Since a young age I’ve always been reasonably independent. I wanted to do things on my own, make my own mistakes and be my own person.
However, this changed when I realised I was becoming ill. I lost my sense of independence and relied on others to help me make my choices, often I was left alone with choices I had the inability to make. Big choices.
When I was about thirteen years old I realised I was ill. I was constantly depressed, making choices that harmed my physical and mental wellbeing. It took me time to realise I was always sad, thinking harmful thoughts, had rapid cycling moods I could not regulate and had no support for any of these things.
Christmas time when I was thirteen lead me to confide in my parents that I thought I was depressed. I tried to tell them my deepest feelings and how I felt like my life wasn’t worth living.
This did not go down well.
I remember saying to my dad once that I didn’t see the point in life and getting the response similar to ‘keep talking like that we’ll admit you to a psych ward’. Although I don’t think they quite understood how much I was suffering, but that hurt me deeply.
My parents began noticing my skin was marked in abnormal ways, it was noted once or twice and I came up with a good enough reason to be excused. Eventually my dad and I engaged in an argument where he cornered me in my room and did not allow me to leave until I revealed why I had all of these harming marks on my skin. I told him about my self harm. Little did I know he kept this to himself and did not tell my mum.
It turns out he thought my boyfriend at the time was hurting me. He was almost right. He was hurting me, but not in ways the eye could see.
Then began the random spot checks on my arms, so my self harm evolved into something much more secretive and well hidden. I learnt from these interactions that my struggles were not welcome in my home. Or that’s very much how it felt.
I pushed for some time to be taken to a doctor, so I could tell them how I felt and how I was deteriorating. However when I eventually was taken to an appointment, I felt small, insignificant and very much like my input was irrelevant. My mum discussed why she thought I was depressed, they talked about my weight, my stretch marks, bullying at school, every possible external thing you could imagine to explain why I was ‘unhappy’. I was asked to show the doctor my scars from self harm, she asked only to see my arms. I revealed only my arms.
I was sent to a dietician and dermatologist because my gp and my parents had agreed my mental state was down to my appearance.
As you can imagine this particular interaction, or group of interactions with my parents and medical professionals severely affected me, even to this day. I wasn’t unhappy with how I looked when I was 13, I mean like anybody I wished certain things were different, but I was tall, goal weight, with possibly larger breasts than the girls at school. I was self conscious mostly due to the size difference in my chest to other girls and the fact that I had stretch marks due to my breasts. This did not trigger a depressive episode, but rather meant I changed my posture to hide.
The dietician tried to refer me to CAHMS twice however I was rejected. She had very little input into my diet, in fact she was often a mediator during arguments between myself and my mother.
The dermatologist did exactly as I expected, she said she could not help me however reported ‘strange markings’ on my skin to my mother.
By this point I was extremely sensitive about my appearance, I believed there was something wrong with me, I was too fat, I was covered in too many stretch marks, my face was ugly (this actually resulted in my shaving off my eyebrows and secretly applying make up as I was not allowed any) I believed my hair was wrong (I cut off my fringe so I was bald) I saw every part of my body as problematic. It’s actually something I rarely talk about, and I’m sure those close to me are hearing this for the very first time, the intimate details at least.
Feeling like my whole appearance was wrong, this triggered a troubling relationship with food, I would spend long lengths of time not eating, or not eating properly, I would binge eat and comfort eat, I would use my lunch money to buy cigarettes instead of food more often than not and would often hide away at dinner time.
I was still depressed. Even more so than before.
Around fourteen years of age I had already scarred my body, smoked regularly, snuck in alcohol whenever I could, very often before school and I had tried to end my life twice.
These were some of my secrets.
There were constant voices in my head, hateful voices telling me I was worthless, I needed to hurt myself, nobody loved me and over time, those voices turned into my own. It was cemented in my mind, my body and my soul that I was not meant for this world. The pain I endured was because of this.
But I don’t suppose this answers the title of this blog post.
Who advocates for a child?
In this story; my story. Nobody advocated for me. My parents tried and failed. They didn’t listen, they didn’t allow me a safe space to explain. The professionals missed it, they kept reassuring me it was ‘hormonal’, it was normal, and me? I tried for years. I tried to speak up, to have my voice taken from me. I tried to physically show symptoms, for these to be ignored and hidden. I tried to act out, to be tarred a ‘trouble child’. I was abused by men, often not even aware of where I was or if it was real, I abused myself and the cycle never stopped.
Nobody advocated for me.
These things I kept so secret eventually grew, like vines, sticking their thorns and wrapping themselves around every part of my life turning it black. I was so suffocated and alone that I continued to find ways to ease my pain. I tried to hide it, to fight it and eventually I succumbed to it. My darkness and I.
When I turned 18 years old, I confided in a friend but only slightly, asking if she could accompany me to my doctors without my parents knowing, so I could finally advocate for myself the right way.
My gp listened, decided to try anti depressants and for a short time I felt better. I felt some kind of relief from the self destructive person I had become and like I had been listened to.
Then things spiralled again. This time it was worse because I was an adult, with responsibilities. My mental health had already lead to me dropping out of college, damaging all of the relationships I had ever had and still trying to find a way out of life.
This time, it led to me allowing myself to be trapped in an extremely abusive relationship, I lost so many jobs, friends, family members. I lost my home and financially crippled myself, and I lost my complete sense of self and that is how I was almost admitted to a psych ward.
Instead of being admitted, I was put under the home treatment team, they came to visit me often, monitoring my medication, my moods and often trying to get me to interact with therapy based homework, I was also sedated during this time and left alone for long periods. It was my own personal hell.
This team initially diagnosed me with reccurent depressive disorder, and I was too low functioning to fight it, until I met somebody I recognised and she got my another appointment with a Psychiatrist, I’d done my research by then, was mostly functioning and knew how to correctly advocate for myself, however in the background, my breakdown was still very much happening.
This is how after almost a decade, I realised the only person who will advocate correctly for me is me.
My name is Ashleigh, and I have Borderline Personality Disorder. I am not a trouble child, I am not depressed due to my appearance, I am not living with secrets. I have gone through absolute hell knowing everybody around me thinks I am purposely acting out, I have taken so much shit and I know I am the only person who can make me better.
That’s why I advocate for those who have mental and physical health issues. Not because I use knowledge as a weapon, not because I want to manipulate your opinion, not because I want to attack you for your own knowledge and your own experiences, but because I’ve been in a place where I had nobody, no support, no shoulder to cry on, no place to feel safe and nobody to speak up for me when it was absolutely detrimental to my health that somebody did.
I can however express my immense gratitude that my parents have learnt from my childhood, they have continued to learn and support me as I am, fully accepting my illnesses and my flaws and they continue each day to do their absolute best to support me and as they say parenting doesn’t come with a handbook, mistakes are inevitable. I still love them unconditionally.
I suppose this is in some ways a vent blog post, I admit I probably should have put more planning into it, I probably would have if my computer hadn’t spent 4 hours updating, but yeah, that’s it, that’s the post.