The Hidden Village of Aspergers

May 23, 2014

Quiet Beach

On some quiet beach, we sang songs for the sea
On some quiet beach, lost with the waves we breathe

TW: attempted suicide

It’s taken me ages to gear up to writing this, because it’s not going to be easy to write. I was motivated to write this post today for two reasons. One, a guy I follow on Twitter posted about suicide and selfishness, and it got me thinking. Two, Midland Railway, a band I used to play in, have got back together and are playing in the Retro Bar tonight, and the last time I played with them, I ended up trying to kill myself.

I have three suicide attempts under my belt. None of them have been serious enough to warrant extended hospital stays, though I did have counselling. The first time, I tried to hang myself, but something made me grab hold of the noose. I managed to pull myself back from the brink. I can’t remember what started it.

The second time, I was in my second year of university. It was a tough time. I was bogged down with coursework, my housemates and I were not getting on, I was juggling my degree with student council and other commitments, I was in love with a man who didn’t love me back, and to top it off, my gran had died. Everything came to a head when I found a note on the fridge – my housemates often communicated by leaving notes – about putting single items in the washing machine. It was clearly aimed at me as I’d washed a towel. I slashed my arm. Later, I was in the union and two of my housemates blanked me, and I was pretty wound up. I went to Hulme Hall for practice with another band I was in, but no-one showed up. I sat around crying for a bit, then went the chemist, got some Nurofen and was in the process of wolfing it down when a housemate found me. She made me throw up the pills and called an ambulance. I spent a few hours in hospital, but luckily I was OK and I was discharged. As I walked home, all I could think of was the final line of the poem Mum read at Gran’s funeral: ‘I am not there, I did not die.’

When I got home, the door was locked. I rang the doorbell. One of my housemates answered, gave me a dirty look and walked upstairs without a word. The housemate who found me must have told her that she was partly to blame for my overdose. We later got into an argument and I thought that had cleared the air but things were never the same after – they didn’t buy me anything for my birthday, even though we’d all celebrated theirs, and they’d walk out of a room when I went in. I dropped out of uni and decided to repeat the year. On the advice of a counsellor, I moved out of the house and spent the rest of the year in Richmond Park, before going back to my parents’ house in Chester. Before I left the house, I left a note explaining what I’d done. My housemates never spoke to me again.

Two years later, I was playing at Joshua Brooks with Midland Railway and got into a heated argument with the drummer over some sticks I thought I’d lost, culminating in me threatening to smash him over the head with my guitar, and frantically rummaging around on the floor looking for the sticks, screaming my head off. As soon as I got home, I ate all the pills in the house I could find, and posted a goodbye message on my Livejournal. Sarah, the other female band member and a good friend of mine, came over and kept me company until the ambulance arrived, and my then boyfriend also came and sat with me in the hospital. I was kept in overnight on a drip to get the crap out of my body. Later, the male members of the band kicked me out behind my back (Sarah was kept out of the loop). I only found out because my then boyfriend told me. I don’t want to go over old ground too much, but suffice to say, whenever I hear about Midland Railway now and see them on my feed, I feel sick and shaky. I’m back in the hospital again.

When I told my mum about my first overdose, her legs went. My maternal grandad was mentally ill and had attempted suicide several times. I remember one time when I got a frantic call from the counsellor’s office telling me to ring Mum. I’d made some comment about slashing my wrists the previous night, and she was frightened and had called the counsellor’s office. I rang her to tell her I was OK and she started crying, and I hated myself so much for what I was doing to her. The thing is, as I’ve said before, however much you may love your family and friends, when you’re suicidal, they do not figure. There is no room in your head. All you can think about is disappearing. You cannot go on anymore; you just want to wipe yourself out and cease to exist, and never mind who will have to pick your body off the floor or out of the bath, clean up the blood, make the phone calls. Your entire world is that little box of pills in your hand and you think of your gran and your dad and how you want to be with them. No more pain. No more sadness.

What does this have to do with Aspergers? I think it comes back to emotional difficulties – emotional and sensory overload, not knowing how to cope, and it all comes to a head and when you tend to see things in black and white, you think of extreme options. So many times I’ve had a bad day at work and thought, “I can end this. There’s one way out.” I think of pills, of ropes, of bleach. I had such a moment lately – luckily, Mum and Jack were able to calm me down over the phone.

I’ll be honest. The main reason why I’m not dead is because I love Mum and Jack and I can’t bear to think of what me dying would do to them. Obviously, there are other people in my life who I care about – my stepfamily, my other relatives, my friends – but I know how much my suicide attempts hurt them. Jack even argued with Mum that I wasn’t safe to go back to uni. One good thing that did come out of it, though, was Jack sending me a text telling me that he loved me and he just wanted me to be OK. Nothing brings my family together like a crisis. I’ll elaborate more on this in Guestlist To Hell, the final post of the series.

May 1, 2014

Crying On The Webcam

One more minute watching you, and I feel the same
One more minute hearing you, and I feel your pain, pain, pain
She’s crying on the webcam, I want to kiss her now
She’s crying on the webcam, she’s feeling full of doubt
She’s crying on the webcam, I’d like to help her out

TW: self-injury, eating disorders

It’s Blogging Against Disablism Day, and I’ve decided to swap the Space posts around a bit and do a post about self-harming. Partly because of the stigma surrounding cutters, and partly because I was hauled into the partner’s office at work after he’d had a conversation with my boss about the fact I’d cut myself recently, and I came out feeling drained and miserable and feeling that I’d been treated like a criminal. I’m not kidding – another solicitor was in there taking notes, which I didn’t twig until I was asked to spell ‘Venlafaxine’, and I was asked the sort of questions the police ask our clients at the police station. It was not a pleasant experience and it made me realise how some people just do not get it.

As I’m tired and my left arm hurts (due to grating chocolate for a meal I made last night), it’s going to be one of those posts with bullet points.

The basics:

– I started cutting myself when I was 14, in 1999. It was after an argument I’d had with my mum.

– I generally cut my arms, but have also cut my legs, stomach, breasts and face.

– I have used knives, razor blades, broken glass, broken porcelain, compasses and scissors. I have never burned fags out on myself, but I have poured boiling water over my arm a couple of times, or bashed myself with a heavy folder, a hammer or a poker.

– I have scars on my arms, but most are only visible in summer.

– I would say that I am an addict.

I do not self-harm because:

– I am a Manics fan and I want to copy Richey Edwards. I was heavily into the Manics at the time I started self-harming, and certain songs of theirs did resonate, but it wasn’t a copycat thing. By that logic, I’d also be an alcoholic since I like the Pogues.

– I want attention. When I wrote an article for the Manchester University student paper about self-harming, I said – and I stand by this – that there are far more dignified and painless ways of getting attention. Such as dancing naked on a table in Jilly’s Rockworld (RIP). I’ve been accused of doing it for attention because I’ve gone around wearing t-shirts or sleeveless tops or dresses after cutting. It genuinely does not register with me that people will react, and if the alternative is being boiling hot and/or uncomfortable, I’m willing to risk showing my arms off. I am not like Maeve, the girl in the song and the accompany video, who filmed herself holding up various cards with little snippets of info about her life (she’s also a recovering bulimic, incidentally).

– I am trying to manipulate people. I have threatened to cut – I’m not proud of this – but never once have I done it with the specific aim of hurting someone else. I know how much it hurts my family when I self-harm, but I’ve never, to the best of my recollection, held it over them.

– I want to be cool and/or am following a trend. I do have a few mates who self-harm, but I did it way before I met any of them, and when have I ever followed trends? I am the least trendy person I know.

– I have a pain fetish. There is nothing sexual about it.

I do self-harm because:

– I struggle to deal with strong emotions (see Mister Psycho). It is a release. A temporary one, sure, but it’s still a release.

– I have very little self-confidence and I fucking hate myself. I despise myself. I’m not fishing for compliments; I genuinely do feel, especially on a bad day, that I am a loathsome human being, and even when my friends and family tell me that I’m not a loathsome human being, that nasty little voice still doesn’t shut up, and it tells me I deserve to be punished. You ate too much? Stick your fingers down your throat. You were mean to someone, you’re fat, you didn’t do the task you were supposed to, your father would be disappointed, you weren’t there for your mother when she had a drink problem, you had an argument with your mother, you didn’t give that homeless person change…you know what to do.

– I turn my anger inwards. I had to laugh when I nearly self-harmed at work and a colleague was apparently concerned I was going to shank her. I’m more likely to hurt myself than anyone else.

– It leaves visible marks on my skin, like a brand or a scarlet letter or a sign worn round my neck (hence why I don’t take up boxercise or martial arts as a release). It is the mark of punishment.

Things people have said to me about self-harming: 

– “It tears me apart when you cut yourself” – my brother.

– “How could you do that to your lovely face?” – my mum.

– “When you cut your arms, people are going to react, that’s the reality of the situation” – a guy I was obsessed with at uni.

– “Thank you so much for writing that article” – a friend who will remain nameless, and who I met at a gig after she got chatting to me about the article, amongst others.

– “When did you do it? How long ago did you last cut yourself? How many weeks? How many months? Are you getting help? Are you seeing anyone? Are you going to stop?” and so on – my colleagues, during the interview.

– “What happened to your arm?” – a supermarket cashier.

– “Your arms are going to look like a fucking zebra” – a woman I knew at uni.

Other points I would like to make:

– Telling me to stop cutting and assuming I’ll instantly stop DOES NOT WORK. Addiction doesn’t work that way. My mum accepted long ago that I can’t promise her that I’ll stop for good – I’ve tried, I’ve promised, but I always broke the promise. If she can’t talk me into stopping, no-one else can, especially people I don’t particularly know or like.

– Telling me to rid my house of plasters, antiseptic and so on is a terrible idea. The idea behind it is that without stuff to put on my wounds, I’ll be less inclined to cut. This is bullshit. I’ve self-harmed even when I’ve had no plasters or antiseptic available, just bog roll or kitchen towels, and it’s far better for me to have a medical kit of sorts handy.

– Anything can trigger me into cutting. Things that have set me off have included arguing with my family, stress at work, Everton losing 4-0 to Liverpool (I was frightened I’d have to deal with loads of abuse from Liverpool fans I know on my Facebook and Twitter feeds), falling out with people, finding a note stuck to the fridge that was clearly aimed at me (which I will discuss in Quiet Beach, because that was the start of a very bad day), certain articles on the internet, homeless guys asking me for money…the list is endless.

– I can understand if my scars catch your eye, but please don’t have a go at me for doing it or give me the third degree. I have my reasons for doing it and like I said, I am the only person who gets physically hurt.

– Do not assume cutters are all hormonal teenage girls. Men self-harm. Non-binary people self-harm. Adults self-harm. There are people old enough to be my parents who self-harm.

– If we want to talk about it, we’ll talk, but don’t force the issue.

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