You know how the typical personality profile of someone vulnerable to anorexia includes trouble coping with change? Well, that’s definitely me. Although I suppose it depends on the type of change. If it’s in my control it’s generally scary but tolerable, whereas if I’m unable to influence what’s going on it’s far more frustrating and difficult. I even overreact to things like changes to Facebook, although I know it’s a free website and they can do what they like to it so I try to keep quiet about my disquiet on the matter.
The sort of changes I’ve been implementing in my life over the last couple of weeks have been technically within my control, but they have made me feel quite out of control as well. I’ve broken up a two year relationship, had a minor breakdown-type thing and quit my job. I didn’t mention that before, did I? I was so anxious at the start of the week that I literally could not phone my manager, quit sleeping properly again, kept having panic attacks. She called me at one point and I couldn’t pick up. I tortured myself for another couple of days trying to force myself to push the buttons on my phone and hang on until someone picked up, but each time I tried I just freaked out. Eventually I realised that if I couldn’t use my phone, I certainly wasn’t well enough to go back to work. Every time I thought about going back to work I wanted to throw up and run away. I’m not quite doing justice to the sheer panic and the effect of said panic that work was inducing, but trust me: anxiety is a simple word for a truly impressive range of head-fuckery.
So I quit my job. I know this is going to have implications but it’s not safe for me to work around cognitively impaired vulnerable people when I am a cognitively impaired vulnerable person at the moment. I’m going to take a few weeks out to recover and try to get back to my normal baseline level of anxiety (still pretty damn high, but tolerably so for me), then look for another job. Something very boring and menial for 2-3 days a week will do just fine while I’m trying to get through college. This time I will make sure that minimum wage comes with minimum responsibility, pressure and expectations…
But wait! There’s more, and I’d just as well get all of this over and out in one go. Remember this and this? Shortly after writing that second post I started having a bit of an identity crisis. The thing is, I jumped into my recently ended relationship in February 2010, literally a month after I hit my target weight, when my hormones and moods were still all over the place. I hadn’t given myself any time post-weight restoration to try and work out who I was and what I wanted, and that came back to bite me on the ass. I’ve already explained this to my former partner, so I feel I can give a potted version on my blog now.
For various reasons, at the age of 18 I was fairly sure I was gay and was beginning to contemplate coming out to my family. I was fairly sure they wouldn’t be thrilled, but it wasn’t exactly the most shocking thing they’d learnt about me over the previous few years given my mental health problems. I practised by telling a couple of friends. One of those “friends” and her partner raped me. After that, I wasn’t interested in exploring my sexuality any more. In fact, one year after that I was in a relationship with a close, trusted male friend. Then followed years of mental illness, worsening anorexia and eventual recovery, and another relationship with a close, trusted male friend. By the time that relationship started to deteriorate due to my partner’s health issues, my PTSD symptoms had more or less been resolved, my anorexia-related hormonal chaos had calmed down and I was living in a city with a thriving LGBT scene rather than in rural Dorset. Slowly, this became a problem. A big part of me wanted to pick up where I left off when I was eighteen, but I couldn’t work out if this was because I was struggling in my current relationship and looking for a way out which would hurt my partner less than blaming it on the other problems we were having, or if I really was gay and only just realising now my life and health were stable enough for such matters to arise.
This became such a struggle that I ended up emailing my old therapist in Dorset to ask for a few phone sessions. She seemed to believe that it wasn’t either/or but both – my sexuality was clearly an issue which required more thought and exploration, but my current relationship had problems completely separate from that which were more than enough reason for me to end things. I do want to stress that my former partner is a lovely man and I want to stay friends with him, it wasn’t his fault or mine that things didn’t work out, he just had some health problems which I found difficult to cope with on top of my own. Anyway, while I sort of semi-recognised that my therapist had a point, I didn’t want to hear it – I think really I wanted her to say something which would make my head shut up about women so I could continue in my current relationship and not have to hurt anyone. I couldn’t talk about this with my partner, or most of my friends who knew him, or my family who are not very comfortable with LGBT issues, or my therapist who was telling me things I didn’t want to hear, or on my blog which my partner and our mutual friends read. So clearly this wasn’t going to end well.
I wasn’t deliberately leading him on, I honestly thought (or wanted to believe, anyway) that this was a temporary identity crisis which would have been resolved when I was a teenager had I not been raped, now popping back up because I was at a more advanced stage of recovery than I’d ever reached before. I thought things would blow over once I’d sorted through my thoughts, and that I shouldn’t act unless I was sure. I did love my ex, he was my best friend and I hated keeping all of this from him, but I was scared his own health issues would get worse if I told him what I was thinking without a really damn good reason. However, both my concerns about whether I should be in a heterosexual relationship and our other problems grew, until I had no choice but to break up with him.
So that’s what all the vagueness over the relationship stuff has been about. I am now unemployed, single and facing the prospect of coming out to people at the age of 27, rather than – as it should have been, had certain sociopathic bastards not hijacked my psychological development – age 18. But at least now all is as it should be. I’m not overstretching myself in a job which is making me sick. I’m not tormenting myself by questioning my sexuality within a heterosexual relationship and beating myself up for getting involved with someone before I was ready to do so, hurting us both in the process. Although I’m pretty sure that when I tell them my family won’t be any happier now than they would have been ten years ago, I can tolerate that discomfort if it is the price I have to pay for being honest. Before all of this I would have said that I was a fundamentally honest person – I’ve even said I feel pathologically incapable of lying sometimes, and I am very transparent when I do. But I have learnt that if I feel that being myself will genuinely hurt someone else I will go to any lengths to put the needs of the other person first, even if it makes me ill. It’s not a pattern of behaviour which I’m particularly proud of, because if I’d acted sooner I would have saved myself and my former partner quite a bit of stress and pain. But it’s done now, and all I can do is not allow any other variation of the same pattern to happen again. That includes not getting in over my head in future jobs as well, since I was essentially acting out a similar scenario in my now-ex job – trying desperately not to let others down when their expectations were making me unwell.
And as always, I am testing my changes out on the internet before I spread them around too much offline. It feels safer this way. I can’t see if anyone is looking at me disapprovingly or deciding not to talk to me any more. I can’t see if my conclusions about my sexual orientation are jarring with the beliefs and opinions of friends. It’s not like I’m unused to stigma or intolerance because I’ve faced it before in regards to my mental health problems, particularly my scarred arms. But I am comfortable with that now and capable of standing up for myself when it comes to ignorance around mental illness, whereas this…this is all new and anxiety-provoking, as if my anxiety ever needs provocation…
I’m trying to relax into the chaos. It’s rather terrifying, but also rather a relief.