Split in two..

I am loving being back at medical school but it has been hard. The work load has been intense and still the best. I am enjoying putting my brain back in gear and challenging myself again. I have presented a scientific poster, sat my exam and completed my first PBL write-up/ essay. I have achieved so much more than I could have imagined and it is scary to look back and see how different last year was; but there is still a part of me that is stuck in time. That part of me is dragging me into self-destruction every time I drink and it is becoming larger now that Christmas is looming. I hate it.

I feel so different and detached from everyone when that part of me is present. It tells me that I am not good enough and that I am a fraud. I know that ‘imposter syndrome’ is common amongst the population, particularly in med-students, but it does have a way of making you feel so alone. That separate part of me also associates itself with my times of ill-health, and when I have been at my lowest ebb. It is bizarre as when I am like that, my whole reality switches. I’m not sure how to cling on to the reality that most people live in where I am a successful woman at medical school who has a lot to live for. Some people would say that what I am describing is depression; I guess that they may be right.

And yet I don’t find labels useful. Most people want to feel as if they are complex and that there is more to them; I know that I do. I am aware that we are living in a mild-delusion pretending that there is more to us when we are fundamentally simpler than we choose to see. That’s why I reject labels, because I like to think that there is more to me than depression, anxiety, bulimia and whatever else is running through my head. I want to think that there is some abstract cause for this rather than mental illness because mental illness is ugly and there is no prancing around that.

 

It has only been in the last few weeks (actually more like days) that I have accepted that I am bulimic. In truth, I have probably hit the criteria for bulimia for about 9 years. It is a lot of time wasted. I have not had a diagnosis of bulimia because I have denied it to healthcare professionals and they haven’t seen it because I’m not underweight or physically suffering.

 

To deal with this, I have created this persona around university where I am who I know that I’ve always wanted to be; confident, clever and sociable. That persona has split from the one who I have to spend time with when I am alone in my room or in the library, the one with one that is scared. I dread the two of them joining, when my classmates see who I am from the scars on my arms, the bruised knuckles and bloodshot eyes. It will have to happen at some point.

Something did make me chuckle the other day though. The PBL group that I am in started talking on the topic of psychiatry and inpatient psychiatric units. One person in particular mentioned how it would be scary and violent and that they wouldn’t want to work in that environment. I think that they genuinely believed that people who were mentally-ill were violent. I knew some people still had that view, but was shocked that they would so blatantly air it in front of others. They then went on to talk about suicidal people and how they could not relate and wouldn’t know how to talk to them. It made me realise the vastly different experiences that I have lived and made me value the bizarrely-acquired skill set from my own ill-health. It made me feel as if I was some sort of undercover agent.

 

I do want to make something great from my past and yet I know that I still haven’t fully dealt with it. It was only the other night, when I had a few beers and this anger that I haven’t felt in so long just emerged from somewhere inside me. It was furious and mad. It wrapped around my chest until I exploded into a scream and threw some punches at wall. It terrified me. There is something still not right and alcohol somehow brings everything up. The easy answer would be to avoid drinking (which I am still trying to do) but I want to address this pile of shit that occasionally bursts over. Even writing about it is making my hands shake.

I am trying my best to deal with it. I tried signing myself up for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) at the Advice and Counselling Service at my uni. I to an initial appointment and it went something like this: “I don’t believe that we can achieve anything meaningful within the four to five sessions that we would be able to offer you. I don’t think that we are the right service for you”. Well that was me told. Too fucked up for them and too well-functioning to get anything on the NHS.

 

I am thinking about investing some of my savings into seeing someone privately. I want to find the right person though and I am not sure where to start. The big, wide world is scary at the best of times but it is even worse when you feel as if you are wearing your heart on your sleeve. Asking for help is a hell of a lot harder than I thought.

I am sorry for the long post and the lack of posts recently. I want to make it clear that I am so grateful for this second chance at uni, this amazing opportunity that so few people have access to. This is why I am desperate to make the most of it and not fuck it up again. One of these days I’ll write when things are going brilliantly so you won’t have to read a whiney post but for now it is the same old me…..

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A People Problem

I am not shy. If you met me you would most likely think that I was an overconfident prick. I dominate social situations, I am loud and energetic. I react widely to things and people find me entertaining.

The thing is, in social situations I need control or else I am lost. I drown in social etiquette, in-jokes and knowing where all these damn lines are which dictate whether or not things, said or done, are acceptable. I think I missed that in growing up where I learnt how to fit in; to walk and talk with the rest. That’s why I fear most people getting attached to me. I don’t want people to discover what I actually am. That I don’t understand people; that I hate texting because it just makes it so much worse and that most of all I don’t want the nagging voice in my head to become louder and louder and louder until I scream.

That’s why I sit by myself in lecture theatres despite being so vivacious in seminars. I don’t do friends. I have too much to hide and too much that I am ashamed of. I dread that day when we will be asked to be bare below the elbow and in that split second, I become that girl with the scars.

I hear the whispers of judgement from others already. They don’t know yet. All they know is that I am odd, eccentric. I feel stuck in a world of people.

Life as a not-so-sane Med Student

So yeh, I got cleared to go back to study. I was a bag of every emotion going and increasingly stressed by the phone-calls and emails that I had to send to sort out my return. Turns out that administration and organisation is not my Uni’s strong point. I was actually relieved by the time I had packed my bags and we were half way down the M5!

I love my flat. I love my halls and room. I have enjoyed the last four days and have felt great. But…

and yes there is a but….

One of our induction lectures was called: “Resilience and Mindfulness in Medicine”. Sounds great right?!

So in the lecture theatre, with three-hundred other students, I participated in a guided body scan. For those of you who do not know, a body scan is a mindfulness meditation were you pay attention to each part of your body, noticing tension or any other sensation without judgment. It took 15 minutes in total with our eyes closed, sat on green, squishy seats.

So rather than relax as my body and mind was intended to do, my chest tightened, heart pounded, palms turned sweaty and I struggled to catch my breath. I tried to stop it. I couldn’t even rationalise it as the anxiety was purely physical and my body was quaking. The worst of it only lasted around 20 minutes and it wasn’t obvious to anyone near that anything was wrong. I’m still shakey now.

I have found mindfulness techniques useful in the past so I guess that I am just surprised and shocked that that lecture would have bought on such bleuuughghhh. This isn’t going to affect my studies. I have met some great guys on my course and in my halls. This year will be great even if I have to have the odd anxiety attack!

Killing Time

I’m sat in Victoria Station’s Costa waiting for the dreaded final meeting with Occupational Health. I’m not feeling any nerves which is bizarre especially three coffees into the day- I have a love, hate, dependent kind of relationship with caffeine. My meeting is at four and I am writing this at just past one…

It is blowing my brains out how different this evening could pan out dependent on the outcome of this meeting (I bought in some emergency supplies of Estrella and gin incase it goes sour). I might be back at medical school in no less than 11 days time or I could be on the job hunt, applying for HCA roles in local hospitals. I unfortunately couldn’t get time off work tomorrow as we are short of too many staff so as a compromise, my boss is ok with me coming into work somewhat hungover and an emotional wreck.

Oh and it is my birthday on the 17th, my 21st. I tried to spread the word that I wasn’t going to ‘have a birthday’ this year but it has been tricky as a I have a party-loving, extrovert as a twin sister. What is so great about 21 though? I guess it is a mile-stone of maturity. Dam, I might still be living at home at 21. I thought that I would have flown the nest, found a partner and a secure plan for the future by now. My Mum was married at 19, my Dad had got onto the property market at 20. I’m behind in this absurd rat race, tripping over all the shit left behind. I am one of those slow people, dragging their knuckles along the ground, head bowed so far down that they walk into lamp posts.

Ahhhh.

I know that life isn’t a race but by god is it easier to say that than actually believe it.

And I do want to explain why it is such a big deal as to whether I go to Uni this year. To some, it may seem ridiculous that I would be so devastated if I am delayed a year as I still have a place to take up, but this is a Medical Degree my friends. Not only is it long (five years min), but University policy dictates that should I take a year or more out from study, then I should be referred to the Professional Capability Committee. They could stop me from continuing with the course.

Talking with my psychologist a couple of weeks ago, we went through the classic negative thought patterns- the paranoid thinking style being one of them. I tried to explain to her why it is so hard to think that people aren’t going to put you down and work against you when experience, past and present, demonstrate that they do.

In all honesty, I am tired. So fucking tired.

No Change Here

I still haven’t been cleared to return to study this September. I should know September 7th. I am frustrated and stressed. This is why I haven’t written so far this month.

I have been doubting my capability to keep my mental health together and get through a medical degree, no doubt because of the hesitance shown by the medical school. I have had three meetings so far with the school; one more to go.

I am stuck in purgatory for the next two weeks, I am on the final straight. My muscles are tired from the tension and my chest is feeling permanently heavy. I can’t wait for this to be over.

At the times of my most poor mental health I withdraw into my head. I no longer see myself as attached to my material body or in fact the material world. People appear robotic and “other”. My thoughts become so loud they drown out external sounds. I get my thoughts screaming at each other. This was a piece of my A Level English Coursework in which I attempted to illustrate this utter detachment that had occurred before a previous suicide attempt. It is weird, wordy and different to my usual content but here it is….

 

Reunited

It was the 21st of December and the darkened shop windows were lit only by the scattering of lights strung over the skinny frames of the dehydrated conifers. Laces tied, my shoes were looped around my neck and beating out of time to my stride against my chest. Though still not above ten degrees I was wearing only a cream skirt and summer blouse, the skirt of which was under constant threat of blowing up in an unexpected gust. When I reached the beach I placed my shoes down beside me and let my toes sink into the cool sand before making my way towards the water’s edge.

When I got there the white stampeding horses of earlier had calmed but the fierce burning of the cold was yet to be tamed. The now tranquil barrier at my ankles oscillated in the evening light throwing the dying sun’s rays into a frenzied dance upon my face. I looked down and noticed a woman staring back at me. Her features had been sculpted by sharp lines though they had not been drawn by laughter but by pain. Her lips had become a patchwork of scarlet fissures and the lingering remnants of a deep rouge lipstick accentuated by her permanent pursing giving her a general air of discomfort. She may have looked as if she was in preparation for a kiss or posing for a photograph but her cold eyes told a different story. I reached out to rescue her from behind the waves but as my hand touched hers she dissolved into a mess of muted colour.

I fumbled in the icy water trying in vain to retrieve her but all I found was one of my shoes. I turned to look down the beach and realised how far the sea had crept up the sands and swamped the beach and wiped away my footprints. The handful of wet sand I had found earlier inside the shoe was melting through my fingers and creating a satisfying splash as it hit the water. I followed its lead and slumped into the briny pool. With the water tenderly stroking me at the waist, at last I felt some protection from the overwhelming force of gravity and sat, wishing that the tides would take me with their next breath.

 

And she waited…

 

With her skirt now white in the moonlight billowing out around her she could have looked as if she was perched upon a cloud had it not been for the presence of a pale green carrier bag that skimmed its way along the shore. It may have been branded ‘environmentally friendly’ but someone had clearly failed to let the lonely sea-gull know as it attacked and shredded the plastic until it was wound a satisfactory number of times around its neck. Its demented shrieks would have surely been enough to warrant attention from someone had it not been for the buzz of the bass that spilled out from the busy night clubs and bars, a noise deafening enough for even the roar of the sea to be swallowed. The stars up above that should have speckled the darkness had been stolen by a layer of yellow cloud emitted from the large ominous lamp posts stood regimentally along the city’s many streets. Stripes of black interspersed the jaundiced outline, wheezed out by the factories close-by still coughing despite them sleeping.

 

And still she waited…

 

Her body was rigid with cold except for the occasional fit of shivers that engulfed her uncontrollably. The blue haze of her skin camouflaged her into the grey waters though the aura of pure clarity that surrounded her separated her from the transience of the rest of the city. Her long shadow was broken by the waves as the night drew on and the moon glided across the sky her shadow shortened and distorted into something barely recognisable. Her eyes glanced up into the dense blackness that separated the remaining stars and she wished that there was no light; nothing to torture her with her reflection in mirrors; no piercing gazes from those who she knows judge her; no shadows. Shadows turned those treasured stuffed animals into monsters and gave a sanctuary to the beasts under the bed. Shadows followed her her whole life taunting and bullying. They were always there to laugh when she fell and to push her back down when she reached for a helping hand. At the day of choosing she was assigned Lucifer as her guardian and his presence was now felt stronger than ever.

Suddenly she moved. She wandered into the waves and as she did she whispered ‘You can’t touch me now’ before she was swallowed into the watery depths.

 

I felt her take her final breath and I knew she was coming to be reunited.

 

When I am With My Thoughts I am Most Alone

How Much of Me Is Left?

My face is swollen and I have a blood-shot eye.

Two of my knuckles are reddened and the rest of my hand is bruised.

My stomach is growling and my intestines are cramping.

I recently re-watched Girl Interrupted and I am angry at how it fails to represent the utter ugliness and devastation of mental illness. I am sat waiting to watch To the Bone that is coming out tomorrow and am ready to pounce and destroy it for glamourising mental ill-health on Netflix yet again. I am not delicately thin nor modestly pretty and I am massively under-represented in media and film that chooses to portray many peoples’ most intimate struggles.

So who can I truly identify with? I am not sure.

I am struggling to see myself in anyone in the mainstream media and also I am struggling to see myself in the future. I am in purgatory. I have lost my identity. I have lost my character.

My disordered eating has taken away my every day enjoyment and filled my time with stress and anxiety. My self-injury has destroyed  my clean skin and ability to be comfortable in in short sleeves.. My personality disorder has made me question if there is any substance to my character other than destruction and chaos.

I have come off an anti-depressant that I had been on for two years. I have noticed that I am more irritable, angry and withdrawn than I had been. Is this change just a sign of my true self- bitter and hugely anti-social? Has the darker side to me been masked by the drug for two years?

I want there to be a clear line drawn in the sand to help me identify if I am more than this ugly twisted-self I have become, or if I am an addict in need of antidepressants in order to function.

Food.

Me and food have always had a chaotic relationship.

As somewhat of a perfectionist, I am almost guaranteed to have some level of dysfunction when it come to all things edible. There is no set figure as to how much is just right for the individual and there is no real way to quantify health ie. a pretty perfect recipe for disaster.

Sure, BMI gives a vague number which will put you in one of three main and very vague categories. Body measurements are even more confusing. There is no way to achieve perfection so I guess I have instead always preferred to control and abuse food.

To make it clear, I have never received a diagnosis of an eating disorder though would hazard a guess that at various points in my life I would have met the criteria for one.

The reason that I have chosen to write about this, is that the therapist that I am working with currently won’t stop going on about it. It being food. I feel as if I am being ambushed. I love food, I hate food and unfortunately (as most humans are)I am reliant on food.

Food, food and more f***ing food.

This won’t be an eloquent post but shock-horror, I’m not particularly eloquent when it comes to my emotions either!

What I am attempting to do is to write down what I really should be saying to my therapist. I want to scream out that the motivation behind all of this dysfunction is not and never was to look like Kate Moss or any other model with stick-like proportioning despite the media chucking it down our throats.

It was certainly never a cry for attention or an attempt to get the love that I craved. When my eating was at its worst no-one had a clue. It went on like that for at least three years- unnoticed and destroying every part of me.

At school I would bunk class to puke in the girls’ toilets. I would act moody and have an awful attitude rather than risk my weak legs give way whilst doing a rigorous PE class. I was branded lazy and problematic. I preferred that then ever let anyone how I would cry in secret every lunchtime when it came to deciding whether or not to break my fast of three days.

I was not losing weight or putting on weight so how would have anyone known? But it does anger me that the therapist I am working with now is taking my attempt to lose weight so seriously. Were was that help and concern when I really needed it?

I sometimes question whether I’d be in a better place now if I had starved myself when I was twelve. Perhaps someone would have seen the pain and chaos and actually helped. Maybe I would not have been driven to more bizarre and risky measures.

I guess that I am really comparing and consequently invalidating my current and residual difficulties with food with those that I had over eight years ago. But I know that I am angry.

Not much has really changed.

It has been a while…

Things have come and gone since I last posted. I feel as if I’m not quite myself.

The London Bridge attack occurred the day after I had travelled to the capital and walked that bridge. That same day I had also walked over Westminster Bridge. It wasn’t any different to how it had been before the first of the terror attacks struck the UK. It screamed to me how transient life is. It made me feel ashamed for the suicidal thoughts that had been racing though my head. Those people who lost their lives or who had had their lives changed because of these events had not wished it to happen to them.

I also received the news on Monday that a past colleague of mine had taken her life. I didn’t know her well. I don’t know how to feel about it.

As a result I have spent a lot of time thinking. And thinking is not always a great thing.

 

 

Change: I will not look back and regret

So I have been stuck at a cross-road for some time. Many people say about mental ill-health that “it is not a choice to suffer, but it is a choice to recover“.

I somewhat agree, but I want to express just how hard it can be to choose recovery when your whole psyche is programmed for self-destruction. It sounds bizarre, but somewhere inside this messed-up head of mine I am still trying to repress that bit of me that wants to press the big red button.

I guess that is exactly why my anxieties that caused my self-harm transferred onto alcohol. Giving up self-sabotaging is a battle. Alcohol is a battle. I wish that my tongue had never tasted it’s burning poison and that my brain had never experienced its inhibitve powers. I wish that I had never felt the rush of calm as I first broke the seal of my skin, but I do not want to look back and regret.

I hope to go forwards and succeed so that one day I will be in a position to make change. I am going to prove to Occupational Health that I am fit and suitable to study medicine as I genuinely want to help others in a way that I wasn’t always helped. My scars will not become a barrier to my success  but rather an alternative step-forwards on a more scenic route that I am taking to my final destination.