None of us are free

Listening to: Frou Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires by Cocteau Twins.

It’s 5.08am. My stomach is empty and the diet Dr Pepper is making four days worth of heartburn worse. It’s become a toss-up between stomach pain or curbing my appetite, and so far the pain seems like the most sensible option.

See, restricting does strange things to your mind, especially when it comes to rational decisions. I may not have much confidence in my abilities or even respect myself much, but I know I’m not a stupid woman. I can dissect situations, and can think logically. Those have always been my greatest strengths, and though I’d never go so far as to say I’m proud – I don’t think I know how it feels to be proud of myself – it does offer me some comfort to know I at least have something I can do well. Right now though… logic simply doesn’t come into it.

I don’t know how long I’ve been avoiding food for now. Two weeks? It feels longer, especially when every breath brings a mouthful of acid up my throat. Strangely, I’m not dreaming of cake and chocolate. If anything, I’m just not hungry anymore. Or rather I am, but it isn’t registering as anything other than a pleasant sensation of emptiness.  This is what worries me – and worrying about my eating habits is a new feeling – because I recognise that pleasure. That feeling of being on a higher plane because your stomach is empty. Pure. Unspoiled. The only uncomplicated thing in your life. The only thing you have complete control over.

I don’t understand why I can’t bring myself to speak to S about all this. I still haven’t said a single word to him, even though I promised to when the anxiety was kicking off. I know it sounds like an excuse, but there honestly hasn’t been a suitable time to bring it up. “Hey by the way, you know how I used to be anorexic? And bulimic? Well, I’m aiming for like, 300 calories a day and pretending it’s the answer to all my problems. Want a brew?” doesn’t exactly go down well when everything between us is perfect and happy. I don’t want to taint the relationship by bringing up my failings.

I’m beginning to think I’ll never escape from ED. Never.

Strength in numbers: the Strong Person award.

Trigger warning: contains talk of suicide and self harm. 

You heard me right! You are not weak, you are strong. You are not a failure, you are a fighter! This goes out to all mentalists. And it’s a gift from me (The Quiet Borderline) to you all – Please spread the love. Mental health is not something to be sneered at and it deserves much more respect. Stop the stigmatising.

I was wondering how to begin writing a post today. The anxiety has passed but otherwise… things have gone a little squiffy. Somewhere along the line, I lost control and grabbed for the closest crutch; food. Or rather, as little food as possible.

After yet another restless night, interrupted by stomach grumbles and dreams of cake, I woke this morning to an award nomination from The Quiet Borderline. It seemed fitting. The above quote is from her blog, explaining the award she’s created; I’ve given my opinion on blog awards many times but I think this one could become something special.

1. Make sure to add in the above text and image (below) to spread the love and add how little or how much you want! 2. Name your diagnoses – Stand loud and proud! You can tell us a little about them also if you’d like. How you’re affected by these diagnoses and how you are fighting your way out of them. 3. Add a photo of yourself, or some abstract picture that represents you, anything you like! 4. Send this on to as many, yes, as many, people that you like. It can be five, ten, fifty.

2. Depression. Probably my most important diagnosis is clinical depression; a permanent feeling of doom with regular visits to a hideous abyss I can only describe as being as close to hell as it’s possible to be. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I know there are others reading this who understand all too well how it feels to be trapped under the dark duvet of depression. Since puberty I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and occasionally actions; my first overdose (antidepressants I’d been stashing away for weeks) landed me in hospital for two or three days, and the second involved cups of hideous charcoal water and having my blood cleaned after I woke up, still alive but with bright purple blotches all over my body where the combination of paracetamol and strong coffee had taken its toll on my liver. After trying a couple more times and failing – ending up either in hospital or missing the vein on my wrist entirely and bleeding all over the bathroom for half an hour, feeling like an absolute twat – I realised that suicide was never going to be the answer. I still struggle with the thoughts sometimes… they creep up and try to drag me under. I just don’t act on them anymore. Medication keeps me just about safe.

Depression: why it was never about sadness

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  Eighteen months ago I had no answers for the way I often reacted to events; multiple psychiatrists and doctors had seen me in their offices over the years and tried to stick a label on my total inability to cope with, well, anything. To describe it all sounds ridiculous; hiding indoors in case somebody spots me (agoraphobia from a fear of being judged and laughed at) and panicking every time somebody says they’ll call me and are late. Banging my head against the wall because nothing makes sense. Because I’m so fragmented and messed up. Self-harming to cope with the anger inside me I could never let free; a quiet borderline, if you will.

What is borderline personality disorder?

Anxiety. Crippling, soul-destroying anxiety. Is that part of BPD? I don’t know. Everything melds together into one fucked-up disorder with no name. A combination of Cipralex and beta-blockers keeps me on a somewhat even keel. It feels like the fight or flight response in me is broken; I run away from the most ridiculous situations, freak out over next to nothing, and react to stress by hyperventilating and becoming convinced the whole world is against me. Watching me. Waiting for me to fall.

There are others. Bulimia. Anorexia in the past; I’m no longer anorexic but still restrict calories when I lose control over life. Major paranoia, but does that come under anxiety? The occasional psychotic episode.

3.

4. Passing this award on is difficult, because I’m sure there have been many nominations by now. If I repeat anybody, apologies; you greatly deserve the nomination regardless and don’t have to accept.

lalaemzo / Living with BPD / NZ Cate / atwistedfantasy / alwaysallegoric / buckwheatrisk / onxuncovered / Don’t Let Me Get Me / You Know You’re Borderline When… / makeupandmirazapine / Bats / Resilient Heart / notthinginmynoggin /  Diabetic Redemption / aasouthernbelle / Hello Sailor / mm172001 / mysterytopursue / Quit The Cure / roosiegoosie / Temper_Tantrum / Gypsy

Really, I could nominate a hundred more people and still not give everyone the respect their very honest blogs deserve. As time goes on, I may add more to the list; yes it’s a lot of links, but there are a lot of wonderful bloggers out there sharing their experiences and being brave enough to speak out.

You’re all awesome.

Hole

Puppet strings are bearing down on me
Trying to control the enemy inside me
Choking me
Destroying me.

There’s a hole in my soul
Which I filled with everything
but love.

(c) 2001

I lost my virginity in 2001. I was fifteen and my boyfriend – soon to be fiancé – was eight years older. He lived in a council-owned property with a nerdy Lloyd Grossman lookalike, at the end of a long, narrow street in Liverpool. Over time, he would move to my hometown to be closer to me. We were together for a couple of years, and there’s a reason why I have rarely mentioned him; simply because the thought of his face gives me panic attacks. 

During that time I was still struggling with anorexia. I’d gained a little weight, but my BMI was still too low. However, I’d walked away from the mental health system (as I’ve done many times) because all they could offer were pills and force-feeding. I was vulnerable – much younger than my fifteen years both physically and emotionally – and when a man eight years my senior paid attention to me… I jumped straight in. Didn’t give a damn about consequences or morals. I jumped in feet first and, by the time the relationship ended a couple of years later, I’d grown up immensely. I knew what it was like to be hit by a man. To be sworn at and locked in his flat. When he chased me down the road, hurling a full can of Coke at my head and pulling my hair until I hit the ground… I stayed. I stayed because I was desperate to be loved. 

We ended with his boot in my belly and a footprint on my face. Police and concerned strangers. My mobile smashed, shattered across the road. Black eyes and swollen fingers. My mother and auntie taking me to the police station to give a statement. And, finally, an injunction. A letter stating he couldn’t come within ten feet of me or contact me in any way. 

Still. He inspired poetry. 

I’ll write about him one day.

 

Posted for dVerse Poets Pub:

D’verse Poets Pub is a place for poets and writers to gather to celebrate poetry. We are many voices, but one song. Our goal is to celebrate; poets, verse & the difference it can make in the world. To discover poetry’s many facets and revel in it’s beauty, even when ugly at times.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I’m not immune to writer’s block. Usually when I don’t write as often, it’s because something’s going wrong; I’m in a depressive episode or incredibly stressed. I’m too tired or sore to sit with the laptop on my legs. Rarely do I avoid it because I can’t think what to write, because since puberty I’ve wanted to tell stories and finally having a way to express all those trapped words is wonderful.

Still. I just haven’t had the inspiration lately. So for Shermeekaflies from The Possible World to nominate me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award amused me; I haven’t felt at all inspiring or inspired for a week or so. It also touched me, because despite my reservations on awards being little more than chain-mail, I always appreciate being nominated. I never thought this blog would be read, let alone have almost 100,000 views and more than 2,000 subscribers. Seriously, if I think about it too long, my mind retreats into a nice, safe place where I never put myself out for the public to judge. So huge thankyous, Shermeekaflies!

As usual, the rules are pretty simple;

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Share seven things about yourself
  3. Nominate other bloggers you think deserve the award, and post on their blog to let them know they’ve been nominated. Actually, I changed the rules a little; originally it asks for 12-15 nominations, but I always think that’s unfair on those who don’t have many blogs they follow or who are just starting out. So nominate anybody. If you can’t think of a blog, nominate a site you believe is inspiring.

1.  I met my first boyfriend in high school, and initially didn’t find him at all attractive or interesting. We had a shared love of The X-Files and my best friend’s older brother was his best friend, but because he was a couple of years above me, we only really saw each other in the library and at parties and I certainly never saw him as relationship material. I still wonder why I agreed to go out with him; I did really like him but can’t help thinking that I was just reaching out for some sort of affection. Anorexia was still lurking, and I was at the height of bulimia and self-harm when he first kissed me on a bed at a house party when I was fourteen. The kiss was memorable, but only because it was far from the romantic experience I imagined; his tongue seemed to fill my whole mouth and neither of us really knew what we were doing. I couldn’t stop shaking; each time he touched me I’d break out into noticeable spasms, my arms and legs shuddering like crazy until he let go.

After three months of talking on the bridge in the park, sitting on swings and eating chicken and sweetcorn pizza together, he left me. He came to my house, and I freaked out; I can’t even remember what caused it. I was paranoid and edgy, backing him into a corner and screaming uncontrollably in his face. I’d been jealous of his friend Carol. I invented scenarios where he was sleeping with her. Each time he went to her house to study for his GCSE’s, I’d break out into a cold sweat and convince myself he was leaving me.

I threw a chair at his head and left a hole in my bedroom wall. We didn’t speak again for over a decade. He’s married now. His wife shares my first name.

2. Songs almost guaranteed to make me cry include Vincent by Don McLean, Out To Get You by James, Why Not Smile by R.E.M, Exit Music (For A Film) by Radiohead, The Pills Won’t Help You Now by The Chemical Brothers, Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt, Bulimic Beats by Catatonia, and Asleep by The Smiths.

3. Since taking antidepressants, I’ve rarely cried; not even at the songs above. I’ve always been a very outwardly emotional person and in the past it’s been hard to control the waterworks. I cried at everything. Now it’s difficult to squeeze the tears out even if I want to. It’s not a listed side-effect but I can only pin the change down to the chemicals in the pills filtering the urge out of my brain. Take it from me; the ability to cry whenever you need to is a blessing, not a curse. I miss the outlet.

4. The idea of reaching the age of twenty seven never used to occur to me. By puberty I’d decided I wasn’t going to live to eighteen. I didn’t really have a reason for it other than morbid hormonal obsession with my own death and mortality, and once the eating disorders and suicidal behaviour kicked in, I accepted that I’d never become an adult.

Now, I’ve been an adult for nine years, despite all the hospitalizations and suicide attempts, and I’m still unwilling to let my childhood go. I was never supposed to make it this far. I wasn’t prepared for it.

5. My favourite poem is I Am, by John Clare:

6. I don’t know how many people I’ve slept with. It’s in double figures, but I can’t begin to guess.

7. One of my favourite artists is Paul Kidby. I’m a huge Discworld fan:

Nominations:

I’ve chosen the above bloggers simply because, as the title suggests, I find them inspiring. Either through their honesty or ability to tell their stories in a beautiful, powerful way.

Falling through the cracks

I was chatting to Z on Facebook earlier, and the subject of J came up. When we first moved in to the Georgian house, everything – and I mean everything – was falling apart. The walls were full of cracks and running with damp. There were no electrics and no gas, and the kitchen had wires hanging out of the walls. By the time I left six months later, there were few improvements; the house – once utterly beautiful if records about it were to be believed – was pretty much a cracked shell waiting to fall down. I messaged Z wondering if the cracked exterior wall had fallen down yet, and it got me wondering what J was up to these days.

Despite his paranoia and obsession with protecting himself from the powers that be, J’s Facebook wall is open for anyone to look at. It’s always confused me; this is the guy who bought a crossbow and ball bearings to kill anybody (“instant death with a headshot”) who was planning on breaking into the house, and who sent text messages in code in case the government read them.

His wall was no surprise. Links to petitions demanding legalisation of cannabis. Articles about Anonymous. Bad jokes and inappropriate sexual comments female friends he added purely to try to seduce.

It made me a little sad. Despite everything J put me though, J is sick. Very sick, unless his mental health’s improved since I left him. Somehow that seems unlikely. While we were together, J made no attempt to control or help his bipolar. After I’d walked out on him, we tried to stay friends. Well, I did; I was worried about him – he’d not long been released after being sectioned for months – and despite my reservations, I wanted to make sure he was okay.

 At first he really seemed to be trying. He took his medication – it was easy to tell because he put on weight and ate like a pig – and spoke to the community care woman who visited weekly. After I told him I’d started seeing S, I never heard from him again. To this day I have no idea whether he stopped talking to me because he was jealous, or because I had served my purpose.

J not only slipped through the cracks, he kept right on going to the very bottom. After multiple sectionings, arrests, psychotic episodes in public and a spell of homelessness, J is still sick. He’s forty-two now and, having been diagnosed with bipolar at twenty-six, is still just as fucked-up as when it all started.

As well as sad, it makes me angry to know that, like him, I slipped through those cracks. There were so many chances for somebody to step in and suggest that something was wrong, but nobody ever took the time, and it’s only with retrospect that I realise just how many times I was shrugged off as being “just a teenager”.

Self-harm was, I suppose, the first real indication that something wasn’t right. Unlike some, I had no desire to hide the blood or scars; they were my battle-wounds and if people didn’t like it, then tough. I did, however, hide it from my mother and she only discovered I’d been cutting myself with dismantled Bic razors when the school headmaster summoned me into his office one day and asked me about the scars.

You can always come and talk to me, at any time. But you have to realise that school is a tough place and you’re a bit of a square peg in a round hole. You need to attempt to fit in more“.

Like I was just doing it to be different.

When I was first sent to the psychiatric unit, I was labelled “completely sane”. Despite the obviously fresh cuts on my arms and habit of running straight to the toilet after meal times to throw up, the staff said I was okay. I always wondered why they didn’t see straight through me; nobody gets locked away in the crazy home unless there’s something wrong, and my habit of smiling constantly and always being polite to staff should have shone like a beacon. I was faking it all and keeping the madness locked inside so I’d be sent back home. Nobody acts that perfect unless they’re crazy and trying to get discharged.

During my second admission – a few weeks after my plot to be released worked like a charm – I eventually broke down and the staff concluded that perhaps I was a bit troubled. Still, their attentions were focused on the more severe patients – the anorexics and the violent kids – so my terror at being faced with food and the collection of  razor blades in the bedside cabinet were overlooked. When I stood and banged my head against the wall just to feel something, nobody saw. Staff left me mostly to my own devices, because I was “okay”.

At fifteen, I met the man who became my first serious boyfriend – eight years older and with Asperger’s Syndrome, he was possessive and prone to fits of temper but I worshipped him because he paid attention to me. When the police came months later, they said I didn’t have to leave if I didn’t want to. The chief told my mother that I was competent enough to make my own decisions. Legally I was still a minor, but the police ruled that I was capable of understanding the risks.

At sixteen, I was taken to the local A&E with a stomach full of paracetamol and coffee. A member of the crisis team was called in to speak to me, and I told him it was an impulsive act; just a cry for help. It wasn’t. I was allowed to go home the same day. With the second overdose at seventeen, I was kept on suicide watch for 24 hours in the local psychiatric hospital. I kicked and screamed as I was taken in. Cried the entire time. The mental health team decided I wasn’t a danger to myself and sent me home.

A few months later I ended up back in hospital after taking my entire pack of venlafaxine and a fair handful of diazepam. I had a fit in college, having woken up still alive and disappointed. Unconscious for a while, I missed any procedures which may have been done on me when I arrived. When I woke my mother was sitting on my bed, crying.

This time they didn’t want to let me go, but not because I’d taken more than enough tablets to kill an elephant. I needed all sorts of injections and IV’s. I was unable to pee and needed a catheter, which I pulled out more than once because it burned like hell. I’d done some actual damage this time, and needed medical intervention.

No psychiatrist or crisis team was called this time. The fact that I’d taken an overdose was never mentioned. I went home a few days later – earlier than my consultant would have liked – still unable to pee and with a bruised body from smacking into the floor when the fit started.

Somebody should have seen me falling.

In more ways than one.

My oldest enemy

My old best friend, always under the surface
now stands beside me with a smile on their face,
my oldest enemy,
my lifelong ally,
I feel so much for you
but you feel nothing for me.
You don’t care when you tear me apart,
on those afternoons when you’re all
I can think of,
when my dreams are filled with nothing but you
and the control you gave
the promises you made
the body you betrayed.

I hate you, I love you
I need you, it disgusts me,
my reliance on you,
always one step away
you pull my strings once more.

I never let go,
my secret friend.

(c) 2008

 

Accept

Often when I talk about myself, I feel eerily detatched from the situations and experiences I’m describing. I used to think it was similar to watching a movie; I was the lead star, but the narrator was somebody else entirely and the scripts never quite matched up. Now I realise it feels more like a form of denial – if I don’t accept something could be the truth, it can’t hurt me – and I’m beginning to think it’s not doing me any good to be so removed from myself.

All my life, I have called myself a liar. Sometimes with good reason – I lied with abundance in my teens to try to fit in – but often there’s no lies being told, other than the ones I tell myself to stay safe and ignorant. Denial has long been a part of my life; so long that it’s a natural emotion for me, one which never used to carry weight or worry me but which now makes me wonder if this dissociation could be the reason why I find it so difficult to accept things in life and move on.

When speaking to doctors and counsellors about my eating disorders in the past, I have often sat in the chair and wondered if I’m not exaggerating to get attention. I used to convince myself that my binge/purge cycle wasn’t really bulimia, and that starving myself had nothing to do with anorexia. I could use the words with ease to describe my eating habits, but there would always be a part of me shouting in the background, accusing myself of lying. I thought if I only stuck my fingers down my throat a few times a week, or didn’t completely empty my stomach, it wasn’t bulimia. It was just a bad habit, like smoking. Certainly not a mental health problem. It was always he same with self-harm; other people self-mutilated, I simply made half-arsed scratches and scrapes to make myself more miserable.

It’s difficult to explain how I could think that my habit of burning my arms and legs with heated-up bits of metal, scissors, hair clips and cigarettes could just be a way of depressing myself so I could be the morbid, cool, damaged teenage girl everyone secretly admires. Above everything else, I’ve never sought attention; I dislike it intensely, especially when it applies to the crazier side of me. I just want to be left alone, not put in the spotlight.

The point of all this navel-gazing is I’ve realised that I’m nowhere near being able to accept I have arthritis. It’s been over a week since my diagnosis, and although it’s probably normal to be in some sort of denial and that alone certainly wouldn’t be cause for concern, what worries me is that little voice inside my head, telling me I’m making it all up. That I’ve misunderstood Dr B, or invented it all as a reason for the pain. It’s ridiculous, really; I have proof from the referral letter, and I’m sure my GP will tell me the same things when I see him in a couple of weeks. I have a bruise in the crook of my arm from the blood test needle.

I don’t know what the problem is. It’s not like it’s a death sentence, after all. Yes, I will be in pain for the rest of my life – barring any medical miracles – but did I really expect anything different?