I pretty much spend my entire life pretending everything is fine and working furiously hard to ensure I keep quiet about so much to prevent other people feeling bad in any way. Even after everything I’ve been through, I don’t talk about it not just because I have no one to do so with – professional or really otherwise – but because it is against everything I know to hurt others, especially with words or memories. So it was a special kind of deep anger and fear and hurt that I ended up, on the drive down the school, quite suddenly spitting out how awful and terrified I was and am, fuelled by PTSD and the chest-aching terror of yesterday. Because I can’t go back.
Basically, for work experience in this Health and Social Care course Level 3 – because only this sweet small school and its staff could couple my actual abilities with my intelligence to allow me to do this over the past two years – I’ve been working at Brixham hospital, which is a small community hospital a fair distance away. It took a while of course to get used to, but once I did, I only had the everyday awful anxiety to contend with, once a week for a whole term. It turned out pretty well, considering it was me. But I’m really meant to do more and, of course, the most convenient and useful place in the area is the main hospital. Originally, the reason I was at Brixham was because it was not Torbay, because I had asked not to be there. But why I was asking difficulty of other, so kind, people because of my stupid life and feelings was lost on me, so when I was to go someone else, I decided immediately to shut up and attend Torbay. I didn’t think I could handle it. I just thought that I should shut the hell up and do it anyway.
It didn’t take long to become a volunteer ‘Way Finder’ and be sent all the information; apparently this is wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Can I help you’ and lingering at the main entrance, waiting to show people where they need to go in the whole hospital. Simple enough. I can do it, I can help people, I know the layout even before being shown. In fact it was a great idea, and If I wasn’t, well, me… I could do it. Which makes no sense, of course. Anyway. The first thing was delaying to the absolute limit before getting there. This was more of an automatic thing than anything, and immediately broke my rule of not hurting others; as Grandma is so eager to remind me (as if I need it), mum takes me everywhere and is incredible in doing so. So not being ready and willing to go means rendering her effort pointless, technically. Rule one, broken.
Eventually we went there, mum found the place and took me in. We met Phillipa, the lovely woman in charge of work experience there, and after a short talk in which I confirmed it would be a total disaster with notable sarcasm but pure truth, mum left slightly reluctantly and I followed Phillipa, who tried her very best, bless her, to make me more comfortable and chat about everything. She was so lovely. After we sorted out the locker debacle and I had changed into my T-shirt after crying and narrowly avoiding a complete panic attack breakdown while she waited outside, she led me to the main hospital. She also told me it was her birthday, to which I immediately apologised profousely that she had to deal with me today.
I don’t think I can even really write about being back there, to be honest. Or rather, I can but I’m in class writing this and I’m enough of a thing to deal with without having another breakdown right now. Anyway, from the second we walked into a corridor and she began to show me around briefly, I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope. It wasn’t the work itself. I can of course help people and show them where they need to be. But every inch, every smell, every touch of the walls of the place was like being stabbed and strangled and being forced to remember every single thing I’ve done in my life. Incredibly, I got through it without completely losing everything. But standing there, silent apart from blurting out my fucking life story at different moments to Phillipa who, bless her, stayed by my side even though she had so many other things to do. She in turn told me about a friend she had called Rachel, who now runs some kind of recovery class or something. And every time she ended up here, every single time, Phillipa was there. At three in the morning, at every single time. Despite her own children and despite her own work and timetable and agenda.
I can’t even comprehend that. Having someone come for you who cares so much, who will always come and not comment on the time or frequency of visits. Someone who unconditionally supports and loves and admires you no matter what you do. Someone who doesn’t hold you in a blaming silence and asks if you just got bored of your video game and ‘decided’ to kill yourself. Who doesn’t comment on what they’re missing or how long it’s taking. Who doesn’t keep in contact with someone who abused you for so long and hurt you so deep that the mere mention of his name can emotionally bring you to your knees. Someone who doesn’t just brush it off and somehow it becomes a taboo topic. Someone who doesn’t secretly or no so secretly mention how it’s all your fault and only you brought this on yourself. I can’t even comprehend someone like that? After everything I’ve been told and shown in too bright tiled rooms, I can’t even comprehend how different things could have been. Because they weren’t different.
I still belong there. And I would end up there, every day, if I thought that it would help anything at all. But it doesn’t. It just gets me in trouble for even trying to seek some kind of peace, and no matter what happens, I always end up in the same place with the same people and the same demons, if not more.
Someone in class just asked me, what am I planning to do after this school? Well, the truth is I am technically signed up for an Animal Science Degree at SDC. Apparently they have enough help available that even I could do something, me and mum learnt at the open evening thing the other month. We pretty much learnt this because I lost it in a a wreck of PTSD and hopelessness in a similar way for most of the evening as a nice woman spoke to us. But. Well. I just replied “Try not to kill myself, probably. Yeah.” Where did this brutal honesty come from? It doesn’t matter. I don’t know these people well. I respect them as humans obviously, and from what I’ve heard, but I don’t really care what they think of me. I can’t, really, in order to survive. Sorry Amie. I respect you, and wish you the best. Don’t worry. I mean it.
Anyway. I completed the shift. If it even counts to be constantly on the edge of a thousand tears, with erratic breathing and jumping and constant, constant turning. Without my bag on my back, and with my usual extreme hypervigilance, all the people walking around kept me on even more of a constant edge. Phillipa led me back to the centre where we’d started, and I collected my bag and gave her the T-shirt back. But she held it out to me and said that I could keep it if I wanted to come back. It reminded me so painfully of another too kind person, lending me his book for the weekend, in the pure trust that I would return on the second week of residential. But it’s not the summer of 2013 and I’m too old for NCS now, as if I would return. As if I could. People are too kind to a monster like me. And that, more than anything, is a main reason I can’t go back.
After everything, mum picked me up and we went home. I’m more than an expert of pretending everything is fine, so I put away my coat and even made small talk before going upstairs and crashing so hard. I’ve developed to cry silently as humanely possible, but the hurt and fear and terror was just so deep and scarring that it was impossible to be really quiet. So I used a pillow to scream unintelligible sounds into, and I choked on hundreds of tears before even being able to breathe again. It hurt. It hurt inside and out, the comprehension of what I could have had, what I should have had. And I want to, as well. I want to move out, get a dog, train it until I could step into the outside with it by my side and I could actually do anything at all this life is meant for. But I can’t. I know I can’t. And I break every day if I dare even think of and alternate existence than this. My body physically can’t take so many daggers to the chest that a slight thought of that brings. So I just don’t think. I don’t dare.
I cried until I could breathe again, and then cut through my skin just to be sure the lesson had been learnt. They were shallow, pitiful wounds with my left and incorrect hand, but they were enough for now. At dinner, the very abuser who had so often put me in that place I’d had to return actually asked about it. I can’t comprehend him either. Does he really, even now, after everything, sometimes think he did nothing wrong? All those years of words hurled like knives, sharper than what I continue to punish myself with – can he really just forget all of it? The dragging downstairs, the threatening to slap, the hits when he could get away with it… and most of all, the shaming in front of everyone and anyone I had ever respected and loved. After… all of it. How can he even dare ask me how it was to return to the battlefield I have never really left? I am no better and I still belong there. And I would, if I dared think I deserve the right to get help. It has been drilled into me after years that, indeed, I do not.
So I’ve put the shirt in the wash to ensure that the sweat and tears don’t stain its fabrics, and I’ll email Phillipa, so beautiful and caring, and just tell her I cannot bear to have her deal with such a wretched human like me. Well, I won’t say that of course, but that is what I will mean, and after yesterday she will realise it. Then I’ll write this until PTSD loosens its hands around my throat just a little, and hate myself more for managing to write so many awful words here instead of fleshing out my personal statement as I ought to be. Of course, mum’s sent off all the paperwork already and we’re just waiting for me to do this. Stories always come in a full circle, see.
And I mean… there’s a lot that I miss, But is there point in even dwelling on this? After everything, I aim to exist than survive, to run than fight, to whisper than hide.
My friends and those around me will continue their lives – and make no mistake, they should. So when they’re away I will just smile and wave, and convince my grandad that I am good.