Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Baths & Scars

I like to take baths. As my favourite author/poet Sylvia Plath once quoted, There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them.”. Since my parents and I moved into this new house and I acquired my own bathroom, I've fallen in love with turning to my bathroom, running a hot bath, turning all the lights off, lighting the candles, using bubble bath or a bath bomb, and just laying there in the overwhelming heat. I tend to use this opportunity to build up a relationship with my body, as I use lotions and potions to make my skin softer, more exfoliated, I work hard to try and accept the different parts of body that I detest so frequently, and having baths which allow me to sit, think and relax let me do that.

I take a lot of baths but my utmost relaxing bath tends to occur every Sunday, which even though is essentially not a day off from working, is a day that I like to try and allow myself to relax, at least in the evenings. On the Sunday just passed I decided, whilst in this moment of tranquillity, to take a closer inspection at my scars. I have no idea what prompted me to do this, but I've had an extremely rough time this past week and my head hasn't exactly been in the right place for me to say that I've been in a perfect frame of mind. Regardless, I looked and thought about the self-harm scars that I currently have on my legs and waist.

Sometimes I look at my legs and my waist and I'm in shock, and sometimes, I'm not at all. On Sunday, I inspected my scars and everything all of a sudden hit me that these scars are what I did to myself. Which I know sounds like such an obvious and stupid thing to say, but my scars are not visible and therefore tend to matter to nobody else, and therefore should not matter to me. 

Despite beginning to self-harm at the age of 12, I was between the ages of 18 and 19 when I 'created' these scars, possibly younger than that. I remember my poor boyfriend having to come to my house and bandage me up for some of them. I don't remember the frame of mind I was in for each individual scar, but this particular evening I acknowledged my previous pain in a way I had never done before. That these scars existed because I was in severe pain. And the fact that for years I've continuously attempted to ignore their severity or that they exist, simply because they were on my legs and not visible to the public, upsets me.  Why have I never taken these scars seriously? Why have I blocked out the pain I give myself each and every day - because I feel like I deserve it?

Who was it that decided that pain should be public? Pain is emotion, and emotions are felt within. The way they are expressed are left entirely to the individual, and yet we live in a society where the severity of ones mental state is judged by the amount of damage one does to him/herself? Why do we let things get SO bad that we have to resort to the public displays of pain before one is able to retrieve the help they need? 

I was reading the novel Mary Barton a few nights ago for my degree, and came across this quote which has resonated with me over the past few days, and I wanted to share it with you now:

'But he could not, you cannot, read the lives of those who daily pass you by in the street. How do you know the wild romances of their lives; the trials, the temptations they are even now enduring, resisting, sinking under? You may be elbowed one instant by the girl desperate in her abandonment, laughing in mad merriment with her outward gesture, while her soul is longing for the rest of the dead, and bringing herself to think of the cold flowing river as the only mercy of God remaining to her here' 

This quote has been highlighted and marked in my copy of Mary Barton as a quote of true importance. Why does struggling with BPD and anxiety mean that I constantly must display my pain to be taken seriously? Why must I adher to the madness stereotypes and be feared by the rest of society when truly, that isn't who I am? Why must I feel guilty because my pain as a teenager was not reflected onto my wrists? I'm constantly told that I'm such a happy individual and shouldn't be depressed and truly believe that the guilt I associate with my illnesses is reflected from these comments. From other people telling me how I should or should not feel when ultimately the only person who understands the emotions and moods being dealt with, are myself. I would say that in the current relapse I'm experiencing of my depression and anxiety, the thoughts have been present for a couple of weeks now, and I have tried to put my face on and cope with life as per usual, but as per usual, it all becomes too much and I have no control over the way I feel anymore. I'm trying to push against a current which simply is just dragging me backwards with it's strength, and sometimes I have to give in and say that it's okay to be depressed. It's okay to want to self-harm. It's okay to have an anxiety disorder. But I must also allow myself to warrant help and accept and get better. Right now, I'm not at that stage and I'm at a point where a future for myself appears impossible.

For the first time since creating these scars I viewed them with some severity and in a way couldn't actually believe that the person who was looking at these scars was the same person that caused them. It didn't feel like the same person was capable of inflicting levels of pain like that onto herself, when really, I've self-harmed since then in different ways unnoticed which I have dismissed because no-one would take seriously what wasn't visible to their eyes. 

I've been off from University for a week now due to my depression and yet still want myself to 'snap out of it', telling myself that nobody cares unless I prove to them that things are serious. But inside, I know that things are serious enough for me to warrant specialist help and for people to take me seriously. I try and kid myself sometimes that my illness is not serious and is something I need to 'get over'. Then at times like this week, when I wake up and cry for hours, and cannot 'snap myself' out of the mood, I tell myself that my illness is severe and that I need help, but inside will never take myself as seriously as I would like.  I wouldn't say I've 'moved on' from self-harm, despite not having participated in any self-harming acts through the last year, it's something that remains in the very forefront of my mind, and  the spontaneity that occurs with my BPD means that I can never be rest assured of my future behaviours. How can we ever be, I guess? I think a lesson that I do need to learn from my teenage experiences, and my experiences of self-harm in my early twenties, is that any pain that I inflict onto myself is just as severe as if it were to happen to another. That self-harm does not always occur via the means of cutting the skin, nor is is always visible to the eye. Of course, all of these facts are ones that I know at heart, but have to remind myself when I constantly tell myself that I'm not worthy of help.

It will take a while to acknowledge at heart that I am worthy of the help I need, or that I'm not a failure at life, or that having mental health problems is okay. Engaging in self-validation, acceptance, of myself, who Amy is. I haven't done that yet. Yet I'll also try, during my recovery to change these viewpoints for others struggling, as well as myself, and if that gives me something to be here for, then I'm happy about that.

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