The Day I Realised I Wanted to Live
Tuesday 13th June, 2017
Just over two years ago, in February 2015, I dropped out of my first A-Level school. I had moved there after my GCSE’s but, for various personal reasons, I ended up leaving prior to exams. My parents agreed to this with the understanding I would go back into education in the following September. I spent sixth months working with my Dad’s company, whilst trying to save myself from sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness.
Lo and behold August came around and I still had no plans for September. In a feat of desperation my father and I moved me up to live with his parents, my grandparents, in Ipswich, Suffolk, where I was to attend the local Ipswich School. I was hesitant about returning to education from the start, but I told myself that A-Levels were imperative and it was only two years.
Four months on and Christmas came around, already a very hard time of year for me, it was made harder by my constant inner battle about whether I would be able to continue in Ipswich to complete another 5 terms. Despite therapy, supportive friends and an extremely understanding school, I was slipping further and further away, spiralling into self-destruction. With the breakup of my inevitably doomed relationship pushing me closer to the edge, I knew that this was do or die for me. I either found the will and the strength to go on, or I couldn’t go on. With suicidal thoughts poisoning my mind and self-harm replacing homework as my evening avocation, I had to find the part of me that wanted to live and I had to, at any cost, hold onto it.
Having decided to head home the week before the Easter Holiday commenced, I packed what clothes and belongings I needed, piled it into my boyfriend’s car and bid farewell to Ipswich.I was not out of the woods yet, I was in a dark place and had yet to prove to myself that I could find the strength to survive. That proof was closer than I thought.Monday 21st March, 2016“Here I am settled back on my sofa in Bristol, a white hot chocolate is steaming away on the table and the voices of Chandler and Ross provide comforting background noise. Outside I can hear the sounds of the city, prompting a wave of nostalgia to flow through me. I arrived back home late on Friday evening, after a particularly long drive home from Suffolk with my boyfriend, who, suffering from an awful viral infection, has now passed his illness onto me. Thank you darling. I am now lazily tending to my sinuses whilst trying to piece my life together, the former being something of a priority right now. Having spent most of my weekend lying sprawled on the sofa, I decided on Sunday afternoon that I should probably try and do something productive. Being away from Bristol for most of seven months meant my room was something of a forgotten time capsule. Remnants of my days at Colston’s lay here and there, my suitcase and boxes from Suffolk still untouched. First I went through my old-school work, papers and books collected from my time spent at King’s and Colston’s, piled them in a bin bag and threw them away. Once I had purged the surface of my desk I turned my attention to what files and papers had managed to make their way underneath it.
It was at this point I glanced under my bed. There, blindly staring at me, was a little brown teddy bear. I froze for a second, then the hand that had been clutching at a black bin bag released its grip and hovered above the bag as it floated gently to the floor. I stretched my arm out under the bed and curled my fingers around the bear’s knitted green jumper. I shuffled until I was sat cross-legged, holding the little bear in my lap. Our eyes locked and I felt my stomach churn. I moved one hand round to the rear of the bear and turned him so his back now faced me. I lifted his little green jumper up to reveal a strip of Velcro that opened to expose his stuffing. I pulled the velcro apart, feeling a moment of satisfaction at the sound, and pulled out a small piece of tissue I had concealed there only a few months before. I let the bear fall to the ground and stared at the tissue in my hand. I knew what was inside it but I didn’t want to face it. After a few minutes, I mustered up the courage and gently began to unwrap the tissue until a small object was revealed. My old razor blade.Now, for those of you who don’t know, I have a history of self-harm. Since I was fifteen going on sixteen I have battled cutting, burning, overdoses and eating disorders. It wasn’t just a coping mechanism for me, it became a lifestyle, a way for me to punish and relieve myself. Sounds like something of a paradox?
When I talk about my self-harm it’s often met with confusion and, ‘I don’t understand why anyone would do that’. So, here’s a little bit about what it was for me and why I found myself going back again and again to various coping mechanisms. When I cut, I felt two sensations a positive one and a negative one. The positive feeling, I returned to again and again because it was a distraction from the mental pain, from the depression, the insecurities and the self-loathing. The positive for me was the release it gave me mentally, I could watch the blood swell and fixate on the pain, everything else became mundane and I, numb.
The negative feeling was more physical, the painful side of the pain if you will. It was me punishing myself for, well essentially being me. For failing an exam, being ‘fat’, being lonely, eating that burger, saying the wrong thing, having a crush on him, missing the goal in hockey, being unpopular, not eating correctly. I couldn’t win with myself, with a million internal battles waging war I needed to find an element of my life I could control, and cutting gave me that.
So there I was, sat with the cool blade resting gently on the skin of my palm. I took it between my right thumb and forefinger and held it to my wrist, consumed once again by that sense of power and control that had caused me to turn to this coping mechanism so many times in the past. I pressed it lightly onto my skin, with no intention of drawing blood, but perhaps just to prove to myself I wouldn’t do it. If I’m honest I have no idea what was going through my head at that precise moment, I felt emotions I had never felt before, emotions I couldn’t explain with words. I was torn between this desire to fight the urge, and the knowledge of how easy it was to succumb to it. I was somewhere between overwhelmed and unperturbed, there was a wave of nostalgic emotion, but there was also a sense of pride, happiness and somewhat indifference. As I removed the sharp blade from my skin a tear rolled its way from my eyes to my jawline, leaving a small trail behind it. I could remember the pain, the pain that had pushed me to the blade, the pain that had manifested thoughts in my head that still haunt me to this day. But I had to move on, that pain was in my past and if I wanted a future I needed to let it go.
After a few moments of dreadful silence the shrill tone of my text alert rang through the air. I glanced over at my phone and read a taster of two text messages, one from my best friend and one from my partner. I can’t explain what went through my head in that moment, but without a second’s hesitation I tipped the small blade into the bin and breathed a sigh of relief like I never had before. My life changed in that moment, that moment, for me, signified a whole lot more than throwing away a broken razor blade. By throwing it away, that seemingly insignificant little object, that had caused me so much pain and relief, I had started the next chapter in my life.
End of chapter.”
Thursday 22nd June 2017
Over a year on from that day it terrifies me how much has changed, how much I have changed. The most important life lesson I’ve learnt this past year is how much difference a positive mind-set can make to your life. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no optimist and I definitely have my down days, but being able to take an apparently negative event, person or situation and see the positive in them can be truly rewarding. It’s a long, hard road, and it took me many years of blaming the world and wallowing in self-pity, but try and wake up every day and smile at yourself in the mirror, even for a second, and you’ll realise it’s easier to love yourself than you think.
A little over a year ago I was an insecure, naïve and scared young girl who dreamed of escaping, running away from life and all its challenges. Now I seek out the challenges, and I pick the ones I want to tackle. I am confident in myself and my abilities, I am strong, I’ve learnt to stand up for myself, but most importantly I’m happy. I’m happy. In nineteen years I could never have said that and truly meant it, but now I can honestly say that I am happy. For many years people always told me “happiness comes from within”, “only you can make you happy” and all that other generic crap. Well, turns out they were right (never tell them that I couldn’t deal with a hundred “I told you so’s”). Once you’ve learnt that life lesson the rest is simply seeking out what makes you happy, from the life-changing decisions like a new career, a new relationship or the next step in a relationship, to the small, everyday proceedings that make a difference, watching your favourite movie, listening to that feel-good song or reading that feel-good book. Think about the small things in life that make you happy.