Every blast and crackle of a firework this year, felt like another reminder of the pain that was dragging me further under the slippery Autumn leaves. Under a wonky pavement slab somewhere, a muddy hole in November. The screeching, mousy ‘pow’s in the sky of celebration no longer the feelings of bringing us closer… instead, aware in sudden jolts of how the bits of me were falling apart. I could never feel more alone, yet nor could I understand how I could ever let anyone in again. For every colourful Catherine wheel… a slushy, slime slumping through my brain like a blocked pipe.
I ordered myself another drink at the bar nearby the respite house I’d been staying, to wash over the Bulimic body image torture that had drowned any internal seasonal calendar for the year, hoping I become more fearless to end my life – I asked the bar-lady, is it bonfire night? Yes, she said. And the celebrations resumed.
As a 6 year old kid I could never envision letting a reason for a day to get me excited slip through my hands like sand. It would be all toffee apples, and when can we join in the coat and bobble hat army? Do we get more than one go at a sparkler this year? (the main concern of all, there’s no doubt…) A romantic but chilly kiss over a takeaway chippy as first-time 16-year-old lovers …although I do remember passing the toffee apples this year, as I scoured the supermarket aisle in a frantic Bulimic binge-mode. But it wasn’t what passed off as a food I could chuck down and throw out so easily. I know. What a disgusting, heartless thought process to have. But that thought process has hijacked my brain, faster and more ferociously over the past few weeks. Until I thought this time it would be it. Because I don’t want to keep living my life this way, but I also thought I’d lost hope in ever being able to stop. I still don’t know, but anyway.
When I feel so much disgust about the body I am trapped in, it’s hard to keep anything down. But when you get hungry, you get ravenous. And you know if you let it all out you’re going to need to let more in again. It’s a cycle that never seems to end. A mental process that leads to a physiological process, which leads to a big mental fuck-up and a big physiological fuck-up. It’s a fuck-up basically.
For every bang of a bonfire beauty, although I can’t say what they looked like this year because I refused to look at the sky… I remembered another way I’d let myself down. Another whizz – something or someone else. Everything I felt I’d worked hard to achieve and start to feel OK about myself, crumbled to ashes as quick as the fireworks exploded. As I imagined the cold-nosed red-cheeked little heads bobbing up to the sky in admiration of the confetti lights dancing around in their circus patterns, snuggling up in their awe, taking a big fresh November breath out of a creepingly busy year… I just filled with dread about waking up again tomorrow. Do I have to deal with this body all over again? The daunting possibility of ever having to face a shower, to catch a glimpse in the mirror… yet, underneath it all there’s all these ambitions I have… why can’t I just have it together? Why can’t I be around my puppy and enjoy everything I love about him? Instead of dreading the simple process of walking him around the park, because to walk, means having to stand and move, and to stand and move means to be aware of my body… more guilt, more shame, more reasons not to feel lovable, more avoidance. More anguish.
Every blast and crackle… a reminder of every one of those solid knots I thought I’d started to tie up in my recovery, yet for everyone I thought was tight – loosened quick as a flash.
But we survive. Somehow. I did this time. I allowed myself to wallow and hide under covers, and smell, and feel pain for a few days without calling it a day.
I’ve carried so much frustration with me amongst this turmoil… frustration that has it seems, added fuel to the fireworks – the suicidal thoughts and the hopelessness about living a life of recovery… how can it just feel like someone or something just comes in with pair or sharp hefty scissors to cut out those solid knots of rope you learnt for so long how to tie?? But also, why should I feel so much frustration and heartache at this, when unfair and unfortunate things are happening around the world to so many people?? Like babies dying of cancer, when they haven’t had a week in their mothers’ arms. Like animals becoming murdered by our carelessness with plastic bottles and all that shit. Like families of people with dementia, who are no longer remembered by their fathers, their wives or their brothers and sisters after years of blood-tied memories. Like kids being sexually abused and mentally scarred for the rest of their lives.
But if I was to remind someone else with a mental illness, I would remember to tell them that mental illnesses are STILL real illnesses. I watched a video by a young girl who was talking about suicide bravely for the awareness week last month… who sadly ended up taking her own life a few weeks ago… who said, which we do really forget – mental illnesses ARE physical illnesses. A brain is still a physical organ… just like a heart that stops working, a lung that collapses. Thought processes are carried by real physical organisms inside, a real solid thing which is our head.
So in terms of feeling guilty because as much as I wanted to bond with my puppy, or show anyone some warmth for that matter… maybe that’s just the same as wanting desperately with your eyes to reach out to a loved one with your hand when you’re in bed poorly or dying, but you just feel too weak. I felt weak, I still do in facing and working with this body every day. It took a long time to build my confidence even 50%, which didn’t feel like too bad a place to be… but you know what, I am sodding sick of it and I just want to crack on. Sometimes it takes me a while to comprehend – do I want to die 100%? Or is it 99%? Because in mental health terms, that’s quite a difference. You can work with that. I’ll work with the 1% and run with it. And it took me a few days under the covers, amongst being out late at night and being scared to go to bed to have to wake up to another day tomorrow… smelling, hating myself, to come to that conclusion.
Since yesterday, some kind of fuck it, let’s crack on thing got inside me. It’s such a cliché, but I think it has taken me to get to rock bottom to see any kind of hope again. I think the secret is to let pain take over for a bit, without doing something sudden or permanent to escape it.
We don’t know how we’re going to crack on much of the time and it’s going to feel painful, but I’ve baked my own kind of mental aspirin to cope with it before… so I can do it again, and perhaps make it last longer this time. Not perhaps – I will. Because my dreams and hopes for the future mean more than that, even if they don’t have as much power right now.
For families and people who struggle with mental illness, who might seem like they’re trying to make your life difficult – or maybe there’s a part of you that thinks they’re being selfish in a way to put you through that, even if you still love them. It’s not. Just the way we’re never going be able to train as a fully-qualified, fully-educated surgeon, or rock scientist – there’s always going to be more out there still to be learnt. Still understood. And the longer this world keeps turning, the more it will be evolving, just like us and all the stuff inside of us, so we’ll never have the capacity to fully understand.
Well I’ve come to the decision to leave this respite house after 6 days, instead of 10… it’s taken me that long to decide that I still have 1% in me to work with. And that’s okay, sometimes we need time. I haven’t got better, I haven’t made much progress on the outside – I’m still dreading that first shower, there’s still part of me that’s selfishly worried about walking my Goldendoodle around the park and being reminded about how fat I feel as gravity takes over, my finances are a shambles… but all that stuff is not lost. It just needs rebuilding. However many fucking times…
…I will win.
Next year’s bonfire night is going to tell a different story.
And I swear I’ll even celebrate with a toffee apple.