I’ve been crying non stop for the whole day.My eyes are dry and are stinging. My face aches all over and the nausea is begging to hit.
It’s going to be difficult to explain what is going on, a lot of it is personal and affects me in a very extreme and specific way. At this point in time I just feel so empty and broken that I wonder how on earth I got into this position. How on earth the cheery little 10 year old found herself grieving over her own life just ten years later. I always knew that I would suffer from some degree of emotional instability, but more than ever this instability has been violently rocking in the storm that is my family life and the repressive environment that comes with it.
Despite the social anxiety and bouts of depression throughout almost all of my adolescence, the most difficult hurdle has been battling with body dysmorphic disorder – diagnosed when I was 18 turning 19. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the awful illness, sufferers of body dysmorphia experience major anxiety about a part of their appearance which they perceive to be flawed. In actual fact, this ‘flaw’ may not even exist, or the person may believe that a slightly visible flaw in their appearance is far more severe than it actually is to other people’s eyes. This mustn’t be confused with vanity – in many cases and certainly in my case, looking in the mirror and seeing what we see is like witnessing the end of the world. Literally. Panic strikes. You feel so paralysed in your own pain, there’s nothing you can do at that precise moment to alleviate the distress that you feel. Home alone, I used to scream until my voice became hoarse. Not even that could remove the demons that were clawing and clawing on the inside.
2016 was a terrible year for me. Every look in the mirror was not complete without tears. I became afraid to be alone, knowing that I would be swallowed up with awful awful stabbing emotional pain if I were to give into the temptation to glance at my reflection or take a photo of myself. No matter how many times people would compliment me on my looks, no words could erase the utter repulsion I felt. Days upon days were wasted lying in bed, too ashamed to even pop out to the shop to get some milk or to meet with old friends from school. There wasn’t a day when my face wasn’t swollen from all the crying.
I didn’t accept the diagnosis. How could I? How could I reassure myself that it was just an illness and there was nothing actually significantly wrong with the way I looked when I had seen, measured and proved so much ugliness. Every day. To me, accepting help was like lying to myself.
I’ve always been very critical, always pushing to be the best and punishing myself for being…myself. Even though I desperately wanted to be happy in my own skin, I knew that I would never be. And I knew that I did not have a weak enough spine that would allow me to suddenly be willing to change all my beliefs about the society and the world in which I live. Sessions of CBT were almost laugh worthy. I refused medication. I wish I hadn’t.
As my moods began to affect the family, home life suddenly transformed into a living hell of some sort. Coming from a relatively Christian family, I’d never seen my parents act with what seemed so much hate and little morals. Not knowing how to respond to the extreme distress and daily crying fits, many methods were used to shut me up: verbal attacks to scare me out of my apparent ‘selfishness’, being physically removed from rooms when they no longer wanted to offer me emotional support, my very real suicide threats dismissed and even laughed at when all they wanted was an evening to watch TV.
I’ve never really forgiven them. They have never asked for forgiveness, because to them, they did nothing wrong. I can see that that they were stressed and at times hurting. I can see that my behaviour was scary, with me sometimes shouting and breaking things out of sheer desperation – despair more than anything about their deliberate ignorance of the daily pain that I was in.
But I will never see them in the same way. We were all monsters at times. I never knew that they or I could be so monstrous.
It’s difficult to get across through words how awful that year was and at times I often blame myself, forgetting that the blame is clearly shared. So many awful things happened on a daily basis, extreme disputes were seen as a normal and were often bottled up the day after – pretending that nothing happened. Pretending that my parents hurtful behaviour had not made me consider killing myself. The days started with an ‘I love you’ to my mum and an apology from my side, often not knowing what I was apologising for. As much as my mum angered me, I craved her love. Because she had the potential to receive my hug and make me feel a moments warmness within my cold and hurting soul. So much extremity had led to my memory loss…or not memory, but even an emotional sensory loss – with me often forgetting traumatic moments that had only happened a day ago, or looking back at them with no feeling but numbness. Not sadness. Sometimes when I am in my room or in the shower, I am overcome with an overwhelming sense of sadness about what I have gone through. Almost out of no where it hits me. Reality hits me. Then it’s gone. I bottle it up again. Sometimes I wish I would just fall and hit my head hard enough to remove all memories of wha has happened over the past couple of years. I wouldn’t remember my first year of university studies, but I hope I would be free from my crippling anxiety about my appearance. That I would go about living my life with confidence like I had done before, and that I would once again feel comfortable and loved when on my visits to home.
I chose to start University in September 2016. I wasn’t emotionally stable, but I knew I couldn’t hide from life forever. My dad bet that I would break down after a couple of weeks and quit. I did break down. I broke down every day. But I never quit. I never took a train home during term time, (probably put off by the ridiculous ticket fee). I pushed pushed myself to keep going. I rarely missed lectures, even when I had felt like death 20 minutes before. I knew that I would feel better if I got out. If I was around other people I couldn’t obsessively check my refection. I made an effort to go out and meet people, even though I was so embarrassed to show my face. On the exterior, I was very positive…suspiciously so. When my friends would voice their own insecurities and concerns, I sat awkwardly and offered kind words. No one suspected that the smiley, shy girl had a deep dark past that still lived on and haunted her every moment. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing. I didn’t think I could put into words everything that I had experienced without it seeming ridiculous or mismatched. I was embarrassed about my behaviour. I didn’t want them to see my vulnerability.
I had to cover up my bedroom mirror. I tried to call my mum everyday for reassurance and to tell her that I was sad. Often my parents would ignore my phone calls. Alone, I was almost always in a terrible state, feeling horrified and extremely uncomfortable in my body. I longed to speak to my mum and beg her for help. Help that would remove the pain. Just for a little bit. And sometimes just talking to her did. Just momentarily.
As you can see, I still very much suffer from this disorder. I signed up to every medical service possible, but the waiting lists are sky high. Having seen a psychiatrist in the summer of 2016 and being discharged after one month – untreated, I asked to see another psychiatrist and this was granted in April after a huge amount of pushing and demanding on my part. His assessment brought up concerns about borderline personality disorder, now questioning my previous diagnosis of mild Aspergers that I had received in October. It wasn’t clear and I left with another appointment for a second assessment but was too afraid to attend. I didn’t need help with aspergers, I didn’t need help with borderline personality. All I needed was some pain relief. Emotional pain relief. Pain relief for my distressing past and present.
I am yet to be offered any. Possibly because I am so sceptical of CBT – the ‘hypnosis’ treatment, I like to call it. I would like to take medication. But I do not feel that I need it. It’s difficult. It’s difficult to explain.
Over this past year, I feel like I have improved somewhat. When with others, I no longer feel the anxiety that plagues me when I am alone. I have reduced my checking behaviour, even though it makes me restless and on edge if I don’t. My relationship with my family has also somewhat healed. After a couple of awful encounters during the holidays, I have learnt to repress my distress as much as possible to avoid punishment. And I am willing to do so, as being at home allows me to spend time with my little sister and mend my relationship with her before she grows up too fast. I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief, wishing that others would force some sense into my stubborn parent’s heads. Or even realise what kind of people they are. The conversations we have are so surreal, I can’t even believe that I still want to be part of the family. Constant repression. Speaking out my feelings even in a calm and polite manner is considered a crime. Just tonight my dad was annoyed that I was crying and told me to get over myself. On talking to my mum, she scolded me and told me that it was very controlling of me to want my father to not say that. She told me that he will always be negative and if I didn’t like it, I should leave. It’s sad to know that my love is not reciprocated. That she would be ok if her second daughter were to never contact the family again.
I sometimes feel like I’m insane, even though I know that – in a sense – I am the only sane one in the household. I have no one on my side, not my sisters, not my aunts, uncles or grandparents. It’s me against the world. And it’s difficult, let me tell you.
I’m in a very difficult position. Even though I am in a stable economic situation and live in a safe country with many opportunities on offer – something which I am obviously very grateful for, there now exists the scale of emotional satisfaction – and I am right at the bottom. Even almost invisible as my emotions sometimes don’t even appear normal. So up and down and side, the scale is long gone.
I do not feel like I have a clear sense of identity, or a sense of who I am and what I truly believe in. With many diagnosis being debated as well as as shocking insight about my own family – what was a caring Christian home, where does this leave me? I feel so uncomfortable in my self, in my family, in my whole situation. I do not like my personality. I do not like anything about myself. You may call it low self esteem, but I call it hatred. Hatred caused by everything that has gone on. I don’t want to be anything like my parents. But I am made of them. It’s difficult not to despise myself, because I see many aspects of them in my own appearance, and I am scared that they will come through in my actions as well.
Sadly, If someone were to ask me about what I was like as a child, I would not know.
I have gone through so much trauma and instability, that I no longer know what life is without pain. I do not remember very well the moments prior to adolescence, the moments prior to my beginnings of mental health difficulties. I would tell them that I was shy, because that’s what other people said about me. But was I really? I have no idea. I hope I remember. I hope I manage to rebuild my life.
My secret life, which no one really knows about. Except you.
I started this post in a state of exhaustion and sadness. I now feel content with sharing my story. For those of you who have read some of my previous posts, this is the reason why I appear to be sad in many of them. I didn’t want to say the reason, but I feel that now it’s all in the open, I can express myself more freely than before and hopefully writing here can serve as some sort of therapy and acknowledgement of my feelings.
If you did read this, thanks. It was pretty long.
I should go to bed. It’s 2:30am.