We’ve been MIA for the past month. I’m here to tell you why.
Happy news first. My Mama got a promotion!! I’m very proud of her and she’s doing a great job, and the best part is she loves almost everything about her job. So she’s been very busy with that. I annoy her constantly about her lack of activity because what kind of daughter would I be if I didn’t have something to torture her about, but at the same time I’m very very proud of the amazing job she’s doing and her passion for it is infectious. There’s nothing more amazing than watching someone talk about what they love.
Before I start my part, a little disclaimer; I talk vaguely about emotional abuse and self harm. If that sounds potentially triggering, Finding Dory is available on Netflix and that would be most definitely more fun. I’m proud of you for knowing your boundaries.
In high school, I met someone who manipulated me into believing their struggle was my fault, made me constantly afraid for their safety, and gaslighted me. (If you’re unfamiliar with gaslighting, I’m very jealous of you.) Even writing that sentence, I’m terrified for them to find it and use it against me or as a reason to self-destruct. This went on for about three years before I graduated and managed to cut all contact. I call this person High School Nightmare.
The next summer, 2015, I landed myself in another toxic friendship, nicknamed College Manipulator.
This is the only clear memory I have of College Manipulator. I realized how much his interactions took out of me, made me feel small and wrong in every way, and I wanted out. He wouldn’t let go. He had convinced me that no one could know about his existence in my life, so I had no one to turn to for advice. I was trapped.
It’s 9pm. I remember bleeding in my dorm room shower. If this was what I was stuck with for the rest of my life, I didn’t want it. But I just couldn’t do it.
It’s close to 2:30 in the morning. My RD, who I just met that night, has been with me in the waiting area for five hours. There’s no one else there, besides the front desk receptionist. I’m speaking with the third person who needs me to repeat everything I told the first two. I have no idea why I need to tell this so many times. I don’t know who any of these people are, and they don’t bother to tell me. But I saw the glaze come over the first time I try to start at the beginning, so I just skip to the important part. I tell him what I did, then I show him where.
“You didn’t try very hard. That’s nothing. I’ve seen worse.”
Everything after that is fuzzy or only comes back in feelings of being minimized, abandoned, isolated, alone. Being terrified to reach out for help because that only made me an easier target.
I hate myself for letting anyone see me panicky or asking for help. That I would be labelled as damaged, too high maintenance, and abandoned. I learned I’m not allowed to have support like that. I should handle my pain quietly, where no one can see it, where it can’t hurt anyone else. My pain isn’t as important as anyone else’s. Then I locked those memories up far back in my brain where I couldn’t see them.
Then my physical health spiraled out of control. I was misdiagnosed with Lyme Disease, by a doctor who completely missed that I was losing more weight in a week than should be lost in a month.
In February 2016, I got my diagnosis of Dumping Syndrome. The results of my gastric emptying scan proved it. There was a physical reason for my stomach issues. My doctor fine-tuned a working treatment plan. But one of the tests showed a possible heart issue and the joint pain remained a mystery. I began to have moments where my hips would pop and I would fall. My physical therapist mentioned I was “extremely hypermobile”.
At the beginning of last month, I received my diagnosis of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I wasn’t “faking” or “just anxious”. I have a rare genetic condition that affects every system in my body.
It felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I had a job I loved, a great medical team who formed a treatment plan, and a great group of roommates with a cute apartment to move into in August. I’ve been so focused on moving forward. Getting stable and back to school became my Most Important Thing. Second came my work, my patients, learning anything I could from my nurses.
Then I met someone, a friend who I just clicked with. But I kept him at arm’s length, and he noticed. For the first time, I realized I don’t get close to people.
Then I started remembering. I had a three-day long episode where I couldn’t talk to anyone. When I got a text, I saw College Manipulator’s name instead. For the past month, I haven’t really slept longer than five hours at a time. With three weeks left before I finished work to return to school, I had to quit my job, because I couldn’t work while in a partial hospitalization program. We were starting the process to admit me to an eating disorder clinic.
I felt like I was losing everything all over again.
So I did the “logical” thing, and went back to my addictions. And then I did something I’ve never ever done after I self-harm. I told someone. I was directed to get my father and go to the ER. I got two stitches. I was fought to be discharged since we were already in the process of getting me into a program.
A week later, I got a call saying that I had been denied for admission because the main issue was not an eating disorder. It was a perfect storm, a combo of me not sleeping enough, fainting in the heat, and denied admission. I started having near constant panic attacks. After 2 hours, they were still going and I wanted to hurt myself, but I fought my impulsiveness and texted a friend. We hung out together but the panic attacks were getting closer together and more intense. I was still feeling unsafe, so I called my mom, and my friend drove me to the ER.
And stayed with me until I was admitted at 3am, even though he was exhausted. He constantly reminded me that I wasn’t alone.
The last time anyone stayed with me when I was like that, it was High School Nightmare. And I paid for that for the next week. Every time that I lose my composure, I’m ready to pay for it. But I’m treated with gentleness and respect and comfort, and I stare blankly and wonder when they’re going to start lying, belittling and manipulating me. Or when they’re going to realize that I’m not worth it and abandon me.
After my 2 days inpatient, I’m starting a partial hospitalization program Monday. I’ll be working on my trust issues and dealing with flashbacks, along with getting my medication stabilized. That needing help and support from friends isn’t a personal failing, but a human need. The most difficult is learning to trust that I’m going to be loved through my messiness, and it’s okay to let other people see it.
Writing has always been very therapeutic for me, and I’m hoping that someone out there sees this and we see each other in the trenches together.
Whomever you are, I’ve got a message for you.
We’re warriors together. We got this.