Voices: “Places to Hide”

So here we are at the end of our third week in our series. So far I’ve mostly discussed the experience of mental illness, particularly depression. I haven’t so much mentioned the often self-defeating, self-destructive ways that most of us cope with mental illness and the factors in our lives that have contributed to it.

The vast majority of mental illness stems from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers; most commonly addiction, abuse, and/or trauma. Those experiences along with unstable families don’t allow for the development of self-esteem or healthy coping mechanisms, so a lot of us turn to things like drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, and self-harm to deal with unmanageable feelings. This was certainly what I did. In order to cope with growing up in a violent household, years of sexual and physical trauma via my father, a stranger rape at 16, my undiagnosed bipolar, and posttraumatic stress disorder, I did all of the above. I nearly died of anorexia and bulimia several times during my 16-year ordeal with the disease; I have scars in every place imaginable from all the cutting; I broke my own bones at times because I beat myself so hard with a ceramic curling iron; I abused vicodin, valium, klonipin, ambien, and other pills. Through most of the years I was doing these things, I really believed I could never live without them.

Thank God I was wrong.

I had a therapist who used to tell me, before you can give these behaviors up, you have to honor what they’ve done for you. Don’t get me wrong, they’re killing your body. But these behaviors are protecting your mind. Respect that, and thank them for that. And then let them go.  

7/1/03

Places to Hide

 

Between the lines I carve in my skin

At the edge of a blade that gently glides in

Afloat on the streams of blood that will follow

Once filling me up, now leaving me hollow

I trace the path of my freshly split vein

Twining up to my heart, the center of pain

And just below there, my eternal friend

The stomach that’s empty, shriveled, sunken

The best place to rest and perhaps disappear

A place that I’ve turned to for so many years

One among many places I’ve found

To be safe on my constantly turbulent ground

And then there’s the throat, bloodied and bruised

From the battering in-and-out cycle of food

And my pill bottles carefully lined in a row

A disturbingly fun pharmaceutical show

So many places I created to hide

From a self that I simply cannot abide

© Sarah Henderson 2003


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About writingforrecovery

Sarah is a writer and poet who speaks out about issues that make people uncomfortable. Sarah advocates for causes such a sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and mental illness, and often speaks openly about her own experiences. She is determined to abolish the stigma associated with these issues and believes that it starts with people telling their stories, so she started a blog called Writing for Recovery where people can do just that. She is the author of three volumes of poetry and is currently at work on her fourth. She is convinced that there's a novel somewhere in her, and occasionally picks at the chapters so far. View all posts by writingforrecovery

2 responses to “Voices: “Places to Hide”

  • Leslie Robin Neshama

    Sarah – this is so incredibly painful to read, and still, still, I am so grateful for your work….After I read this poem, I went to the refrigerator to binge? BUT, BUT, I thought of what your therapist told you, and I was able to pinpoint what the food was *doing for me*….I also quickly was able to ground myself, and now, being able to communicate with you, with others has enabled me to go forward – go forward in this moment. Just doing that (surviving these moments of pain) is significant for me, and I honor that. Bless you, Sarah!

    • writingforrecovery

      Leslie- I am thoroughly honored that you feel my writing helps you. I congratulate you on being able to push through those painful moments you describe; that takes so much strength and resourcefulness. And I promise that each one of those moments you survive builds on the last and puts you further on your path towards recovery, even if its a step so small you don’t notice it. Keep going- you are worth the fight. 🙂

      Peace, Sarah

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