[Content Note: Frank and graphic discussion of self harm]
Funny how some things never quite leave you.
Its an old addiction but I’ve got it under control… more or less
Its maybe 20 years since I first hurt myself to ease the pain on the inside and the earliest self-imposed scar is over 15 years old
I’d love to tell you that it had been years since I last deliberately hurt myself.
I mean, yes, its been a while since I last actually picked up the razor – maybe even years – but I couldn’t tell you exactly how long that was, maybe its less, a lot less. And perhaps it is at best a couple of months since i punched a wall just to feel the pain and no more since i dragged a kitchen knife over my skin just to feel the sting but its not regular.
Sometimes it really is 6 months or more between the slips. Sometimes I even think its gone away.
At best, if I never hurt myself again I will always have these scars – the scars I may one day describe to my child as the marks of a struggle I fought with myself. Or perhaps as a symptom of an illness they know I fight every day.
But what i want is to open the skin and feel the pain. The sharp tear and long ache. The hot sticky mess and the sweet sweet release.
I dream about it, I think about it on the bus. I visualise it in the quiet moments and lust after it in the anguished aeons of despair and I even revel in its soft embrace in moments of happiness.
If you have never felt the pull of addiction I don’t think you can really know how it consumes you – and though this is no heroin it perhaps gives me an inkling of that want and need
It doesn’t rule or ruin my life. I am not a slave to my addiction, choosing it over more important things, battering myself and other people for an ever greater hit.
Most people will never notice my cravings.
But every now and then I give in. Still.
Still I want.
Still it feels like a need.
It is nearly mother’s day here in the UK and I am terrified and miserable.
It would be fair to say that Mother’s day wasn’t a big deal in my family when I was a child so the notion of celebrating it still seems a little odd.
But this will be my first as a mother and I feel unprepared, undeserving and lonely. I feel like a fraud and I don’t know what to do.
I haven’t felt this much dread since and emotional conflict since the first year after my own mother died. The conversations amongst my peers about their preparations that became hushed as I passed coupled with the way that visual cues seemed to compound my sense of uncertainty and loss left me with a knot in my stomach and a feeling of being set apart from the world. Now, althoug it has remained a ‘celebration’ I tend to avoid, the intensity of emotion is back in a way it hasn’t been for so so many years.
Partly I listen to the other girls in my NCT group (my only child-rearing peers) talk about the joys of sharing motherhood with their own mothers and their excitement of having a first mothers day of their own and I feel completely left out.
But more I can barely see myself as a mother.
Technically it seems so ludicrous – how can someone who has carried a child inside of them for months then squeezed it out one of the most sensitive parts of their body and then has nourished and comforted it at all hours of night and day not feel like that child’s mother?
I dont feel like I conform to the expectations of what being a mother is supposed to be and so I’m not a real mother. I don’t feel like my life and priorities suddenly shifted profoundly and I don’t feel like I got new insights or made new connections with others.
When I talked it through with my therapist – yes I’ve been doing weekly CBT (ish) sessions since my little one was about 2 weeks old – we decided that one of my key issues is that I feel that I am going to be judged by everyone else because it seems like there is a stack of rules which I didn’t get, especially for motherhood. And that is probably true. Seeing it that way is comforting but it doesn’t make the ache go away.
Like most people with ongoing depression issues I struggle with the holidays and find this whole time of year overwhelming.
Unlike several members of my intimate circle (friends and family) I like spending the christmas hols with my parents and siblings -our political differences are not so dramatic as to cause real hurt and we are quite good avoiding ‘issues’ where that seems to be required. Though they often don’t understand my choices we seem to have reached a happy détente and I feel no need to rock the boat so to speak.
Similarly, I am too far removed from office politics to give a shit about who I should kiss when or how I should frame our holiday schedules to make them make sense to monogamous folk.
And yet even having decided to not worry about whether people know about my intimate relationships or not, and whether or not that changes how I have to live my life – I am still stressed.
I am stressed not just because being open is not sufficient protection for the people I care about and they still have to deal with the judgements of others both on the basis of their decisions and mine – and yes some of our more poly sceptical friends our coming round to at least the “well I don’t approve but I can’t see anything obviously wrong with YOUR lives” view but its not quite making up for the “I’m not saying you can’t but you do know you are fucking up x’s life don’t you” camps… There are people I have known for years I just don’t know how to say to – “I get you care but back the fuck off because we are making this work by making our own rules and your constant whining/worrying is making it harder”… yes this makes it hard at this time of year when everyone is all about fucking hetero, mono family values but because actually its not as hard as just being expected to talk to people.
All the fucking parties. Organise this, make sure you have x,y,z together for when you see so-and-so…. leaving the house is a fucking struggle in spring when no one notices and you only have to get to the shops/see Mrs A./ go to your Dr.’s appt once a month or less but in december when everyone has a party and you need to do the shopping and getting a dr’s appt is a miracle, suddenly a week is a stack of unreasonable goals piled on almost impossible imaginary ideals.
And oh gods above they are all so cheery – if I believed what I heard at parties I’d know for sure that their relationships always got better and their jobs got more interesting
But that’s not what I feel as I curl up and battle back the tears before each time I venture outside, each time I wonder how to stop the shaking and hyperventilating to start a new conversation and everytime I want to apologise as someone starts to congratulate me on our new venture.
The desire to tear my skin apart is worse than it has been for nearly a year, my shoulder is hurting a lot again and I feel like a failure before we have even begun. Yay for self-fucking-confidence and all that shit.
The UK did some electing recently and I was able to participate thanks to the postal voting system.
It might sound like a trite thing to say but it is worth drawing attention to; I don’t have a postal vote because I am frequently out of the country or live at two addresses – I use one because it means that I can be part of the democratic process no matter how my health is on polling day.
If you suffer from any kind of depression or social anxiety walking into the polling station and making any sort of decision is mind-blowingly intimidating and overwhelming for the cognitive processes. Not to mention you have to get your shit together enough to know which day it is and where you are going.
I managed it only once; stood in a booth sweating, shaking and crying whilst I tried to remember something relevant about the names in front of me and knew I would probably never do it again.
With a postal vote, I receive my ballot papers in advance. It means I have a chance to look at the candidates, walk away, look again, let them sink in & even go away and read about them on the internet all over again; I have a chance to read the instructions 3 or 4 times so I don’t just spoil the ballot paper and to actually make a choice. A real informed democratic choice.
It also means I have about a week to remember to take it to the postbox whenever I feel confident without time-pressure.
So when we talk about all the people who don’t vote and wring our hands in wet liberal despair about disenfranchisement – just remember that a simple change of process meant that my mental health no longer gets in the way of my vote and it might help someone else too!
There is something about this time of year that I struggle with.
I love that the world is erupting into blossom, our veg patch is taking shape and small creatures of all varieties are being born (including a brand new ‘monkey’ born to some very good friends who will be suffering the 3 of us as godparents).
I love that W & I have our legal anniversary at this time of year.
I love that this is a time of beginnings and hope.
But its hard.
Its hard in part because the anniversary of mum’s death is coming up (17 years this time around) and its hard in part because the annual beer festival in our area consumes so much of my time and energy.
Its hard because its a time of beginnings and hope for so many people – after the cold, dark, wet of winter I watch people who hadn’t noticed their moods dipping begin to lift and shine, I watch their projects become invigorated and their activity levels rise and I know that isn’t me. Don’t get me wrong the dank, drear days of winter grind heavy for me too but unlike 75% of the population the lift that springtime brings seems to somehow emphasise that my depression is here to stay. It is like the way that the 1st lift of anti-depressants gives some people the energy for suicide that they had been lacking only on a broader scale, and frankly it makes me miserable as hell.
This year I get to be extra mopey about it though. This year real life is having a bit of a dig just to check I’m paying attention. W’s mum has been ill for a long time but its getting very bad and she needs to go and look after her for a bit. We need to sort proper full-time care and benefits and stabilise her condition as much as possible. I have known this was coming for a while and I think we are prepared for the financial implications (though it might put back my hopes to get pregnant in the next year) but I can’t say I’m not cross that ‘fate’ has let it fall over our anniversary, mum’s anniversary and my shoulder op date – quite frankly I expect to win the lottery as compensation.
So if I post over the next month expect whinges about the UK benefits system, my father-in-law and health-care professionals in NI and gushing compliments to my wife’s strength, commitment, care and honesty and to B’s patience and support.
So apparently depression has properly been biting my backside the last month or so.
Best laid plans have not come to fruition and I haven’t really been able to see where I am going or why. Mostly I have slept, felt tired and complained about how much shoulder hurts (apparently the new physio exercises are very uncomfortable and not making the days easier), and all i have wanted to do is sleep and curl up in the dark.
So.. um. Sorry
I pretty much like getting older.
Its kind of comforting, freeing, hopeful and exciting but milestones are pretty scary.
When I was about 15 I had a list of things to achieve before I was 21 (which gradually became 30) – at 15 the list had things like have sex with a man, have sex with a woman, get a degree, take certain drugs, own my own throwing knives, travel to every continent, skydive etc… I did a lot of those things but there were always more experiences and more targets to reach.
I want to tell you that I am proud of what I have done with my life and sometimes I am.. my relationships, my marriage, my doctorate. – all not inconsiderable and all pale gently beside actually living day-to-day
I really am consistently amazed by those strange people who get up every morning like its no big deal – getting out of bed like it doesn’t hurt, like you don’t want to curl up and cry. How do people do jobs and housework without collapsing? What is with leaving the house *every* day?
Nothing makes you feel like a failure like looking at the careers and families of your peers… Knowing the reasons that I don’t have a full-time permanent job and 3 kids (depression, anxiety, chronic pain, relationship choices & financial planning a.k.a. laziness, cowardliness, deviance & lack of ambition) doesn’t make me feel less like I should be coping better.
Every time I hit a “life event” I start to miss my mother. Its a silly thing, on the basis I no longer have any idea about how she would react to my life now, how she’d feel about modern life like the internet and mobile phones, I can’t imagine what the arguments of my teenage life would have been like, or the discussions about my partners, what her opinions on my wedding might have been or her recommendations about my career. I can’t imagine what my relationship with her would be like and I have no understanding of other people’s relationships with their mothers at all. It seems almost ridiculous to guess and even more daft to still crave her approval and yet I still get blindsided by her loss at inopportune moments.
I guess the point is, if I ever thought I would get to 30 this isn’t what I expected. I am kinda disheartened by the whole process in that I am not all grown-up and barrelling along with my glorious life. In fact I kinda don’t know what next…
- I did the doctorate (which I might add in no way makes up for secondary school & undergrad, sorry) but don’t want to be a lecturer – I think in terms of continuing research its got to be publications
- I found my special someone… and someone… – the next obvious step must be kids which I think I (we?) want but what about the: money, organising, prejudice, fear.
- I have *a* job – I don’t have a real income generator, or even a full time position and I really want to feel like I am contributing financially – next step is erm decide what I can actually do? Could I run a pub? Work in a museum? Even actually manage 9-5?
I don’t feel old, I feel young. But I am jaded, bitter and scared and I only see an economy and a political system that doesn’t want me.
So what now?
Head demons tell us lies.
Brain says pointless, useless, horrible trouble-maker – you ruin the world around you.
Evidence shows nothing.
Mind imposes doubt, worry, insecurity. Head suggests everything we have ever done was a fraud, every person who ever cared was patronising, pretending and pained by our existence.The world and our lovers offer nothing but compassion and hope.
Why do you suppose it is easier to believe the lies of our own demons?
The old familiar darkness in my head is definitely making its presence felt at the moment.
I recognise the increased startle reflex and the inability to deal with crowded spaces as the precursors to uncontolled panic. My desire to avoid people and to find quiet, dark spaces is very strong. I have noticed the oddly distorted sleep and dreams as a sign my brain is running on over-time. I feel tired both physically and mentally and I keep slipping into tears. The urge to pick up the blades is stronger than it has been for a long time. The whole set of feelings, the patterns of behaviour and ‘coping’ are annoyingly familiar – a reminder that this beast is only ever dormant and never gone.
Mother’s day doesn’t always hit me this hard but when I am already low it feels overwhelming.
I know this too shall pass.
In other news though…
I am progressing ok with the corrections – I have done a first run through of the external’s comments and am about a third of the way through the internal’s. I’m looking forward to sending it in again.
I also have a new project at the museum.
These are good things.
Some days the only strong you’ve got is still on your knees.
Some days when people rely on you the only thing you have left to offer is not letting go.
Some days its only the fight that makes you strong