That thing I never talk about

When I was in high school, I went through several severe stressors all at roughly the same time.

First, I was already suffering from anorexia nervosa, which isn’t exactly a great way to kick things off. Then I was bullied incessantly. And by incessantly, well fuck. I was physically and verbally abused every single day, from 8 until 3, and sometimes for even longer because of these magical little objects called mobile phones, and I withdrew further and further into myself the more she hit me and called me names. I felt helpless, and by helpless, I mean that no one helped me. I was hopeless, and by that I mean death seemed the only solution. And don’t let me forget to mention the fact that I was blamed for bullying her, after hitting her once on the thigh of all damn places, after she had been taunting me for months already. Don’t sit here, she would scream. Bitches can’t sit here. Don’t look at me you fucking bitch, bitch bitch bitch bitch. And that’s how I lost all my friends. ‘Cause you know, I had so many to begin with. Oh, and after that, my brother got cancer, and I started cutting, and the words “guardian invalidation” became my biggest trigger, and I got diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and a whole plethora of problems I knew I had but didn’t want to face including comorbid major depression, generalised anxiety, anorexia and bulimia. But because of the bullying, and this basis of self-abuse I had already sparked in myself via starvation, I developed this fun little thing called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What a scary set of syllables.

I knew what I was experiencing. I absolutely, 100% knew that experiencing nightmares and flashbacks by hearing a word or visiting a space was called “recollection”. I knew that isolating myself, and deadening myself to all emotion, was something called “avoidance”. I knew that I was hypervigilant, and terrified. But to hear my doctor say those eight syllables aloud – to me, a fourteen year old – was a shock. Like I had been electrified. Like, fuck, not only am I dealing with all this other bullshit in my life, but now my trauma can be equated to experiencing war and torture?

And the stupid, most fucked-up thing of all is that once this special diagnosis was dumped on me, after which my life continued to spiral out of control, not a single thing changed. I didn’t start therapy. I wasn’t medicated. The fucking school I went to didn’t change a single fucking thing.

I’m coming to realise how fucked up this all is. Today, of all days, when I’m studying stress and PTSD and the management of anxiety disorders for a neuroscience exam at university. Because where else would I learn more about a condition that intruded into my life and then was just wiped away, like a coffee stain on a countertop, never to be mentioned again, because apparently I wasn’t traumatised enough or some bullshit. It appeared in my medical record, and then it didn’t. That’s some fucked up shit. Surprise yes, just because I’ve gained weight now, my eating disorder hasn’t disappeared, and surprise, yes, just because the source of my trauma is no longer around doesn’t mean that the post traumatic stress part goes along with her. 

I’m ranting.

I’m sorry.

I’m honestly enjoying myself. It feels good. It feels good to relive hurt, when you’re being constantly reminded you’re not supposed to be hurting yourself anymore. There’s more than one way to self harm. There’s more than one way.

This is that thing I never talk about, and it feels good to get it out.

 

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.

 

Bearing My Battle Scars Before I Am Ready

Aside from running an Etsy store, tutoring high school students, and pouring my heart out on this website, I also work in a bakery. Which requires me to wear short sleeves.

I have scars. They are battle scars. Some people don’t like to call them such, but I’m fighting a hard fucking battle, it’s given me scars, so thus, they are battle scars. And yes, even though I did this to myself, I am ashamed of them.

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I am ashamed of them, but not ashamed because of them. I’m ashamed of the stares, glares and glances. The whispers, murmurs and mutters. I’m ashamed of a society that prefers to gossip about mental illness, than sensitively ask questions.

I would rather be asked “are you okay?”, than stared at. I would rather respond “not really”, than feel guilt and anxiety over the only coping mechanism that really works for me. I would rather people talk about my scars openly, and in front of me, than behind my back and closed doors and whispers and vicious murmurs. Sometimes I selfishly hope that people will ask me about them. I don’t self harm for attention – not at all. It’s for punishment, and pain I deserve mostly, and an emotional release. But still, there’s that little mutter (the BPD mutter) in the back of my mind that says ‘if they see them they’ll think you’re brave, and strong, and worthy’. Which is just another lie my illness feeds me. Because I don’t feel brave, or strong, or any semblance of self worth at all. I feel shame.

I am so ashamed of my scars that I refuse to wear shorts around my family. Which I guess is a little strange, considering that actually produces more anxiety than wearing a bikini to the beach (despite the eating disorder and body image issues – which I think is because the beach is my happy place).

The first time I went to the ER for self-harm it was actually an accident. I had intended to cut, but nowhere near as deeply as I did, and certainly not to the extent I would need stitches, antibiotics, and have to deal with a hard-core scar. The doctors and psychiatrist who saw me were fine with it. Not fine; it was self-inflicted, and I was distressed, yet they were politely concerned and professional. But I could hear the nurses gossiping through the thin partitions, and simply didn’t have the energy to snap a retort. It hurt me though, it hurt me that I was seeking help and being punished for it. I punish myself enough already.

I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of my scars, but I’m pretty fucking ashamed at the way society treats me because of them.