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A pretty darn candid post. 
24th-Jun-2010 04:36 pm
I just want to make something clear: the world isn't divided in to 'real' people and fakers. Take a second and remember you know this. Whether you're defining a woman by her body (“real woman have curves”) or a man by his behaviour (“real men drink bitter!”) or whatever in fact, you're wrong. All women are real women. Scientists are real people. Even actors are real people. The only people who aren't real people are – well, fictitious*.

Take that home and the rest of this post is irrelevant.

Please note, this post is about self-harm and suicide and eating disorders and other triggering topics wrapped up in some mental health issues. It is also pretty damn personal, and therefore hard to me to write. I'm hoping why it's so hard for me will come out in the content. Yes, it was prompted by recent events on the internet, but no, I don't hold anything against anyone.

Everyone is a real person

Even the people who publicise themselves.

Everyone suffers.

Even the people who make a big deal about their suffering.

Even Verruca Salt.

. There is nothing going on in my life except stress. I am happy with my lot in life and in general. I am not having a fight with anyone. I hold no ill will. I am not trying to imply anything. I love you. Thank you for your concern.

I'm... I don't know how old, 7, 8, maybe? And I write a runaway letter addressed to my parents. I have no intention of actually running away, but I don't know how to just tell them, “I'm not happy.”

The cause of unhappiness, I can't remember exactly. It's probably because I've been acting out again and got in trouble for it and for the life of me I can't figure out how to change. Interrupting someone to talk about myself? Wandering off and getting lost? Not tidying up after myself? Losing something important again? These will become themes. Anyway – I do something, I get in trouble for it, I get frustrated because I don't know how not to do it, and I start to hate myself.

I pretend I'm running away because I don't know how to calm an angry adult. I don't know how to say “I'm sorry” when I don't know how to do anything else. I find my words when I'm on my own and I leave them to be found, because I'm hurting, and I don't know how to communicate that hurt except by making someone else hurt the same way.

I know that someone will find the letter and come and apologise and tell me they love me, and because I can't forgive myself, I'll take love from the person who hurt me. Because I can't stop it from happening down the line, I'll take hurt/comfort now, please.

I have no intention of running away. I'm doing it for the attention.

I'm 11 years old, in a dormitory full of twelve girls by age. I don't know why I started crying, but I know why I'm crying now; because someone is announcing at the top of her voice “she's doing it for the attention, just ignore her!” and I'm desperately trying to cry quietly and I really really wish she would just ignore me.

She says I'm doing it for the attention, and therefore my tears aren't real, and what I'm feeling inside isn't real

I'm twelve years old. It's a Monday, and once again I forgot to bring the recipe I promised I'd bring for Monday cookery class, so once again cookery class has been cancelled, and the teacher has humiliated me about it in front of the class and I'm leaving the classroom amidst bitching, put out classmates when I snap. I drop my books on the pavement and I race across the playground to the school gate.

My school is right next to the River Thames, and I'm soon walking up the field outside the fence, heading to the Thames. My intention is to throw myself in. It's the first time I'm really honestly considered suicide, and I'm thinking about how everyone will be sorry now. And even as I'm thinking it, I know that this is the kind of thing the bitchy girl does in the books, not the true heroine, and I know I'm just Doing It For the Attention.

Eventually I decide I don't want to die and I go back to pick up my books, where my teacher has been waiting for me in the cloakroom. I get to sit through a lecture on what a horrible person I am, and how pathetic these tantrums are, and how grateful I should be that someone picked up my books.

No one asked me “are you OK?”

(Very few people ask me 'are you OK?' If I cried, I was a cry baby and deserving of punishment and humiliation from both peers and adult figures. I discovered this very early in my childhood. It didn't stop me from doing it, because at least punishment and humiliation meant I was getting noticed)

I'm 15 and body image issues are catching up to me. My hips are getting wider and I'm not the same dress size as my friends. Worse, my best friend who is thinner than me is obsessed about her weight and is eating nothing more than a grapefruit a day to try and be thinner. All she talks about is her weight.

And she gets attention for that. She's pretty and popular and much better at having friends than me and I hate how unpopular I am and I hate my body and I don't know how to tell people I hate myself without being met with 'well, change'.

I skip meals. I try to keep meals skipped. I want to develop an eating disorder. I want to be like those girls on the TV, because everyone knows they're the devastated victims of today's society, and everyone knows they're hurting. And no one will know I'm hurting until I show them.

I try, but I don't succeed because changing my brain chemistry to develop a disorder is as impossible as changing it so I don't have ADD. It just can't be done. But I do develop the ability to skip the odd meal even if I'm hungry, because I don't deserve to eat. I do train my body to realise that misery doesn't get fed. I do, I'm convinced further down the line, fuck up my digestive processes something wicked.

And when my mother notices, I have the opportunity to scream about how unhappy I am, because I'm not equipped to say “I'm having issues with my body image” without harming myself through starvation in order to be heard.

A few years later when a friend sees me leaving a meal and going somewhere to wallow, she tells me I'm doing it for the attention. Which I am; I'm miserable, but it's much more important to me to have a well-meaning but insensitive friend lecturing me while I ignore her than it would be to be on my own and ration myself into just forgetting all about it.

I'm doing it for the attention.

Crying is emotional blackmail.

I'm an adult, and I'm ashamed of every emotional reaction I have, and it feels like I have them all the time. If I let someone see me crying, if I tell someone about how badly I'm handling stress, if I talk about any of this stuff above, I'm doing it for the attention. By making this post, I'm being unbelievably selfish. I'm making it about me. I'm writing about my feelings publicly on the internet.

I'm doing it for the attention.

Well, of course I am. I thrive on the drama. I can't wait for 'how are you doing?' to come up in conversation, because even if it does, I'll answer about this second, and not earlier today when I was shitty or even how I am in general. If I want someone to actually notice I'm not OK, I have to scream it. I have to pick a dramatic way of writing across the sky I'M NOT OKAY. Because I don't know how else to say it.

It's emotional blackmail. It's manipulative. It's psychologically violent. It's probably in some cases, abusive. It's wrong, and I know it, and believe me as an adult I do my darnedest not to do it.

But this isn't about me now. This is about the whole of me, across time. This is about the eponymous me of this journal. The little girl I carry around in me, who isn't quite healed from everything yet.

I don't have an eating disorder
I'm not suicidal.
I'm not going to run away from home.
I'm not a 'real' self harmer who does it for the physical sensation.

But that doesn't mean it's not my coping mechanism

I do it for the attention.

But that doesn't mean I'm not hurting.

The attention is my coping mechanism.

So please, the next time you feel like saying “they're just doing it for the attention”, don't.

Even if they clearly are doing it for the attention.

Because if someone says they're hurting, they probably are.

DISCLAIMER: I AM OK. There is nothing going on in my life except stress. I am happy with my lot in life and in general. I am not having a fight with anyone. I hold no ill will. I am not trying to imply anything. I love you. Thank you for your concern.

*except Batman. He's real. Pascal's wager suggests you agree with me here.

This post is also posted at InnerBrat @ Dreamwidth. Feel free to join in the conversation wherever you feel most comfortable.
24th-Jun-2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing and writing this.
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24th-Jun-2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
Was going to say something like this.
25th-Jun-2010 01:36 am (UTC)
THIS. Yes.
25th-Jun-2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
This, totally. When people belittle suicide attempts and self harming by saying it's a "cry for help" I say, of course it bloody is, and that's a GOOD thing. Fuck, if someone's willing to put themselves through that then they *need* help of some kind or other.

I've been the girl who ostentatiously self-harms and talks about it. I sent suicide emails to a tonne of people before an ill-thought-out attempt. I've put really emo status updates on Facebook and I moan and whinge like anything on my LJ - but it's all real. And yes, it's a cry for help, because help is what I need.

I don't have any sort of long-term diagnosis, but I do want attention - I want to feel a little bit special in some way, to be noticed, respected and cared for - but don't most people feel like that?
24th-Jun-2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
utterly brilliant (this is, you are)

some (not nearly all) of this I experienced as a child, some of it astonishingly word-for-word. I have never managed to think it through let alone write it down this coherently. Your posts are frequently insightful, and I rarely comment, but please know I always appreciate reading them.
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25th-Jun-2010 08:33 am (UTC)
I have noticed a trend for people to manifest physical symptoms to ‘prove’ their illness.

Gah, that's so true it hurts. I couldn't will the anxiety to append itself to my depression (any more than one could will oneself into or out of an eating disorder or ADD) but I'd be lying if I didn't say that part of me was a little bit grateful when it showed up last year. Even though it fucked up my life to the point where I couldn't, and can't, work, giving me all the more things to be anxious about... because at least I didn't have to say "I didn't do anything yesterday because I just couldn't"; I could now say "I didn't do anything yesterday because my sleep pattern is all shot to hell and I had another horrible headache and the nausea came back." The pressure to not be a faker or attention-seeker can actually make me glad to feel worse; that's even more fucked-up than I'd previously consciously noticed... The wonderful insightful comments have given me a lot to think about here.
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24th-Jun-2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
I'm a little annoyed at all the Heidi Spencer nee Montag jokes - she's the young MTV celebrity that get her face and body all plasticated - because it's not a well person that would do that. Also, America, she was like 17 when she showed up on TV, so whatever she is, we made her that way. I include myself because I watched clips of that show on The Soup.
24th-Jun-2010 04:57 pm (UTC)

Thank you.

Mary x
24th-Jun-2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
I can relate to the heart of this post so much it's not even funny. I might have more to say once I'm done making lunch, but, damn. This. All of it.
24th-Jun-2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
hokay, here goes: I've never been told that my emotional pain has been attention whoring. I have been told, often, by my mother, that ~the world does not revolve around me, so I have come to link that hand in hand with everything that I do. Everything that I do, from writing fic to lashing out, emotionally, is because I am self-centered and want attention.

And it's true. I am self-centered. I think the world revolves around me. I want attention. I want accolades. I want validation. And, yes, very often I use my emotional pain as a means to get all of this. The thing is, being aware of my flaw has done an ugly number on my psychology. I've taught myself to believe the emotional pain I use to get attention is invalid. Because I'm being selfish, it's a means for manipulation, it's not real.

I think almost every time I absolutely have to announce that I'm hurting intensely, it's preceded by me talking myself into it. I don't want to do it because sure, I might want to commit suicide right that very moment, I may think I am the scum of the earth, but this isn't real, you're just making this up, you just want attention and hugs. I wish I knew how to make that line of thinking stop. I know it's not healthy, I know that if I let it stop me from saying hey, guys, I'm suicidal, that could be the difference between living and dying. But I just. Yeah. After all these years, all these medications, it's still hard for me to fully believe that I'm not okay.
24th-Jun-2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
In an unrelated post on another journal, the OP there and I came to the agreement that there's something messed up about acting like wanting (positive) attention is somehow bad. Like, who DOESN'T want attention and praise? There is nothing wrong with wanting that.

There are disordered ways to go after it, but the wanting underneath is nothing bad.

And if you want I will give you attention and hugs when you post things. I'm not always sure if that stuff is welcome in certain cases, so I usually keep mum unless it's obvious input is wanted.
10th-Aug-2010 04:27 am (UTC)
Like, who DOESN'T want attention and praise?
*raises hand a bit... not very far though*

I tend to run away from any situation where I find myself in the focus. As far as my emotions are concerned, there's no such thing as good attention; even if it starts off positive, it will soon give rise to expectation and disappointment and I'll have to run away anyway... so I might as run now, before I'm attached. Perhaps this is because I'm autistic; perhaps it's a leftover from childhood... whatever. (Mind, it's been pointed out to me that I tend to do things which will attract attention, even though it's obvious that I don't want it - but I think that's definitely autism!)

So now I live in a city where nobody knows me and my closest friend is 70 miles away, and even posting anonymously to forums gets too risky, in terms of attracting attention. It's hard to find motivation to get anything done, and when there are kids making a row outside my window I get quite lonely, but for me it's still preferable to the alternative.
10th-Aug-2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
A very good point! Although my statement was intended to rhetorically express that it's much more common for someone to desire attention than not, it did unfortunately erase the presence of people for whom attention is hella stressful. (Which is silly, because I have a similar problem!) Sorry about that, and thank you for the correction!
25th-Jun-2010 07:04 am (UTC)
*nods* Insight is a two-edged thing. It tends to become yet another reason to hate yourself. When I was actively eating-disordered, the whole time, I knew it was stupid. I knew I should know better. I knew. That didn't help; it just gave me one more thing to despise myself for.
25th-Jun-2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
Totally agree about the insight thing. The last 6 months I've known exactly what I should be doing to manage my stress and get better - but have I done it? Have I fuck.
10th-Aug-2010 09:32 am (UTC)
I have a friend who always makes me feel better due to the fact that he's effusively and sincerely grateful when you do things for/with him. Sometimes big things, sometimes small things, but if you help him out he pretty much always takes the time to go "Thank you for that, you've made my life easier, you awesome person"

As you grow up, especially (from what I can tell) at school if you show intelligence, the amount of thanks and praise you get becomes quite limited – if it's what's expected of you, people don't really need to big you up for it, do they?

Except doing so costs the person doing it no more than a few seconds and a slight reduction of British reserve, and can really positively affect the person receiving it.

While I'm probably not as good as my friend is, I have been trying to do similar, to notice and remember when a friend helps me out, and to take the time to get my gratitude over to them.
24th-Jun-2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this. x
24th-Jun-2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
Just commenting to say: I read. I appreciated. Thanks for writing.
24th-Jun-2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Uhhh, except that was me. Eljaaaaay.

Captcha: encountered throat

I feel like it's symbolic.

24th-Jun-2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
um, since you wrote your tweet about being triggered yesterday i've been thinking about my own triggers, when they last happened, how they felt and wondering what would happen if I came to them again now.

Umm, I want to put something else here about attention seeking and how it isn't always a bad or wrong thing, and the hurting is still real, and about how you(i) slot into or develop certain fixed (disordered) ways of behaving to prove that there is something wrong, but I have a mental block not letting me thinkg about it now.
nevertheless, thank you for writing the post and making those points.

I'm not really sure what my point is here.
24th-Jun-2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
Holy crap, yes. Now with 100% more articulation!

Thank you.
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25th-Jun-2010 08:24 am (UTC)
Never seems calculated to me ::cuddles:: For what that's worth ;)
24th-Jun-2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
*except Batman. He's real. Pascal's wager suggests you agree with me here.

LOL, that is a good point.

Re. the cookery class: that is a pretty crap teacher who would show up to class with no contingency plan for if a student forgot to bring their recipe. What the hell?

Thank you for this post. I don't really know what to say except it's and important topic and I'm grateful to people who are brave enough to share such personal things. It helps so much to know we're not alone, there are other people who have similar problems and feel the same way.

It's good that you're OK. I'm doing pretty OK right now too. Virtual hugs anyway! {{hugs}}
24th-Jun-2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
*hugs* thank you for sharing.
25th-Jun-2010 01:41 am (UTC)
By making this post, I'm being unbelievably selfish. I'm making it about me.

You're not making it about you. It is about you. This is the it that is about you. This is your life and you are allowed to be the center of it once in a while.

It is okay for there to be something that's about you.

You may already know this but I feel it bears repeating, even so.
25th-Jun-2010 01:57 am (UTC)
Definitely bears repeating. *nods firmly*
10th-Aug-2010 05:11 am (UTC)
25th-Jun-2010 03:19 am (UTC)
That's really articulate and interesting. I recognise parts of it as similar experiences.

I don't know what I wanted to say here, I'll try to bear this in mind more in my thinking, though I already do my level best to remember this, sometimes it's easy to forget, especially in the midst of my own dramas, that other peoples dramas are just as real to them.
25th-Jun-2010 07:01 am (UTC)
It makes me so insanely, violently, red-mist-ly angry when someone says someone's doing something "for attention" or "a cry for help". Yeah? Yeah? Well, GIVE THEM THE FUCKING ATTENTION, then. Give them the damn help. If they're desperate enough to ask in a way that hurts them so much, they need it.
25th-Jun-2010 08:23 am (UTC)
I feel a little bit responsible for this by reposting something, admittedly more or less on your/our side here, about how "real women" don't necessarily have curves, and I just wanted you to know I wholeheartedly agree with you. And love you and want you to be okay, and want to help if I can when you are not.
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