I confess

The drugs just aren’t doing it for me,
chemical sleep has lost its appeal
and I confess, I considered tonight
that it might be easier just not to feel.

To slip away, to take a bow,
Admit defeat and fall from my grace
and would you miss me, would you notice;
how long would it take to forget my face?

You forgot me once, you can do it again,
after all, this is only a release
breaking free from the prison we built together
in the hope, of maybe, one night of peace.

I confess, this is serious,
and if I had the strength I would leave tonight
I wish I was brave, that I wouldn’t miss you
that this time I could really give up the fight.

An empty bottle in front of me,
and pills I know I’ll never take
just further proof of my personal failings
evidence of the depression I could never shake.

Another scar to my collection,
a canvas I paint to remind me of you
to prove this reality was never a nightmare
but a waking hell, which I’m still going through.

I confess, it would be so easy,
Just a slip of the hand, just one step too far
but I’m not brave, I feel too afraid
to let myself go, to reopen these scars.

Yet I fantasise of how easy it would be,
for you to live your life without me there
I confess I think of setting you free
sometimes it’s the only way that ever seems fair.

If I left today, would you notice?
Would you realise, I did this for you?
If I slipped away past an exit sign,
would you see it as failure, or something I needed to do?

I try to remember every word you ever said,
the times you loved me, the times you were sweet
I confess, I want to forget
to make this easier for me to leave.

But how can I go when you hold me like that;
when you whisper so quietly only I can hear?
I confess, you keep me from dying,
from collapsing under the weight of my fears.

(c)

“Suicide” is a word I don’t like typing. It’s such a final solution, and the word itself makes me feel uncomfortable about the actions I’ve taken in the past. I may occasionally mention my flirts with causing my own death, but I try not to go into much detail because, in truth, I’m ashamed.

I’m ashamed to know I even tried, mostly over such trivial things. New colleges and threats of break-ups. Arguments with my mother. They seem such petty reasons but back then I couldn’t judge whether an incident was serious or minor, and everything felt like a horrific attack on everything I am. The panic and psychosis (for there was psychosis; hallucinations and imagined conversations) drove me into a ball of fear and confusion and, somehow, I decided that suicide was the only logical answer to a world of horror. 

Last week, a man lay down on the train tracks between my house and Z’s, and killed himself. I heard the sirens and saw sketchy details appear on Facebook, but I still can’t let myself accept that somebody was in so much torment that they felt the only way to solve it was to climb over the barriers as traffic waited at the crossing, and wait for the train to hit; somebody just a couple of roads away from where I was sitting was going through something most people never – thankfully – have to experience.

I find myself wondering what he was like; why he felt he had to take that step, and do something so damn final. I wish I’d had the chance to know him, somehow.

Dear Diary: 17th/19th January 2006

< 9th/10th January

< 11th/12th/13th January

< 14th/15th/16th January

Tuesday 17th January 2006

College was just horrible. Felt ugly, fat, and the mirrors just made me feel worse. I always feel so unattractive in college; maybe it’s because everyone else seems to have great hair. Fell asleep at 7pm, woke up at 11 and now I can’t sleep, again. I’m totally dreading being on reception duty in college tomorrow, but I just can’t force myself to sleep.

Ended up crying to O over the phone tonight; he feels so far away. I’m just exhausted, at a loss what to do about a million things. I hate reading back through all this; it’s so depressing. Not the way I wanted it to be at all. But heck, I’m a serial whinger. That’s why I’m public enemy number one, right? Because I dare to have feelings. I’ve faced worse than all this, I know I have. So why does it feel like I’m dying inside?

I can’t decide what to do with my life. It’s getting me down.

Thursday 19th January

Reception training again. It was so unbelieveably busy and I felt like I’d go crazy. Still, I coped with it; which is something. I get the feeling I’ve overbooked someone, but it serves them right for putting someone so inept in charge of appointments.

I’m really worrying about getting all my course assessments finished in time. I know compared to most of the class I’m actually ahead, but still… it doesn’t feel good enough. I’ve only got until half-term (mid February) to complete, then I have to cough up another £52 for a level 2 logbook.

The diet’s going okay. Cheated a bit at lunchtime – pasta – but it’s okay. I can get back on track. It’s hard at college because everyone usually eats out together on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and it’s hard to stick to a diet when faced with all the things I can’t have. Plus, I don’t want to look like a snob if I don’t go with them or don’t eat. I hate admitting to being on a diet, because somebody always says “you don’t need to!” when I so obviously do. It’s embarassing.

When I started copying out entries from one of my old diaries, the idea was to follow it through right to the end. Then life took over a little and I forgot about it; reading about the past and the tangled mess of college, my relationship with S, and eventually therapy… it was difficult. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight can be painful. I did so much wrong. 

After deciding to go back to my old diary, I discovered it’s lost. The A4-sized black book filled with biro scibblings and breakdowns is nowhere to be seen. I’ve searched under my bed and through my bookcase, and there’s no sign of it. Hopefully I’ll find it when I start packing for the move, but for now… it seems the past is lost. I don’t know how it’ll feel if I never find it. Things have a habit of disappearing in this house.

Drugs and alcohol

When it comes to alcoholism and drugs, it should be a different issue. They’re self-inflicted and shouldn’t be an issue. They’re not real disabilities“.

I was talking to my mother about the government debate on mental health earlier. She seemed pretty uninterested, which disappointed me; it’s a subject painfully close to my heart, and it’s the government who decide my fate, after all. My mother is always panicking over my DLA, convinced that when I get called into the inevitable assessment my benefits will be either dramatically cut, or removed entirely. Personally, I try not to think about it. I am scared, but worrying about something which might not happen doesn’t seem the best way to deal with that fear.

While I was trying to speak to her and attempting to explain how I’m dubious about any changes being made. I said, “I’ll believe it when they stop taking innocent people off benefits”, and she replied with the quote above.

Considering my own problems with addiction, I took the comment quite personally. It took me a long time to understand why my mother was so biased against those who rely on substances; now I know the extent of my father’s alcoholism and my auntie’s spiral into days spent in bed with a bottle while my cousins raised themselves, and I get it somewhat. However, I can’t entirely comprehend her prejudice. My mother doesn’t know much about my past – I’ve purposely kept it that way to protect her because I don’t think she could cope with it – and certainly doesn’t know I still take drugs. She doesn’t know I’ve ever touched them, as far as I’m aware.

My father hit her. He pushed her down the stairs and tried to throw my sister E out of the bedroom window whilst high on something. He still drinks, and shouts abuse at her when he visits. I totally understand why she’d have such a bias against alcoholics; my dad is an idiot. My aunt is a sanctimonious woman who judged my mother for leaving my father and raising myself and my three siblings on her own, yet she drank and didn’t look after her children until they were older, and she had been in a violent relationship herself. Neither of those relations were great adverts for those struggling with addiction. They don’t exactly make themselves likeable.

However, I just wish she’d understand. I wish she’d see what’s right under her own nose; her own daughter is struggling with painkiller addiction. The girl she gave birth to has used alcohol to block out feelings.

Alcoholism runs in my family. I’m unsure if there’s a genetic link, or whether we’re just copying the behaviour of relatives. My father left before I was born so I don’t know how much of his violence and drinking I got to see. Sometimes I’d stay over at his tiny, cramped bedsit in Liverpool and he’d drink constantly from a plastic water bottle. Once, I tasted it; it was disgusting, like it had gone off. With hindsight I recognise the taste of cheap wine.

I loved staying with him. The house his bedsit was in felt huge, like a massive labyrith. My father lived right at the top, in a bedsit not much bigger than my mother’s living room, with a wonky ceiling and old sash windows, a mahogany wardrobe, sofa and table in front of an old two-bar gas fire, a tiny black-and-white tv and a double bed tucked in a corner. At night, I’d lie in that bed under a floral duvet and listen to the police sirens in the night.

We’d sit and watch Casualty in monochrome and eat spring rolls with soy sauce. Sometimes, he cooked chicken legs and wrapped them in foil with garlic and we’d have a picnic in the nearby park. I’d sit with my feet in the lake, watching men throwing fishing poles into the water and groups of teenagers smoking on the benches, and I’d think how much cooler my father was than my mother.

Dad let me swear. Only words like “arse” and “bloody” but, to my pre-teen self, it felt like a delicious freedom. He let me stay up late, and often took me on midnight walks around the area he lived in. We’d amble past graffiti’d walls and late-night takeaways, alleyways filled with rubbish and an abandoned nightclub. I loved that club; the walls were smooth with fake-marble tiles which were always cold to the touch and shone under the dim light from the old concrete lamp posts. Or we’d walk through the park, avoiding the teens smoking dope, drug-dealings, couples looking for somewhere private and lone men, just standing around, and we’d go to the lake. Together, we’d sit on a bench and talk about the strangest things. Time-travel. Cannabilism. Space-travel. Ghost stories. Indian food.

Once we were talking by the lake at 2am on a Saturday night and my father told me that if we were ever stranded at sea, I could eat him to survive.

I think it was the nicest thing he’s ever said to me.

Sometimes, I want to confess everything to my mother. How I once vomited from snorting too much coke. How I kept a bottle of gin under my bed when I was fourteen, and used to take a Pepsi bottle full of vodka with me to college when I was seventeen. I want to tell her about the day I realised I was addicted to morphine, and how I only stopped taking it because J prevented me from getting any. I want to explain why I once took twenty co-codamol pills in a day; not because I wanted to die, but because I was so reliant on them that it took huge amounts to get any feeling from it.

I can’t tell her any of these things. Because she just wouldn’t understand.

Dear Diary – 14th/15th/16th January 2006

< 9th/10th January

< 11th/12th/13th January

Saturday 14th January 2006

When I’m alone a million fears creep in. I get insecure, anxious, panicky; but the second I’m with O, I find those fears evaporating. I almost wish they didn’t, because then I find it impossibIe to talk about my thoughts and I really need to. He goes to Hull for training on Monday and I’m worried how I’ll cope with not being able to just call him or go for a coffee together.

Every week I get nervous about going in to college on Tuesday, but the thought of going back next week makes me feel sick. I really don’t know what I’m going to do about the course; it’s looking more likely that my health – long and short term – is going to make it difficult. I’m desperate to get the anaemia sorted before it kills me; who would have thought that something so common coud feel so horrendous. I’ve lived with it for six months now and I just want to stop feeling so tired and drained. I’m 21, yet I feel like an old woman.

I think I need to write a letter to O and give it to him in person. I know that if I try to speak, it will all come out wrong. I don’t want him thinking I want us to split up or anything; that’s the last thing I want. The thing I’m trying to prevent. Perhaps I’m blowing things out of proportion anyway; it wouldn’t be the first time.

Sunday 15th January

Found it hard to get to sleep last night. The room was too hot and my legs were restless, my mind clunking along. Lay in the dark with my leg touching O’s and thought too much. As usual.

I feel guilty for staying at his every weekend; I worry I’m imposing on his family and putting them out. O says it’s fine but I’m not sure it is. I wish we had enough money to get somewhere to live, but that seems impossible. It’s embarassing, wondering if his family can hear us having sex, having to go through the living room to get to the loo, being seen with no make-up on. I suppose I don’t think enough of myself to believe I could be welcome.

Monday 16th January

Woke up thinking about college tomorrow; I’m dreading it. I’m so convinced I’ve made a mistake with my career choice*. I feel like I should go back to something academic, my brain feels useless. I’m not used to more manual thinking and it’s just not me. I worry I’ll turn out losing the things I know; I’m already having trouble remembering stuff and backing down far too easily in debates. I was devastated when my memory didn’t return after the overdose, so what if this is the same thing, happening again for a different reason?

O got to Hull okay. He had to go on his bike, which I admit I was a bit worried about but I don’t want him to lose his job. As much as I hate him working at the bike dealership (where everybody hates me) he needs to do it. Like college; I hate it but I have to do it for money in the future. It all seems to come down to money at the moment.

*hairdressing

Dear Diary – 9th/10th January, 2006

A few posts back, I wrote about finding one of my old diaries in my mother’s bedroom. Over a few days I read what I had written, and realised that although I’m still angry that she betrayed my trust after I thought we were doing well building a relationship, in a way I’m glad she kept it; I’ve learned a lot about myself through those diary entries, and I’ve decided to share some of them.

Monday 9th January, 2006.

I’ve always written a diary with the idea that maybe somebody else would read it. I think that’s why I always give up a few months in. So this diary will be written by me, for me, and nobody else.

I have been alive for 21 years and 1 month. 2006 is my 22nd year; something I’m finding hard to digest. I never thought I would see 21. It always seemed like a million years away, a goal I could never achieve, an age I didn’t want to reach. I find it hard to imagine how low I sunk through the years; the overdoses, the starving, the running away, the total disregard for myself. I never thought I’d get this far. I didn’t want to.

I’m not entirely sure how this year is going to pan out. There’s no denying it started off badly; nearly breaking up with O, the arguments, the fact that as new year arrived I was alone… I can only hope it’s not an indication that 2006 is going to be a crap year.

Met Elizabeth in town today*; we planned to see Brokeback Mountain but our cinema isn’t showing it. I can’t wait for the day I can move away from here. Sadly, since I have another two or three years left of college, it doesn’t look like it’ll be soon.

* Elizabeth and I were best friends for a number of years; we met at college and she called me her sister, said we were soulmates. Like most things in my life, I ruined the relationship (although she played a part) and we no longer speak.

Tuesday 10th January

06:56

Eventually got to bed at 2.30 last night, but didn’t get to sleep until 6. Tossed and turned for hours, opened the window, kicked the cat, put the light on, but just couldn’t sleep. Woke up half an hour later after a horrible dream and I know there’s no way I’m going to sleep after that. O is so cruel in my dreams, and I know it’s not really him but they’re so painfully realistic sometimes that I woke up fully believing he would leave me crying on the floor, that he would cut me out of his life. That’s my biggest fear.

Diary

22.55

I didn’t go into college today. Set off as normal, feeling a bit agitated after the dream, then halfway there I started shaking and feeling panicky, like I was closed in, like everyone was staring at me. Got off the bus and sat down at the bus stop and tried to call O but got no reply. Sat there for a while, getting more and more anxious, sweating, wanting to cry. Phoned college in the end and left a message; Ros will probably think I’m a crazy woman, I was stuttering and losing my train of thought. Took me forever to get hold of O and by then I was so stressed out I could only shout and rant at him for not answering earlier. Feel so guilty about it now. I know we desperetly need to talk. Otherwise, I think we might just fall apart.

Ate some soup then fell asleep when I got home. Tried speaking to O again but I can’t get the words out. I feel utterly useless today.

30 Days Of Truth: Day 8 – the story of O.

Someone who has made your life hell or treated you like shit.

This is probably going to be the most difficult question for me to answer, because I want to talk about O, my ex-fiancé. Somebody I shared some of my happiest times with, as well as my worst times. It’s probably going to be another long post, so I’ll apologise now.

I loved O. I want to make this clear from the start. It’s a love story, with a bitter ending, but a love story nonetheless.

We met when I was nineteen and he was eighteen, in October of 2004. I was a relationship at the time – a sort of rebound to an ex-boyfriend – but I fell for O as soon as we met in a quiet pub in the town centre for a blind date of sorts. We’d found each other on the internet. In a fit of desperation to escape the relationship I was in, I hinted that I might be after a relationship if the right guy came along, and we arranged to meet; I was probably at my most insecure point in my life, and it was a big deal for me.

The date almost didn’t happen. He said he would meet me in the pub around 5.30pm, after he’d finished work at the motorbike dealership down the road, but he didn’t turn up until 6.30, by which time I was just getting ready to leave. I wasn’t at all sure if the “date” was a good idea anyway, and when he didn’t show, I just accepted it as par for the course and got up to go. As I did, O walked through the door. I’ve been thinking a lot about my romantic and sexual relationships, and although I was incredibly paranoid and clingy throughout my time with O, I also believe it was the first real time I fell in love. I thought I’d been in love many times before, but with hindsight I can see the BPD coming into play, the need for validation and control played out through my relationships. Would it be twee to say that I fell in love with O as soon as I saw him? It would; but it wouldn’t be far from the truth.

It was serious from the start. We kissed that night at the railway station, and were inseperable. I was living with my mother, and finally doing my GCSE’s at the local technical college, so we only saw each other a few times a week, but we both spent a fortune on late-night phone calls. I told my boyfriend it was over as soon as O and I became a couple; he spent weeks sending me messages and emails about how I was jumping from one bed to another. I suppose he was right – I’d been quite shameful in my behaviour – but things simply hadn’t worked between us when we got back together. It was only ever a rebound/sex thing, and I thought he knew that.

O lived with his parents, sister and brother in a large house on the outskirts of the county. He collected motorbikes, liked classic rock, and ate cereal in bed, listening to Damien Rice. On the surface it doesn’t seem like we would have connected – especially since I was so prone to anxiety attacks over the slightest thing at the time – but we clicked almost instantly. He confessed to being a virgin, which I found a little odd, but not the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. He wasn’t the first virgin I’d been with.

Insecure, O used humour to allay his fears (something I only picked up a while later) and I found it such a relief to have a boyfriend who made me laugh, who shared jokes with me. I’d become jaded by the idea of dating and relationships, and O gave me new hope for love and affection.

Our relationship played out much like any other at first. Dates at the cinema and meals together. Unlike my past relationships, O insisted on paying for everything. After a couple of weeks, we slept together for the first time. I started staying overnight at the weekend, and we’d cuddle in bed and watch films, drinking tea and eating chocolate. His father gave me a front plate off an old VW camper; everything seemed perfect.

If it seems like I’m holding back, it’s because I am. I’m finding it so hard to write about O – some feelings are still very raw – and I’m worried I won’t do it justice. I really feel like I have to get across just how beautiful our relationship once was, so the fallout makes sense.

At the time, I wasn’t diagnosed with BPD, just chronic depression. I was still self-harming and purging, unwilling to give up the crutches I was leaning on so heavily. The scars and new cuts/burns were impossible to hide from someone I was having a sexual relationship with, so I was honest from the beginning; I admitted to O that I had a huge problem, and that my past was something I was finding it impossible to deal with. He surprised me with his reaction. He simply pulled my sleeve up and kissed my scars. We were sitting on the pier, in a little blue shelter by the skate park, and as he stroked my arm and told me it didn’t matter to him, I felt happiness for the first time in years. He stroked my short black hair and told me he loved me.

It was bliss, for a while. Even after the arguments and bickering began, we mostly existed in a little romantic bubble, drifting through life together attached at the hip. I dealt with college in my usual way; lots of absences due to bad days and poor health, but passed with flying colours. I had friends, I had a boyfriend who seemed to think the world of me, I’d been given my own computer for Christmas… things were going well. I started riding pillion on O’s Honda Hornet, discovering the rush of adrenaline only a motorbike can give. I stayed away from class-A drugs, even stopped smoking weed. In fact, I gave up smoking altogether, as O didn’t smoke and I didn’t want to have a disgusting habit drive him away. This is where the first mistakes were made; I tried to change to fit a fake ideal I’d created. I wanted to be the perfect girlfriend.

O took me to classic vehicle rallies in Llandudno and at Haydock Park. We slept in a tent and stamped around in the mud when it rained. I was struggling with a lot of issues – especially my body image – but when we lay together under sleeping bags, listening to the rain on the tent and watching the shadows move in the torchlight, I could forget everything but how wonderful it felt. O was an incredibly attentive boyfriend, always moving in for a hug or a kiss, always wanting me, always saying he loved me. At home, I’d cook him chili and curries, and he would make me cups of tea. I didn’t miss smoking or drinking heavily, I didn’t even miss the drugs. My days were filled with thoughts of O.

O proposed to me in a tent at Haydock Park. We’d been arguing about his ex-girlfriend – I wasn’t happy about him texting her so often and keeping it from me (paranoia was rife at this point) – and after rowing for ages, he finally said that he was asking for her advice on how to propose to me.

Do I believe him? No. Did I believe him at the time? I wanted to, dearly. I heard what I wanted to hear, and accepted. The next day, he bought me a cubic zirconia ring until he could afford a “proper one”.

His mother cried; mine seemed strangely happy. She liked O.

We chatted on MSN every night we couldn’t be together, sometimes talking until 3am on the phone. He taught me to ride his bike and how to replace oil filters. On Wednesday nights we would ride to a small bikers’ pub in the countryside, racing  against cars and practising wheelies. I often felt a bit lost at these meets – everyone seemed so knowledgeable about bikes – but O looked after me. I met a lot of his friends, and although I found it difficult to shake off my shyness and anxiety, I felt slightly more included. Like I had a place in the world. I did, however, find the biking community a difficult place to be; a lot of emphasis was put on women to look a certain way, at least that’s how I took it when I saw O’s bike magazines. I was overweight and growing my hair out – I looked nothing like those models draped over that Hayabusa – and I struggled with that all through our relationship. When we were in bed, I would stare over his shoulder at the perfectly-toned and airbrushed women blocking the views of the bike, feeling insecure and ugly. O’s excuse was that he had the pictures for the bikes, but how could you see the bike when some woman’s draped over it? It’s something it took me a long time to deal with – I don’t feel the same way anymore on the whole – and it put a huge dent in our relationship over time. I’d only just started dealing with a few issues from my past, and everything was very raw and out of context.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. As time went on, my paranoia grew out of control, and I was convinced my suspicions and fears were perfectly rational, even though most were ridiculous. I started checking his emails when he was out of the room; behaviour I would never consider now. I’m not proud, but back then it all seemed to make sense. One night, I was feeling particularly panicky, and felt I needed some sort of validation to how I was feeling. I waited until he left the room, and opened his email account. It didn’t take long to find a half-naked photo he’d been sent by a girl he knew.

Now my suspicions had proven slightly correct, I went crazy. Smashed his laptop screen and shouted, not caring about his parents hearing. I stormed out, and pretended to call a taxi. I knew he’d call me back in.

We stayed up all night talking. I was shaking with rage and fear. I can see now how irrational my reaction was. Very early in the morning, we went for a long walk through frosty fields, watching our breath in the cold air and not talking much. O apologised over and over, and I was scared of losing him. I said I forgave him, which was a lie; I was simmering. I just didn’t want to be without him.

My paranoia grew, and still I stayed oblivious. Everything was so logical to me that I couldn’t see how downright unattractive I was being: sending text after text if O didn’t answer his phone, calling at 4am, storming off down the road if we had the smallest argument. I was quiet and unresponsive with his friends. My shyness was peaking, and I didn’t want to open my mouth and say something stupid. O was still hiding his phone whenever he was texting somebody, which I felt was only fair. I’d betrayed his trust, and he’d betrayed mine. We were even now.

Despite this, our relationship was mostly harmonious when we were together. We would often lie together on his bed, just staring at each other. We developed an intense sexual relationship, taking any chance to be alone together. To the public, we were the sweet golden couple. Indoors, we were sexually violent and coarse, with a drawer full of sex toys, poppers and restraints. It became a game of sorts to see how many public places we could have sex in without being caught. For the first time in my life, I was comfortable about my sexuality, and not frightened of the emotions involved. I had control over an aspect of my body, at last. I’ve always been aware that my sexuality isn’t quite the norm, and before O I believed I was in some way defective. I’m bisexual, or, to be more accurate, pansexual. At least, that’s the best description I can find to fit my particular way of thinking. O accepted this without the usual smutty jokes, although I later discovered it fuelled his own private paranoia; he thought I would run away with a woman. O later admitted to finding the idea of sex with a man appealing, and we played out scenarios, allowing our fantasties to slip comfortably into our sexual relationship. We tied each other up and cut each other with razor blades. We wanted to scar each other; to leave a mark.

I know none of this sounds particularly romantic, but in a way our openess and lack of shyness in the bedroom brought us closer together. We had a dirty secret, and nobody could take that away from us. In bed, we were invincible.

The sexual aspect was contradicted beautifully by the romantic times we shared – admittedly, less often now we were arguing frequently – and although things weren’t perfect, I was happy in my own way. Anxious and prone to hysteria, but happy.

Despite all O’s attention and compliments, I still couldn’t get to grips with my body image, not helped by weekend takeaways and his father’s obsession with fatty, greasy food. So many times, I found myself being too shy to refuse yet another scotch egg (I wasn’t a vegetarian back then) and slowly chewing on it until I could convince myself the calories were somehow going to disappear if I just didn’t think of what I was eating.

O’s father featured a lot in our arguments.

He’d been a truck driver before an accident left him with a metal plate in his head and an uncontrollable temper. Sometimes he was lovely – laughing and joking – and other times he was unpredictable and downright frightening. I used to find loud men threatening, and O’s father shouted a lot. I was used to a quiet family life, with minimal swearing from my parents, so O’s household was a new experience for me. It was loud and frantic, with something always happening and the television always blaring out the X-Factor or Coronation Street. Unlike my family, they were very close-knit and it seemed there were a thousand relatives all living in the same town, all as loud, all as opinionated. It soon became clear that O’s father ran the show, and anything done without his permission would be greeted with shouting. He collected motorbikes like O, and would often follow us into the garage, pointing out imagined flaws in O’s handywork and swearing bitterly if O disagreed with his opinion. He used the word “stupid” a lot.

When we were alone, I would tell O how his father was making me uncomfortable. It wasn’t just the noise, it was the jokes about rape, the comments about overweight women on television, the racist outbursts from nowhere. I got sick of hearing the N word thrown about. O said I was being too sensitive and needed to just humour him, but I couldn’t. It made me feel weak and vulnerable.

Our relationship carried on, full of tremendous highs and shattering lows. When we argued, I would threaten to leave, knowing O would come running after me. I became incredibly manipulative, although I never realised it at the time. My panicked phone calls became more frequent, and O stopped answering the phone as much, claiming he was busy or had no signal. In reality, he’d been turning his phone off to avoid the constant nagging. If O had told me how annoying I was being, perhaps I would have stopped or at least calmed down, but he never mentioned it, and I didn’t realise. It’s easy to convince yourself that all those crazy thoughts are rational.

When I look back now, I’m amazed how much I’ve changed. I suppose a lot of that is down to carefully-controlled medication, but perhaps some of the progress I’ve made is my own doing. I’d like to think so.

Eventually, even the sexual side of our relationship faltered. I had been experiencing a deep, nagging pain whenever we had sex, and was bleeding on a regular basis. I saw my doctor, who referred me to a gynaecologist. Swabs were taken and a camera was inserted. The results came back as pelvic inflammatory disease, which had caused scar tissue to build up over time. I had a diathermy to remove the tissue, and a laparoscopy to make sure everything was as it should be. Afterwards, I bled for a long time. For weeks on end, I bled heavily, ruining clothes and bedsheets. I became self-conscious and distrustful of my reproductive system, not believing it would ever feel normal again. I was in a lot of pain, and sex was the last thing on my mind. O and I didn’t sleep together for six weeks, perhaps longer. For us, that was a lifetime, and when we did eventually start trying again, I was cold and unresponsive. I’d suddenly become uncomfortable with the idea of sex, of being touched, and I just wanted to sleep. I’d started a hairdressing course at the local college and was finding it difficult – the work was easy, but the pressure on times and perfection was hard to deal with – and that added to my exhaustion. I would meet him after college, and we’d go back to his house, where I’d sleep until 11pm, then go home. This cycle carried on for a long time, and I grew to hate it but couldn’t manage without deep, dreamless sleep. I’d get back home and sleep for another 10 hours.

In 2006, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I’d been struggling to hold my scissors in college, and often took days off because I was so tired. Things got worse after the diagnosis; I had a huge panic attack in the college toilets after my taxi was late, and after that I starting having them daily. Each time, I would phone O and chatter at him until I felt safe again. He was missing work for me and spending a fortune on calling credit, but it was the only way I could calm down. Without those calls, I became convinced I would die; I would choke to death on my own fear.I started seeing a counsellor – a blonde woman with leopard print heels who I took to instantly – causing me to withdraw even further as I thrashed out my worries in a small room. I became scared of even using tampons; sexually, I had failed.

At the opposite end of the scale, a year later I had an implant in the muscle of my belly to shut down my hormones, to check for a tumour or Cushing’s disease. Things were going wrong with my body which seemed to have no explaination. The tests came back clear, but a month with very little apart from testosterone surging around my body turned me into a maniac. I became prone to violence and screaming fits, from nowhere. I wanted to damage everything and hurt everybody. Most of all, I rediscovered my sex drive. However, I didn’t direct this sexuality at O, but at outside fantasies and secret wants. I became obsessed with experiencing sex with somebody else, distrupting my entire day with sick imaginings and dangerous scenarios. I didn’t cheat on O – I don’t think I wanted the physical aspect so much, just the emotional gratification – but it left me very confused. Even when the implant broke down and stopped releasing hormones, I found it difficult to switch the darker side of my sexuality off. I no longer wanted romantic, cuddly sex. I wanted to be hurt and sworn at. I wanted to be used and scarred. I’ve always been very open when it comes to sex and those thoughts were in no way alien to me, but the frequency was an uncomfortable shift. I seemed incapable of asking for affection, or allowing any sort of romance. Deep down I wanted to be loved and adored, but on the surface being a sex object seemed much, much easier to deal with.

I left college, unable to cope with the physical pain of fibro and the emotional upset of being constantly surrounded by women with perfect hair and lipgloss. I cut my hair short again and dyed it dark red, but it never suited me. Nothing suited me. I had no idea of my self-image. Inside, I was a girly girl and I was afraid of being the butch, fat woman on the back of a motorbike. I tried to diet, but couldn’t get a grip on my eating habits. For a long time I did nothing except see O, write poems and waste time on the internet. Eventually, O left his job and went on the dole, and we wasted our time together in a haze of late-night food binges, bad horror films, cans of Stella, fights and violent, sexual acts of forgiveness We got tattoos, using the same needle, saying it was so we could never be apart.

I tried to stop cutting, for his sake. I managed a year without purging or harming myself. I felt frustrated that he wasn’t trying to calm down his vices though. Although O had very little money now he had no job, he bought and sold motorbikes by the dozen. I would get used to riding pillion on one model, then he’d sell that and buy a GSXR. Nothing had been said about the wedding we were supposed to have. I’d been hoping we would save some money and have a small wedding in 2010, but although O agreed and talked long into the night about what it would be like when we were married, he never made any moves to plan anything. In fact, it seemed to fall by the wayside. I ordered a few venue brochures and looked at some 50’s style dresses online, but for all intents and purposes, the marriage didn’t look like it was ever going to happen. We agreed on a date – the 22nd of October, 2010 – but never took it any further.

Almost four years into the relationship, things started truly falling apart.

For years, we’d shuffled along nicely together, fighting but always making up. Our relationship was passionate and we were both stubborn. None of the fights seemed to matter when we were listening to music together or lying in a field with our heads poking out of a tent, watching a meteor shower.

A year earlier, I’d had a miscarriage. O was training in Hull at the time, so I was alone when I woke up covered in blood. I hadn’t even known I was pregnant, and had been taking antibiotics for a kidney infection. I’ve written here about my fears of never being a mother, and around the time I miscarried, those fears were particularly strong. I’d been running a website for women with PCOS for a while, and I became terrified by the stories of IVF and taking temperature in the morning. I was starting to feel motherly for the first time in my life, and I was scared I would never have that chance. When I miscarried, something broke inside me. I lost hope. When O came home, we lay on his bed, naked, crying together. He swore nothing would change, that he still loved me, and that one day we would have children together.

I never quite recovered from the miscarriage, and I don’t think O did either. Things weren’t the same after that, and when we reached almost four years together things went from bad to worse. O never answered his phone and started making excuses not to see me. I alternated between binging and starving, unwilling to accept I had lost control. I harmed myself and started taking over the counter pills to calm me down. I’d started smoking again, and I spent the nights chain-smoking with a bottle of Tia Maria while O lay on the bed, fuming at something I’d said. I cried at the slightest provocation. We started smoking weed together, getting high on small bags of cheap dope.

In 2007, I became very ill. I was experiencing extreme pain throughout my upper body and vomiting black stuff everywhere. I was diagnosed with gallstones, and sent away. It got worse, until I was in A&E every couple of weeks. Eventually, I was admitted with an infected gallbladder, pancreatitis and a failing liver. I was jaundiced and hadn’t eaten for weeks. That’s another story, though.

O visited me almost every day, driving my mother to and from the hospital. He’d sit with me and gently put his arms around me, saying it didn’t matter about my unwashed hair and yellow skin; that he loved me regardless. When I was finally operated on (they removed my gallbladder, after settling down the infections with IV antibiotics), O took me home afterwards, helped me into my Winnie The Pooh pyjamas and tucked me into bed. Gave me my painkillers and stayed with me until I fell asleep.

During my time in hospital, I’d started chatting online with a guy called C. He was 45, but we got on well due to our mutual love of Nine Inch Nails and obscure bands. O became very jealous of C, especially when I lost six stones in the hospital (I was in for a while, on a totally liquid diet) and my hair started growing out again. After the operation, O didn’t seem able to connect physically with the ‘new me’, or the tight-fitting clothes I’d started wearing. I’d gone from a size 18 to a size 8, and was showing off my body for the first time in years.

During our relationship, I had very few friends. Those I did have fell by the wayside as I got more unwell, and eventually it was pretty just O and I. So when I started mentioning conversations I’d had with C, he’d become grumpy and caustic. In many ways, O was even more prone to jealousy than I was. I’d undergone a bit of a personality change while in hospital, and I refused to drop the friendship.

Just before the operation, I went to see O at a local vehicle rally. I hadn’t wanted to stay the night before for a reason I can’t remember, so I got dressed up in a white shirt and tight grey trousers and went to say hello. He was there with his friends, laughing and chatting, and when he saw me he grabbed me in a big bear hug and spun me ’round, getting mud and oil all over my shirt. A girl I’d never seen before walked up to him and said “here’s your hoody back”, then looked at me. O said “this is T, my girlfriend”. The girl looked a bit confused, then stuck her hand out to shake mine.

We went for a walk around the show, stopping under a secluded tree to get out of the rain. O said that the night had been terrible, and half the group had fallen out and gone home. As we were talking, we somehow got onto the subject of sex, and O said “you know, I wouldn’t mind if you slept with other people”.

I looked at him, wondering what he meant.

“Right.”

“I mean it. You can sleep with other people”.

We abandoned the show and went back to his house. Talked for hours in his bedroom about what he’d said. O told me that he’d find it sexy, and that he didn’t ever want to hold me back. In hindsight, I should have pushed the issue farther, but I was confused. I felt that I was losing O, and anything I could do to hold onto him… well, it wasn’t something I’d rule out. If it meant he stayed and loved me, perhaps sleeping with someone else would be the right thing to do.

I thought of my options. None of my exes were on the list; I’d fallen out with them all, and most would probably shove me away with a bargepole. Male friends? I had a few, but none I’d want to sleep with. A stranger? No. One of O’s friends? Too close to home, and too weird. Eventually, I settled on C. I knew he fancied me, he’d said as much. He was much older than me and not attractive, but I knew he’d drop his pants if I asked. I asked O if he was sure he wanted me to do this, and he said yes. So I propositioned C.

It was too easy. A week after the operation, C invited me ’round for “ice cream and chocolate”. I got nervous though, and cancelled. Called O and told him to meet me in the park. I explained how I couldn’t go through with sleeping with someone else, that O was who I loved and what I needed. He smiled and hugged me, and we sat on the warm grass under a tree, taking photographs of butterflies for the rest of the afternoon.

O was still being furtive – more so than ever – and kept mentioning the name of the girl at the motorshow. I teased him at first, saying he was suffering from mentionitis, but after a while I became suspicious. She was all he talked about, and I’d start catching him out in little lies about where he’d been. If his mobile rang, he’d go out of the room and talk for ages. Despite turning C down, we’d stayed in touch and I asked him if I was being unreasonable in suspecting O and this girl. C said that I wasn’t, and that O didn’t deserve me.We started meeting up, just to talk. He took me to the beach and grabbed my hand when I was jumping off a rock. He brought me Dr Pepper and Galaxy chocolate. I confess, I needed the attention, but never took it any further than friendship.

O and I continued to fight, and after weeks of screaming and crying he told me that he was breaking up with me for a week, to get his head together. He said he couldn’t cope with me anymore, and just needed a week to think. I was gutted; we’d been together for almost four years. After a lot of begging and promises to change, I finally agreed with him that I’d not contact him for a week. At the end of those seven days, we would meet up and talk about our relationship.

I spent the first few days in an angry haze, taking my MP3 player and Smiths collection for long walks through the park and around the golf course, chain-smoking and often stopping in the street to just stare at the pavement.

Halfway through the week, I kissed C. I’ll never know why, I just seemed to crave some sort of male affection. It was a horrible, stale kiss. Nothing like O.

When the week was over, I admitted to O that it had happened. He went crazy, even though he’d been the one to insist on the break. He’d said anything which happened during our time apart was nothing to do with the relationship. His reaction made me angry, especially when he retorted with “yeah, well I’m sleeping with Ally (the girl from the motorshow)”.Even as my stomach sank, I heard myself say that we were once again even. O promised it was a one-off, drunken thing, and I decided, stupidly, to forgive him. I’d hardly been innocent myself.

After that, everything changed. We were flogging a dead horse, trying to keep our relationship afloat when there was no trust. O disappeared sometimes, missing work at his new job and taking his bike out. He never answered the phone. Sometimes when we were together, we’d cry over what we’d become. Other times we would turn our backs on each other. He shaved off his floppy brown hair and went to rallies without me. I spent more time with C, going on long walks and talking about everything which was happening.

I knew I was going to sleep with C. The idea didn’t appeal to me, but I craved some sort of affection. I wanted to have my own weapon to wield against O sleeping with Ally. The thought of them together was killing me.

I wore a flowery strappy top and a pair of baggy jeans, wore perfume and applied red lipstick. I felt like the biggest traitor in the world. He took me back to his house and we slept together in his small, dark bedroom. I hated it, but couldn’t turn back. I’d gone too far, and simply didn’t know what I wanted or needed anymore. I faked enjoyment and blocked my ears to his grunts. It felt cheap and tawdry, like a bad porn film. He fell asleep afterwards and I lay awake, wondering what he hell I was doing in this house, with this man snoring and mumbling next to me. I inched over to the edge of the bed and tried to sleep. I didn’t know myself anymore.

O found out. He locked himself in his bathroom with my phone and read my texts, which I’d forgotten to delete. Sometimes I wonder if I left them there on purpose.

We struggled on together, unwilling to let go but unable to deal with who we were. We broke up, then got back together the next day. Tearful phone calls and late-night confessions were our lives together. O bought a car, a 106, and we would drive to the sea wall and sit together in silence, listening to soft music and watching the lighthouses across the ocean. Sometimes he would kiss me, with the saddest expression on his face.

Eventually, we broke up, on Valentine’s day. I’d bought him forget-me-nots. He displayed a card from Ally in his bedroom, with a photograph of them dancing together. We still slept together sometimes, occasionally kissing when nobody was looking. I stayed the night a couple of times, but it was clear I was no longer O’s girlfriend. That role had been taken by Ally, with her long curly hair and skinny hips and bags of cocaine.

A few months later, Ally fell pregnant. They now have two children together. I still have my engagement ring, somewhere.

I wrote about O for this question because we both fit into it. I made his life hell, and he treated me like shit. It’s hard to get across what happened between us on a blog post, without rambling on for hours. He hurt me, and I hurt him. He filled my head with empty promises. Even after we’d split, he would tell me he loved me and wanted to be with me. He slept with me and promised me the world, without me asking. He told me how we’d find a way to be together, eventually. None of that was real. He lied.

Day 01  Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02  Something you love about yourself.
Day 03  Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04  Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05  Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06  Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07  Someone who has made your life worth living for.

10 Day You Challenge – six places

I wasn’t quite sure how to take ‘six places’. It could be favourite places, places you’ve been.. so I’ve gone with places which mean something to me, whether positive or negative.

1. My bedroom. I have spent years in this room; living in it, sleeping in it, eating in it, crying, loving, hating in it. My walls have seen fights, heartbreak, tears, sex, drugs, breakdowns and happiness. The essence of who I am is contained in this small room; from the purple flowery duvet cover, to the Buddah. From the wicker basket of knitting yarn, to the stacks of CDs and horror films on DVD. From the pre-pubescent me, burning incense and writing bad poetry, to the present day me; still burning incense, still writing bad poetry. The carpet is stained with evidence of late-night drink and food binges and is black and grey from spilled ashtrays. My clothes, my music, my books, my knitting, my shoes, my posters… they’re in here. This one room has seen so much of my life.

2. The embankment near my house. It used to be part of the sea defences, before they were moved nearer to the coast. I live a 15-minute walk from the coastline, and you can see the beach and the lighthouses in the Irish sea from the embankment. I often go there to sit and think, to simply be alone for a short while. It’s used by dog walkers, but they tend to ignore me; I suppose they don’t often see someone just sitting there, staring at a sand dune. I’ve been going there since I was old enough to discover it, often sneaking out of the house as a young teen to watch the sun rise from behind the water treatment works. I’ve gone to sit there when my heart has been broken, when I thought I couldn’t face another day alive and breathing. I’ve gone there to escape the drama of my family. I’ve sat up there, screaming into the phone at O, begging him not to destroy me. I’ve sat there and contemplated suicide. I’ve smoked dope and stolen cigarettes up there. I’ve had sex, hidden away in the tall summer grasses which grow next to the cow field. I’ve spied on the houses of other people, watched the occupants go about their lives. I took S there, and we sat together, talking and smoking dope. We kissed. I told him how much this place means to me.

3. A local college. When my child psychiatrist failed to diagnose me with anything exciting such as schizophrenia or bipolar, he decided I had Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s taken me a long time to write about this, as it still pisses me off. At the time, Asperger’s was the diagnosis of the week; everyone had it. If you didn’t have it, you had traits of it. Now, I have nothing against anyone with AS, or any autistic disorder, so I apologise if I sound insulting. I was incensed by the diagnosis; I had hardly any traits, and those I did have could easily be accounted for by the bullying I experienced in school, my ever-loosening grip on the world, and the incredibly stifling atmosphere I grew up in. I refused to accept what I saw as a negative label; I may have problems, but I did not have a learning difficulty. I didn’t lack empathy or find patterns in things. I didn’t misunderstand sarcasm (it’s my favourite type of humour), I was terrified of numbers, and I knew exactly how to fit in with the world and society; I just didn’t want to. I was a normal, albeit fucked up teenager. Still, the diagnosis was stamped, at at the age of 17 it was decided to send me to a college for young adults with learning difficulties; everything from ADHD to Down’s Syndrome. The night before my first day, I overdosed on my antidepressants. I cried, I begged, I pleaded, but it seemed I had no choice.

The decision damaged me, without any doubt. I had nobody to talk to bar the staff, and they treated me like I was stupid. I spent my days doing very basic English skills and acting out social situations in drama with a partner who couldn’t even eat by himself. I was sexually assaulted in a hallway by another student, but it was dropped by staff because “he couldn’t help it”. He grabbed my crotch and licked my face. Still, I had to turn up.

Nowadays, I have the Asperger’s diagnosis struck off my medical records. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me was later sacked for malpractice.

4. Haydock Park. It will always hold a place in my heart for being where O proposed to me. It wasn’t the most romantic of situations (we were in a tent and had been arguing), and the relationship came to a bitter, damaged end, but at the time, I was happy. Although I look back now and realise he probably never meant to propose, and that he was always scared to tell me… at the time, it meant everything. I don’t believe in letting go of the happy times in life, no matter how much they end up hurting you in the end.

5. A local bookshop. It doesn’t just sell books, it sells crystals and comics and fossils. It’s tucked away in a little side street on the main shopping road, and I’ve been going there since I was a young child. Along the alleyway entrance there’s shelves of books; books on every topic you could imagine. Books from the 1900’s, maps, instruction manuals. Inside, it smells of old leather. Floors creak under the weight of thousands of books; from modern classics to rare first editions. You can’t touch some of them, they’re worth so much money. Leatherbound editions of Alice In Wonderland rub shoulders with pieces of meterorite and shark teeth. I love it in there.

6. I honestly can’t think of a sixth place. I’m sure one will come to me as soon as I publish this.