with a few beers.

I found myself in the emergency department once again. This time, my therapist had called, and sensing something was off, told me I could either walk the short distance from my university campus to the local hospital, or the police could find me and drag me there. I choose the former: I will never forget the utter violation of being restrained. The chorus I repeated over and over fell on ears that refused to listen: I’d like to leave please. (While Ana whispers, yes, so we can try again, and better. Let’s go home to do it again, and better, because you deserve to be dead). Suffice to say, they were practically the only five words I uttered to the emergency psychiatric team who first interviewed me. Apparently, that was enough for me to be scheduled for admission, and detained involuntarily.

What a fucking mess I’ve made.

Considering my determination to self-harm in this small emergency psychiatric unit, I’m surprised I wasn’t sent somewhere worse, or at the very least subject to seclusion briefly. Three times I reopened recently sutured self-harm wounds with a plastic knife. Countless times I threw my body against the wall, in an attempt to relieve some of the pain generated by the thoughts in my head. I wanted to turn my head into a watermelon – the smashed kind, where grey and white matter dribbled down the sterile walls like the fruit dropped on the floor.

I’ve been released now – not discharged, released. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think or feel or do. Am I supposed to be sad? Or is it the opposite – am I meant to be glad that I woke to face another day?

This admission, I learned that when involuntarily detained, the doctor still retains the right to speak to my parents, even though I always always specifically nominate they be excluded from my care. After all, they do live on the opposite side of the country. And, after all, BPD doesn’t exist to them. I guess them finding out I still struggle is a good enough reason to stay out of hospital from now on – or at least, if there is a next time, which there no doubt will be, I need to lie my way to a voluntary admission.

I’m clutching on tight to my laptop, a good book, and two journals as I attempt to return to my mockery of a life. Three weeks until exams. Three weeks until I can try again.

Declined

M, yeah, not much I can do with this, sorry.

Aren’t discriminatory doctors the absolute worst?

They see me as three letters, as my abbreviation; they see me as the negative adjectives in my notes, in the words “aggressive” and “sedated” and “self-inflicted”.

They don’t see me for what I am: hurting, and in need of help.

This is not true of all doctors, but sadly, it is very true to some. I had a rough night yesterday (Thursday). I contemplated whether or not I needed to go to hospital for my cuts, because I didn’t want to wait and wait and wait only to be turned away and told there was nothing the doctor could do about them. I spoke to a friend who is studying medicine. I spoke to a friend’s mum who is a doctor. I used my own very limited knowledge of wound care and The Internet to figure out that yeah, it was pretty deep, and yeah, it probably wouldn’t heal nicely without stitches.

That’ll heal on it’s own.

Look, I get that I put these wounds on my body, I get that I did this to myself, but do you think I like the scars? Do you honestly believe that in one, two, five or ten years, that ragged wound that you left hanging open will have healed nicely?

I don’t think so.

I think that you’ve been caught in stigma without even realising. I think I’ve been unlucky this night. I think you, the doctor delegated to me, doesn’t understand my condition very well – if at all – and I think your punishing me for punishing myself. You just poked and prodded me, turned my wrist over, checked both arms just in case, then dropped it back at my side. You didn’t even clean it. You didn’t even dress it. You just sent me away again.

This is one of the reasons, the strongest reason, why I wanted to study medicine. Because what happened to me in the emergency department is not okay. It is not okay to treat me as a diagnosis, and not as a patient. It is not okay to fail to offer me adequate care just because my wounds are self-inflicted.

I don’t care what you say; what you did was not okay.

And every time a doctor like you succumbs to the stigma, it makes going to the hospital that much harder. It makes seeking help that much harder. It makes the lives of people like me, of us borderlines, but also of everybody else suffering from a mental illness who needs medical attention, that much harder.

We don’t need that. We don’t need to be rejected more than we have been by our friends, family and colleagues. We don’t need our traumas regurgitated by your invalidation and stigmatisation. We don’t need to be afraid of going to hospital, when the hospital is supposed to be there to care for us, no matter what condition has brought us there. We don’t need any more difficulties piled on top of all the other ones we face, every single fucking day. We don’t need you.

We need your compassion. Your care. Your empathy.

We need to be treated like people, not like letters. We need to be treated like any other patient. And maybe if you got talking to me, like other doctors and nurses sometimes have, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll see we aren’t the Big Bad Borderlines you’ve let yourself believe we are.

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.

Broken streaks and bloodied sheets

I was able to go five weeks without self harming. It would have been 35 days tonight.

35 days of urges. 35 days of urge surfing. 35 days of ignoring the buzz of sharps calling me from afar, from the kitchen, from my desk, from the toolbox.

It would have been 35 days if it weren’t for tonight.

I am still addicted to self harm. I still hurt myself badly – deeply, the kind of deep that goes beyond the first few layers of skin and exposes that white bubbly fatty flesh beneath – and think this isn’t good enough. I hurt myself and the voice in my head, the Ana in my head, she cries you deserve to hurt worse than this. It would have been 35 days tonight, except now my thigh is bleeding through layers of bandage because that voice, that pesky little voice, she said this isn’t enough.

Because no matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough for Ana.

I don’t know what triggered me to break my streak. Once I got to 20 days clean it was easy motivation to stay clean. I reached a month, and was hopeful I had proven to myself I could reach three months clean, which was my next goal. Until today, when a few triggering conversations at work – I’m a pharmacy assistant – sent things crashing down around me:

The pharmacist mentions things as we work. Things I don’t want to know about our customers, even though they’re regulars, even though it’s important I understand their conditions and circumstances. He says, this girl, she stays stick thin despite all that seroquel, and all that lithium. He says, she used to have anorexia, poor darl.

And I want to scream. I want to scream SO DID I. I want to shout it from the rooftops until people start to listen. I want to bear my scars and my soul and these freshly puckered wounds I’ve carved into my flesh and I want to scream look at how I struggle. There is no ‘used to’ about this.

I used to be underweight. I used to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. I used to be bullied. I used to live in a devastatingly invalidating environment.

But there is nothing used to about my eating disorder, about the classic binge purge type of anorexia that enveloped my childhood. There is no ‘used to’, not for me.

Starving myself is a steady state, an algorithm that I cannot perfect the way I used to, but a formula none the less. In must equal out. Hunger is good, fullness is bad. In must equal out. Hunger is good. Hunger is good. Hunger is good.

There’s no train to my thoughts here, only the roaring train I want to leap in front of because I’ve failed. Once again, I’ve failed. And here we are again, nestled beneath blood-stained sheets that seep through to my mattress, with open flesh ready to add to the mess. There is nothing ‘used to’ about my journey.

I used to struggle. And I do struggle. I used to suffer from anorexia, and I still starve myself.

I used to listen to the voice in my head, and I still do. I still listen. Because trying to fight her, trying to win that losing battle, will only cause me more pain than the knives I take to my flesh in desperation. It’s a blood sacrifice; only blood will suffice. Only blood will subdue her. Only the punishment I deserve, the relief to the urges; that’s the only way I can quieten her.

The only thing louder than Ana is the grumble of my empty stomach.

A Surge of Urges

The urges rattle my bones as if there were an earthquake beneath my skin. Clenched fists hang at my sides as if the harder I press my fingernails into my palms, the easier it will be to win this fight. The thought consumes me: to cut or not to cut?

That is the only question. There is no alternative that rises in my mind despite the DBT skills that I’m supposed to apply at times like these. What’s the point? What’s one more scar? Or two? Or a smattering?

As usual, the trigger is food. Not the good food that I’m supposed to nourish my body with, my temple of a body, but the naughty, banned, bad foods that Ana forbids me to eat. Sugar coats my lips and fat sings as it touches my tastebuds.

I’m binging. I’ve binged.

I dissociate, and it’s over.

I sit on the floor, slumped, surrounded by crumbs and packaging. I don’t remember buying the bad foods, I avoid doing so for this exact reason, yet here we are anyway. I have failed.

And failure requires punishment.

I can hear the sharps vibrating nearby; they call to me. The stainless steel sings. I try not to listen, but these tools are like sirens and it is inevitable that I give in.

I do.

Red scatters across my skin, warm, but painless. I see beyond the first layer – that pesky epidermis – and I go further. I see the fat below the skin, and my hand lingers. My weapon lingers. Do I dare go a little deeper? It’s not good enough, she whispers. It’s not deep enough. You haven’t done it properly, you’ve just failed at something else. Do it again. 

I try not to listen but before I know it red has been flicked across the carpet and my sheets, and trickles down my thighs and my fingertips. I groan, and rest my head in my hands.

These pesky urges.

They just won’t leave me alone.

Dear body, can we be friends?

It took a deep breath and sighed, I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.

Slowly, slowly, I begin to reclaim my body. I reveal my scars in short sleeves and shorts, and I hide them beneath floral tattoos and deep quotes. Slowly, slowly, I am learning to define myself beyond my mental illness, beyond what others expect of me. I am learning to be me again.

It feels good.

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.