Warning signs

Allow me to skip ahead slightly. I need to tell you about the people I lived with in Norfolk, but first let me tell you about someone even worse. 

When I first moved to Newcastle, I slept on my friend’s sofa for a few nights. Well, that’s where I was meant to be sleeping – however, I immediately found someone with lots of ketamine and speed so I didn’t really sleep at all for the first few days I was here. But at least I wasn’t on the streets.

My friend knew someone who had a spare room and wasn’t too fussed about getting rent in advance or a deposit, and as I didn’t really have much choice over where I was going to live I just took it. Had I not been so inconveniently fucked/up, I might have noticed all the red flags that were right there in front of me. And there were A LOT.

Firstly, she was very interested in the fact that I used to look after my grandparents. Now, this lady – let’s call her Anne, mainly because I just looked up at a book and it was the first name I saw – had a disability. I didn’t really care about that (in an ‘it doesn’t bother me’ way, not in an unkind way) because I figured she’d lived alone long enough – she was 40 –  to know how to take care of herself. And she had. But she didn’t. Now, had I known what I was signing up for, and had I not been a complete fucking mess, I might have been better equipped to deal with this. As it stood, I wasn’t. I was happy to clean, take the bins out, walk the dog, feed the cats, sort the garden, whatever. It was the little things I couldn’t handle. It was being interrupted from writing to open a tin, when she had an electric tin opener. It was phone calls when I was staying at my friend’s house, saying that she’d accidentally cut herself and I needed to get home. I couldn’t cope with the responsibility that I hadn’t asked for. This was red flag #1.

So I started avoiding going home. I hate confrontation and my response to anxiety defaults to flight mode so I just avoided the problem entirely. I was still paying to live there, but I found it too difficult to actually be around Anne so I stayed away whenever I could.

Red flag #2 was a particularly sneaky one. Anne had recently come in to quite a bit of money and she was just blowing through it like crazy. The flat was full of things that she’d bought and hadn’t opened, or things that didn’t fit, or things that she’d bought and simply had no idea what to do with. She was very generous and I was totally brassic, so she’d lend me her nice clothes for job interviews and for going out with her, and she’d also buy me things. Most of the time they weren’t useful things (or even things I wanted – she went to London and somehow found me the most hideous handbag in the entire city, along with one in a slightly different colour for herself) but I felt as though I couldn’t say no without offending her. She never tried to give me money or anything like that, but I hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that each gift I accepted from her was indebting me to her more and more. After a while, I realised what was going on and just started keeping the gifts to one side so that I could give them back to her at some point.

One day she got cross with me for not being home when she needed me and when I came back she’d gone through everything in my room and taken back every single item that she had lent me – and all of the ‘gifts’ as well. Red flag #3. But thank fuck for that. I was 26, I didn’t need any Hello Kitty snowglobes or terrified looking Beefeater teddy bears.

I mentioned here that Anne was very interested in the fact I had tarot cards. She pestered me to read them for her, and I refused because I didn’t want to cause her any psychological stress. What may seem like an innocous question to me and thus generate a flippant response may be over-analysed and taken far too seriously by someone like Anne. If she asked me what starsign the next bloke she fucked was going to be, and I was like ‘Oh I dunno, Cancer, whatever’, you can guarantee that Anne would have amended her dating site trawling to exclude anyone other than people born in late June to mid-July. I also mentioned in that post about her ‘friend’ the psychic. The ‘friend’ who she had to use a premium-rate number to talk to. Red flag #4. Although this one is more of an ‘oh mate’ than cause for grave concern. I think. I’m actually a fucking terrible judge of character.

The trouble was that she genuinely had no idea how to be alone. I didn’t understand this. I actively want to be left alone most of the time and I didn’t really see that she wanted a companion, someone to drink wine with while she recorded every single episode of the X-Factor (red flag #5). When she realised that I was literally just a lodger, she turned her focus back to finding someone to fulfil her emotional needs in other ways – she stepped up her hunt for a boyfriend. This is when I actually genuinely got a bit scared. During one of the conversations where she left her bedroom door open (there was a phone downstairs – there was literally no need for her to do this upstairs other than to make sure I could hear) she was chatting to some bloke she’d found on a dating site. I say chatting, but really I mean yelling and sobbing uncontrollably – screeching ‘I’ll sell my flat and come to you, or you can come here, I’ll tell you where I live, blah blah blah’ and I just remember lying in my bedroom with a pillow over my head lamenting the fact that I’d moved in with someone who was probably going to get me killed by a rapey axe-murderer.

Bear in mind, I’m still ill at this point. This is in the midst of benzo withdrawal, changes of drugs, psychiatrist appointments… I was really trying to heal and this was stressing me out so fucking much.

Once I realised that she was trying to trap me by buying and giving me things, I stopped accepting them. She decided to get a puppy and another cat. I suddenly developed a bad back and a ton of allergies and I moved out. See, red flags #6 to #20 or so were to do with the animals and the state of the house. She couldn’t look after herself properly and she really shouldn’t have been collecting more animals. When I first moved in, she had a dog. The dog was a Good Dog. I used to let her sleep on my bed because I missed the dogs I’d had in Norfolk. One night, the dog got sick. I had come home ridiculously late and passed out. Once I actually get to sleep I’m ASLEEP so I didn’t hear it at first, but the dog was whining and whimpering and she was obviously suffering. I went out to check on her, and Anne appeared at the top of the stairs. She said, ‘Oh Kim, she’s been doing this since last night. I don’t know what to do.’

She’d just left her to cry.

I buried the dog in the garden the next morning.

Singing like a canary

People keep commending me for my honesty. Please understand that I don’t particularly want to be this honest. I wish I could just pretend that none of it happened. All I’m really doing is controlling the narrative. You can’t hold anything over me if I’ve already blabbed all my own secrets.

I can control what you know but I can’t control what you think or feel. I can present a scenario that may seem like either a particularly tragic low point or simply just another item on the list of terrible things that I’ve done. The things I’m writing about on here are things that I’ve spent much of my life either denying or trying very hard to forget altogether. I could never own the things that I did because I was always too ashamed to even acknowledge them. In my teens, I used to go to London once or twice a week just so I could pretend to be someone else because the reality that awaited me back in Essex was just too fucking dire for me to cope with.

Some of these things are hard to write about. I still haven’t read this blog back through properly, so there’s a chance that I’ve unintentionally repeated myself in places. There are also missing parts, parts where I was so crazy or drunk or high or all of the above that I simply have no idea what happened. But some of the missing parts are missing because I just don’t know how to say them.

If you lie to yourself long enough, you rewrite your own history. It becomes hard to remember what really happened. The dissociation caused by a traumatic episode causes you to lose entire scenes from your personal narrative but telling the same lie over and over again also has a similar effect. Wherever possible I try to acknowledge that particular incidents may not be the way that I remember them to be, but there might be parts of the story that I’m misremembering without even realising.

I have no real reason to lie about any of this. I have no real reason for even telling the story.

I did some bad things that led to me leaving Norfolk and I can’t blame the drugs or my mental health. I regret most of what I did. I stole from people. I drank too much and fucked up at work and got caught lying and ruined everything. I cheated on my boyfriend – but not at the point he thought I was cheating on him. I cheated on him within the first week of us getting together. I was actually completely faithful after that, but he logged into my twitter account and saw some private messages that looked extremely incriminating. I took drugs. I fucked people who I shouldn’t have fucked.

And the worst thing about all of this is that I was so fucking angry with everyone when I left Norfolk. I justified my behaviour by labelling other people enablers and resenting them for the fact they never tried to help me. Occasionally people would have a quiet word, always prefaced with ‘other people have noticed…’ so they didn’t have to confront me directly about what I was doing to myself. I would brush it off – sometimes kindly, by saying I was getting help and was taking my medication and all the other platitudes, and sometimes simply telling the person that they could tell ‘other people’ to fuck off. But no one ever sat me down and said ‘I’m really worried about you’. And I was angry about that. Even through all my self-hatred, I couldn’t cope with the indifference of others. I wanted a scene. I wanted help. I just didn’t know what the fuck I was doing or how to cope with how I’d ended up.

A few weeks ago I was walking through town and I saw a girl, probably in her late-teens, wearing shorts that highlighted the fact she had cuts from the tops of her thighs to her knees. She was wearing those scratches with the kind of misguided pride that you only get when you’ve found something that hurts more than the constant psychic blows to the gut that you get when your own thoughts are making your life a misery. Once I got over the initial ‘oh look, it’s me in a past life’ feeling, and tried to ignore the little voice that reminds me of how it felt to do that and tries to convince me that it helped (it felt good, admit it, you felt like you were playing fucking god), I suddenly felt fucking terrible because I knew there’s some other poor bastard destined to go through all the same shit I did, just to find a bit of inner peace.

As I’ve said before, it’s attention-seeking behaviour – but not as you know it. I don’t mean it in an unsympathetic way, but of course it is. Nothing draws the attention like someone who looks like attempted suicide is part of their morning routine. But people think attention-seeking behaviour is dependant on the attention they give to that person, not on the attention being sought by them. I didn’t do it so that people could talk about me, because all they ever did was whisper to each other behind my back about how repulsive I was. I think maybe I just wanted to shock people into seeing how much fucking pain I was in. I just wanted someone to understand. I wanted someone to care.

At the time, I wasn’t self-aware enough about any of this. I was still feeling orphaned after the death of my grandparents and I was determined to hurt myself as much as possible. I probably wouldn’t have even accepted anyone’s help, unless it was in the form of something I could snort.

If you can’t love, you might as well hate – it’s ultimately the same feeling anyway. Indifference, however,  is the worst feeling of all. I haven’t spoken to my family for ten years now. They haven’t really gone out of their way to look for me. All of the pain that I was scarring into my arms forever for the whole world to see has never once been seen by the people who truly hurt me. All of my self-harm was nothing more than a way of lashing out at people who I had no power to hurt. And what if I ever saw them again? To show them the scars and say ‘you did this’ would just be acknowledging that they had that power over me to begin with. I refuse to allow them that. The only way I can overcome their indifference is by matching it with my own.

The hotel room

Most of what I’ve written about my life so far paints me in a fairly sympathetic light. I’m able to distance myself enough to know that I’m probably not to blame for all of the things for which I blame myself.
I blame myself regardless.

I already said somewhere that there’s more to the story, and this part of the story is where I become the antagonist. I can’t excuse my actions. I can barely even face up to them. For a long time, I wasn’t a very nice person. I have to live with this. I’m still a pretty shitty person and I have no one to blame but myself.

I’ve already written about how I ended up in Norfolk. Now I’m going to write about what happened while I was there.
I’ll try, anyway.
Some of it is horrible and it’s so long and I’m sorry.

Let’s start at the end and go backwards. This is just easing myself in. 

It was 2010, and it was the middle of August. None of this feels real to me, because I didn’t feel real at the time. I was in a hotel just outside of Norwich, in a room that I had booked at my (ex-)stepmother’s house shortly before she and my half-sister washed their hands of me, using a debit card which I knew had no money on it. I had nowhere else to go.

Not right then, anyway. But I had a plan.

I like to make plans but my plans often fuck up because I worry about the wrong bits or get distracted by the little things and fail to see everything through to the end. But these kinds of plans, the ones that are as close as you can really get to life-or-death situations in modern society, usually work out. I always land on my feet. Battered and bruised and generally quite fucked up, but on my feet nonetheless.

Sadly, there’s usually a fair bit of collateral damage. When I’m desperate, I’ll say and do anything. I manipulate situations so that the outcome is the one I need it to be, and if that involves manipulating other people then so be it. When I moved to Norfolk, I needed somewhere to live but I didn’t have any money. My sister had introduced me to a guy who had a spare room, and I figured out pretty quickly that I would be able to seduce him. So I did.

I pretty much ruined him and he was already broken to begin with. But he fought back. He was part of the reason why I was stuck in a hotel room – but if you knew the full truth then you’d understand that I totally deserved to be there. Or on the streets, to be fair. In a gutter somewhere, like a rat.

I will tell you the full truth, eventually. I promise.

Here are some truths: I was 26. I was very blonde, very skinny, very poor and I was off my face on a number of different chemicals. I was taking pregablin for my anxiety, along with venlafaxine that was actually making me manic but I hadn’t realised it yet, and lots and lots of lorazepam to keep my head calm. These might have all worked a bit better had I not been bombing cocktails of cocaine and as much ephedrine as my heart would allow. I had accidentally become addicted to the lorazepam. My doctor hadn’t warned me that benzos were so addictive – nor that they were dangerous to withdraw from. He just kept giving me more and more. The ephedrine was to keep me awake enough to function. I used to buy it from chemists but I had started to get stronger stuff from random bodybuilding websites. Bodybuilders used to use ephedrine/caffeine/aspirin stacks for stamina and fat burning. I was using it to fuel my eating disorder and to lift the lorazepam fog.

I was completely fucking crazy. I should have been locked away for my own safety but I’d already hit the point where I was more likely to end up in prison than a psych ward. I had royally fucked up. Not only had I burned all my bridges, I’d thrown a flaming sack of shit behind me as I took off and left everyone else to deal with the mess. Most of the people I had met were all extremely cross with me, to put it mildly.

I only stayed in the hotel from Saturday to Wednesday. I had lied to the people running the place, told them some bullshit sob story to try and stop them charging me for the room until I’d worked out where I was going to get the money from to actually pay for it.

I called my ex-lover in America. I told him I needed saving, that I had no-one else to turn to and nowhere else to go. He offered to pay for the room. I told him I wasn’t sure. I needed to escape – a getaway was more important. I’d be stuck in the room forever, otherwise. Or I’d end up on the streets and, in the state I was in at the time, I wouldn’t have lasted very long. I begged my best friend to let me stay with her, and luckily for me she agreed. My ex bought me a train ticket to Newcastle. Both of these people saved my life and only one of them is still talking to me – barely. People who need rescuing from their terrible life choices tend to keep making them and it gets fucking tiresome after a while.

Four months before this, I had spent a dreadful weekend trying to hurt myself in as many ways as I possibly could. You can read more about that chapter of emo here and here. The only bit I left out was that it was a bank holiday weekend – it was Easter – and after spending Friday night overdosing and Saturday night wondering if it was the police car or the ambulance that would be taking me away, I spent Sunday night piercing my bottom lip with a needle and an earring. It tore out a month or so later. I can still feel the scar when I run my tongue along the inside of my lip.

Why is this relevant? I guess it isn’t. Not really. I’m trying to avoid saying what I want to say. I don’t want to tell you that for the few days I stayed in the hotel, every trip to the bathroom for a line ended with me re-opening the same cut on my leg. I had become addicted to the endorphin rush that came with hurting myself. I don’t want to talk about how every time I pulled my skinny emo jeans up, the fabric stuck to the open wound and every time I pulled my jeans down to pee, I ripped the wound back open. I don’t want to tell you that I was using a dirty blade to make the cuts because I wanted the cut to get infected. I wanted horrible scars. I wanted to make myself as disgusting and unlovable as I felt inside.

My limbs could have rotted away completely for all I cared at the time. I had given up trying to kill myself quickly and was going for a torturously slow suicide instead. I wanted to fuck myself up. I was a waste of a human being. I wanted to live but I wanted to suffer for it. I had enough fight left in me to keep myself alive but I couldn’t foresee myself ever having any kind of happiness so I wallowed in this horrible murky fucking misery until it messed me up completely.

I’m terrified I’ll end up like this again one day. The darkness returns from time to time, I get cornered by shadows until I realise that all the light has disappeared and it’s hard to find my way back out. It never gets quite as bad as it was in the hotel room but it knows it scares me and it plays on it, mocking me. The trouble is that there isn’t an awful lot of feeling in the daylight. The light brings peace, and happiness is a calm, non-reactive state. I struggle with this. I have never convinced my mind that everything would still be okay even if it did chill the fuck out from time to time. I don’t enjoy the drama that comes with dealing with other people, but my mind has a million memories and daydreams and I can feel all manner of emotion from each and every one of them. Without wishing to sound as though I’m romanticising this in any way, I wouldn’t feel alive without all of those emotions. I’d rather have my heart broken by some guy I’ve never met or worry endlessly about every interaction I ever have with anyone than feel calm. Calm is nothing. Calm scares me. Calm is the abyss from which the monsters gaze upon me.

The person to whom I tell all my thoughts thinks it must be very tiring being like this. He’s right. It’s fucking exhausting.

On the Wednesday morning, I had to go to the Jobcentre. I would have left Norwich sooner if it hadn’t been for that. As soon as I was finished there, I got a bag together, left my suitcase and some clothes in the hotel room and boarded a train to Newcastle. In my bag I had a few spare clothes, a Kurt Vonnegut book, my makeup and a shitload of drugs.

I don’t remember the train journey.

Mastering the green-eyed demons

Jealousy is an unsustainable state, yet the feelings that cause it feed on themselves –  and each other –  to constantly bring that state into consciousness. 

I say it’s unsustainable; it can be sustained but it will drive you fucking crazy. 

It’s an ambivalent emotion. It’s very passive-aggressive. It’s the inner turmoil between being deeply insecure yet almost arrogant when faced with perceived slights. The insecurity makes you feel inadequate, as though literally everyone is better than you in some way. It makes you feel as though you don’t deserve anything good because you simply aren’t good enough somehow. Then our brains use one or more of it’s wonderful mental shortcuts (that in reality often just hinder our reasoning) to find “evidence” that this is, in fact, the case. The sudden increase in anxiety triggers a further ‘fight or flight’-type response and then you either end it or force a confrontation because you’re panicking like hell that the horrible little voice is right and you really are a worthless piece of shit. 

This is all subjective. This is all how it arises in me. This is what I deal with. That’s why I’m comfortable calling it arrogance – that’s how it feels to me. 

However, I’m emotionally unstable. I’m aware that although I can recognise emotions, I sometimes misidentify them. I also have the same mental hindrances as everyone else so I can’t always correctly identify why I’m feeling a certain way, be it through denial or some other bias. This feeds into the insecurity. I know it’s wrong of me to demand things from another person, whether it’s time, gestures or even reassurances. That makes me feel even worse. I don’t want to be demanding. But the problem is still there. The feelings escalate. I hate myself for being needy but hating myself is what started this fucking problem in the first place. 

So I don’t know if it actually is arrogance. It feels that way because it’s some kind of need and I’m conditioned to think I’m terrible for needing anything at all. I can’t objectively examine this part of me at this time – I’m not far enough away yet. 

Understanding this isn’t particularly useful right now. I have no clue how to fix this. The obvious answer is to work on not beating myself up so much but it’s difficult for some people to understand how much of it is automatic. It’s like being brainwashed. You have to have a million fucking epiphanies for every one of the negative thoughts but it’s hard to even catch them in the first place. Minds aren’t as easy to control as you would think. I don’t have to put any thought into putting myself down in the same way you don’t have to put any thought into breathing. 

Have you ever had sleep paralysis? Where you wake up and you can’t do anything and you can’t breathe and you’re mentally screaming at your body to wake the fuck up and inhale and then you suddenly, violently, snap out of it? That moment of panic when you realise your mind isn’t controlling your body like it’s supposed to is similar to the moments when I can step back momentarily only to realise that I’ve somehow caused a whole load of trouble again because my mind can’t seem to control my emotions – or my reactions to them, at least. 

It’s not quite the same, obviously. I just want you to know that the feeling of ‘oh shit, autopilot isn’t working and I’ve got no idea how to work the controls’ that you get with sleep paralysis is how it feels when I try to regulate my emotions. Best intentions and crossed fingers ultimately make useless co-pilots. 

Writing it out makes the emotions seem more important than they really are. I didn’t get much from CBT but I did learn that I am not my emotions. (I disagree that I’m not my thoughts, although that’s an entirely different discussion.) You don’t have to worry if I say I’m sad. Misery is an old friend and he wanders off a lot. We all have a friend who is just there, someone for whom the reason why we ever became friends in the first place is long-forgotten (yet frequently questioned). But they are still comforting, in their own miserable way. It’s only when they’re actively trying to kill us that we need worry.

I need to write it out though. If I don’t, I’ll forget it and then have to go through it all again. This isn’t something that can be fixed by being given an answer. You need to feel it. 

Some people, when they’re dealing with negative emotions, are able to take their minds off the problem by doing something to keep them busy. Work, for example. I’ve never been able to do that. I can’t ignore what I’m feeling. I have to feel it. But what fucking use is it, really? I wish I’d taken up the guitar or something instead. 

Merci (toujours) 

I only really think of you out of context. I forget that sometimes. Maybe I do it deliberately, maybe I choose to forget; I’m not sure. Either way, I don’t really think about you as you really are. I don’t imagine what you’re doing when I don’t hear from you. I simply can’t imagine it. That part of your life is unknown to me, I can’t possibly imagine it because it just doesn’t exist in my mind.

And I’ve been so unfair to you. You don’t belong to me.

You reminded me that there is more to life out there. I have moments like right now when it seems plausible – almost probable – that amazing things are going to happen but then I have moments where I can barely comprehend any kind of tomorrow. You gave me that rush back, the one you get when the future looks all shiny and new and hopeful. And you help me hold on to it for longer each time. I know I haven’t come far but I haven’t given up.

The conversations I loved the most were the ones where we found ourselves on adventures with each other in our heads, without even really saying anything. You could just say “road trip” and somehow I’m there with you, with my bare feet on your dashboard. Sometimes it’s like you live in my dreams.

But fucking hell… That would be a terrible place to live. That’s where all the zombies and evil robotic mimes come from.

For all that you are, I think you know there’s always going to be something more out there no matter how much you achieve. Always a ‘what if…’; always a niggling feeling that perhaps there’s an important experience you’ve missed out on. But maybe I’m wrong; maybe you’ll get to the end and finally feel like there’s nothing else worth chasing.

I hope so. Happiness has to be around there somewhere, right?

Even if you don’t find happiness, I hope you have a wonderful time trying. And this isn’t goodbye… But perhaps this is the end of a chapter. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next one, but something has changed… hasn’t it?