Repose

A few months after I took too many pills and woke up in hospital, I saw the counsellor. I can’t remember her actual job title. She was just some kind of halfway point between seeing a GP and seeing a mental health consultant; a lady with a clipboard who ticked boxes to see whether I was mental enough in the correct categories and could therefore be offered a chance to be diagnosed properly.

I wasn’t.

I have wondered if I’ve been a bit mean about her. I was feeling hostile and I was projecting hostility onto the world. Perhaps she said the thing about the cuts on my arms being ugly in a more kindly way than I suggested. You know, in a kind of motherly gesture: I don’t want you to regret this when you’re older. But I remember meeting her a few years before when I had to have an assessment and we never seemed to quite get comfortable with each other. I’m sure she was fine at dealing with textbook cases of depression but I kept trying to explain and she never quite listened properly because I wasn’t saying things that were on her little tick list. How often has your mood been low in the last week? I don’t feel anything. Low would be an improvement. Weird silence. No, but how often have you felt bad…

And then I also remember the later appointment, the one I’m talking about here where I’m clearly in a worse place, and her saying: ‘Well, I can tell you’re not too depressed because you’ve got nice make-up on.” and me thinking how bad she was at her job. She was very cold. So, while her precise words have faded from my memory, I’m still reasonably certain that she was just a shitty counsellor.

She asked me: When you took the overdose, did you want to die or just go to sleep for a long time? And I laughed, because I thought ‘You’ve just read that somewhere, in some article about why people try to kill themselves, and this is you trying to be understanding and knowledgeable.’ There was no curiosity in her question, it was as though she just took for granted that everyone who goes through a similar experience will perceive it in the same way.

Although I was curious as to what death looked like, I wasn’t actually ready for it. I just wanted to peek behind the curtain before my time was called, but I didn’t want to die right then. I don’t think I seriously thought I would. In fact, it was more of a very, very drastic attempt to save myself. I couldn’t continue, but I didn’t want to leave my body. I wanted to empty it, to purify it and start over. Fill it with good things, useful things. I didn’t want to hurt my body. I feel bad about my body because I’ve ruined it, the poor thing. Not that it was ever perfect, although I guess it is if you view it as a flawed canvas. It’s actually very dependable – it’s been through a lot and still somehow brushes itself off and carries on. It just patches itself up when I hurt it; it yawns at my cuts. I don’t know how it does it. It’s quite marvellous, actually.

Anyway, how long would you even need to sleep to recover from something traumatic? I could be asleep forever. That would be no good.

(I barely sleep. I hardly eat. I’m not doing so well.)

No, I was trying to kill myself. My self. My ego; my mind. My identity was so fragile and fractured that I was barely sentient, and versions of myself from earlier points in time were yelling at me from inside my own mind. The lights weren’t on, but everyone was home. It was a fucking nightmare. I needed them to leave. It was an eviction, not a suicide. Attempts at a mental breakthrough had simply not worked, I figured I’d harness physical power and purge my past selves out.

My worst hangover story is worse than your worst hangover story.

It didn’t work, but it shocked them into silence. Over time, I realised it might just be better to listen to what they’re trying to tell me. Pass their messages along.

I can’t bring myself to think too deeply about this, because it’s not a very nice thing to think about. It’s not entirely safe to dwell upon. I don’t even like noticing Samaritans signs on bridges – someone like me once walked past that sign, and either didn’t pay attention to it or they considered it and chose the other option. That someone could have been me.

I mourn for every single part of myself that has died inside me, just as I mourn the loved ones who have left me.

Maybe this is what I was talking to the counsellor about, because we started talking about my grandad and she made it pretty clear that I should have stopped being messed up by his death by that point. She said I had ‘complicated grief’ – I’d got stuck on one of the stages of grieving and couldn’t figure out where to go next. She didn’t actually offer me any advice, she just said that was what I had. I had to look it up myself.

The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Where was I stuck? I have no idea. I feel like I didn’t go through any of them for a while, and then they all hit me at once. The place where I had gotten stuck was one where I couldn’t let go of my grief; the pain was the last feeling I was left with – I was terrified that if I got ‘over it’ then I wouldn’t have anything at all. My memories would fade and they would leave me alone forever. I didn’t want them to leave. Perhaps this was anger, directed at myself. You mustn’t forget this: you fucked everything else up.

(I hope you’re happy now.)

At some point in the month after I saw this woman, I went back to my doctor. I felt like I was losing control again, and I was starting to get scared for myself. Scared of myself. I asked him if he could get me locked away; I was no longer capable of managing my own life.

‘No,’ he said. ‘You’ll go mad in there and then they’ll never let you out.’

23 comments on “Repose

  1. Interesting read, and thank you for sharing. Opens my mind up more to how varied peoples lives are. 🙏

  2. I’m glad you’re still here. Very much so. The doctor is a bit off. We can go mad while out in the world just as easily. But you didn’t. You’re strong, and I admire you for that.

    • I’m glad I’m still here too. I was pretty broken when it happened – sadly, it felt like my only option. The doctor thought he was helping, in his very strange way. I think part of the reason he gave me so many pills was so I had a chance to get my head straight without being hospitalised – I genuinely freaked him out once and he quite liked me so he wanted to do all he could to save me. Unfortunately, the only thing GPs can really do is offer prescriptions so it backfired a bit.

    • Oh, and I’m really, really not strong. I’m pretty fucking fragile – it’s all just a front. I get hurt far too easily.

      • You seem genuinely strong to me. I think it’s because you’ve been through so much and you’re here talking about it frankly.

        • I wish I was strong. Or stronger, at least. Writing about it all is helping me work through that – I’m only just starting to realise that many things I’ve blamed myself for weren’t actually my fault…

          • Yes! So much that. I’ve been trying to take care of things that aren’t my responsibility. So I stopped.

          • Yeah, same here. Fuck it, it’s too much hard work worrying about all that on top of the things that I’m actually genuinely responsible for. I’ll never get the important things under control if I’m trying to fix absolutely everything.

          • Airplane rule.

            You know that lecture they give when you’re on a plane – it includes instructions to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. Well, that’s true in life as well. You can’t help someone else if you’ve got no energy.

          • I should pay more attention to this. I don’t even have the energy to help myself at the moment.

          • What would you need to get that energy?

          • Camping in a forest by myself for about a month would probably do it. Realistically though, I’m not sure. I’m a bit of a disaster at the minute. It’s 3am here… Staying up this late every night isn’t helping.

          • Oh, right! You’re about 5 hours ahead there. You must be tired now.

            I have something you can try. Watch videos of AMSR on YouTube. Very relaxing and soothing.

          • That is, because it seems at this point that a nice rest would give you the most energy.

  3. Wow, that one counselor lady is totally shit at her job. Xp I think it is horrible but also kind of funny how someone could be that bad at their job.

    I digress…

    I actually made it here at a halfway normal hour (my time) and I’m flooring it to catch up. I hope you are doing well.

    Cheers! ^_^

    • JULY?! How has so much time passed?!

      And yeah, it is horrible but I can totally see the humour in it too. A therapist who just goes around breaking people. I might turn her into a character when I finally start writing fiction 😀

      (I’m just randomly replying here and there right now – I’m so sorry I haven’t been around much though. I really hope you’re doing well!)

  4. That counselor was reading from a manual, did you more harm maybe. Only you know inside whether you are strong or not. Some years ago my Dr sent me to a Counselor I was very lucky, it was through “Mind” and she was very patient with me and eventually unlocked so much. You have to have been through Depression I believe to understand what another is growing through. Depression does not disappear, it comes back from time to time and we have to learn to cope as best we can. I totally agree with you staying up into the early hours does not help, I never sleep now before 6am, average about three hours sleep, yes it does damage but it is so terribly hard to break. Keep writing as you do, I find it helps so much. Take care poppet.

    • I don’t think she did me any harm because I wasn’t overly taken with her to begin with – when she started with the ‘teen girl magazine psychobabble’ she lost me completely. It only harmed me in the sense that I didn’t get to see someone helpful!

      That’s really good to know though. I’ve never approached Mind but it’s nice to know there are other options out there. I don’t want to comment too much on depression because I’ve never been formally diagnosed with it and I find it only tends to happen to me after a manic/hypomanic period, but I totally agree that it doesn’t seem to ever go away. I’m getting better at recognising it now – when I was younger I would only realise that the sadness I was feeling wasn’t a permanent part of ‘me’ once I was past the absolute lowest point. These days I can see it coming. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to control it, whatever it is.

      I hope you’re doing well. Stay strong 🙂

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