A Caged Bird

A Caged Bird

There are things I will never miss about anorexia.
I will not miss
Staring in the mirror
While the shower steamed up the corners of the glass
Watching my naked body
Like a caged bird
While my eyes began to sting
As I fought to keep them open
Out of fear that
Should I shut my eyes,
I would open them
And be twice the size as before.
I do not miss the freezing showers
Chapped fingers tentatively turning the dial to cold
As I carried out my latest new trick to poison my body.
I remember the droplets shooting off my cheeks
Quicker than I could count calories
As my teeth chattered
From the icy water cascading down my malnourished body.
Blue hands and lips were a reasonable price to pay for skinny.
I don’t miss standing on the golden sacred scales
And hitting rock bottom
Only to realise it was just a balcony
In a 100 story block of flats
That I had yet to fall down.
I don’t miss the feeling of frightening bliss
When every mouthful
Was the most wonderful relief for my tummy
And the most vivid nightmare for my mind.
Sometimes I miss starving myself
But I don’t miss starving my family
Of love
Kindness
Warmth
Affection
And
Hope.
As much as I believed I was soaring when I was starving
I was simply flying a descending plane with my eyes shut
Steering myself towards the ground
With the people I love as the passengers
Sacrificing myself ceremoniously
And bringing the rest of the world down as collateral damage.
Most of all
I do not miss hindsight
I do not miss the perfect irony
Of shrinking myself small enough to hide
From all of the things I was painfully afraid of
When really I was igniting the dead wood of my life
Into a rageful roar of flames
That almost killed me while I was trying to quench the heat.
Although I am warm now, rosy, happier,
The little fires still sizzle in the ashes
Of anorexia.

By Emma Catherine

thelilaclysander.com

Toxicity- trauma, abuse, me

Toxicity- trauma, abuse, me

There’s this feeling I get a lot of the time. The feeling of enlightenment that not everyone’s life is riddled with turmoil. That some people feel safe in their own home, or even with just themselves. That people can trust themselves to keep out of harm’s way, and not throw them into dangerous, reckless, stupid situations because of impulse issues and self-destructive tendencies. And the one that hits me so deeply; that people feel safe with their family. I feel this countless times, especially when I’m at friends houses.

I see the way they sit around their parents, their dad, comfortable, entitled to the seat they lounge in, unafraid. I see the way they talk to their parents, eye contact is something they can bear to hold with each other, and they can speak without screaming or saying nothing at all. To see their mums talking (not slurring), and draws are used for pots and pans, and wardrobes for clothes, instead of wine bottles.

This is the kind of freedom I realise I do not have. To live in a home instead of a house is not something I have had the privilege of doing.

I realise how much of an empty space this has made in me. One that means my friends are more family than my own blood. Feeling no care from my parents sometimes had left wanting more from them, all the way up to my 18th birthday. This wanting ‘more’ has been utilised in soft toys, changing my hair colour, impulsive spending, binge drinking and alcohol abuse myself, dangerous sexual relations, self-harm, and starvation. And a whole lot of thick, grey, emptiness. An emptiness that has almost killed me, many times. People showing me care is like me, a small moth, to a huge chandelier of light. I love you instantly if you show kindness. I can barely hold myself back from hugging you because I’ve never learnt that such kindness should be normal between people.

But it has put me in much more sinister, harmful places. I have been taken advantage of numerous times because of that emptiness it’s brought me. I can become so defensive and aggressive when hurt, trying to protect myself from that familiar pain. I can be out of control with alcohol and in mania, that I drink until I am seriously vulnerable. And a combination of this brought me to the worst night of my life when I was sexually assaulted. Violently, and degradingly. All because I never learnt how to protect myself from the real dangers because of my emotions, and because I did not know how to trust people who showed me some kindness.

Abuse is the toxic film over the eyes. You can’t see or even feel other people properly while it’s there. And like genetics, abuse like mine in childhood moulds you, usually permanently (although you can heal don’t worry), into the adult version of myself. My deep-rooted personality. My person.

The thing is with abuse, it often starts with one toxic person taking things out on you horribly, but the more you endure it, the less you truly feel the reality of abuse. Then them hurting you, can turn into you also hurting you, just to cope. For me, it was as if hurting myself, in whatever form, became soothing. I was used to being hurt, so I made it okay when I was doing it myself. It is sad, but it is also okay. I have never experienced abuse as we show it in the media, the hitting, serious physical neglect of small children, isolation from school due to injuries. No. But I have experienced extreme emotional and psychological abuse, along with a parent with her own demons. Each ‘blow-up’ was a trauma, and this repetitious traumatising grates on the mind and I feel like it just kept breaking me down. As much as I felt myself crumbling, it was hidden. And that’s almost what makes it so bad. It’s invisible.

Emotional abuse is just as serious as the other kinds of abuse. It fucks you up just as much. It catches you off guard. And it feels like being burned alive. (And oh god that horrible feeling of knowing you just can’t escape it, and even if you can physically leave that house, parts of you are always left there). It makes us extremely emotional, but colourful. Deeply loving and loyal. Kind, compassionate and empathetic. A wonderful human. And when the abuse has passed, bury it. But the bits that you are left with, I want us to turn into the most beautiful rainbow in the sky. Run with the parts of yourself that are troubled, build them up into flowers and watch them bloom. Beautiful, and stronger than ever before.

by Emma Catherine

thelilaclysander.com

instagram- @rain.on.rosy.cheeks

 

Because I don’t ‘look’ suicidal – (World Suicide Awareness Day 2018)

Because I don’t ‘look’ suicidal – (World Suicide Awareness Day 2018)

It’s world suicide prevention day as I’m writing this. My fingers have hesitantly hovered over the keys now for about 20 minutes. I am lost for words.

There is such a horrid stigma around people who are suicidal.
They are not always teenage girls, or young men.
They are not always sad or depressed.
They do not always self-harm.
And, most importantly, they don’t all ‘look’ suicidal.
I’ve had lovely weekends with relatives over the past year, and on this one occasion that stands out from last month. I was in a really rough patch. I was underweight and my physicals were poor. I was self-harming badly, hidden by sleeves. I was upset at home and often distressed as well.
Once this trip was over my Aunt asked about my plans for next year. I said I wasn’t doing great, and I’m deferring uni for year as I’m not safe to be alone. The instant reply was:
‘You looked fine at the weekend’.
Why is it the case for so many people that we are offered judgement before support?
I beg that people stop relying on how someone ‘looks’ to ask them if they are okay or if they need help. Don’t go by if someone is wearing make-up or not to judge if they are depressed. And don’t believe that depression is the only disease that kills through suicide. Bipolar mania kills. So do personality disorders. Likewise with eating disorders. Don’t trust laughter to tell whether someone’s suicidal or not. Look for the happiness in their eyes, not just in their voice.
No one is selfish by being suicidal. Or ungrateful of the life they have. No one should feel guilty for feeling hopelessly sad. Or hearing voices. Or having a brain that tells them not to eat. Suicide thrives on this pain caused by mental illness.
But pain hides.
It is invisible. It can’t be detected on a blood test. And it is overwhelming.
Sometimes it’s about looking beyond the exterior to see how someone is. Sometimes it’s hidden under sleeves. Behind bedroom doors. Or simply in the mind of someone.
Don’t assume someone’s okay because they haven’t told you otherwise. Ask them. Know that suicide has no ‘look’. It doesn’t have a demographic, or a gender, or a body type or even a hairstyle. Mental illness hides in plain sight.
My auntie judged me by my cover, without ever reading the first chapter. She has no idea about my hospital admissions for suicide attempts in the past. Or the self harm or the overdoses. But she also never stopped to ask.
Pain hides in the darkness we let it lie in. Be a beam of light for someone. Rip back those curtains and turn every lamp on.
Darkness blinds us from the things around us. This can either be our greatest treasure, we never have to see the dangers and pain lurking in front of us. Or it can be our greatest fear, knowing there are things within it that are killing us. Either way, the problem with living in darkness is that it also stops us from seeing all the love we have nearby as well. It only takes for someone or something to turn on the light, or draw the curtains, or stay with us until sunrise, for our lives to come properly into focus again.

Stay alive.

by Emma Cunningham

wordpress – thelilaclysander.wordpress.com

Instagram- @rain.on.rosy.cheeks

What mania feels like: a Beehive

What mania feels like: a Beehive

Imagine having a hive of bees stuck inside your head. A frantic buzzing and stinging of your insides. Another hive in each of your limbs. And gigantic swarm inside of your stomach. There are so many of them I can barely think, my thoughts are all stung and shaking, and the rocketing little wings vibrate me. It sends the shakes through me like ripples; I can barely sit still. Words and words and words spiral out of my mouth from my chest; words with no shape; no sense.

I am soaring at 3,000 lightyears, 3,000,000 feet above everyone else. While I ascend each second the rest of the world moves like snails on the land beneath these clouds that I stand on. A fluttering frustration with the people below, unable to keep up with me, nowhere near as high as me. But another fluttering too, one from the bird inside my chest, the one I used to call my heart. It beats its wings, like that of a hummingbird, with each swish there is life life life. That feeling of falling in love 500 times a minute. With whom? I could not say. I do not know who I’m electrified for.
The sticky honey from those bees clouding my vision, so sweet but so debilitating. The sweet glucose firing the worlds I have thought up in my mind within the past breath. Fuel my ambition and watch me laugh at you when you tell me inventing a new planet is impossible.
Waves of euphoria crash against my chest like tsunamis, flooding my lungs and my blood with this energy. The kinetic energy within them so strong I can barely cope, the beating within my ribs jolting my neck and twisting my spine. Do not mistake mania for sweet bliss, no, it is crushing euphoria. And with each wave is the message, ‘there is no such thing as sadness anymore’.

-Emma Catherine

wordpress- thelilaclysander.wordpress.com

Instagram- rain.on.rosy.cheeks

Painting A Portrait: Me and BPD

Painting A Portrait: Me and BPD

I’ve known there was something chaotic about me for a long time. Something deep inside me that I knew just didn’t make sense. There’s no such thing as normal, I know that, but there is such a things as mental illness, and that, I knew deep down, was where the answers lay. It wasn’t until I heard about Borderline Personality Disorder when I was a teenager, that I finally knew what my metaphorical psychological reflection was. With BPD, it was like looking in a mirror, or shining a torch into my head. So now I’m writing about it, spilling the entire jungle that has grown inside my head, but I know that I’m only at the beginning of my journey with this, and there is a long way to go.

The way I perceive, feel and act are much more than something described in the DSM V. Knowing about it had allowed me to understand the things I experience and also helped those close to me understand me too. It’s also given me hope. There are treatments for this. And as someone said to me recently, I have all the things I need to be myself again inside me, its just sorting through some of the chaos and finding the gems I need. But, again, a label is helpful but it is not the limit, my mental health is like a pond. You can name all the species of plant in there and all the fish that swim close to the air and pond skaters, but there is so much more beneath the surface that makes up my life. Things that aren’t due to illness but are just me. The little molecules and genes that can’t really be explained. We’ll never know what causes what and what is more of an instinct than an ailment, but it is what I know, and I will never stop giving myself a voice.

I’ve always been reckless with money. Spending like a I’m millionaire, which sounds problematic but gets even worse when you were a 14 year old with no job and not a proper penny to my name. I lived for buying new things, they were stability and a beam of enjoyment in a world of arguments at home and deep rooted fear. I had the temper of a honey badger too, angry and defensive and fierce. I went from feisty to clingy, loving to hating, and cheerful to hopeless in a heartbeat . A mind that worked like a constant firework display, with sparks flying against my ears and out my mouth.

The positive message that gets pinned the inside of our heads when you’re a mentally ill child is always, ‘you are not your illness’. And, although a wonderful prospect, one that may be true to many people, for me this didn’t feel true. Every thought, interest, identity (or lack of), action, feeling was an expression of this knot inside me. I could see it there, but I couldn’t untie it. With every attempt to untangle myself the knot would tighten. And it kind of is all-consuming, it was my personality, this was like a mist spreading over me so I could barely see myself anymore. I used to think that recovery from BPD would be a re-wiring of my brain, or a complete brain transplant altogether. Now, in a clearer mind, I can see the countless ways that I can learn to manage my feelings and thoughts without needing to open up my skull. There is no guarantee with any treatment (medication or therapy) that it will take away with fire inside. But all the little bits of help and steps in the right direction are buckets of water to dim the flames when they get too fierce.

I’ve also had a deeply unstable identity since I started making friends, switching from persona in my head like different outfits because I had no idea who I was. I would copy peoples mannerisms (and sometimes still do), their colloquial phrases and even their handwriting. Not because I was a copycat, or that I wanted to be them, but because I liked them and admired them deeply. But I also think I adopted these things from people because I didn’t know how to be myself. All these little pieces from the people I loved built me into a collage that I could understand. There are about 13 versions of me (being serious, I have noted and counted them) they morph out when I’m with certain people, and shrink back when I’m with others. I’ve heard them described to me like modes I step into when I feel certain emotions or distress. I guess they are a response to my feeling of not knowing who I am, and this uncertain feeling of not knowing what you’d find if you peeled back my skin. And the exhausting feeling each morning as I wake, of having to construct a person out of my existence. Maybe it’s because my emotions are so huge when they come around and my thoughts so relentless that there isn’t much space for me to start building myself. Maybe I am a shape-shifter or an Animagus (unlikely, unfortunately). Or maybe, I was never taught how to mould myself into the person I wanted to be. Who knows?

I also have people who speak to me inside my head. I say speak, sometimes they shout or mumble. The punitive, the destructive, the impulsive and the weird ones. But they are a whole other blog post. But I think something that we can all relate to is insecurity. I am insecure mixed with paranoia and fear. I am afraid of rejection. The people I have found throughout life I have loved deeply. I appreciate them like oxygen because they give me a love I struggle to give myself. And the prospect of abandoning me shakes me. I am loyal to those who take time to love me, especially since I am not the easiest to love sometimes.

More superficially, when I meet someone I usually know within the first five seconds of talking to them whether they are someone I like (or even love if my heart is feeling particularly dramatic) or loathe. And sometimes I will love them, but being sensitive means that when I get hurt by them I can turn to hate to protect myself. I know this makes me sound volatile, but one thing you must accept is that mental illness is volatile. BPD especially, but it doesn’t (and never will) make me a bad person.

I am saddened to hear from people in my own life with BPD that people have been told (most of the time by medical professionals or parents) they are ‘too difficult’ or ‘impossible’ to treat, attention seeking, a waste of NHS funding and that they have ‘brought it on themselves’. Even, most fantastically, those who believe the illness, quite simply, doesn’t exist. And if that doesn’t further exacerbate the crippling self-hatred and self-destruction of us people with BPD, I don’t know what does. But let me clear things up for the record. It is possible to recover from and learn to manage these symptoms and to lead a healthy, settled life. With the right type of therapy and good support, we can get our lives more stable. Don’t let the few who refuse to help when it is most needed, convince you otherwise.

All of that being said, all of these snippets of my life I’ve shared there is one message more important than them all. I am still a human being. My illness affects me but it still makes up a version of myself I can learn to love. I am bold. Emotional, so much that I can write poetry furiously for hours sometimes. I love so deeply. I feel for other people and I understand others more than most. I am a passionate soul. Sometimes I’d say I’m funny too. My brain doesn’t work the way it should at the moment, but it has made me into a spectrum of colours. I burst with them sometimes. Passionate reds, sad blues, joyful yellows, understanding greens, soothing pinks, orange anxiety, and beautiful purple softness. Some people see my colours as graffiti more than a work of art. Some choose to see the rainbows that I can be. But I’m only just mixing my own watercolours together myself. It will take a lot of canvases. A lot of brushes and practice and patience. But one day, I’ll make the most beautiful painting of all.

 

By Emma Catherine.

thelilaclysander.wordpress.com

Instagram: rain.on.rosy.cheeks

 

The Big Red Button

The Big Red Button

~Content Warning- suicide~

I often feel like a coin. A body split into two halves. Even two minds. One of them very sick, and the other simply Emma. The sick part overwhelms the Me part when I’m in distress. In the peak of despair that part of me spreads like a thick, grey mist over me. It covers my eyes, turns off my ears and I crumble. That side of me is toxic (but built through emotional damage). It jumps to suicide and self destruction like a moth to a flame. In this case, I am the moth. And I am drawn, dangerously to the fire I rush towards to save me. Although it feels ‘right’ and the only way, I always, undoubtedly, get burned.

It is because of my coin-like-brain that I see suicide like a Big Red Button. It is the thing I am drawn to push when I am afraid or hurt. It is the devil on my shoulder. The glowing exit sign in my mind.

A fundamental part of my brain stopped functioning correctly in distress. In a time of distress my body no longer thinks of protecting itself and softening the blow, or reaching out for comfort or peace. Instead, the pain is too much to bear and it leads the sick part of me to slam my hand down onto that Big Red Button so I don’t have to bear it anymore. To the sick part of the coin, this makes perfect sense. But to the Me part of the coin this is absolutely ludicrous. The rational Emma knows that jumping to self-destruction in times of fear and extreme emotion is not okay. It’s like a tsunami in some ways. The giant wave barreling towards me strikes a fear so great into my core that, instead of running as fast as I can away from the wave, I jump headfirst into it.

Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder are often described as having a defense mechanism called ‘Splitting’. It means that everything is sorted into Bad or Good. And everything good must be embraced and adored, and everything bad must be rejected and hated. And in this way my brain feels like an iron filing to a magnet. At everything Bad, it jumps to the Big Red Button.

As a person dealing with BPD, my actual mind feels Split in two, just like a coin. But the sick, impulsive part of me is huge- it overwhelms the rational Emma. But I still have a Me inside of me. The Me is formed on how I used to deal with hurdles before my illness gripped me, and it is formed on how my friends, family, professionals deal with trouble. And I am embracing this me.

Thank GOD, there is no Big Red Button because I am worth saving,

Yours sincerely,
The Emma side of the coin.