The legendary literary agent Diana Athill said in her memoir Somewhere Towards The End, written at the age of 91, that we are not afraid of death so much as we are afraid of the process of dying. I have thought about this a lot, and I agree wholeheartedly.
I believe I have truly made the best of a difficult journey and on the face of things I have a good life that is improving with time. I have held down a steady job for the last year and a half, which is almost the longest time I’ve stayed anywhere. I’ve carved out a place to express myself in the only way I know how, through my writing, and I am lucky enough to have some people listen to what I have to say. I’m glad and grateful for the little difference I have made in helping to raise awareness about the issues that have affected me within the wider community. I am not humble when it comes to expressing how proud I am of my ability to manage overwhelming emotions, especially when emotional instability lies at the heart of borderline personality disorder. I have managed to cope with the lifelong consequences of honour abuse, several rapes, a suicide attempt, estrangement and experiences in childhood so morbidly terrifying I cannot begin to articulate them here.
I have learned that there is always a solution, and over time I have discovered the solutions that work for me. Talking therapy, meditation, writing and vigorous exercise all play a crucial part in helping me maintain my wellbeing. There is still a lot of work to be done to get me to a place where I can relate with trust and without fear to a romantic partner. The very thought of putting myself at any risk whatsoever of experiencing what I’ve been through before – even a fraction – is just too much to bear. But at least I seem to have found some hope that there may be someone out there who is not afraid of who I am or what I bring to the table; who can stand up tall and applaud my ability to speak the raw, honest, ugly truth and embrace it as only a part of my present experience. Because the other part of me is filled with a playfulness and joy that can only come from having had to sacrifice so much simply to be me. I fought so hard for that freedom and I am determined not waste it.
So I have a good attitude and I have hope. The biggest threat to my life now is a sense of weariness. I’m so very tired. I’ve written about my battles with the mental health system, which are not only ongoing, but increasing in intensity. In October last year, when I was triggered by revelations of abuse that occurred in my family, I felt intensely suicidal. I approached the NHS as I was in no place to fund private care, and that referral has taken so long that only last week I finally began my obligatory assessment with a mental health professional. I was told that the assessment would be broken down into three parts, with an hour’s session every two weeks. Depending on the type of therapy they decide is best for me, I will be put on another waiting list. God forbid they agree with me that I need talking therapy, because the wait time for that is months long.
Last Friday I had the first of those assessments. It was the first time I spoke in detail about three separate instances of rape that happened to me during my late teens and early twenties. Though I assumed I was safe because I was in the care of a therapist, the next day I broke down very suddenly and rapidly, and I ended up in A&E feeling intensely suicidal once again. When I saw my GP on Monday, he said he couldn’t hurry the assessments along, or prioritise my case on the waiting list, but that I should really consider a course of lithium or sodium valproate. Having made so much successful progress in working through the issues that my experiences have left me with, I wasn’t just disappointed. I was broken. Particularly as the psychologist I saw in A&E agreed so completely that medication was not the right path for me (although I do understand that a psychiatrist would be better placed to make such a judgement).
But I am going to pursue this referral. I will steel myself against the possibility that once again I might be triggered and end up in A&E. That is my game plan. But there is that thought, creeping in too close as I lay in the dark sometimes, that perhaps I am finally running out of energy.