I became ill before puberty. Whilst others my age were growing, experimenting, and turning from children to adolescents to adults, I was trying to fathom the meaning of my anorexia and negotiating my way through the hospital system.
My school friends dropped off from day one of my first admission, never to contact me again. My piers were now adults with alcoholism, stress, OCD and drug addiction. At best, I would be placed with people of a similar age, but their norms were suicide attempts and self harm.
The thing with mental illness is that it consumes minutes, days, weeks, months, years. The world does not wait for your recovery. Youth missed is gone forever. Allowances are not made for informative, experimental, rebellious years missed.
Another phenomenon brought about by my history with mental illness is that I have been left with a haunting wisdom and insight of someone far beyond my years, or even one which some people will never possess, but in the realms of navigating adult relationships and withstanding the expectations which come along with being of adult age, my experience is that of feeling like a child desperate for the strong arms of their mother. I want to be cradled, I want to be told it will be ok, I want a love that will never leave me feeling alone.
Friends show sympathy and a nod towards understanding, but they are busy, fully functioning folk. My reality is not theirs. My world is alien to them and theirs to me. This is no one’s fault, merely fact. I can’t explain away my mistakes – to friends and family a lack of phone call is a lack of phone call, not a ‘ I’m in a very dark place, struggling to keep on top of what needs to be done and I feel absolutely debilitated in my ability to pick up the phone and say ‘ hello ‘. Then there is the guilt when someone tells you that life is tough for everyone, that no one really knows what they are doing, that everyone has difficult thoughts. All very true, I am more than painfully aware, but my purpose is not to deny others struggles but it is to say that mental illness is a whole other ball game.
I hope I can learn to inhabit the adult body and years that I now posses, until that time, I would like to ask the world, and anyone who’ll listen, to be patient. Don’t leave me, as friends of yesteryear once did.