I’m going to talk about some things that people might prefer not to read if they’re feeling vulnerable right now.
I was 14 and on paper I had absolutely nothing to complain about. I was safe, loved and even had a really good friendship. I was doing fine academically, and my family had still managed to avoid divorce and death. It is with a heart-wrenching guilt that I make my confession. I became obsessed with the search for attention. Not just any attention though, only the most negative and self destructive kind. My naivety at the time and crippling shyness and low self-esteem made for a toxic mixture.
We had a computer at home and the internet was really starting to take off (pre-broadband). I spent every minute I was allowed to, roaming chat rooms and message boards. I stumbled across ‘cyber sex’ and all sorts of weirdos. It was mostly the same old routine, but fascinating, and I found myself becoming more and more engrossed in finding strange people online and pushing the boundaries as hard as I could. I realised I could lie about myself online and soon it got wildly out of control. At its height I was watching a 33 year old grown man do all sorts on his webcam and sent him a naked photo of my flat chest, coming close to meeting up with him and heavily blurring the line between fiction and reality. I don’t know why I did these things. I liked the attention for sure. But I loved the danger too. The more wild, risky and crazy something seemed, the more I wanted it.
In real life, things were becoming ever stranger. I was obsessed by the idea that I was a lesbian and had fallen in love with one of my friends. I wrote her a letter once telling her this, but also turning it into a sort of suicide note. Hearing that she had punched the wall when she read it didn’t stop me. It was this uncontrollable path I was taking, but it was without consciousness. I started skipping lessons, hanging out in the park and almost by accident started self-harming. I had just screamed at my parents (for probably no reason) and thrown my diary across the room. In the privacy of my bedroom I screamed and raged, rolling around on the floor. I wildly started scratching at my arms. The relief that swept over me as the pain soared through was beautiful. Of course after that I did it deliberately. I ran away from home once. I must have said something horrendous as my father threw his dinner across the kitchen and I watched in a bemused silence as the plate smashed and food skipped across the floor. Pathetically, I returned after a few hours, without any clear plan or thought.
I tried to kill myself twice. I didn’t feel that I was doing it for attention as I hid it well. The only person I told was the friend I believed I was in love with. I wanted her attention desperately. But I think deep down I wanted to fail. It’s hard to say now, because that whole period felt like sleep walking. I just didn’t seem to be in control. I pretty much stopped eating except in social situations, but gorged myself on huge bars of chocolate washed down with paracetamol. I didn’t feel ill. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t leave the house unless I had to. I always did just enough to appear normal on the outside.
I found out that some girls at school had made a website just to write nasty things about me and another friend. The friend I was obsessed with knew I was pretty fucked up though, and managed to shield me from the worst.
Eventually, my mother saw the scars on my wrist. We had a trip to the doctors in which I was prescribed anti-depressants. I never took them. At the doctor’s advice, my mother took me to a youth counselling service. They asked me a few questions about how I was feeling and spoke to her privately. We just left. I never went there again. I didn’t think to ask why. It didn’t even occur to me. I know now I was suffering from a severe clinical depression so not much registered anyway.
One day I sort of just got my consciousness back. I think it was because a lively, excitable lad took an interest in me. Whatever the reason, it just appeared to have passed. My mother said how this had been a bad period for me and to put it behind me. The guilt I felt at the burden I placed on her was immense. We didn’t talk about what happened, but at random family times or during conversation she would mention my ‘bad period’. I’d brought such pain and misery, but I was fixed now, only shame and guilt could be felt for such weakness.
I’ve been depressed, I’ve been in the bottom of an empty pit at least two or three times since. But never ever again have I or will I self-harm or attempt suicide. The guilt, the shame, the need to repress, forget, be a perfect person… well, it all stemmed from there. My coping skills have changed, my experiences have made me less weak, and most of all, the front I present to the world has been perfected.