CW: ABLEISM, ADDICTION, DRUGS, SELF-HARM, SELF-HATRED
Ironically, if you want to stay alive, sometimes you have to jump off the edge.
You need something to believe in, but you're not left with many choices. When the only options are a rusting razor, a bottle of rum and three packs of cigarettes, another stranger to have reckless sex with, and mind-altering medications that make you drug-dependent, which one do you pick?
I picked them all, just like some people jump from one psychiatrist to another, trying as many brands of antidepressants as their bodies can take, in the hopes of finding the one that suits them best. Those were the worst five months of my life.
It started with self-harm. Non-suicidal self-injury was what mental health experts called it. When people see my right arm, a canvas of badly-etched scars, they jump to the conclusion that it was from a suicide attempt, but I did not try to end my life. It was always hard to explain with reasons they didn't want to hear in the first place. To me, self-harm served as a frail attempt to convert emotional pain into physical pain, something I know I can tolerate better. To others, self-harm is a performance act, a sad call for attention. I grew tired of explaining myself and realized that alcohol and nicotine were easier to hide, except from my roommate. Drinking and smoking became a nightly regimen. I had to get myself drunk just to get through another night in that long stretch of depression.
Somewhere in between being sober and staying drunk, I did try to get better, but the first time I consulted a psychiatrist did not go as well as I hoped. I was misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder. The rivotil worked for a few months or so, but then it lost effect. It was not enough to help me get through. I stopped attending therapy when I decided to give up on myself. Not long after, I lost my virginity to a boy I met online. There were 12 more encounters in the span of three months. I was in the peak of mania, drowning myself in hypersexuality.
It was not the sex nor the vices that got me hooked. It was the feeling of destroying myself slowly. Every time, I would end up feeling emptier than before, the temporary feeling of being visible and wanted fading too quickly. There was just something so addicting about hurting myself; it felt like the only thing I was good at.
My mother knew nothing about my self-destructive behavior, nothing but the scars, but she encouraged me to see another psychiatrist. It was then that I was treated for bipolar disorder and BPD. I have been making progress, but to this day, I remain dependent on lamotrigine and quetiapine. When I miss a dose, I suffer from too many side-effects: I immediately lose control of my emotions, and intrusive thoughts impair my judgment.
I cannot stress enough how much I hate having to live with bipolar and BPD. People talk about being emotionally unstable, but my body aches with every switch of emotion. I lost control over my actions, and because of this, I lost respect for myself. There were too many bruises and regrets.
How badly did I want to stay alive? I did not feel alive, but I was breathing. In those moments, that seemed more than enough.
My demons clawed their way out of my worldly vessel, wanting release, and I let them. I still have the scars from their escape. The scratches inside my throat sometimes still sting.
The problem with struggling with invisible illness is that people often don't believe what they cannot see. It does not help that many people with BPD have mastered the art of veiling your symptoms with faux normalcy. The curse of being blessed with manipulative tendencies is that you can manipulate people into thinking you are well, when you are actually far from being so.
People only see addiction exactly as it is, nothing more. They don't bother understanding the reasons behind it. The truth is that only when you die do people feel shame. They only pretend to care when it's too late. They call us monsters for our struggle to stay sane and intact, for plunging into vices just to make one more day bearable to live, but who is truly worse? I would rather be a monster who embraces her disabilities than one who does not realize her own monstrosity.
ELIZABETH RUTH DEYRO is in her final semester at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, completing her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. She majors in writing, specializing in nonfiction and critical writing. She is a prose editor for Culaccino Magazine and Minute Magazine. She writes for BioLiterary and The Cerurove, and reads for Monstering and The Mystic Blue Review. She also serves as the Social Media Head of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.