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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Importance of (Not) Being Fat

I try not to take posts on here too lightly. I'm sure no-one wants to be reading constant poems about ~how I yearn for death~ as well as cat pictures. I only post when I have something to say, or something specific has reached a threshold for discussion. Tonight, I'm writing about body image. Well, that's a lie. I'm writing about weight, about body figures and "being fat".

For the majority of my teenage years, I was a stick. I was so thin I was getting ill. I didn't notice or care about my weight until I was weighed at the doctors when I was 14. At that point, when weighed, I came out with a BMI of 15. I went to that doctors appointment wondering why I was feeling so weak and faint all the time; I came away with a new sense of pride over how extremely skinny I was. I know that doesn't sound logical to an adult reading this (or the one currently writing this), but as a teenage girl, being the skinniest person you know is something to be so happy about. Over time, I was met with both awe and concern over my weight. I was stuck in a very confusing situation where one group of people were complimenting me and another were bringing up negatives about my weight. I had always had issues with my looks, and though these issues developed further in my teenage years, my weight was never a priority for something I'd change about myself. Of course, I made constant reference to it ("Oh I need this food more, look how skinny I am!" or "I'm trying to gain weight") but realistically, I was fine with it aside from the comments I was getting from concerned friends and family.

Things change over time. In the past few years, my conditions have changed. I have started treatments and medications that, while having mostly positive effects on your mental well-being, also affect your physical appearance. Basically, I have gained a ton of weight. I am now twice the weight I was at the age of 14. 14 was 7 years ago, so that is expected, but to go from being seriously underweight to being overweight is a tough thing to adjust to. I try not to think too much on it: I am trying to get better. In my mind, getting better entails accepting myself for how I am. Currently I am on medications I am not sure I would still be here without; but they're making me overweight! Oh no! That's obviously the most important thing in life, not the whole "wanting to die" thing. Sigh.

People don't seem to get this message. To others, it is so simple: you are unhappy with how you look, change how you look. I am focused on the mental, they are focused on the physical. Even those that do understand the mental aspect try to force me to deal with it. With my body issues: weight gain, scars, stretch marks, whatever else. I can only handle so much at once. I do not want to discuss how much weight I've gained or how to get rid of it. Nor do I want to discuss scar treatment or anything else for treating my physical appearance. How about you direct me to some treatment for the thoughts inside my head? Is there any quick fix for that? Please, you're so willing to offer advice, give me some advice on that.

The worst thing about it all is "reassurance" about my weight. "Look Rachael, Lady Gaga is happy with her weight! You should be too!" Where to start with this one. I'm not sure I even can, it makes me so very angry. I am not Lady Gaga. I am not a celebrity. I'm not even close. I don't get paid to look good. I don't pay to look good. I don't get my ass cheeks photoshopped in Vogue. Nor do I get cosmetic surgery and claim to be happy with myself. You can get off your skinny high horse and stop trying to "reassure" me. I don't need your reassurance. I need your fucking silence. Do not talk to me like I should believe a word coming out of your mouth while you turn around and continue idolising the feminine ideal being shoved down all our throats. I do not need a word you say.

I'll tell you what else I don't need. The constant supply of celebrities discussing weight issues on airbrushed magazine covers, crying about how they're no longer a US size 2. Boo hoo, I feel so sorry for you on the front of that magazine. I feel like we have so much in common and look how you've made it through! Maybe if I feel happier about myself and listen to all your music about taking coke on a regular basis, I can be beautiful too. The juxtaposition of these two extremes is getting beyond ridiculous to any self respecting woman and now we also have men thinking they have it figured out, trying to relate us to the unrelated. The prime example being the aforementioned Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga at her fattest is still skinnier than I am and will ever be again. I can't relate to her in any way, so don't try to relate us. It doesn't make me feel any better about myself and in fact, bringing her up as being fat only highlights just what you think about me.

The reason for this post? Just a gentle reminder that there are more important things to think about, despite what you may say. Comments, reassurance, celebrity culture, none of it is relevant to how I view myself, except perhaps trying to reinforce my insecurities. In future, if you want me to feel okay about myself, just don't bring it up.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Suicidal Ideation

Today I turned 21. It was a nice day... not perfect, but nice. Better than a lot of birthdays I've had in recent years. And yet, here I am at 2:30am crying and talking frantically to my S/O, who I figure I should let go to bed and instead vent on here for a bit.

So why am I crying? I don't know. No, really, I have no idea. Nothing has happened to "trigger" any kind of sadness or tears from me. It just happens. I've been good with it for a while: I figure the antidepressants help out and make life manageable. Before I went on any pills though, this was constant. Crying for no apparent reason or crying over tiny things that no-one would "normally" get upset over. Recently I've found myself crying a lot with no explanation behind it. Of course, by the time I start crying I'm already too far gone to even remember if anything did happen to cause it; I'm a wreck.

Such is the nature of my condition that this happens to me. Most of the time these days I have no active thoughts or feelings in my mind, just blankness. Every now and then I would feel this way and just start crying, become very uneasy in myself and want out. I find myself wondering: why does no-one believe me when I tell them about this? Is it that difficult to believe that someone would just cry without anything particular happening to start it? Or do they just not understand why and so decide not to address it?

I'm aware clinical depression is one of those things that is still not *fully* understood. I wonder if this is one of those things; how you can give a girl over 5 years of SSRIs and counselling and she still finds herself in this position. I wonder if I'm just a lost cause at this point and have to find a way of just... managing these feelings  while accepting they will never go away. How can someone even begin to accept they will have to live with something like this? Something that just creeps up on you when you don't expect it? This unbearable feeling that can only be pushed down by indulging in some kind of activity (drugs, self harm) to physically sedate you? Is this why so many people with depression eventually kill themselves?

Any attempts I have previously made on my life have been due to external factors making me feel quite actively unable to cope. "Oh I'm a crappy person, I guess I should just end it." This, this is something else entirely. This is a case of wanting something to go away so badly and at the same time realising it will probably never go away: you'll have to deal with this for the rest of your life - however long that may be - and being very doubtful about whether you can or if it's even worth it.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Self Harm and the (Inevitable) Influence It Has on Social Situations

Aside from the obvious effect on close relatives, friends and your love life, the stigma of self harm itself is a strong one. Even with no fresh cuts in accessible places like my arms or legs, the sheer amount of scarring I have given myself is enough for people to stare. At this point it can no longer be explained away with "Oh I fell and hit it off a _____" or "My cat scrabbed me." There are far too many for that excuse. The only "excuse" I can come up with in isolated incidents when I'm having a one-on-one conversation which will be over very soon is "lion attack." It's a pretty obvious bullshitter right there, but it's a pretty obvious way of saying "It's none of your business/I don't want to tell you."

Often enough, I manage to avoid having said conversations to begin with. I will never go into a social situation with scars on show to be asked about. The only scars that cannot be hidden are so well healed up that they're invisible unless I point them out or, in the case of a few burns on the back of my hand, are tiny/could be from anything. Because of this willingness to cover up though, long sleeves are my best friend. I like wearing colourful dresses and the like, but wouldn't go out with them on unless I have a cardigan or coat over.

One exception is on holiday. Most of the holidays I've ever been on have been in warm countries. A couple of years ago I went to Malta with my family for my brother's wedding (and subsequently a nice holiday.) Scars or not, I'm not going to wear a jumper in 30°C+ heat. Mind you, I did wear a jumper or cardigan on occasion during that time out of nerves or going to a place where I know I may be singled out for my appearance. Most of the time was fine though. I was able to get away with wearing a bikini and not notice anyone staring.

I can think of a couple of incidents during that holiday. One was when I went to McDonalds with my mum for lunch for her to point out a few teenage boys were staring at me. Ahh, and here was me thinking it was my flawless beauty they were gazing upon... no such luck. "They're staring and whispering about your arms" she said. It didn't bother me much. It was easy enough saying it, but truth be told I was in a foreign country and these were a few kids I'd never see again. Just ignore them and eat your cheeseburger, I told myself.

Our hotel had a rooftop pool with a beautiful view of the beach. I liked to spend some time up there, just relaxing and reading (as well as one could read when the rooftop wind kept blowing the book shut.) I was on my way up in my bikini and cover up when there was someone else in the elevator. It was an older man. I hadn't seen him before nor would I see him again and he looked like a local. I won't forget the conversation we had in that elevator:

"What are those scars? Did someone do this to you?"
"No they didn't."
"Are you sure no-one did this to you?"
"I'm sure. I did it to myself."
"Why would you do that to yourself?"
"It's personal. I'm not well."
"You don't need to do this to yourself. You don't deserve this."

Obviously it was pretty awkward being in that kind of situation: you're in an elevator with someone you don't know asking about something you don't want to talk about and you can't escape. But honestly, I nearly cried. A complete stranger was telling me I was worth more than this. Thinking back, if someone on the outside could see that, I couldn't imagine what it must be like for those close to me.

Not everyone has been so kind or subtle over the years about my self harm. At school, we wore long sleeve blouses. No problem there right? Except most of us had the cuffs unbuttoned - myself included. It was just the most comfortable way. This would mean that any recent cuts would be visible. Any bandages or patches would be visible. People would see and notice what I was doing to myself. I should point out, I didn't "deliberately" apply bandages to shallow wounds just to "be cool" or draw attention to myself. Bandages were used for what I refer to as "rips": when the skin has been separated, often by an inch (or more); wounds that would require stitches or proper medical attention (I've always been with Richey Edwards when he said "he didn't like to waste the doctors' time with his wounds", to paraphrase.)

Now, why would I feel the need to "point this out"? I'm not sure the reasons behind it, but word got around about me - "gossip", if you will - that my cutting and my treatment of said cuts were not much more than attention seeking. When I wore a bandage, obviously I was just doing it for attention. The wounds my arms gradually had mount up were just for attention. It was evidently just something as trivial for attention as dying my hair blue when I was 14 or wearing lots of eye-liner. Totally in the same category right?

I won't lie to you. School was a very painful time. My inability to find anyone I truly connected to throughout my 7 or so years there had an effect on me - was there something wrong with me? But that's an entry for another day. I had some friends throughout the years better at dealing with the self harm than others; some who could speak about it candidly and others who immediately just stopped talking any time I mentioned something like the self harm or counselling I was attending. I had people outright ask me about the scars (to which I gave the "lion" excuse I mentioned earlier) and people who felt the need to talk behind my back. I can only speak from what I was told, but one psychology period supposedly focused a fair bit on my cutting and how much of an attention seeker I was. People who treated me like dirt on their shoe saying they "tried to help me" or "support me". None of these people could speak to me one-on-one but in their groups had no issue talking about me or wholeheartedly doing their best to make me feel like shit. I could single out every single one of them during break time straight after as they were all giving me side eye - thinking I wasn't scoping the room.

As I've grown over the past few years, I've tried to figure people out. Why people behave like they do in certain situations, why I'm treated differently by different people: what's behind that treatment? Needless to say, thinking back now, it's easy to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, I can't travel back in time to reassure my younger self, to hug her and tell her not to worry because it's not her fault. Sometimes I wish I could step out of my body and do the same to my current self - when I lose control, when I start crying erratically and won't listen to those around me because I'm not thinking it through.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Stuck

I know in the last post I said it felt like the NHS had forgotten about me but I assure you I have since had my first appointment with my psychologist.

Overall, it was a very draining appointment. I had to bring up some things I wish were buried and forgotten about, but if I'm asked a question I'd rather not cop out of it. An hour and 15 minutes of "How was it for you when you felt at your worst?" and "What kind of things happened at school?" that were a bit difficult to force out of my mouth. I can say however that I at least managed to go the whole session without crying - barely (the tissues on the desk beside me tell me it's probably a common enough occurrence anyhow.)

My sleeping is almost getting back to an acceptable stage: I managed last night to sleep without any drugs in my system as an aid. I was still up until 3am but it's better than 6 or 7am. I do imagine when I get some money in that this will be one of the first things I attend to - pills - but speaking right now, I can say I want to get out of that addiction of "needing" something to knock me out.

Recently I've been aware that I haven't written in a long time. The last time was June 2010. Ideally I want to start writing again to take over from the urge to cut, but when it comes to it, I can never get anything out. The only way I can think of to regain that creativity is by stopping my antidepressants (the only thing I can put it down to.) Unfortunately, the cutting overshadows that idea as I'm not quite at the stage where I can wean myself off anything safely.

I'm not in a great place right now. My self-esteem hasn't been this low since I was still at school. I find myself unable to measure up to anything or succeed at even the most basic things I know I'm capable of. Comments from those around me remind how inferior I am compared to others. Suicidal thoughts are at their highest and I can't say my behaviour in that area has been particularly squeaky clean recently having overdosed and cut in the past week alone. Last week I had my first dissociative episode in... well... a long time. It turns everything around you into a blur and yourself into a chunk of meat - not great for preventing severe cutting.

Not too sure where to go from here... not sure I care. I feel stuck.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Decisions

Recently I made the decision that I will soon taper off my sertraline. Attempts at getting further counselling (I was referred to a psychologist... who has yet to get back to me after 2 months) seem to have slowed to a halt. I thought my mood was generally recovering and that over the summer I would be able to get off the SSRIs, lose some weight and probably feel a BIT better about myself.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Progress?

I've been on the sertraline for a fair while and it's doing an alright job. No (notable) improvements on the weight issues but my mood has been mostly consistent. I have my down patches like I always do and I managed to go a good 3-4 months without cutting.

Speaking of the cutting, I recently had to go to the doctor about my left arm/hand. I'm having pain and difficulty with co-ordination which apparently is down to the large amount of scarring and cutting causing nerve damage. As far as I know, this is something that I will likely have to cope with for a long time; but it's something I brought on myself. I knew damn well when I was younger and started all this that it would affect me in the long term. All the overdosing, the cutting and the starving (another culprit I blame for my current weight gain and crappy metabolism) would lead to issues that I would have to deal with.

It was never a problem though; I was never intending to make it past 30.
9 years to go I suppose.