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.