What is Cyclothymia?

 

Cyclothymia (or Cyclothymic Disorder) is a rare, chronic personality disorder.

It’s bipolar’s slightly younger, highly annoying little sister. She tries to emulate bipolar in every way she can, but gets it a bit wrong along the way. On the surface they look the same, they even sound the same, it just comes to how they both behave that differs.

Hypomania:

I was misdiagnosed for years because of this. I was always asked by professionals if I ever felt moments of “happiness” and the answer was (is) always simple – no. I don’t. Hypomania is always misconstrued as elation, an invincible high, like a helium balloon caught in a breeze, and most commonly – happiness.

I don’t experience it like that, I’ve come to fear the highs just as I absolutely dread the periods of low mood, or minor depression as the official term is. With the highs, I find it easier to do things, I want to do things, I want to do everything all at once. My mind will pinball around hundreds of different ideas, it’ll settle on one thing, one idea, one plan for a nanosecond before zooming off to the next. I may look happy on the outside, I may sound more animated and alive, but invariably I’ll be getting frustrated with not being able to settle on anything, I’ll become irritable and inevitably, I’ll lose my temper as my mind feels like it’s vibrating with thoughts and I’ll want to curl up in a ball just to make it all stop.

It gives you the air of self confidence that you know what you’re doing when really you know anything but. It makes it impossible to trust your own judgement – is this actually a good idea or am I manic?

Hypomania also comes along with other, stranger symptoms; I get easily overwhelmed by too much noise, as it feels as if sounds are jumbling up with my zooming thoughts. I can’t listen and have a tendancy to interupt conversation with whatever pops into my head.

Minor depression: 

I don’t think I need to go too far into explaining this one.

I have a tough time with describing depression as minor, as far as I’m concerned, depression is depression. For me it’s the bone crushing inability to do anything. It’s world wide indifference. It’s staying in bed all day. It’s not bothering to look after myself or shower. It’s not bothering to speak because what’s the point? It’s simply not caring. It’s numbness and it’s pain.

Mood swings:

Now we know the moods I experience, one of the biggest things with cyclothymia is how rapidly these moods can swing and change. I can go from one end of the spectrum to the other in hours, if not minutes when I’m triggered by something stressful or exciting. When I’m in a bad spell and my medication isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, I frankly don’t know how I feel, I may have been fine in the morning but high by lunch and down again by the evening.

I was diagnosed with cyclothymia in February 2016, for the forseeable future I will need to take mood stabilisers (traditionally known as anti-psychotics) to balance the swinging scales of my moods and anti-depressants so my lows aren’t as bad as they could be.

The Quiet Ones Have the Loudest Minds

Generally when I meet people for the first time I’m all awkward and completely forget how to behave when I’m around actual human beings. I start to panic that when they look me in the eye they’ll be able to see all my secrets, steal my superpowers and notice that worst of all, I only managed to get mascara on one eye this morning before leaving the house in a whirlwind of book bags, permission slips and tangled hair. My voice shuts down completely, it’ll get stuck halfway up my throat and surface as a shaky whisper. I like to think it makes me sound profound or mysterious, but truly, I just sound like a have a bout of tonsillitis.

It seems that the majority of mums (and dads, obvs, we’re all equal here) take to the whole socialising with their children thing like a fish to the proverbial expanse of wet stuff. You sometimes catch a glimpse of us awkward ones, slinking around the parameter of the playground or baby & toddler group, pretending to be really into what our kids are up to (or the next imaginative way they’re trying to maim themselves or others). We’ll be looking anywhere but directly at other people. Anywhere. Oh, hang on, I must now look really intently at my phone for the next few minutes, brow furrowed, swiping that finger with purpose, I tell you. You are reading business emails, those deadlines keep whooshing in and dammit the FTSE has just dropped 100 points.

What? They don’t need to know that you’re simply trying to catch a Magikarp on Pokemon Go and that you have no idea how to work your 4G.

Don’t forget the dramatic sigh for added effect.

Thing is though, you might see us awkward folk, desperately trying to go unnoticed. Some of us performing the school drop offs and pick ups with the expertise of a ninja, speaking to no one, especially avoiding the Glam Mums, straight in and out, and in a puff of smoke – they disappear. Some being less fortunate and run in with the school PA (ya know the one, the mum who makes it her personal business to run everything yet isn’t actually on the payroll), with a homemade cake in her hand, “Excuse me, the rules do state that the children aren’t supposed to ride their scooters or bikes within the school grounds. Just so you know.”

We may be quiet. We may be awkward. We might say the wrong thing or laugh at an inopportune moment. Hell, we might even have leftover tear stains behind the bug-eyed sunglasses or hiding our quivering hands within our pockets. We could have an occasional tick and our hearts stop momentarily as a child screams, a baby cries or once we realise that we really can’t deal with crowds.

You might think we’re mental. You might even say it out loud or via a loaded glance to one another.

And do you know what?

We probably are.

Postnatal depression affects one in eight mothers. Not to mention causes a tidal wave of destruction for their partners, families and friends. Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK.

My name’s Cas and I’m a bit mental. Various acronyms have been thrown around in my presence – PND, OCD, PPD, PTSD, plus the good old depression, major depression and neurotic depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in my head and most of the time I’m floating on a rollercoaster of antidepressants and mood stabilisers.

The quiet ones are all coping, somehow, hanging on by our fingernails. We’re battling stuff we could never say out loud, even if we were able to put it into words coherently.

No More, No Less

A bittersweet realisation struck me the other day. On our return from a long, hot day at the beach, our skin turned freshly pink from the sun, sand smuggled in every orifice imaginable and a happy, exhausted kid bursting with stories about the first crab he ever caught and OMG THE ICE CREAM and and and… All while covered in dirt from digging around in the mudflats and his hair full of saltwater.

I realised I was content.

I realised I was enjoying being this dude’s mum and spending time with him.

And there’s not many occasions I can say that’s actually happened.

Obvs it should’ve been a happy moment, but with the addition of the notorious Mum Guilt™ and Parental Doubt©, instead it was tinged with a generous dollop of  “I’m so shit. I’ve ruined his childhood,” and “Fuck, I better start saving for his therapy.”

Thing is, I reckon it’s still an unsaid thing, finding parenting a chore, something a lot of us cover up with self deprecating quips about needing to neck the gin / wine / any alcoholic beverage to hand (delete as appropriate) and hiding in the toilet with the door locked, armed with our phones and stolen Freddos and Smarties. Truth is I don’t really drink, and the last time I locked myself in the bog, the kid shat on the carpet outside the bathroom before I could hide away my contraband wrappers, wipe away the tear stains and allow him entry because ya know, sometimes 30 seconds warning of MUMMY I NEED A POO HELP IT’S COMING, ain’t enough.

What I mean is, we jokingly skirt around the issue, dance around it while the reality nips at our toes and we try not to let the pain reflect in our faces or the exhaustion show around our eyes, when all we want to do is collapse and weep for help.

I’ve been stuck in that seemingly never-ending cycle of wanting nothing more than to go back to bed before I’ve even properly begun the day, of feeling panicked and trapped, my heart racing, my head swimming with fear every time I’m cornered to play with my kid. Of having to physically force myself out the front door for every school run, every birthday party and outing, sweating, short of breath and shaking. Plus all the innocuous day-to-day parental tasks and required emotions and energy that simply feel impossible and out of reach, for the majority of my six years as a mum.

It’s only now, after more than six years, that I can look back on a day and think “That was a good day.” Even with the house decimated and my kid’s parting shot when he goes to bed is “‘Night, OLD LADY,” while he tries to wipe his bogies on me.

It was a good day.

No more, no less.

And it’s enough just as it is, because it’s been such a long time coming.

And Repeat

A year ago, to the day in fact (thanks to that smug little animated dinosaur that prances onto my phone to merrily remind of my annual failings each and every morning) I wrote this post. It was nothing special, but the point is I could’ve written dozens more exactly like it. The ominous assessment, the dreaded GP review, the painful therapist appointment. Where the texture or tone or composition might be slightly different, but they’d still essentially be a snapshot of the exact same thing.

Me, perched on the edge of a padded chair that’s too low to the ground in a grey room, panic racing through me, eyes darting methodically. The generic box of tissues. The certificates on the wall. The grubby mark on the wall by the door. My fingernails. Dust motes dancing in the ever decreasing sunlight creeping through the vertical blinds. The ill-chosen printed artwork on the wall. Back to the tissues.

And repeat.

The doctor / therapist / psychologist / psychiatrist (delete applicable) absent-mindedly twirling to and fro in their swivel chair, fingers poised over their keyboard and mouse, ready to type unknown words I can’t see or churn another prescription out.

I ask for help. I say the things I don’t want to say. I nod silently.

I’m handed another prescription with a disingenuous head-tilt, complete with what they’re probably aiming for as empathy in their tired, slow eyes. I’m given instructions to call 999 if “things get bad”.

I leave.

I go home. I hide in my bed. I refuse to speak.

And repeat.

This well-trodden and anti-climatic routine led to “things getting bad” with a crescendo of me having a breakdown and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital last summer which I’m only starting to process now. Apparently, a breakdown isn’t a fix. It’s not a cure. It’s not the excuse to surround yourself with inspirational quotes and self-care and cross your fingers really hard that the same thing won’t happen again.

It’s a huge, ugly, jagged event that towers above everything else, where you start to remember things Pre-Breakdown and Post-Breakdown. You can’t talk about it because, well, if you’ve had a breakdown, you’ve got it out of your system now at least, yeah? Now let’s change the subject. There’s no “Sorry about your breakdown” cards. You’re just surrounded by concerned eyes watching you when they think you’re not looking, an avalanche of *hugs* and more dissatisfied appointments in grey rooms.

In the Post-Breakdown haze, the local crisis-team visited me at home. Although, they weren’t really the proper crisis team, I’d have to wait months for that, these people were more the mildly problematic team. I didn’t want to talk to them. I no longer trusted myself and felt if I said a trigger-word, they’d be sectioning me. They intimated that I might be dealing with more than just your common house depression.

The words “personality disorder” seeped through before my defenses shot into the atmosphere. I didn’t listen to another word they said.

The private psychiatrist I paid over 150 quid to see for fifteen minutes, shrugged off the suggestion while my other half saw a chance of getting somewhere, a breakthrough and I refused him it.

I didn’t know what to think, who to trust, denying that anything was wrong. The words, the lingering, leading questions were invisible rain, sinking through my protection, my clothes, making me colder and colder while I pretended it was OK as my teeth chattered and my skin was covered in goose-flesh.

Until one night, I told my best friend. I told her about the exhausting, unpredictable switches in mood. The compulsions. The sensory overload. The panic I felt at being asked if I was OK, because honestly, I had no idea. I told her the seemingly tedious details. I told her everything.

She’d asked questions, she’d said the scary Personality Disorder words, she asked if I was sure I was just dealing with depression, but it was OK. I realised then that it was alright to listen to other people’s opinion and myself, that a personality disorder didn’t have to be a terrifying unknown.

From next week I’ll be going back to the grey rooms with the dirty marks on the walls. I’ll be asking to be re-diagnosed, for a second opinion. Most likely I’ll be nodding silently, leaving with a prescription pressed into my palm and not much else.

And repeat.

Secrets

From a very, very young age, I’ve learnt that mental health is something we do not talk about. Ever. Unless it’s in a small, quiet room with someone whose name starts with Dr or you’re paying someone by the hour, just so you unbottle all the junk messing up your grey matter until the next appointment comes around.

It’s been hidden away.

Sordid and shameful.

Secret.

I was never allowed friends over to play or have tea with or make dens with when I was little. In case they saw something. My mum’s bottles, scattered over the carpet, empty and silent. Or her hoarded, collected mess. They’d know, and that simply wasn’t allowed.

As I got older, and I began my own epic journey through the NHS and assessments and therapy and “Tell me Cassandra, have you any traumatic memories from your childhood?” My mum would take me, keen to coach me on what to say, what not to say and “Don’t tell them about my drinking.” Before the door was even closed behind me and the counsellor and I’d located all the exits in my mind and where they kept the ever-present box of tissues, without realising it, I was already keeping secrets. Don’t mention this, don’t tell them about that and never ever mention the gin problem.

Although I write openly (possibly too openly) about the state of my head on here, I still struggle very much in real life. It’s wrong. We don’t go there. No one needs to know. Keep it schtum. And on and on and on. I’ve lied to taxi drivers when they’ve asked, taking me to strange buildings in the late evening, instead of just saying, “Oh yeah, I’m going to therapy.” I’ve come out with preposterous lies, “I’m going to a yoga class.” Or “I’m having acupuncture.” Like, seriously, FFS.

But.

Something’s shifting.

The pills I’m currently taking, the ones that make it impossible to function in the mornings, the ones that leave me 20 minutes in the morning to wake up as a grumbling, growling mess once Noah’s sat on my head and said rather urgently “Mummy… The clock says eight, two, zero…” and get my shit together and deposit him to school, avec lunch bag, book bag, suncream applied and teeth brushed. Yeah? Yeah, those ones. They’ve shat all over my “must never be late, must never be late” mantra. They’ve flung my at least sort-of-pretending -to-be-holding-everything-together out of the nearest window.

They’ve left me pretty naked. No amount of Bobbi Brown Under Eye Concealer can save me. And a “Whoops! Woke up late!” said in the jolliest tone you can manage while your mates pass you in the opposite direction, somewhat bemused – just doesn’t have the same effect four fourteen days running.

I did the unthinkable the other day. Seeing the usual gaggle of mums gathered around the school gate, having already dropped their children off, I almost fell to the ground into an army crab crawl to the nearest bit of shrubbery until they left. I tried. But Noah didn’t join in. Instead, I was forced to hope my literal bed hair was mistaken for stylishly dishevelled and camouflaged any coffee stains upon my clothes rather artfully with my scarf.

Once I’d done the mock hurrying into the playground / eye roll and “Come on, darling, quick quick!” and saw the kid into his classroom, I made my way back to the gate and all eyes fell on me. “Everything OK?” and then there was silence.

Before I knew it, my censorship button still asleep, I said it.

“Oh, just the new antidepressants I’m taking. They’re making so drowsy, I can’t wake up.”

Just like that.

Twenty six years of secrets, of keeping the truth hidden away. Of smoke and mirrors and biting my tongue.

Gone.

The silence that followed felt like an eternity.

But do you know what? Nothing happened. No one screamed or ran away, or gathered their pre-schoolers into their petticoats, shielding them from the mental case. Nothing happened at all.

It was OK.

The secrets were dispelled, the mystery revealed and somehow, the world didn’t end.

If You’re Still Here

Dear Cas,

I don’t know how else to write this, because it’s just not something I can dress up with clever words and descriptive imagery, it’s just what it is. I get through the endless seconds and minutes by thinking to myself that it won’t be forever. I’m not referring to the current tantrum being thrown before me, or the rain, or the shit day that stretches in front of me all the way to the horizon and beyond. I mean this. Being here.

The thought of just thinking about it is too much, because it quickly turns into a ferocious whirlpool of it won’t be forever, I don’t want to be here, fuck – that’s so messed up, I know – but I don’t know how else to cope, I really don’t, you need help – seriously, I know I do – but how? My ribcage tightens. My head floats and floats until all I can do is stare and remember to breathe occasionally. My body begins to shake violently as I swim through a haze of shame and anger. Anger at myself. At all this time wasted and lost and totally gone forever, and all I have left is blurred memories where everything merges into one mass of chaos.

A monochrome painting, still wet to the touch on canvas, shaking hands, smearing the brushstrokes, until the black and white dissolves to grey.

I’m writing this because, well because unless I sit here and pretend you’re a real person, alive and reading this in 25 years, I can’t imagine how I’ll ever get there, to where you are now. I cannot picture the future. It’s just not there. I can’t commit to anything. An outburst, a breakdown, an attack or a bog standard world ending moment, can happen in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, and rather inconveniently, I cannot see them coming and they knock me sideways as much as anyone else unlucky enough to witness me crumbling into something I just don’t know or understand.

The other stuff that should be grounding me, making me see, giving me that purpose, that fight, just isn’t. It isn’t working. I wish every single day that they made me want to stay, more than anything else. But they don’t.

It’s perpetually behind me, right on top of me, whenever I have a moment of OKness, it’s hovering, telling me I’m being fake, that I’m mimicking how I think I should behave. That the words that come out of my mouth and through my fingers don’t mean anything more than what drifts through my head – absolutely nothing. It tells me that what I do or don’t do today doesn’t matter either way and that it won’t be forever.

And I need something, anything to believe that I’ll eventually be where you are now, in 25 years, hopefully with enough fortitude to read this and realise how far you’ve come because nothing else is working and I’m so tired of this constant carousel of making progress only to realise that not a single thing has changed at all. The meds, the talking and the nodding along to everything that they’re all saying to me.

So ya know, if you’re still here all the way in the future, a little sign would be good. A space postcard made from stardust or whatever you lot are using in 2039 would be good. Or a pet unicorn. Just something.

Your 26 year old self,

Cas

Disclaimer

This post was going to come with a trigger warning, but then my head went on a tangent about how using the word trigger as a warning, a safe word if you will, for people who are likely to tread beyond the line of OK stuff to think about, is possibly not very well thought out.  Ya know, a word synonymous with guns and dangerous stuff. A cross on the door, do not passsuggestive stuff awaits. People who come up with names and words and meanings, try harder, this one definitely needs some work.

So… Yeah. That thing which means this isn’t suitable if you’re a in a bit of low mood. Whether it’s in the mentally ill sense or you’ve just found your washing machine pissing water all over the kitchen floor etc, maybe go to Google and type in funny cats. Or pugs. Pugs are the new funny cats, right?

Anyway, on with what actually got me out of bed to write at 2am.

I’ve been laying low on the old blog front. The social media front. The typing shit into boxes with 140 characters front, the taking photos of my breakfast / cat / dancing child front. All fronts essentially. It’s been massively, stupidly frustrating. And it’s taken me months, yes actual months to work out what the fuck is up with me. In that sense I mean obvs, I’m still not entirely sure what is generally wrong with me.

Truth is, a year ago when I started pouring out this stuff that’s been polluting my head for so long, I wasn’t speaking to anyone. The world beyond my publish button was nameless and faceless other than some edited, anonymous-ish avatars and alter egos mostly containing the word Mummy in some form or other. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t think I ever wouldknow anyone from this so I could go about my depressive ways, spout some shit that had been clogging up the main frame and continue and no one would be any the wiser.

I was like a Banksy of blogging.

Only totally unknown. Uber skint. And I’m fairly certain that the smell of spray paint makes me vomit.

Look, that worked in my head, OK?

Fast forward a little and somehow, almost in spite of myself, I appear to have actually made some friends through this strange life I made on the internet through blind frustration and loneliness. This blog isn’t anonymous anymore, and for fear of making people worry, upsetting someone with speak of ugly depression stuff, the suicidalness and Lord knows what else I can verbally throw up when I’ve overdosed on coffee. Where I’d protect my family from this stuff, I’d run to these blank white pages to get it the fuck out, I’m now kind of in the same position again.

And yes, my head isn’t a pillar of rationality or sense. I appreciate I can be blowing this past the bounds of proportion. And there’s a huge arse positive in amongst this. I do see that. I truly do, it’s way way out of my comprehension to understand it fully, but I know it’s a good thing.

It’s akin to where you’d put on a brave face for the postman, or your neighbour, or fuck it, anyone, the glazed smile, the Oh yeah, I’m fine and the drawn breath, the time standing still as you wish, hope and pray they don’t see what you’re desperately trying to camouflage with teeth and a chirpy tone of voice.

I feel I’ve been doing that online. And if I can’t force it anymore, I’ll shrink away for a day or a week until I can force it a little bit more.

In a meandering, round the houses way, what I’m getting at is, I suppose this is a disclaimer for the stuff I need to start saying again. That I’m fine, that I won’t be putting my head in the oven – scrap that – my oven is totally broken and my head won’t fit in the toaster, I just checked,  so it’s all good seriously.

I need to drop the façade and take it back to the old skool. Or the erm, ya know, mental health unit.

Shame

OK, I’ll admit, I went a bit loopy yesterday morning. And when I say loopy, I mean full-blown crazy with a cheeky side order or neurosis for good measure. I forgot the health visitor was popping round to see us. Totally forgot. First thing I knew of it her car was sitting in my driveway and the doorbell was ringing, mocking me it seemed. In my infinite wisdom, of which I possess none, I darted to the living room window and shut the curtains – IN FULL VIEW OF HER. Smooth moves. Real smooth. Still cringing, I then proceeded to hide in the kitchen with Noah. FOR TWENTY MINUTES. Which I must add, once you factor in the über awkward atmosphere and my ridiculous anxiety bouncing off the walls, in reality felt like HOURS.

Once she was gone and I was satisfied she hadn’t alerted the local loony bin / social services / police and I’d checked several times that the carpet fitter’s van across the road didn’t inhabit a crack team of surveillance experts I then finally felt able to collapse with in a pool of relief / tears / self loathing.

I couldn’t answer the door. It was just a physical impossibility.

Paralysed and rooted to the spot with shame.

I’d had just about enough. I was exhausted, Noah had been up to his usual tricks of mind fuckery and hadn’t slept well at all. Rob is on some new hefty medication for his ME, which is sending him all over the place and I have to make sure he doesn’t have any adverse reactions to it. Add in the usual stresses; money, health, a general lack of any caffeine in my house, having zero energy and I snapped.

What would’ve happened if I’d answered the door?

The poor woman was just popping in quickly to say hello, so I could retake the questionnaire I did a few weeks ago, to see if I magically felt any better. She’d have been faced with me, dressed in three-day old pyjamas, hollow eyed, hair sticking up in scary peaks like a disgruntled lion, unblinking and two seconds away from bursting into tears. All while Noah is smeared with chocolate spread, wearing his pants on his head and humming “Baby Got Back”.

I would’ve crumbled as soon as her sympathetic eyes fell on me. I’d be totally powerless to put on the brave face for another moment and I’d have cried and cried and pleaded and cried.

I would’ve told her that I don’t want to be here anymore.

That I can’t do this.

That I’m not coping well at all.

That all I want to do is hide in bed and cease to be. Switch off entirely. And wake up when all this has blown over and I don’t care how long it takes.

That I cannot deal with Noah.

That I think I’m being an appalling mum.

That I shout at him too much.

That I’m crippled with guilt and worry.

That I’m just so, so tired of this.

And please, please make this stop.

I couldn’t do that though really, could I? We’re just not allowed to say those things out loud. We’re not allowed to feel those desperate, gut wrenching emotions. We’re simply not permitted to cry, or to say that we can’t cope. Not when you have children. Not when people depend on you. Not when you’re supposed to be OK now. Not when that breakdown thing a while ago was just a “little blip”.

But how much longer can this go on for? How much longer can I keep ignoring the door, or the phone or hiding those unopened letters? How can I continue to refuse to face up to this? The fear if I actually do look at it properly, recognise it and study its jagged edges, its poinsonous surface, will I be able to even pretend to function? Will it all fall apart at the seams and unravel completely?

And that’s why I couldn’t answer the door.

I couldn’t bear to face what I knew would be standing on my doorstep, which wasn’t really the kindly health visitor with the soothing voice and the sympathetic manner. It was all my shame and doubt and guilt rolled into one big clusterfuck, and I just couldn’t face it. I hid away, I sobbed and I swallowed back the gasps of air, and I sat in silence as it hammered on the door for an eternity until I could hear it drive away again.

Scars

TRIGGER WARNING.

People say that our scars tell a story. Some scars are funny anecdotes – the time I fell into a barbed wire fence, it WAS funny, honest, or when my pet hamster sank it’s evil little fangs into the fleshy pad of my thumb. Others are accidents; when the knife slipped, the grater grazed your knuckles, a burn from the oven. And then there’s the scars that you’re left with, that you gave yourself.

I call them my zebra stripes. All along my left arm, and down my thighs. I barely notice them anymore, but I know they’re there.

Self harm is never something I set out to do, it wasn’t a decision I made or planned. Y’know, “Right, I feel like cutting and gauging myself. I’ll do a bit of that after I’ve made dinner.” Nah. None of that. A good ten years ago or so, I’d find myself in so much pain, such a degree of completely blinding pain, which all seemed to be resonating somewhere deep within my chest. Nothing seemed real at that point, everything felt like a sickening monochrome nightmare in slow motion. The hurt was too unbearable, the tears so violent that without realising what I was doing, I’d claw at my arms, sink my nails into the backs of my hands and scour them desperately, maybe subconsciously trying to release whatever it was inside that I genuinely thought was killing me. I’d awake the next day, to discover these horribly crude scratches carved all over my hand and forearm, almost as if for the first time, as I was completely unaware of doing it at the night before. And they bloody hurt. Like, really bloody hurt. I’d find myself cradling my arm with the other, to protect it, I’d wince when I’d use it, my skin taut and paper-thin.

But I felt better.

Sounds awful. I know. But focusing on that physical pain and concentrating on my tender flesh, averted my thoughts from the stuff inside that was really fucking hurting.

And that’s where it began. I self-harmed for about 5 years, to varying degrees. From several times a day, to only occasionally. It wasn’t ever planned, but I knew when I had to do it. Under the cover of my phone, I’d carry a razor-sharp blade, just so I knew it was there. When I was still living at home with my family, all offending items were hidden from me; razors, scissors, knives, nail trimmers, whatever you can think of, was confiscated. The unadulterated panic that this brought, was unlike anything I’ve ever known, the fear that the dark, numbing pain would soon grasp its unbreakable hold around me and I’d never be able to be free of it again was horrifying.

So I’d smash lightbulbs, and use the glass. And when they too were taken I’d break mirrors and picture frames, I no longer cared, I just needed to feel that relief once more.

The need to self-harm seemed to die out by itself. It wasn’t ever a status symbol, to be in with the cool kids. The angry red lines were always hidden, I’d wear long sleeves and jeans on the hottest days of the year to disguise them.

But there were times, when someone caught a glimpse. When a flippant “Oh, my cat did it,” just wasn’t enough. I didn’t even HAVE a cat then FFS. And the anger and total bewilderment I’d see written all over my loved ones faces simply made me want to lock myself in the bathroom and do it again.

When your agony is beyond the point of comprehension, you’ll turn to anything to ease it somewhat, even if it’s just for a moment of peace. Drinking, drugs, screwing around, gambling, eating, not eating and indeed cutting yourself are all harmful in one way or another. Self-harm seems to carry a taboo as it’s seen as barbaric and even inhuman to want to hurt yourself, but it shouldn’t. It’s not always a “cry for help” as it’s often described, or attention seeking. It’s a need. A simple desperate need just to switch off that pain that’s numbing you within, with something more tangible and easier to understand.

I haven’t self-harmed for over 5 years. But the desire to do it remains with me every single day. Really and truly I hope that self-harm is soon recognised for what it’s for, and is no longer met with anger and disgust, or cast aside as a childish want for attention. In the majority of cases, it really isn’t. And like drinking to excess, drug abuse and eating disorders, the only way to stop it is to treat the catalyst; the mental illnesses, the depression and stress disorders, not keeping the scissors hidden from sight and keeping your fingers crossed that it won’t happen again.

Alone

The alarm goes off in the morning, or in my case, my son jumps on my face, it’s time to get up. New day and all that. Let’s get going! But alas, no, it’s not that simple. The thought of being awake, the thought of being up and aware of the black thoughts in my head and the utter numbness of my body, the sheer lack of any trace of energy, makes my stomach drop and the day in my eyes is already ruined before my feet have even touched the carpet beside my bed.

It’s time to eat, to clothe and to clean. To engage, and teach and play. What shall it be today? Letters or numbers? Shall we go to the park? Can we bake a cake? Alas no, I won’t do any of these things, I’ll stay in my pyjamas, I won’t get dressed, I won’t get Noah dressed. We’re not going anywhere. We won’t see anyone, because I don’t want to see anyone. When the postman rings the doorbell, or the window cleaner knocks, I’ll tell him to be quiet, like a game.

Noah will ask for jam on his toast, and when I give him the plate of little triangles, he’ll say he now wants peanut butter. I won’t say anything, I’ll return to the kitchen and cry quietly while I stick the fresh slices of bread in the toaster, and the worst part is I don’t know why. I don’t why everything is so difficult. No one else finds it this hard, do they?

A little later, Noah will ask for me to play with him, or say he wants to paint. But there’s always an excuse up my sleeve, there’s something else more important I must do right now. A phone call, an email, putting out the rubbish. Anything. And I’ll feel horrendous that I can’t just sit and be with my son, that I’m denying him well, me. I’m used to blocking everyone else out, but my son?

I’ll promise myself that I’ll save the day by making a family dinner, so we can all sit down together, Noah likes it when we do that. But I won’t. The good intentions will fly out of the window, and he’ll eat what he always does, at the table with his toys.

I’ll give him his bath, and put him to bed, and he falls asleep while I read to him quietly, I’ll watch him sleeping. My beautiful boy, my beautiful beautiful boy. My boy that deserves so much more than I can give him. My boy that I love more than I can ever put into words, hasn’t got a proper mum. A mum to play with and teach him, to run around with and give him everything he wants. I’ll sit and watch him sleep, and the tears will prick my eyes and I’ll promise myself – promise him that tomorrow will be better.

But will it? Will it? I’m not in control here, something much more powerful is. Something I have no control over. My family, my friends will say what a good mum I am, but I’ll know different deep down, swimming amongst the darkness and all consuming nothingness, that I’m not. I’m really not. I’m everything I told myself I wouldn’t be. My baby is sleeping upstairs, alone, and when he wakes up, I’ll be with him and watch him and make sure he’s safe and fed. But I won’t be here, not really, I’ll be lost in my own selfish thoughts, pointlessly fighting against the blackness that engulfs me, and my baby will still be alone.