sometimes there’s nothing else to say.

When someone asks you how you’re feeling (and bless them that they do) and there’s nothing else you can say. I can try one of the reliable, tired syllables for sad: down, depressed, low, awful, bad, despairing, hopeless. “My symptoms are severe.” None of them feel true. I hate English. I hate words. I hate the words that pass through my head when I try to describe these sorts of things and I hate what I’m writing right now.

God knows where I am. That’s the title of a documentary, but I say it to myself sometimes. Because if my feeling is so desperately bound to me and unable to be communicated in any pure form to anyone else, God would still know. God would know where I am. God would know what I am. If He’s there.

But everyone else can’t. So on earth I remain alone. And if earth is all there is, then it stands to reason that no one knows where I am.

But I don’t like to assume I have the answers. So maybe God knows.

I’ve written a lot of goodbye notes

to my father, to past and current partners, to my best friend in the world and my first love. To other friends, close friends. It’s like I’m working up an inventory so they will all be ready when the time comes. The time hasn’t come. On the good days there is too much that is bright and sacred. On the bad days I can’t seem to summon the courage. I’m too afraid of the finality of the act. I never could make a decision, not even the simplest ones like where to go during a day, who to see. It stands to reason then that I can’t make this decision either.

Also I made a promise, and I don’t intend to go back on it. Yet still I write the letters. And every day seems sort of pale and grainy, and I cut into my arms and the skin below my waist and I think about me, the lack of me, what I take from everyone, from my surroundings, what I don’t contribute to or create for anyone. The vacuum of myself.

Why do we stay, I’ve been asking people. Always different answers, of course. Defiance. Too much to lose. Too much pain to cause. A simple refusal to accept defeat. A resignation that the act will lend so much horror to so many people’s every day, that it’s best to just endure so as not to hurt. Things to look forward to. A life that was promised.

All valid. And all meaningful. I made a promise. I guess that’s my reason.

 

today broke me

It wins today. I can’t describe how cruel and sharp my life felt today. Like a massive beast consumed it. Like I was dying of suffocation. Like everyone had claws. I would have screamed and kept screaming, but there’s nowhere you can scream. There is no safe place.

I need to talk to someone with BDD

Recognizing that this blog reaches about 5 people, I’m going to try this anyway because the isolation is becoming painful and worsening the illness.

To clarify: I am not isolated in life, not usually. I AM isolated in my experiences of body dysmorphic disorder. I have yet to meet another person affected with this disorder. Not one single person. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, my reach isn’t particularly wide. But today when everything hurts so much, I would love just to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to truly hate their own face so much that they wonder about their own life’s viability.

The body is everywhere. You can’t escape from the physical reality of yourself as a being. I can go to a lake, I can go to a movie, but I will be there, that same face I dread seeing reflected in the mirror, that same face I can barely stand to walk around with at all. It robs me of outward meaning like a vacuum or a drain: the face takes everything. There is no meaning at all if I am what I see, if such ugliness is in fact me. It does seem wildly vain but it is the truth. I am nothing but flaws walking around glued together. And it robs me of of my enjoyment of outward things, of books and sunlight and bustling market streets, because I can’t disappear, I am always there to be seen and perceived. I wish I was a tiny creature very close to the ground so no one could see me and I could perceive everything and take joy from it, too, understanding that I was merely watching and not being watched. I just want to see a beautiful girl and appreciate that she is beautiful while not being reminded of my own ugliness.

Is there anyone out there who has been diagnosed with or thinks they may have body dysmorphic disorder? I’d like to start a dialogue with others about their subjective experiences with it. I’d like to start a group for this under-recognized but terribly painful disorder. I know what it’s like, and if you need to talk, I will be here.

Reach out.

there are people I should thank

A lot of what I write in this blog are forms of complaint. Maybe justified, maybe not. Today some reflecting happened (I would say I did some reflecting, but it was more like it was done for me). I got sick today, heat-related most likely. Nausea and regular stuff. But I want to tell people things that I’m not sure they know because caregivers and friends sometimes have the hardest role of all, and they don’t get enough credit.

J. took care of me during one of the worst periods in my life. He made supper every night in London. He came over to my parents’ house in Ottawa and watched Law and Order with me even though he’d have rather been at the movies or doing something out in the world. He was generous and compassionate and respected my boundaries. He was the most empathetic person I ever knew closely. He deserves a lot. He’s the Ratty to my Moly. If he ever feels down on himself, he should know how much beauty I saw because of him, and how much beauty we saw together. I got sick early in our relationship and he could have bailed but he didn’t, he stuck and stuck for the right reasons. He’s now with a beautiful, intelligent partner and working on his PHD and I’m so happy he’s found the things he has now because he always deserved them. ALWAYS.

Maggie listens to all of my messaging rants and episodes and is always kind and compassionate even though she might be having a really rotten day of her own. She cares about people. That’s rare. She’s not just going through the motions of seeming to care, she genuinely cares. She’s the kind of person you’d be lucky to have as part of your family.

Jim insists on forcing video chats on me because he knows I avoid them. No matter how any times I disappear or for how long he’s there and I hope to God he doesn’t give up on me. He’s going through his own shit too and holy crap does he never let me slide into absolute despair.

The guinea pigs are total beautiful grumpy assholes who somehow help me anyhow. God knows.

My dad listens to music with me in the car and we sing along.

My mom brings me stuff I need in the car and always hugs me goodbye.

My brother always checks on me when I visit and makes me a whisky and ginger ale.

My sister lets me stay in her home even though sometimes I just stay inside one room the entire day and I say strange things and sometimes I’m depressing.

Also dogs. I miss you Jolene, I miss you Rosie. You are both wonderful snugglers.

T. is really private so I’ve avoided writing about him in this blog, but he means a lot, and the image of him with his large eyes and the snow falling will always be sacred.

 

 

I got lost somewhere

and ended up here. This is not where I was headed, not purposefully. Not that I ever really considered myself on track, but there was definitely an additional pointed and deliberate (or at least it felt deliberate) shove to the side sometime last year, off the tracks, into the weeds. My health plummeted, and my mental health with it. When I try to pinpoint exactly when, October 2018 is as specific as I can manage: when things became not simply emotionally trying but near-impossible. I got sick, I got gallstones, I had surgery, I got sick again. And so on. Accompanied by the rot of my brain taking on a whole new form, gaining strength and asserting dominance. I also remember being very determined that 2019 would be different, I would MAKE it different. 2019 would be the year of me, of health and creative fulfillment and the death of The Face, staring at me with its ugly little eyes. 8 viruses, three separate suicide plans, one failed co-op placement, several pity grades later and I am 27 and sick again with some sort of bug and wondering when the change will come, if it will ever come.

27 now. As my new therapist says, I am losing daylight. It was okay to be sort of unstable and uncertain at 24, but at 27 with no progress or change in sight? What exactly are we doing here, if we can’t find contentment or satisfaction or even the smallest nugget of silvery meaning, if we can’t achieve growth or creative marriage, if we can’t even go a week without a headache pinning us to the bed? What IS this? Empty hours “achieving” survival. We aren’t alive the way we’re meant to be. I was born to be scribbling bad stories or painting terrible pictures or preening and showing off my pretty hair onstage. I was never exceptional but I was engaged, I was committed to the project of solidifying my imaginings so they could be perceived by others.

I’m ashamed of how many hours since October 2018 I’ve spent on deciding what movie I could watch to distract me. Because survival is LONG. Survival takes years. Survival takes a lifetime. At some point, survival is meant to become more than itself, is meant to become a more measured sort of life, projects and domesticity and career and goals, a sense of oneself, a life one has constructed. But in the meantime, while we work simply for survival itself, it is a very long business. If anyone knows of any good distracting movies, let me know.

No answers, just questions

People leave.

Has anyone else in my position or a similar one faced this? People dropping off, leaving, not answering calls or messages. No blame to them, of course. I am exhausting. On my good days I am a brightness. On my bad days I am an obligation. I have been dumped by girlfriends. I have been ignored when I reach out in crisis. I have been told by partners that they don’t want to be a part of “this”, that they don’t know what to do, that they don’t like witnessing such intense sadness. They prefer the other me.

It is more than understandable for someone not to want to watch a movie that they see every day. That is the trouble with mental illness, it isn’t a linear narrative, it happens over and over and the witnesses get tired. I have a few people left, dear people, but they emphasize their distance, they state their boundaries. Messages go unanswered. I thought I had learned to be self-sufficient. Two years ago I was ferociously self-sufficient, private, independent of emotional need, dealing with my anxiety in a kind of solitary fury. You can never pinpoint these things, but I think I started really needing people late last year. It’s been a bad storm. But people aren’t supporting characters in my narrative, they’re lead characters in their own narrative. The question that remains is what do you when you’re left alone like this? What is there after everyone stops answering?

My ice cream fell on the sidewalk

So like anyone with money troubles I cursed the loss of 4 dollars and kept walking. 20 minutes later, I started to cry. Over my spilled ice cream. Not because of the ice cream itself (I hope, though it’s possible I really wanted that ice cream) but because it seemed like a perfect metaphor for my life, and I suddenly saw myself in a boxy t-shirt with stumpy little legs, like a character in a Peanuts cartoon. Why so glum, Charlie Brown? Is it because you’ve never kicked the football, never gotten a homerun, never won over the little red-haired girl? Is it because the other kids don’t invite you to parties, or use your bald head as a model for the design of their jack o’ lantern? We always go back to square one, Charlie Brown. The difference is that you keep trying, managing to summon as much hope in the 20th attempt at you did in the 1rst. But I’m starting to keep track. Keep track of the slights and the insults and how many times that bitch Lucy has pulled that football away. I’m not supposed to do that. The lovely people in my life who tell me things will get better–their arguments don’t work if I keep track, if I say “no, look, here is the evidence. I always end up back here.”

The broken chemicals in my body are the mean children, the griefs I carry are those parents who gave you rocks when you went trick or treating. I would have sat down and cried right there in the grass.

“Can’t you do anything right, Charlie Brown?”

I don’t know.    

   

Today

You know when you get so low, so rock-bottom low, that you become a cliché? I can hear all the phrases in my head that I repeat over and over to people, close people, when it feels like this. It’s endurable. I can’t do this. I don’t want to be here. They’re all true but I sound so over-wrought and dramatic, so very repetitive. It hurts, I tell them. It hurts, it hurts. When will it get better? When will I stop feeling this? Can you take it away? Can anyone take it away? Please?

So of course I think about killing myself. What else is there to do when the attack is so relentless and so strong? Why WOULDN’T my thoughts naturally go to suicide, as a solution to this pain? People call it a long-term solution to a short-term problem, but when you’re in agony, don’t all your thoughts go to ending that pain? It’s natural. Not the act, I’m saying, but the thought. If you’re burning alive you’d welcome an arrow to the chest. How do you bear torture? You bear it because people tell you to bear it and because you’ve borne it before. Or because you are too scared of the long-term solution, too scared of violence, too scared of inflicting violence or causing emotional scars, causing a chain reaction of emotional damage. But the during part can’t be adequately explained or endured. Years are slipping off my life. My brain, my body, my heart, they’re being crushed by the weight of this, splintered, fractured. Please help, I want to say. And even if I have promised you I will not succumb to my suicidal ideas, that doesn’t mean I won’t think about them. Because it is rational to want to spare yourself the slow death for the quick one.

I saw a ghost today

I saw her in the window of the grocery store when I went to get fruit. The store was almost deserted. It was 6:43, I remember looking at my phone when I walked in.

The ghost in the window was wearing my pink knitted headband with the big flower. She was wearing my army green winter coat. She looked so familiar and sweet, like a song you’ve forgotten until you hear it again. And I realized that years ago, in London, when I went on solo trips to get the groceries, I wore the same pink headband, and the same green coat. I had the same rosy cheeks, and the same lost expression.

At first it was nice to see her. Then it wasn’t, and I had to cry. She was 24 and utterly beaten down, and I am 27 and not far from it. There is a thread connecting her and I, and I suddenly could not understand how I had gotten from there to here with the same headband, the same coat, the same face, the same fears. We haven’t grown or changed as much as we’d hoped. We haven’t outrun the black dogs. I cried like Charlie Brown would cry if he looked back on the last three years of his life and realized that he’d always thought he would kick the football, and he never actually kicked the football. I don’t want to lose the people I love. I don’t want to drive them away because I’m not strong enough and the me they see is just a repetition of other mes who also cried and took walks to the grocery store in their pink headband.

While I walked home, I realized that there were tiny differences. The flower on my headband is loose now, a stitch came unraveled. And there’s a hole in my coat below my collarbone, goes right through both layers of fabric. I don’t have my best friend nearby anymore, to hold tight during the storm.

Linus isn’t here and the zigzag on my yellow shirt is falling apart at the seams. I have to be stronger than I was, and being strong takes everything I have. I am afraid there is nothing more to me than this trying, and I am, in fact, the ghost, I am the echo, I am repeated emotion until no one wants to hear it anymore.