Monthly Archives: January 2012

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I Don’t Want to Die…

Follows from Up To Scratch.

My parents have always been very hard on me. My mum only knows how to express love through actions, a knock on effect from her mother, who terrified me as a small child. My dad expected a lot of me and I worked my ass off because I enjoyed making him proud of me. I worked very hard through school and college and I got much better grades than my parents did at my age. I got accepted into a well-respected university. I went to university with very high expectations of myself. And I wasn’t measuring up. I was barely keeping up with the work and found most things much harder than I’d been anticipating. All the way through school I had applied myself and when something got tough I just worked harder at it. But at university I was in over my head. There weren’t enough hours in the day to apply to all the things that I found difficult.

I was revising for my exams. I remember talking to my dad on the phone and explaining that I was hoping to pass. He said that wasn’t good enough. If I wasn’t going to get a 1st, then why going to university? Why have a sub-standard degree? My dad didn’t actually classify on the degree course that he got onto through clearing, as I recall. He just passed. I was looking at passing and not classifying. And honestly, that was the best that I could do. I was upset that my dad couldn’t see that I was working hard but worse, I was upset because I was a disappointment. I was letting him down by not doing well enough.

On the day that I took my second solid mechanics exam, which had been my worst subject in the first semester and would be my most hated subject all the way through my degree, I took an overdose.

It wasn’t a big overdose. I took double the recommended dose of an anti-histamine I was taking that had a sedative effect. It was helping me sleep without having to go to the doctor. But in my head, it was an overdose. I wrote a note. It said “I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to keep on living.” I lay in bed in the dark and panic began to creep over me. What had I done?

I phoned my best friend Silver, praying that he’d answer. He lived next door and I knew he turned his phone off before he went to bed but I didn’t know who else I could call about this. I almost choked on the words.

“I’ve taken an overdose.” The response was instantaneous.

“I’m coming over, don’t go anywhere.”

I got dressed and he called an ambulance. It couldn’t come up the university residences because the gates were shut at night so we had to walk across campus to go meet it. The pills were starting to kick in and I was so tired I could barely stand up. My friend more or less dragged me across campus. It was gone midnight and things were largely quiet. We passed someone that we knew and Silver said that we were out for a walk whilst I leaned heavily on his arm. I was only semi-conscious. I drifted in and out of consciousness in the ambulance and sitting around at the hospital as people looked at me and talked about me. They put me in a bed and made me drink liquid charcoal. I don’t recall ever having drunk anything so foul. The point was that it would absorb the pills so that they didn’t overload my liver and cause it fail. I managed about three quarters of it before I could barely keep it down. Then they let me sleep.

The following day was hard work. Silver came back to the hospital to meet me when they discharged me. We were signing the contract for our house for the following academic year. We walked there and I had a bath and signed the contract and crept upstairs and fell asleep on the bed in the empty room that would be mine. I was completely exhausted and nobody knew what had gone on the night before. When I got back to my room on campus the note was there, waiting for me on my desk. I didn’t know what to feel. I was tired of everything.

Phoning my mum was the worst part. I wasn’t sure what she’d say but what I wasn’t prepared for was the crushing disappointment in her voice.

“Why?” she asked.

I didn’t have an answer.

Up to Scratch

Whilst I won’t always write chronologically, this post actually follows on from Bird is the Word.

So we’re in 2005. I survived my exams, although I failed two of them. How they let me pass the semester when I got 35% on two of my exams is beyond me. I had to do extra work and that was that. Just before Easter, I finally flipped. I’d just been to see the doctor, and he asked me if I was suicidal. Who asks someone if they’re suicidal? It’s like an invitation. You don’t ask that question if you’re expecting someone to say no. I often feel that I only flipped out because it was expected of me. Two days after the doctors appointment, on a Sunday morning, I sat in my kitchen with a knife and drew three thin lines across the back of my hand with it. I made myself bleed. They were nothing, barely scratches. But I had inflicted them on myself, and that tipped me from borderline depressed to “flipping out” ill. I turned up to church and I still remember watching my best friend’s face pale when he saw me. “What have you done?” he said, and I can hear the sadness in his voice.

I spent the day in a numb haze being passed from person to person. I was taken to the hospital to see the emergency doctor. The doctor said that I was fine but I shouldn’t cut myself again. I cried and said I couldn’t promise anything. A friend slept on my floor so that I wasn’t alone. The following morning we set off for a big Christian camp. My friends switched around whose car I was in so that I was with someone who knew what was going on. In some ways I felt better, because now I was no longer a borderline case. I’d done what was expected of me and now I had something they could treat.

I was given a prescription for Prozac and warned that the first few weeks were likely to be hard work. The doctor was not kidding. The Christian camp was horrific – the Christians I was hanging out with were largely the happy clappy kind and I couldn’t stand to be around them. I wasn’t supposed to be left alone but I could find ways to escape and I cut myself whenever I could.

You need to understand that cutting is in and of itself not a bad thing. Just as having an affair is a symptom of problems rather than the actual problem itself, so cutting wasn’t the biggest of my worries. Cutting made me feel better. I didn’t understand it back then. I knew that it helped but I didn’t know why. I knew I was worrying everyone around me but I was completely numb to them. I watched them with idle curiosity as they asked constantly if I was okay and panicked because I was injuring myself. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. That’s why you have a pain threshold. It’s incredibly difficult to seriously maim yourself if you have even a shred of your own sense. I used to cut myself and it hurt, but I never seriously injured myself. I was very clean about my implement and about cleaning myself up afterwards. The cutting was worrying, but it was just a sign that I was unhinged. It took me a while to realise that I was more worried about the cutting than any medical professional I ever met. I have a fairly healthy relationship with self -harm now. (And I still do it, very rarely.)

I wouldn’t say that week was one of the hardest of my life but I don’t remember enjoying anything about it.

After that I began to see a counsellor. I don’t remember too much about those first sessions, except that they were quite helpful. In order to get the most out of counselling I think you need to have half an idea what it is you want to get out of it. I just needed to understand what was going through my head. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I didn’t like being a student much because I’d taken a gap year and I was older than a lot of my friends, both in age and worldly wisdom. I was confused by the attitude of my housemates who did as little as possible and laughed at me for getting up early in the morning. On the flip side, I was starting to like myself and that was scary because growing up, every time I ever felt I liked myself I’d been rejected by everyone around me. Towards the end of the counselling I was finally beginning to accept myself. We talked about forgiving the pitiful wreck I’d been as a teenager who didn’t understand what self-worth was. Slowly but surely, and helped quite a lot by the pills once they finally kicked in, I started to recover.

Until the next set of exams came around.

Bird is the Word

I was first diagnosed with depression in my first year at university. (Guessing January 2005, which makes me 19.) I went to see the doctor because I wasn’t sleeping. I was upset and stressed about my exams and I asked for something to help me through. He asked what was bothering me, and I mentioned a situation with a boy that was I was really struggling with. The doctor gave me three sleeping pills, said that I was borderline depressed, and asked me to come back when the exams were over.

Bird and I were quite good friends. I really, really liked him. I didn’t want to jump into a relationship but one of my friends encouraged me to ask him out for coffee so that we could get to know each other. I did so, and Bird freaked out. He eventually found me later that evening and said he didn’t like me as more than a friend. I was confused. That wasn’t what I’d asked. But Bird had spoken to my friends to ask how he should let me down gently and that was the first time I had been shown respect by a boy. I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed up, crying and thinking because I was so happy. I’d found my first shred of self worth in years. Bird was amazing, because he cared enough to want to treat me the right way, even though he was letting me down.

The problem was that what Bird said and what he did were two different things. He said that he didn’t want a relationship with me, but he flirted with me constantly. We had a very physical friendship – he would grab hold of me and pull me close against him sometimes. Looking back I see the submissive in me was alive even then, because that used to turn me on. (Not that I understood what that meant then, because I was still playing at relationships then. I didn’t have anything approximating a physical relationship for another two years. I didn’t have my first orgasm until I was 22. I was late 23 when I first had sex. I’m still learning about my body responses!) It’s not like he flirted with everyone else either – he was socially awkward and I know that he struggled to talk to me about serious stuff a lot of the time.

My friends said that Bird liked me a lot. I protested that he said he wasn’t interested, but everyone else said otherwise. I got caught in the middle. What was I supposed to think? I remember talking to my best friend one time about it and he said “isn’t it obvious that he’s in love with you? Obvious to everyone but him.” I didn’t choose the best path of dealing. I chose to try and believe Bird, because that was the thing that made sense. If he didn’t want a relationship, then he didn’t. That was all there was to it. His flirting and his actions towards me must not mean anything sexual, and my friends were wrong. I tried to believe the lie.

And I ended up at the doctors. Because the lie ate away at me and I didn’t know my own thoughts. I couldn’t trust my feelings. I couldn’t trust people. I was tired and stressed. I would generally stay up til 3am of a night because I didn’t want to go to sleep. The doctor said that if I felt out of control I should come back and we would work out a plan to fix me. I was stunned. I’d never had a diagnosed mental health problem until then. I think I probably felt low a lot as a teenager but nobody had ever told me that it was depression. Depression was a genuine thing, not a rough patch. I cried and cried. I told Bird and he didn’t know what to do. He was little better than a child.

I’ve seen him since the end of that first year when he graduated and left and he generally doesn’t seem to have grown up. I don’t know what I really saw in him. We’re okay now, but it’s not without an edge of confusion that I see him. I still wonder exactly what was going on in his head. And I will never know. I don’t think he knew. We were still growing up and you make tons of mistakes trying to figure out who you are.

In lots of ways, I feel like our story hasn’t ended. Because that was just the beginning of my battle with depression. It is a battle which is ongoing, but every time it happens I get better at dealing with it.

To be continued….

Stuck Record Syndrome

Last night I started writing a post and it got hijacked by a completely different set of worries, but I wanted to come back to my point. So here is where the post should have gone, after I’d mentioned Boy, exactly as my train of thought took me.

The issue Boy is so huge that I want to out it. It would be the most massive step I think I’ve ever made. But I think that with so much going on I shouldn’t get into this. I need Cefyn’s support and he isn’t around much as he has his own shit. Why does he continue to let it persist?

There are times when I think I’m going to explode if I have to keep waiting. I don’t know what his problem is. I would be going completely nuts if I were him. We haven’t spoken much at all lately because we’re both busy at work and she is being clingy in the evenings. I’m trying very hard to have my own life that I’m happy with and I’m not jumping at every opportunity to be in touch with him, which I think is a good thing. We’ve got a bit of distance between us. I’ve told him that if he hasn’t (at least) told her he wants to leave by the end of January then I’m not going to talk to him again until he’s sorted it.

If I’m going to cut him off at the end of the month I need to know that I can live without him. Shit, but that is going to be difficult. I was saying on Thursday that giving him an ultimatum was some way of getting control. I can’t change what he is doing, but I’ve changed my attitude towards it. On some level, I’m hoping that giving him an ultimatum will give him a shove to get on with it. But honestly, I feel that he will do this before the end of the month on his own steam. He keeps saying soon and dangling it in front of me like a carrot when his definition of soon and mine are so completely fucking different. Right now I want him to do it so that I can actually be in touch with him. So that I can stop waiting. He said that he wants to manage my expectations – just having the conversation won’t change things overnight. But he doesn’t understand that things will change overnight. Our circumstances won’t change drastically, but I will be able to stop hoping and start looking forward to him actually being mine. My wait will largely be over when I get to stop wishing that he would just get on with it.

I long for the day when my every other waking thought won’t be fear that he isn’t going to leave her and I will be stuck in this eternal limbo between the most incredible love that I have ever experienced and the knowledge that there is a catch. I long to be able to enjoy the beautiful things he says and does without worrying that he’s saying it to someone else or that tomorrow the beauty will end. There is a level on which I feel that this is karma, coming to get me. I fucked up so badly that the one good thing I thought came out of this mess has to be the knife that stabs me in the side every time I roll over. I can’t see a way out of it very often. So sorry to be a stuck record, but until I can get out of this rut I don’t think there will be many more words on anything else.

I Keep Stumbling Over the Foundation Blocks

For the last few days I’ve been lying awake thinking about all the things I want to write about. Perhaps unsurprisingly a lot of them revolve around men. Whilst I have had relatively few relationships, they have all impacted me very deeply. But every time I’ve had a few moments to myself, I have done something else. I’m avoiding writing things that I know will help me.

I sat down to write and the first words that tumbled out come under the heading of Boy. He’s under the heading Boy because I don’t know if I remember his name. I say I don’t know – the experience is so traumatic that I get a complete block whenever I try and talk about it. I think I know his name but the effort required to process that experience is so great that even thinking of his name is going to take me down a deep dark pit and I don’t know if I can get out. I told my counsellor I would  write about it, because I completely choked up when I tried to talk about it with her. I’ve never mentioned more than a few words about the experience to the last few men I’ve been with. I’ve only mentioned it at all because it’s a huge block to me sexually. Even two years ago the idea of oral sex terrified me because of it. I really enjoy going down on Cefyn, but he can’t ask me to do it because I can’t. Even thinking about being asked makes me sweat. There are tears at the corner of my eyes. It pricks at something so deeply ingrained in me that I don’t know how to write about it. I want to write down what happened but I don’t know if I can. I don’t know what would happen if I opened the box that memory lives inside. I feel that it would swallow me up completely and I don’t know how I’d recover.

I want to overcome this, but I need the right support around me to help to survive the experience. And right now, I don’t have it. Because I have to wait to be told that I can even phone Cefyn. I have my contact with him dictated to me like I’m a filthy secret. Which I am, quite frankly. Very little differentiates this situation from my first boyfriend (henceforth known as Tim, which is a pseudonym I gave him when I wrote about him back then), who would date me when he was on the rebound and would deny me to anyone that asked. I remember going out on a “double date” with him and my sometimes-best -friend of the time with her boyfriend. We were having a fairly awesome time hanging out and then we saw someone that we knew and he hid our clasped hands behind his back so they wouldn’t see. I felt like I was worth nothing. He treated me like I was worth nothing. I believed that I was worth nothing. I spent most of university trying to get over the crushing lack of confidence that he inspired in me.

But here I am, still someone’s secret, still living from day to day off the scraps of affection thrown to me when it’s convenient. I know that he considers me his sun, moon and stars. But every night he goes home to someone else, which puts a price on just how much his sun, moon and stars are worth. And honestly, in some ways this is worse than being with Tim, because at least Tim was honest about how little I meant to him.

Have I learned nothing?

A Wedding Blog

This morning I read this post by Amanda Palmer about her decision to marry Neil Gaiman. It’s long, but if you get the chance, I highly recommend you read the whole thing, no matter what you think of marriage and weddings. She is wonderfully honest about her antagonism towards marriage and how and why she ended up getting married.

I’ve always believed in marriage. Ever since I was a little girl, it has been something I’ve dreamt about, thought about, planned in my quieter moments, yearned for in my more desperate ones. My experience of marriage has been quite different from my expectations but actually, my faith in marriage has only been set back by my experience, not destroyed completely. It’s taken me some time to process why I still believe in marriage. And here it is:

Marriage is about hope. (Many other things besides, but this is the one I’m going to focus on for this post.)

I love weddings. I watch a lot of weddings on TV and I read about weddings and I’ve been wondering for a while why that is, because it’s not that I want to get married again any time soon. It’s about hope. Weddings, no matter who the people are, are a snapshot of hope. They’re about two people making a crazy decision to commit their lives to each other. It’s about the whirlwind of emotions that go with looking at someone and knowing, just knowing that you want to wake up with them every day for as long as you live.

You don’t think about what’s going to happen next. You don’t think about the fact that it’ll be hard. You don’t wonder what you’ll do if you ever meet someone else that makes a fire burn in your chest so hot that you find it difficult to go home at night without them. You don’t think that one day it’ll end. You don’t think that one day you’ll be crying your eyes out and physically aching because you cannot keep the vows you’ve made and live with yourself. You certainly don’t think that one day you’ll be lying next to someone else in bed realising that you’ve broken those vows that you made to fuck one person, and one person only, and that your entire life has been changed by the one single act you’ve just committed.

You don’t think about anything except that one moment, when there is just you and the person you’re about to marry. You see long summers of lazy fucking and snuggling up together under thick blankets in cold winters. You see buying a house together and having children with your partner’s eyes. You think about the life that you’re building together and the dazzling future ahead of you.

I don’t regret getting married. When I said “I do,” I meant it. I meant it from the bottom of my heart. There was never any hesitation. I often cry when I think about how I felt then, and I wonder how I lost it. But I think that if I went back and had my time again, I wouldn’t change a thing. About the decision to get married, at least. What came after… that I will always wish hadn’t happened, even if we will both ultimately be happier because of it.

The Timeline Project

The idea behind The Timeline Project started in a block of counselling session I had before Christmas. The original timeline looks like this:

I wrote down titles and we talked about them and I mentioned at the time that I’d like to delve a bit deeper into some of the stories. Unfortunately I had finite time with the counsellor so I thought about writing things down instead. I then failed to get around to it. So this is me getting around to it. I’ve got literally hundreds of things that I want to think about, write down, dissect and put to rest. Ultimately it’s about documenting what has made me who I am now. Kind of like a memoir, except I am still a work in progress, so it won’t all just be history.

The point of publishing everything online is twofold: I’m interested in how many of my experiences aren’t unique to me – I look at some of the things that have happened to me and consider that I’ve been incredibly unlucky, but actually, perhaps this is how everyone grows up. I wonder how many people out there feel just like I did – like life was out to get them and everyone else had an easier time of it. And secondly, I’d like to hope that you, the reader, can find solace in my words. I’ve met so many people over the last year in situations every bit as difficult as mine and they are thriving, just as I intend to. And just as you can, I hope.

Just Another Statistic?

New year. Funny really, nothing has changed since yesterday. It’s just a new day. But things feel different. 2011 has been and gone. It has been the most traumatic year I can remember. It’s been the year with the most changes, the most pain that I can ever remember. It has been the year that I have singularly failed at the most important thing I’ve ever done. The year that I tried my best at something that didn’t ultimately work. The first time I’ve ever conceded defeat and given up. I think perhaps that was my biggest lesson. I needed to learn to give up. There were lots of other things that happened and I feel I can finally look back on them without feeling they’re only a few days over. They’re now last year. That’s a big thing, right?

This new year brings me hope. This year Cefyn will leave his wife and we will be together properly. We will be happy.

See, even writing that looks pathetic. It’s fucking difficult to convince myself that this will all work out fine. Statistically speaking, men do not leave their wives to be with their mistresses. Why do I think that I will be different? What makes my love any more special than anybody else’s? Where can I have got this notion that the fact that other men don’t leave their wives doesn’t seem to apply to me? The more time goes on, the less sure I am that Cefyn is fully committed. I’ve been a wreck for some time and I haven’t been me and I don’t like it. When Cefyn was here on Friday I felt like me towards the end of the day. On Saturday morning I grinned and grinned and felt amazing. And it has worn off already and today is only Sunday. I frequently consider that Cefyn leaving his wife isn’t going to change us much. Am I really going to be happy if our situation is better? Am I ever going to really trust him? Am I not going to worry that he’s about to run back to her or find somebody else the moment my back is turned? Is this what is meant about a leopard changing their spots? Things are different. Cefyn is not the man I fell in love with. The man I fell in love with wasn’t fucking married.

The truth is that I cannot trust him until he’s done it.

I know this. He knows this. He can reassure me to the moon and back but his words are meaningless until he has backed them up. We’ve had this conversation a hundred times and I have tweeted and tweeted and everyone has reassured me that I am the one in a million, that I am different and that he is not bluffing and all we need is time and we will have what we want. Their reassurance makes me feel better for a few minutes, a few hours maybe, and then I am back where I started. I am going out of my mind with impatience, with insecurity. I explained to Cefyn on Friday that it is like the situation with Bird in my first year at university. Everyone was telling me one thing and he was telling me another and I had to choose the lie that I could live with. I had to make myself believe what my eyes told me wasn’t true in order to keep going.

Deep down, I know that Cefyn will go through with it. The point of not believing him is self preservation. If it doesn’t work I have no reason to be upset because I wasn’t expecting it. It’s easier to accept that he won’t change even though it hurts, because then I don’t have to consider the things that could have been incredible that I will never have.

Venting a Leaky Tap

This is an odd analogy, but bear with me.

Being a writer is like having a leaky tap with a plastic bag over it. The tap leaks and water comes out and it collates in the bag and you can ignore it for a while but eventually the bag gets full. You either take the bag off and the water all spills out and the tap continues to leak, or you put a little hole in the bag and it can leak out slowly. The consequences of ignoring the bag full of water is that it eventually gets too heavy for the tap and you’ll break the tap, the bag or both. The result is the same. You’ll get water everywhere and it’ll be a big mess.

The point of this blog is to put a hole in the plastic bag of water that is my life. It has been collating for about 26 years now and it’s time that I started to let it out. If I don’t start to write down some of the stuff that’s been bottling up in me for those 26 years, then my brain will literally melt and pour out my ears and *poof*, that’ll be the end of Elenya.

Okay, so that was melodramatic. Melodrama is something I do very well.

I’m not going to lie. This is self-indulgent, likely to be exaggerated and probably not terribly happy much of the time either. It will however be honest. And if you’re not interested, you don’t have to keep reading. I won’t be offended if you take one look and decide not to bother. Nobody is making you read. But I will keep writing. I am compelled to write. I can’t bottle it up any longer.

This is a journey I am not sure I will enjoy. But I expect it will be interesting, even if only to me.