Last Sunday I could have died … As anyone following this blog would already know, I am in the midst of an existential crisis. I have been in this fight for six months now – ebbing and flowing with the emotional growth spurts and harsh blows this kind of process brings to light. If you open your eyes, you have to then pave the way forward, through sheer terror, confronting the demons with truth and bravery.
Last week – Monday to be precise – I woke up and said goodbye to codeine. Codeine has been a friend to me these last four months, but it was clouding the path. I wanted it to cloud the path. I realised where I was in my life, and I didn’t like it. So I numbed the realisation, every day, for four months. Monday I decided no more. I went through severe withdrawals for five days, and I’d only been on the stuff for four months, I can only imagine how bad it would be if you’d been hooked on something for years. My body went into shock. I was a trembling, vomiting, shaking, sweating fragile mess of a creature. Yet I stayed in the fight.
The worst of the physical withdrawal was over by last weekend. I felt like I had woken up from a coma. Everything looked more vivid and brighter – almost surreal. It was frightening and liberating at the same time. I was awake. And I was so very, very aware of where I was standing. The emotions flooded in insidiously … they crept in and wrapped around my being, disguising themselves as snippets of clarity. I began to quickly feel overwhelmed. Problem Mountain had seemed to do nothing but grow, expand and widen in my temporary absence. I now stared up at it with nothing to hide behind. I faltered. Still, I was determined to not use codeine as a shield. So I turned to another old friend – Xanax. On Sunday, I took a Xanax, waited for effect, and then looked back up at the peak of Problem Mountain. It remained ominously large and insurmountable. So I took another pill. Looked up again. Still, Problem Mountain had the audacity to not alter. So I took five more pills. And I added alcohol to the equation, believing that these were the tools I needed to out-manoeuvre Problem Mountain. Even as I did this, a huge part of me knew that these tools would not work. I used them because they were familiar – they are the things I automatically reach for in my arsenal.
By nightfall I was fucked. But there was something new … all the self-work I had done in the last six months made me aware of the obsolete nature of the tools I had been using all my life. Even through the drunken, intoxicated haze, Problem Mountain sat smug, not shifting, as if to say, ‘You know you cannot thwart me in this manner. Try harder – do something DIFFERENT you idiot – go on, I dare you’.
I was aware of this. Yet I also felt completely incapable of doing anything different. In that moment of despair, I let the darkness rush into my soul, and I reached for another friend in my arsenal – the blade. I got a razor and locked myself in the bathroom. I considered my arm, put the razor to the skin of my upper left arm, and pushed down. I ran the blades down my skin and felt my heart skip with that familiar wash of relief and the red pooled for a second, and then slipped over the edges of the line. I watched the red create pretty lines of pain down my white skin. I felt the blood take the pain and despair out of my body, and dance with it across my skin. Fuelled by the sense of release, I cut twice more, and watch the pattern of pain leave my body. Then I felt it was enough. I covered up my arm and re-entered the world. But the relief didn’t last for long. And that is the problem with all the tools in my arsenal – they are temporary fixes born out of desperation.
Despite this offering of blood I had made to Problem Mountain, it remained intact and unmoving. Anger and deep, black-coated despair swelled in me. It began to swallow me up. I saw no solution. I believed nothing would ever shift. I was beyond desperate. I took more pills – an indefinable amount – and washed them down with wine. But it didn’t work. It served to only intensify the despair, as it always does.
In a blurred haze of desperation, completely incoherent and out of my mind, I stumbled into the kitchen in search of an answer. There was no suicidal inclination – there never has been with me. The answer I seek is an antidote to the suffering. I was desperate to get this shit out of me. Then I saw it … an emptied tin of spaghetti on the bench. I picked up the tin and ripped the top off. I felt the cool of the metal on my fingers for half a second. Then I slashed the metal edge through the skin on my forearm …
Immediately my eyes widened in terrifying realisation. The cut was way too deep. I was looking at the layers of the inside of my arm. I remember thinking in that moment, ‘Oh Fuck! I really don’t want to die!’
I regretted making that cut the moment I saw the damage – that is the hideous danger of combining a tendency to self-harm with drugs that render you incapable of controlling it. I went into practical panic mode. I was taken to emergency. By some miracle I hadn’t hit a vein or a tendon, or it so easily could have been lights out. I was completely fucked at the hospital, and only have tiny flashes of memory. I just know that I wanted to survive. And I did.
The next day brought sobriety with it. I remembered the wound, and making the cut, but very little of what happened before or after it. It is the worst cut I have ever had. Obviously that means it is also the most painful. But I was determined to not take any painkillers. I was determined to not relapse on codeine. And I’m proud to say I haven’t.
I have been self-harming on and off since I was fourteen. But this time something radically different has occurred. Every other time, the day after I would wake up and feel very disappointed in myself, and guilty that I had upset and let down those around me. But I was never troubled by what I had done to myself – the actual wound itself didn’t bother me. This time I am utterly terrorised and haunted by this one wound. I cannot get the image of it out of my mind. I cannot sleep and I cannot eat. I feel physically sick at what I did. I am traumatised by it. This has never happened to me before. And it is linked to that one thought I had, when totally out of my mind, when I saw the damage, I really don’t want to die …
For the first time I realise how fucking lucky I am that I didn’t die. I realise how much I want to live. I realise how much I want to be in this fight. I realise how much fight I have in me. I realise that in that one critical second when death was literally just an inch away, hope won the fight in me once and for all.
The fact that I am experiencing post-traumatic stress over this incident is both difficult and wonderfully miraculous. My instinct when in such a state of trauma, is to numb, evade and hide. It is when I would normally reach for the pills or the bottle. But this time I did not. I sat alone on Tuesday night, determined to no longer hide. There was nothing in my body to hide behind – no Xanax, no codeine, no alcohol … nothing. I let the emotions come. I let the tears come. I sobbed. I let myself feel it all. Because I know now, without one shred of a doubt, how much I want to live. I am looking at Problem Mountain with new eyes. I will not hide from it anymore. I will summon every fibre of strength in me and chip away at this monstrous bastard of an entity if it’s the last thing I do on this earth …
I will win this fucking fight.
This post was inspired by the word prompt ‘HOPE‘ at The Daily Post