Welcome to MENTAL

A collection of stories ON mental health experiences

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“Planning, planning, endlessly planning how you're going to change.”

-

bane (beìn/‘bān) 

n. a source of harm or ruin, poison or death 

In the beginning, it was simple enough. I lost my sense of security, someone made me feel like my body wasn’t good enough, maybe I just needed something to feel good about, and he was the one I turned too. 

He whispers, “you look beautiful”. I feel the ends of my mouth curve upwards ever so slightly but the twinkle in my eyes says it all, a fleeting expression at the thought of someone finally loving me. 

I squeeze the lemon, watching the juice trickle out into the water below, a tiny bit sinking into the broken skin around my finger nail making me wince. I stir the cup of warm water until the lemon juice is no longer separate and drank the whole thing in one go. Just like he expected me to, every morning. Its soothing feeling on my throat is a relief, the same feeling the consistency and structure of having him in my life gave me, the sense of security I so desperately needed.

I place the glass back down, its weight straining my arm, so weak. Next to it I see my phone screen light up. I pick it up to read the message sprawled across the screen. “Who’s that?” he asks. “What are they saying?” he demands. I ignore him but he didn't stop, “They don't really care about you? You can’t go. Why would you want to go? They’ll make you act like you don't want to, they'll make you eat. I'm the only one who really loves you.”

I listen. I got back into my bed and let the darkness consume me for another day.

_________

Today, I see my friend walk towards me. Making her way through the maze of tables and chairs, filled with families out or breakfast, friends catching up, strangers on first dates. She hugs me before she sits down. “How are you! What’s been going on? What have you been up to?” She quizzes. So many questions, but all he lets me think about is all the wrong answers I could give. She tells me about her life, filling me in on what I missed. I listen, well to what my ears manage to hear among all my other sense. Like my stomach is about to empty itself on the table, like if my hands shake any more they might hit something, like my head is floating away from me, out of my control. Two hours pass before she checks the time. Her body jumps up and her face sinks as if it had screamed at her. “I need to get going” she said, as she looks at me her smile returns. “It was so good to see you! You’re looking good, are you dieting?” All these compliments, they show we’re pulling it off, our secret love affair.

_________

Nearly every day, the darkness drowns me and my bed captures me, my thoughts inhibit me from facing the world, but now it’s night and not even the heaviest darkness can crush all the thoughts running through my head. ’Try counting sheep’ I tell myself, but he only gives me reasons to stay awake.

 

He takes me in his arms. His warm embrace the only comforting thing in this world I do not understand. I remember only the warmth but forget about the burns he causes me. He was my world now, he controlled me, controlled my life, maybe I should let him. It was easier that way, I was the one who after all wanted it this way, wanted, to not live. Wanted to finally have something to occupy my mind, to fill the lonely space, some sense of security, of belonging.

_________

Today, I look in the mirror and I do not know what I am looking at. Hands and feet cold and purple, the hair on my head as sparse as the beach on a rainy day. My nails brittle, skin dry and pale, or is it more yellow? It certainly wasn’t the bright pink it used to be. Planning, planning, endlessly planning how you're going to change. An inch here, a bit more muscle there, a bone that could be protruding here. The less of me there is, the better. My fragile mind and I couldn't separate myself from what he knew me to be. 

_________

Today, I lay in bed. The empty room that is my chest echoes with the sound of a fading heartbeat, and I feel nothing but comfort in the idea of drifting away. I cannot even separate the good thoughts and bad ones. I do not know what are his, ideas he has placed in my head, seeds he planted that have grown into painful thorns. Weeds wreaking havoc to the garden. This was me, I wanted to die. I wanted to not have to listen to his voice, to not have the list of reminders. Every time I ate, that I wasn't worthy. Every time I saw a friend that they didn't really want me. Every day I got up, it wasn't worth it.

_________

Today, It was the smell that hit me first, sterile. Then I felt them, the tubes, wires; more than I care to count. I open my eyes to see them trickle from the screen to my body, dotted around my chest, my fingers trapped by one. Counting my pulse, hydrating me, filling me with medication. My arm is encased by a blood pressure monitor, I run my hands over the cold fabric, my as well be handcuffs. My fingers trace a tube to my nose, I turn to see what the other end meets, a bag of nutrient rich fluid, being funneled into my body. 

I stand but my head feels like it’s left in the bed behind me. My ears fill with the ringing sounds of machines. I watch my heart rate climb on the screen, my vision goes white, black; then comes back. My eyes dart to the other screen and I watch my blood pressure plummet, down, down. White, black crashing over my vision like waves I see the floor moving rapidly towards me before, black.

He had put me here, in this hospital bed. I had mistaken the anxiety he created for butterflies. He was meant to offer me security, something I could keep under control but now he's controlling me.

Why would I accept his roses and ignore the thorns? Because it’s not easy to weed out the roots that are planted in you, the comments, the images force fed to us, the crippling loneliness, the gaping hole that needs to be filled. Because I was a 100-tonne truck heading for a cliff and he took the wheel long ago. He was the feeling that something missing was finally coming home.

I was so captivated by the body he built for me, I didn't see the hell he managed to trap me in. The beauty he stripped me off, the smiles he robbed from me, the memories he deprived me of; the life Bane tried to take from me.

Bane was a behaviour, not a human. A disorder, not a partner. An illness, not a friend. A source of harm and ruin, not security. Bane was anorexia.

Identifying him, naming him was the first step in weeding out the thoughts he planted in me, separating mine from his, rebuilding my life as my own without him, finding a new sense of security in myself.

I learnt quickly that there was no point in running away because the more I try to run, the harder I pull away the louder he shouts, the faster he chases. 

_________

Today, I learnt to let him come through, destroying my world. I learnt to swallow my tears, to put down the razor blade, to walk away from the mirror and when those pieces are put back together, yes, he came through again, darker, stronger.

But I knew how to pick up the pieces, I was getting better. I learnt to remember where certain pieces went, I learnt how to get them to stay together longer, I had people to help me hold them in place, to withstand his force.

_________

Today, he was quiet. He let me go out with my friends, I laughed, I ate, I talked. I didn't feel sick, I didn't want to rip all the fat off my body, I didn't feel a crushing and irrational sense of worthlessness, but I felt him, hiding in the shadows. He doesn't get quieter, but I can stop listening, yell back. He doesn't stop coming through like a cyclone but I now I know how to rebuild. He doesn't stop trying to drown me in darkness but my life is now full of small rays of sunshine that I latch on to in the darkest days, he doesn't stop fighting but I get stronger.

_________

Today, I lay in bed, my chest floods with the melody that is my healthy heart beat, with each beat I think of a new opportunity life may give me. My brain is quiet, giving me time to reflect, to let my thoughts wander. I find peace, not in the certainty of drifting away from life but in the uncertainty of driving head first into it. I may be a victim of brain that failed me, I may have had to fight to leave a toxic relationship with myself, I may constantly be questioning what thoughts are my own, I may never feel good enough, I may have to try and silence the thousand thoughts crashing through my mind, I may have to fight every day and sometimes. I may cry, sometimes I may listen, sometimes I may lose. But I have more victories. Because I show up; even when I feel weak. I speak; even though my voice is shaking. I step forward; even though my knees tremble, I hit back even when I have no strength and I continue to walk outside of my comfort zone, every second of every day.

 

“What I feel our current culture lacks are the voices of reason to penetrate those emotions.”

“I remember feeling like all the bones in my body had finally broken.”