Tag Archives: cutting

Computer Crash: Amanda’s Story

By now, most of you have probably at least heard something about this story. Amanda Todd, to put the story in its most basic terms, was stalked through three cities, bullied, beaten, and harassed to death. She was a 15-year-old girl who ended up choosing suicide over living one more day in the hell created by her peers both at school and in the online/social media world that has now become a haven for all manner of bullies and predators. This behavior sickens me. Amanda left behind a chilling  Youtube video explaining her situation. And for the full story, you can read what her mother has to say in the The Vancouver Sun.

Having been a victim of bullying, of violence, and a teenager who tried to commit suicide, I really feel for this girl. I think I can understand the place she was at; I thought, maybe I could put that in a poem. So this poem here, this is for Amanda. This is also for everyone who doesn’t understand what is is to want to end your life. I don’t know that I can explain that, and I’m not trying to speak for her. I can only reach back into my own experience, and maybe offer a little perspective.

I am so, so sorry Amanda. We all failed you. But maybe your story will help others, and I hope that gives you peace.

 

10/12/12

Computer Crash: Amanda’s Story

All I wanted was to be liked

I just wanted people to see

That I was a funny, fun person

I wanted them to see the real me

Instead, I was lured to a trap

I was told I was beautiful, cute

He told me to lift up my shirt

For an unknowing photo shoot

From that moment my life was over

I was stalked like deer in the woods

There was nowhere for me to hide

I tried three neighborhoods

But the stalkers and bullies, they followed

They tracked me through wires and webs

I never asked for this fame

To be one more naked celeb

They used every weakness against me

They beat me and tortured me so

Finally I couldn’t take it

I decided I had to go

It’s not like anyone cared

The police didn’t even try

The haters get away with it all

While I sit with a razor and cry

So goodbye to the stalkers and bullies

Goodbye to my parents, I regret

Too bad I have to end this life

That’s hardly happened yet

For Amanda Todd

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson

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We Should Have Heard You: Ashley Billasano’s Final Words Uncut

Ashley Billasano was a girl just like me. So much like me, that this story has affected me in a deeper way than perhaps it would have otherwise. Ashley and I both grew up in the Austin area. We both were sexually abused by our fathers, raped other times, and used eating disorders and self-harm to cope with this. Both of us were failed by Travis County Child Protective Services, who neither served nor protected us. We both attempted suicide more than once. 

The difference is, I survived.

Eventually, someone heard me. Eventually, I received the help I so desperately needed. Tragically, no one heard Ashley or was able to help her before she succeeded in taking her own life. I can’t explain why I was spared and Ashley wasn’t. I can’t explain why someone intervened on my behalf and no one got to her in time. And I can’t imagine how Ashley’s friends and family are feeling right now.

But I can imagine what Ashley was feeling. I remember vividly what it felt like to think that no one believed me and no one was going to help me and I was all alone with my hellish pain. Ashley left us with a record of her pain, a record of her experiences and reasons for taking her life. She made it public for a reason. And when I heard that Twitter took those messages down I was angry, because she wasn’t heard when she was alive. She deserves to be heard now. So I am publishing her tweets just as she wrote them, unedited and uncut. Ashley wanted the world to know what she went through and she wrote it rather eloquently. Perhaps her writing will encourage other survivors to come forward with their own stories. There have been far too many deaths due to silence. Let us remember Ashley Billasano and how the system did not work for her. Let us do better the next time a victim has the courage to report. Please, let us  do better. 

A website and foundation have been set up in Ashley’s honor, their mission to help victims of abuse deal with the effects and prevent more tragic suicides. www.ashleymariejustbreathe.com

 

10:50PM Nov 6th: “I fuckked up my own suicide” yeah tell me about it…

6:44AM Nov 7th: Staying home today. Can I reach 1000 tweets??? I’m thinking yes!

9:45AM Nov 7th: just woke up

9:45AM Nov 7th: Don’t feel too well

9:45AM Nov 7th: There is somebody in my dreams

9:46AM Nov 7th: I want them gone

9:46AM Nov 7th: How can we control our dreams?

9:46AM Nov 7th: Hummm wish somebody would text me

9:47AM Nov 7th: Kinda lonely right now

9:47AM Nov 7th: There was so much more I wanted to do

9:48AM Nov 7th: Ahhh well time to move on

9:48AM Nov 7th: My thought process is too crazy

9:48AM Nov 7th: I totally think I’m bipolar

9:49AM Nov 7th: Or just crazy

9:49AM Nov 7th: Idk.

9:49AM Nov 7th: Humm I remember why we broke up

9:50AM Nov 7th: I shall do it again

9:50AM Nov 7th: Because this time I don’t have a bf

9:50AM Nov 7th: And I really don’t care anymore

9:51AM Nov 7th: I should get ready then

9:51AM Nov 7th: Should have gotten everything last night

9:52AM Nov 7th: Still just trying to raise my numbers

9:52AM Nov 7th: So I met this boy

9:52AM Nov 7th: He was very cute you see

9:52AM Nov 7th: Quite popular too

9:53AM Nov 7th: Me and this boy started talking

9:53AM Nov 7th: Then we talked a lil more

9:53AM Nov 7th: Then he let me in his front door

9:54AM Nov 7th: We walked up the stairs where everything was quite

9:54AM Nov 7th: And he whispered ‘you look beautiful’ into my ear

9:55AM Nov 7th: Shivers moved down my spine

9:55AM Nov 7th: And then he began to kiss my neck

9:56AM Nov 7th: I know you’re thinking ‘why did she go’

9:57AM Nov 7th: And all I can say is my father told me so

9:57AM Nov 7th: So he kissed me sweet and laid me down on his bed

9:58AM Nov 7th: I started to shake he said ‘give me head’

9:58AM Nov 7th: I laughed at him and said ‘I’m a vegetarian’

9:59AM Nov 7th: Then I wondered why I had really come to him.

9:59AM Nov 7th: See I’ve been in this situation before

10:00AM Nov 7th: When a boy I loved said he would leave if I didn’t give it up

10:00AM Nov 7th: And I told my friends I had done it even though it wasn’t true

10:01AM Nov 7th: Because he was telling everybody the same things too

10:01AM Nov 7th: But here is the honest truth

10:01AM Nov 7th: I never did it till I was sixteen

10:02AM Nov 7th: I did not know the boy

10:02AM Nov 7th: And I never got to know him

10:02AM Nov 7th: He was older stronger and high at the time

10:03AM Nov 7th: He probably will never admit I was a crime

10:03AM Nov 7th: His breath smelt sour like smoke and his kisses became rough

10:04AM Nov 7th: Then I tried to sit up and say ‘I’ve had enough’

10:04AM Nov 7th: My attempt of getting free were feeble

10:05AM Nov 7th: I decided to scream ‘please stop’

10:05AM Nov 7th: but he just took a pillow to my face and put me in the dark

10:06AM Nov 7th: First to go were my shoes. I feel my feet go cold

10:06AM Nov 7th: Next my pants, he was so bold.

10:07AM Nov 7th: It hurt so much as he entered me

10:07AM Nov 7th: Guys I’m telling you my first time was taken from me

10:08AM Nov 7th: He noticed and said ‘are you a virgin?’

10:08AM Nov 7th: I nodded through tears as he kept barging in

10:09AM Nov 7th: He finished and was done with me

10:09AM Nov 7th: I lay on his bed lifeless

10:10AM Nov 7th: He let me stay there and sleep

10:10AM Nov 7th: Then he offered me some weed

10:10AM Nov 7th: I said ‘no thank you I don’t do that either’

10:11AM Nov 7th: He said ‘girl you’re no fun. See you later’

10:12AM Nov 7th: I started to get dressed and he came back in

10:12AM Nov 7th: He came close; i tried to get away from him

10:12AM Nov 7th: He told me ‘dont be scared’

10:13AM Nov 7th: and like an idiot I believed him

10:13AM Nov 7th: He asked if I liked it

10:14AM Nov 7th: I shrugged my shoulders

10:14AM Nov 7th: He leaned in for a kiss, and I let him

10:15AM Nov 7th: He laid me down and rubbed my back

10:15AM Nov 7th: I cried in his pillow. He cried back

10:15AM Nov 7th: He said he was sorry

10:16AM Nov 7th: I said ‘it’s okay’

10:16AM Nov 7th: we laid there together just bathing in our fears

10:17AM Nov 7th: I don’t know why. But I saw the human in him.

10:17AM Nov 7th: He was probably just as broken as me

10:18AM Nov 7th: He drove me to my park

10:18AM Nov 7th: I got on the swirly slide. I just laid there and cried

10:19AM Nov 7th: I finally walked home

10:19AM Nov 7th: My father opened the door

10:19AM Nov 7th: Asked me ‘how was it’

10:20AM Nov 7th: I said ‘i’ll never forget it…’

10:20AM Nov 7th: as he pressed for questions. I grew impatient

10:20AM Nov 7th: Said ‘dad in so tired can I just go to bed’

10:21AM Nov 7th: he dismissed me and I trudged up the stairs.

10:21AM Nov 7th: My legs hurt. And my heart was filled with despair

10:21AM Nov 7th: I went to the bathroom and locked the door

10:22AM Nov 7th: I took apart a razor I had just gotten from the store

10:22AM Nov 7th: I did what I had to do to forget.

10:23AM Nov 7th: It seems it’s been my only way since sixth grade

10:24AM Nov 7th: When the kids called me fat even though I was a double zero

10:24AM Nov 7th: And I began to watch my weight like it was a MTV show.

10:25AM Nov 7th: I cried as I remembered how I’d starve for days

10:25AM Nov 7th: And my parents never noticed

10:26AM Nov 7th: So I laid there and watched the blood gather on the floor

10:26AM Nov 7th: Then my weak hands reached for the door

10:27AM Nov 7th: I ran into my little sister she saw and shook her head.

10:27AM Nov 7th: Then she looked at me and said. ‘Just don’t let them see sissy.’

10:27AM Nov 7th: she kissed my head and walked away

10:28AM Nov 7th: I swear after that night I was never the same

10:28AM Nov 7th: My dad became to want ‘favors’ from me too

10:29AM Nov 7th: He would use it to bribe me if I wanted to hang out after school

10:30AM Nov 7th: I didn’t know that I should have told somebody what he was doing to me

10:30AM Nov 7th: Sex just became second nature to me

10:31AM Nov 7th: My father let me as long as he got details sometimes I’d even have to let him see

10:32AM Nov 7th: I was just a young girl. Who quickly became afraid of men.

10:32AM Nov 7th: Then years past and it never stopped.

10:32AM Nov 7th: Finally on day I began to pop

10:33AM Nov 7th: I sent a boy away

10:33AM Nov 7th: And told my father enough was enough

10:33AM Nov 7th: He cried and said ‘I’m just so weak’

10:34AM Nov 7th: I looked at him and saw the brokenness too

10:34AM Nov 7th: I took pity on him and became the fool

10:35AM Nov 7th: Things never changed they just got worse

10:35AM Nov 7th: Till one day I met a boy who in the end hurt my heart worst

10:36AM Nov 7th: We met in my typical situation

10:36AM Nov 7th: We were both undressed within a matter of seconds.

10:37AM Nov 7th: But I could tell he was different.

10:37AM Nov 7th: I pledged myself by not hooking up with complete strangers.

10:38AM Nov 7th: But for him I was eager

10:38AM Nov 7th: But there was something different about this guy

10:39AM Nov 7th: He returned the favor and actually said goodbye

10:40AM Nov 7th: On the bus ride home we sat next to each other. Talked for hours on end

10:40PM Nov 7th: We held each other’s hands and told each other our favorite bands

10:41PM Nov 7th: He looked me dead in the eyes and asked if I would please consider seeing him again

10:42PM Nov 7th: I went home filled with smiles and cheer

1:01PM Nov 7th: Annyways. The guy eventually asked me to be his girl

1:02PM Nov 7th: And things were great for a while

1:04PM Nov 7th: But my dad got in the way. And ruined everything. One day I just couldn’t do it. So I told my boyfriend my secret

1:06PM Nov 7th: What happened next was a blur. I told him not to tell. We tried to act normal. We had been dating for over a month when I took his virginity

1:07PM Nov 7th: I fell in love for the first time. But my secret was too much for him. He needed time to think. I thought I was going to lose him.

1:09PM Nov 7th: A lot happened. But all that matters is that my secret was about to become puplic. Him & my friends made me tell

1:10PM Nov 7th: All my efforts to keep a normal life were crumbling right before my eyes.

1:11PM Nov 7th: I remember telling my closest teacher and CPS and the police and dectectives. I remember having to tell them everything about my dad

1:35PM Nov 7th: It was my boyfriend who told my mom. And she came to get me.

1:37PM Nov 7th: Weeks passed then I got the call. They said. ‘Sorry but there isn’t enough evidence’ I hung up.

1:38PM Nov 7th: That’s when I changed. I didn’t care anymore. And the people I was meeting gave me no reason to.

1:39PM Nov 7th: The guys I’ve been with, ha none of them care. They just look at me like I’m just some other hoe.

1:40PM Nov 7th: To that I say. I guess I am. I don’t know how else to be. It’s not my fault. Somebody else chose that for me.

1:47PM Nov 7th: Well that’s. The story of how I came to be who I am. Well the condensed version. I’d love to hear what you have to say. But I won’t be around

2:08PM Nov 7th: Take two. Hope I get this right

 


Declaration of Independence from Stigma

I have something important to share with you all. Earlier a friend of mine gave a very brave statement when she said: “I have PTSD!! I’m not ashamed to talk about it!” Taking her example, I want to say this:

I have bipolar. I had eating disorders and PTSD, I cut myself and attempted suicide. I was a victim of childhood physical and sexual abuse. I grew up in domestic violence. I was raped.

And I am not ashamed.

I have done nothing wrong. I am not to blame for the abuse I suffered or the psychiatric disorders I am diagnosed with. I got therapy and take medication and that does not mean I’m crazy. I will not be silenced or shamed by stigma or societal pressure to keep these things hidden. They are part of my story, and I know they are part of your stories too. Join me in declaring that you will not be silenced by stigma!!! ♥


Domestic Violence Story Project: My Story- Sarah

Hi everyone, thanks for joining me once again for the final story in this series. Everyone who has contributed to this project has done a wonderful job and I am grateful to all of you, but each story has been from the perspective of a survivor in a violent relationship. I really wanted to include at least one story from the perspective of a child who had grown up in an environment of domestic violence, but unfortunately I didn’t receive any stories like that, so because I believe it is such an important perspective to include, I thought I would volunteer my own.  I will caution you, this story may be triggering and is not easy to read. But I decided not to pull any punches, and to really lay out the truth about what went on in my home growing up. Even people who know me may be surprised at the extent of the violence; I just want to be clear that I am not ashamed of anything that happened. I did nothing wrong. My mother and sister did nothing wrong. We were the victims, we are the survivors. And I am ready for the world to hear our story. 

Thank you to everyone who has written, commented, and read these stories. Just by witnessing these words, you are making a difference. 

Growing up in a violent household isn’t easy to explain. It isn’t all like what you see in Lifetime movies; it isn’t all as obvious as black eyes and screaming fights. Sometimes- many times- violence is much quieter than that, much more insidious. It was that way in my house

I think the number one word that comes to mind when describing my childhood home is this: confusing. Damn, was it confusing.  It’s not just that it was chaotic, though it certainly was. It’s that no one had a clearly defined role in the family. Mother, daughter, wife, big sister, little sister, friend, adult, child, lover, whore, caretaker, confessor, victim, savior, and others were all interchangeable roles for the three females in the family; that is my mom, my older sister, and me. We shifted personalities at the whim of my father, who also had his own little cast of characters that he played: father, husband, surgeon, family man, abuser, pedophile, rapist, philanderer, and general, all-around sociopath. We spent our days and especially our nights in a mixture of terror and exhaustion, wondering who was going to be what next.

As a child, I got extremely mixed messages from both parents, but especially my mom. On the one hand, she was very careful to make sure that she raised me to be a feminist, equal to a boy in all the opportunities I was given and the things she said to me. She gave me trucks along with my Barbies, made sure I admired Cinderella and Sally Ride, and said I was so smart I could be anything I wanted to when I grew up- no one could stop me.

Except while she was telling me all of this, I was watching her wither away in an abusive marriage. My father stopped her from seeing friends and her family, from taking a job outside the house or even working from home, from using any of the degrees she had earned. My mother is a brilliant, talented, educated woman, and he convinced her that she was worthless and stupid and couldn’t even do housework correctly. I watched him treat her like less than shit you wipe off your shoe my entire life. He slowly took away every little bit of control and happiness and sanity from her. I watched him screw other women behind her back. I dealt with him abusing my sister and me behind her back, which he knew was the worst way possible to hurt her.

When you grow up with a tyrant who rules your home like this, things are never safe. You don’t even know what that word means. Stable and secure are pretty meaningless too. Because one night your father might come home, get pissed off, and threaten to kill your cats. Or, just because he thinks it’s funny, he’ll hold an empty handgun to your six-year-old head and pretend to fire. Or while you’re doing your homework he’ll walk into your room completely naked and act like it’s no big deal. He’ll make dinner for himself and forget to feed you and your sister. He’ll pinch your ass. Pull your hair. Shove you into a wall. Molest you. Rape you.

And that’s just the stuff he did to me. He pretty much did the same to my sister. I don’t even know everything that he did to my mom, and I don’t want to. I know he abused her verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually, financially, and even reproductively, by forcing her to have her tubes tied which ended up in a hysterectomy after a post-op infection. It was horrifying.

It’s hard to really make someone understand what it is to live under the constant threat of violence unless they literally have. It’s terrifying, but it is also exhausting; physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Because you’re not only having to live with it, you have to keep it secret. You’re all living in this silent warzone, this strange compromise gets struck where you can be fucked up inside the house, but once outside it’s all pretend. It’s like a bomb in a Tiffany box; it may look pretty on the outside, but when you open it up, the contents will still kill you.

For those of you who have children who have lived in violent homes and are concerned about how they will be affected, I can tell you one thing: they are aware of so much more than you think. You think you are hiding the stress and trauma from them but you are not. They understand what’s happening and they want to help. They want to protect their parents and themselves and make it all ok. They think it is their fault that things are falling apart. They think this so they can have some control over a situation in which they have no control. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to “stay together for the kids’ sake.” The kids do not want two miserable parents together. They would so much rather have two separate, functional, happy parents, BELIEVE ME. They would rather have a struggling single mom in a safe home than a rich, extravagant home that is filled with chaos and violence. Do whatever you have to do, but make your kids feel safe. That’s all they really want.

As far as how I was affected by growing up like this, it’s hard to tell. I ended up with severe anorexia and bulimia, a dissociative disorder, self-harm issues (mostly cutting), a prescription pill habit, and horrifying posttraumatic stress disorder. But how much of that was due to witnessing domestic violence, and how much of that was being a direct victim of sexual violence myself? There’s really no way to know.  Both affected me in deep and profound ways, ways that I still deal with to this day.

So how, you’re probably wondering, did my family’s violent situation end? Well, it sort of ended because of me. I finally went off the deep end at 15. I couldn’t take it anymore and I tried to commit suicide, which landed me in a psych ward, which began the process of family therapy with the therapist who recommended my parents get divorced, which finally began when I was 17 and ended when I was 19. It took many, many years of therapy for all of us and a lot of moving around and of course, cutting my father out of our lives completely to be where we are today, my mother my sister, and me. And where we are is a pretty good place: moving forward, looking to the future, hopeful, peaceful, and free.

Finally, gratefully, free.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011


National Recovery Month Stories: Nikki

Welcome, everyone, to Writing for Recovery’s National Recovery Month Story Project! I’m honored to be able to bring you these narratives, written by the people who experienced them. I’m grateful for their vulnerability in sharing these pieces of their lives, in hopes that others may take away something that helpful.

This first story is by a dear friend of mine. It is beautifully, if painfully, written. She has been through more pain than anyone should ever have to endure; and yet, despite that, she has a firm conviction about her recovery. An amazing story, a great way to start. Thank you, Nikki.  -Sarah

 

Imagine a girl.

Imagine a girl who was broken. A girl who was abused, neglected, and abandoned throughout her life. A girl who couldn’t trust her father. A girl whose mother picked drugs over her. A girl who was bounced between family members for the first 10 years of her life, only to be permanently placed with the most abusive one of them all.
A girl who stopped eating. Started purging. Cutting. Eventually moved onto pills. A girl who hated herself and felt unsafe in her world. A girl whose mother died when she was 21. A girl who discovered her biological father, her last hope for a parent, had died when she was 14. She never knew him.
A girl who went in and out of so many treatment places that she has even lost count. A girl who lied and manipulated others. A girl who hurt and was hurt. A girl who almost died, should have died many times.
2 serious suicide attempts. 2 surgical feeding tubes. Crushing pills to dull the pain. Purging. Thousands of dollars spent. Dozens of therapists seen. Blame, hurt, sadness, anger, despair; often misplaced.
Imagine a girl who hated herself.
Then decided, one day, she was tired of hating herself. Tired of lying. Of pain. Of hurting. Of hating being alive.

Imagine a girl who clawed her way out of the mess she had created. She fell a few times, but managed to find her way out. She made amends with family, forged new friendships, and decided to begin living again.
One day, that girl met the man who became the love of her life. He understood her, loved her for who she is, not who she was, and knew everything about her. He didn’t care about the past, he fell in love with this girl.
Many months later, this girl got pregnant. After all of the abuse she had shown her body, she was told it would never happen. She had abandoned the hope of a family, of children of her own. She was overjoyed. Grateful. Blessed.
15 weeks later she was grieving, broken, devastated.
“I’m sorry, your son has no heartbeat anymore.”
Words that came to define her life.
She cried, screamed, got angry, sad, spent nights in despair.
But she did not fall. She did not relapse.
3 months later, she got the surprise of her life when she discovered she was pregnant again. Joy combined with terror and fear.
Please don’t let it happen again.
At 8 weeks:
“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
And there she was again, sitting in a funeral home signing a fetal death certificate. For her second baby. Devastated.
But again, she is not falling. She has not relapsed. She knows her recovery is real. She knows that no behavior will bring her babies back. Starving, cutting, purging, running, pills; nothing is distraction enough to take away the pain of losing her children. Her hopes, dreams, visions of the future. Gone, in the blink of an eye.
14 days after the news, she is still angry, sad, broken, defeated, devastated, and in agony. She cries daily, nightly for her babies. She needs them. Wants them.
This girl’s recovery has been tested, and still stands strong.

We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, stronger than we ever thought we could be.
This girl is me. And I am proud to say, that despite losing my baby Aiden, and my second baby (who we take to be a boy) Connor, I am still solidly in recovery. I waiver in many things, but never that fact.
I know pain, the worst kinds of pain. And I know that behaviors, of any type, only multiply pain.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

Nikki Albrecht

 

 


Both Sides Now: Recovery and Absolute Thinking

 

Hello Recovery Writers! I hope you all are well. As most of you know, I have recently had some struggles with my past behaviors and gotten back into therapy. This has me thinking about all sorts of issues in recovery which, of course, I end up writing about. I hope my ramblings are helpful to some of you. Peace, Sarah

There is good and bad in everything. I don’t believe anything in life is completely bad or completely good; it’s all shades of gray. Unfortunately, as addicts and people with eating disorders, we tend to think in terms of extremes and absolutes. Black and white, good and bad, yes or no, all or nothing. And that kind of thinking is part of what keeps us sick and addicted.

In my recent struggle with the reemergence of my own eating disorder, I’ve been thinking more about this. In the past I’ve certainly realized that despite how much damage my eating disorder and various other behaviors did, and despite the fact that they nearly killed me, they also ironically saved my life. The eating disorder, the cutting, the pills; those things protected my sanity even as they were destroying my life and my body. So I honor that. I appreciate and respect what they did for me. And in that way, I cannot see my eating disorder or my cutting or my addiction as entirely bad things. Someone who’s not well-acquainted with a situation such as this might wonder, how can you say that? And I would say, there were good intentions at the heart of it. People who have been there know what I mean.

And just like I can’t say that my eating disorder and self-destructive behaviors were all bad, I can’t say that recovery is all raindrops and roses. As much as I enjoy the freedom and peace and new opportunities that come with recovery, a lot of new responsibilities show up as well. When you recover, you have to grow up. You have to function like a person, like an adult. You have to do the everyday mundane things that you got to neglect when you were sick: laundry, bills, dishes, cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc. When you were depressed or manic or caught up in your disease, you probably ignored most of these things; I certainly did. I became quite dependent on other people for help with managing the grown up stuff like rent and insurance because it all seemed too overwhelming for me to deal with. I never opened my mail because I couldn’t handle looking at bills that I didn’t know how to pay. However, when you get into recovery, this changes. You have to learn how to deal with these things, face your fears, become more independent. You eat your meals, take your pills, get to your appointments. And there is a sense of accomplishment and pride in those things that is really cool. But sometimes there’s also a kind of wish to go back to when it was easier, when you could just throw up your hands and say, I can’t! I’m sick! and people would take care of things for you. I would never advocate staying sick just to avoid responsibility. But I can’t say that it hasn’t crossed my mind before either. When you grow up in a way that’s really abnormal, destructive, or abusive, it’s not uncommon to get to adulthood without having learned basic life skills like how to balance a checkbook or cook for yourself. So a lot of the time it can be easier to fall back on addiction or other behaviors rather than try to learn those skills and be independent. And I don’t judge anyone who does that— it’s scary as shit to take on being responsible for yourself, and it’s taken me a hell of a long time to get even halfway there. We are creatures of habit who seek to avoid pain, avoid fear. And so often that’s what leads us back into illness.

Really I think that what it comes down to is how much benefit you will get out of which state. Will you get more benefit out of being sick at the moment? Or will you do better with being recovered? There are benefits to both. There are also drawbacks to both. In my opinion, the benefits of recovery far outweigh the benefits of staying sick. And the consequences of staying sick far outstrip the discomfort and anxiety that can come with recovery. However, at certain times, that perception can shift and it can seem like a better idea to go back to the familiar comfort of your illness. I get that. I just did that. And I think it was because I felt like I was so overwhelmed with all the grown-up stuff I was doing, I just needed to be in a safe and comfortable place of dependency on something I knew I could count on the be there for me. And what fit that description better than my eating disorder?

I hope that soon I can come out of that place, and can re-create a feeling of safety outside of my eating disorder. As I’ve said before, recovery is a process and it comes in shades of gray. It’s not perfect or shit, all or nothing, a slip and back to day one. It’s just life. You forgive the bumps in the road, move past them as best you can, and keep pushing forward. The more you are able to do that the easier it is to remain in recovery; the more compassion you have, the easier it is to strike a balance between the extremes.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011


Voices: “Better”

This is the final post from the series! Thank you for reading this past Mental Health Month. I’m honored to enter your lives through poetry and even more honored to hear your stories and comments in return.

This last poem is brand new, just written a few days ago. I wanted to write something looking back from the other side of mental illness; what it feels like to be better. “Better” means different things to different people, I think mostly because the course of each person’s life and illness is so different. For some people, it means 100% recovery. For others, it’s just managing symptoms. For some, just staying out of the hospital for extended periods is a really big accomplishment. Celebrate those successes in whatever form they come, and try not to berate yourself for the times you fall down. Never stop advocating for yourself, not just as a patient but as a person too; you are more than your symptoms. Choose the people in your life carefully and try to have a good support system. Mental illness is a part of our lives but it does not have to be our whole lives.

My hope is for everyone with mental illness to have access to the resources they need to get “better”- whatever that means to them.

5/24/11

Better

There is a place that’s in between

It’s hard to find and rarely seen

But if you work and search it’s there

You only find it through self-care

For some that includes therapy

For others it means meals times three

For some it means ten pills a day

We do self-care in many ways

I know it’s isn’t always fun

But it’s a task that must be done

To stay here and to really live

Remember the alternative

Remember self-destructive nights

Terror and internal fights

Dissolving into fits of panic

Acting out when things turned manic

Diving into dark depression

Binge and purge in quick succession

Starving to make up for it

Cut to make it all just quit

Round and round and round it went

Never pausing to relent

Revisit what this felt like so

You’ll have the good sense to let go

To keep on caring for yourself

To keep on trying and getting help

And knowing that there is always hope

And support out there to help you cope

© Sarah Henderson 2011