Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Calling the Samaritans

Firstly, I'd like to thank those who shared, commented, liked and sent messages of support to me following my 'Letter to C' post on Sunday. I shared the post both on Twitter and Facebook which was an emotionally challenging yet relieving thing to do and the response I received, both publicly and privately, was unexpected and extremely overwhelming. It really enlightened me as to the people that care, even if my brain doesn't always comprehend that anyone likes or cares for me in the slightest.

I have been debilitating over the last six months or so whether to make 'Letters to C' a blog series, so let me know if that's something you'd like to see. I know some of you were wondering who 'C' was, and some of you who knew me from that time knew straight away (but that was inevitable anyway) and each way is totally okay -  but at the end of the day, revealing and outing somebody elses personal life is wrong and is hence why I chose to keep C's identity under wraps for the majority. I don't know whether C will ever read the post itself, maybe they will, maybe they won't.

This week, without going into detail has been a challenging one emotionally, and in the middle of Monday afternoon in an act of desperation, I, for the first time, called the Samaritans.

Now don't get me wrong, I've been in contact with the Samaritans before. When I was a lot younger, most notably my mid to late teens, I used the Samaritans e-mail service a lot. That was back when their helpline was not free and as easily accessible, for a fifteen year old whose parents still paid (and monitored) my phone bill and watched me like a hawk 24/7. The e-mail service allowed me to be a lot more secretive about my actions whilst still allowing me to vent to somebody, even if that somebody was a somebody unbeknownst to me a million miles away, or even if it was a robot.

In the last few months, the Samaritans have changed their helpline number to a free service which does NOT appear on your monthly phone bill. This number is free to call from both landlines and mobiles. Whilst I was absolutely delighted by this news, I never in a million years perceived that in 2015 ever have to be picking up the phone and dialing that exact number.

The Samaritans are a UK (and Republic of Ireland) based charity which provide emotional support to those experiencing distress, at risk of suicide or who are struggling to cope with their emotions. Their 24 hour helpline is supported with volunteers, called 'Samaritans', who give up and dedicate their free time to be trained to be on the other end of the line to support those in need.

It was an email from my personal tutor on Monday morning that triggered the response that maybe, just maybe, deep in my denial that giving the Samaritans a call might just be what I needed.

I rung them once, somebody answered, I hung up (I've, admittedly, done this a few times before, which may explain why I'd never spoken to them on the phone before). I then called back ten minutes later and spoke to a lady called Joy. It didn't solve everything. It didn't magically provide an answer. It didn't cure me, or lure me out of bed, or persuade my brain to shut up and get the writing the 2000 words I've needed to write since, well, a month ago.

What it did do, however, was give me an opportunity to talk. I kept admitting that I wasn't even sure what I wanted to say and I was reassured that it was okay. I was on that phone dialing that number for a reason and no matter if I said anything or not, my reason was still valid. Talking to somebody who wasn't Nathan, my therapist, or my friends (or anyone else who I have to force myself to be happy for at times) was a relief. Joy didn't provide any magical advice, or solutions, or answers but she did listen and I can't express how relieving it was to speak to somebody who couldn't judge, couldn't talk back or argue, and couldn't tell me what/what not to do. With how busy everyone seems to be these days I think we definitely underestimate the power of listening. Pure, selfless, listening.

There were some moments of silence during the conversation and whilst at times I didn't understand why that was I fully understood all at once. I could talk without being criticized or judged, even if the talking was just a load of ranting about seemingly trivial things. Joy allowed me that space to talk which sometimes I don't quite get.

I don't doubt for a second that I'll be using the Samaritans again. To know that it wasn't as scary as I first thought and that it was okay to stammer and stumble on my words or not be able to make sense of why exactly I was calling in the first place other than thoughts of sheer desperation. It was okay to not be perfect for someone else for half an hour or so (even though I fought back tears the whole time, I hate people seeing/listening to me cry). It was simply talking to a stranger who had given up her time to talk to those in a bad place like myself. You can't ask for more generosity than that, really.

The new free Samaritans helpline number is 116 123 for the UK and Republic of Ireland. Their service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and you can also use the email service I mentioned, which is jo@samaritans.org. If, like me you are struggling, feeling desperate and are not sure where to turn, I would strongly urge giving them a call. They won't solve what's going on but they will listen, and I can't stress how in this day and age how important that is.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A letter to C

Dear C,

Today is the 22nd of November 2015.

It's been exactly 5 years and there are some things I still can't quite get over. You know me, I've never been one to eliminate the past.

I'm now 23 years old. I'd just turned 18 at that time which seems so long ago. I don't even recognise that person sitting in your office, disorientated, confused, torn, suicidal, desperate. Yet at the same time, I do. There are little elements of that person which I still recognise even now and I hate that.

Some aspects of me have changed dramatically yet my personality is still the same. I'm half blonde now. I've gained almost two stone in weight since you last saw me. I actually have a figure. I wear 10x more make-up than I used to and I try to take a little more pride in my appearance, so so different from the waif thin, ghost I used to be (I discovered foundation and contouring since we last met, go figure)

But those parts of me derive from age, getting older and trying to discover myself and who I am. You'll probably not be very surprised to discover that my sense of self is still all over the place. I'm a little bit further forward in my education/career path than before but not sure. I'm still letting people down and having manic outbursts and random streaks of depression from time to time.

I was so so young on that day and yet I thought I was so mature that I could handle anything. The week before I came into your office on that day, I had bunked English Lit (of all subjects) to hibernate in the Sixth Form toilets and cry solidly for an hour and a half. It was then that I knew I wanted to die.

I then somehow found the courage to run to catch my train to work, and by the time I had gotten there, I cried pretty much on and off throughout my shift, before returning home and crying some more.

The next week for me was a huge blur and I needed someone to listen to me and listen to my pleas for help. Nobody was listening to me and you told me you didn't have time for me that day and I wanted to prove to you how sick I was. So I did. That's the first time I've ever admitted that to myself.

I took mini overdoses every now and again afterwards, secretly, and a few years later, in 2013, I took 600mg of SSRI's and developed Serotonin Syndrome. Today, (I'm writing this post a few days before publishing), I want to take more and I'm ashamed that it probably seems to you that no part of me has moved on since that day 5 years ago.

You were the only person at the time who ever completely had the time to listen to me. I craved your admiration and attention like the want of a parent and I wanted you to love me and it was pathetic. It was so pathetic but you had time for me. You cared about me, even during times when I didn't think you did. My teenage years were hell and you made them well, less hellish. I've never experienced anything quite so bad as being suicidal and when it resulted in some awful behaviour on my behalf and the desire to never speak to me again from yours, it turned me into someone inhumane.

I'm clingy. I'm needy and I always have been. Teachers had the time to listen to my crap and they understood me because I acted 10x older than every other student in that year group and I needed that identification so much. A few years after you stopped speaking to me I was diagnosed with BPD and it just brought everything into focus. It explained more than anything my relationship with you and how dependent on you I became during years 8-13 of my schooling life. Not just yourself of course, Ms L, Mr M, Ms H, Mr B also became my confidants through those times and with yourself are without a doubt the reasons I'm still going today. I hope you and they understand why I craved for someone to understand. For some reasons the people who seemed to understand were not my friends, because I didn't have those, those people had to be teachers and had to be people I could identify with in my adult sized brain which fit onto a child like body.

I don't remember much from year 8, but I do remember the first time we met. Someone had spotted me self-harming in a science lesson and had reported it to my maths teacher, who had reported it to our head of year. Within an hour I was called to your office and I'd never even met you before. I denied everything and I vaguely remember covering my arms by moving them across my stomach and saying everything was fine. How wrong I was. That involvement in my life was no doubt something you came to regret, and I'm so sorry because all I ever wanted to do was please you.

I wanted to be a perfect student who was exemplary and set a good example and on this day 5 years ago I without a doubt demonstrated the awful person that I am. There's a horrible person in all of us and you have definitely seen that person now. Stopping you from leaving your own office to call an ambulance - what sort of person was I that day? Saying stupid and horrible things. Putting you into a position where you felt the need to receive psychotherapy yourself. A person like you doesn't deserve shit like that.

I met my Dad, brother, cousin and grandmother last year. Yeah, the biological dad that abandoned me as a child. I tracked him down and I met him and it was wonderful and then it wasn't and now he wants nothing to do with me. It all felt strangely familiar and I'm getting used to this whole 'people leaving me' thing. I'm very surprised my darling Nathan hasn't done the same. In case you were wondering, we are still together and have now been together for six and a half years. Wow. I remember the days where I was beating myself up in your office over guys I fancied who would never like me back and I managed somehow to bag the perfect man. I finally went to University and I'm so close to finishing that the last straw is killing me one day at a time but I am so close. I've discovered a lot about myself, mostly that two bottles of wine in a night is an awful idea and that a cream cake won't make me gain a stone in thirty seconds and it's wonderful but I have an awful long way to go. Maybe that's what life is about. Never fully discovering who you are but being constantly on a journey to try and do so. I'm not quite sure I have the patience for it.

Days like today I could do with some of your wisdom. Or even just your ears to listen to me. I had to grow up and move on too quickly and it was horrible.  I know that was a huge issue of mine. My body growing up when I wasn't quite ready. My mind was already spinning ten light years ahead of myself and I needed to slow down and process life before I could leave school and people like you. I never got that chance and that maybe why at 23 there are many things that I can't quite leave behind, and the 22nd of November 2010 is one of them.

I hope you're well and that you're free of your own personal demons. I hope you're happy and healthy and smiling. I think about you a lot and I won't forget how much you did for me. So thank you, and as always, I'm sorry.

A