TRIGGER WARNING : This entry is full of graphic descriptions regarding Self Harm and Eating Disorders.
So…things have changed somewhat and I feel the need to do a whole big thing, like an op-ed to myself, and all of you about it. This academic year has been a complete mind-fuck; however despite this I’m possibly in the best mental space I’ve been in for a LONG time, and that’s why I need to write it down and get it out.
Lets begin in June 2017. I knew I was coming back to college, and I honestly was OK about it for the most part until I realised a) that I was going to have get all the Inclusive Learning guff in place so that I could thrive, and then there was the knowing that for the first time in a long time I was going to have to do Maths again. The thought filled me with dread, now looking back (hindsight’s always 20/20) I know it was most likely the spark that triggered the spiral downwards. It was essentially the straw that broke the elephant’s back. All the old trauma from school returned and lit the issues that I had bottled up, consequently I exploded like some sort of mental Molotov Cocktail. There was no way I could control what was going on, sometimes resistance really is futile. I fought and fought but I was essentially trying to extinguish a full-ball blaze with a water pistol from Poundies. I lapsed in to all the old behaviours: disordered eating, smoking, cutting and more…I was running on fumes in top gear, one way or another I was intent on self-destruction so that I would have what would feel like a legitimate reason for the anger inside. The old behaviours had taken control and I was furious with myself for feeling so reliant on them to make myself feel better, it’s a vicious cycle.
The minute I ran the Exacto across my thigh for the first time in so long, the relief rushed over me, as the pain flowed out and in to the bath water, but the problem with such overwhelming relief is that you don’t stop with one. Every time I felt myself bubbling, I would take to the bath once more and let it all out, perfectly straight lines in columns around the top of my thigh. When I got as far I could reach, I would go back and start again, like an old typewriter because my OCD just refuses to be left out of any breakdown that I have. I refused to allow anyone in, not my friends, not my classmates, certainly not my fucking family; the less ammunition they have against me the better. The self loathing runs deep in me, it always has. As my mental health continued to plummet, the ED issues started to rise, because at least with an ED you think you’re in control, FTR – you’re not, it is, I know this as I sit here in the middle of an ED relapse, not quite ready to put a stop to it because I’m not quite ready to relinquish the idea of control that I think I have. You see, the thing about whichever Eating Disorder it is that grabs hold of you, is that it sneakily plants this idea of it being simply nothing more sinister than “mind over matter and you won’t get fatter…” but what it’s actually doing is akin to being a shitty relationship with an abusive partner. It starts off by destroying your self image, if you can fix that then you’ve half a chance at a successful recovery, if you can’t then you’re going to wind up living your life with Ana and Mia constantly trying to worm their way back in to your life at every opportunity they get. So they get you to a stage where your convinced that you’re nothing more than a monster worthy of mythological status, then they plant ideas in the back of your mind; Starve, binge, purge – do whatever the fuck it takes. For me, this time around I’m running on synthetic energy. Diet Energy Drinks (because I never fucking learn *rolls eyes* and Glucose Tablets when the shakes set in. I eat just enough to keep prying eyes away. I take Multi-Vitamins under the guise that being Vegan needs supplementation (it doesn’t if you actually eat a healthy diet). My health is in the shitter to begin with but yet years of being told that losing weight will cure all that ails me has been grabbed by A&M and it goes round on a ticker in my mind all day, everyday. Since last summer I’ve lost 7 stone/98 lbs/ 44.5 kg and I don’t feel any “healthier”. Actually what I feel is fucking oppressed, you see once the seeds are planted, the behaviours bloom but it’s only a matter of time before people start to notice your weird behaviour then they combine it with your weight loss and before you know it, every piece of unsolicited and unqualified tit-bits start to roll out of all these mouths who know fuck all about you. You don’t want them stealing the power and control you’ve convinced yourself you have, so you start to withdraw and isolate yourself in every way possible, this further adds to impression of power and control because you don’t need anyone, right? Wrong, you need someone. You need someone who can actually help, someone who actually gives a shit.
Enter Rita and Disco.
Around about Halloween time, we wound up with not one, but two new faculty members. By this stage I was in free-fall and the ground was merely feet away. If I had gone much further into myself then I’d had have swallowed myself whole. GAD and Panic Disorder was causing double digit amounts of panic attacks on a daily basis. Major Depressive Disorder had me at the lowest ebb I could go to. The Prozac wasn’t working. People had started casually asking if I was alright, I wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to admit that to anyone, I wasn’t prepared to lay out my vulnerability to anyone, especially not those who wanted it as gossip fodder to further cement their beliefs that I’m “strange”. In passing one morning Rita asked if I was OK, I stretched out a faux smile and told her I was fine, just tired. That day I went on to have 4 panic attacks in 6 hours. I couldn’t go on. Rita had told us that if we needed her, just to ask. I went and asked her if she could share any tips on dealing with Panic Attacks; she could and she did, and so a whole new world had begun, but I wasn’t aware of it….yet. Around this time, Disco had set us a self-reflection assignment on the subject of Stress Management. I wanted to crawl inside myself and die, how the hell was I supposed to write this? My methods aren’t “healthy” and I sure as shit wasn’t going to plunk them down on this essay. I approached him to ask if I had to discuss what steps I would take to turn my “unhealthy” habits in to “healthy” ones. He told me I did, and somehow I managed to pull just enough to get through it. As we moved through the year, Rita threw a life-raft out to me when she could see me getting darker and darker inside. When the time to start making progression decisions arrived, Disco unknowingly pushed me through the mud with advice and words of wisdom his parents had passed to him. It helped to lift some of the weight from shoulders when everyone else was telling me I was ungrateful and making the wrong choice. I went back into therapy, it didn’t help. I didn’t go back, then Rita suggested NLP & Clinical Hypnotherapy.
To say I was unsure about this is an understatement, but I was desperate, so anything was worth a shot, at any cost.
I have never been more wrong.
Where talking therapy, CBT and mindfulness failed, this worked. Is working. Rita and Niamh have faith in me, they know I’m working hard to move back in to recovery again. Recovery’s a long path, I’m pretty sure it’s the other path out of Munchkinland. There’s no end to it, it’s a never-ending sodding journey with shit paving and potholes at every turn that are just waiting to trip you up and have you fall flat on your face because whatever your issues are, they don’t want you to recover, they’re like little trolls that the Grimm Brothers forgot to warn us about. They want your power, your soul, your everything. They want you dead. You have to choose to survive, you have to choose to persevere. You have to find a reason to get better, for me it’s my kids. Eventually someone will inspire you, someone’s words will break through the noise of your issues. You’ll put down the craft knife, you’ll start to build a new relationship with food, a healthier relationship with yourself. Someone will inspire you the way Rita inspired me, someone will speak your language. It takes someone recognising the little light inside you and fanning THAT flame to relight your mind and extinguish the darkness that is cocooning you, it could be anyone, for me it was a combination of a flame haired bundle of optimism and empathy, and 6 foot odd Irish Disco.
There’s nothing I’ll ever be able to do to thank them enough, except get better and be the person I was born to be, and that’s fully what I intend to do.