In the midst of a wonderful weekend at the Edinburgh Fringe I had two really inspiring experiences. Both of which fuelled in me a desire to share some writing that hasn’t seen the light in quite some time. On Sunday I saw Neil Holborn perform his stunning poetry. He is very open about his struggles with mental illness & includes his own experiences in much of his work. The power of his honesty & the emotional response he received to some of his pieces really struck me. He reminded me of the power of sharing the dark reality of mental illness. Later that day I was introduced to a friend of my boyfriend who also talked openly about his past mental health struggles. This led to a discussion of how helpful it is to talk about these issues; how more often than not other people will then share their own experiences of mental illness. We talked a little about how that realisation that mental illness is actually really common relieved so much shame. It reminded me how important it is to talk frankly about my experiences, so that those in the depths of illness can see that they are not alone. Equally important is to reach those who have never been touched by mental health problems. Letting people see that this can happen to anyone, that the pain is intense, debilitating & uncontrollable lifts stigma. I really believe that the way to fight ignorance is information. Not just statistics, but brutal insights into conditions often misunderstood. It is so much harder to dismiss mental illness when you have been confronted with it’s reality.
With this in mind I decided to review work I produced in my darker days. For those unaware I have battled with PTSD, depression & self harm for most of my adult life. Although my mental health is much improved from the time of this piece, it remains a daily struggle. One is never cured. The best I can do is learn to live with what I cannot change & fight for what makes my life beautiful. I am profoundly grateful to no longer be actively self harming. I am also aware that urges still exist. It takes work to maintain my current life. I make a daily decision to keep fighting & I am far from alone.
I know these words may be disturbing to some, but I ask you to read them anyway. I share this because I passionately believe that a deeper understanding defeats stigma & grows compassion.
i had another little crisis
despite a transfusion in late december,
my haemoglobin had again dropped to 6.6
causing doctor’s to get jumpy
prompting talk of another transfusion.
this fuelled a panic in me
i do not like having blood transfusions
i feel incredible guilt.
other people are more deserving of this blood
someone selflessly gave of themselves.
i will waste it
i know it will feel horrendous inside me
i do not want it.
i don’t really have the option of
they will call in a psych consult
which could lead down a road
my first stupid reaction
i must cut
whilst the dr’s decide
i will blood let
i know it doesn’t make sense
there is method in the madness
my hb is already low
i may as well be hung for sheep as a lamb
i will hate myself less for shedding my own blood
if i lose enough blood
do enough damage
i may feel sated for a while
with this in mind i set to work
after two disappointing nights
producing inadequate wounds
i got angry.
on the third day,
the gp called to say they had decided to go with an iron infusion the following week.
i considered myself free
paint the town RED
i felt it couldn’t be that bad
if i didn’t need a transfusion
i had still better fit in as much damage
after two pitiful nights
i needed it
feeling enraged with myself
i set to work
i chose a spot on my slightly less scarred right forearm
i cut vertically
towards my wrist
everytime i reached a depth i could live with
i elongated the cut
started to work down into it again
i got into the most dangerous mindset
i just can’t resist
i ploughed through the layers of my flesh
with what lay beneath
i watched three distinct fountains of blood
flow into one
i pulled the wound apart to make the blood spurt higher
i sawed through
tough,unknown inner material
as the spray soared out
and hit my face
when i was finished
i don’t know how long
long enough to become dazed
i had created a gaping trench
the entire length of my foream
that continuosly filled with blood
spilled over, flooding the floor.
i could not stop the blood
nor, could i think straight
i wrapped a towel around my arm
put a huge jumper on top
took the bus.
i trailed blood into reception
& collapsed in the triage room
i was so ashamed
dreaded trying to explain myself
lay in a cubicle
i had done this many times before
i couldn’t control my fear or self loathing.
i received 21 stitches
was hospitlised again for three days the following week with chest pains & breathing difficulty
suffering from severe pain
i spent those 3 days in & out of a morphine
induced altered reality
Junior dr’s were too scared to take blood from my arms
apparently experience is required
to find a vein in this network of scar tissue
the consultant was overly kind
stared & whispered
i lay there in
all of which added up to