I have had a really crappy day. Most of it was spent trying to stop myself crying. From the age of around 11 I rarely ever cried, but in the last year I’ve cried enough to make up for all that lost time. The thing is, I didn’t care about anything while I was ill. I did get lonely sometimes, but it was sort of numbed out, far away loneliness. If something upset me, my mind would automatically wander off into counting calories or charting my weight loss so far. All that mattered was the anorexia. I didn’t care if people didn’t like me or misunderstood me. I took pride in coping with everything on my own. Of course, my version of coping involved trying to starve myself to death, but (I thought at the time) at least I wasn’t being needy and attention seeking.
I am still completely hung up on the idea of not wanting to come across as needy or attention seeking, but I can no longer starve away my emotions, so in the gap between having my internal resources overwhelmed and not wanting to ask for help, I just melt into a puddle of tears. I certainly didn’t want to eat today. My stomach felt like it was in a vice, I wasn’t hungry in the slightest and a voice at the back of my mind kept insisting that I would feel SO much better if I just made a nice friendly weight loss plan and started on it straight away. That would be a wonderful distraction. See, this is how my relapses always started. To my mind they are the same thought processes which drove me to self harm and alcohol. Not self-punishment, body dysmorphia, attention seeking, a need for control or any of those other stereotypes – I just wanted to be numb, and I knew that starving myself (cutting, drinking) would achieve that. But self destructive behaviours take on a life of their own after a while – they are not only physiologically and psychologically addictive but they lower your defenses. The longer I starved or cut myself the less I could cope with without resorting to those behaviours, if that makes sense. Having spent eighteen months forcing myself to cope with things healthily, my tolerance for distress is much, much higher than it used to be. But even I have my limits, and when I reach them I long to be able to go back to pretending that starving myself is a good way to cope. Like today. Fucking hell, all I wanted to do was sit down in Costa, get out my notebook and start writing down numbers. Or go and buy new razors from the chemist, or a nice bottle of vegan red wine. It’s all pretty interchangable, any of those would have done the trick.
The problem is, if I let go, I don’t know how long it will take me to find my way back to where I am again. One night of self harming means weeks of increased urges to do it again. Ditto restricting. It would be so. fucking. easy. In another world I’m not writing this, I’m staring blankly into space with blood running down my arm into a towel I bought specifically for that purpose. In another world I would wake up tomorrow feeling slightly crazed, allow myself half of my normal breakfast with plans to cut back further over the next few weeks, leave the house feeling cold and paradoxically both manic and calm. In another world I wouldn’t ask for help, I would walk and walk and walk, quit sleeping, quit eating, quit trying to find a job, voluntary work, quit keeping up with my counselling homework, quit trying to make friends.
I can be pushed to breaking point, and I have been in the past. I have forced myself to keep going until either I became too depressed or physically ill to function. But on other occasions I’ve given up before I’ve reached that point, because I’m so scared of burning out or losing my mind. I hate feeling so anxious that I’m debating whether to climb the walls or throw myself at them to knock myself out. I hate feeling constantly sick and forcing myself to eat. I hate always being on the verge of tears. I hate having to ask for support. I hate the uncertainty of not knowing if things will work out. If I give up I take away that uncertainty. I give myself the guarantee that I will end up either in hospital or back in Dorset. I think that’s what I did in York, not fully consciously of course. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to cope that I didn’t even try. I was scared of going crazy. I was scared of being left alone with all that craziness. Relapsing into anorexia both ensured that people were chasing after me trying to help, and that I didn’t want their help. Double protection from feeling alone and terrified.
This does not feel safe. This feels messy and uncertain and unpredictable and dangerous. I keep crying because I’m so disappointed that my sisters can’t come to stay with me. They were supposed to come at the end of October, and I was so excited, but it’s impossible now. I keep crying because I feel alone. I keep crying because I don’t know where to start tackling all this overwhelmingly adult, practical stuff – money, moving house, finding a job. For God’s sake, I even started randomly crying earlier when I saw a nice big dog being walked in Leazes park – I felt so suddenly, stabbingly homesick for my own dogs, curled up on my sofa while mum types up her latest archaeology degree coursework and dad watches utter crap on TV. The open fire, my blue bedroom carpet, the lovely surrounding countryside, the fact that we live in such an isolated spot that all social contact is on my terms, the space and time in the kitchen for me to cook proper meals instead of – as I have again fallen into the trap of – microwaving the shit out of something as quickly as possible and then running away.
Other than when I was with the lady from the agency and then when I met up with Jess this afternoon, I have been crying pretty much all day. And I really hate it. I hate emotions, I don’t want them. I don’t want to do this. I want to give up, admit defeat and spend the next few months walking the streets of Newcastle all day refusing to eat.
But I’m not fucking well going to do that because I have too much respect for myself. I fought too hard to regain my self esteem and prove to myself that I CAN cope without hurting myself. I will not run back to Dorset and hide because there is nothing for me there. Newcastle is a good place for me to live – I have Jonathan, a couple of other friends, there are far more opportunities for me to find interesting voluntary or paid work, there are several local colleges which offer counselling foundation degrees, the rent is a lot cheaper than it is down south. It was a good decision to move here. A set of bad circumstances is not going to make me screw things up.
I don’t care how lonely, scared, overwhelmed and sad I am, or how messy and painful it is to sit with those feelings. I am going to make this work.
I would say that I could do with a hug and a cup of tea, but I think that would just make me cry again. Freaking overactive tear ducts.