Today’s post is a guest post by Gillian Downie:
***TW: Self harm
I was always a little sensitive, always looking outside in. I remember when I was a kid, in primary school, feeling detached from myself and the world. I believed I was a doll being moved around by some giant unseen human force. I wasn’t real, nobody was, we were all dolls.
I was a perfectionist as a teenager. I’d get very upset, and I mean unforgiving of myself, if I failed at anything. Failing to me wasn’t ‘failing’ it was not doing good enough. If what I did wasn’t good enough I’d have to punish myself in some way. Once I got it right I’d allow myself a small morsel of food. If I failed I starved, I cut…
I used to write…poems or musical poems (songs). I remember being 15 years old and doing poetry readings at ‘poetry n pints’ nights. I wrote some really dark stuff, got some published too. I lost my mojo for that a long time ago. That saddens me…[I remember waking up in a pool of blood with a massive gaping wound going downward from elbow to wrist on my right arm…I must’ve passed out! All I recall is being upset by a result in my university second year maths exam..I passed, but not well enough]
It wasn’t long before I was in hospital. I was told to pack a bag…cd Walkman, headphones, selection of cds and a battery supply. On arrival I was given a cup of brown liquid to swallow which more or less knocked me out. My parents were called in to bring me clothes and toiletries, the items I was meant to bring. I brought my essentials, my lifeline. Music. Eventually I brought in my guitar. There was a powercut one night, the generators failed so myself and the other patients sat in darkness singing songs while I played my guitar. Those who are still alive still talk of that night with fondness. Like it’s their only good memory. For many patients, hospital is all they have, all they know. I was a ‘revolving door’ patient for many years, admissions now totalling 14. I didn’t and don’t want to be one of those patients, who have nothing, nobody and no good memories to keep them going during rough times.
I got better for a bit. A good 8 years of healthy living and happiness. I was engaged, I was ‘normal’. I started drawing then studied photography. Drawing and photography overtook me, like a force. I became obsessive again. Perfectionism struck…my weight dropped…too far down. I found myself in resuss fighting for my life. I was setting every beeper off, my heart was failing, my life almost fading away. 7 and a half hours. I survived and made it to a bed upstairs. I ended up back in the psychiatric ward (I had been on a waiting list for 9 weeks but the consultant deemed anorexia, not high on the risk list). I was on the ward, left to my own devices. I locked myself away in my room and drew. I never spoke to anyone. Not until the charge nurse came in 3 months into my admission. “How are you?” She asked. I cried because nobody had bothered to ask that question, til now.
I am doing better now. A whole year out of hospital and not looking back. I have a new life to live ahead of me. I am stronger both mentally and physically. Yes I have many off days, but who doesn’t? It’s learning to make the correct decisions rather than act on impulse. It’s thinking about those good times with those you love and remembering the laughs etc. When dark days loom over you switch on the bright happy memory. That day you got to hang out with your favourite singer/band or that time you got to talk on the radio or that time you headlined a poetry night or whatever it may be!
Don’t remain under that thundercloud.You do have the control to strike that lightning bolt to bring a flash of brightness back into your life.
For those who I met that are gone too soon.