Numbness

There’s so much inside me that I’m bottling up right now, I feel numb and empty and I’m dying to feel something. I’m utterly exhausted by the smallest thing and only managed a measly hour of study today which is eating me up. Another wasted day.

I just keep thinking and thinking and can’t seem to shut my brain off. It’s killing me, I’m making plans for overdoses, thinking about self harm, analysing every tiny aspect of my life and my thoughts and I wish I had someone to discuss it with. I know logically I have my nurse and psychologist but I just don’t know how to bring the subjects up, and it feels like it doesn’t matter enough to be talked about. 

Maybe I’ll make another post about some of the issues I’m thinking about, but right now, it all just feels too embarrassing and personal. It’s nearly 1am and I’m simply sitting staring at the tv, barely watching it, just staring and existing. I feel weak and pathetic and I’ve started purging again, but I can’t bring myself to care enough to stop. I want to cause damage, I want to be bad enough. I want to feel worthy, to feel validated and needed and important. How despicable. 

Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me, and time for sleep I think – if I can find the energy to move. 

Question 5(c)

I can’t do the fucking question. It’s not a big deal, it shouldn’t be a big deal but it is. It’s one question, not even one whole question out of six – and I only need to do four – but I still can’t do the fucking question. 

I know it’s only one question, that it’s not a big deal, that if I can do the others I should be fine, but the problem is I’m not. I’m not fine, and not being able to do that one question represents so much to me – an inadequate grasp of the subject, my own stupidity, the list of reasons to hate myself simply grows. 

My biology teacher’s words “don’t be too hard on yourself” ring in my ears, yet I cannot bring myself to stop fixating on it, cannot tear my thoughts away from “stupid” and “not good enough”. I’ll never be good enough for my standards, I know that much, but it still hurts.

This little question, question 5(c), is enough to be the last straw on this broken camel’s back. But maybe I’ll find a way around it. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my brain in gear and find the solution. But until then, and until the exam, I’ll just keep plodding on.

One year on

So I’ve been gone for a long time.

It’s been over a year since my last blog post so I’m not sure that anybody will read this – I do have a tendency just to shout into the void – and I’m not sure whether I’m going to be back for good or not, but this is me.

I guess recently I’ve had a feeling that I’ve lost my words, forever answering questions with “I don’t know” and “I don’t mind”, fumbling my way through each day in a sort of dazed stupor. I long for the past days where I was more eloquent, before I began to stutter over my sentences. 

Perhaps it’s time to rekindle that creative spark. Perhaps I’m only rambling to thin air but I feel like it’s time for a shift – it’s been a whole year and nothing much has changed, so maybe getting back into blogging will be good and cathartic for me, perhaps I’ll find my words again, who knows?

So, where have I been? If I recall correctly, the last time I posted I had just been discharged from a 9-month inpatient stay, had just left school and was wondering what to do next. Well, it’s not been a smooth ride, to say the least.

Since then I’ve been in hospital another two times, for roughly a month each. I won’t go into the specifics but it’s fair to say things have been… messy. As for now, and the dreaded “how are you doing?”, I guess I’m doing fine. The same as ever, and a prime example of how I’ve lost my words.

I’m now a student at Edinburgh university, studying neuroscience in first year, something I certainly didn’t think would really happen, but here I am, nearly through my first semester. Perhaps it’s procrastination, perhaps it’s the looming threat of exams, but something draws me back to this place, where I can freely express myself. 

So here’s to new beginnings and to finding my words again. 

Self-harm awareness day (TW)

I was intending to share something for national self-harm awareness day this year (March 1st) but completely forgot about the date until around 11pm that night. But just because it isn’t self-harm awareness day doesn’t mean we can’t still talk about it.

Self-harm. Where to even begin. It would be far too conceited for me to start with my experience with self-harm, so I’ll start with some statistics. It is thought that up to 1 in 5 adolescents in the UK self-harm, but that’s barely the tip of the iceberg – only an estimated 15% ever present to clinical services such as A&E and CAMHS. So what about the other 85%? The ones afraid to seek help due to stigma, fear of judgement, or even because they don’t realise their behaviours are self-harm – these young people are the reason why it is so important to continue the conversation.

This is a topic that is intensely personal to me – I myself have been self-harming for what must be around 4 years now, but more on that later. What I found most striking over the past few years was just how common self-harm actually is. Discounting patients that I met in the unit, nearly all of my friends have deliberately hurt themselves at some point during the time I’ve known them. These are people from all walks of life, all situations – popular, talented, clever, beautiful people, who have been in so much anguish that they felt the need to inflict pain onto themselves. Self-harmers aren’t obvious, we are chameleons of the social world who live a double life, harming and hiding, keeping people at bay. 

For those that have never had experience with self-harm (and I hope you never do), the most likely response is “Why? Why does my friend/child/sibling etc. do this to themselves?”. Stigma answers these questions with accusations and dismissals: ‘wanting attention’, ‘a cry for help’, ‘a phase’ – I cannot emphasise this enough – there is not, nor will there ever be a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. Everyone has different reasons for self-harming and these are all equally valid and important, whether it be family issues or a fall-out between friends. It isn’t about the severity of the self-harm, but the pain that causes it.

As I cannot possibly speak for anyone else who has self-harmed, I will talk about myself. I’ll put a TRIGGER WARNING right here as I’ll be discussing potentially upsetting/graphic subjects.

If someone told 13-year-old me that, in a few years, her self-harm would get so out of control that stitches and infections become a part of everyday life, she would just laugh and deny that there was even an issue. But here I am, almost discharged after 9 months as an inpatient, still wrapped up in the vicious cycle that has only worsened over time. It’s startling to see how self-harm has taken over my life, so much so that I cannot imagine a life without it, nor am I even willing to try and ‘recover’ from it. I’m constantly surprised by others’ reactions to my arms and wounds – I’m so used to it that I forget that it isn’t a normal thing to do, for it has become so to me. I’ve had stitches so many times that I’ve learned by heart how to do it from watching the doctors, I’ve had surgery to remove foreign objects, x-Rays to check for broken bones, courses of antibiotics, nerve damage – I’ve been told that even plastic surgery would do little to reduce my scarring.

The world of self-harm is an extremely lonely and cold place to be in. Even though the statistics show a worryingly large number of young people self-harming, I cannot count the number of times when I’ve heard somebody mention how alone they felt. The stigma attached only serves to put another four padlocks and an iron rod between the self-harmer and the rest of the world where labels such as ‘attention seeking’ are thrown around so often. It’s no wonder that so many people slip through the net – for years, only a couple of my closest friends knew about my self-harm and to this day it’s still a subject that I avoid as much as possible. But these things need to be talked about, not buried further under shame and fear.

It’s taken me a long time to start to understand the reasons why I hurt myself, some of which are easier to talk about, others not so much. One of the hardest parts for me was learning to be honest with myself, being able to come to terms with the fact that being ‘attention-seeking’, if that really was the case, wasn’t so despicable. Up until then, I was too afraid to even think these thoughts, afraid of what I (or somehow, others) would find out.

So why do I personally self-harm? To most people these reasons may seem bizarre or ridiculous, but I encourage you to try and see past your personal biases and consider them as sensitively as you can – self-harm is self-harm, no matter how ‘important’ the reason seems to you.

1. It gives me a sense of control. I’m conscious of my word choice here, as I’m aware that this will probably come across as pretty disturbing. Being able to cause a significant amount of damage makes me feel powerful, that no matter how many things are crumbling around me, that I’ll always be able to harm myself.

2. As a punishment. This is pretty self-explanatory, and I’ve heard similar stories from other self-harmers I know. Often stemming from feelings of self-loathing and guilt, we punish ourselves to try and make up for mistakes, even if from an outside point of view we have done nothing wrong. Sometimes, for me, simply being alive is reason to punish myself – showing that there is no real logical explanation. Everybody experiences things differently.

3. Because I can. This may sound the most odd, but illustrates how self-harm can become such an endless cycle. When I first started self-harming it was in moments of distress, perhaps only once or twice a month. Now, it has become a regular occurrence, sometimes multiple times a day and often without a reason. All because it becomes a habit, an addiction, as routine as brushing your teeth in the morning.

Hopefully these help to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions around self-harm, and allow you to better understand your friend/child/sibling. Most importantly, if someone you know is suffering with self-harm, don’t try and counsel them in reasons why they “need to stop”, berate them with lines such as “think about your family/future/wearing t-shirts” because from experience it only makes things worse. Just be there for them, give them an ear and a shoulder to cry on, but don’t be surprised if they would rather not talk about it.

Five to Sixteen

Five to Sixteen – a Spoken Word Poem

At age 5 I dreamed of red ribbons on pointe shoes and silver tutus, pirouetting my way to prima donna beauty. 

I started ballet class in a baby blue dusting of a leotard and pink shoes that always came unlaced. Plié, and up, up, up.

I had started too late for it to ever come to anything, but passed my grade one, first position with merit before moving, pirouetting 289 miles up the country with the earmuffs from our performance of swan lake.

A pattering of years and steps and the red ribbons and leotards faded into books and numbers and The Future where daisy chains and tutus weren’t allowed. I still make daisy chains.

I was six when I fed my baby annabelle apple juice, forgetting that she of course, wasn’t real.

I was two years from sixteen when I first fed myself chalky pills that sent me in tears and a sick bowl to hospital, realising, to my dismay, that I was real.

I was two years from sixteen when I started thinking that if I couldn’t be a Russian ballerina, perhaps I could still look like one. 55 calories in an apple, 96 in a pear.

Now I am sixteen, sixteen thousand miles from the effervescent girl that mixed sprite and fanta in a cup, sixteen miles from the pretend prima donna who would dance without music and run in the rain.

Now I am sixteen, and the only red ribbons I dream of are the ribbons that lace my skin with each tear,

And the only silver that haunts me is the silver threading my mother’s hair.

Flying to Saturn would be a lonely ride

Introverted kids don’t make many friends. That’s definitely a lesson I learned pretty early on. I’ve always been introverted and quiet, one of those unassuming people that don’t explode until you get to know them. Like a dusty firework lying in somebody’s shed – grey and dull until you give it a spark, then BOOM. Well, I’m not quite that exciting.

I’m one of those people that finds it difficult to start conversations for fear of coming cross as annoying, but once the conversation begins, I can talk for days. I’m afraid of approaching people, yet love to make new friends. I’ll keep my head down to avoid eye contact, but hate the feeling of being invisible. I’m a performer that’s afraid of perform, a writer that doesn’t dare write, a public speaker with a bolt holding their throat closed. A walking paradox.

Suddenly noticing that you’ve begun to cut yourself off from everyone you know can be alarming to say the least, and also rather problematic, considering you now have nobody to share your fears with. You feel isolated and alone, with nowhere to turn, because you have unknowingly painted yourself into a corner, just like this guy: Dang, you say to yourself, knowing that this time, it’s all your fault. It’s one of those things that you never realise until it’s too late. You don’t notice the hole in the bottom of your boat until you’re waist-deep and no desperate bucket flailing will do you any good.

This is exactly what I’ve been doing, only I know that the barriers are only mental. Once again I’ve pushed away the people supporting me, thinking that they didn’t care or didn’t understand or had the wrong idea or in fact hated me,  and all of a sudden I’m back, friendless with next to no communication skills, back to square one. I’ve made excuses to avoid socialising and communicating, built mental barriers of fear and mistrust to keep the teachers and doctors out.
But now that I can feel the lies I swore never to tell tickling my tongue, opening up seems about as likely as flying to Saturn in a paper aeroplane with pyjamas on. So basically impossible.

I know that I have to be the one to take responsibility and speak up, but that just isn’t happening. For now though it’ll just be onwards and through, I’ll strap on my seatbelt and maybe I’ll make it past Mars. The best plan of course, would be to stop this ship before it takes off, but I’m the only one on board and I forgot to install an ejector seat.

human – or animal?

                             head
                           shoulders
                           knees and 
                             toes,
                               a
                  bulging brain, bone cage, a
               Th- ought. Is this what makes us
              Dif-   ferent? The mighty hu-  man,
             Nat-    ure's greatest inven-   tion,
             an       evolutionary except-    ion.
             We      can think, love, care,    be
             awa-    re of our condition, we   are
                     Powerful. The greatest 
                     predator, we slay, kill
                    without mercy. Clever, or
                    Evil? Are      we  strong,
                    or simply      stupid? Is
                   compassion      a delusion?
                    Would you       weep  for 
                    me, your       enemy? What
                   separates        man  from 
                   beast? We        b u i l d 
                   t o o l s        to   kill 
                   brothers,        yet  apes
              build   tools         to feed them.
          We are the animals,       not them. They are the 
           H  U  M  A  N  E            O   N   E   S.