I’ve always been quite obsessive by nature, my mother described me as an all or nothing girl. You either have all of me or absolutely nothing. I never understood what it meant to be ‘balanced’, how to approach things in a balanced manner. For instance, my relationship with food was always in extremes, there was never any middle ground. Exercise for example, my routines were either gruelling or punishing even or the opposite end of the spectrum, hauled up in bed unable to move. Bed ridden for days at a time just unable get up or tend to myself in the form of eating or bathing. But this relates more to my mental health which is another subject all together, or is it? I have come to the realisation that for me self medicating, addiction and mental ill health go hand in hand.
I remember first ever feeling anxious or suffering with symptoms of anxiety at a early age, I would even go as far as to say as young as nine or ten. Growing up in a household where domestic abuse was taking place meant that I was very much familiar with feeling worried and/or anxious. This continued into my teens and up until I left home when I was sixteen. I always had a lot to do with my grandmother and so was pretty much staying with her by the age of fifteen but I was with her permanently by the time I was sixteen/seventeen. Actually to be specific, thinking back, I moved in for good one week before my seventeenth birthday.
It was at this point that in addition to feeling anxious I started experiencing periods of depression and so in a very dramatic fashion my grandmother took me to see a doctor. You have to laugh, my grandmother introduced me to the doctor expressing that “I had big, big problems!” The female practitioner assessed me and explained that what I was suffering with, given my circumstances, what was very much akin to grief. I was grieving for my mother now that I had left the family home. The trauma of my dad returning to the house and the abuse that was taking place was never discussed or addressed but now I realise it had a tremendous impact on my mental health and all round wellbeing.
Having left the family home and now staying with my grandmother I expected the feelings of anxiety and depression to leave me but they never did. I was also now in an environment where medication, usually in the form of painkillers, were hanging around. All very innocently of course because they were my grandmothers and great grandmothers medication but it was at this point that they were essentially made readily available to me. This might sound dubious or questionable but if I could just explain a little further.
From the age of fourteen I suffered with a bad back, most of the women in my family have also suffered with bad backs. I went to the doctors and to a specialist who confirmed that I have a slight curvature of the spine but that it was not so bad that I needed surgery. But it was established that I genuinely had back problems. The point that I’m trying to make is that this legitimately put me in a position where I could sincerely ask for relief if I was in pain. Rightly or wrongly my grandmother would give me some of her painkillers to relieve the discomfort that I was in.
I remember it all started with codeine, dihydrocodeine and their gentle warm embrace. Not only were they soothing my back ache but they were also soothing my mind. The feelings of unresolved trauma, the anxiety, the depression all seemed to alleviate themselves, even if only temporarily. Even if only for a short while and if you suffer with mental health issues then you will know that a break from these feelings is often very much welcome. A quick girl, it wasn’t long before I realised that I could use these painkillers, that they could help me. All I was really trying to do was function in my everyday life. In the words of Jonathan Van Ness, I was ”Strug to func” and so painkillers made all of this possible. For a long time they served me very well as I made progress and became a high functioning, productive and successful young woman.
I’m going to leave it there for today as I realise this entry is quite lengthy and I do want to keep things light and upbeat. So for more of my story you will have to stay tuned and watch this space! Always curious and forever intrigued I would love to hear your thoughts on my posts and page. Please do say hello and drop me a line, I would love to hear from you!