Love Story

Faith
was a myth I never quite
believed.

Trust
was a lie, a few
empty words.

Love
was a story I wrote
for you,
and you took it away
so easily.

I turn the pages
but you changed the ending.

(c)

When I met O, I had such hopes and dreams for us; just as I had for every other past relationship. He was to be my saviour, a knight on shining armor to rescue me from every mistake I ever made and every man who ever made me feel worthless. At the time I believed that nobody – not a single other person in the whole world – felt as much for somebody as I did for O. I adored him. Clung to him like a limpet. Demanded his attention 24/7; at the time, I honestly believed I was doing the right thing. I thought he appreciated knowing just how special he was to me.

And for a long time, we wrote a love story together. O was just as attentive and clingy; demanding to know who was texting me or why I’d not answered my phone. We were perfectly destructive for each other, but the constant friction created a passion which kept us coming back to each other, time and time again. 

Then it all changed. He broke free of the bonds we’d created and walked his own path. I thought I had the ending all worked out, but he added his own epilogue. 

Attached at the hip – another oldie

Stars hung low in the sky tonight
Suspended by threads less fragile than ours
Street lights flicker and tobacco burns
A single light glowing in the dark.

The moon covered by a cloud
But hung by a rope, stronger than anything we could have made
Skin deep promises count for so little
On these nights by the windowpane.

A burned out joint in the gutter
A feeling of being anything but high.
Standing smaller in the dark than I’ve ever felt
In the dark, beneath the night sky.

The wind chills my fingers as I watch the road
Waiting for cars, but nobody comes
Just flickering night lights to pave my way
An illumination on all that I’ve done.

Lighting the shame, the guilt and the doubt
A spotlight upon my every move
Why can’t they see, this was only about me?
This was never about my feelings for you.

Stars hang low above my head
On threads made of promises, kisses and sighs
Threads hold us together, attached at the hip
Built of deception, coldness, heartbreak and lies.

(c) 2008

In the corner, by the door

Tonight, like the last, I thought too much
My mind the enemy like too many times before
The candle by my bed burned out long ago
And somehow I find myself sitting on the floor
In the corner,like I’ve always known
That safe place I always retreat
My head plays tricks on me tonight
In the silent dark, I admit defeat.

Tears flow, the pain won’t end
I sing a song but I can’t sleep
I sit in the corner, cigarette in my hand
Fragments of poems laying around my feet
Too many words, too many lies
When all I need is to hear the truth
Too many heartbreaks, too many times
Too many thoughts of losing you.

My head full of thoughts I’d rather not think
Crippled with images I’d rather not see
Playing like a movie with no happy ending
You and her, when it should be you and me
Sick imagery I can’t forget
Burned forever on my heart and soul
Disappears when you hold my close
But tonight, again, I am alone.

And nights like this, I can hear the rain
I can convince myself it’s all falling apart
I can miss your skin and your breath more than ever
I can feel the cracking of my heart
Once again tonight, I fall from grace
Sitting in the corner, by the door
Heart weighing heavy and thoughts of you
As I sit here, alone on the floor.

These are my words, all I can offer
My prayer to you and all I held dear
This is my heart and these are my feelings
My pain, my heartache, my loneliness, my fear
I close my eyes and count to ten
But it’s not a dream and I can’t undo
All the wrongs I caused unwittingly
All the pain I caused to you.

Tonight, like the last, I’m wide awake
In the corner, by the door
Can’t shake the pictures, those sick lullabies
Can’t shake the feeling you might have wanted more.

(c) 2008

Knowing your fiancé is cheating on you is a strange feeling. Painful, more painful than anything I ever imagined, and somewhat desolate. You feel alone, because even the person closest to you has turned to somebody else for whatever you can no longer give. Yet he still wants to be with you. He wants to be with her, too. He wants to have his cake and eat it, and because you can’t imagine how you’d ever survive without him in your life, you let it happen. You cry and scream when you find evidence of her in his bedroom – a picture she drew for him (what, is she like 12?) or a curly, long, brown hair on his pillow – but you still accept his kisses and let him make promises because he’s all you have. 

And you don’t want her to win. You want to be better than her – a better girlfriend, better in bed, a better person in general – but eventually you can’t fight anymore. She wins. He runs to her. 

Then back to you.

To her.

To you.

For months. And you let it happen. 

They’re all out to get you, once again.

“For a long time, I lived in an imaginary world. A world were everybody was nice and respected me for my invented talents and very unlikely beauty. As a child, I often spoke these fantasies out loud and the habit carried on into my teens, leading to a child psychiatrist assuming I heard voices. I didn’t; I just confined myself in a fantasy world to the point where I believed it all. I didn’t live in the real world, but in a false reality. What happened, only happened in my head. At some point, the childish fantasies became a psychosis and that’s when everything changed in my happy little world; I invented slights and insults, and became convinced that, rather than adoring me, everyone loathed the very ground I walked on. Being bullied in secondary school pushed me further into the fake reality and only confirmed (in my addled brain) my suspicions that everyone was conspiring against me.”

Psychosis is impossible to explain to anybody who’s never experienced it first-hand. Wikipedia describes psychosis as an abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality“, and given that my fantasy world was as far removed from reality as it’s possible to be, that’s what I’ll call it.

Of course, I don’t remember what was real and what was simply imagined, so I can’t accurately describe exactly how my psychosis panned out. Although I now realise that certain torments and threats were entire fantasy, I sometimes wonder just how much of my life as I see it is just an illusion. I confess… I don’t like feeling that so much of my life was a lie.

I can remember sitting on my bed in the room I used to sleep in, and feeling convinced the entire world could see me. Not through cameras, but in their heads; I don’t know, some sort of telepathy. They saw me and judged me on everything I said and did. Sometimes I got dressed under the bedcovers, worried about everyone seeing me naked and laughing at my body. I would turn photographs and posters to the wall in case they were somehow a way of people watching my every move. At one time, I had hundreds of posters and, when stressed, would refuse to look at them in case they knew that I knew.

At no point did the thought occur to me that none of this was real or strange. It felt so normal that I never questioned it; you see what’s in front of your eyes, and what I saw may have been removed from reality but I saw it all the same, and had no reason to be suspicious I was living in a false world. If you see a cup on a table, you don’t think, “hey, is this real?”. You just accept that the cup and table are there. I accepted that the things I thought and believed were there too.

I’ve written before about how happy my years in primary school were, but I neglected to mention a few problems I had along the way. On the whole it was an amazing experience, and one I’ll always cherish –  I can still smell the cut grass on the school field which signaled it was summer – but it wasn’t always the rosy-tinted childhood I make it out to be. I suppose I haven’t felt ready to talk until now.

I have never got on with numbers. Basic arithmetic is the best I can manage, and I’ve done a lot of avoiding maths in my life. I still don’t have my maths GCSE; I wasn’t even competent enough to take the exam. It’s not that I don’t want to learn, something just stops the numbers processing properly. It’s like they turn to mush in my brain as soon as I try to solve all but the most simple problems. In the first years of primary school this wasn’t a problem because even I could understand that 2 + 2 = 4. What I didn’t reckon on was being introduced to basic fractions and decimals when I joined the junior classes. I couldn’t process them. They made no sense. I couldn’t accept that there was any rhyme or reason to any of it, and I began to panic. I started needing to pee all the time, and often used it as an excuse to escape to the toilets next to the classroom and hide from the numbers.

This is where things get cloudy. I have memories, but they may not be real. I have brief flashes, but I’m not entirely convinced I didn’t invent the whole thing.

All I remember is those toilets. Three small stalls and two sinks opposite. Tracing paper toilet roll. And somebody – somebody male – in those toilets with me.

His legs are all I can picture. Dark trousers and black shoes. That’s it. His legs. Nothing else.

It’s only a fragment of memory. A tiny second out of twenty-seven years of life. In the grand scheme of things it barely exists. So why does it follow me around? I just know that toilet stall is somehow important. I just don’t want to consider why.

The last two years of juniors is when I started retreating into myself. I started spending time alone on the playing field, picking daisies and throwing them. Once, I fell over and badly cut my hand on a piece of glass which had been sticking out of the ground. Instead of going to the teacher on duty, I stood and watched the blood. For a long time. I remember kids crowding around me, and a teacher wrapping a bandage around my hand.

By the age of eleven, I was inventing scenarios in my head which never occurred. I began to tell ridiculous lies; lies which were so obvious yet I was convinced I was actually speaking the truth. It’s hard to explain to somebody who’s never experienced it. Even though what I claimed was clearly impossible, as the words came out of my mouth I believed them entirely. When the bullying started, my beliefs became more and more outlandish; to the outsider it must have sounded like I was trying to make myself sound cooler than I am, but in reality I had no such plans. All of it – the invented boyfriends, imagined situations – were 100% real in my head. The people I created lived out their lives and, when something bad happened to them, I felt sorry for them. When one died, I cried in the history classroom, putting my head down on the desk and sobbing into my black blazer.

This is all so difficult to talk about. You just can’t explain something which was never there.

Sometimes the walls moved in one me. Loud bangs would shoot off in my head, as though there was a gun going off inside my ear. Music played when there was none. I saw figures standing just out of my vision, always watching me. I stayed up late every night, worried that somebody or something would grab me if I fell asleep, and I would stare at the reflections in my tiny bedroom television, convinced I could see people moving inside. Not once did I consider that tiny people inside my television might be quite an unusual event.

I knew, without a doubt, that my every thought was being broadcast somewhere. Where, I never quite decided; most likely to my enemies, the people who hated me most and who were waiting for me to put a foot wrong so they could point and laugh at my total inability to fit in with the social norms.

By far the worst aspect of being bullied was knowing that two desks behind me I was inevitably the subject of a caustic bitching session. This bit was undoubtedly real. I did experience name-calling and shoving in the corridors, but that wasn’t anywhere near the feeling of being totally ignored. I had a handful of friends but my increasingly wacky behavior – muttering to myself, writing poetry on wardrobe doors and turning up to class with my white shirt sleeves soaked in blood from where I’d hacked at myself with a razor – quickly drove them away and although we still hung out at break, I was suddenly being invited to a lot fewer sleepovers.

I skipped class often. Nobody ever missed me and I often whiled away hours in the toilets near the R.E classroom, locked securely in a stall far away from the door. I’d hear girls come in and chat about the usual mundane things. Once, I was sitting on the toilet seat and writing in the back of my English book when I caught my name in their conversation.

Yeah, she’s such a freak“.

From this point on, every word said to me was taken as a criticism on my worth as a human being. I scrutinised every conversion – looking for insults and judgement – and found that everyone, every single person I met, hated me. Total strangers knew my entire life story and looked down on me for failing to succeed, and even my own family were conspiring against me.. When my mother sent me to the child psychiatrist after I was found harming myself in school, I saw it as a direct attack. I was perfectly fine, she was the one with delusions.

Every session with the psychiatrist, I sat on a blue-cushioned chair and stared at the clock on the wall above his head. I counted the ticks. I looked at his ratty face and imagined throwing him out of the window just so he’d stop asking me how everything made me feel. I felt fine. I was okay. The world was fucked-up, not me, and I’d cope much better if everyone just stopped interfering with my life, thank you very much.

One day, he asked me if I heard voices. I answered honestly; yes, I did. And yes, they suggested bad things.

The voices… they’re not like a real voice heard inside your head. They’re more like thoughts – you don’t hear a thought, you think it – which occasionally pop up and, because it’s just a thought, you believe it.

The bad things? Killing myself. Killing my classmates. Going into  school with a kitchen knife and forcing the bullies to take me seriously for once, rather than laughing and making sly comments when I put my hand up in class. Once, I took the knife – a small one – in my schoolbag but wasn’t brave enough to use it.

I never thought that I was anything other than normal.

The psychiatrist said I was schizophrenic. I was sent to PL. They said I wasn’t. Nobody seemed to know why I was so removed from everything, other than I was experiencing some sort of post-traumatic psychosis. In one of the many counselling and therapy sessions, I was asked if my father had ever sexually abused me. I said no, of course he hasn’t; my dad may be some things, but he never laid a finger on me.

Nobody ever asked if someone else had abused me, though.

“I’m Fine”

This lack of control is killing me,
your eyes are open but you can’t see,
the pain I bury, the shame I hide,
the secret anger I keep inside.
Sometimes I speak but you can’t hear,
my words are stunted, censored by fear,
I choose it all so carefully,
I want you to know, but I’m afraid you’ll see.

My weakness and all I’ve become,
my desperation and all that I’ve done,
the holes I’ve dug and the walls I build,
I hide my feelings beneath blankets of guilt.
I can’t explain why I keep it inside,
when you know it happens, why do I lie?
You know the reality, you’ve seen the truth,
yet I do my best to keep this from you.

I slide down further, I lose my grip,
you reached out for me but I let myself slip,
and why do I do this, why do I fall?
I never meant for any of this, any of this at all.

This loss of power, it’s destroying me,
it’s chipping away at who I used to be,
I wash my hands, I tidy this away,
sweep it under the carpet because I’ll never say,
that I’m losing control, that I can’t seem to stand,
on my own, without your hands,
to pull me up out of this hell I made,
the monster I created that day.

I try to control us, but it’s killing me,
my eyes are open but I’ll never see,
past the bathroom and the kitchen light,
I reach out to you, but you’re not here tonight.
My disgrace, it’s tearing my skin,
it’s ripping at everything I’ve ever been,
a crutch I made, a path I chose,
I have no control, and I know it shows.

Tiny white pills, slowly killing me,
but I close my eyes, refuse to see,
empty bottles hidden and your photo on my wall,
nothing can save me… nobody at all.
This lack of control was always killing me,
what I loved was always the enemy,
letters unwritten and diaries burned,
pills, bottles, bathrooms – lessons I never learned.
Words I wrote never got to you,
feelings I’ve hidden, but it’s nothing new,
it’s nothing you haven’t heard before,
just another night on the bathroom floor.
This lack of control, you speak to me,
I want to confess, I want you to see,
but I fall silent, consumed by the shame,
just two words:
‘I’m fine’
…as I fall apart again.

(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?

The pains of being honest at heart, and the problem of guilt

“Don’t you find it strange, opening up like that? I couldn’t do it”

Tonight, I spoke to my mother about my blog, and how it’s helped me. She’s always known I write this, although I would never in a million years show it to her. She’s always been suspicious of the internet, to the point of obsession over supposed threats social networks could pose to me, regardless of how careful I assure her I am (I’m not; I’m just not interesting enough to be worth stalking, and if someone wants to hack my bank account, go for it; I have a grand total of nothing in it, and it’s been empty for a year now), but she’s recently become quite attached to reading forums. Mostly it’s the same one; a money-saving forum. She tells me about the lives of the various members as though they were close friends, and I actually think it’s nice, and probably good for her. I worry about her total lack of a social life, and I suppose in a way she’s involving herself now, even though she doesn’t ever post.

I sat on the stairs, balancing a mug of light chocolate Ovaltine next to me and hugging my knees while we spoke. We often seem to speak in strange places; we’ve never been that good at expressing our emotions around each other, but we’re starting to, and I like it. Since my diagnosis of Borderline Personality, I’ve become more open with her. She’s done her research on it, and I know there’s no point pretending everything’s fine with me now when I freak out, because she knows exactly why.

I’ve always been a very honest person. I may have lied and twisted facts in the past to make myself sound cool or popular, but when it comes to my emotions, I’ve rarely bothered holding back. I suppose I just don’t see the point in hiding such a huge part of my personality. Sometimes, that honesty has come back to bite me on the arse – not everybody treats the truth with respect – but I’ve always tried to bounce back from the insults and judgements, believing that the best way for me to cope with life is to be honest about who I am and the way I feel.

Tonight, I wanted to be honest in a post, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s the first time I’ve struggled with laying myself bare online in a long time, and I’ve never once held back on this blog. My reasons for holding back were twofold; one, I didn’t want to be seen to be looking for sympathy, and two, I just didn’t think anybody would be interested enough.

I didn’t write the post in the end. It seemed easier to just let it slide, but I’ve been unable to shake it from my mind. It was nothing amazing or groundbreaking – simply explaining how much physical pain I’m in today/tonight – but when I started this blog, I promised myself total honesty, even if I didn’t like what I had to write about myself, and so I now find myself typing away at my laptop, propped up against a V-shaped neck pillow in my little single bed, writing to purge the imagined sins of dishonesty.

I mean, I wasn’t even dishonest. I simply omitted to mention something, which in itself is no biggie and certainly won’t cause any major disasters to happen. In the comments of my last post, people said I should stop being so hard on myself, and they’re right. Guilt consumes so much of my life that sometimes it’s all I can feel.

The truth? I’m in pain. A lot of pain, all through my body. I’ve hardly moved today, although I’ve tried to force myself. My fingers and wrists ache, my ankle is bruised and swollen (it’s been that way for months), my neck feels as though I’m carrying a concrete slab on my head, and my skulls feels like it may explode. Earlier, I had earache, probably caused by a swollen gland on the left side of my neck. My knees hurt. My jaw hurts. Even my eyes seem to hurt.

The Celebrex is doing nothing except scrambling my already jumbled brain. Naproxen helps, but I can’t take both and I need to stay on the Celebrex until I see the rheumatologist. I haven’t had any weed for a couple of weeks now, so that’s not an option. Staying in bed doesn’t help and neither does moving around. Hot baths don’t touch the pain in my neck and head at all. Heat does nothing. Cold does even less. So the only thing I have is fucking codeine. How can I deal with an addiction if I need that substance to even begin to function?

I’ve tried to behave and stick to the correct dosage, but I’ve slipped a few times. Last night I took seven caplets, in an attempt to sleep. I’ve only had two today so far, but the effects wore off hours ago. I feel like I should be apologising to my liver.

I can’t help feeling cheated by life. I suppose being sick is a lot like grief; I’m going through the stages.

The stages, popularly known by the acronym DABDA, include:[2]

  1. Denial — “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
    Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with anger
  2. Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
    Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy.
  3. Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
    The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…”
  4. Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point… What’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
    During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
  5. Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
    In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event.
Wikipedia link

Only, I keep flipping back and forth between anger and depression. I seem to be stuck between them. Some days I can almost accept it, but then something happens – I drop a cup or wake up unable to move my neck – and I’m right back to being frustrated and furious, or depressed and convinced I may as well just give up because life can’t ever get any better.

Denial was the best stage. It lasted a long time. I don’t know when things changed.

Apathy

I never expected to feel so much frustration when life dictates that I can’t write. Well, not can’t… just the feeling that I have nothing worthwhile to say. I never expected to feel angry at myself when I feel unable to reply to comments on my blog, or respond to advice. Heck, I never even expected to get comments. I feel like I should apologise for seeming aloof or unresponsive.

It’s not that I’m depressed (I’m not) or particularly stressed out (again, I’m not); I’m just tired. Tiredness is a strange thing. We all experience it, so you’d think that carrying on as normal wouldn’t be that difficult. Still, the overwhelming sense of fatigue has flipped a switch somewhere in my brain and triggered an apathy I can’t seem to shake.

Of course, putting off writing makes things even more difficult, because I now feel a sense of responsibility to myself to put everything down on screen; and I have a lot to write about. Sure, I have nothing worthwhile to do today so I have plenty of time… but part of me just wants to curl up in bed with a cup of coffee and read, rather than have to think about things.

I saw my GP this morning. I woke fifteen minutes before my alarm went off, but still managed to be five minutes late even though the surgery is only around the corner. I just couldn’t motivate myself. Luckily, appointments were running behind anyway, so although I had a small panic it didn’t turn into a full-force freak out. As I sat in the waiting room I thought about how often I’d seen those same plastic chairs, the same Comic-Sans printed signs advising on chlamydia testing, and the same slightly scuffed carpet. I thought about how so much of my life has been spent in GP waiting rooms and hospitals, and realised that it was a depressingly large amount of time. As a result, I found myself apologising to my doctor for taking up so much of his time. He said there was no need to be sorry, but I still felt guilty. He must be sick of seeing my face.

I told him how unhappy I was with the neurology appointment. Although the anger has long gone, I’m still upset that I wasn’t taken seriously. Of course that’s nothing new, but I’m growing tired of having everything blamed on my age, or being told that people my age can’t possibly have anything wrong with them. How old do I have to be before I’m listened to?

My GP agreed with me that a re-referral probably wouldn’t achieve anything, and so I’ve been passed on to rheumatology. I’ll be seeing the specialist who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia, which cheered me up considerably because he’s such a lovely guy. The last thing I need is to be stuck with another po-faced consultant. I explained how the steroid treatment also helped a lot with the pain, to the point where it pretty much disappeared. We both agreed that fibromyalgia seems unlikely now; so I suppose it’s a case of finding out what it is yet again. I’ve been given drugs for arthritis to see if they help, and yet more steroid cream to treat the eczema; it’s come back. It came back once the steroid treatment dropped to two tablets a day, and the speed has been pretty distressing. One day I had a small red patch and I felt really smug that it seemed to have finally cleared up, the next I woke up with blisters all over my hands and feet. After a week, it’s pretty much back to the severity it was when I started the treatment, and I confess that I don’t hold out much hope for steroid cream working. They never have before. Still, if it helps the pain and itching at all, it’s a bonus. The past two nights have been pretty hellish, scratching and being kept awake by the burning.

I suppose I’m coping okay, otherwise. A few small panics, but I’m putting that down to frustration over the pain. I’ve developed a strange walk; I caught sight of myself in a mirror in Marks and Spencer yesterday and noticed that I’m not only dragging my right foot slightly (unattractive in itself) but I’m doing a strange thing with my hip – lifting it more on one side – thus making my backside look even bigger and, well, just making it look like I don’t know how to walk properly. It shouldn’t bother me because I can’t help it, but I really dislike showing any physical signs that I’m in pain. I don’t want sympathy or to be treated differently, but it’s becoming inevitable that I will be. I like being able to pretend that everything’s okay, but I can’t really do that anymore. Still haven’t used my walking stick; it almost feels like giving up, even though I know I probably need it. I told S about it, and I don’t know why but I said that it was a silly idea of my mum’s (it wasn’t) and I’m fine without it. Why did I lie? I hate lying, and I know he wouldn’t think any less of me. I just want to be… perfect, I suppose. I know there’s no such thing, but it’s hard to accept that life didn’t quite go the way I planned it to.

Speaking of S, on Tuesday it was a year since we started going out together. We didn’t see each other, but exchanged some lovely texts and he made me feel pretty special. I can’t quite believe that he’s put up with me for a whole year, and that during that time we haven’t had a single argument or even a bicker. I’ve never had a relationship like this, and I constantly have to mentally pinch myself to make sure it’s not a dream. I’m still slightly convinced that I’ll wake up one day in a padded room, having fabricated the whole thing. Love like this… it doesn’t happen to people like me. My relationships have always been about passion and fights and denial and jealousy. They’ve never been so peaceful and comfortable as my relationship with S has been. I’ve truly never known any man like him, and I feel pretty blessed. Sometimes I get scared that he’ll change his mind, but something inside me actually feels hope, for the first time since I can remember.

Next weekend, we’re going to Wales to stay in a cottage for a week with some friends. It’ll be the longest we’ve ever spent together, and I suppose in a way it’s a test of just how much we can take of each other’s company. I’m looking forward to it; usually I hate being around other people, but I feel quite comfortable with his friends and it’ll be nice to get away from these four walls.

We’ll be staying pretty close to the base of Mt Snowdon; a perfect opportunity to actually use my Nikon.

I confess; I slipped again. I didn’t purge like last time, but I’m sitting here with codeine running through my bloodstream. A normal dose, for once… but not a great sign. I just wish I could cope without some form of chemical help. Sometimes I worry I never will.

Edit: I’d like to thank the bloggers who have nominated me for awards recently. It hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated, and when I’m feeling more up to it I’ll respond. Thank you for the nominations, it still amazes me that people even read this.

30 days of truth – day 10 – letting go of myself.

A letter to my twelve-year-old-self.

As you sit in your incense-scented bedroom, leaning against strategically-placed cushions on your bed and picking at the moon and stars duvet cover you begged for, consider this. Consider that one day, you will be twenty-six. You will be in that same room, typing these words on your laptop, surrounded by the things you collected during life; Guinness bottles, eye creams, cheap jewellery, a pink and white Laura Ashley bedspread marked by gel pens and cigarette burns. Empty pill packets and lighters. Crystals you once believed had healing power. You no longer believe, but will never throw them away.

You will type these words, thinking back to the Hanson posters you no longer own, the Sony Walkman which broke years ago, the candlesticks which never looked right on your window ledge. You will remember.

It all sounds so far away to you. Life for you is a slow-moving mash-up of books, poetry, the X-Files and listening to The Middle Of Nowhere over and over, until the tape starts to break. Fears you feel are school-related. The challenges you face are all-consuming, and you suspect you will never be this confused; that puberty will somehow save you from the feelings you keep inside. The diaries you write now… you will throw them away. They don’t have meaning to you, after all; so much of what you write is lies, made up to convince yourself that your life is more interesting than it is. So much of what you say is lies, woven from a need to fit in, to impress, to be somebody else. You will convince yourself, eventually, that these lies are nothing but the absolute truth, and that’s okay; years later, you will find out why you did this. It was never your fault.

A lot of things will turn out to be not your fault. However much you blame yourself, I wish you’d know this, so you wouldn’t punish yourself. It may seem strange writing like this; after all, I’m writing to myself, and until they invent time-travel, this is purely for the grown-up me. You and I are different people. We have the same genes, the same blood group, the same eyes. We are the same, but so different. As you grow older, you will learn so many lessons; most harsh and uncaring, but all useful. You need to bear these lessons to become who I am now. You need to remember that you change drastically, and that your life will be a series of learning curves. Change doesn’t come easily; you have to fight for it. As much as you don’t see it, you can, do, and will fight. You’re more able and stronger than you give yourself credit for.

The nightmares will always be there, but you will learn to bear them. You will even discover, one day, why you have them. It won’t be an easy discovery, and you’ll break before you mend, but you need to discover those things.

For you, now, school is the be-all and end-all. I remember all too well how it feels to even hear that word. ‘School’ – such an innocent word, yet I know how sick you feel when you hear or read it. I remember those stomach cramps and tears. I remember the utter terror. I want to be honest with you, so I’m afraid it doesn’t get easier. If I could go back and be you again, I would find my voice; because you do have one. I would stand up for myself, because the ability is there. You can’t see it now, and it saddens me that you can’t find a way out. If I could tell you one thing, it would be this; it was never as bad as you imagined it. You naturally punish yourself and assume you’re guilty. Years later, you will find out why, you will discover that it’s a fault in your brain, something you can’t help. When someone raises their voice, I know you believe it’s you they’re angry with. When something goes wrong, I know you automatically blame yourself. What happened at school will stay with you for a long time, well into your early twenties, but one day, the fear lessens. One day, the tangles and confusions begin to make sense. One day, you stop blaming everyone else, and, most importantly, you stop blaming yourself. You will see school for what it actually was; a place where you simply never fit in. Not through lack of trying, but because you tried too much. You were simply never going to be one of the popular kids, but remember this; popularity at your age may seem like everything, but really, it’s nothing. Most of the popular kids were just as insecure as you. They had troubles at home too. They struggled with work, even though you felt like the only one.

 

 

At the age of thirteen, in November, you will refuse to go to school. You will leave. The year before that will be a painful one; a long, hard road of misery and upset. You entered puberty much earlier than your peers, and so much of this is down to hormones, even though you won’t realise it at the time. Hormones and mental illness. In that year, you will leave childhood behind. You will become even more introverted, shying away from physical contact. You will push away your friends. I can’t tell you not to do this; without it, you wouldn’t be where I am now. I just wish you could understand how damaging it will be to you, and how easy it would have been to just reach out. One day, you will find yourself sitting in the headmaster’s office, having to explain the scars and cuts on your arms. You will make a vital mistake at this point; you will choose to confide in your two best friends. They won’t understand, and it will scare them. Eventually, you will lose these friends, but I can tell you now that it was the best thing in the situation. They weren’t emotionally mature enough to deal with their friend self-harming. The next mistake you will make it forgetting to hide the bloodstains on your shirt sleeves. The girls who sit opposite you in science will see it, and will pretend to scratch themselves with compasses in front of you. When you start the unexplained crying bouts in lessons, you will lie, you will make up a story to explain away the tears. I wish you hadn’t done this; everyone knew you were lying. In fact, everyone knew that most of what you said was a lie, all along. This is why they never believed you. When one of the popular girls asks you if you’re alright in the PE changing room, she wasn’t trying to be cruel, to taunt you. I wish you could see that, because I know that, at the time, you believed it was just another way of getting to you, rather than the rare kind gesture it actually was.

You always suspected you were different, didn’t you? Well, you are. Not a freak; not in the popular sense of the word. The truth is, you’re ill. The illness is in your head, and, contrary to what you may suspect, you’re not making it up to gain attention and status. You’re not inventing problems for yourself, regardless of what that voice in your head may tell you. Yes, you do make it worse for yourself at times, you do over-analyse situations and get yourself into emotional states you can’t control, but that doesn’t make you any less of a person.

Now, look at this photo.

I know that by posting this, I’m giving a lot away about myself; where I come from, where I went to school. I wanted to remain entirely anonymous on this blog, but perhaps honesty is more important sometimes. I know that, if you saw this photo, you would begin to sweat and shake. You would probably cry. Your heart would race, and you would have the urge to harm yourself in some way. I remember how it felt every time you heard the lyric “go to school” in that Sheryl Crow song, how you had to fast-forward past that bit. I promise that one day, it won’t hurt. I promise that one day you will be walking past the school, and feel nothing.

 

When you look in the mirror, you see somebody who will never be loved. You will never quite understand what exactly makes this fact; whether it’s the mass of curly, unruly, tangled ginger hair, or the rolls of fat which make sitting down so uncomfortable, or simply your face, which you never felt comfortable with. You were never one of the pretty girls. Your body shape meant you would never have delicate shoulders or slim hips. You know you will never be a tall, skinny blonde.

I chose to write to you when you were twelve years old because I know that’s when everything started. Not the bullying; that came earlier. The reactions and the overreactions though; that starts now, doesn’t it? It’s the age you realise just how little you have in common with your peers, the age when you start kicking back against the world in the only way you know how; by harming yourself, and, to an extent, harming those around you so nobody can get close enough to cause pain. The age where you become aware of yourself and your impact on the world. You’ve already been suffering from depression for a few years now; they call it juvenile depression, at least that’s what you were told. It sounded so trivial, didn’t it? ‘Juvenile’, as though it was childish. For a long time you didn’t believe that diagnosis. To you, it was all fantasy, all attention-seeking, it was all your fault.

My clearest memory of you is when you used to sneak out of the house in the early hours of the morning, just after dawn, to sit on the embankment near the water treatment plant down by the marshes. A short walk; but at the time, it felt like miles. Even in the middle of winter you would wear just a t-shirt and jeans, because the cold didn’t affect you the way it seemed to affect others. I suppose it was the extra weight you were carrying around; cold simply couldn’t penetrate your body. I remember you running down the slopes of the embankment, feeling the wind in your hair and on your face, running from everything and nothing, with nobody around to see you. It was the only time you felt free. Then, you would creep back into the house, flushed from the exercise and nervous about being caught. You left the door on the latch, so you could get back in; anybody could’ve walked into the house and it would’ve been all your fault. At the time, you simply didn’t care. You needed space, fresh air, solitude in the outdoors. You never did like being indoors for too long, and that hasn’t changed. You’re still prone to cabin fever.

Do you remember when the binge-eating started? I don’t; as much as I try, I can’t remember. I can only assume that because you started puberty early, it must have been around that time, as that’s when you started becoming aware of your body and, for the first time, was unhappy with what you saw. I can still remember the first time you realised you had body hair; the disgust you felt at discovering the soft, downy hair under your arms. Then came breasts, and the inevitable teasing because nobody else in school had them. After that came the first pale red spots in your underwear, followed by sudden cramps and what felt, at the time, like haemorrhaging. You didn’t tell anybody for a long time, you were too ashamed. Things are different now; the health problems you encountered over the years ensured that pretty much everybody ended up knowing every detail about your period. You even got to see your ovaries on a camera, which appealed to your sense of the grotesque (which we still share). But more about that later.

I remember your frustration when, at the age of five, you couldn’t eat what your friends ate. Being born with a severe lactose allergy felt like a curse. In primary school, you ate chocolate substitutes and endured gentle teasing for being different. It didn’t bother you much, but I think, deep down, it began rooting issues for you; food became a chore, rather than a pleasure. So when you were finally declared ‘cured’ at the age of seven, you indulged. I think any child would, but I know now that you have an incredibly addictive nature, and that food, for you, is the ultimate pleasure-giver. I know what it looks like down the side and underneath your bed; empty chocolate and sweet wrappers, whole multipacks of crisps secreted away, old yoghurt pots, bottles of Pepsi and milkshake. I know you feel ashamed by it, and that’s why you hide it, that’s why you can’t simply take those wrappers downstairs and put them in the bin, instead creating a mountain of past binges. I remember it all too well.

 

You haven’t yet been told by the blonde PE teacher that you’re fat. She hasn’t yet held up your skirt for the whole class to see, mocking your weight. It will happen soon, and when it does, I wish you would simply take it on the (double) chin and pass it off as a thoughtless comment, rather than let it torment you for years. I know I can’t change what happens to you, or your reactions to events, but if I could travel back and change one thing for you, it would be this. I wish I could tell you to laugh in her face or shout at her; anything but your real reaction of staring at your shoes on the hard gym floor, swallowing what little pride you had left and casting it down in the hope that the earth will open and let you fall; fall away from the comments and taunting, fall away from the word ‘fat’, so you never have to hear it. This, more than anything, broke you. I wish I could stop it, because I know just how much pain and misery it caused for years to come.

I also wish I could tell you not to listen when your sister (E) stands up from the dinner table at Christmas and announces she’s going to make herself sick because she’s eaten too much. I want to be able to crawl back through those years, hold you tight and block your ears against what she said. You took it to heart; you saw it as a cure for the fat which seems to destroy every part of your life. She didn’t mean it, and even if she did… it’s not the answer. Regardless of what you think, you won’t be one of the lucky ones who loses weight and stops.  You won’t be the one who gets away with no damage to your health. I know you feel invincible right now, but you’re not. Leaning over the toilet, running the taps on the sink to hide the noise of retching… it didn’t solve anything. It didn’t stop the bad feelings; it just magnified them. If you’d have known that, years later, you’d still be fighting the urge to vomit, would you still do it? If you knew how disgusted you’d end up feeling with yourself, yet unable to stop because it had become an addiction, the only crutch you could reliably lean on… would you find a better way of coping?

You wouldn’t, would you? Because you’re headstrong, stubborn, and desperate. In that sense, we’re still exactly the same.

You may be asking yourself why I’m writing this letter from the same bedroom you sit in right now. You may wonder if your worst fears have come true, and you’ve never managed to move on from your insulated, bubble-wrap life. I feel I should apologise at this point, because I let you down. I should have been a stronger adult, I should have gained control over my life instead of spending my late teens and twenties punishing myself and hiding from the world. I should have stayed awake instead of falling so easily into sleep as a method of coping, I should have lived my life for you.

When I began writing this, it was the result of a half-asleep talk I had with myself. Yes, I still do that. I’ve been cruel to myself lately; allowing myself to wallow in self-created misery and sinking back into the old ways of coping. Right now, I have an infected burn, just above my navel. I tried not to; I know it’s the wrong way of doing things and solves nothing, but sometimes the temptation is too difficult to avoid. I used a lighter to heat up a pair of nail scissors, and chose to scar myself there because, apart from S (my boyfriend), nobody will see it. Again, I let you down. I know that you don’t currently see any reason to stop harming yourself, but that feeling doesn’t last forever. Eventually, you will want to get better, you will want to kick that demon aside and find healthier ways of coping, but it’s so, so difficult. I can’t help but think that I’m too old for this behaviour now, but if it were easy to stop, I would’ve long ago.
That talk I had with myself… I started speaking to you. Just in my head; I’m not entirely crazy, at least I don’t think so. Perhaps I am; perhaps I’m so off my box that I don’t make any sense, perhaps I’m writing this from a padded cell somewhere and I’m just convincing myself I’m living this half-life I’m stuck in

.

When I spoke to you (obviously, you didn’t answer back, that would just be silly), I realised just how different we are, and I began to wonder how I would’ve felt if my twenty-something self could go back and tell you these things. It was supposed to be a short letter, but the more I thought and wrote, the more I realised that I owe you everything. I could turn this into a novel, and I suspect we still wouldn’t cover all the ground between us, but I want to try.

Why?

For my own peace of mind. For therapy. For all the ways I failed you.

 

You dream of romance; of being loved and loving somebody back. Only, you don’t speak of this desire because it seems ridiculous. Who would ever love you? A recluse with bad skin and bad social skills; how could anybody give up their time to be with you? How could anybody bear to touch you, when all you see in the mirror is an overweight, pale, galumphing teacher’s pet with frizzy ginger hair and bad teeth? Of course nobody could love you, you reason with yourself. And so, you swear – almost unconsciously – to never let anybody close enough.

If you protect yourself, you won’t get hurt. If you make sure nobody ever gets close to you, you will never have to feel that rejection, you’ll never have to relive the humiliation of the day a boy from school asked you out and stood you up. You’ll never have to face the laughter from others when they ask, incredulously, why you ever thought it was anything other than a joke on your behalf.

Yet, for all your attempts, boys and, later, men… they did love you. Or something like love.

It’s hard to imagine now, but you’ll lose your virginity much younger than some of your peers. You will find yourself in a council house at the age of fifteen, watching an older man move on top of you, and you will feel nothing. You will note the absence of pain. Afterwards, you will stand in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to look for a sign of maturity on your face, but all you will see is smudged eyeliner and a scared look staring back at you. You felt the condom break, you heard his muffled swearing as he threw it aside and carried on regardless. It doesn’t bother you as much as you thought it might; you don’t feel real.

As you travel to the women’s hospital at 11pm (way past your curfew, and in a city more than twenty miles away from home), you try to feel like an adult. You attempt to convince yourself that this is it; your childhood is over, and you’re a grown-up now. Yet, you still feel like a girl. A scared, unimpressed girl, more worried about the argument you’ll undoubtedly face when you finally get home than any chance of pregnancy, infection or what you’ve just allowed a prematurely balding twenty-three year old to do to you.

In the hospital, you sit in the toilet as your boyfriend asks for the morning after pill. Again, you look in the mirror, and still nothing has changed. The Tia Maria you drank earlier is making you nostalgic, and you look down at your legs, at the ripped stockings (seriously, who were you trying to impress?) and black painted toenails, and all you want is to curl up and go to sleep. It’s not that you didn’t want it to happen, because you did. You’re just disappointed that it wasn’t like it is in the movies. The earth didn’t move. You loved him (or so you thought) but nothing seemed to change once you were no longer a virgin. It simply wasn’t the big deal it’s always been made out to be.

 

 

I know this will come as a disappointment to you. You’re just discovering sex, really. You haven’t kissed anybody yet, let alone let them touch you. You haven’t had a boyfriend unless you count the boy in primary school who gave you a jelly sweet ring, asked to marry you and who you dumped a few weeks later because he wiped his nose on his sleeve in front of you. Sex and the opposite sex are a mystery to you, and you know what? I wish you could’ve held onto that innocence a little longer. Once you discover the reality, that storybook romance you dream about seems childish and overly hopeful. It simply doesn’t work that way. Not for a long time, anyway.

But let’s go back to the beginning, when you decided that nobody would be able to touch you.

It started as a diet. Just a normal, everyday low-calorie diet. After all, you could stand to lose some weight, even I can acknowledge that. I can’t remember what prompted it; whether you made the choice to lose weight or if a comment pushed you over the edge. I do remember how pleased you were when you stepped on the scales and found you had lost a couple of pounds. It seemed easy, easier than you imagined. Everybody seemed to be doing it; weight loss was the in-thing. You’d left school by this point, and so sat at home flicking through your mother’s magazines, picking up diet tips and learning the best way to get a flat stomach. After a few more months, people were starting to comment on how much better you looked, and it fuelled a compulsion to gain approval. You soon learned that losing weight gained you respect, gave you something to talk about, and, in your mind, gave you a reason to exist. Self-harming wasn’t gaining you any fans; you needed a new way of showing the world you were worth something.

And so weight loss became your obsession.

It probably sounds funny now. That the world’s best binge-eater would become a master dieter. Only, it stopped being funny after a while. It stopped being a diet.

I’ll never be able to tell you when the diet became anorexia.

In fact it’s difficult for me to piece events together during this time because you experienced memory loss from the age of thirteen to fifteen. You didn’t lose everything, and there was never any real explanation for it other than some form of post-traumatic stress, but you lost a few key details, and a lot of minor memories. I still struggle to picture those years with any real clarity, although things are starting to slowly come back as I get older.

All I know is that anorexia came first, then, when you weren’t losing enough weight, bulimia tagged along. Bulimia was never as attractive to you; it didn’t have the same sense of control as starving did, it was messy and difficult to hide. Curiously, it seemed to almost cure your phobia of vomiting though; forced purges felt far less terrifying than being so totally out of control, and you quickly discovered that, if you felt nauseous, sticking two fingers down your throat solved the worry of whether you’d actually be sick or not.

As eerily sensible as you could seem, some attitudes you displayed were so far beyond your personality, it was as though you became a totally different person through eating disorders. You began to prize the appearance of hip bones and admired the protruding collar bones of other women. You learned how to angle your shoulders to best display the bone structure you created, you learned how to use makeup to angle your cheekbones further, creating a hollow-faced look you were so, so proud of. As the weight continued to drop, you learned tricks to stop the feeling of hunger; cotton wool balls soaked in water, when swallowed, would make you feel full. You chewed gum constantly to fool your body into thinking you were eating. Fizzy water was more filling than still water, but the bloating it created made you uncomfortable. Without access to the internet, you had to pick these tricks up from overheard conversations, television programmes (you learned the cotton wool trick from Eastenders), and pure guesswork. Twice-weekly trips to the electronic scales in Boots showed that you were losing on average 5 to 7lbs a week at the height of anorexia, yet you still felt it wasn’t enough, and you always felt like a faker. You suspected you were just pretending; trying to be anorexic. You were still a fat girl; you couldn’t see the extremes you were taking yourself to, was entirely deaf to the worries of others and endless speeches on sensible eating. The threats of being sent to hospital went entirely over your head because, to you, it wasn’t a real problem. If anything, it was a solution.

You went from being a shy, probably quite sweet child to an angry, sniping teenager without a good word to say about anybody or anything. Hunger made you irritable and tired, and the slightest thing would set you off into an uncontrollable rage. Once, you screamed at your mother in Marks and Spencer because she caught you checking the calories in a ready-meal. She was only trying to curb your behaviour, make you see sense, but you shouted, screamed, kicked and, eventually, ran.

You did a lot of running away.

You’re still running away.

Perfect Poets Award week 59 – A Sorry Ever After

A Sorry Ever After

A victim to my every failing,
inner demons shape my life story,
a convenient lie,
something to hold on to,
but I haven’t changed
… nothing has changed.

I choose every word so carefully,
this construction
I never thought I could pull off,
and do those who point their fingers, really believe
that I could have changed?
… nothing has changed.

A cliché of the highest order,
I became everything I didn’t dare dream.
Predictable,
self critical,
this has never changed
… I couldn’t change.

I spin these lies,
build up my wall,
nobody will reach me and know where I’ve been.
Nobody will know I’m just a sad retelling,
a sorry-ever-after story
… and the ending never changed.

(c) 2008

“Happy New Year aspiring poets! Welcome to 2012! To ring in the new year let’s recognize a few poets for their hard work…” (read more)

My nomination is The Happy Amateur