sunflowers bloom at night
inner monologue: 1
the sunflowers have lost their shine
weeds beginning to form
in the place where light was,
do i love myself?
the petals are beginning to fall
i love me, i love me not
i don’t want to tear it away.
do i love myself?
I have depression.
Not the stigma kind. Not the ‘I just broke up with my boyfriend and now I’m depressed’ kind. Not the ‘I’m depressed because my parents won’t let me wear black eyeliner’ and the infamous ‘it’s not a phase mum!’ kind. Not the social media kind.
It’s the kind where you’re in bed for days, only being able to focus on the screen of your laptop which is playing reruns of The End of the Fucking World on Channel 4 and not being able to concentrate on a single second even though it’s the fifth time it’s being played. It’s the kind where you’re a ghost of a person in a room filled with people and you can’t engage in the conversation because you feel like an actual joke. It’s the kind where you’re numb, numb, numb there’s nothing else giving you a light except for the screen of your dumb laptop glaring back at you.
I also have anorexia nervosa.
Not the type you see on social media. Not the image of a girl who shyly refuses a cupcake. Not the disgusting number of glorified images of ‘thinspo’ that you can see on Tumblr or Twitter. Not the romanticised kind.
It’s days of starvation, trying to go another day without eating something because the thought of it entering your system is the most painful thing. Its anxiety attacks caused over a small meal entering you, making you feel like a failure. It’s crying in the middle of your bedroom floor, sobbing and sobbing because the body you once tended for is now a pile of withered vines and you can’t get up.
One more day. One more day. One more day.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can’t.
It doesn’t end.
Helen sat in front of me; she had been my therapist for the past few weeks after I had come out of an inpatient unit treating me for my illnesses. Even though I’ve seen her for weeks, she’s still trying to decipher why I do this to myself. For the longest time, my answer had been ‘I don’t know’ because that’s the thing, I don’t know.
“What’s on your mind, Amber?” she asked, a common question she posed during our sessions. Majority of the times it was nothing, I wasn’t really thinking about anything at all. I felt nothing a lot of the times. Other times it’ll just be me crying for God knows how long because of the amount that I’ve held in the longest time, and there’s no way I can express how I feel besides crying.
I was on the verge of tears now, but that wouldn’t stop me from doing what I do best and lying through my teeth. There was nothing left of me beside the petals falling one by one as I tried to pull through.
“Nothing.” I responded, my usual reply. I didn’t know what she wanted me to tell her specifically, really. How am I meant to tell her the truth when I’m not sure of the truth myself? What even is the truth?
“How’s your mood been recently?” she questioned, another usual query. The petals that fell are beginning to rot.
Depression is constant to me. It’s a limb at this point, I can’t get rid of it for the life of me. At this point, it seems as though I can never get better – despite the months I spent in an inpatient unit trying to recover for the longest time. Lying has gotten me this far, I don’t know why it’s so easy to do so but here I am.
I cannot remember a time where I was genuinely happy for the life of me. Bizarre, isn’t it? My chest has always felt as though a thousand and more bricks are piling on top of each other, I cannot breathe, but they’re so heavy to move. I wish I could. So, when I attempted to say this, I physically could not, all I did was stutter and ended up with a muddle of words, to which she responded “it’s okay, we can move on.”
inner monologue: 2
i strive for a life
with lavender skies,
grasses the brightest greens
i’m left with thunderstorms,
a hurricane in my heart.
i am nothing but shadows.
Anorexia took me by surprise. When I was going days without eating a single thing, it drained me physically, but I didn’t acknowledge I was doing any harm, that it was physical, mental and emotional. I thought I was okay. It was as though I didn’t realise that the light was being sucked out of me one day at a time. There was only darkness in my sky, no stars were apparent either. I was always consumed with food, food, food and I must lose weight. It’s easy to say to ‘just eat’ but how do I do that without the tremendous amounts of guilt? How do I do it without feeling like I’m an absolute failure? Without wanting to rip all the skin off of my body? Without defacing the flower? I can’t. I wish I could.
Attempting to recover was one of the best and worst things I could have ever done. I guess it taught me the skills, how to recognise signs of a relapse, how to get out of negative thinking when it gets really bad, how to stop being so numb all the time. But I didn’t use any of these things.
What was the point in getting better, if I was never satisfied with how I look? There could be thousands and thousands and thousands of people looking at me, telling me that I’m ‘skinny’ and that I should ‘eat a burger’ but that wouldn’t stop the pain I feel when I look at myself every day in the mirror. You don’t see what I see. The pain, the hatred, the loss of love – it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.
inner monologue: 3
it’s eating me up
the sadness is harrowing,
but my plate is full.
Helen and I were having another session. I told her about the conversation I had with Soleil and how she was over the moon with the growth I made. I can’t say I hated it; it was nice hearing someone unbiased tell me that they were proud of me. Most of the times it felt like people were being nice to me only because they had to, like it was an obligation. But with Helen, she was proud of the small bud growing.
“What would you describe yourself as?” She asked, “it can be anything. It doesn’t have to make sense.”
I thought about it. Hard. “A flower. But one that’s dying.”
No hesitation. There was a time where I was filled with hope; I was blossoming and a ray of light. But once I lost my appetite, lost an immense amount of weight, lost all desire to live, I began to wither. Everything was darkness. It still is. And I told her this.
“I know you don’t like me sugar-coating things and making things seem peachy, but there is something I want you to see. It’s a little something I found in case you said something like that.” She responded, and I was baffled, but she just slipped a card in front of me, vibrant:
sunflowers bloom at night
moonlight creeping in as your skin glows.
a sunflower, blooming – you grow, grow, grow
and, powerfully at that.
hardly a rose, the light doesn’t kiss their skin anyway,
your autumn gold is enough to stay.
gradually, bloom powerfully.
Hours after the session I was still sat thinking about that card and what it entailed, and I was still captivated. For the longest time I’ve felt broken, glass shattered and the pieces of me being left behind – I became nothing.
I’m not one for cliché’s – the phenomenon of “hold on, pain ends” and “stay strong” that was drilled into our minds whilst I was at an inpatient unit, left me hating recovery for a while. Neither am I saying that Helen cured me with that card of hers, but it did spark something inside – the phoenix wanting to rise above it all. Hurt, hunger, hatred, all caused by me, and I wanted to change.
I don’t know if I will be certainly recovered today, tomorrow, in a years’ time, or in ten years’ time but what I know for sure is that I’m holding on to this bit of glow that has peaked. There’s no certain guarantee that I will always be disheartened by what comes, even if my heart is heavy and the weight is on my shoulders.
I will try to bloom.
inner monologue: 4
you are all the colours
of the sunrise and sunset.
gold embedded in your veins
as you rise.
you are more than the grey
once shadowing you
instead, you are a phoenix
reds, yellows, oranges, more
rise above it all.
By Farzana Ali