Thursday, February 4, 2010

from despair to where?

Wednesday I started the day program. I am not the same person as when I walked through those doors 5 years ago, but I'm not sure that's such a good thing. When I entered this program the first time around, I was scared and willing to try anything. It was the first time people were asking me to talk about me, the first time I was worth paying attention to. Five years later, things are worse than when I left. Today I am more angry and bitter and disillusioned. I've met these same women just with different names. I've talked to the same staff who ask the same questions in the same patronizing way. I sign the same forms and make the same empty promises.

I remember Arbour as my safe place. Before being admitted that first time, I had needed and wanted help for so long, but I couldn't ask for it. I was cutting badly, every day, over everything and nothing. I cut to get myself to go to work, to get to sleep, I cut when I was bored, I cut to feel nothing or to feel something, or just because I deserved to be punished. I was completely out of control. My therapist didn't want to talk about it. So I kept cutting, hidden under long pants in the summer heat. No one had any idea.

***SI trigger warning***

One night in late August, my secret came out. I was one week away from starting my second year of college. I was home alone, after work, except for my father who was on the phone in the other room. I can't remember what triggered it. I think it was my second cutting session of the day. But it was a brand new straight-edge razor, and I pressed too hard against my ankle. the skin split apart so fast, so wide, and the blood spilled over in slow motion. but suddenly it was everywhere. I tried to hold the edges together but I couldn't. It was too much, and I remember feeling sudden relief. this was it. it was over. the secrets and the hiding alone. I didn't have to do it by myself, I could let go.

I remember hobbling down the hallway, my leg wrapped in a towel but still blood all over the place. numbly telling my father, "I cut myself." he didn't know what I meant at first and I didn't know how to explain. I don't remember the car ride, but I remember most of all the burning shame of the emergency room waiting room. I could not look at anyone. not my father, especially. not the people who deserved to be there, or the television screen documenting the coming hurricane Katrina, or the doctors who kept asking why. Why? I couldn't think of a single reason why not.

they tried to shame me, tell me I was too old to be doing this, that I just missed a major artery. The psychiatrist came into talk to me, saying "nice artwork" when he spotted the blood splattered on the table around me.

School didn't happen that year. The next day I started Arbour. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. It took a hospital for me to feel like I was ok and maybe likeable, and like maybe it was okay to talk without rushing in the fewest amount of words possible. The women I met there changed me forever, and despite the many hospitalizations I've had since then, I've never forgotten a single one.

But starting the program this wednesday was not the same. My intake was hurried, done by an intern about my age, doing an internship that I should be doing this semester. The group is way too big; 20 women with PTSD and trauma-related issues. That's a room full of fragile emotions and a lot of needs that some will fight for and others will let fall to the wayside. That's me. I can't compete, and there is nothing more triggering to me than being overlooked. Being in a room full of people with problems that are more important than mine. I become invisible, and that just feeds into me not feeling like I exist or matter, that if I can't speak loud enough with my voice, my body will have to suffice.

It didn't help when an emaciated girl came in today. it's not an eating disorder program, but a few of the women struggle with ED. I instantly wanted to run out the door. That feeling that I can't possibly take up anyone's time unless my BMI is back to 14, I couldn't possibly have an eating disorder or need help. I'm so exhausted and miserable, and yet I allow the number to decide when I can get help. I'm holding myself prisoner, and I don't know how to stop.


  1. It is really hard to stop, believe me, it took a lot of work and in the end it took me meeting someone I was scared of losing to stop me. I have now stopped SI for three years. My many many scars are now white and I actual get embarrased by them but don't cover them up. I know that may sound strange but when I see the scars now, I know how far I've come. When I read this post I was like wow, this is me. I had admission after admission for SI and suicidal urges but I was lucky to have met a group of lovely nurses who took me under their wing in hospital. Instead of making friends with the patients, in the last few years of admissions, I would help the nurses make beds and chat to them, but I'm Australia and that was nearly 10 years ago. I know that now things have changed in mental health. I also had one SI incident like the big one you mention. It was the first time I felt shame for going to hospital for that. Before then I was proud of my scars but that night, I will never forget how it made me feel. It's so hard when you don't want to disappear but feel you will. That feeling of wishing to SI in the worst way because you feel like no one cares or notices how awful you are feeling right and also how alone. I don't have any easy answers but I will say that I know how this feels. I had years and years of loneliness and feeling like I was nothing and no one. It hurts so much too. Please don't give up, because I think you're important. I think you deserve to be able to reach out. Remember that the way you feel is the way you percieve things, it may not be how others see you. I had to learn that one too. My feelings about myself and how others saw me was all wrong. Don't give up! It does get better if you can fight it!