How I feel now.
At present, I have just applied to take a few months’ suspension from university because I cannot handle the stress. This article may be triggering and I warn any close friends reading this that they may not want to read this. I am writing this to show people the effects child abuse has on someone’s mental health and if you know me well you’re either not going to believe me or are going to regret reading it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I suffer from severe anxiety and depression. I have not been formally diagnosed but I suffer from two forms of OCD (Trichotillomania and dermatillomania- look them up) the symptoms of which are so obvious I don’t need the piece of paper. It may be difficult for people who know me to read this because I am incredibly good at covering up my feelings and acting as if nothing is wrong. According to a very close friend of mine, this skill was perfected at the age of four; we had to retrospectively go through my childhood and identify when she had seen me after my mother had been violent. She, of course, had been lied to. I never grew out of this pretense. I am becoming more open about my experiences, but showing my feelings about it is something that often doesn’t happen. So here’s the truth.
I have this internal monologue that screams at me whenever I do something “stupid”. This can be spelling something wrong, dropping something, mishearing someone, bumping into someone, not realising I’m in the way of someone, drawing a blank on how to act in a social situation… the list goes on. Unsurprisingly, it’s everything I have been screamed at for.
I panic when I forget someone’s birthday. I panic when I realise there was someone behind me and I haven’t left the door open. I panic whenever I’m in the way. I panic if I do the slightest thing wrong. I apologise for everything and it gets on people’s nerves, and that just makes me feel worse.
I am so terrified of not fitting in when I choose a career. I’m scared that I won’t be able to manage the workload or that my boss will hate that I “don’t listen”. Or that I’m “stupid”. Although part of me knows these things aren’t true, right now I would happily scan items through a till for the rest of my life. I no longer have any ambition that I don’t truly believe I will fuck up. I don’t want to carry on to do a Masters’ because I don’t want to waste money on something I might be shit at. I no longer want to be a parent for fear I will screw children up in other ways than my mum did.
Sometimes, for days on end, I feel numb. I barely get out of bed. I struggle brushing my teeth, getting dressed, eating. The physical feeling is as if someone has died and the crushing weight of grief is bearing down upon me and I can’t connect it to any of my thoughts. I hate every voice I hear and the person it belongs to. I hate everything in the world. I hate myself in particular. Every bad thing I’ve ever said and done crashes in on me. Oddly, they don’t make me “feel” anything. They just play in my head all day, the numb crushing constant. The next day I will feel better, but exhausted. Too exhausted to keep a room tidy or do laundry. Periodically, I will get some crushing sensation of anxiety or guilt that lasts for an hour or so.
Sometimes, I have panic attacks. These are usually in the middle of the night but have happened before in public. Before I have accidentally hurt myself by hitting something or putting my head against a wall, not realising the force with which I was doing it. My nails get bitten until they bleed. If they happen in public I forget what I am doing and where I am going. I forget which part of town I am in. I am very good at not visibly showing anything, but the stress of this acting normally leads to me sleeping as soon as I get home. Actually getting to sleep is almost impossible. Falling asleep at 5am and waking at midday is common practice.
The worst thing is the very calm, narration-like monologue that plays in the background. The one that says things like “you need to take that into the lecture” and “you need to get milk on the way home”. In the last two years, since I failed my first year at university, it has been saying things like “you should just give up now”. “You’ll never make it in the work environment”. “You’re a failure”. “There’s a way to end all of this right now”. Even worse are the visualisations of me putting something in my bag, or buying milk, playing across my mind as normally as the visualisations of ending my own life. Most of the time, these thoughts are constant background noise, like subliminal messaging, like the figure in the back of the frame in your favourite horror film. Of course occasionally they come to the foreground, and that’s when I’m likely to be in bed clutching a pillow for dear life. I thank God that there is still some half-rational part of my brain that keeps me from doing what the other bits of my brain are telling me to do, but it’s by no means easy.
I wrote this because this is what abuse does to a person. Some people know me as quite a confident, bubbly person. At some points in my life, I was. But eventually, that person will become a shell of themselves when they realise what has happened to them. It may not seem, outwardly, that this has happened to me, but for the last six months I assure you that I have been consumed by a very hollow, empty feeling, as if everything I say and do is autopilot. And it is not nice. I implore anyone reading this to not hesitate if they have any concerns about a child, however small. Please do not let this happen to anyone else if you can possibly help it.