Tag Archives: self-harm

PostHope: A Place for Inspiration

Hello Recovery Writers!

It has been awhile, I know! But when I came across this site recently I had make WfR a part of it. Here I want to announce the opening of an adjunct site to the Writing for Recovery blog: It is called PostHope, and MY hope is that is will be a place for recovery inspiration. Please read the introduction from the PH site:

This is going to be a place where I hope (!) people will post some of their successes in battling the things we talk about on WfR: addiction, PTSD, eating disorders, sexual and domestic violence, self-harm, mental illness, and other issues. I would love to hear your stories of triumph, your progress, even the smallest of victories. Whether you’ve recovered completely, are in the process, or just had a moment where you decided not to use a self-defeating behavior, this is the site where I want to hear those inspiring tales. I believe sharing these things will give people hope that full recovery is possible!! So please feel free to post your own personal successes, those of your friends, or anything else that inspires you: quotes, photos, etc. 

Thank you for visiting this new little project. I hope you it gives YOU hope!

You can find the new site here at  http://www.posthope.com/writingforrecovery

I look forward to seeing you there! Peace, Sarah


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

 


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


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



Inside My Mind: A Journal of Major Depression

This piece is not part of the poem series; I’m taking a little detour. This piece is actually a collection of journal entries from a summer eleven years ago when I was in one of the worst  depressions of my life. For three months- ironically, just after leaving eating disorder treatment- I sat on a couch in my room and wrote about how miserable I was. In between I was self-harming, using drugs, and getting very, very sick with my eating disorder. This piece will hopefully offer a glimpse into the world of someone who walked with the shadow of suicidality, lived every day hoping she would die, and yet somehow managed to recover. The journal entires end with me beginning my school semester and still being really sick. It would take another eight years before I was really in recovery. I just want to show people that you can live through depressive episodes like this; as long as you stay breathing, there will be an end to it. You will eventually find peace.

Summer of 2000: A Chronicle of Major Depression

 

June

~     As I begin to move yet again I am experiencing the most hopeless inertia. In some ways it is similar to a feeling of needing to start over completely, toss the canvas overboard because your painting was beyond repair and must be created again from a fresh viewpoint. However, in this case I have the urge to drown with it… only I can’t do it. My hopelessness and feeling of impotence are so complete that even the energy for desperate suicidality has been depleted. I am left on deck without my previous work, without the motivation to work again, a wish to drown, and the weight of immobility that keeps me breathing.

I need a better analogy.

 

~        The most amazing thought process happened to me this morning:

I woke up. Not for any particular reason, no alarm… my meds wore off. Why am I awake? Sunday. No appointments to go to, no shrinks to see, no reason to get dressed or leave my room. Any phone calls? No. And bad TV.

I have to kill myself.

There is clearly no purpose for my existence today. However, even suicide seems boring and useless after last night’s attempt. You moron. The futility! If slitting your wrists actually resulted in death you wouldn’t be here to complain about the eighteenth time that it didn’t.

Sleeping is a better option.

Unfortunately, my mother keeps all of my meds in the kitchen. For safety, she says. Poor deluded old woman. I stand up too fast and promptly fall back down because I never EVER seem to get it through my head that my body is fucked up. Walking to the kitchen, I become annoyed with the hallway, its cold, hard, clay tile, how it strikes my thinly padded heels, sending shivers of pain up the bones. In the kitchen I gather thirteen pills including three painkillers and a couple of extra tranquilizers for good measure. I swallow them with the rest of the now tepid coffee in the pot and immediately return to my room, pausing only to turn up the thermostat because I’m fucking freezing in the Texas afternoon. I turn on the TV while waiting for the drugs to kick in. As per usual there was nothing on. I abandon all of my attention to the monotony of the Preview Channel. ER reruns tonight and my last thought before passing out is that now I don’t have to kill myself. ER used to be my favorite show.

~        This is getting really bad.

My self, mind, body, and my hatred for them cannot go on living in a state of panic over the others’ existence. That persistent fear that lies between self and self-hatred has taken me beyond a certain breaking, or perhaps boiling, point in my depression.

The body: too heavy to move. Sluggish, painful, and clearly defective; bloated to the point of bursting, my pale skin barely managing to hold the massiveness in. It is intolerable burden, this leaden mass of flesh.

I can identify few feelings or emotions. Pain. Despair, really. Exhaustion. As sense of being completely hollow, even inside the massive body, so that each thought rattles and echoes to create an intolerable internal friction.

But my head is really the worst. It’s a neurochemical war zone, serotonin and noradrenaline battling each other in my brain, horrifying images flashing through, screams and whispers and insults and threats.

It sounds so complicated for something that can simply be called misery.

~         Several major flaws in my thinking:

1) I am not, apparently, considered by other people to be expendable.

2) Hating yourself and your life and the body you live it in sucks.

3) There is no actual pressure from anyone in my life to do or be anything great; I am my own source of scholastic and vocational expectancy.

4) There are no people in my head. No one I know or don’t know actually sees me when I think they do and my life is not monitored and judged twenty-four hours a day.

5) There is not a pill to take that can significantly improve any situation I am currently in.

Self-realization is a trip.

It should also be considered that I have never actually accepted myself as bulimic. Every half-hearted attempt I have made to stop puking was purely and excuse to starve. If I am to recover from both disorders then every therapeutic technique that has been applied to my anorexia must also be applied to the bulimia.

To me, bulimia = shame. Nothing, but nothing, can make me want to die more than binging and purging. It is the worst. Full stop. Run to the kitchen, try to be quiet, fail, stuff your fucking face, sneak back, over the toilet, hacking, gagging, the metallic tang of blood and acid. GOD the acid burns, teeth marks on your hand, room spinning. Then back to the kitchen. Uncontrollable cow. Greedy slut. Fat useless lardass weakling piece of shit.

~         Shrink appointment today. Remember ask Dr. Hageman if there’s an Rx for:

. 1) The FUCKING PEOPLE in my head. I am being inscrutably monitored by these assholes, day in and day out. I am NEVER ALONE. Absolutely everything I do is watched and judged, from reading a book to taking a piss to talking in therapy. It does not stop. It is relentless.

I want them gone.

2) Heavy, sluggish, dulled painful feeling all over. Total lack of initiative.

3) Suicide being listed as Solution #1 to all problems.

4) One day this week, Saturday Night Live reruns were my reason to live.

5) The absolute fundamental basis of my eating disorder is that my body has been way too big for way too long. I found a way to be contained and I can’t let that go. Ever.

~         Things that happened while Shannon was gone (otherwise I’ll forget them):

Thursday– Saw Hageman, adjusted meds. Gave me a detox plan for Klonopin; Dad sent Mom a plant for their 26th anniversary. (The chicken-shit prick); Weight 81 lbs.; Surrendered bottle of Klonopin to Mom. Shit shit shit. At least I kept a little Valium and some codeine.

Friday– Mom tried to get me out of the house. We ended up having a big fight about my depression, treatment, etc. I said too much and she was extremely disturbed.

Saturday– Rented more movies. Drove by the new house. Fucking realtor touched my back and I felt creepy all night; I stayed up all night exercising– aerobics, crunches, ballet; a friend from Laureate called. She’s just as sick as I am. I skipped my meds.

Sunday– I slept from 9am to 1pm. Mom came in to tell me that I need to start cleaning and packing more. Uh-huh. So fine. I watched Boys Don’t Cry which was extremely disturbing. Read awhile and took a nap. Sigh. Then cleaning– laundry, dishes, kitchen, my bathroom… holy shit. At least all of that scrubbing and carrying and folding got my heart rate up so I was burning some calories. However, given my generally static state recently, is it a big fucking wonder that I’m too sore to move? The shock to the body of aerobics, insomnia, and major cleaning after virtual hibernation is drastic. Meanwhile, I’m trying to detox from Klonopin and practically drooling over my little bit of Valium. Being proactive is NOT what they say it is. I won’t get anywhere.

 

Frostbite does not hurt until it begins to thaw.

July

 

~         AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

I want to die but I CAN’T!

I CAN’T!!

I want it all to go away but it WON’T.

It’s exactly what Joni wrote in “Trouble Child”: You can’t live life and you can’t leave it.

~        Written after a trip to the ER where 3 liters of saline had been run in by IV in only 1½ hours. My kidneys could not handle it. The result was becoming Monstro the Whale for 48 hours.

 

I feel so swollen.

The image in my head is that of a toy, a plastic tube filled with gel and glitter, the kind that worms out of your grasp the second you pick it up. I held one in the mall once. When squeezed, the sparkly ooze would puff up, stretching its thin clear plastic skin to the absolute limit while everyone squealed at the thought of it bursting.

That’s what I feel like.

I can feel every little cell freshly fattened with saline and blood, buoyant as little beach balls, squishing up against each other under the weak confines of my body. I sit as if on a water bed and all movement is made through prematurely formed Jell-o. I’m water logged. And that is where the idiocy comes in: I know for a fact, an indisputable fact, that this puffiness is the result of the IV fluids given at the hospital. I understand that and even believe it a little.

SO WHY CAN’T I STOP FEELING LIKE A BIG, JIGGLING, BUBBLE OF BLUBBERY FAT ???

~        Today is the very sort of day when suicide turns into such a natural option for me. The simple action of swallowing pills and lying down seems to me to be as uneventful and prosaic as any other nap. I don’t know why I feel this way. Nothing particularly tragic has happened today. Or perhaps it’s that nothing even particularly different has happened today and that is the tragedy. I am spending my time merely waiting, death and the maiden, in a constant state of mutual antagonism.

For me, this is far worse than a time when my depression had those dramatic, desperate tragedies one expects. When my family was in denial– when my various chemical imbalances were as yet undiagnosed– when my life revolved around blood and bones and vomit and Valium and the problem was just that no one knew– that was a time that held more hope for me than right this moment. In that type of depression there is always a peak, a point where you just can’t take it anymore, when things are so awful and no one can see enough to help because you just can’t bring yourself to tell them, that you just have to die. In a peak like that you are pretty sure that you want help and it’s just that no one will give it to you. Killing yourself will be your calling card. A last fuck you to the world. You are not doing this because life it hopeless– perhaps the opposite. You are doing this because there is hope, damn it, and you know there’s hope, but everyone is so fucking thick that they can’t see your Pain! And your Agony! People can help but there is not engraved invitation with your name on it and you, lacking all initiative at this point, are pissed. You’ll show them how stupid they were and they will be sorry. The entire basis of a depression like that is anger.

~       I was thinking about the contradictions that are my truth right now. About the fact that deciding what to do with myself this evening ultimately determines my own worth at the same time. See, I really wanted to do was exercise– that was the favorable option. I wanted to get high, such as I get high. But my friend from Laureate and I swore off exercise together. So maybe I’d just lie down. No. I needed to be doing something. If I couldn’t exercise (be good) then I was going to binge and purge (be bad). I would force myself to eat until I just had to, had to throw up, so I could wallow in the blood, the knife-like pain in my stomach. Do I like myself today? Do I deserve to feel good? Do I like myself enough to make myself exercise so I can feel good? Or am I too worthless for that today? Today, I might just deserve to be tortured with my own weakness and failure. Should I be praised for my strength and rise above the flesh? Or should I be punished for my guilty existence?

~     I was able to see tonight, for just a moment in the dark, how thin I really am. The stark outline of my silhouette, the rarely seen dark in my eyes, pupils dilated under low light. I traced the borders of my body with my fingertips, traveling over the hills of my bones, the hollows of my flesh. I felt the arbor of veins wrapped around my limbs like vines, and what little muscle that’s left stretched tight. For a fraction of a second I thought, Wow– I finally did it.

But, I told myself, it can’t be. The numbers– the numbers don’t work. 79 lbs? How can I be thin when the scale says I’m not? No, I was wrong, I didn’t see clearly, it was only a shadow. Just a longing mirage.

I flipped on the light, and I watched my face suddenly widen in the brightness. The familiar sight of glaring flaws. My pupils shrink back into icy blue-gray, and my body is once again in excess.

And there was nothing to do but turn away.

~        My depression is so deep right now that it has become an actual physical pain. My limbs ache with the weight of despair. The inertia is set in to the point that movement causes stinging throughout my weak muscles. Even breathing is a struggle. Sometimes I let go, breath stops, and I just let my heart pound away at my sternum. It causes the cross around my neck to jump. Sometimes I just wish it would lie still.

There is no purpose for my existence. I just wish I were thinner. Maybe it’s appropriate to be out of the hospital right now. I’m not that sick. I weigh 81 lbs. I’ve got a good 15 lbs. to go before warranting treatment.

~        Emily staying here is just a nightmare. Mom told me that she said, “Tell Sarah I’m sorry I fucked up her life.” She thinks that I hate her. She holds herself responsible for my entire eating disorder/drug dependency/depression/suicidality/self-mutilation/situation. How’s that for a guilt trip?

I don’t want her blaming herself for all of my problems. Christ on toast. I mean, I’d love to blame someone for this, sure (wouldn’t we all) but she is not #1 on the list. For one thing, I’m the one who fucked up. For another thing, I deserve it. And while it is pretty clear how she might come to her conclusion, it isn’t so clear how long it could take to get rid of it. I just want her to forget about me. You know?

~       I was asked the other day why I starve myself; or rather, what I get out of it. I told you the answers that I knew from books. I did not tell you what I know from life. I did not tell you the truth.

I like to see the veins. I like I like to see the tendons and the muscles and the bones. I like to watch scars form on my skin and see my skin grow transparent. I love to see the blood pulsing under the veins. I need to see this. I need to see this to know that I’m alive, it tells me I’m alive. I need to know that I am here and that my blood runs through my veins as water through a stem. I need to see that I can be seen and felt and touched and held. I need to be held. I need to be held and rocked and petted and stroked and whispered to and sighed upon. I need to feel the comfort and protection of a mother’s loving arms. And I need to be able to feel this, within myself and in God, if I am ever to be truly free.

~       Last night my mother cleaned out and packed every drawer in the kitchen desk. I came in to make a cup of tea (China Green– it burns 40 calories a cup, so they say) so I was there when she stumbled across a shoe box full of pictures. Some of them were relatively recent– from the early 80s, Emily’s and my childhood. I really wasn’t interested except for a few pictures from the 30s and 40s– Mom’s family. There are no pictures of my father’s family. I’ve never met them (except for his monster parents), I don’t know their names, and what limited knowledge I have of them comes from nightmare narratives from Mom. Anyway, I kind of got caught up in her storytelling about her family’s pictures. Despite my tendency to desperately avoid any socialization (particularly with my mother), I stayed, sipped my tea, and laughed about old times with family and friends.

It was like a goddamned Hallmark ad.

And I seriously regretted it. I hate these photographs that portray a little girl pretending to be okay. I hate that they prove my existence then, in a time where I wished to God NOT to exist. Years I can’t remember for a reason. I don’t want to remember now, I can’t handle this. I want it to stop. I HATE THESE PICTURES! I HATE THEM!! They aren’t me, can’t be me, I wasn’t there, not dancing, not singing, not posing, not smiling. I don’t understand. I feel no connection to this girl in the pictures. It’s as if she’s one of those distant relatives that I’ve heard about but never met.

Like someone related to my father.

~        There’s something wrong with the self-hatred I’m feeling right now. The more I examine it, the more I realize that my hatred is for my situation– and myself in it. Looking back, at lot of my self-hatred started that way. How does that translate? The room is messy, feels chaotic; lazy bitch, get up and clean it. Mom is stressed from packing for the move; you should help more, selfish brat. The family’s in turmoil; it’s your fuck up, you weak little nuisance. I suppose you could take that and apply it to any situation. It’s always my fault. If something is wrong, I started it, kept it going, should keep my mouth shut, and fix it. Whining doesn’t accomplish anything.

Some little things I’ve noticed seem to be confirming the notion that I’m disappearing. I walk out under the porch light without triggering the motion detector. A nurse in the ER clips a pulse oxymeter on my finger but can’t get a reading. I try to adjust the desk chair but I don’t weigh enough to make it go down. It’s only little stuff but when you think the way I do, where everything is shot through the anorexia prism, you can build up a strong case.

August

 

~        I haven’t been making any sense in the last few days. Yesterday morning I broke down in tears and wailed for about 2 hours. I still don’t know why. I…. just… feel… shitty. My hands cannot stop shaking. My arms and legs feel clumsy. I am a conglomerate of bodily shame. That’s really the problem: I feel ugly. My God. Heinously, grossly, devastatingly ugly. Fat and fleshy and pale and short and something else– damaged, I suppose. Blemished and ruined. Exposed for the mess I truly am. It’s horrible.

There’s also this sense of being completely inept. As unsophisticated and lame as a two-year-old. I feel as if I will be laughed at and possibly scolded for all that I say and do. No, no! Stupid girl! Little shit! Leave me alone. Do it yourself, stop complaining, nothing’s wrong, do I have to spell this OUT for you?? Damn it, stop acting like a child. You’re being a brat, a wimp, a crybaby, a pain. You’re spoiled/needy/selfish/greedy/awkward/impossible/irritating…

Fuck. That is how I feel 24/7. How can anyone possibly get any work done (or even feel capable of working) with THAT in their head? Aren’t there PILLS for this? Aren’t I ON most of them? There is nothing in my life that I feel confident about, sure of, proud of. There’s nothing that I work towards. There is no purpose for me.

~        Therapy is extremely tiresome. It’s as if I have to narrate my life. Narrate it; like the fucking Greek tragedy it is, right? Every little thought and action falls into one of two categories: Worth (Therapy) Time or Not Worth Time. Most things actually fall into the first category but I don’t actually bring them up because I get tired of hearing myself complain.

Now, honestly, I realize that I’m never going to do any better for a therapist than Shannon. If anyone can possibly help me, it is she. I was incredibly fortunate that she fell on my path and I think the world of her. However, that does not inhibit my frequent inclination to want to rip her fucking head off. I become completely irrational and a big baby and think: all she does is TALK. Why doesn’t she just FIX IT? Hello?? I just want to scream at her to DO SOMETHING instead of just TALKING! It’s like that line in As Good As It Gets: “I’m drowning here! And you’re describing the water!”

~        I registered for school today. It made me want to cry. Actually, I did cry. The entire concept of participating in life is so painful. The idea of getting back to an actual schedule and some version of normalcy reminds me a lot of physical therapy. It’s like I’ve had two huge plaster casts on my legs for a year and a half, but even now that the casts have been removed I am still lame. The fractures may be mended and the bones stable, but the muscles and tissues are completely atrophied. It’s going to hurt and be tedious to build myself up again… three days a week I’ll be interacting with people all day. There will be responsibilities outside of taking my meds and (supposedly) keeping my weight up. Imagine! The brain can be used for more than calculating calories and trying to combat suicidal ideation. I’m taking piano for my elective and there’s ballet– my friends (what’s left of them) will probably start their movie group again– I’ll have homework– God. The whole thing is thisclose to normal. The abnormal part is that I won’t be eating during it all. Forget it. No way can I handle both.

~       I haven’t been turning to God in these last months. Actually, I haven’t been turning to anyone. This makes me want to cry somehow, like the baby girl grasping at her father’s legs, which are walking away from her– no! Don’t leave me! But I am so afraid that her tiny fists are beginning to lose their grip.

All these fucking thoughts! I don’t need it! Everybody just SHUT UP for one FUCKING second!! You all jabber at me at once it’s just obnoxious!

How is it possible for someone to so deeply despise herself? Where did she get the ability to hear this tireless criticism? Why does she feel so compelled to agree?

Is it selfish to do what I’m doing? Do I really need to spend all this time speculating about myself? (As if you’re important.)  Is it selfish when someone else writes down their thoughts? (No, that’s called journaling, and it’s fine for people who have something interesting to say.) What if these notebooks were to be read by someone else? (You’re fucking pathetic. You’re in denial. Not one will ever care about your little self-important-badly-written-psycho-bullshit-thoughts.) Then why do I write and go to therapy? (Because you’re self-indulgent, crazy, and you have nothing better to do.) Lame-ass.

~       Having my wisdom teeth out on Thursday was quite and experience– It forced me to go almost four whole days without purging. FOUR DAYS. That may not sound like much but if you put into consideration the fact that I’ve been throwing up almost daily (minus hospital time) for a year and a half, this is major. Well, it was major. I broke down today and threw up. I couldn’t take it anymore. I just feel so disgusting when I don’t. Completely powerless– chaotic, weak, scared, out-of-control, you name it. Vulnerable… like every shield I have is down and anyone can get to me. If I’m not purging and/or restricting, who’s to say WHAT goes in and out of my body? There has to be SOME type of protection against intrusion or else everything that went into my body would have to STAY no matter how awful it felt. And over the last four days, everything has felt awful. There is this constant physical sensation of–God, there’s just no way to put this delicately– fingers. Being molested. It is disgusting. I want to kill myself. I pray for it to go away but I still feel it. I want to call Shannon, but what can she do? Just keep breathing, Sarah, stay right here, it’s you are safe at this moment, keep breathing, my dear. Helpful, maybe, while I’m on the phone but useless as soon as I hang up. I just want someone to tell me that this is not my doing, it is not unusual, and I am not completely perverted for fixating on it.


~        What is the matter with me? I’ve become a raging bitch. Yesterday my uncle, for whom I have great respect, started to make a sincerely concerned comment regarding my lack of appetite (for the third time) and I actually interrupted him with this: “Hold on. Before you say another word, let me remind you that you are speaking to someone who believes that the use of full-fat salad dressing epitomizes insanity.”

Cringe.

~        I have been pretty depressed lately. And angry– frustrated, I suppose. My eating disorder is a mess, so clearly the rest of my life is in chaos. I mean, my eating disorder is the central force of my life. If it goes downhill, then everything else goes with it. Because I still have about 98% of my self-worth wrapped up in my ability to starve and/or puke– that means that if I’m having trouble with it I automatically become incapable of anything else.

So anyway, in the past week and a half bulimia has been out of control. Maybe it’s because it was the week before my period; maybe it’s because my therapist is out of town; whatever. All I know is, I have been filled with anger and shame about my obsession with food and/or the lack of it. I am so depressed that because I can’t seem to get off my lazy ass and exercise. I’m eating more and more normally everyday. I’ve been at the SAME FUCKING NINETY POUNDS for weeks and I HATE IT!! All I want is to be seriously anorexic again. I want to be that small, gray, spindly, ghost of a girl that I was not too long ago. I want the sunken eyes, the drawn face, translucent skin, concave chest, layer of fur, bony joints, and jutting hips riddled with bruises. I want these breasts and thighs and this fat stomach gone. I want the whispers and worries and gasps and stares. I want to show everyone how strong I am, how powerful. I want to feel that alive again. Isn’t that ironic? That the times that I feel most alive are when I’m half-dead? That the only time I am not afraid of myself is when I believe I have achieved control through starvation?

I’m really sick.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2000


Voices: “Maintenance”

Welcome to the second week of Mental Health Month! The third poem in our series describes a situation that will probably sound very familiar to those who have suffered with chronic mental illness. During treatment, at some point you reach a stage in which you feel like you’re just treading water. Therapy and meds are just effective enough to keep you out of the hospital, but are not effective enough to allow you to live a real live and feel like a person. You may not like the doctors you’re working with or you haven’t quite found the magic cocktail of medications yet;whatever the case, you are miserable. People see you and praise you for doing better- at least you’re not slitting your wrists- but you want to laugh in their faces and say are you kidding me? This is not a life!

But time marches on. And if you are fortunate, as I have been, you will eventually find the right meds, the right doctors, the right circumstances in which to begin a real life again. You will feel human, and describe yourself as more than a cluster of symptoms. You’ll recover.

6/10/04

Maintenance

I hear people say, “You’re doing so well”

But this happens to be my personal hell

So lonely and meager, this tedious rut

And each door I turn to promptly slams shut

No school to attend, no papers to write

Life’s at a standstill, nothing is right

A job that I hate, that doesn’t pay shit

But somehow I don’t have the guts to just quit

At my mother’s apartment, no space of my own

I come back to this place that I can’t quite call home

There’s only this canvas on which I paint words

Though even this seems to be slightly absurd

Twenty-two pills day, just to stay sane

To keep me from drowning in anguish again

To stave off the thoughts of ending my life

To keep me away from razors and knives

I torture myself in pursuit of my past

Hoping that somehow I can outlast

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll come to a place

Where I can close my eyes without seeing his face

© Sarah Henderson 2004