Confiding in people – part 1: family and before I left home

(Trigger warning: rape)

I have a psychiatrist appointment on Tuesday. When I was younger, I used to prepare for psychiatrist appointments. I wanted to get the most out of them. That petered out years ago. I often think to myself between appointments “oh, I should say that” but then I spend a lot of my time sort of daydreaming that I’m talking to a random nameless person. Part of that is because I ‘ruminate‘ like a motherfucker, getting more and more stuck in the habit, partly because I am lonely and partly because I don’t confide in anyone these days. By ‘confide in’, I mean talk about the worst of my mental health symptoms in particular suicidal thoughts and the things I am ashamed about in my life.

I’ve rarely been able to confide in my family. I remember telling my mother the first time that I was having problems. I was 15 and I’d been a disaster area for years: I was badly bullied at school from about 7-15 and didn’t have any friends; my first (sort-of?) suicide attempt was when I was 12; I’d had disordered eating/eating disorder from the ages of 13-14; I’d replaced the eating problems with self-injury because I’d found that worked a lot better and had been self-injuring from the ages of 14-15 being very dependant on it in the last year and doing it every day; and I’d been having suicidal thoughts and depression symptoms off and on that whole time. I told my mother a very shortened version of this and didn’t mention the suicide attempt or thoughts or the eating problems. I lived in an isolated rural area where everyone knew each other and the only GP was a family friend. My mother took me to a locum GP who was a woman. I lied and lied when she asked me questions. I was frightened and finally felt in control by holding back my private information. My symptoms got worse, surprise-fucking-surprise. So a few months later my mother took me back to the usual GP, Dr I,  and I told him the truth. I was desperate by this time. He was very kind to me and it makes me cry to even think of it. I was exceptionally lucky in how he dealt with my self-injury. He never shamed me for it and made it make sense to me. He said that I did it because I felt so bad and didn’t have “the words” to say it in any other way. He gave me steri-strips and dressings and I took care of my wounds myself, like I wanted. It made me feel good to take care of my wounds and it was the only way I’d ever deliberately taken care of myself. I felt safe. He explained that what I feeling and thinking was this illness called ‘depression’. I remember feeling so relieved. Oh god, I was so relieved. It was like some tight painful part of me unclenched. He treated me for the depression with fluoxetine (this was around the time that Prozac first became famous/notorious in the media) and weekly counselling with him. He asked me if I wanted to go to the psychiatric hospital and I said no because the idea freaked me out and I knew that everyone where I lived would know. I think perhaps that was the wrong decision and I should have gone and had some formal psychotherapy. It might have stopped some of the things that happened to me later. I saw the consultant psychiatrist twice I think and I felt at the time that was mainly to reassure Dr I and I didn’t get much out of it. Maybe validation that my symptoms was actually real enough to ‘deserve’ seeing a psychiatrist? Dr I asked me I wanted to see the psychiatrist again and I said no. I didn’t think it would help and he respected my decision. I kept getting better and felt calmer and steadier. I made friends at school – started smoking and made friends with the smokers. But they felt like genuine friends and I felt like I fitted in. I freaked out a bit around the time of my Higher exams when I was 17 and I think that was when he increased the dose of the fluoxetine. I remember him talking to me quite seriously about how the exams wouldn’t go away and I had to do them or I’d regret it. I did the exams and got the five As I wanted. My symptoms went away again and I got my first boyfriend, R, who loved me and was kind and gentle. By the time I was about to leave home I was doing well and didn’t have much anything other than ‘normal’ stresses that I wanted to talk about. Ah, now I read that back, I realise it wasn’t true: I was raped a few months after I started the relationship with R and when I told him about it, he acted like I had cheated on him and was very hurt. It wasn’t a violent rape and I was very confused by what had happened and thought it was all my own fault. I still kind of think that though I know (sort-of) that it was rape because I hadn’t wanted to have sex with that man, didn’t even realise that was what he was making happen until he started, had tried to say no and he did it anyway. I didn’t mention the rape, or “that thing” as I thought about it, to anyone else.

When I started confiding in Dr I. I didn’t over-think it and just did it. Once I started it got easier though I can remember him having to encourage me and reassure me a lot (sometime about “making the most of this time where you can say whatever you want and no one else will ever hear it”). Then when I got better I didn’t really need him anymore. I don’t remember ‘officially’ ending the counselling. I think it just can of came to some kind of natural end which I was happy and content with. Same with the fluoxetine. I pretty much decided I didn’t want to take it anymore and didn’t need it. Dr I had wanted me to take it for at least a certain number of months after I’d got better (I think it was 18 months) and I’d done most of that but didn’t want to wait any longer.

I don’t think it even occurred to me to confide in my mother anymore once I started confiding in Dr I. It hadn’t really occurred to me to confide in her in the first place. I’d basically had a nervous breakdown (stopped functioning) when I was 15 and had told some of my problems to a teacher at school who insisted that I told my mother. When I was raped when I was 17, it didn’t occur to me to tell anyone possibly because I didn’t call it ‘rape’ until years later. I’m still uncomfortable calling it rape. But with any of the problems, it didn’t occur to me to talk to my mother. And I definitely didn’t want to tell my father. I didn’t want him to know about the diagnosis of depression, that I was taking an antidepressant and definitely in no way know about the self-injury. Since then I’ve told both of them small bits and pieces about my mental illness. Usually it’s about what medication I am taking and I tell them when I go into hospital. My sister, L, is three years younger than me and I actively tried to protect her from knowing any of this for years up until her early twenties. I can’t even remember how she found out about it in the first place but I don’t think it was from me. We both live in the same city except for two years when I lived in another city. When I came back here, I had split up with my ex-boyfriend and I was badly ill. I gave her keys to my flat in case I got locked out and in case I went into hospital and needed someone to look after my pet rats. I gave keys to two other people as well. I probably didn’t handle it well and just gave her the keys rather than asking. But she really, really hurt my feelings by being very cold and saying that she didn’t want to get involved in my mental illness or in any way end up as my ‘carer’. I don’t think she used the word carer. I think it was my mother who used the word carer when she brought it up with me a while afterwards after she’d talked to my sister about it. I think the first year I came back here, I made an effort to see my sister and keep in contact. She often didn’t reply to messages though that’s the norm in my family as we’re not close and I do that too. I remember being in her car after going somewhere and saying to her that I could really do with some company. I think was in a bad way with suicidal thoughts though hadn’t directly mentioned the suicidal thoughts. She said she was too busy and again, it really hurt my feelings. After that first year or so, I’ve considered my sister as off-limits and I keep away. In this last year, she’s asked if there was anything she could do to help a couple of times. It’s seemed like she wanted to spend more time with me. At the moment, I only see her when our mother visits which is 3-4 times a year. I’ve not made much effort other than a couple of times too. I don’t know, it’s a strange relationship I think. I am far, far too ashamed to talk to her directly about any of this. I can’t even imagine being able to say any of this in front of her without being in hysterical tears. It’s very painful. That’s a bit like my relationship with my mother too. Though my mother has been clearer that she’d like to be closer with me. But I’m much more wary of my mother and there are a lot of things I don’t trust her with. My father is often kind to me and asks if there is anything he can do to help. When I had nowhere to live after I split up with my ex-boyfriend, he offered to try to find me somewhere to live but never mentioned it again after that. I feel like he offers to help to make himself feel better rather than actually wanting to get involved. When I talk to him on the phone (not that often), he tells me that he loves me though and that he’d like to see me. He really upsets my sister by not making more of an effort with her. So I don’t take my father’s behaviour personally.

Through all this, I’ve not been a very good daughter or sister. I don’t think I know how to be a good daughter and I don’t think I’ve really thought about it until now. That’s kind of weird. I’ve done some things for my mother and father but probably much less than most people. I know I’ve not been a very good sister and I’ve thought about that a lot before. In particular, I’ve not been around much for any of the bad things that have happened in my sister’s life like her bad experience with a surgeon or her problems with work. I was about to type “when she got married last year, I didn’t do much to help” but I did do something and they even thanked me in their speech. It’s only just occurred to me now that it was probably strange for my sister when I moved to another city for those two years as I had been reasonably in contact with her before and then pretty much disappeared for two years. She came up to visit and stayed with me once and we both went, with my ex-boyfriend J, to stay with my mother for a week. I’m not sure I saw her other than that. So perhaps it was pretty jarring and unreasonable of me to disappear for two years and then come back and just expect things to be like before I left. Since I can’t imagine talking to her about this, I’ve considered emailing her instead but… I don’t know, I’m afraid of making things worse or just looking like an idiot. She has her own life that I’m not really involved in, that really hit home to me when I was at her wedding because I didn’t know many of her friends at all, so I don’t even know if I want to ask her to make room for me especially since I’m such a fucking nightmare with the mental illness, no job, no relationship, etc, etc.

Part 2 of this post is here.

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