i am sixteen, five foot two, bmi somewhere around 19. i have long hair, occasionally bright eyes, periods. i am healthy to strangers’ eyes. and yet the people to whom i am closest still watch me warily. to them i am four suicide attempts, hundreds of scars and gaping cuts, an index finger bleeding and smelling faintly of vomit. i am that girl who doesn’t eat with the others in school, who skips lessons to hide in the toilet, who is liable to break down or run away at any given moment. this is my story, i guess. there will be lots of details missing or warped, as my memories are usually skewed by paranoia and terrible self-image. i know that many have it far worse than me. i am not trying to paint myself as some tragic ~victim of society~. i am simply relating my experiences with depression, anxiety and disordered eating in the hope that maybe, just maybe, someone flirting will self-destruction will read it and turn back before it’s too late.
i don’t really know where to start. perhaps from one of my earliest memories, about four or five years old, banging my thigh against the floor during gymnastics and being horrified by the way it jiggled. perhaps with the grandmother who had gone without and a child and consequently made sure her children always had full bellies. or perhaps with the obese mother with what seems to be a pathological fear of wasting food. i don’t know. i suppose i’ll begin at the beginning. be prepared for a hell of a lot of irrelevant information about my life.
i was born on the 22nd of november 1995. this makes me a scorpio, which according to my mother is highly significant (i say this is bullshit). from a young age, i was precocious, curious, opinionated, independent and very very stubborn. i was insistent that i could do anything i wanted. when i was told that i couldn’t, i protested. loudly. it was only when my mum explained that it wasn’t that i didn’t have the ability, it was that i wasn’t allowed. i quieted down a bit. all my report cards from that time - in fact all of my report cards up until the last two years - are glowing. phrases like “pleasure to teach” and “restored my faith in teaching” are seen. to an outsider’s eye, i was a model child, with a tad too much personal freedom maybe. perhaps it’s just because of my current negative view of the world, but i have very few good childhood memories. i vividly remember spending my breaktimes inside, organising the bookshelves, because i was scared of the girls in my class. i remember crying in the toilet, refusing to go to lunch. i remember eating my lunch alone in the library, for some reason i can’t remember. i remember being called ugly and nerdy and emo and a freak and generally being made to feel like shit. i remember being overwhelmingly excited to go to secondary school, which i thought would be my salvation.
i think i may have been happy for a while after that. i have photos of me smiling, surrounded by a group of equally geeky, bookish friends. and then adolescence hit, all at once. i developed a crush on a guy who didn’t like me back (and is now gay, apparently), my best friends dispersed and turned against each other, my period started and i gained weight. a lot of weight. my mum reassured me that it was perfectly natural; that this is how thirteen-year old girls grow. perhaps this was part of it, but i was certainly depressed as well. and when i’m depressed, i eat. my bmi went up to 24 - very close to overweight. i think that’s the highest it’s ever been. i first remember being suicidal at this point. and then i decided, on a whim, to apply for an english scholarship to a local private school. i got in.
this marked a new chapter in my life. year nine, the year i turned fourteen. this was the year i went to my first party, smoked and tried drugs for the first time, got straight a’s and passed my exams with flying colours. i was thriving. i also got my first proper boyfriend (by which i mean, not the awkward pre-teen romances where hand holding is considered a Big Deal). however, there was the small matter of his girlfriend. i remember this period very vividly, perhaps because i’ve pored over skype chat logs so many times, cursing my stupidity. i was the high school version of the other woman. younger, thinner, less damaged (ironically, his ex-girlfriend was a recovered anorectic who self-harmed). i broke them up, caused a stir, committed heinously bitchy public displays of affection and then acted surprised when it backfired in my face. i still believe that i deserve what i got.
i’m getting ahead of myself, anyway. this is kind of an important event so i don’t want to skip it. a month into my first relationship, at fourteen, i lost my virginity. i won’t pretend it was some traumatic, horrible experience. it was pleasant enough, i suppose. i pranced around happily and we had pizza afterwards. i wasn’t really phased until a few months later when i broke up with him and the rumours (or, more accurately, truths) began to circulate. then i became suddenly, hideously disgusted with myself. i became hyperaware of my body - at this time around a healthy weight of 108lbs or so - and terrified of all its new connotations. my body was suddenly something strange and dangerous, something not to be trusted. i guess, subconsciously, i began working to eradicate it. i restricted to 600 calories per day, then 400. by december, i was living on 200 calories a day, eating a consistent diet of coffee with artificial sweetener, rice cakes, minutely sliced vegetables and tinned soup. i dropped to 91lbs quickly, before i was entirely aware of what i was doing. i guess by then it was too late. as 2011 started, i was beginning to binge/purge and self-harm with a small blade from a pencil sharpener.
the rest of the year is a blur to be honest. i overdosed twice on painkillers, ending up in hospital on the second one. i wasn’t truly trying to die. they were just a frantic, desperate attempts to make the shit stop. i was restricting all week in school and binging horrendously all weekend, resulting in up to a 10 pound variation in my weight through the week. i was barely going to school, and when i did i spent most of my time curled up by the radiator in a dark room, shivering, or having panic attacks and running out of lessons. i’d long stopped eating breakfast, but now i eliminated the half a rice cake and fruit i was having for lunch. somehow i was under the illusion that i could survive on a cup of coffee and half a tin of soup each day. in november, i started going to camhs. by the third appointment, i was diagnosed with depression prescribed prozac. the fact that i was consuming under 200 calories a day for five days of the week and puking my guts up all weekend was not addressed once in the six months i was with camhs. in late november, i was suspended in school for being a disruption (i wasn’t even going to classes and the teachers were constantly worried that i would try to kill myself in school). december was spent in bed, the kitchen or the bathroom. i was unable to read, concentrate on a 20 minute tv program or go outside. i was cutting multiple times a day. needless to say, i didn’t feel i had much to live for. i told camhs and they smiled and increased my prozac.
i didn’t cope well on 20mg. SSRIs can cause increased suicidality in young people. anyone on new medication - particularly young people - should have regular appointments to check for side effects. i didn’t have an appointment for six weeks, despite a few worried phonecalls from my mum (she was told by my psychiatrist that i needed to learn to deal with ‘bad days’ on my own without running to camhs - they are, according to him, not a counselling service or a crisis centre). meanwhile, i was becoming suicidal in a way i’d never felt before. i spent my days fantasising about death, funerals, terribly gruesome suicide methods. i went back to school in january after 6 weeks off and became psychotic. unable to differentiate between reality and dreams, i became increasingly paranoid and utterly confused. i was convinced that things had happened when they were merely figments of my imagination. i was often convinced that i was dreaming. in january, i tried to kill myself, for real. i took a lot of aspirin and drank a lot of alcohol and spent the night in hospital spewing up bile with an IV in my arm and various drugs in my body. i can safely say that it was the worst night of my life. but it was also the beginning of a turning point.
it’s april now. i’m on 10mg of prozac and a load of homeopathic remedies and i’ve been discharged from camhs - despite my psychiatrist’s advice. i have a hell of a lot more scars than i did four months ago and another (less serious) suicide attempt under my belt. i have a wonderful new counsellor and i go to school most days, though my attendance this year is barely above 50%. i went for an interview at a college in london recently and i’m waiting to hear if i got in. i’m not better, far from it. i’m still depressed and i binge/purge almost every day, and i often want to die. but another part of me is hopeful. a part of me wants to say screw you to all the people who seem to think i am irreparably broken (i suspect this myself, but i can’t bear the thought of them being right). i know this: i am getting stronger, slowly. i do not believe i will ever be completely happy, or ‘recovered’. but it is spring and i am alive, something i did not expect. so maybe there’s a chance that i don’t know everything.