Saturday, 26 September 2015

I believe in selfies

I believe in selfies.


I believe that there are worse things than a person thinking that they're beautiful. Like a person thinking that they're ugly or worthless.


I believe that there are worse things than a person thinking they have a good body. Like a person starving themselves to death.


I believe that everybody needs some attention and that there are riskier ways of seeking attention than posting numerous selfies. Like acting dangerously.


I believe that everybody needs to feel good about themselves and that there are riskier ways of doing that than taking numerous selfies. Like acting dangerously, sexually.


I believe that if you're having a good face day or hair day or body or outfit day or whatever day, you should feel able to document it and post it everywhere, ever. Or even just to keep a little folder for yourself, to remind yourself in days that don't feel so good, that you felt good once and so you will again.


I believe that if you're having a bad face day or hair day or body day or whatever day, you should be able to find a pose that makes you feel however you need to feel, capture it and do what you need to with it.


I believe that taking selfies isn't vain or a sign of a shallow person any more than checking your reflection is and that not taking selfies makes you no better or worse than someone who takes hundreds.


I believe it's not fake to keep taking several selfies until you find one you love, with people you love, and that it can result in a photo that will always make you smile.


I believe you are more than your selfies could ever show, but that they're not a bad start. Let's try something- be nice to yourself and snap one for me.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Average.

When I was 14, I made a stupid decision that plagued me for two bloody years. GCSE options. More specifically, opting to take GCSE art. I take colouring-in extremely seriously, but apart from that, I have precisely zero artistic ability. I can write a good essay, but I can't illustrate it. Luckily, that's not something you tend to have to do. Anyway, I took art and, long story short, it became the first thing I ever failed. Four years on, two years after I took that final art exam- I drew a lot of wobbly shoes over a background of wonky lines of Beautiful South lyrics- I then took my final A-Level Philosophy exam and, I kid you not, instead of even opening the question paper, I wrote a story about giraffes. Grade X achieved, booyah (and I still think of it as an achievement because before that I didn't even know X was a thing).

The art I failed due to a good helping of No Talent, but also thanks to a lot of Really Not Wanting To Have To Work Hard To Be Average. The philosophy I failed partly due to a bit of Laziness but mostly due to A Complete Fear Of Being Average. When it came to it, in both situations, I chose literal failure over being average.

It's a proper over-used eating disorder line, a bit of pseudo-therapy to declare, that we're all perfectionists who live in a black-and-white world. Unfortunately, like a lot of cliches, it has a basis in truth. I hatehatehate the idea of being average. Even at my lowest weight, which is a number that makes me cringe, I never felt small enough because as long as I was in this world at all, there was too much of me in this world. For a long time, recovery alluded me because I'd get to where I was starting to get better and I'd realise that I wasn't aceing recovery, but I wasn't aceing being disordered, either. Like, I'd not eaten enough to live, but I'd eaten too much to die. I couldn't bear the idea of muddling on through- I wanted to be the best and if I couldn't be that, I wanted to be the worst.

It's something that's stayed with me. I'm as proud of my X in philosophy as I was when I get firsts at uni. I make no secret of the fact I was dumped out of uni, even if it was because I was so ill, rather than just being the naughtiest girl in the school. As a kid, I tried so hard to fit in and invisibility was my desired superpower but somewhere along the way, when I tried to erase my history, I also erased that part of me. I'm a bit odd and I've had a complicated life, so fitting in never really worked. Aiming to be like everybody else whilst living a life nothing like anybody else's was a bit tricky. Shaking that desire is one of the few good things that have come from the last 10 years or so, because, y'know, I'd far rather be dressed in several clashing prints (today's outfit: purple paisley tunic; rust, mustard and black aztec-y patterned sleeveless cardigan; black and white headscarf; blue leggings) than jeans.

I've not managed to discard my inner perfectionist, but these days I'm less likely to destroy something that's not perfect and far more likely to try something new without the fear of not being good at it. If I eat a bit too little or a bit too much, I'm less likely to turn that into far too little or far too much. I'm not great, but I'm not bad. Things are ok. And, when compared to my history, that, in itself, is pretty good.

(Even if my dress sense has remained truly horrific).

Saturday, 19 September 2015

For my best friend.

Al,

Your haunting is spelt out 
in the Braille of your visible bones. 
Sometimes, 
I'm scared to look at you.
On those pure occasions 
I see you.
In reality.
In photos.
In my head.

I'm scared that if I look too hard,
You'll break.
Your delicate bones
Without protection,
Without barrier,
Without knowledge of their own strength
Will plummet.

And once again,
I will not be able to save you.

Sometimes,
I cannot save you.
And your eternal sweetness
Would never ask 
Or expect.

But I want you to scream at me,
Like you scream at yourself.
Claw at me,
Like you claw at yourself.
Tear up words
Like you tear up your skin,
Your organs,
Your beautiful soul,
Fragmented.
All that you hate,
All that you direct to yourself,
Scream it.

To me, 
You are all that is good.
To you,
You should be all that you are;
More than you know.
Infinitely strong,
Impossibly gentle.
More than the back breaking demons.
More than what holds you below water.
Captive.
Seemingly alone.

But you forget;
you are never alone.

It hurts.
But oh,
It hurts.

And the death that chases you
That sometimes has you
Crying,
Begging,
Gasping,
Praying,
For the end to be soon.
Will not take you
On my watch.

I will cut off the food of 
Your enemies,
Of the ghosts and monsters
And re-direct it to your sinking bones,
Risen again.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

World Suicide Prevention Day (/thank you, Corey Craig).

I've been thinking about how I was going to broach this idea for a little while, and Twitter just informed me that today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so today this seems apt.

When I was 16, a stranger saved my life.

Heartbreakingly, she did this by taking her own. I wish I could tell you her story fairly; the person who she was for her short life deserves a tribute that I can't pay, and it seems wrong or unfair to her loved ones that her death affected me so strongly, when I did not know her. They lost a child who was also 16. And that's horrific. And that pain is something I know nothing of, yet writing this is still making me emotional.

This is a lot harder to write than I even thought it would be, because I need to give the child- because as much as we think we know as 16 year olds, we are still children- so much gratitude for my life and for helping saving my family and friends the horror that her loved ones went through.

I found Corey Craig on Myspace. Maybe because I  was 16, maybe because I was mentally ill and lonely, maybe because at that time I needed to see what I saw that day, I was browsing profiles. Honestly, we all did it, we all added people we'd never meet and I was scanning through to find someone vaguely interesting, whose photos I could live vicariously through, much as I wouldn't have admitted that. This is a bit trite, but the first thing I noticed was Corey's smile on her profile picture. I could only imagine how easy things must be, how perfect her life must be and how loved she must be to wear such a beautiful smile. She was dressed in a cheerleading uniform and my diet of American, well, everything, had me pretty sure that she had it made.  It's funny, the ways photography can deceive and how quick we can be to assume everybody's lives are better than ours.

The second thing I noticed was something she'd written, something about having depression and not caring what people thought. That's another thing I have Corey to thank for- I had never even heard of someone my age, with a mental health condition, being fearless in admission of it. That began my own journey to accepting illness as just another fact about myself.

The third thing, was that her comments feed was full of RIP messages. And that's when my heart sank.

At the time, I was about 10 days- actually, it was exactly 10 days. I had it planned in a way I never have since, even when I've made attempts- away from my own suicide attempt. An attempt that, in the end, never happened.

Because in reading both her own words on the page and the messages that people had left for her, the realities of what I was planning really hit me. I wasn't just planning on killing myself, but I was planning on killing a daughter, sister, friend.

More than that, I couldn't look at Corey's pictures and believe that there was no way things wouldn't or couldn't have improved for her. I couldn't believe that that beautiful smile- the smile that drew in even I, a stranger across the Atlantic- wouldn't have lit up a room again, or that her family and friends wouldn't have stayed by her side. I still believe that there is always, always hope and that's not something I believed before Corey. In the darkness, Corey showed me that it's never pitch black. In all the things I could tell without even knowing her, just from her page, it was clear that she was so, so loved and so, perhaps, so was I.

RIP Corey Craig. I hope one day we will meet and I'll be able to thank you myself.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Recovery commitment

Do you know what nobody ever tells you about recovery? It's a bloody big commitment. It's probably a good thing that they don't- when I'm especially ill I can barely commit to a pair of underwear of a morning, never mind to changing my life- but in the interests of full disclosure, I'm going to level with you here; sometimes that commitment is an almighty drag, because it's about doing the exact opposite of what seems instinctive. It's turning all your effort from self-destruction to something more than even self-preservation and that's absolutely terrifying. Any change is hard but having to change every. single. thing. that you do? Imagine it. So, for example, on bad days I have to consciously argue with my thoughts. I might look in the mirror and want to cry, but I force myself to look, find something I like (and this can take a bloody long time) and then move on, tear-free. It's almost a bit like looking over your shoulder, knowing you are likely to be attacked at any time and plotting your next move. Exhausting.

I wish it was as simple as eating more for a little while, until my weight was healthy, and then getting on with the rest of my life. I've had my weight healthy now for about 8 months, and that's amazing. I look better and I feel so, so much better. My brain works again and so I'm a nicer person to be around, too. When you're literally starving your cognitive distortions turn you into a bit of a monster. You're so scared of looking, visually, like a monster that you pretty much become one, personality-wise. It's a strange one, but anyone who has managed to love me when I've been really ill is my hero. It's not easy for the sufferer or the long-suffering loved ones.

But I wish, sometimes, I could just commit to some parts of recovery. It's nice not to always have a countdown going to my next suicide attempt. It's amazing to actually be able to plan things, because I know, chances are, I'll still be here to carry them through. It's comforting that I'm not constantly cold and tired and mardy and that I can laugh and, more than anything, I will never take my freedom for granted. After 3 years in hospital- it's bloody good to be free, the novelty hasn't yet worn off. I can do things on my own time and go where I want, to see who I want. But, well, there bits I miss. I miss knowing, on bad days, that at least through my starving, there is less and less of me to hate, every day. I miss being tiny. I miss my bodysize speaking the words 'I'm struggling' without me having to qualify it with words. I miss looking as bad as I feel, really, as sscrewed up as that is.

It's really, really easy to romanticise even the worst of times, and I think that's what I'm doing. I would far rather have to reach out for help and describe how I feel on bad days, than constantly be having bad days through illness. I nearly died. The thing I am romanticising nearly killed me. Maybe the reason you can't pick and choose bits of recovery is because recovery is inherently good. Maybe I'm just not used to being nice to myself, allowing me to have the good. Maybe, just maybe, I'm absolutely fine, exactly where I am now.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

An open letter to Chrissie Hynde and Loose Women

I originally wrote this on Facebook, in response to Chrissie Hynde's comments on the victim being responsible for their own rape. I thought this was 2015, but apparently not. I'm ever the optimist and thought... I'm not really sure what I thought, given I once got thrown out of a stand up comedy show at uni, because I lost my shit at the woman on stage singing a pleasant little ditty about a paedophile uncle because OH MY GOD NOTHING IS FUNNIER. Educate yourself and Jesus, don't do a Loose Women and ask- because it's seriously NOT a question- whether or not a person can ever be responsible for their own rape. There is consensual sex between two adults and there is rape. So this is for anybody who thought there was a grey area, Loose Women viewer, Chrissie Hynde fan, or just your average moron.

An open letter to Chrissie Hynde and Loose Women

Below is a picture of me aged 3. Pretty cute, right?

It's also around the same time I was first sexually abused.

Now, forgive me, but I'm not entirely sure what my outfit would have been on that first occasion- it became a frequent affair- but this was pretty much my uniform back then. I know blonde hair and knee high socks can be thought of as quite sexy, but you know something?

An opinion on a form of clothing is more a reflection on your values, than it is on the values of the person wearing them. A piece of clothing is asexual. The naked body is just another animal skin. Anybody who viewed this outfit on me as sexy was seriously disturbed.

The thing is, even if I'd been parading around my estate in fishnets and a bikini, THE FAULT WOULD HAVE BEEN WITH THE RAPISTS, NOT WITH ME. Even if I'd been naked, it wouldn't have been my fault. Even if I'd been older. I could have been an adult in a micro skirt and no bra and it would not have been my fault.

It's taken me a long time to be able to say this all, thanks to people like you. But you know what? Fuck you. It wasn't my fault. Rape occurs when there is a rapist. Rape is caused by rapists. There's not much more to it than that.

Not so hard, eh?
Rebecca.