Where do I start with the demon that haunts my nights. The ghost that awakens when the rest of the world finally goes to sleep.
Have you ever felt a pain deep in your soul? That ache that draws the scream out of your chest, no matter how hard you press your lips together. The ice cold water over your hands and feet, the low burn that slowly becomes intolerable as it consumes your very being.
I can’t tell you where the pain came from. It predates the ‘serious’ ‘standout’ traumas in my life. I can’t give it a name or a reason. I can’t blame it on anyone else.
All I can tell you is it’s always been there, as long as I can remember. Growing and fading, coming and going, never leaving completely, sometimes burning out of control.
When that fire inside your chest burns so hot your body runs cold there’s not a lot you won’t do to quieten it.
I remember being about 11, and crying so long and hard I couldn’t breathe, until I grabbed a hunk of my hair and pulled. Hard enough that it came out by the root. And suddenly my lungs released.
Now, being almost a teenager, a bald spot on my head was not going to be a goer long-term. And I have always been resourceful. I learned pretty quickly the best way to go about it, and for years my way of coping with any pain was to slowly, methodically, take apart a razor and slice my arm open. Sometimes my thighs, stomach, but usually arms. And it helped, at the time. Until the time it nearly killed me, and I slowly started to realise how badly I wanted to be alive. It took work, but I did well for about 7 years. Then I got complacent.
This isn’t something I’ve told pretty much anyone about, but I have had two relapses in the past few years. Both quite serious in different ways. And I haven’t told anyone, because it’s embarrassing. I was meant to have healed from this years ago. It feels like another failure, but I have to get back up.
Last year I went through a period of about a month where I entirely lost the will to live. I don’t put that lightly. In years of depression and bipolar disorder I have never been so so god damn scared in my life. Because I calmly sat in my car one night and thought
I can’t even comprehend how I am meant to open my eyes and keep breathing in the morning.
But the thing is – I picked up the phone. Tears started to stream down my face as I called first my mum, then my best friend, then my cousin, to ask for help. I knew I needed an army this time, and boy did the cavalry arrive. Making phone calls for me, finding doctors for me, checking up on me, talking to my work and arranging extended leave, staying with me, making sure I ate, and just breathing with me.
It took a long time this time. Weeks of higher medications. A lot of therapy. A lot more yoga and meditation. A huge amount of support. But it got better. And I am so grateful I found that last ounce of strength to pick up the phone.
I still have bad days, and when my anxiety gets heightened, or I’m dealing with some big emotional strain, my mind always goes there and things “that would make it hurt less.” But usually I can resist. Until a few months ago I couldn’t. That’s why I’ve used this picture here. To own my shit. To say the thing I am so terrified to say. I don’t have it together. I do really well for a couple of years, or a couple of months, then the longstanding depression and other issues rear their heads and I fall.
(This is one of my still dressed & stitched wrists earlier this year. I won’t show photos of my actual arms and scars as I think it can be dangerous, yet doing this helps me be accountable.)
People will say its attention-seeking. To that, I laugh, and say 10 years is a huge time commitment to a little bit of attention. This was pain.
And because now I’m older and even when I’m well I deal with the aftermath every day. Trust me, no matter how comfortable you are with yourself, it’ll never be a joy to see someone’s eyes flicker over your wrists a second time when you shake hands, or hand them a cup of tea, and look at you just slightly differently. So if I can help one person not end up here, I’ll be happy.
A friend recently commented on my scars, in particular how I don’t hide them. Hiding them isn’t something I’ve thought about in a long time, apart from once not too long ago when I had some freshly healing ones.
I understand it can be a bit confronting for people that I don’t hide my scars, but no worse than what it is for me when I see them every day. I can’t hide from them, and hiding them from the world nearly cost me my life a few times. The shame, the fear, it just isolated me further.
The fact is, they’re part of me. I wish to god I didn’t have them. They remind me of pain, and bring up conversations I don’t want to have. If I could take them back I would. But I can’t.
You have to work with what you have and try to find a way to live with that. My way of living is through loving kindness. Accepting the dark and the light ❤️ And hoping that by being open it’ll help prevent others from going through the same thing, or those that are already in the situation find help to stop.
If you need help, please call. Call me, call someone you love, call Lifeline. Because I swear it gets better. Even when you have relapses it keeps getting better. But you need to give yourself that chance. And when it gets better you don’t want reminders of your worst times staring you in the face – if you can avoid it. Mental health is the same as physical health – it requires work and effort. Never get complacent and always treat yourself with love
< Nayyirah Waheed
These Nahko & Medicine for the People songs have soothed my soul so much over the last couple of months, I hope they do the same for you 🌈
I believe in the good things coming