Definition of nostalgia. 1: the state of being homesick: homesickness. 2: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition also: something that evokes nostalgia. – Merriam Webster
A few days ago I had a dream. It was one of those dreams that is felt so viscerally that even upon waking you just can’t shake it. In fact, this particular dream stayed with me all day like a weight on my chest. Now, I am a dreamer by nature. I dream a lot. I have terrible nightmares, beautiful daydreams, and strange fantasies. For better or worse, the majority of my life is spent in my head. But even some of the most gruesome nightmares, or heart wrenching dreams about loved ones passed, haven’t stung me like this.
In concept it was simple; I saw my ex and he told me he loved me. I remember maybe a minute of it, but the sheer intensity, the connection, the detail, that’s what shook me.
I held his strong, comforting arms as he pulled me close. I felt the bristles of his untrimmed facial hair brush my cheek as I burrowed into the crook of his neck. I could smell him. His smell. I had forgotten how sweet, yet earthy it was. Like him; gentle, but grounded. When I looked at him, his blue eyes swallowed me up like pools of water. I could see his every freckle and the deepening crinkles around his eyes. I could see his sadness and his fatigue, but in the way that only I would be able to notice. He was stoic and calm on the outside, as always. I could feel his fingers grip me tightly, keeping me safe and reminding me I am his, but still allowing me space to move and be free. Knowing he could never tame me, and that trying would be futile. He wore his own clothes. His real clothes. Not make believe things I had concocted in my mind. The smell. My heart was aching with a sense of foreboding. Maybe knowing deep down that I was going to wake up. And then he spoke. He said my name. The way only he could say it. The way that reminds you that you belong to someone in the best possible way. The way where you can hear they have said it, let it roll around their mouths and truly felt it thousands of times. It’s not even a name anymore, it’s just you. He gripped my face with his slightly weathered hands, freckled on the backs, with soft palms, and lightly calloused fingers. Hands that have never been raised to me, and only ever brought me pleasure. Hands that know more of my body than I know myself. And he just said, “I love you.”. That’s all he said, over and over. Torturously he repeated, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”.Each time he said it with more certainty, desperate to convince me of the truth behind the words, and with my eyes closed in my nostalgic dreamland, I believed him.
In truth, he could’ve been saying anything. What he was saying was brutal, but what really stuck with me the whole day was simply hearing the sound of his voice. Three years. That’s how long it has been since I’ve heard that voice. Yet, in the depths of my subconscious, I still know its every nuance. The recreation was faultless. Every infliction and change in intonation that, despite the words being said, would tell me everything about how he is (…was) feeling. Every pause. Every breath between words. The warmth, the timbre, the depth. It was perfect. I was jealous of the words for being inside his mouth. For being part of him. And of all the things he could have said, he chose to say my name. Mine. I felt special before realising my mistake. I’m just a sleepy girl in a room repeating her own name to herself, trying to get it just right. I wonder what my name sounds like from his lips today. I’m sure he wouldn’t even know. I wonder…but I don’t want to know.
They say a separation is as painful as a death. For me, this has been true. There are too many significant voices out there that I can never hear again. Voices that have spoken to me before I was even born (my father), and voices of those who have kept me alive with their strength, despite their lives coming to an end. And then there is ‘him’. His voice is still floating around out there somewhere. Saying other peoples’ names with conviction. Avoiding mine. But just like the voice of my father, I will never hear it again. And in his case, I really don’t want to.
Nostalgia; a word that paints such a delicate and romantic scene, but in actual fact, is quite cruel. Nostalgia takes (or creates) a beautiful memory and inserts a sense of longing, that by its very nature is unattainable. It is reaching out for something you loved and never being able to touch it again. The nostalgia of my dream created an idealised version of someone who has never existed. The ultimate dream-man, if you will. Whereas in my waking life, this person is demonised as a form of self-preservation. I must make him the baddie in my story or ill never wake up. Why would I if ‘dream-man’ is just a snooze button away? But the truth is that somewhere between these two creations lies some version of the truth. Not a demon, nor a dream. Just a guy doing the best he can. Not someone who could have saved me, or had the presumed power to destroy and break me. Just a guy who entered my heart when I wasn’t quite ready, and overstayed his welcome. Just a guy.
The other day my favourite human sent me, what was for him, a really simple, throw-away text message. We were texting back and forth for hours, as we do, while simultaneously bingeing on some trashy Bravo T.V. goodness (#lifegoals). I made a comment about the most recent idiotic/impulsive decision I had made and after thorough personal analysis (hours of obsessive torment), I concluded it was probably driven by the total lack of emotional regulation that comes from my, oh! so convincing and always ‘interesting’; borderline personality disorder (BPD). If only blaming all my troubles on mental illness stood up in a court of law… ho hum! It is unfortunate, but the only mental illness I am still worried about being stigmatised for is BPD. So naturally, I must write about it. I have been told that many doctors refuse to treat it as they see it as a hopeless case. I’ve been marked as an ‘un-dateable’, being told “I can deal with the bipolar but NOT BPD!”. And honestly… I get it. The perception of the condition is that of a selfish, manipulative, highly sensitive, suffocatingly needy, soul-sucking-dementor and quite frankly, that image isn’t entirely wrong (except in my case I tend to feed on the human heart, as opposed to souls. Just a personal preference). It doesn’t matter how I dress up or rationalise my volatile outbursts or ‘irrational’ behaviours (but by golly I’ll try!); like how they stem from issues of abandonment rooted in childhood, or how I can justify the fact that my ‘positive’ emotions are just as strong as the ones that make me act out. Meaning my capacity for love is so great that Romeo and Juliette would pale by comparison! It’s irrelevant, because at the end of the day, I am erratic and unpredictable and that makes people uncomfortable. To quote Rhianna, I can go from “zero to sixty in 3.5” and it freaks people the fuck out! I prefer to think of myself as an acquired taste, like foie gras or that fish that will poison you to death if you eat the wrong piece…but mostly it just means I am seen as rather off-putting, dangerous and unnecessarily over-the-top. So, when my bestie casually text me saying “Your BPD is my favourite thing about you.”, the kid got me shook! I don’t think I had ever felt so completely accepted by anyone in my entire life. Okay, I’ll level with you, there’s no denying he is a total fucking weirdo himself, but hey, all the best people are…
I’m an open book. If you’ve read any of my blogs you know that I ain’t holding back, but when it comes to my relationships with people, I won’t lie, it’s difficult. I’m difficult. I have many acquaintances and very few close friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a riot for a night out! Take me to a party and I will own that shit! Jokes are on fire, I’m looking tight, charm-factor is turnt up, I know how to use words like turnt and lit. For a night of debauchery and fun, I’m your girl!But, as the trail of ex-boyfriends I’ve left behind will attest to, I’m hard work long-term. “Exhausting” is a word I’ve heard a lot. In fact, this isn’t easy to write, as the majority of my brain glitches stem from my intense fear of abandonment. There is the rational fear that reading this could potentially push the few people I hold dear away and prevent me from becoming closer to others. But as someone who knows what it feels like to carry the burden of BPD, I think it’s important to be assured that we are not alone and we are loveable. There are other weirdos out there just like you, who will understand you and see your ‘flaws’ as your greatest superpowers! On a completely unrelated note: PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME! I LOVE YOU! I’LL LOVE YOU TO DEATH!
If you’re unfamiliar with BPD, a quick google search is sure to scare your thong right off (if I haven’t done that already). But unless you are a truly extreme case, it tends to blend so fluidly into our personalities that we are often simply seen as sorta kooky, dramatic and highly sensitive. The creative type, if you will. As the child of a very charismatic drama teacher and an aspiring thespian in my own right, this worked in my favour a lot of the time. In primary school my music teacher labelled me “the girl of a thousand faces!”, because I was a different person everyday. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure there is medication for that… However, as much as I could hide my constant need for validation and acceptance as a desire for the performing arts and stage, I couldn’t hide the fact I was still a little odd-ball. Being a sensitive child who showed vulnerability and reacted to said bullying, oh man, I was Christmas, New Years and Hanukah all in one convenient package for a kid with a chip on his or her shoulder! It was like I wore a florescent sign on my head that constantly flashed “if poked, will cry!” and boy did they poke this bear.
As a kid I was told I was “too sensitive”, a “drama queen”, or an “attention-seeker” on a daily basis, both by other children and teachers. I incessantly heard that others felt they were “walking on eggshells around me”. That’s always been a comment that has bothered me. As a kid with limited processing resources (shit, as an adult with limited resources!), all I heard was “your reaction to this event is over-the-top and therefore wrong”. This is a really scary feeling as a child because all we have to process the world is what we are taught and what we feel. But, no one is really taught feelings (or if they are, I missed that class). So there I was, already upset about said ‘event’ (lets say someone threw an orange rind at my head and I felt picked on), but then I start to cry or yell at the perpetrator and I’m told to “get over it” because it’s just an orange rind and I’m “overreacting”. But wait, now I’m confused because to me this reaction feels totally justified!? So now I am doubly upset because not only was I upset about feeling targeted but I’ve just been told that my feelings are wrong. Only now I can’t let it show that I’m upset or stand up for myself, because I’ve just learned that those feelings are invalid. So I end up suppressing my humiliation and confusion until it is no longer possible and it blows up in the next persons face who does or says something slightly off colour to me, causing the cycle to continue. As a child it is frustrating. As an adult it feels like gas-lighting. But as a bonifide mental person it causes either and implosion or explosion of emotions as I attempt to figure out how to react. What is a “normal” response to this? What is justified? Will I end up gas-lighting myself and allow myself to be walked over for fear of a disproportionate reaction? Oops, decisions times up, BLAM!!! This process essentially repeated itself for the next 20 years to varying degrees of intensity, until I became the all-too cliché substance-abusing, in-and-out of psych wards, unemployed, pushing-30 and perpetually-single (but still highly attractive in that Angelina-Jolie-in-Girl-Interrupted-type-way), gal you see before you! C’mon fellas! Put a baby in me!
Basically, this very basic example taught me that I ‘lifed’ wrong. That I was wrong. It meant that for the rest of my life I would never feel like I “fit in” which would flip/flop me between feelings of grandeur, like I was the fucking Queen of England…but like, a young, hot version! Or, I would feel like a worthless, hopeless, useless piece of hideous, gutter trash. I was never just, simply fine. To this day I still struggle with this. It has gotten better, but it will always be work because I will always be work. There will never be a time I am not in some form of therapy and working on myself. If that day comes I better be Ghandi-meditating-in-a-cave-in-the-Himalayas-level tranquil because the only other option would be that I would have given up and the reality of that is far to real for many people living with BPD (and other mental illness).
I recently learned that 70% of people with BPD will attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime and 10% will be successful. What the actual fuck?! I know cancer patients that have better odds than that! The stats for bipolar are similar and if you have more than one mental illness the percentage significantly jumps up again. I believe suicide is such an issue, not only because the condition itself can make average, daily encounters unbearable but also due to misdiagnosis. Most people are diagnosed in their 20’s, meaning they have had at least two decades of deeply rooting in poor coping mechanisms and habits before they can even attempt to heal, which itself is a slow and arduous (some will argue impossible) task. Doctors and Psycho’s alike have usually labelled us with a number of other disorders throughout our youth, like anxiety to explain our intense neediness, depression to understand our insatiable loneliness, and/or bipolar to make sense of our rapidly fluctuating and unregulated mood swings. No wonder all my ex’s individually came up with the descriptor “rollercoaster” for me! And there I thought it was because I was such a fun ride! *wink* Heyyyowwww!
Personally, I have experienced suicidal ideation for months and years at a time. If you haven’t, I am unbelievably relieved for you and if you have, from the bottom of my heart I’m sorry and I am here for you (I mean that, hit me up if you feel alone). It is nothing short of torture. I recently saw one of my doctors and she was so pleased to see how well I was doing because less than 2-months ago I was done. Out! I was about to call the loony bin to check me right back in and give me a vegetive-state-enducing lobotomy! I have worked really hard on myself in that time but even I am surprised by the progress this time around. Today, I can honestly say I feel better than I have in years, both mentally and in regards to the chronic pain and fatigue conditions I live with (which have a cyclic effect on my mental health too). However, I know how quickly things can change. I know how quickly I can be triggered into a reaction that could take me right back to square one.
I’m not going to tackle the debate about whether or not suicide is selfish or justified. Not today anyway. I have very alternative views on suicide (and selfishness too actually) and I think I’ve opened enough room for debate in this blog already! Nevertheless, I will say this. Two years ago my mum came into my room after hearing me whaling in agony. These screams were guttural, coming from the deepest pit of my stomach. I have never felt so much pain in my life. The 9-hour, full spinal resection I endured a few years earlier would have been a relief. No word of a lie. This whaling was not a once off. This was every. single. day. for an entire year and I had well and truly surpassed my breaking point. The thread I had been holding on by was long gone. I had lost (to death or perceived abandonment) so many people in such a short amount of time and I was completely and utterly heartbroken. Maybe it’s because of my wavering mental health that I felt it so intensely, I’ll never know, but I have been through cancer, the spinal surgery, addiction recovery/relapse, anorexia, rape, chronic pain and so much mental health bullshit I should have my very own Dr. Phil on speed dial; but heartbreak is the most excruciatingly painful experience I have ever been through.
Mum sat quietly at the end of my bed as I looked up at her from behind red, puffy eyes, exhausted from tears, and I begged her to let me die. I was calm now. I explained it all; how it would benefit the family and free me, how I was in such excruciating pain. How I could physically feel my heart tearing apart and my stomach sickly squirming and clenching without a second of respite. How deeply angry I was and how I felt it was cruel to keep me alive when I was in such all consuming agony. Honestly, if I had been a cancer patient I would have been on life support. I was terminal. I can’t imagine what it felt like as a mother to watch the child you brought into the world suffer in that way and be ungrateful for ‘the gift of life’.
Let it be known that my mum is one strong-ass Queen to be mother flipping reckoned with!
In her desperation she said the one thing that she knew would work when nothing else would, when not even a mothers’ love was enough, “you will destroy your brother.”. What was left of my heart dropped to the floor because I knew she was right. We’d just lost our dad. My brother and I had been best friends our entire lives.
One would not survive without the other. As much as she wanted to, mum wasn’t able to fix my pain but she provided, what mums do best, a little guilt trip (omg JK! Not the time? ), that lasted just long enough to keep me alive and those few words have helped me many times since. I won’t lie, I still fall into extreme depression at times but the decision is made now and there is no going back. I will never commit suicide. As bad as I may get, I will drag myself kicking and screaming to therapists and psycho’s, psych-wards and hospitals. I will allow myself to stay in bed for days and weeks at a time and exist solely on cereal and peanut butter if that is the only way I can work on my number one priority, survival. I will do whatever it takes to continue to find the tiniest little spark of hope inside that has helped me remember myself in the past and launch it into a blazing fire, because I have no other choice. I only have my mum and my bro left and let’s face it, they would be completely lost without me (or at least really fucking bored!)! I may be a nutcase, but I’m sure as hell fun!
*Loss – Referring to loss through both death and relationship breakdowns. To a person with BPD both are perceived as abandonment.
Of all the differences my father and I had, we shared two important things in common; we were both undiagnosed bipolar for most of our lives, and our destructive/obsessive tendencies were idealised as passion and determination. This meant that as an intensely and often irrationally anxious child my fear of failure was fostered and admired, eventually letting it overrule and guide my every move. Sure, this had some positive influence in my life; while all the other high school kids were smoking cigarettes behind the soccer oval, I refused to take a puff for fear of damaging my oh-so-precious voice that was certain to make me millions one day! By the age of twelve I had already decided I was going to be a superstar, just like Charlotte Church or Britney Spears (clearly prior to their subsequent meltdowns which, ironically, ended up likening much more to my life story after all…). I couldn’t see the value in risking what I believed was my destiny for something as trivial as looking cool. Besides, I would have plenty of time for that when I was selling out arenas world-wide! Of course, as the slightly overweight, boofy-haired, choir dork that I was, I never had to worry too much about my coolness factor getting out of control. On the other hand however, that obsessive drive that constantly simmered inside me, provided me with the “strength” (crippling anxiety) that led to a fierce battle with anorexia. Tell me one more time how it’s a shame because I have such a “pretty face” and I’ll show you another meal I replaced with a Berocca or sugar-free gum (damn, adults can be c*nts)! All this to say that I had a goal (fame, fortune and admiration… obvs) and I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that. Even proudly starve myself to the bone.
I was well aware of my addictive tendencies growing up. I’d make silent pacts with myself not to get tattoos, or smoke, and plastic surgery was out for fear of winding up looking like a Real Housewife before they really figured out the secret to good lip filler (no disrespect Lisa Rina, you know I love you)! I remember trying speed for the first time and thinking “Holy fucking, fuck-tits batman!”, (or something to that avail). I loved it so much that I instantly vowed never to touch that beautiful nose candy ever again. I knew there were only so many times I would be able to say no before I would never say no again. Suffice to say, I had a thorough life plan mapped out and being a cancer-ridden junkie was not part of it. Jokes on me I guess…
I was practical with my diagnosis. I never asked “why me?”. I had no time for a pity party. I just wanted to move forward so I could claim my life back and get back on track with the immaculately detailed ‘lifeplan’ I’d been working on since I was 5. As I saw it, I had already wasted enough time from pain to diagnosis. Now I had to spend another 18-months on the drug trial before I could even think about having the surgery and finally begin the lengthy recovery process. When was I supposed to achieve world domination? A girls got shit to do, damnit!I wasn’t allowed to work anymore as it was too risky for my health, but all I could hear in my head was the incessant tick-tick-tick of time passing me by. I’d gone from working 4 jobs like an ADD kid off his Ritalin, to watching reality T.V. for 9-hours a day. I was loosing the fucking plot.
I desperately tried to tell myself that this was some kind of test to help me slow down and learn to smell those bloody roses enlightened people are always on about. But, in my mind I had been late for “success” since my sixteenth birthday so every second that wasn’t utilised felt like a failure. Why sixteen you may well ask? Sixteen is nothing more than an arbitrary number I plucked out of my arse as a kid, when I obnoxiously declared to my father that that would be the age I would achieve the afore mentioned superstardom and/or world domination (either was fine, I wasn’t picky). I stored his bemused smirk in the ‘I’ll-show-you’ compartment of my brain and let it fuel the fire in my pre-teen gut. Because that’s what I needed, more reason to kick my own arse! So at 21, already 5 years late to my utterly delusional and completely imagined concept of success, I was essentially in a constant spiral of rage-jealousy and/or depressive-failure. Here’s a tip kids; have low expectations. Seriously. Can we please stop teaching children that if they work hard they can achieve anything, like we’re fucking accolade cheerleaders? It encourages perfectionist behaviour, cultivates a fear of failure, builds pressure/anxiety and it’s simply not true. In my humblest of opinion…
Although a habit I still struggle with today; those reality T.V. marathons did teach me something. When I wasn’t watching Heidi and Spencer (Speidi; for the die hards) on The Hills, I was addicted to Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew (I believe they call that irony…). To this day, still one of the greatest shows of its time; not to be outdone by Sex Rehab with Doctor Drew or the classic spin off, Sober House. Ahh, they were simpler times! What I learned by watching Grease’s Kenickie go through his tragic and ultimately fatal battle with opiate addiction on Celebrity Rehab, is such; spinal surgery is dangerous and excruciating, pain killers are addictive and sexy pilates instructors can make you feel better momentarily, but ultimately you will die a slow and agonising death. Shit. With this in mind I went to my next appointment at the cancer clinic armed with questions.
I sat in a sterile room with my father and the head of my clinical trial, who essentially was my dad, 20 years and 30kgs ago. These two autistic nerds talked excitedly to one another about the wonders of modern medicine while I sat there, doing my best imitation of a slightly animated test tube with stuck-on googly eyes. I was worried. I thought back to that first line of speed and simultaneously felt a pang of fear and excitement, which rang danger alarms in my head. I was young but there are parts of me I knew better then than I do today, or at least used to listen to. I just knew if anyone was going to get hooked on pain pills it would be me. I didn’t have time to waste getting wasted! What about my goals? My plans! What’s that saying? ‘We make plans and God laughs’. Years on and “God” is still pissing herself laughing like a mum of triplets in a Zumba class at me! Bitch.
When the nerd-lingers (or the super-important-men-who-were-actually-saving-my-life) finally remembered there was an actual living, breathing patient in the room, I had the opportunity to ask how most people fair coming off the post-operative drugs, namely the opiates (oxy’s). I was swiftly assured that as I start to heal and feel better I will simply not need them anymore and will naturally wean off. Simple. Natural. Easy… I internally groaned and externally rolled my eyes,knowing that wouldn’t be me and instead I was much more likely to be another fucking Kenickie; wheelchair bound and screaming at nurses in a rehab facility by 50 (flash forward 6 years; turns out I’m way more efficient than Keni and would be found doing this by age 27, never to be outdone). I couldn’t bring myself to push the subject in front of my dad, who innocently suspected I was a majestic earth-bound angel, who radiated purity and bliss. And although he wasn’t too far off, I wasn’t about to shatter his illusion, so I shut my mouth and never mentioned it again.
By this stage I was starting to get angry at the world. My friends were all at the stage of their lives where they were graduating from their degrees and entering the work-force for their first real adult jobs. Their biggest concerns being where to have Saturday night drinks and if their new colleagues would like them. And then there was me; unable to work, isolated, bored to literal insanity, suffering intense pain and pumped with experimental chemo and pre-surgical pain killers. Not to mention the typical angst an early 20-something feels anyway as they try to spread their wings for the first time to leave the nest, only in my case, them wings done broke! This is where Schmoo and I really leaned on each other. We were two young, fierce and fabulous gals about town who, at this stage, still looked “normal” AKA healthy. We could still function relatively independently and our main disability was everyone else’s inability to understand what we were going through!
Schmoo was always a vison. Just to sit down at our local soup joint she was always dressed like an off-duty supermodel in understated designer clothes, immaculate jewellery and smelling like something I definitely couldn’t afford. I’d sit there in my no-name, see-through leggings that I’d been wearing since I was 14 and she’d just laugh with that whole-body cackle that was signature Schmoo, as she called me a pauper and paid for my coffee. Occasionally she’d let me pay, just to make me feel like the baller I certainly wasn’t. It was appreciated.
Every week we would get together and bitch about how our families couldn’t possibly understand us and our friends were so lucky they didn’t have cancer, and basically just vent about the shit-storm that was our lives! And in doing this, we laughed, a lot. These conversations were some of the most cathartic and hilarious of my life. Of course nobody could relate to us! Who the fuck gets cancer in their early twenties and ends up making besties with another cancer-kid?!Nobody, that’s who! We knew that, but we were each others’ outlet. A safe place to release our pain, frustration and vent about everyone and everything that pissed us off. Our socially inept doctors, our mountains of medication that made us rattle when we walked, our isolation and loneliness, our stupid boyfriends who were trying so hard and yet failing so spectacularly, our friends and their “trivial” problems which, in reality, were completely justified but let’s face it, cancer’s hard to beat! Together we would laugh about all the mother-fuckery that had become these lives that we no longer recognised, and in that we found some relief. I can’t imagine going through this experience without my Schmoo. We were two extremely unfortunate kids who found some hope in each other and in that, we were lucky.
There used to be this homeless man who would occasionally walk past our soup bar and stop for a chat. Nice guy, if a little kooky. One day he sat down with Schmoo and I and started telling our fortune. He told me I hadn’t yet met the man of my dreams and that Schmoo would live into her 90’s. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case but I believe it gave her enough hope to keep “fighting” a little longer. He spouted a lot of insane shit for about an hour and although we suspected it was 99.9% bullshit we tipped him generously for his entertainment and kind distraction. I hate that word fighting. Like all it takes to beat cancer is brute strength! I’m telling you, if that’s all it took Schmoo would’ve had me beat 100 times over. Nobody fought as hard as she did. Nobody loved life as much as she did! She was just hungry for every experience she could sink her teeth into. I admired that in her so much and I desperately craved that in myself. The girl had 5 brain surgeries over 4 years, spent a year as her own nurse attached to an IV bag that constantly dripped chemo into her veins, had her skull literally fucking cave in on her and was still able to meet and marry the love of her life. That’s right, while she was travelling the world for all the most cutting edge medical treatments available (oh, did I not mention that? Yeah…that too), she was also planning her spectacular dream wedding at the same time! She. Was. Unstoppable. I on the other hand spent most of that time in the foetal position, moaning and discovering how to shovel oxy up my nose. Each to their own I guess!
Survivors guilt is a real thing.I generally find existence extremely difficult. I’ve got a brain with a few faulty wires that prevents me from regulating my emotions, so I’m basically a constantly swinging pendulum, my body is the Queen of the malfunction and I live in a fairly perpetual state of existential crisis. Yeah, I’m a blast! I can’t tell you how may times I looked at my Schmoo and wished we could trade places. Give me the terminal brain tumour and let her live the fabulous, travel, adventurous, wildly sexy, exotic foodie, life that she would have lapped up! But it wasn’t the case. I don’t know if I believe in meant-to-be’s and what not but I do know that if Schmoo was in my position, if she had been the one to survive, that she wouldn’t waste her second chance pissing around like a depressive little twat. What she would do is exactly this. She would write. She would write about her exeriences great and small and rather than be egotistically driven for world domination and fleeting Lindsey-Lohan style fame, she would want to make an impact. She would want to place her stamp on the world for something meaningful. So… here’s me doingjust that*!
* Originally I wrote “Here’s me trying” but I instantly heard the Schmoo in my head saying “Trying!? There’s no such thing as trying! Just do it girl!”.She didn’t do anything by halves and wouldn’t accept it from anyone else. She was the most inspiring person I’ve ever met and I’m lucky that I have her voice in my head everyday, continuing to push me, encourage me and elevate me to have the best life imaginable.
Love you Schmoo and so much love to the Schmoo Clan, both family and friends.
At 20-years-old, I fell in love with a boy. Very early into our relationship we learned that his gorgeous mother had developed a tumour in her brain which, within only several months, would take her life. Prior to this experience the concept of death was relatively abstract to me. I’d lost pets, distant relatives and was a complete mess when Mufasa died in the Lion King (spoiler alert). At that age I’d never watched anyone deteriorate in front of my eyes, or held someone’s hand as they breathed the words, “hopefully tomorrow…” when praying for their own death. I’d never watched someone I love, completely tortured by helplessness for a dying parent, friend or child. These days however, I can’t say the same. I have been heavily exposed to loss and even had to process the concept of my own mortality several times throughout my 29 years.Even several months before my dad passed away he told me that I’d seen more death and illness than anyone he knew. So much so, that I labelled 2016 ‘The year of 1000 deaths!’ and was convinced that I’d somehow been cursed by an evil witch to turn everything I touched into dead. Worst. Superpower. EVER!
I’ve been through the stages of healing into a “survivor” and subsequently crumbling back into bitterness so many times that I don’t even know where I stand anymore. I drift somewhere between grief and growth with occasional drunken rage black-outs where I desperately want to stab someone in the eye with a fork. I don’t know much of anything, but one thing I have learned is that grief is not linear and reactions are so individual they often appear nonsensical or unrelated to “real life”. I think we have this image that when you go through something major that you will just wake up more highly evolved than you were before. But in fact it tends to be a more agonising, chipping away at your heart and soul until you either develop a thick skin to survive, or if you’re me, develop a pretty intense addiction problem and file life in the too-hard-basket of your brain for several years! However, at 20, I still had the blissful ignorance of youth on my side which made this primary experience with death extremely overwhelming and confronting.
Simultaneously, as I was learning of the fragility of life and the rapid transition from health to illness and illness to death; I began to develop quite sever, chronic and acute back pain. I’d been teaching yoga for a couple of years at this point and assumed I had contorted myself into a pretzel one too many times and badly pulled a muscle. But after months of crying in agony for my mumma and seeing every specialist under the sun, my GP decided it was time to investigate further and get some scans done. As I lay in the CT machine for the first time with an IV of dye being pumped into my arm, the lab technician leaned over me and delicately said, “Now, don’t panic but…” (always a great way to stop someone from panicking), “…there is a chemical in the dye that’s going to make you feel like you’ve wet yourself. You won’t, but you will reeeaaally feel like you have.” (Brain to self – “wot dis bitch say?!”). I’ll let you use your imagination for how that all played out. Fucking dye.
The pain was unbearable and had been going on for almost 6-months by the time I was finally sitting in front of a solemn-faced doctor. I had been through pretty much every possible scenario in my head, so I thought I was prepared for what he was about to tell me. I was just desperate for an answer by this stage. Unfortunately, that answer was cancer. Only months earlier we had buried my boyfriends’ mum and now here we were, staring down the barrel of the gun again.
My doctor talked at me as I entered that state people go to in movies when they receive bad news. You know the one; there’s that loud, high-pitched ringing in your ears, your sight fades into tunnel vision, your freezing but covered in sweat, it’s likethere’s a bowling ball in my stomach and a desert in my mouth (okay, now I’m just quoting Tori Amos). From what I pieced together from subsequent conversations, I had an extremely rare form of spinal tumour. Seriously, trust me to just need to be different! Even with cancer I’m extra.
As a creative and arguably interesting woman it is so indescribably frustrating when something you literally have zero control over becomes the most fascinating thing about you. I mean really, if I’m going to be getting any attention at all it better be for my witty intellect… and dis sweet ass (obvs)! While I’m up here on my soap box, let’s look at the word “inspirational”. I always struggled with being called this during my cancer “journey” for lack of a better word (kindly punch me in the face with a thesaurus next time you see me). Of course it’s always nice to be described as inspirational, but it’s a strange compliment to receive for being sick. If it was for my writing or my music, or someone took one of my yoga classes and suddenly burst through this most basic evolutionary plane into enlightenment, then by all means! Feel encouraged to feed my ego with #inspo posts. But… I literally did nothing. In fact, I did less than nothing, I malfunctioned resulting in cancer. I wasn’t even strong enough to be a martyr about it! I complained about it…a lot. I was a massive jerk for years because I was in agony and I was scared. There was nothing inspiring about how I handled cancer.
So my super unique, inspirational tumour had eaten away an entire vertebra in my thoracic spine (T6 for any anatomy nerds out there), as well as a corresponding rib. I was told that the tumour was rapidly growing and had the consistency of jelly, which put me in a very dangerous position. As my surgeon so delicately put it, “if you can imagine your spine like a carrot… If something were to cause a sever enough jolt, like you have a fall or get into a car accident, your spine could quite easily snap in two as there’s nothing holding it together in the middle.”. Little did he know that I had a history of being the worlds shittest driver so this was all too real for me! (Cue jaw drop and audible blinking). Cheers for that super cute visual doc! Much love. Fortunately for me, I grew up with a father who was on the Asperger’s spectrum, meaning I wasn’t overly disgruntled by my surgeons’ surprising bedside manner and in fact, it reassured me somewhat. Surely someone with such awful people skills must be a genius…right? Well, he couldn’t in all good conscience have someone walking around with a carrot for a spine, so as soon as I got the news the tumour existed, I was scheduled in for surgery the very next day. That’s when I knew it was bad. They (my team of doctors who suddenly existed), wanted to rush me into a 9-hour surgery in less than 12-hours time, with one of the best spinal surgeons in the country. I was like the Beyoncé of cancer. Bow down bitches!
That evening my father received a call from yet anther member of my entourage… I mean medical team. They were worried about the surgery. No shit?! Apparently, because of the soft, jelly-like consistency of my tumour (I know, super ew), it was more than likely that no matter how well the surgery was performed that even a single cell left behind would result it the recurrence of the cancerand if/when that happened any subsequent surgery would be impossible due to the sever amount of metal and scar tissue my back would now contain. This was when I was told that if I did not have the tumour removed it would continue to grow, put pressure on my spinal cord and eventually paralyse me. However, in a fun turn of events, the surgery itself could also result in paralysis. FML.
They decided not to chop me open in a flurry the next morning and instead we had a chat to yet another super-important-doctor-man. This led to my inclusion in an 18-month clinical trial at the Peter Mac Cancer Clinic. The idea being that the trial drug would calcify my tumour making it hard and therefore simpler to remove. Easier to remove means less chance of cells left behind and a decrease in my chance of recurrence. These appointments were long, boring and both emotionally and physically painful. Going to a cancer clinic is, in a word, urrrghhh*hgh$s@g#*^k!There is nowhere in my life I have felt less like a person and more like a patient. Not even an important patient. You’re seen as a dying patient that has been given up on. I wasn’t even dying man! I was 21, with a bone tumour that could paralyse, but not kill me… therefore I was one of the lucky ones. Yeah, this place was grim.
Cancer patients can be real ball breakers. We can be really fucking demanding and why shouldn’t we be? We are all in pain, many of us dying or fighting not too and not to mention, we’re bloody terrified. Yet, in these settings we are so often overlooked or ignored by people who are overworked and underpaid. I get it. It must be necessary to detach to some degree if you are seeing the walking dead on the daily, and we are not generally coming into the clinic a ball of laughs! We are exhausted to the bone and tired of being poked and prodded within an inch of our lives, forced to give blood from veins that have been bled dry and arms that are painfully bruised. On top of that, there is an expectation of gratitude for the care we are receiving. Don’t get me wrong, I was treated by some wonderful practitioners and nurses, but a kind grin is limited in how much it can help when the majority of your sterile surroundings make you feel like a numbered petri dish in a science experiment. Which is essentially what I was as part of the trial.
I didn’t have traditional chemotherapy. Again, I was “lucky” because the chemo I was given wasn’t given intravenously. It was an extra special mix made just for me that they didn’t make until I’d arrived at the clinic. Sounds exciting but this just meant I was usually waiting at least 4-hours to be aggressively stabbed in the belly with a syringe and sent on my way. It was simple. It was sad.I was told there were no side effects. Hazzah! I later found out that this didn’t mean that there were technically no side effects, it actually meant that because it was a clinical trial, that the side effects were yet unknown. It would be several years before I stopped receiving letters about newly discovered issues caused by the drug. Here’s a cute example; they found if you received dental work while the drug remained in your system that your jaw bone was likely to rot away. Yum. Or how about when they told me that if I was to get pregnant during the trial that my baby would develop without bones. That’s right, just a ball of flesh and organs. True story.
During the 18-months I was on the drug trial I attended a kind of cult-like cancer healing retreat. Yeah, it was as fun as it sounds… Just me, a raw-vegan-sugar/gluten/caffine/happiness-free diet and 50 other desperate and dying cancer patients clinging onto a speck of hope. This was one of the strangest experiences of my life and naturally extremely confrontational (I now know what I would do if I had 3-months to live, so that’s…yeah). But in the midst of all the tragic stories, group fear, hours of meditation to reflect on said fear and depressingly tasteless food… I met Schmoomy.
The Schmoo was the most hilarious, incredibly insane, magnetic and vivacious girl I’ve ever had the honour of getting to know. We were the two youngest people attending Cult Cancer by at least 20-years and as such, we clung to each other for dear life. We ended up spending practically every day together for the next several years. She was the Kim to my Kanye, the Thelma to my Louise, The Schmoomy to my Schmoo-monkey! We were inseparable. She may have had an aggressive brain tumour that made her hallucinate small children and my spine was eating itself from the inside out, but together we laughed so hard our bellies hurt, smoked so much weed Snoop Dog (Lion?) would be jealous and generally just took on the mother fucking world!
I loved her like a sister from the second I met her but I knew I was on borrowed time. Everyone around her was living on hope but I’d seen this play out with my boyfriends’ mum. I knew how this story ended and it scared the shit out of me.But that little fucker was just so damn lovable that I decided whatever time I got to spend with her was a bloody gift that I wasn’t about to waste, and I’m so grateful I did, because without an ounce of exaggeration, she taught me how to love myself and changed my life forever. There are not enough words in the human language to adequately describe how important this girl was, and still is, to me. But I will do my very best to honour her memory in the next instalment.
Who is the ‘other woman’? This enigmatic creature that exists eternally alone, untouchable, perfect. A complete and utter illusion of the men that have imagined her into existence. I’ve been her, maybe you have too. I’ve craved the unwavering stares of lonely men like a drug and in my most vulnerable periods it was the only way I was anything resembling alive. In their wildest dreams, fantasies and desires, that’s where I lived. That’s where I existed. And if I wasn’t there with them in all my, thinly veiled, beauty and intense magnetism, then I was nothing. I disappeared when their backs were turned and they were no longer validating my very existence.
A girl of this nature is, in a word, repulsive to single men. Sure, there is the initial intrigue of watching her flit around the room without a care, as if she doesn’t know you’re watching (trust me she knows and she cares a lot), but as soon as they scrape the surface, if they have any brains at all, they will run. And fast. This girl is terrifying. She requires energy, patience and more kindness and understanding than is often deserved. This is usually sniffed out quite quickly and who’s willingly walking themselves into this atomic spiral? Enter, Mr. Attached. Okay, let me pause here for both dramatic effect and a disclaimer before the trolling gets completely out of control. I am not referring to all men in relationships. The happy, content ones will look at this girl and praise baby Jesus himself that they have a stable Queen on their arm! However, these are not the men she/I/possibly even you, will meet. The men that are willing to blind themselves enough to bypass the sad nature of the situation and welcome the illusion (or delusion?) are, for whatever reason, discontent. In this newly manifested “dream girl” I imagine, they see the wild, unpredictability of their youth that at once will get you in trouble but is also irrefutably exciting! She can be whatever they want her to be, the only limit being their imagination.
A sweet boy once took his illusion of me and turned me almost whole. Like Pinocchio, I was almost a real girl! He kept me safe with him for years. So much so that I almost believed I knew who I was, but eventually the illusion, of course, must fade. For him first and then subsiquently for me as I became more blurry in his imagination. He was different. The love grew slowly with him. It wasn’t like cupids arrow to my heart; an explosion of unavoidable passion in a single glance like the others who came before him. I thought perhaps that made it more real. Maybe it does. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular so he didn’t have an image of desire to project onto my blank canvas. I was created slowly and delicately. When he left he took all of me with him. Not by choice of course. I had just made it far too easy to float away with the men that came and went. In an evening you’re limited in how much can be taken from you, but over months and years… well, it becomes much more dangerous. He had taken slowly. So slowly that I hadn’t even noticed. I had gone from feeling like a lost child when left alone to completely empty, a black hole. I was less than before. I was antimatter. I’ll never forget the worry in my psychologists eyes as she said the words that had been thought but never uttered aloud, “It’s like you don’t exist if you’re not being seen.”She was right of course. Being seen was one thing, being wanted another, and being loved…well, being loved was the goal.
I collect stories. Experiences. I say “yes” and never “no” just to see where I end up. To find out what happens in the next chapter. I follow the action when most intelligent people would run the other way. I take risks when the outcome is 90% likely to end in devastation, and usually does. I risk it all, all the time, to collect a tiny piece of your life and place it inside mine. I’ve done great things saying “yes”. I’ve achieved more than I ever imagined I could and I’ve also put myself in situations that nobody ever should. Some people call me brave, but it’s far more basic a driver than that. No, what drives me is fear. A fear that if I don’t collect stories that I won’t have stories to tell and without stories, who am I? I’d like to think I have collected enough now. That maybe now I can get used to boredom, or as the enlightened may know it, peace. But peace comes from balance and stability and all I’ve ever known are highs and lows, black and whites, on or offs. I’ve never had a lasting glimpse of moderation in my life. It’s like imagining a colour that doesn’t exist. Where do you even begin?
Story telling is all I’ve ever known. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Even as a small child, before I’d collected much of anything at all, I would reflect. I would sit and think deeply until I was in emotional agony, feeling too much at one time because I’d thought myself into a pain spiral from a moment I’d created in my imagination! To this day I do this. I stare out windows. I reflect. No, I brood. I see myself, seeing myself so that at least someone is. I live eternally in this Truman Show-like film in my head, pretending that the world is watching, waiting for the action to begin! It’s always SHOW TIME! The pressure is insurmountable but the thought that there is just me, sitting in this cafe alone, hugging a mug of coffee and staring out a window at the weather, without an audience…well that’s fucking terrifying.
“You don’t exist if you’re not being seen”, those are some potent describing words and I’ve heard it all;crazy, intense, volatile, passionate, obsessive, possessive, needy, fun, insane, confident, selfish, unpredictable, sexy, slutty, provocative, too much, narcissistic masochistic, funny, fragile, complex… I’m sure you could add some of your own to the list! I think of myself more as a kind-of light switch. On or off. Lighting up the room like sunshine bursting in or completely sucking the life out of it with my intense darkness. Everything or antimatter. All, nothing.
From the outside I look unstable and unbalanced but it’s kinda quirky and fun if you keep your distance. On the inside I feel like I’m in an episode of Black Mirror and I’m stuck inside a robot version of myself that the world has the ability to switch “on” or “off” and I just have to sit and wait to be shown what they want from me. I have no choice. No control. To you I am here or I’m not. To me I am seen or I am invisible, and invisible is torture. Invisible is screaming to be seen in a soundproof room. Invisible is the world holding your heart in their hands and squeezing just tight enough that it won’t stop beating and relive you of your suffocating madness but won’t release you for fear of loosing their dancing monkey.Because when they eventually switch me “on” you best believe I will perform! I’ll perform for my life for fear of being switched “off”. I will sing until I lose my voice, dance until my feet bleed and love like my life depends on it… because it does.
Imagine your version of hell. What scares you most in the world? Maybe it’s spiders or snakes or the dark. Maybe it’s death or cancer or losing someone you love. Maybe it’s burning in an eternal fire pit. That’s invisibility to me. Searing, white hot burning with split second flashes of relief as someone throws a bucket of ice cold water in my face. But instead of water it’s a text, a “like”, a compliment on my outfit, some loser checking out my arse or laughing at a terrible joke. I believe if you were to diagnose it you might call it dissociation, wrapped up in abandonment-based trauma and then sprinkled with a little narcissism for good measure. For me it’s just coping with existence.
So, I am born to be an illusion. Unwrapped for a night but never explored. Girls like me, we will walk into the room with a completely manufactured eire of confidence about us… and leave that very same room, once everyone else is gone, completely empty, alone and once again… invisible. Because ‘he’ knows, as I do, that none of it is real. That ‘she’ is a mirage and as soon as he comes close enough he will be engulfed in whatever pain has stripped her of her ability to be anything but all of his deepest desires in the single moment he decided to look her way. But unlike him, this knowledge doesn’t free her. She remains frozen in time, just waiting, hoping, praying to whoever-the-fuck that he or someone… anyone, will switch her “on” and please, this time, for the love of God, don’t switch her “off”.
How can I explain the love affair an addict has with drugs and alcohol (or their addiction of choice)? How can something be so intensely intoxicating, even after it has proven just how utterly devastating it can be to that which you cherish most in the world; family, friendships, love, connection? Not only that but it actually feeds the ugliest parts of you and helps them grow. The you that is greedy, needy, selfish beyond reason and destructive beyond care. How can something that literally threatens your life be at once, your safety blanket and your worst nightmare? Well, fucked if I know! But I’d like to explore it…
I’ve been in a few situations recently where drugs have been used openly and it’s blatantly obvious who is an addict and who is casually partying. The casual partier can leave half a bag hidden away for the next time they decide to get a little wild! The addict however, will not be able to think about anything else until every single line/drop/toke/whatever, is in their blood stream and they have exhausted all options of getting more, more, MORE! The addict is exhausting to be around… and exhausting to be. To quote Pringles, “once you pop, you can’t stop!”
For non-drug users or the casual partiers out there it is really difficult to understand just how all-consuming it is for the addict to be around drugs. A non-user can carry a conversation with ease, they can look you in the eye when they are talking to you and they are calm and relaxed whether or not there are drugs in the room or even talk of drugs. I, the addict, on the other hand will be a twitchy, anxious, excited, nervous, mess in a dress! My eyes will be darting around the room, I will be fiddling uncontrollably, I’ll likely be salivating like a rabid dog, I will have no idea of and no interest in what you are saying…and that is all before I’ve even taken anything! That is all from my body remembering (or more likely romanticizing) a previous drug-fuelled experience and pumping me full of a fuck-tonne of adrenaline because someone mentioned the love of my life and he’s somewhere in the bloody room! * Swoons dramatically.* Honestly, I wish I was exaggerating but I have had a belly full of more butterflies and a fuller heart staring at a little mound of cocaine being racked up than I have had for men I’ve dated. Okay, okay I hear you! I don’t have the best track record when it comes to beautiful boys… but let’s just put aside the fact that the gauge on my male quality controller is broken for a moment and agree that an inanimate object should never be more powerful than a human person (as shitty as they may be). Damn, even writing about it now is triggering me and I’m getting all itchy and twitchy!
A couple of weeks ago I was at a party with people I didn’t know very well. All of a sudden I turned to see a girl to my left cutting a little pile of coke into nice clean lines (see, I’m romanticising because I’ve been triggered, ew). I’m talking, if I breathed to heavily I could blow it away (no joke, I held my breath)! It was painful! Every cell in my body was screaming for me to smash my face into that lovely little pile of the devils’ snow and snuffle it up like a wild boar looking for truffles (I know, I’m pretty sexy…). As soon as I knew it was in the room my focus changed completely. I could no longer have a relaxed evening chatting with some new, interesting people. I instantly developed tunnel vision and suddenly my eyes could zoom in and out on the entire room. I knew who had drugs, where they were hidden, how I could get them, how much I could scam off each person, who had the good shit and probably even your dealers’ secret security number (well…almost)! I knew everything there was to know and all within seconds of discovering there were drugs in the house. It’s as if your brain just stops observing the rest of the world and you become so systematic and resourceful. All I can liken it to is how a blind person might develop super human hearing. It’s insane, instantaneous and uncontrollable. If I somehow learned how to hone this skill of resourcefulness I would probably be fucking Einstein 2.0 by now! But instead I’m just a poorly recovering junkie with a magnet for trouble and difficulty saying “no”. Whatcha gonna do?!
There’s something strange about an addict, in that you literally become cosmically drawn to other addicts. I can’t explain it but it’s a strange phenomenon that happens without even trying. Go to N.A. (narcotics anon.) and you will hear it time and time again. Junkies attract junkies! I never overtly looked like a “junkie”, so it can’t be that. If I did my doctors would’ve stopped ‘dealing’ me my oxy years before things got out of control. I always looked like a sweet, white, middle-class girl from suburbia. But put me in a room with drugs or an addict and we will sniff each other out in about 10 seconds flat. Truly, it’s a talent…
For example, I was walking down the street last week and while looking down at my phone I asked the first person I saw for directions. Innocent, enough right? 5 minutes later he was offering me a gram! That is not a rare story. It might be the person I randomly sit next to at the bar or on the bus. I could be in a city I’ve never been to before, not knowing a soul, and still shit would find me. Without even looking for it! Like…wot da funk? I dunno man, it’s got to be some kind of pheromone thing! If I really try to analyse it, maybe it’s something to do with micro movements. Unconsciously we must recognise the slightest of similarities in each other and find that attractive and familiar. Things like dilated pupils, slight twitches, sniffling, shuffling, chomping, chewing, eye movements and skin texture. Then there are subtle things that are said or done, that to the outside observer have nothing to do with addiction but would be clear as day to another user. It’s a match made in junkie heaven…or hell if you are in recovery like me.
Being in recovery is really hard. The reasons are layered and boring but basically it takes all of me not to use. I’m not too bad if I’m around non-users, but if you shove a cake that reads “Eat Me” under my nose… I’m gonna eat the fucking cake! It’s like asking Hugh Heffner (god rest his soul…) to settle for one pair of tatas for the rest of his life, or Kanye to reduce his self-proclaimed God status, simply to King. It’s probably technically possible…but it’s going to be a struggle and you can pretty much guarantee there will be a fight!
The only thing that gives me hope in my recovery is overcoming anorexia in my past. It might not sound relevant but eating disorders are another form of addiction and self-harm. I had never experienced anything as mentally, physically and emotionally all-consuming as anorexia was, until I found drug addiction. To me, it feels the same. You slowly and painfully torture yourself with starvation for those rare moments of reward when someone looks at you and says “My are you tiny!”. Every shiver you feel from lack of blood flow and body fat, every period your body skips because it doesn’t have the energy to function properly, every time your friends and family look at you worried because you’re skin and bones; all of this produces such an incredible high that anything else pales in comparison. I didn’t used to be able to walk past a window without “checking” to see if I’d suddenly put on 40kg in the 10 minutes since I last checked. I couldn’t go out with my boyfriend for dinner without starving myself all day and punishing myself with intensive exercise later. I weighed what little food I ate obsessively. I exercised on zero energy until I would cry on the treadmill utterly depleted and desperate for someone to rescue me. I couldn’t look at celebrities or friends or anyone without comparing myself to them and of course, always coming up short. I hated myself. Every tiny, waif-like, inch of myself, but I overcame that. Now, not only do I think I’m smoking hot (I’m also super humble), I’m also getting pretty good at loving myself sick and treating myself with more kindness and compassion. So, if I can live in Italy and eat pasta on the daily without a second thought then I’m convinced I can have a successful recovery from drug addiction. I mean, a year ago I couldn’t imagine a life where I wasn’t shoving oxycontin up my nose every hour on the hour and today, although I’ve relapsed in other areas, I am proud to say I haven’t had a single oxy. Yasssss Queen!
I will never forget the first time I ate pasta during my anorexia recovery. It was a minuscule bowl of tortellini. I lay on the kitchen floor crying and screaming hysterically because I was petrified of putting it in my mouth. Imagine being terrified of pasta?! Pasta is the bomb-diggity! Finally, I ate it. I whaled some more. My whole family were in the next room ignoring me. They’d probably been told to by some psychologist, but at the time I just thought they were heartless ass-holes (Saaaarrrrry, love you mumma..!). I was fucking furious and full of guilt but ultimately, I was proud. Digestion hurt like a mofo as I felt the pasta crawl slowly though my guts that night as I tried to sleep. It was all I could do to remind myself that this could be a life-changing moment, if only I let it. This was a moment that I would draw strength and reassurance from for years to come and continue to do so throughout this new bitch of a challenge.
I could have never imagined a life where I wasn’t taking opiates every day or where I could forget something so simple as the calorie count of a green apple. But today I have no idea what anything weighs (not even myself) and I am proud to say I have forgotten all the calories I memorised during my anorexia (must be all the drugs…OMG JK, JK Rowling!!!). I truly have a passionate love affair with drugs and my addiction specialist told me that my body would forever remember how good they felt and crave that sensation. But what my body doesn’t remind me about are the times I’ve worked so hard on forgetting. The times I’ve woken up next to someone wanting to pull a coyote ugly* just to escape, or the shame of using after months of sobriety and having to start back at day #1 again, or losing friends due to my shitty actions that I can’t even remember…the list goes on. However, once I was deeply attached to and in love with my anorexia as well and now there is nothing appealing to me about starving myself to fit into a dress or a mould that society has shaped for me. So, fuck that noise! I am a ball of mental illness and insecurity so naturally I am susceptible to addiction and self-loathing behaviours, but the more challenges I’m given just provides me with more opportunities to prove to myself that I am the strong, bad-ass bitch I always knew I could be! Watch this space, because if I can do this I can fucking rule the world! Step aside Yonce**!
*The person is so ugly you’d rather chew off your own arm than risk waking them!
**Beyoncé, dah! C’mon, Lemonade is almost 2 years old now…
I’ve spent a lifetime falling in what I called L.O.V.E love but now that I’m well on the wrong side of 25 and my ovaries are starting to scream for fertilisation (haha, gross) I’m asking myself, WTF actually is this “love” thing everyone’s always going on about and have I ever truly been in love? Let me give you some context as to how strange it feels for me to even ask myself that question. From the moment I could walk I was chasing boys. I couldn’t count the amount of times I thought I had been in love. I could fall in love with a cartoon character if he glanced at me through the TV at the right angle (shout out to teenage Simba, I mean daiiimn)! I had my first love interest in 4-year-old kinder when a little blonde, bowl-cut kid named Damian simply existed, O.M.G. swoon! When he wasn’t interested, because he was just completely out of my league and totally dreamy (yes, even at 4-years-old they’d figured out I wasn’t one of the cool kids), I quickly turned my attention to the stinky kid that liked bugs and kept rotten apples in his library bag. “That’s better” I thought, as I finally got the attention I felt I deserved, and err yeah…that’s pretty much been my life ever since!
I’ve spent my life falling for the weirdos because pretty boys only like nice girls. Or as mum would say shaking her head, “You always did bring home the strays!”. This referred to boys, friends, cats, that drunk I passed on the street at 5-years-old and cried bloody murder when mum wouldn’t let me help the “sad man”, and there would be many more sad men to come as I got older and more beaten down by the absurdity of life.
Mum calls me an orchid because I need the absolute perfect environment to flourish but once I do it’s beautiful and it’s worth it (isn’t she lovely, she is me wee mammy after all). I tend to think I’m more like an over-ripe peach. I’m too fragile and have always been easily bruised but then life gave me actual things to worry about (rude!) and I kind of just started to rot from the inside out and fall apart beyond recognition…also I smell a bit like stale alcohol. Being damaged helped me see trauma in others like an x-ray to their hearts. Knowing how awful they felt made me want to take their pain away. It took a long time and a lot of personal destruction to realise that just as nobody was coming to save me, I couldn’t save anybody else.
In The Hab (that’s how the kids say rehab, der! I got it off a heroin addict so you know it’s cool) we would get told off if we tried to help others. They called it ‘care-taking’ and it’s a problem when you yourself need healing because putting all of your attention into helping another serves as a distraction from helping yourself. Just like on an aeroplane when we are told to put an air mask on a child before ourselves, we are useless if we don’t take care of ourselves first. Well, I was utterly useless because I was trying to save all these broken men and yet, I myself was a feking dead-ass peach! These days I aspire to live a selfish life. I’ll admit I’m still working out how to balance this. Sometimes (often) I take this too far and just become a down right self-absorbed twat, but in general I think I’m better when my primary focus is on self-care. As an addict I can get confused by the difference between self-care and self-sabotage. It sounds as though it should be obvious but to an addict mind that is easily persuaded to the ‘dark side’ it’s a difficult balance, but that’s for another day.
I read something recently that has royally fucked with my pea brain and is why I wanted to explore the concept of love. I don’t remember it perfectly but it was essentially saying that we don’t fall in love with a person, we fall in love with the way someone makes us feel about ourselves. In a way, we fall more in love with ourselves via someone else’s view of us. Seems nice, right? Someone sees value in us and therefore we feel more value in ourselves. Hazzah! The problem with this is that as peoples’ actions and words change (because change is the only constant and blah-di-blah-blah) we can perceive their change in behaviour as negative. Maybe they say “Bye, I love you,” every morning as they leave for work and one day they simply forget. It’s a small thing right, and it doesn’t have to mean anything at all, but if all of my love for myself is wrapped up in someone else’s view of me, it can mean everything.
At the start of a relationship it’s easy to get swept up in the love bubble. It’s what makes falling in love so much fun (and addictive)! We all know how it works. S/he says nice things to us, dopamine spikes like a drug in the brain and we call that love. It’s not a negative unless you emotionally crash when that initial intensity fades and you will only crash if you don’t have self-worth of your own, which I didn’t. But that feeling we call “falling in love” is not love. True love is unconditional. That is not a small word. That means whatever they do, whatever they say, however they make you feel, you will love them. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that’s a huge fucking ask! Okay, he eats my last piece of pizza, I’m pissed! But I still love the ass-hole. He cheats on me with my best-friend, kills my cat and eats my last piece of pizza… I’m sorry, but I’m gonna smash a bitch and it’s going to be hard to look him in the eyes and send the prick love!
With that in mind I’ve been trying to think if I’ve ever had a relationship where I know, unequivocally, that I loved someone unconditionally. I honestly don’t know. I’d love to say I loved my long-term ex unconditionally but I’d be lying. I absolutely loved him, I still have love for him, but more-so I loved that he loved me. I loved that he was there for me. I loved that he accepted my quirks. I loved how he made me feel about myself and when he stopped showing me how he loved me, or rather our relationship changed and I wasn’t getting what I thought I needed, I stopped loving myself.I stopped seeing my worth because my worth was dependent on him. Ultimately this meant I ended up looking for someone else to tell me all the pretty things I needed to hear in order to like myself again. Obvs this didn’t work out as I had hoped (coz dah) and subsequently, shit it the fan and we broke up in the most spectacular (or hideous) of fashions!
So no, I’ve never had a romantic relationship where I unconditionally loved someone. I’ve always wanted or needed something from them, whether I knew it or not. I think most of us function in our relationships that way if we are honest with ourselves. Unconditional love is haaaaaaaard! *Stomps foot and pouts* The only person I know without a shadow of a doubt, I undeniably love unconditionally is me big bro. He’s my best bud and I would do anything for him as he would and has done for me. He’s the one who took me to the nut house when my mind melted into mush, he’s the person who told me without a hint of judgement that I needed to pull up my socks and get my shit together because he could see I was causing myself more harm than good, he’s the kid that whenever I felt hopeless could make me smile, when no one else could. Simply, to be around him I feel a greater sense of calm; a feeling that is not easy for me to access. I feel like whichever personality I may be channelling that day, is enough and accepted. He knows every single ugly, fun, crazy, psychotic, depressive, angry, anxious, wild, boring, tired, sick, lazy, manic, slutty, mentally ill, artistic, talented, aggressive, confident, volatile and selfish part of me and he still loves me. That is unconditional love and if he can choose to love me unconditionally, as difficult as I make it, I will do anything for him in return, including love him no matter what. Nawww…shuddup! * blush*
Now bro, where’s the body? I know a guy that can help ya get rid of it*!
I know this might sound ultra anti-feminist and probably a little sad, but all I’ve ever wanted in life was to be loved. These days it manifests as love addiction, codependency or obsession with the “lucky” man of the moment! When I was a kid and teen, this manifested in an obsessive and destructive desire for fame. Yes, as a child I wanted, no needed, the world to love me and had decided that achieving Oprah-level fame was the only way I would ever be happy. I’m an addict guys, I don’t do anything by halves! As you may have guessed, I am not a world-wide phenomenon (yet!… hey, old habits die hard) and yes, this was the an incredibly painful lesson I had to learn, but let’s be honest, if I had achieved world domination by the time I was 16 (as I told my father at 13-years-old I would, while he stared at me bemused), I would’ve ended up like Amy Winehouse. I have no doubt. Let’s face it, I was the no-frills, less talented, unsuccessful version of her!
I was just un/lucky enough to not have the money, fame or paparazzi hounding me during my recovery or fueling my addiction. I also said, yes, yes, yes, to rehab. Which was my saving grace and the only reason I am alive today. Oh, B-T-dubs, this is a PSA; If you don’t like Amy (yas, we are on a first name basis), no offense but…kindly eat a bag of dicks, you’re wrong! She was a beautiful, fragile, love-personified, angel, goddess, queen with talent pouring out of her fingertips as she strummed, she wrote like someone who had seen too much and she had a voice somehow simultaneously like molten chocolate and as if she had been a pack-a-day smoker since she was 10. If you haven’t heard the ‘Back to Black’ album, STOP READING this nonsense and listen immediately! You will understand her, me, yourself and simply the world better. It will do nothing short of change your life. In my humble opinion… But WTF do I know?
For those of you still around after being insulted and told to stop reading and listen to music, this isn’t just an appreciation post, Amy is key in this story. I relate to her on a profound level. That worries people but then, I worry a lot of people too so, make of that what you will. Yesterday I visited Camden town where the fallen angel lived and tragically died. I was meant to be going on my very first ‘official’ date with my London boyfie, who will now be known as ‘London’, because I am a creative genius and writer extraordinaire! Anyway, here’s a typical example of love addiction for ya! Let me paint the picture…
10 years ago, when I was 19 and naive to the imbalance between beauty and tragedy that life brings, I was still, well, maybe not bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, but I wasn’t the bitter, old hag you see before you today (oh yeah, come at me boys)! I was out in Melbourne for the night with a girlfriend when I saw this handsome, older man across the bar and he saw me (yeah yeah, another handsome, older man. Daddy issues, I’m aware!).
It was the first time I had ever had that movie-like moment where you truly believe in your gut you have just seen the love of your life. I still remember what he was wearing, how his hair was, his smile…and the kicker, his British accent. Well, I was fucked. I’d fallen in love with him before we even left the bar. Problem was, someone else loved him…namely, his (now ex) wife. We chatted, there was fire, he fueled my intensity with pretty words and we went our separate ways. As I write this from the bed in my friends London apartment where I’m crashing, this is the closest I have been to him in 10 years. He has never left my life but also never truly entered it as we lived literal worlds apart. We have been through nothing and at the same time kind of… everything together. Over the years connecting through the florescent lights emanating from our phones. We hardly know each other and yet we know all these significant moments in each other’s lives. Surgery, divorce, break-ups, children, loss of parents and friends, cancer, drugs, life… It’s been a strangely comforting, constant “relationship”. At times when no one else would, he would tell me he loved me, I was beautiful, important, I existed. I felt like if I ever had nothing in my future, at least I had him. He would always be there, just loving me. See, that’s my crazy love-addict mind right there. I had moved on into a relationship that lasted 6 years, I have had people come and go in my life in that time and yet my addiction would tell me that this man has just been quietly twiddling his thumbs, sad and alone in London, desperately waiting for me to arrive and for our love-story to begin! Well, here I am babe, let’s do this thing! Awks…
On the morning of what was to be our very first date, 10 years in the making, there he is in my phone, doing what any rational person would do, blowing me off and running as fast as he could in the opposite direction to the spiral of insanity that is me. He wouldn’t even know that what he said would impact me so deeply but when he told me “this” [I] was [am] “too intense” and “crazy”, he just so happened to be the third man I cared about (and believed cared about me) this week, who had said the same thing in any number of different ways. I am single AF and yet somehow was dumped 3 times this week!What is life?!I am aware I am intense (a whirlwind/roller coaster/wrecking ball/hurricane…keep ‘em coming boys, I’ve heard it all!), but you can’t feed my intensity with hopeful words and fall in love with this same intensity, energy and passion, just to tell me it’s too much now. Well, I guess you can and that’s the problem I’m having.
I feel like the sun (ego much?). I feel like from a safe distance I am bright and shiny and pretty to look at but get too close and I’m just so fucking hot I’ll burn you to a measly crisp of the man you once were…omg soz, baiiiii! Or maybe, I’m just a loud, obnoxious, c*nt who drinks too much, swears too much and can’t keep her dick in her pants… but who’s to say! In all honesty though, I’m struggling with this. I am wild and unpredictable, I know that about myself. But this is the me post rehab, post 100 years of therapy and self-study, this is me working my juicy little arse off to be better, and I’m starting to feel like unless I shut up and pacify myself (which isn’t an option coz I gots shit to say!) then I’ll forever be without an intimate love. I know what you’re going to say so let me say it first! I’ll just have to get really good at loving the shit out of myself so that I don’t need no man! * flicks hair and clicks * It would be nice right? I know this is an unpopular thing to say as a strong, independent woman, but I just question whether I’m cut out for that. Don’t get me wrong, I love myself sick, but my fear of loneliness is fucking powerful and sometimes fear trumps love.
So, with ‘London’, I was supposed to go on this Amy Winehouse-tour. I wanted to drink in the bars she drank at, see all the amazing street art that has been dedicated to her, walk the streets she used to walk, sit at the bar and write songs in the presence of her memory. I just wanted to experience and honor her, and to thank her for her art and understanding. After being rejected I pulled up me-ol’ cotton socks and took myself on the tour, alone. I did all the fabulous things I wanted to do and in fact it was probably better because I could spend more time writing and connecting with her but after a few too many beers (disguised to myself as “connection”) I had that familiar feeling… I wasn’t just alone, I was lonely. Alcohol is my kryptonite. It turns me from a badass boss bitch who can handle just about anything life throws at me, to literal gutter trash. I become the definition of white-girl-wasted and intensely needy. Let me tell you, feeling needy when you are alone, in a city you don’t know and a recovering sex/love/drug addict who has just relapsed on booze, is a recipe for disaster. I am lucky that none of the brilliant plans I came up with in my drunken haze came to fruition (whatever you’re thinking, yes, I thought about doing it) and instead I just took myself to a hotel, alone, and slept it off. Called my mummy in the morning for a pep talked, had a little cry in the street and pressed re-start on my life and recovery. Aren’t mums just the best?
I relate to Amy on many levels and not just because we are Eskimo sisters* (now that’s a story!) but because, although she was already using drink and drugs to cope with the pain of existence, it wasn’t until she was broken hearted that she tried to use substances to fill the love she was missing. That was ultimately her downfall. Her addiction to Blake was so strong, it killed her, in every single way. In fact, opiates like heroin or Oxy fill the same receptors in the brain as falling in love does. That’s why they often attract us sensitive, fragile hearts, before subsequently ripping us to shreds. We are desperate to feel loved, even if we have to take it in chemical form. I think that’s the saddest thing I have ever learned. Especially when you realize how much less attractive or desirable you are on drugs/booze. Here we are, ‘the lonely-hearts club’, using unhelpful coping mechanisms because we are heartbroken and craving love and affection, and yet, these strategies are repelling people so much that it becomes a cycle of loneliness. I am somehow simultaneously attractive and lovable and repulsive and terrifying to the opposite sex. If you think meeting me is a “whirlwind” how confused do you think I am most of the time!? Answer: quite.
I don’t want to end on that super depressing note. It’s all a bit close for my usual more objective approach but I was called to write and it’s helping me process so cheers for reading along with me. Yesterday was a day where I was triggered around every corner and didn’t have enough back-ups in place to protect myself. Ultimately, as long as I learn and become more aware, I’m okay. I get to let go of a man who I have identified as an addiction, I’ve been reminded that when sober I am the strongest mother fucker I’ve ever known but drinking makes me incredibly vulnerable and, in a way, although I am accepting that maybe I am too intense to find love (whatever that is, I’m still learning) another part of me is incredibly excited that if and when I do he will be the strongest, bravest, most patient man on the planet and so, why would I rush meeting him? He sounds fab (potential love addiction talking, I’ve got no feking idea anymore)!
So…what the holy-Dr-Drew (Celebrity Rehab – C’mon I haven’t lost you already have I?!) is love addiction? It sounds seedy AF. Is it even a real thing? I mean, everyone loves love right?! Love is the best! Sure, love in its purest, unconditional form is immeasurably beautiful. But that is not the experience of a love addict. As always, all I can talk about is my experience but what I’ve learned from uncovering my severe co-dependence in rehab, to attending the charmingly named SLAA (sex and love addicts anonymous) meetings since, is that I am not unique and I am certainly not alone. Which was oddly comforting, even for someone as self-absorbed as me!
How does one become addicted to “love”? I use the word love throughout but understand that it is not real love you are addicted to. It is the chemical response in your brain of how another person makes you feel needed, safe and seen. You are addicted to an experience drawn from another human being and the problem with that is that humans are inconsistent, changeable and flawed. And even if by some miracle they weren’t, your response to the same actions would change over time. It’s an addiction, right? So just like taking a drug to get you high, you need more and more each time to achieve the same euphoric high you got the first time. It’s the same with love addiction and there in-lies its ultimate pain and destruction. Because how the fuck-sticks can one solitary human being continuously pour ALL of their love and devotion, attention, time and energy into another who constantly wants and needs more or they will fall apart? They can’t. It’s impossible. Even if your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/lover, quit their job to stay home, give you pats and tell you, “You’re a beautiful, special, princess, unicorn, Goddess!” every single day, eventually you would be bored and disheartened again. You’re not an asshole, but your addiction is. Your addict brain would start to question, “Wait…he didn’t say I was talented, or charming, or smart or funny!? He thinks I’m boring and plain and stupid! OMG, he’s going to find someone else! Is she prettier than me? HE HATES MEEEE?!” It’s extreme paranoia and anxiety for the addict, and it’s suffocating and completely draining for the carer. Notice I say carer, because this person is no longer your partner. It is impossible to be equals in a relationship with an addict (any type of addict) in full addiction. IM-POSS-I-BLE.
Anywhosels, as you can see, the relationship is simply fucking doomed! So, when the person you need to fulfil your every emotional and physical need inevitably fails, you will be susceptible to fulfilment from any other source. That slimy man that winked at you on the train is the now your soul mate (until you follow him off the train and he subsequently locks you in a room until you start to scream…true story. I probably don’t need to tell you this but…DON’T FOLLOW STRANGE MEN OFF TRAINS)! The gorgeous psychiatrist you were assigned in rehab? Yeah, he’s paid to be kind to you! But the ones that are truly dangerous are the ones that actually like you back. They are the ones you end up falling in “love” with and now not only are you about to break your partners heart but anyone else who comes in contact with your addict-style “love”. Basically, you’ll inevitably fuck up royally due to your (current) inability to practice loyal, unconditional love.
It sounds like some evil master plan but I promise you it’s not. The goal has always been pure. The goal is love.It’s just been a very misguided, deranged, obsessive, societally-manipulated, male-focussed, damsel-in-distress version of love that you’re about to soul-crushingly learn never even existed. Let’s stop on that for a second… The only thing you have been trained as a little girl to desire and fight for your entire life, is a sham. I’m not saying love is a sham. Der, love is da bomb! Obsessive, addictive, needy, clingy, jealous, I’ll-never-be-happy-without-you, love-at-first-sight, knight-in-shining armour “love,” is a sham. Thanks Walt Disney…ya dick!
I tried really hard to collect men that would love me just enough. God that sounds horrible…! I deeply hoped that if I had the right people that I might just be filled with enough love to survive the pain of existing. I didn’t stop to ask myself why I was in so much pain, I just decided that love was the answer. Pure love would have been, addict “love” was not. So, I did what any addict would do… I binged and overdosed. I squeezed every last ounce of love out of any heart that was available to me. Like a vampire sucking blood, I drained them of their generous, honest, human love until it shrivelled into resentment, fear, exhaustion and heartbreak. When I was finally all alone after using up every last “hit” I could get of the most powerful drug I’ve ever sampled (and trust me…there have been a few), I realised I was more empty, more hollow, more alone, more invisible, and more nothing, than I had ever been in my life. It was hell. It was as though when the hearts I had destroyed left me, I no longer existed. I don’t know how to explain the agony of that. I didn’t exist.
It may sound dramatic (that’s kind of a theme with me), but my experience with co-dependency and love addiction was the most excruciating experience I have ever had. I have had my spine chopped up and put back together due to cancer (that sucked a bag of dicks), I have watched way too many incredibly important people in my life die horrible deaths, I’ve had anxiety since I shot out of the womb; so bad that you could easily mistake me for a shivering Chihuahua on speed. I’ve tried to save myself from the pain of existing in a world that has trained me to hate myself (topic for another day perhaps!) through substance abuse and anorexia that almost killed me…but the pain of losing myself into another person and giving them complete power over my emotions (unwittingly and unwantingly to them) was the most painful thing I have ever had to drag my sorry-ass through. Without comparison.
That’s why I want to talk about love addiction and explore it more, because until I completely fell apart and had to be sent to the loony-bin for it, I had no idea this was even a thing! Yet now I can see I have suffered from this my entire life at varying degrees. As women, most of what we are shown as children, programs us to grow up desiring a co-dependent relationship. Subconsciously we want that big strong Neanderthal-like man to give our power over to (*rolls eyes and hates self for being so cliché and malleable)! We crave that white knight in the Disney films to scoop us up and take care of us. We expect it. We think it’s our destiny and our purpose and if we don’t find that “perfect” prince-fucking-charming then we are nothing! By the way…sure Prince Chiselled-Jaw is gorgeous and swave but have you noticed how he’s always the most boring person on the planet! I mean, personally I thought I was better than that. I am a feminist, I am an intelligent, strong, brave, “nasty” woman and yet, I still got sucked into this bull-shit fantasy! Da fuk!?
Okay, so… “why me?” Oh, you know, the usual! Abandonment/daddy/life-issues, blah blah blah. Who cares why, what now!? Welcome to step one! I told you I wasn’t going to heal your life, and I’m not. Call my sexy psychiatrist if you want that. But if you do identify with anything I’ve said here I highly recommend going to a SLAA* or co-dependency meeting in your city. They are so supportive and you learn so much about yourself just from hearing other peoples’ stories and sharing your own. It’s truly a beautiful, inclusive experience. Don’t worry, it’s not as seedy and creepy as it sounds. Oh for sure you’ve got your creeps! But it’s not the majority and hey, keeps it interesting! If you have related to me here, you will relate to most people in the meetings. I guarantee you that.
Additionally, just having the awareness that if I feel like I love someone ‘at first sight’ then I am 1000% in my addiction. If I am obsessing over someone I hardly know, I am in addiction. If I am feeling invisible or lost if I don’t hear from whats-his-name…addiction. If I am feeling manic or euphoric if I do hear from them…yup, addiction! It’s a pain in the tit but I am constantly checking in with myself. I fail all the bloody time. I fail spectacularly, because as an addict I never do anything by halves! But, I’m learning and I’m interested and I want relationships that contain mutual, true, unconditional love, so I’m willing to do the work. As they say in the meetings, one day at a (sometimes-horribly-painfully-slow…) time!
PS. This poem is one of the most life-changing things I have ever read. It’s so brutally direct that it smacked some sense into foggy, love-sick, tired brain. It’s now my phone background…coz I’m super cool.
*SLAA: My advice, don’t go to a mixed gender meeting. They exist, but at least for me, it was a really beautiful experience being able to get together and talk and bond with a group of women. That is something as a co-dependent I rarely ever did. I tend to gravitate to the imagined safety and protection of men. Forcing myself out of that comfort zone rewarded me in some really beautiful friendships. Just practically too, as a straight woman…it’s less distracting!
Netflix Series: The only time I have ever seen sex/love addiction represented in media or entertainment is in the new, brilliant Judd Apatow series ‘Love’. Second season they cover it more but I highly recommend it.