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What’s happening and where to next?

After slowly sliding down a very dangerous and icy slope over the last 8 weeks, this week I reached break neck speeds and eventually came to a not-so-graceful stop in the emergency department last night. Almost double over with some pretty epic chest pain and dizziness, it was the reality check I needed. With 6 hours of sitting around, with intermittant bursts of conversation with the ever-so-lovely Miss S, I had some time to think and realised I just need to let go. Just a little bit. I’m holding on so tightly to something I can’t even understand that I’m bringing myself down and making myself sicker in an attempt to protect myself. I’ve beel learning to find my voice and I’m trying to ask for help.

At the beginning of the week I made some calls and scheduled in some appointments with J and C. Yesterday I met with C who gave me some pretty scary ultimatums. Either I start to pick the pieces up myself or the control’s going to be taken out of my hands and someone else is going to have to do it for me. Being the control nut I am, I’m doing my best to work it out for myself. So I went to her. I sat. I talked. I asked her what I could do. She spoke to me about uni, how much it’s impacting on my life and how much of a toll it’s taking. She mentioned how much she wanted me to try the day treatment program. I brushed the idea aside because of uni, I don’t want to fuck up another semester.

I discussed why briefly with MissS last night, but it came up in conversation with J again today. She asked me why and I found myself explaining when I thought I really had no idea. Uni seems to be the only thing I have that is ‘mine’. It’s what I want, I worked my fucking arse off to get it. Nursing is what I want my life to be about and I don’t want to let go of that. It’s something I’m passionate about and strive to succeed in. It’s makes up my identity. If I let that go, even just to defer, for treatment it feels like I’ve failed. It feels like there’s nothing there that I need nor want to do, nothing that makes up my days that I feel like I have to get done. If I defer uni, then what am I going to do have there that I want? Even if I defer for the sake of recovery, it feels like I don’t have anything to put the effort in for. Even though uni is stressing me out and bringing me down, it’s my saving grace as well. It’s been giving me a purpose and I’m scared to let go of that, scared of where that will take me. So, after lengthy discussion, we realised that there needs to be a happy medium, where I can still have uni and have the possibility of engaging in stronger therapy.

My problem was I couldn’t work out any options. I could only see two, part time or defer. Neither of those I was too keen on. So I asked J what she thought about me talking to the dean. Whether I could see what ideas she had. She thought it was a good idea and off I went and hunted down my dean and organised a meeting. We chatted about where I was, what was happening, I filled her in on ED history and told her that I was struggling at the moment. She asked what support I had so I ‘introduced’ her to the team. She asked about a psychiatrist and when I said I was struggling to find one she said she’s speak to her partner, as he’s a mental health worker, and one of the other tutors and find me some names. I was blown away by how quickly she jumped in to support and how willing she was to help. I still can’t quite believe she was so cruisy. We sat and discussed a plan and the stress of how I’m supposed to do this is starting to relieve. I can see, if not light, then something that could provide the path to find that light.

So what’s the plan from here? What am I actually doing?

– Going to uni two days a week. This gives me room to negotiate potential day program for three days a week.

– Deferring prac. Even though I’m absolutely devastated about this, the option was taken out of my hands. The dean said by just looking at me she wasn’t going to let me go. This means I’ve got 4 weeks left of semester and then have a 6 week break, rather than 9 weeks and a one week break.

– Deferring my exams until winter term, this gives me some extra room to study and less pressure right now.

– Finding a psychiatrist to review my meds, because clearly something isn’t working.

– Making regular appointments with my team, working with them and fighting.

– Finding more geographically suitable housing.

– Staying out of hospital.

– Doing the absolute best I can to stick t0 my meal plan and build it back up to where it was not too long ago.

– Checking in with the dean regularly to make sure I’m okay and that I’m as supported as I can be.

This isn’t how I wanted things to work out, but reality says that this is how it is and I can’t fight it. I’ve just got to make the best of what I’ve got and try to get my life back into my control. I don’t want to be a frequent flyer in the emergency department and don’t want my life to spiral so far out of control I’ve got nothing left. I need to start picking up the pieces now before I completely lose sight of where I’m going. It’s going to be hard. Getting back on track is going to be terrifying and brutal, but I need to do it. Baby steps is all, and even if I take the same step over and over again, at least I’ll be doing something.

Now I’m off to class and watching the clock until home time. I’ve been awake for far too long and desperate for sleep!!

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Two Girls

Two girls, both similar age. Both studying at university. Both are of ‘normal’ appearance. If you passed them on the street there would be nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary about either of them. Both girls are working in the kitchen, preparing food.

Girl 1 stands with the fridge door open, pondering the possibilities of dinner. She finally pulls out a piece of steak and slaps it in the frying pan. It sizzles and spits. She pulls out a loaf of bread and defrosts two slices, spreads it with margarine and waits for her steak to cook. Meanwhile, she talks to girl 2 about how much she has to do for university. Girl 2 responds with simple, one worded answers. Hardly hearing a word girl 1 says.

Girl 2 is carefully preparing her meals for tomorrow. Cutting up fruit and salad vegetables. Adding up in her head the nutritional value of each item she cuts up, ensuring she’s adding all the essential elements in order to adhere to her meal plan. Protein – 2 serves, carbohydrates – 3 serves, fruits – 2 serves, vegetables – 5 serves. She’s careful about portion size, content. She’s making tomorrow’s meals a night ahead. She’s following her strict meal plan.

Girl 1 walks into the loungeroom to sit in front of the TV with her dinner. Girl 2 stops what she’s doing to catch her breath. To settle the anxiety and to attempt to justify her emotions. Girl 2 is jealous of girl 1’s ability to “just eat”. Girl 2 is in recovery from an eating disorder and putting her heart and soul into preparing her meals for tomorrow to make the process even the slightest bit easier. Girl 2 mourns for the carefree adolescence she’s missing out on.

Girl 1 is totally oblivious.

The Black

The familiar fog. The feeling of walking behind a screen that only you can see. The separation between yourself and the rest of society. The suffocating weight of the black cloud that consumes your mind; your every thought, action and emotion. The depression.

It’s back and unrelenting. It’s overwhelming and scary and quite frankly it’s fucking me off something chronic. I’m so, so ridiculously tired of dragging my fat arse out of the house every day ’cause I’m being told that getting out and doing something, seeing people, getting sunshine will help when in reality it’s just making it worse. I just want to lay in bed and stare at the wall. I don’t want to see, do, hear, taste, touch, feel, think… anything.

I was sitting in the office of my psychologist at the ED unit. I remember spending the majority of the appointment trying to make myself feel as small as possible, because while I felt so monstrous sitting across from her and her tiny frame, hearing her tell me to eat regularly and maintain a steady weight, I was just getting more and more furious. Not with her, with myself. I couldn’t sit there comfortably. For the entire hour and how ever long the appointment lasted, I fidgeted trying to find a position in which I felt smaller. Where I didn’t feel like a monstrosity. I was consciously aware of every cell in my body and how much room I was taking up in her office (too much!).

I’ve been with MissE this evening. We went and had fish and chips by the beach and went swimming. Travelling home on the bus I watched the lights of the city go by. The twinkling reflection of the man made world against the water in the harbour. The almost magical combination of human intervention and pure nature. I was absorbed by the enormity of the buildings, the architecture and the sky. The infinite expanse of space that spread far beyond my comprehension. Millions and millions of stars. Millions and millions of people and then, as if the world, the black, was playing some sick joke I didn’t feel so big any more. Quite small actually. Only now, too small. Insignificant. Worthless.  A single dot in the grand scheme of things. A miniature droplet of water in the ocean.

I tried with everything I had to bring myself back to admiring the beauty I found in the knowledge that there was so much more out there in this big, big world but in reality, I couldn’t be fucked. No matter what situation I find (or intentionally place) myself in, I am in one way or another unsatisfactory.

I can’t be fucked any more. I’m so tired of the black. Please, please let something change soon.

Eating Disorder? Present!

Loud, screaming, horrendous thoughts. Obnoxious and tormenting. The Eating Disorder voice is loud tonight. Loud and strong. Stronger than I am at this point in time. I don’t know at what point exactly I slipped back into the black pit that is depression and shitty eating, but it’s happened without me being completely conscious of the fall. Writing up my food diary for this week to take to my appointment tomorrow I can see when it gets worse, not that it was any good at the start of the week anyway. From toast and cereal for breakfast to 1/2 a piece of fruit to a bottle of diet coke. Sugar free cordial, coffee, diet coke and chewing gum in place of a meal.

I started uni today. I found myself triggered by simple conversations with friends and other students. Flippant comments about exercise and weight. Statements about taking the stairs rather than the lift. Walking from the station rather than catching a bus. All of this stuck in my mind. Made me think about what else I could be doing, replacing bus trips with walking, where and how can I fit in more exercise? What can I fit in between classes so I’m not sitting around getting tempted to eat?

ED? Present. Loud and clear.

Logically, I’m more than aware that this is just a reaction to starting treatment with the eating disorders unit and the appointment looming tomorrow. It’s stress about being weighed weekly. It’s the fear of discussing what foods I do and don’t eat, why and why not. It’s guilt. Shame. The idea that I can’t possibly have an Eating Disorder, because I’m too fat. The thought of having someone else tell me how and what to eat. To be encouraged to start to take away behaviours, when they’ve been my comfort, my control for so long. I know it’s ED talking, terrified it’s going to lose control, but fuck me sideways I haven’t got the strength to fight it. I give in. She wins. Tonight. Last night. Yesterday. She wins, she’s happy. She doesn’t win, she’s furious and I’m miserable. The scales (no pun intended) are weighted (really, really bad pun! Unintentional, I swear!) in her favour. She’s won this war. For now.

Memories

She kicks both feet out in front of her with every ounce of strength her body can muster, a small sound escapes her lips with the effort. She lets her body go limp and she falls backwards, the wind rushing past her ears as she folds her legs underneath herself and gathers up all her strength once again. Now that she’s upright again and looking ahead, she takes a breath and she kicks both feet out in front of her with every ounce of strength her body can muster, a small sound escapes her lips with the effort. She lets her body go limp and she falls backwards, the wind rushing past her ears as she folds her legs underneath herself and gathers up all her strength once again. She swings, with purpose and emotion to release the pain that’s built up inside her chest. The sun is setting and she can feel the change in the air as evening succumbs to the darkness of night, the sky changes from the almost angelic shades of pink and gold to deep blues. The stars emerge, almost as if prompted by a director. Perfectly timed, rehearsed. She stops kicking and lets the motion of the swing, controlled entirely now by gravity, comfort her. Back & forth. Back & forth. Each time the swing moves with a little less momentum. Eventually she kicks off and lands, gracefully, balletic, on the ground and begins the walk home.

Before she’d reached the swings she’d walked through the still, chilled water of the reserve. It was low tide, she stopped to look at the miniature forms of life that sat at the bottom of a groove in the sand, trapped – for now, until the tide returns and it can escape back to the ocean. She walked along the sand of the banks, noticing as she walked how the texture of the sand changed. When she first stepped from the grass onto the sand it felt soft, silky and seemingly untouched. It enveloped her every step, comforming with the weight and pressure of her foot. Slowly, and with purpose, she took another step, noticing the slight pull as the sand released her foot – first her heel then the gentle tickle as her toes left the earth, and felt the process begin again with her next step. A little further along the sand becomes rough, course and scattered with debris left behind as the tide washed out. Pieces of stick, seaweed and other items she couldn’t identify littered the sand, the yellows and whites of the creek bed scattered with flecks of green and brown.

Tonight, for the first time in what seems to be a really long time, she allows herself to focus on memories. Should those memories be immediately connected to her current surroundings or not, it didn’t matter. She was allowed to think. She allowed the thoughts to come into her mind, she allowed them to be there, unjudged, untouched. Whatever feeling they aroused was allowed to be there too. Just be there, no pushing it aside because it wasn’t allowed or shouldn’t be, it just was. She allowed her heart to skip a little, her breath caught in her throat, as she thought about her drunken father or abusive brother – M. She stopped any passing judgement and accepted the memory for was it was.

Playing over in her mind like a monologue written and rehearsed to perfection she could hear his every word, picutre his every movement as his voice gradually grew louder. She’ll never forget the time her father came home to fight and pushed so hard her big brother, B, took it into his own hands to protect her and her mother. His hands around his throat, the colour in her fathers face slowly drained away as B’s grip tightened. Her father chocked out his words – “Get the fuck off me, you bastard!” B’s grip didn’t loosen. She’ll never forget the look of rage in his eye. He wasn’t going to stop until her father stopped resisting. She thought he was going to kill him, she was sure he would have if M hadn’t stepped in. Interrupted, B’s rage only multiplied, turning on M he took hold of him and held him against the wall. Choking him now. For a moment, she wondered if B did infact know what M had been doing to her. Why such rage and anger when M was only trying to help? Why? And, for a fleeting moment, she prayed that he wouldn’t let go of his grip around M’s throat. She prayed that this would be the end of the abuse, that this nightmare would allow her to escape from another. Then she realised that if B did in fact kill him, the one man in her life who she had ever trusted and felt safe around would go to jail. So she slipped unnoticed, or so she thought, into her mother’s room.

Closing the door on the commotion that took place in her living room, she picked up the phone and dialled 000. Asking for the police she blurted out everything she could. “He’s going to kill them, he’s hurting them. I need you to help him, protect him. He’s only trying to help.” She’d no sooner told the operator where she lived when someone took the phone from her and hung it up. She knew she’d be in trouble. Looking into her mother’s eyes, she apologised before the shattering of glass interrupted the night and a screech of car tires announced that B had once again gone speeding off, and she now had to worry, not only about the impending visit from the police, but also whether the next time she’d see her brother would be either in a hospital bed or at his funeral after he’d wrapped his car around a tree. 

The police arrived within the hour and asked a few questions before taking her aside and asking her to tell them what really happened. What really went on behind those doors, they wanted to know. Of course she didn’t tell – she didn’t want to break any rules, so she told them everything was fine. She told them she was happy, safe. She lied. The police left, and she left her parents to their own devices and crawled into her bed, where she’d hold tight to her blankets and pray, at least for tonight that the fight would be enough to make M leave her alone.

Pulling herself from the memory, she found herself on the rail bridge, looking out towards the creek mouth, where the water filters into the sea, greeted by the waves. She could hear the rumble of the ocean. The slightest breeze tickled her cheeks, the mild sea air comforted her and she reassured herself that she was in her safe place. She wasn’t in that house any more, and in her mind she watched that child close the door on that memory, at least for now, and accept that her feelings towards the men who were supposed to be a role model and protect her will, at least for now, be somewhat hostile and emotionally charged.

It’s nights like this that she finds herself grieving the childhood she didn’t have. Watching from a distance as a family talk and laugh over barbequed sausages, a single, silent tear slides down her cheek. She wipes it away quickly, scolding herself. It’s too late to mourn that now, she can’t change the past, she didn’t have any control over the events that took place then, but she does (as she so often tries to convince herself) have control over the here and now. The present. Her life, up until now, has been significantly traumatic, the effects of which still play a role in her everyday life. But the ball is in her court now. She suddenly notices that the scene infront of her, the sand, broken by a stream of water and framed by the dark green foliage of trees has colour. She suddenly notices the slight salty smell of the air, combined with the scent of spring – flowers, earth and the almost unnoticable scent of the still water that remains trapped among the rocks. There is colour, there is life – her heart is beating, her chest rises and falls rhythically with her every breath, she puts her fingers to her wrist, just above the butterfly tattoo and feels her pulse beat against them. She is alive. She takes a deep breath and turns her back on the railway. Maybe, just maybe there is hope. Maybe if she can breath through the violent images that invade her mind, the screaming thoughts, maybe if she keeps fighting she can create her own memories. Maybe next time she finds herself sitting at this bridge it will be purely to breathe in the salty air and take in the beauty of the image that is infront of her. She turns, her chest still aching with emotion, and walks to the swings. Another day, another night. She tells herself she will fight, and for now – she’ll swing as hard as she can until the ache is lessened and she’s strong enough to hold on to hope again. 

She kicks both feet out in front of her with every ounce of strength her body can muster, a small sound escapes her lips with the effort. She lets her body go limp and she falls backwards, the wind rushing past her ears as she folds her legs underneath herself and gathers up all her strength once again. Now that she’s upright again and looking ahead, she takes a breath and she kicks both feet out in front of her with every ounce of strength her body can muster, a small sound escapes her lips with the effort. She lets her body go limp and she falls backwards, the wind rushing past her ears as she folds her legs underneath herself and gathers up all her strength once again. She swings, with purpose and emotion to release the pain that’s built up inside her chest. The sun is setting and she can feel the change in the air as evening succumbs to the darkness of night, the sky changes from the almost angelic shades of pink and gold to deep blues. The stars emerge, almost as if prompted by a director. Perfectly timed, rehearsed. She stops kicking and lets the motion of the swing, controlled entirely now by gravity, comfort her. Back & forth. Back & forth. Each time the swing moves with a little less momentum. Eventually she kicks off and lands, gracefully, balletic, on the ground and begins the walk home.

Jingle Bells

Christmas is always a difficult time of year for some people, myself included. Regardless of this, I always looked forward to Christmas day, the Clichéd promise of a day filled with food, laughter and happiness overrode my knowledge that just because it’s a special day in some religions, doesn’t mean things are going to instantly change within one’s household. Of course, we still did all the presents and big meals and laughter, water fights and the afternoon nap before more food is consumed, but there was always tension in the air and I never really enjoyed myself, whether it be a result of a drunken rant the night before, or the impending ‘doom’ that is a result of a day filled with alcohol. However, despite this knowledge, I always found myself somewhat excited about the lead up to Christmas. I used to love snuggling up with mum and watching the Christmas movies on TV or buying Christmas decorations and putting up Christmas lights.

This year, each day in the lead up to Christmas becomes significantly more painful than the last. I’ve made some big decisions in the last few weeks, and whilst I don’t regret them, combined with the constant onslaught of Christmas ‘stuff’ in everyday life right now, they’re a painful reminder of the fact that I’m the driving wedge between my family at the moment and regardless of what I do, Christmas wont be the same this year. Each time I turn on the TV or go to the shops I’m confronted with images of happy families, children laughing, smiling, parents cuddling and kissing. The perfect picture. Each time my heart breaks, I feel the lump in my throat develop and I blink back tears. I find myself fighting back tears at work as well, sometimes as I help a customer shop for a present for their mum or a mother shop for their child. Even answering the phone reminds me that I’m a little more lonely than I’d like to be right now. All this will pass and I will learn to deal with it. I keep reminding myself that I’ve been going it alone for the past few weeks, with my psych away, so it’s all built up and I haven’t had a chance to really vent. I’m hoping that after I’ve had the chance to do such venting tomorrow I’ll see things from a different perspective and be able to focus on things better.

I’ve caused so much heartache and pain in the past few months, I don’t think any Christmas will ever be the same. I’ve opened up about assault, pressed for confrontations, begged for people to understand. These are all positives steps I needed to take to help myself, but it means that I’ve put a dividing line right down the middle of my family and for now, I’ve taken a step out of the picture while I try to work on how I feel about it and allow them to work out their own thoughts and feelings.

I know some don’t agree with my choice to cut contact with my family, but I still stand by it. While I fight daily with violent thoughts and I’m constantly flirting with suicidal ideations, my choice to cut contact wasn’t to isolate myself to make suicide easier, but rather to better my chances of over coming these thoughts and working on my own healing path. I’ve sent letters to people, many letters, explaining my feelings, articulating my needs and wants, and expressing my hurt. I sent a letter to my abuser. I told him how much he’s hurt me. I told him how much of an impact what he did has on me, and I told him how I feel about him. It was a release that I needed, so much more than I realised and I felt liberated until I received a response from him. The response I received was violent and shocking, and triggered my already lowered mood to plummet to dangerously low levels. I fought through, and a week or two later I understand that his response was inadequate, defensive and had nothing to do with myself but rather his own insecurities and issues that are his own to deal with. I’ve done what I need to do, what he does now has nothing to do with me and he’s no longer a physical part of my life. I don’t need to have contact with him. I have control over that part of my life for the first time in many, many years.

The last few weeks have been a big challenge, and also a big learning curve. I’ve limited the contact I have with my mum – putting boundaries on the contact she has with me and taking control of when and how we contact each other. This means that I’ve realised for the first time how dependant I still was on her for acceptance and ‘permission’. Even in therapy, I found myself ‘holding back’ in ways because I was always waiting for permission to follow through with divulging parts of my past or information about my family. Whilst I feel a little strange without the constant contact we used to have, I understand that it’s not forever. I just have control over what contact is made and when at the moment. I know I’ve caused a lot of hurt, but I need to build my own paths and work out my own directions without the influence of others right now. It’s fucking hard to explain, but I know I’ve done the right thing.

Despite this though, it means I’m a little lost and confused this year without family around leading up to Christmas. Will my parents even want to spend that day with me? Do I deserve to? Do *I* want to spend the day with my family. I feel like I’ve fucked up so much within my family, that Christmas isn’t even that much of an event. They’d be better of spending it with each other without me skulking around making a mess of things. They’d be happier without me, the burden child – the difficult one, being around. I want to send my mum an email, one to thank her and let her understand that I appreciate her respecting me and my choices and these requests, and two – ask her what she wants. But I can’t, I don’t know what to say.

Regardless of all that, in the back of my mind playing over and over is the constant negative thought train telling me I’ve fucked everything up for everyone and I should just stay out of everyone’s way all together.Who’d want someone like me around at Christmas anyway? I’m just a pain in the arse, waste of space, piece of shit.

Anyway, Merry Christmas. Jingle bells. Ho Ho Ho. Whatever. Just another fucking day, bring on 2012 – maybe the coming of a new year will see things change in a positive way. But then again, I say that every year so I wont hold my breath.

Candlelight

I watch the flame flicker and the shadows on the walls move around me.  I sit and stare at the flame as it burns, ever so slowly, down the wick. I watch the wax melt, pooling around the wick, sending off the slightest scent. The flame dances, slowly, then flickering as my breath stirs the fire. Watching the flame, I brace my self for the inevitable – that flame will die, the light will be extinguished, the scent will eventually disappear. The wax will set and the wick will cool, almost, if not for the blackened remains, as if it had been untouched. Similar to a secret, one that’s been kept for so long & is finally brought to light. Finally acknowledged and accepted, and the hope that that secret will no longer need to be kept is the light from the flame, the freedom of the flame’s dance. The wax, slowly spreading as it melts is the truth that is being unveiled, piece by excruciating piece. Yet, after the initial furore that surrounds such an emotional revelation, comes the darkness. The cold that washes over you when you feel like the truth will spread no further. The wax has set, the secret will be once again kept within that small circle.

My candle, once again alight, was cold and dark for such a long time. The secret so big that the heat that emanated from the flame would be too overwhelming, too hot, for me to handle. No longer is this that case, I’m stronger, bigger, wiser. I’m in control of the flame, of my candle. The secret, the wick, is mine and I choose when it is to be extinguished, I choose who gets to put boundaries on how far I spread the truth. I’m  in control of my life now and the light and warmth from the flame, the shadows dancing on the walls are exciting, almost enticing. I want to see where this may lead, if I’m open and honest, if  stop running from my past, stop hiding and protecting the things that happened and talk about them, work from them and grow because of them. Will that change the person I am, better the person I could be?

Holding on to a secret is so tiring, pretending and hiding from the truth takes up so much of my energy. The effort that goes into pretending is no longer justified. Speaking, first to my doctor, psychologist and best friend and then to my family about my depression, eating issues and anxiety that are results of years and years of bullying and sexual assault, among other things has been somewhat liberating. Like lighting the candle once again, watching as the flame slowly takes hold of the wick, eventually consuming it’s entire being, then growing and dancing as it feeds from the oxygen around it. I feel like I, myself, am feeding from those around me, my psychologist, GP and youth worker, my incredible friends and family. I feel like as I redirect my feelings to the areas that it’s justified rather than containing them within myself has set me free to breath in all that oxygen and grow, so much. Each time I let go of something that I’ve been keeping inside me for so long and set it out into the universe, share it, speak it, cry about it, let someone else acknowledge my hurt, I realise that even though I feel slightly overwhelmed by the heat from the flame, it’s not impossible to handle, I’m strong enough to withstand the heat.

I’m not keeping secrets any more. I’m not pretending, I’m not hiding. I am lighting the candle to a better, brighter and happier life. Embracing the warmth like a hug from a friend, I smile in the knowledge that even though things are still a little dark and scary and heavy around the edges, the flame will grow and the light from the candle will spread further. The flame will probably be extinguished a few times in before it gets there, but it’s important that I persist, keep relighting that candle and protecting that flame from dark days so that I can allow it to illuminate the way out.