“Let Me Know If You Need Anything.”

I texted Nikki today: a short, simple message to let her know that the surgery on Monday had been cancelled, and that I’d been back to the burns clinic tonight and the surgeon has put me on the emergency list for Monday.

I thought for a long time about how to sign off.

Just thought you should know?” Yeah, and if she sent back a simple “Thanks for keeping me updated“, I’d lose my shit and probably decide to quit therapy forever. Not a good idea.

Feeling pretty shit?” No, not helpful, we’re not doing therapy over text and the chances of getting a response I’d like are a whole lot lower than the chances of getting a response that will make me want to kill her and then set fire to her grave.

Wondering if we can talk today?” No, because I’m sure she would make time to call me (even though it’s her day off and she has a toddler), but I don’t actually have anything I want to say to her. I wish I did – that would be easier, somehow – but I don’t.

So, why was I contacting her at all, then? I think what I wanted was really just to implicitly acknowledge her as a person who is in my life enough that she probably wants to be in the loop about the operation being postponed, and to try to shift some of the aversion a little bit before I see her again next week, by connecting rather than keeping myself distant, in a punishing way. I decided to go with “Wanted to let you know what’s happening“.

She replied within 5 minutes, with a nice message: “Ah Rea! More waiting. So sorry to hear that. Was thinking of you. I hope you’re doing okay! Let me know if you need anything!

I felt an initial sting of “She’s ending the conversation, she doesn’t want to talk to me,” but it passed quickly. And I was just confused. What does that mean?

I need a lot of things right now. I need a hug, the long kind where you get to curl up and bury your face in their neck and maybe cry a little.

I need $60 to take a taxi home from the hospital, because the friend who’s springing me from the hospital can’t drive and she won’t let me take public transport.

I need somebody to come be with me in the hospital until I get my laptop back, and I need somebody to be there when I wake in a puddle of my own blood at 2am and I can’t walk the four steps to the bathroom to re-bandage myself.

I need somebody to talk to my boss, because the surgeon told me I have to take two weeks off work but I don’t want anybody to get suspicious so I’m only planning to take one day.

I need somebody to look at the burn with me, and compassionately help me to believe that it is bad, because I’ve hurt myself so many times that I can’t see it anymore, and so needing surgery just makes no sense to me.

I need a lot of things, and she can’t offer me any of them. She can offer me a session, or she can offer me a phone call, but that’s pretty much all she does. She’s my therapist. And so I don’t understand what she means. Is it just an olive branch, meaningless except to demonstrate care?

I felt sad, thinking about it. Not over the therapeutic relationship being limited, or anything like that. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s this kind of hopelessness of feeling like there’s nothing anybody can offer that will make me feel better. That I’m alone not because I don’t have people who would be willing to be there, but because there’s something wrong with me; I think about telling my “Jewish mamas” about what’s happening, and their distressed and protective reactions, and I feel sick to my stomach, and like I want to hurt myself. I want to isolate and tell nobody and lick my wounds by myself, even though I feel sad about being alone. (Not literally lick; I’m not that flexible.)

Something in me is just broken. Other people feel comfort from connecting, but I don’t. Talking doesn’t help me.

I look back at what I’ve just written, and I’m being so fatalistic.  I wouldn’t still be spending $200 a week on therapy if I was really so convinced I’m irredeemably fucked. I’d probably be lying in a bathtub full of m&ms with razor blades waiting once I ate my way to the bottom.

I need to really figure out why this operation, and the last one, are such a big deal to me. I’m so angry at Nikki for not understanding how much it matters, but at the end of the day, I don’t know why it matters so much. And when I try to think about it, I get this clench of white-hot anger in my chest, the sensation of being shoved back, hard, and a child’s voice saying “Of course it matters!“. A big part of me believes that thinking about or explaining something is the same as denying that it’s important, because if you really believed that it was important then you wouldn’t need to think about why, would you?

I don’t know if I even make sense any more.

I put my phone aside for a few hours, because I couldn’t figure out what to say to Nikki. Eventually I realised that that was probably exactly what I should tell her: “Wish there was something you could do to help but nothing comes to mind!

She replied in under 5 minutes again, offering me a session tomorrow if I wanted, and telling me to take care of myself over the weekend if not. (Ouch – take care of myself? Aren’t you going to come over and take care of me?)

I let her know that I couldn’t come in (a 6 hour Board meeting followed by a management meeting), but I think that if I didn’t have a completely full day, I would have considered it. So, I guess the six-text conversation was a success.

(Why don’t I feel better?)

“Let Me Know If You Need Anything.”

What Do You Get When You Cross An Elephant And A Fish?

Yesterday I sat in an empty waiting room for five hours, and waited to be called for surgery. I was edgy, and I could taste the nervousness in my throat. I read a book for a while, I surfed cat videos on tumblr, I (ironically) played the solo game in Words with Friends, I looked up cheesy elephant jokes, but I was continually aware of the fear bubbling in my chest. After a few hours, I slipped off my shoes and gave in to the urge to tuck my knees up to my chest.

Where were they going to put the cannula – would they try to put it in my foot like last time? When I woke up, would I be in searing pain again? When they asked whether I was in pain, would I automatically shake my head no, like last time? Would the shorts I’d brought fit over the bandages? What would I do if they didn’t? How long would I have to wait, staring at the wall, until my bag with all my stuff was brought up from admissions and I’d have something to distract myself with? When my friend from work (who can’t drive) came to “pick me up”, would I manage to stand up the whole way down in the elevator, even if it stopped at every floor?

At 4pm, the doctor came out to tell me the operation wasn’t going ahead. They’d had an ICU patient and it had bumped me off the list. Could I come on Friday instead?

I was almost in tears. The logistics of taking another day off work aside, I don’t want to endure more time waiting. I just wanted to get it over and done with. I haven’t decided, yet, whether I’m going to do it at all.

On my way out of the hospital, I texted the consulting rooms to cancel my appointment with Nikki. I was so upset that the thought of having to be in a room with her was unbearable. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get past my instinct to withdraw when I’m struggling, instead of reaching out for comfort.

The cancellation was 100% because I didn’t want to go. But I chose to text the consulting rooms instead of Nikki as a test. I wanted to see whether she would contact me to see how the surgery went. Our session time came and went today, and she didn’t. And she didn’t text me beforehand to say good luck, the way Jen did last time, the way Anna would have. I’m really having trouble getting used to her way of doing therapy – it’s so much less involved than anybody else I’ve seen.

I’m so mad at her for not hearing me that it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. Last week, when she told me to have a lovely weekend, the Angry Child actually had the urge to hit her.

Mentally, it’s almost like everything’s fine, but I can tell it’s not. This morning, the workman who’s tearing up the tiles in my bathroom arrived, and I let him in, then went back to bed and went back to sleep, not even waking when he walked past my bed to leave. My entire apartment is 4 metres by 4 metres, and the idea that I could fall asleep with a stranger literally in my bedroom is kind of horrifying.

All day, I’ve had that frantic feeling. The one where it feels like you’re running really late for an important meeting, but you’re wearing high heels and the floor is glass so you can’t run, and all that urgency just builds up in your body. I need to swim, but with all the bandages I can’t, and after the graft I won’t be able to swim for another 12 months.

I should reach out to Nikki, I know. She’s one of only two people that even know I’m having surgery, so God knows I need her support. But it feels too hard right now, and it seems like we’re never in tune. I’m still seeing her because I don’t want to start all over again with someone new, but is that a good enough reason?

P.S. The answer to the joke? Swimming trunks!

What Do You Get When You Cross An Elephant And A Fish?

I Don’t Want To Do This (I Don’t Want To Be Brave Any More)

Four days ago, I turned 26. Three days before that, I poured chemicals onto my upper thigh and left them there until they burnt a hand-sized hole in my leg.

Two days ago, I found out that I have to have surgery to fix it. Again.

I don’t even know what to say. Two days from now I’m going to be flat on my back on an operating table, and I don’t even really know how this happened.

It’s hard to work out how I feel about it. Sad, I think. And really, really angry.

My brother’s 30th birthday party is tonight, and I’m sitting on the plane, about to fly home to make small talk with near-strangers at a bar. I’m staying with my parents, so I’ll have to sneak garbage bags into the bathroom to cover my dressings while I shower, and do my best to walk without a limp.

When I saw Nikki yesterday, I told her I was having surgery on Monday, and she diverted into a conversation about my parents. I felt like she wasn’t hearing me at all. As I was leaving, she told me to have a lovely weekend, and I was so angry I went home and cried. Is she really so clueless? Am I so bad at communicating she thinks this is no big deal?

The part I’m dreading the most is waking up alone. In agony, without my phone or laptop or a book or anything to distract me, and having to sit and stare at the wall for hours.

I don’t want to be alone.

I Don’t Want To Do This (I Don’t Want To Be Brave Any More)

I Have An Eating Disorder

I have no hesitation about owning the label ‘self-harmer‘. No shame about ‘depressed‘, ‘anxious‘, ‘suicidal‘. I excel at all of these things. I have hospital admissions, medications, surgeries, stitches and scars to prove that they’re true.

But for over a decade, I’ve been too ashamed to admit, even to myself, that I have an eating disorder.

At first, I thought it didn’t count, because I didn’t throw up after I binged. And that was shameful, because I should be making myself throw up. I was a disgusting pig, and I deserved to throw up.

Then I got a little older, into my late teens, and I started to realise that maybe there was a little more to eating disorders than the lectures about anorexia and bulimia we got in high school. But I was afraid to think too much about it, and anyway, I was a ‘normal’ weight, so I couldn’t have an eating disorder.

And now I’m in my mid-twenties, and getting more and more aware of the times that I eat even though I’m not hungry. Even though a voice in my head is telling me ‘I don’t want to eat this‘. Even though I feel full, and sick. I’ve been characterising it as an unhealthy coping mechanism, a way of dealing with emotions, and mostly just ignoring it. Never, ever mentioning it to therapists, because it’s not extreme enough for me to be proud of it, to own it. I am not ashamed of self-harm, because I have to suffer for the relief. And I hate this, I hate it, because all I’m doing is losing control and stuffing my face.

When I was a teenager, my mother was obese and miserable about her weight, and she used to call me a pig and pinch my hips, seeing how much fat she could grab. Even now that I’m an adult, and science tells me I’m a little below the “ideal” weight for my height, if she sees me eating something she doesn’t approve of she’ll look me up and down, a pinched, disgusted look on her face, and say “Well, you don’t need any dinner“.

And I so didn’t want her to win. I didn’t want to have any body issues; I wanted to sail through it, unaffected. But the truth is, she is winning. She’s made me so ashamed of eating, so ashamed of not being underweight, that I can’t even confess to myself that I might have a problem. (Another one.)

Last night, I went and read the diagnostic criteria, and the verdict seems pretty conclusive. I still hate it. I’m still ashamed. But I might as well admit it.

I have an eating disorder.

I Have An Eating Disorder