I’m struggling, guys. I’m really, really struggling.
I could think of dozens of metaphors and short poems to describe this “feeling” but none seem to fit the base need I have: the need to confide openly. And, quite frankly, I don’t have the will or motivation to think up poetic comparisons.
The last 12-15 months have been rough, even by my standards. In (almost) brief, I started, and have now left, a job that had potential to be great but caused me tremendous emotional pain, endured a rapid decline of my 3+ year relationship into emotional abuse and manipulation before ending things and suffering the fallout, I made and lost a best friend to betrayal, selfishness, and threats of violence at a time when I really needed someone on my side, and have most recently moved out of my 7 years home of Plymouth, back with my parents, miles away from the few friends I still have (had?) left.
I am so… lonely.
I am so… ashamed.
How did I let myself get here? How did I let my life erode so deeply?
How this, why that… I could ask so many questions and not find any good answers. Why did I stay in a controlling relationship for months and months after my eyes had opened to the raw truth of it? How was I so weak to let my job push me to crumbling… again? How am I supposed to get through this without a solid “support network”?
I suppose, with a more positive outlook, I could rephrase those questions and have the answers: “I did my best”, “it’s okay to step away from something causing me pain”, “I’m not a failure unless I give up”.
“Ay, there’s the rub!”: I feel, a little, like I’ve already given up. I already see myself as a failure. I already let myself be walked on, pushed down, talked over. I already gave all the love I can muster with this soul and where has that gotten me? I don’t want to answer that, you get the picture.
I’m trying, guys. I’m really, really trying. I don’t know, I guess I just need some encouragement, an outlet, and if I can’t get that solace from The Hell Butterfly then what have I spent my time keeping this up for?
I want to be okay. I’m getting so sick of crying. There’s the initial catharsis of the action, then just a deep melancholy, a loneliness, a darkness that just won’t let the cycle end.
I’ll get through it. I always get through it. I just wish I didn’t have to keep “getting through it” time and time again. I need this awful universe to cut me a break. I mean, don’t I deserve it?
When sifting through old photos of myself,
the words, “I looked thinner back then”
still sound an awful lot like,
“I looked better back then”.
On days when I’m too fat
to fit into my shadow
I daydream myself nostalgic
for times when I was 17 and sexy,
“BMI Valentine” carved lovely
from Cupid’s own chubby cheeks
into dimpled smiles of the
little darling thin-fat girl.
Most days though,
I simply shut out the pain
of waistbands cutting
into my spare tire,
try not to move to the ungainly
of reverberating steps
of the Waltz of the Cellulite.
I dig through old letters
sent to myself
in skinnier times
on Valentine’s days when I was alone
and read back the to-me-from-me’s,
“BMI Valentine” carved lovely
from my own chubby cheeks
into forced smiles of the
little darling thin-fat girl.
I am a paper-thin outline of skin.
This, all that remains,
all that contains my nerves
a micron-thick flesh shape of myself.
Muscles so skillfully removed
no incision can be seen
upon my blueprint skin.
Bones left to dust,
a powder in my almost
I am a trembling structure.
Flaking, crumbling, collapsing.
I am undone.
Food makes me hate myself.
Through sleep-crusted eyes I wake every morning and remember
that I must eat breakfast.
It is 08:33 and I’ve already woken once and fallen back to sleep
partly because I know that I must eat today
and I don’t want to.
I wonder what “breakfast” really is.
The first half hour of my day is spent
poring over memories of what I had the day before
so that I can find inspiration for the morsels I must end my hunger with.
I can’t remember if I even ate breakfast yesterday.
Walls in my brain erected from thoughts of eggs on toast,
cities built in seconds,
cement paste measured from
two parts breadcrumbs, one part tears.
It takes a lot of work to knock this network down
and in doing so force open the hinges of my jaw
to allow food in against my better judgement.
Two rows of white knights standing ready marching in a rhythmic beat
in time to up and down as mastication transforms bacon pieces into guilt.
Maple-glazed disgust dissolving in the chaos of a bite-sized slaughterhouse.
The Unholy Trinity of Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
make the walls of my castle tremble.
Take their name in vain and–
–they will eat you alive.
I find Hell in streaks of ketchup,
traces of my sins in upset stomachs caused
by eating three whole meals in a day.
I wash myself clean but I can still feel oil in my pores and as I scrub
I shed a layer of my skin but I can still feel the salt in my veins
and I scrub harder still until I’ve carved away enough to expose my bones and then…
My friends ask why I cover up my mirrors.
I tell them that I’m superstitious.
Purple shame hangs heavy under eyes that can’t and won’t make contact with their own reflection,
afraid of what they might see staring back at them.
I’m terrified of laughing in front of people because,
when I laugh for real, my teeth reveal secret snacks snuck in
when nobody is watching.
I live in a nightmare woven from threads of my sanity.
I am a slave to food.
When I wake up I think of food.
At breakfast I think of food.
Before lunch, food.
Snacks food dinner food
dessert food food food
fucking food fat fat fucking fat!
I fell in love with the pangs that struck me
hard inside my abdomen.
I guess I’m just waiting for it to break my heart.
This is just a quick post to advertise The Hell Butterfly’s new sister website, Stop The Silent Killer. In light of recent events I felt it was about time I set this up. I’ve been considering it for a while but it’s finally up.
It is a platform for you to share your stories about mental illness. To tell the world about your struggles, and how you solved them. To share your pain, to help others through their own.
It is a safe zone, somewhere for us to help each other through the pain of mental illness, and to get the word out to the world about the truth behind the mask.
Let’s not stay silent about it any longer.
Please visit the link and share it. It has only just been set up and could do with a little boost to get it off the ground.
Regular Hell butterfly broadcasting will commence shortly.
This is the second part of the Meanwhile in A&E series in which we meet main character number two, Kieran Shrubb. Again, the style of this has been very carefully calculated and I hope it has paid off. As this was already in the works when I posted the first of the series, it came quicker than I imagine the next two will. Characters #3 and #4 are sculpted in my imagination. Now I just need to mould the clay that is the English language. For now, here is Chapter Two. For Chapter One, click on the doobly-doo.
Tears swallowed up his sapphire eyes. Through the wringer once again. Knees gave out and down, down he went. Dead weight on the bedroom floor. Another day, another torment. Breathing for him had now become a chore. He couldn’t remember how long for. It felt like forever. It was probably more like a few weeks. Like that mattered. Weeks, days, hours; they seemed to run for an eternity. As if to prove his point the clock went tick, tick, in the silence.
He sobbed without crying. Hard, wracking sobs that made the very bone structure of his face ache, but without the warm relief of tears to follow. Fingers intertwined in his own hair, hoping somehow that if he pulled out a clump or two, the darkness would creep out of the roots and he would be okay. Bald, but okay. His vocal chords strained in their attempt to scream in silence. The breath ripped through his chest in a whisper.
Alas, a tear! A single droplet squeezed from the duct as eyelids kaleidoscoped the world into violet, marigold, chartreuse. His fingers creaked in their sockets as he grasped again at the follicles. Another cold scream stifled. The ribs on his left side went numb with the effort.
And then nothing.
The sobbing stopped. The pulling stopped. The screaming stopped. All that was left was a tingling in his fingertips and a hollowness that echoed his muted cries about his chest. His hands drifted from his head like lead weights. His movements were sluggish, yet he felt that his body was heavy. His eyes never moved; they were empty now; they stared at nothing; they noticed nothing. After the commotion in his mind, the world now seemed too quiet. It hurt his head. He didn’t care.
Twisting sideways, he let his head fall onto the edge of his mattress. His hands sat limp in his lap. How much time had passed? He really couldn’t tell. Every time it felt like an age. He began to sink down, down into the confines of his solitude. He left his bedroom behind, and fell away into nothing.
How much more of this could he take? Could he survive the next beating? Would he snap at the next verbal abuse? Could he deal with his parents screaming? Could he deal with his own? Or maybe he would crumble into dust of his own volition. Maybe one day he would simply let it all slip away and become nought but ash. Another day like today and it might just come to it.
His ankle itched.
A jean-leg rolled up, a sock pulled down, and there they were. Countless pink lines turning flesh into geometrical perfection. They cried out for more. A hand gliding to a wallet; fingers pushed into the tear in its material; a tiny slice of metal slipped from its interior. The silence didn’t hurt him now. Instead, it shrouded him. It kept him safe from prying eyes though no apparent change had yet occurred. His door was locked: here he was safe. His pale, bony fingers twirled the blade, twice the size of his bloodied thumbnail, around in the light. A flash of white struck off the metal into his eyes. It seemed to rouse him. Fingertips brushed across the corner of the implement, thinnest edge caressing the skin, a gentle push to slip metal into flesh and then, then, peace.
Shuttered eyelids made a mosaic of his vision. Stain-glass windows of his paradise. It hurt, but he didn’t care. The pain did not bother him now, it would only be a bother later when he caught it with a foot, or let the cat get too curious. For now, the only thing that mattered was the glorious pleasure of the act. Lashes fluttered open. Single bead of red sliding over ivory. He wiped it clear before it stained the carpet.
It was the precision of the thing that he craved. At a time when his mind was far from ordered, this simple act of concentration, mapping out the next contour on the map of his flesh, scaled his thoughts to a skeleton crew. No longer did the screaming drown his ears. No longer was he dying inside. The slice of metal drawn across the skin to paint another crimson line for his masterpiece kept him sane. It cleared his mind. And of course, the sweet relief of pain was a bonus. He hated the punches thrown at him from the enemy. He loathed the back-hand swiped from the mother and the glass shattered by the father. But this, this was different. This was the one thing he controlled. Pain ruled his life, but he could at least rule over pain when locked behind the doors of his solitude. Here, he was the master.
The silence hurt his head. Adrenaline had left him piled on the bedroom floor. Pleasure had abandoned him in place of familiar Hopelessness. How much longer could he take this? His eyes stung. Saltwater accumulated at the corner of his lashes. Finally he could cry. How much time had passed? It could have been only minutes. It felt like longer. He began to weep, and the clock went tick, tick, in the silence.