I’m officially scared of chairs

For a little while know, I’ve known that conventional seating isn’t my thing. In a bit of a weird way. I just don’t like chairs. I much prefer sitting on the floor. I don’t know if it’s because they symbolise waiting rooms and classrooms and doctor’s rooms and rooms of other people I’ve somehow irritated with my existence. Whatever it is, chairs make me uncomfortable, especially when I have to choose between two seats and consider all the possible scenarios of what might happen sitting in each different spot and how it might affect my life going forward.

But today in group this was taken to a whole other level.

We were asked to move seats. As in, Hi, Welcome guys, we’d like you to sit somewhere new today.

Nope,

Nu-uh,

No thank you.

When did a chair of all things become an anxiety / panic trigger? And also why? 

It’s just a chair.

But I couldn’t do it. I could not sit in another chair. I could not choose a different seat. I was (as I was reminded none too gently by the group therapists) that I was not thinking particularly dialectically.

No shit. You think I know why I’ve suddenly developed an irrational fear of chairs? All of a sudden, something in me changed. That panic system that I’ve so carefully constructed for times of ‘threat’ and ‘danger’ erupted. It bubbled out in breathlessness and uncomfortable sensations and racing thoughts and a racing heart and hidden hurts.

What if they write on the board this seat has the best view of the whiteboard and what if I sit somewhere else then I might make the others uncomfortable because they sit far away from me for a reason and what if I need to escape the room because I’m wildly dissociating and this seat places me uncomfortably far away from the door and what if I forget where my seat is after an activity and we return to sit down and I sit in my usual seat now-someone-else’s seat and I break down all over again and what if what if what if what if.

This, just in case you missed it, was because of a chair. 

Something is happening to my brain, and I don’t like it. Never before have I described myself as an anxious person. I normally leap straight for depressed or suicidal. But not anxious, not until recently.

Something to ponder.

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.

Triggers

Personally, most of my triggers escape me. The only ones I know for certain are the ones which produce anxiety; social situations and loud noise and public transport, among other things. But with regards to my depression, suicidality, self-harm and general life meltdowns, it’s mostly unclear. Because they’re a strange thing, triggers. Or more accurately, triggering situations. They can surprise you. They capture you, entangle you in a snare of despair. They’re traps laid by memories that are gaps in the concrete in to which I stumble, fall, and am lost. And once I’m lost, it becomes more and more difficult to return.

For the past few weeks over mid year university break, I have been with my family. First with my sister, on a small road trip, then with my parents at their property in regional south-western Australia.

It has reminded me of all the reasons why I left.

It has reminded me of the shouting. The bitterness. The sarcasm. The suppression I actively must force upon my own personality, because I am different to the rest. The words I must choose carefully, selectively, lest some intelligence leaks out to be taken as an insult. I am reminded of emotional abuse, and of neglect. I am reminded that I will never be good enough, that I will never quite be enough – thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, relaxed enough, happy enough. I am not – and I never will be – enough in their eyes.

I am reminded of the years and years of mental illness that went unnoticed. Of years of anorexia. Bulimia. Anxiety. Depression. Bullying and PTSD and BPD and bipolar disorder – in that order. I am reminded of every single moment that I regret, that I left behind for a reason. The photographs in which a gaunt face stares back at me. The traces of a depressed, skeletal being who clung to life with only tea and fruit and vegetables. There are remnants of my past scattered everywhere: in the furniture, the garden, the boxes of books that I can’t bear to sell, but are too heavy to transport to Sydney.

A wall of suppression hides painful times in my mind, but the past is being clawed out from the mortar. It is gauged from my soul as I watch, dissociating impassively, and re-live all the anguish hidden beneath the surface. This is a place of triggers: depression swamps me, anxiety overwhelms me, my eating disorder consumes me, and urges to hurt myself leap out of the shallow place where they remain tethered and threaten to change my destiny from one of life, to one of death.

This shouldn’t be what spending time with family is like. But unfortunately, this is my reality. I am simultaneously surrounded by the nature I love, and the family I can’t. That it takes all my strength to simply exist with, never mind holding a conversation, or cooking dinner with, or doing chores for. I am surrounded by a minefield of triggers, and it is proving inescapable.