Where are you now?

I’m struggling so much, and I keep reaching out for her hand only to find there’s nothing there anymore.

I’ve gone from celebrating progress to grieving loss to angry destruction to helplessness and despair and shame.

She never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself, now I’m slipping and who’s going to be here to hold onto me? I’m terrified. We were a team, that was the deal. We always faced these monsters together. Now I’m alone.

Her unconditional empathy and validation of my pain was a healing balm of being heard and being enough. Eventually I learnt that with her, I didn’t have to hurt myself to be seen or cared for. She always saw and believed my pain. I didn’t have to fear losing her, or her care, or not being ‘sick enough’. Now I’m walking on eggshells not knowing how to be seen.

She had an unwavering belief in my worth. That I was worth more than the pain, that I deserved better, that is wasn’t my fault. I was worthy enough to try to help and that was hope. Where is that hope now, when I feel more broken and worthless than ever?

I keep going around in circles wondering where to go next. I self destruct like a child acting out, and nobody is here to see, or tell me to stop or what to do with all this pain. I could be in flames and nobody would realise.

I’ve never been so terrified. She says it’s not the same as it was back then, that I will be okay, that I have grown. But it feels the same and I am terrified. Who’s going to care about me now? Who’s going to hold my hand now? Who’s going to see me now? Who’s going to believe in me now?

We realised this: I needed more as a kid, and I always will. I needed more because I gave so much of me. Because I loved so hard and cared so much. The pain hit me harder because I was so, so painfully sensitive and desperate to help those I loved. I absorbed emotions like a sponge. The hurting, hurt more because I was so idealistic, I never understood how anyone could ever hurt someone. I still don’t understand. I was so gentle and sensitive and raw. That alone, made the impact of the turmoil so much worse.

Everything is coming back up. I am trying to be bigger and stronger and face these monsters alone but I have never been so worn out and scared and small. I can’t seem to shake off the feeling that I don’t deserve better than this brokenness, that there was a reason why I was hurt (my fault), or find it in me to help myself when I’ve felt like such a ‘lost cause’ (or so they say) all my life.

I want to climb out of this pit yet it hurts so much to even exist. It’s hurt so much for so long I never knew what it was like to be whole or safe or okay to be a person. My skin is raw and my sensitivity leaves me covered in exposed nerve endings and I am cut open from the inside out and everything is on fire except it is so hot it almost feels cold and numb now.

And I miss you. I miss you I miss you I miss you. I wish you were here to say ‘I’m so sorry. Your pain is so real.’. To say ‘you don’t have to hurt yourself, you do deserve better’. Even to say ‘Ericia. You know this isn’t helpful, you need to let yourself feel’ or ‘I know you’re not really okay’. More than anything, I just want to sit in that chair and cry. Because I don’t know where else I could ever do that- let myself feel and express just how much it hurts. To say ‘I’m not okay and it hurts so much I want to die, I’m not okay and nothing makes sense and I’m so scared.’

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the hole inside

the hole.

the core of the pain lies in the same hole,

same fracture lines that have always

lined this proverbial skin

wounds that grew every time someone

ripped us apart

a gaping emptiness from a sense of chronic

abandonment, absence of softness

what’s left of holding a rag doll upside down

stripping it of hope and joy and dream.

everything that screams in this hole

is too loud for a highly sensitive soul

everything that rears it’s claws

too painful for one who only wants to love

the hole that I carry, carries it all

brokenness that extends into the depths

shame that has spread its roots

I’ve desperately denied it’s existence

yet it stays, a taunting reminder of the

ugliness I carry, brokenness I am

it is hard to believe I could ever be worth more

or be a whole person

and not parts of a broken past

We’ve gone back to this. It’s always back to this hole we carry inside, this hole so huge we never knew what to do with it, only knowing it is bad and painful and ugly and we are so very broken. I wish I knew what it was like, to not feel broken or deep shame for the brokenness that exists. The brokenness nobody can argue with because there is proof of every bad thing that happened and it is not just a false belief I made up in my head. It is real and it lives in my bones and aches in my chest and seeps out into the world. This brokenness, this hole I tried so hard to compensate for and run away from, it reminds me I will never be a real person- a whole person, a worthy person.

I feel so broken and so much shame for being broken and so much exhaustion in trying not to seem broken.

How could I possibly be worthy when I am so damaged? I’ve lived with this unworthiness for so long. But maybe now that I see this hole again I have to ask myself why? It is what Dr Kelly would ask me. She said it’s okay to be broken and feel broken, that is how we heal. She would ask me what I did wrong, why being broken meant that I was less worthy. I would say I don’t know. She would say it was not fair those things happened. She would ask me what determines my worth. She would say I can’t change how I feel about myself but I can use my wise mind and not my emotional mind, acting in line with that. And right now whether or not I’m ‘worthy’ it doesn’t make sense to destroy myself. But I also know what she believes, and she believes that I am worthy of love and care and real relationships and recovery, she believes that I am not a bad person because of what I’ve been through. I can have a life outside of this. I have to trust her. She said that if I believe I am unworthy I will always be unworthy. That is why I had to start choosing differently. Now I’m faced with a choice again.

I’m still scared that not relapsing would mean that nobody is seeing my pain. But maybe that’s not true and I have to trust that people will care. And I have to show up for myself and validate myself. Because truth is, what do I get out of relapsing? I have to recover eventually. I don’t want to relapse either. I want to get better. I want to be worth something. I want to heal. I know I’m terrified of admitting that, but seeing my pain is the first step to healing. It’s saying I deserve better. That is scary and so painful. But I did it once. Maybe I can do it again and choose recovery again. Choosing to change. To help myself and not hurt myself. Because what drives the self hatred and unworthiness is the pain and the pain wasn’t my fault. And I deserve a safe space to feel and to cry and be vulnerable. Or I will keep being this exhausted and hurt.

I need to show up for myself and choose to recover. It is an active choice. I need to stare my pain in the eyes and say ‘I see you’ whether you are screaming it loud or not. I need to hug my inner child and tuck her in bed like she’s been needing. I need to choose to care for myself and eat despite the guilt and self hatred and unworthiness. I need to use the coping skills I have. I need to rewire my thoughts and start telling the inner critic ‘no’ again. I know what I need to do. Like I did then, I just have to trust. Now instead of trusting my team I need to trust myself and the people I love. I need to do it, to choose differently.

To acknowledge this hole, feel this pain, without needing to destroy myself because of it but finding myself outside of it. Maybe the hole never goes away, but we learn to cope with it. To be with it. That’s recovery.

To not be alive

I’m hurting so much. I know I should be used to it by now, but it never stops hurting. I don’t know what the worst parts are, is it those moments where I thought it was getting better but it wasn’t? Or those moments where it hits me how I’ve spent almost my entire life living with this pain, running from this pain, trying to peel off my skin and exist outside of it because it hurts too much to be me?

Because being in this skin feels like every nerve is exposed and lit in flames. The shame feels like turning my skin inside out and crawling into a hole a hundred feet beneath where nobody can ever see. The self hatred used to be a balm that soothed the pain, a target for the anger, a direction to point the flames in. A distraction. Now I know it’s not really even self hatred, just shame and anger and so much pain there is no where else for it to go. I don’t hate myself, I just hate being me, I hate existing with this pain.

“Shame is one of the hardest, most painful feelings for humans to feel. Most of us just push it away.”

I don’t even have the energy for the same vicious self hatred I once held. I am exhausted. I am hurting. I am hurting again. I never stop hurting. I just pretend. Push it away. It’s like a game of how numb can we get. My therapist is right, nothing will make the pain go away. No amount of starving or purging or drinking or isolating or cutting or pills or destruction will make it hurt less. I would know, by now.

I wish I was dead. The thought popped into my head as I wrote that. And I actually mean it. I don’t often feel it this strongly but I mean it. It always gets this way when I realise how long it’s been and I cannot bear it anymore. I wish I was dead instead.

But I am not dead. Not on the outside. Still, I just want to give up on myself. On life. I am hurting so much. If I just stop existing, if I just numb. It won’t make the pain go away but I wouldn’t have to feel it. I wouldn’t have to be me. I wouldn’t have to be alive and I would give anything to not be alive anymore.

I don’t know how to go on

I had a session with Grace today, and Katie checked in with me briefly too. I thought they’d all forgotten about me. I feel bad, because I’m not the easiest person to talk to right now, I’m in so much pain yet I feel so closed off and numb. Katie saw me napping on the couch and asked what was going on and I told her the Xanax makes me really sleepy and somehow also told her I take double the amount I’m prescribed. She was shocked and worried about that, I don’t really get why. She wanted me to talk to my psychiatrist about it. I’m going to ask Dr Lee to continue to increase my dose maybe? But I actually do start to feel the numbing effects of Xanax and it’s really nice so I might keep taking it more throughout the day.

The session with Grace was hard. I sat on the couch, closed off. I was struggling so much, I have been struggling so much and I told her a bit about that, about triggers that have come up. Therapy ending. I realise that triggers the thought that nobody cares about me, it triggers the feeling of being alone. I told her all the other memories have come back too. The sexual assaults. She asked what the common thread was between everything, and I think it’s my self worth. It feels like it’s me, it’s my fault that the assuaults happened. It’s because I’m a bad person. I couldn’t verbalise this but I feel so much shame it’s almost choking me. I don’t know why I feel so much shame. I feel so broken and used and defective. I feel like ever since it happened when I was young, I was just… not whole.

I didn’t realise this during session, but I think therapy has acted as a safe bubble, protecting me from the ocean of unprocessed trauma. And now that’s gone, I’m not just alone but I’m vulnerable to all of this pain. And the waves are crashing. Why did it protect me? I guess because I felt safe with her. I trusted her to carry my trauma. Having that comfort of a safe person makes the trauma more bearable. I trusted her to not see me as anything other than who I am, whoever that is. I feel like these incidents are the deepest of the wounds, and I trusted her to see it, I trusted her to see the deepest, most broken, ugliest parts of me and maybe having that made me feel less hopeless. If she could see that and still care about me. It’s that same belief I’ve always had- that my pain makes me a bad person.

I think therapy ending triggers me by recreating all the feelings of vulnerability, rawness, helplessness. When I wrote that, the image that popped into my mind was crude. It was a woman being hung on a cross (like Jesus) with her arms tied and her legs spread open. That kind of vulnerability and helplessness. Therapy ending reminds me of all the other times I’ve felt so helpless and scared. It amplifies the feeling of abandonment.

But yeah, she asked me about that ‘nobody cares about me’ feeling and tried to change in to a positive belief. To remember the people who do care. My belief was “people care, whether or not they’re there”. Grace tried to get me to think about Dr Kelly, what was helpful for me, what made me feel comfortable. It was really hard to think about anything at first but we came up with few things: she was a good listener, the space is quiet, she’s genuinely very caring. Her laughter, her bad handwriting, the way she runs around in a mess sometimes, how she loses a million pens. Her constant presence. She’s unconditionally there, and I can trust her to hold me when I cannot hold myself. I can trust her to scold me and call me out on bad behaviour. I can trust her to tell me the truth (even if it took a while to listen).

I really, really needed her, especially at the start of recovery, because everything was so unstable letting go of the ED. I’m Glad I had her. But who do I have now? I think Grace was trying to help me find that feeling and keep it with me as part of an internal resource. Being able to call upon that image of safety, thinking about Dr Kelly and that space. I was resistant to it during session but maybe that’s something I can keep with me. I don’t know. Keeping a piece of Dr Kelly and that feeling of security and safety. I already have her words with me after all.

At one point in the session I just got really really scared. The fear hit me like a flashback and I physically felt so much fear I wanted to crawl into a hole Grace also asked me to do another resource building, and thought about a comforting picture of a person who cares about me and I thought of Clarissa did I in the bed in the morning. We did a few rounds of deep breathing.

Grace said the whole point of these resources building is so we can cope with the trauma when it does come, and I do feel like it helps if try. Right now I’m struggling to want to help myself. I’m so angry. She asked when helped that most and I said it’s always been is self-compassion. But it’s hard to have that. I guess today I’ve been thinking why I relapsing: I’m about moving to Uni, trying to apply, trying to get my proposal for AWARE, trying to took for a job, I have friends to meet, places to go to. I’m travelling, finally. The truth is yes, there is a lot of going on ourself myself right now- I’m turning 20 and yes, a lot of my life has been absolute shit but I’m also just 20 and my entire life is just waiting for me to happen. Is it really worth letting go of that just to get back the safety of the ED? I can’t bullshit myself about having both ED and life. I can’t do these things if I’m sick. Even if I could, it wouldn’t be the life I really wanted. I will never be free if I am still sick. I have so much in my future… but I feel so small and tired. I wonder why I’m self destructing. All my self-hatred comes from trauma. It’s all pain, isn’t it. The self blame. The shame. The anger turned inward.

And I ask myself what if we choose recovery? I can do it with Dr Kelly- I have her words with me, and I have a safe space for her in my heart. My friends will be supportive, I will continue to live my life, I have Dian, Esther, Grace & Katie to guide and support me. I can use the coping skills I already know I have. I can build resources like Grace is trying to do. More an anything, Dr Kelly’s words kept popping up in my head, ‘do you want to be therapist? you can’t be sick and be a therapist’ Being a therapist and all the other things in my new life, there are reasons to recover. I was also reminded that I can choose thoughts and beliefs. She said that if I choose to believe I am unworthy then I will always be. We can’t run from pain but we don’t have to torture ourselves. We can’t run from pain. I keep hearing that in her voice. I know she believes I deserve better. I have to make the choice to recover or stay sick. Dr Kelly isn’t gone forever… just.. out of place. She hasn’t abandoned me, she still cares about me and she’s rooting for me. She says I deserve recovery. I told her I’ll be okay. I know I know what to do. I’m just scared and in pain. But pain hurts more when I push it away, I know that. It hurts less when I hold it in self compassion and softness. I keep thinking about recovery. I know I want it and I have to. Soon. Because I want to live my like. I just can’t imagine giving up the ED right now, I want it more for now because it gives me control. I just want to lose weight. I just want people to see my pain. I’m sad. But I will recover. Maybe in a month. Before London.

What’s going to ground me?

What’s going to ground you?

Dian asked me that in art therapy. I don’t know. Everything hurts too much that I’m dissociated and tired. I don’t feel anything but hungry right now. But I realised this: it’s the same question that Esther raised. What’s my new safe bubble? One that isn’t destructive. I don’t know either.

Without therapy it feels like I’m floating and the past is coming in waves, drowning me while the present charges right ahead and the future is a colourful, beckoning adventure that feels too large right now. Even existing feels too large right now. Adventures are always welcome yet an adventure that whisks you away into the unknown while you are unsafe, ungrounded, feels like a whirlwind I don’t

want to be in.

They’re right though. I need things to ground me and keep me safe, things outside of safe bubbles, so I can build a life. I need a home within me.

Another question: why do I hate myself so much again?

I don’t know, I told Dian it just feels like everything is my fault and everyone haves me. Everything that happened in my life is my fault. She brought up yaya and I realised all my memories with her are blank. I don’t know, is it pain? anger? Disgust?

3rd Jan

Just had a session with Esther, and it was helpful? I don’t know what I expected. But I had a felling she would be helpful and I was right. I think it’s just helpful having this space to talk about attachment and relationships with someone who understands. Since these are my biggest issues, and so many of my issues come from parents and family, I think exploring this would be really helpful.

I cried in session today, which I don’t normally. Things have just been really really hard and I told her about the huge holes in my attachment, the need to isolate. All the attachment issues acting up and me acting out. But she also said that the safe bubble I have, isn’t lost when therapy ended and asked me to think about what else could be in that safe bubble now. I don’t know, I don’t know what it’s like to feel safe or what it might even start to feel like. I told her about my growth when it came to relationships and trusting people, and she agreed that I’m not who I once was and I’ve taken small steps forward in things like building more secure relationships. She asked if those relationships can be safe for me, and I said I would like that. It reminded me so much of what Dr Kelly said- about how I’m outgrowing my ‘safe bubble’ of numbness and isolation because I along the way I started to want what was outside of that. It’s still scary to acknowledge. Last session with Dian, I told her I was also recovering because I was just.. hungry. Like, literally. But she said that was really, really powerful- the hunger, and it extends beyond just literal physical hunger.

I’m hungry for food, but also life and feelings and connections and living. Living in all its messy, wonderful, beautiful, magical glory.

That still scares me. Maybe less so, now, but it still scares me. I’ve been thinking a lot about me being an infp and sensitive person, about my idealism and how I see the world differently- especially with Mary Poppins, that movie means a lot to me. And I looked down at the tattoo on my wrist and remembered the ‘secret’ reason why I chose the word believe. My 16/17 year old self, as much pain as she was in, wanted to always keep believing in magic? In hope. To keep believing in the little things and the beauty of being alive. To hold onto that idealism. It’s something I felt too ashamed to admit or tell, but I think even then, I knew this was such a huge part of who I am and it was important. To let it go, to let go of my beliefs, my feelings, my childlike wonder- would be like letting go of who I am. Now I have to acknowledge this hunger, too.

I told Esther it was easier to not exist if you weren’t eating. To not need food or love or comfort. It’s this fundamental dissociation from being human. It’s so painful to acknowledge hunger or needs. Acknowledging it would be acknowledging the pain too. The awful emotions. But talking about it again, I realised once again that I am not who I once was and it’s all.. different now. The world isn’t scary now, I’m not alone now, I have things that can make me feel safe now. I told her I keep feeling the same hopelessness and helplessness. Like nothing will be okay or safe and I just want to not exist.

I gave her a good analogy about my safe bubble: as a highly sensitive person, I get so overwhelmed with physical stimulus that I just need quiet time in my room to recharge. I need this white space, emptiness to just be alone. And it’s the same with emotions, I’m just so overwhelmed that I need to a safe bubble, a quiet space to not-exist. Except I don’t know what it’s like to feel that safety and rest and comfort. That’s what the ED gives me, at least.

But Esther said something about everyone needing their own safe bubble, and I thought that was so true. I just.. don’t know what that could look like if my safe bubble isn’t self destruction. And I realised that recovery and being away from the home and the parents could give me that space to find my safe bubble? I started sobbing, thinking about that. Being free. I said it was like.. the idea of being able to breathe after holding my breath in fear for so long. It’s so unimaginable yet I want it so, so badly now. It feels too good to be true, yet the chance is here. She brought up how even cycles of staying sick can be comforting, but I realised I don’t even want to be sick anymore. I used to. I used to be endlessly trapped in these cycles of attachment triggers, and relapse and isolation.

Esther suggested that I could do things differently now. That was so.. wild? To think. But she also asked what I was most proud of in 2018 and I said it was the leap of faith I took, to choose to trust, to choose recovery. That was one of the most difficult things, that leap of faith to see the cycle of pain and suffering and destruction, and step out of it. To change something, even if it’s the most painful and terrifying thing. It wasn’t about betting better in recovery, or learning about trauma, or finding self-compassion- those are all huge, huge things too of course. But I’m the most proud of that choice, to choose recovery even if I didn’t want to, even if I didn’t feel deserving.

And now I am faced with that choice again. Esther reminded me of what Dr Kelly used to- small steps. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there are small steps of change. Honestly, I am held back by so much fear and sadness. I look back to who I was, that girl on the 23rd April who was in so much pain yet finally chose to try after 6 years of continuous suffering. How did she do it? She was sick of this pain and there was no way she could have gone on. She had the support of the best therapist ever. She was really, really, really brave. (Or maybe just in a lot, a lot of pain.) She was strong. I wish I could be that strong. I feel so tired. I know she was tired too. Esther said that my safe bubble didn’t just have to be therapy, I can have other safe things now and like a bird leaving the nest, the most confident and ‘independent’ people actually have the most secure bases. I have to choose between allowing myself to feel some of the things and sit through some of the things, or go back to ED hell.

I thought about how hard I tried to build a safe space within myself. Before anyone else, having it with me. I still want that, I realise. I just. It would be so nice to have a safe space right now. Today Grace came into the office, even though she wasn’t supposed to be back from leave until next week. And the moment I saw her, I started sobbing and sobbing. I just felt safe around her?

Seeing her felt like being able to breathe again. Living and existing feels like I’m being strangled by the pain, it feels like I’m always holding my breath in fear and sadness. Any safe space I have, I realise, feels like a breath I can take, and it means so much.

I gave her a hug. And I went back and cried because she was here and that somehow made me feel like it was okay to breathe and okay to feel all the painful feelings. I wanted to just cry and cry and tell her how hard it’s been. She gave me a hug and said she was here to see a client urgently and she won’t be back till next week. That hurt a little. It’s dumb, I know, but these things have been starting to affect me and I hate it. A few people have approached me asking about counselling at AWARE. It’s not fair because it feels like everyone is taking them away from me. And all of their cases are more important. AWARE is that last small safe space I have but I don’t know if it even feels safe anymore. I don’t think it does, because I can’t let myself feel or cry or rely on anyone anymore. It’s just not okay. I don’t deserve the help, nothing bad happened to me, it’s all my fault. They care about other clients more. When Laika’s client overdosed, Laika and Katie took her to the hospital. Laika got us to make her a card. They all care about others more. I just. I obviously don’t matter. My job is to be here to help them, not to be a burden. Everyone has been gone so nobody’s been around to check in. I constantly feel alone and just so uncared for and now that I’m better, nobody cares about me anymore. Now that I’m not at risk of dying. It’s fine. I’m fine. I just need to push it all away, I don’t need anything. The thing the, there are so many external things too, that add to the image of my okay-ness. There are so many things I need and want to do, externally, but my internal world is hell right now and I don’t know what to do about that.

Today while staying late in the office working on my proposal, I was stressed about it and I could hear Dr Kelly’s voice come into my head about how I should have more balance and not be so black and while. At that point I just lost it and started sobbing and sobbing alone in the training room, because it hit me that nobody is here to scold me anymore like that and I miss her. Her voice literally pops into my head 10 times a day, whether it’s her actual voice or the things she would tell me. She’s sort of like an extension of the healthier voice I have, and she’s the base from which that healthier voice works upon. I can’t have a conversation involving recovery without quoting something she said or bringing her up. She will always be ‘my therapist’. It just hurts too much to bear. Thinking of her. Thinking of the pain termination brings, the pain of losing my parents and helper and everything safe.

Everything feels so painful and terrifying. This relapse is.. questionable. I don’t want it but I need it. It’s like how remembering the Bad Thing triggered so many attachment issues, about not being cared for. Right now therapy ending is triggering all the attachment issues but also the Bad things chest. No matter what, it’s this stupid push and pull of ‘I need you but I don’t want you’ and ‘I need care but I also need to be alone to be as safe as possible’. If I was more secure then it wouldn’t be this constant self hatred and fear and comparison. If I wasn’t me. Because I’m sick of this. This ‘if I don’t eat I don’t need’, this dissociation from the world. I’m in so much pain. I suppose I justI have to trust I will get there eventually. Even if I relapse, I am not who I once was. I’m just so scared and sad and tired. I hate being me with my bag of attachment issues.

I want to recover someday. I want to challenge the ED. I still want those things. I just need silence right now, I need to be alone so deep in the ocean nobody can see me. I want to be quiet and in a corner and just be tucked in. I need to stop everything so I can survive. If I lose weight I will have something to hold onto. Yes. Control. Alone. Then I can’t be hurt by them. I don’t need anyone. Just focus on work.

2018 Art Therapy Poems

Maybe a distant memory,

One of hope and freedom

Adventure

An ever-longing need

To breathe into the light

Out of their cages

Out of there


To hold these fears,

anxieties

embracing messy

growth, energy

The change in

ever-expanding light


Stillness hanging heavy

Upon ancient battlegrounds

Mountains worn, in

Strength and Groundedness


Look through the safety

Of poisonous prison bars

Into unfathomable sadness

Look again at the key

Taunting. An eternal conflict.


Grounded in

maternal warmth

Of soft lullabies

And soothing embrace


Too much of everything

Trapped in overwhelm

Overflow

Fundamental unworthiness

Lost & dissociated


Admits messy, violent chaos,

The constant ringing bells

Of fear. Pain. Alone.


You are not ‘enough’.

You are love, and light,

The warmth of unconditional

Acceptance. Compassion.

You are a million broken pieces

Put together

And that, my love,

Is more than enough

2018 and changing everything

I’m writing this over the few days after Christmas, before the New Year’s. Christmas helped me survive December, but I’m glad it’s over now. It’s been so hard to think or write or talk right now. Everything has been so painful and overwhelming that I’ve just shut off, trying to avoid thinking of anything or feeling anything. Even thinking about termination, or the future is too much. I feel so small and hurt and incapable of coping with anything. I feel so alone. I feel bruised and tired.

I did talk a bit about the emotions that accompany termination. Not just grief but the abandonment. The helplessness I feel at home with my parents, the hopelessness, the aloneness. How unsafe it is. How everything was always my fault. I quickly pushed it away. And I didn’t say this, but when I was 10-11, I remember how I gave up all hope of safety, of being loved, of ever being cared for or listened to, and I gave up trying- and I realise how sad that is, especially for a child like me. I remember that feeling, like something inside me just died that day. I just stopped being me, I stopped being anything. A child who loved so deeply and was so idealistic and tried so so hard- only for the world to break her to the point where she gave up and shut down and stopped existing. Only for the constant abandonment, fear, hurt to circle everything she knows. To have that taken away. That sense of feeling safe and loved and not-alone was ripped away from me anyway when I was 5 when he did that and nobody helped me, or cared and I was alone- I will never forget. It surprised me how Dr Kelly pointed out that the worst part of that trauma was the emotional pain. I didn’t realise this, but it’s true for everything else too. It’s not about the physical, or even sexual assault- it’s the emotional sense of abandonment and fear, it’s the fact that I didn’t get the comfort I needed, it’s how it wasn’t safe to feel or to be me or to exist- for a highly sensitive, infp that is the worst thing you can do. We already feel so alone and different in this world. To not feel truly loved and accepted and safe by the two people who are everything to you, absolutely breaks a child, especially a soft cinnamon-roll of a child like I was.

I never knew safety, or being listened to or acknowledged, or believed, until Dr Kelly came. She persisted. She really, truly cared and I felt it. She stayed even through the years where I refused to talk and refused to be present. She stayed through the years I was hopeless and didn’t want to recover. She always held space before I knew I needed it or was ready. She became someone I relied on, a lighthouse in the storms of abandonment and pain and self hatred that I’ve been stuck in. She was always the one I‘ve gone to- when I was suicidal, when I’ve attempted, after the assault last year, after the assault this year, when I’ve felt awful and had nowhere safe. She was the only one. She allowed me to feel. She gave me safety, and then hope. The first hope I ever had. She was the lighthouse after it happened this year and I went to her and it was the lowest I’ve ever been. She was empathetic but firm: she said I had a choice. I was the only one who could choose to believe different things, to let go of the ED, to allow myself to feel. She said I could have a life outside my family and outside the ED. I wouldn’t be alive without her and I wouldn’t have started recovery without her. Now it feels like she’s abandoned me and left me here alone, and it feels the same as it did back then. It’s not just the grief of losing a relationship, it’s her leaving me alone with people that make me feel so suicidal, so unsafe.

This world feels so unsafe, it always has. The entire world feels like it’s closing down on me and I cannot breathe and the fear is so instinctive and my fight-flight instincts kick in around my family. I described it this way: think of your worst fear- that physical anxiety, that lack of safety, the need to get away. That awful feeling. Now imagine: you’re trapped with your fear, there is no exit and it never ends, that fear is all you know. That’s a part of how it feels to be me. I’ve always felt this way and I’ve always coped by ceasing to exist, dissociate, disconnect, isolate, self destruct.

But I also realised, it’s pretty cool that my body has learnt to adapt, I shut down immediately around my parents and stop existing and stop feeling. It’s so adaptive that I’ve survived all these years of pain and being trapped, even if, like Dr Kelly said- I survived by shutting myself away and hurting myself, by emotional numbing and isolation. She said I was always so adamant to give up self harm and the ED, and she understand because that was part of my resilience, my survival. She always said, how I’m really really good at pretending to be okay, I’m really really good at functioning. She reminded me a few months ago- functional isn’t recovery, that I have the ability to prioritise school over the ED for a bit if I need to, and that helps me in performance but it’s not real recovery. We learnt and identified this year especially, the cycles of suppression and then explosion. The cycles of self destruction and self hatred.

I learnt too, why I did all of that- I was in so much pain. Pain I didn’t know where it came from or why it existed, I only knew that the only safe place I had was numbing and not-existing. How do I explain this need to cease to exist because it is safer, the only safe thing I have. If I stop existing it stops hurting so much. If you were trapped like me, you would need to stop existing too. If I didn’t do that, I would have died.

But what I realised, is how the entire world feels so unsafe because as a kid my home and family was my entire world. The world isn’t very big for a child. But now the world.. isn’t unsafe? The world is actually okay because it’s so big now and I’m not trapped anymore. But it’s hard, almost impossible sometimes to feel differently, to feel safe, to feel like I’m not the same trapped and helpless girl that I’ve been for 15 years. Dr Kelly said that it’s not the same but I can’t feel it. She said in her letter that at some point, even though it was adaptive and even though it was safe to stay in my cocoon of isolation and numbness, I wanted more. I wanted emotional connection, and I wanted a life, and I wanted relationships. She’s right, you know. I don’t know when it started- maybe slowly over the past few years- but at some point I didn’t want to isolate myself and hate all humans just to be okay. Now, for the first time in my life, I never thought this was possible but I just don’t want to starve myself or hurt myself or even to stop existing and numb everything, just to be okay. That’s so, so new. For the first time in my life, I don’t want to hold onto the ED at all, I want a life outside of it. Even a few months ago, I was reluctant to give it up. Something I’ve steadfastly held onto for dear life, over the past 7 years.

She said that breaking out of that cocoon is terrifying at first, but so worth it. I sobbed last week because I told Eunice how much it hurts, to finally get a taste of freedom for the first time in my life, only to have to go back into that cage of isolation and numbness because of the pain. I’ve been telling friends the same thing- life is so, so much better here. Freedom is something I never thought I would have, yet recovery and therapy and hope for the future has given me. Belle has always been my favourite princess, not just because she’s a bookworm but because she values freedom so much- “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere”. That scene touches me so much. To be trapped is one of the worst feelings in the world. I have always been sure of who I am and what I love and I know I am someone who needs freedom, I am someone who feels everything deeply and sees everything so beautifully and the world would be nothing without emotions, without love and awe and curiosity and wonder and grief and sadness and rage and pure unbridled joy. I am led by emotions. I live so vividly and I love that about being sensitive. Dr Kelly said that one thing she would describe me as, is likeable, that I am very likeable and I connect so genuinely, that she never believed I hated anyone. To go back to starving and numbing and isolating feels so awful and painfully boring. Taking away freedom and feelings. That’s why it was so painful, seeing my child-self lose all of that life she carried. That vivaciousness, that colour, that deep joy and love and hope and idealism.

Yet I don’t know anymore, because everything hurts so much. Losing my therapist. Being alone. Being at home. Everything unresolved that I haven’t dealt with. It all lives so deep in my bones, it isn’t something I can rationalise.

I’m terrified, more than I’ve been in a while. I know I’ve had a lot of lows this year but it seems to all just pile up and get worse. In Jan-Feb it was the family traumas, then the ED diagnosis and forced recovery. In Mar-April it was family traumas plus the memories of that sexual assault last year plus brief flashbacks of the Bad Thing I couldn’t make sense of. Then the Incident happened and I hit a complete rock bottom. Then in June-July it was the family traumas plus the different sexual assaults plus they brought up therapy ending plus starting ED recovery on my own. I managed to push everything away to focus on school but in Sep-Oct it was family traumas plus the 3 different sexual assaults plus they brought up therapy ending plus continuing to try ED recovery on my own. And then now it’s everything I listen. This year has been the most terrifying year ever, it’s seen the lowest lows and well, the most growth. Not the highs, but the most change, the most leaps of faith, the unfolding of a lifetime, the releasing of the self-hatred I’ve carried 15 years, the bravest things I’ve done for myself: to eat and to feel and to live. I told Dian in art therapy how a lot of recovery was to stop numbing, that’s why eating is so hard. To eat is to feel, to eat is to be present and here and alive. Dian said recovery was finding myself again and it’s so true. She compared my childhood to Elsa and I’ve never related more. My superpowers are my passion and empathy and deep emotions yet trauma took it all away from me and now, on the other side I see that. It took away who I am, it took away safety and love and feelings. I realise now- for me, to exist and be here means to feel everything, to be present, to be myself, to be free. I’ve been able to let go of so, so much self hatred because I saw what this pain did to younger-Ericia and how it wasn’t my fault. I see all the pain, all 15 years of it, and it almost pains me to hurt her anymore. I told Dr Kelly how it doesn’t come naturally for me to hurt anyone- I only hurt myself for so long because the pain was so overwhelming I didn’t know where to channel all that anger, because that’s what I have been raised to believe. But now that I understand myself, it doesn’t feel right to hurt myself.

Everything is.. so different, there is so much good and bad. I am stronger, I can cope better, I have hopes for the future. I have people and It’s so terrifying to admit, but I don’t want to go back into that cocoon, that bubble of numbness and isolation and ED. Because it sucks. Dian said I was hungry- not just for food but everything, life. She’s right.

Living with emotional intensity is a mixed blessing. It means feelings a wide spectrum of emotions in a more vivid and profound way than most people do, and this includes both positive and negative emotions. At its best, intensity comes with a sense of awe, quivering aliveness and deep appreciation for the beauty in this world. At its worst, it feels like a consuming, out-of-control, never-ending storm. Rather than shrinking and hiding and taking a smaller and smaller slice of life,  by learning to ground, build resilience we can harness our strengths. Your sensitivity and intensity are the doorways to your fullest potential, and you are not serving the world by playing small.

Once you have embraced your sensitivity, intensity and creativity, you will realise it is leading you to your own freedom. You will experience unspeakable peace by surrendering to what seems true to you. You can finally stop fighting, stop trying to pretend to be who you are not, or to suppress and hide your sensitive and intense nature. It is not something to be fixed or cured but to be accepted, appreciated and mastered. It is about courageously staying close to all emotions, attending to them without completely surrendering to their destructiveness, or being overwhelmed by them. 

I know it’s gonna be okay eventually, I really do believe that, now. It no longer feels like the end of the world (in June it really did oh my god I was suicidal about this) but right now I’m just imagining what it’s going to be like and I’m dreading it. I keep replaying it in my head. Those last few minutes of the one hour session. The last hug. Walking away from the place. It just hurts so much. This weekend is going to be really hard too because I’m going to write the last letter to her & make the last card/art I’ll ever make for her and it’s just all so much.