Lately I’ve been working on a project for an organisation that I volunteer with. One of the things that I am doing for that is looking through its archives and exploring its history, in particular patients old patients files. These files go back to the late 1800’s and are filled with thousands of names and lives. Their stories scream at the page at me and all I want is to commit them all individual to my mind and remember them. I feel like someone has to acknowledge that these women mattered, that beyond the words such as ‘degraded’ and ‘deranged’ they were also people with felt and thought and dreamed. I have spent the day again today looking through the notes and I want to share with you a few that really hit me because in a way I could relate to them. Their diagnosis was Melancholia and these women had essentially given up. They refused to speak, to move, to engage with anyone. They wouldn’t eat or shower or take care of their personal needs. They all wasted over the space of a few months to a couple of years, requiring to be fed through a tube and in the end they all died in that hospital. Their cause of death was ruled as ‘Exhaustion from Melancholia’. They died from their sadness. It was too much for them, this life thing and it broke them. Reading about them though brought up a lot of personal stuff for me, things I don’t really like to think about anymore but still occasionally knock the wind out of me when I do. I don’t think I’ve made peace with it, even if I pretend to because I’m not sure a person can.
When I turned 18 I was trying to make myself stay in life again. I had given up at some point during my early teens but I was still optimistic enough to believe that maybe I could turn it around…or at the very least I could run away and avoid the chaos in my mind. I could pretend that I wasn’t sad and that it didn’t hurt me to breathe. I thought I could make it work but I couldn’t and not long after I officially became an adult then the cracks began to show all over again. That was where it began…the beginning of a time that I want to have not happened. I spent the years following that point mostly in hospital. Moving from one locked ward to another, the intensity of the environment increasing and decreasing whenever things shifted. I lost years screaming at people to let me go, physically fighting with people and being restrained, trying to run away…always trying to die. I didn’t care what it took from me or what I was doing to the people around me. I was walking around with all my nerve endings exposed and when you feel like that then you will do anything to make it stop. I fought, I lied, I did a lot of things that I am not proud of and each time it changed me. It took away piece of me that I could never recapture. It was so hopeless and I was also ready to give up. My last acute admission for general psych, before the Eating Disorder admissions, I had given up. I laid in my bed, day after day, my body still damaged from the last suicide attempt that I ever made and waited in the hope that I would just stop breathing. I had stopped crying by that point. I no longer had the energy to run away. I no longer had the will to fight. I was waiting them out because I knew that eventually they would have to. It might not be for weeks or months or longer but they would if I didn’t give them a reason to hold me. Several months passed and then I was released. I thought about trying to end it all again the day that I left and then I thought about it everyday afterwards. I didn’t and the only reason I had for that was because I didn’t want to fail again. I was tired of being a patient/prisoner in the system. I wanted to be left alone to disappear. It didn’t work and surprisingly despite my belief that things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
I don’t remember the day when it began to change. Maybe it was a collection of times that slowly appeared over time. Either way there wasn’t a sudden rush of a desire to live. I remember thinking that wishing for my own death was taken up too much energy and then I stopped caring altogether. What did it matter anymore? I felt barely anything. I thought about whether I could live the rest of my life waiting to die yet not doing anything about it. I decided I could. So I did that for a while. After a long time some feelings began to came back. I smiled every now and again. I thought about the next day, something I hadn’t done in years. Then I planned beyond that. I started to let life in. It wasn’t plain sailing and there were days when I went all the way back to the beginning. Yet I didn’t stay there for as long anymore. That happened during hospital admission number 2 for the Eating Disorder and I find myself still hovering between those points of wanting to let life in but equally wanting my world to end.
I’m telling you this because I need someone to understand how terrifying it is for me to be always a few steps away from slipping back into being that person again. I am struggling so much whilst having to work harder than ever to keep that mask super-glued to my face. I am tired and I’m hurting. I want to give up and hide but I want all of this to go away too and be fine. What concerns me is that I am getting to a point where I don’t care which one it is, I just need it to happen soon. I need my heart to stop hurting. I am so tired that I want to sleep for a while and wake up and for everything to be fine. My body will have stopped hurting. The Anorexia will have loosened its grip even if it just by a fraction. I will want to try again.
I feel so unbelievably alone.
I hope your day has been kind to you.