How does poetry help you emotionally Bee?
For me, my poetry and by extension the rest of my writing has been my way of making sense of the world around me and some of my own experiences. For every piece that I write, a small piece of my soul spills out onto the page.
What was the first piece you wrote and why?
The first real poem I ever wrote was a piece called Dove, which many people believed to be quite a beautiful piece. However, to me, Dove was my first suicide note; the only part of me that I was going to leave behind. If I was going to die, I wanted to leave behind something beautiful as my mark upon the world.
How did your mental and emotional health deteriorate?
I have experienced many traumas in my life and these have taken their toll on me. Self-harming was a way of coping when I felt like I was breaking at the seams. It wasn’t a good way of coping, by any stretch of the imagination, but at the time it felt like it was the only thing I had. It became an addiction actually, my way of surviving in an unforgiving world. When I cut myself, I watched the blood sliding down my skin and, for those few moments, I felt as though all the pain that was in my heart was being released. It was the ultimate catharsis. It took me years and a lot of healing to understand that it wasn’t actually helping me, I just thought that it was.
In 2012, I managed to escape an abusive relationship, but my mental health was very fragile. I suppose, in a way, it was almost inevitable that I would find myself at rock bottom. In 2013, I took an overdose. To my shame, I swallowed approx. 50 pills, one after the other, in front of my friend while we were talking on Skype. It had been unforgivable and callous of me. I had thought nothing of his feelings, only my own pain. If it hadn’t been for him, no one would have called the ambulance and I might not be here now. One of the paramedics who picked me up admonished me heavily. She was very angry with me for being stupid and she let that anger show. She had no idea what I had been through, to her all she probably saw was wasted potential, another young person trying to throw their life away.
How did you feel in the hospital?
I felt so lonely sitting in the hospital bed. The nurse asked me if I wanted them to call my parents and I said no, I didn’t. I felt shame and confusion. I had made the decision that I didn’t want to be there anymore and that I couldn’t stand all of the feelings that were inside of me. I had thought I had been in love and that had been taken from me; the trust I placed in another human being had been twisted and distorted and I had lost my innocence. I had always believed in the good in people, but I had been proven wrong... or so I thought.
After some time had passed and the fear of my father’s anger had abated, I realised that there were only three people I wanted with me; my parents and my best friend who had saved my life. I relented and I quietly whispered to the nurse that I wanted my parents to know where I was.
And what did your parents think?
My parents were angry, but it was a different kind of anger; I can only imagine how they must have felt, finding out the dirty details of their only daughter’s suffering. Were they upset that I hadn’t come to them? Probably. Since that day, I have never kept any of my pain secret from my parents. I have let them support me through the difficult parts of my life and now, I have a loving husband who does the same for me and encourages me when I feel like I am failing to swim against the tide of emotions and thoughts, the inky darkness of the sea threatening to drown me.
Was this the first time you thought about taking your own life?
No, my journey between thinking of suicide and attempting to commit it was a long one. The first time I wanted to die I was eight years old. I remember distinctly sitting in the girl’s toilets, hiding from my bullies, feet curled up on the toilet seat so they didn’t know I was in the stall. I thought about the world I was living in, I thought about my place, my insignificance in the grand scheme of things and I thought to myself that no one would miss me when I was gone. Make no mistake, I had a loving family and I still do. The problem is that darkness in me, that constant fight to remain in the light when all the misery and depression and the monstrous shapes in the shadows leered at me. I was young, I should never have been in the position where I wanted to die.
I was twenty when I swallowed those pills. I overdosed on a combination of citalopram and ibuprofen and, to this day, I cannot take either of those medications. I try to take ibuprofen for muscular pain and my throat closes up, my body refuses to let me swallow the pill. I will tell you this now, the stomach pain that I experienced in the days following my overdose were awful. I would wake up in my bed, clutching my stomach, crying and screaming with the physical pain. I felt as though I was being ripped apart, physically and emotionally.
How did your overdose affect you emotionally?
The overdose signalled a large turning point in my life and, in a perverse sort of way, was one of the best things to happen to me. Let me explain: When you have fallen so far, when your arse has hit rock bottom, you look around and take stock and you realise that there’s only place for you to go. You can’t fall any further than you already have and so you know that whatever comes next, you can make it through. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. I finally received the proper medical treatment that I should have received all those years previously. An emotionally unstable personality disorder, that was the answer. I had a genetic predisposition towards it, but all the trauma in my life had been the catalyst for its development. The bullying, the steady destruction of my sense of self confidence and self-worth by my male love interests (some worse than others), the abuse and the loss of my beloved grandpa to terminal cancer that slowly devoured him in front of me (even beginning to change who he was as a person) among other things, had proved too much for my mind to handle. There was no weakness in that though and the break was clean and because of that, I have been able to heal.
Make no mistake, I still experience issues with my condition, but the medication regime that I have, and the support from my doctor, has been life changing. My quality of life now is something that, when I was sitting in that hospital bed, I could only have dreamt of. I have taken all the trauma of my life and I have stood up to it; faced the demons of my past (most of them), and I have not let them define me or my future. I have grown and gone from strength to strength over the years, and now I mostly have things under control. Sometimes I still think about suicide, but I do it now more with a sense of curiosity and with the drive to raise awareness of the issue in the hope that I can help save even just one person from themselves. We need to make our voices loud and clear; to let people know that everything they are feeling is okay but that ending it all, snuffing out their beautiful and wonderful life is not the answer. The pain feels all encompassing; it feels as though it is robbing your breath and that you will die anyway but please, listen to me and hold on. Just you keep holding on and someone will be there to take your hand and give you the strength you need to climb back from the edge.
And where are you now, emotionally?
It has been nearly seven years since my overdose and in that time, I have found real love, I have made a home for myself with my husband, I have forged new friendships and rekindled old ones. I have learned so much about the world around me, I have been published in several anthologies, and I have created and produced two stage plays, one of which covers my own experiences of domestic abuse and has brought solace and comfort to other survivors.
I will always be that woman in the hospital bed, but I am also the successful woman I am now. Like the phoenix, I rose from the ashes and I am glorious. To anyone else reading this who is struggling; you can do this, I know you can do this, and you too are glorious, if only you will stop being so hard on yourself and embrace your inner beauty. Reach out to your friends and family, no matter how much your brain screams at you that they don’t care, I can assure you that they do. Don’t struggle in silence, speak, and find your own freedom from that.
From beautiful poetry now to crassness, my final words can be summarised as follows; fuck everyone and everything who drags you down and you fly high you magnificent being.