H.O.P.E. – I Know Better Now

If there’s anything I’ve learnt after 12 months of being a part of IMAlive, it’s that talking about your pain can help you take the step to start finding ways to cope with that pain. I believe in practicing what you preach, so for World Suicide Prevention Month, I’d like to share my story in the hope that someone out there can find a find a little hope for themselves.

For us to strike out to that bright spark of hope, I guess we first have to talk about sitting in the dark. In my case that darkness started as I hit my teenage years, back then all I knew was that once a month, every month, I wanted to die. For 5 days every month when my period hit, my world condensed into a spiral of blinding pain that I still struggle to describe to this day. One of my enduring memories from teenhood is being curled up in the fetal position on my bed, crying and begging my mum to make the pain stop, while my parents argued over whether taking me to the emergency doctor yet again would help. Mostly it didn’t, mostly it ended with my poor dad washing the side of car down from where I’d hurled out of the window on the journey, that 5 minute stretch of having to sit up straight enough to stay in my seatbelt losing me whatever food I’d managed that day. 

“It’s just bad period pain” the doctors kept saying, “we’ll try a different pain medication this time.” My school work suffered from missing almost a week of class each month, teachers started doubting my sickness was genuine. My friendships soon started to follow, who wanted to make plans with someone who flaked out for a week each month? The one that missed the funny stuff going on in class because she wasn’t there. The weird kid that passed out in class that one time.

At 13 I wasn’t self assured enough to bring up to my friends the fact that it was my period stopping me from living the same life as everyone else. If periods are still a stupid taboo in 2019 they were even more so back in the early 2000’s. None of the other girls ever mentioned being in pain, none of them fell to their knees in agony in the middle of class when they came on earlier than they expected. I didn’t understand it, even the doctors didn’t understand it, how could I expect any of my friends to? 

I was 14 the first time I self-harmed, and if the fetal curl is my most enduring memory of the early 2000’s, then sitting on the bathroom floor harming myself while my parents and sister were out seeing the second instalment of the Harry Potter series at the cinema is a close second. Thus started a pattern over the next few years, a week of agony, followed by a week of recovery, balanced by a week of getting back to my life, ending with a week of self harm as the anxiety slowly built back up as the agony approached again.

I like to think that I’d have broken that pattern myself eventually, but in reality it took an eventual diagnosis – endometriosis, two surgeries in 5 years, the support of a good therapist and finally opening up about my pain to my friends, and being both shocked and horrified to find out some of them had struggled with similar fates, to help me make a safer choice for myself. 

Adult me looks back on that struggling 14 year old, the one who kept going even though she sometimes couldn’t see the point, and I wish I could tell her all the things I know now. That she is loved. That she is so so strong. That not finishing at the top of the class isn’t going to matter in the end. That 17 years from now she’ll have girlfriends who talk openly about that pain and support each other through it. That the only thoughts she’s had about self harm in 10 years are ones on how to help someone else make a safer choice for themselves instead. That from her pain was going to come an unquenchable thirst to help others fight their own.

There were points in my life where I wasn’t sure that pain was something I could ever leave behind. I know better now, with the support of my family, friends, the amazing team at IMAlive and inspiration from all the callers that strive to overcome their own pain, I’m more sure than ever that if we keep holding on, pain ends.

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