A hellish twelve hours. A Borderline Abandonment Fear meltdown of pretty epic proportions.
I am cold, exhausted, hungry and lonely. I have been up all night crying, and now have swollen, painful eyes, an aching jaw and am totally unable to get warm. I am deeply sad and angry because up until yesterday I was doing really well, and have now, in the space of a few hours, managed to destroy my happiness, upset my partner, wreck myself physically (I have had no sleep whatsoever), and knock my self-esteem down back to where it was – somewhere only earthworms could view it.
I am so upset about this because I really was making good progress; sensible, moderate drinking, positive thoughts, healthy eating – working on my hatred of myself and practicing self-acceptance, I was really feeling things begin to shift into a happier place. But therapy and counselling also, bizarrely, seem to make the episodes I do have much worse. Popular opinion is that this is because really focusing on the things that trigger me and trying to change my thoughts about them will naturally bring up all my resistance to recovery.
And of course, as soon as I start feeling good about myself, liking myself more and feeling like I deserve good things in my life, I get a knock at the door, and before I can shut it again, Twin is breezing past me and making herself comfortable in my chair. She showed up last night, whispering things under the closed door, but was still there casually turning bacon in the pan when I got up this morning.
‘Still banging on about how you love yourself unconditionally? I’ve watched you do that in the mirror, it’s sad…you don’t believe it.’
‘It takes time.’ I find myself looking down at the floor, because she’s right.
‘I’ve seen you make yourself cry doing it. It’s okay, you don’t have to put yourself through this self-love therapy bullshit when it’s not going to work.’
‘It’s normal to have…problems with it at first.’
‘Normal for people like you, you mean. It’s ridiculous and pathetic; I’ve seen you with your stupid affirmations and your talking and your mindfulness – and I know that you’re still terrified. Of course you are, you’re going to fail at it, like you fail at everything else.’
*To myself* ‘You’re a lot more distinct and opposing at the moment, Twin, you’re not even pretending you have my best interests at heart anymore, why is that?’
She doesn’t reply, and picks at her nails as though they are the most fascinating thing in the world.
‘It’s because you’re on your way out, isn’t it?’
‘I’m not ‘on my way out’, you idiot, that implies you might succeed.’
Her face twists in anger. ‘Not half as scared as you’re about to be.’
I just wait, in silence. Maybe I’m too exhausted to resist. I just wait and think.
‘I need to count some things off my fingers here, Twin.’
‘You make me terrified that people will abandon me, you make me hate my appearance, you make me believe I don’t deserve love, you drag me back into behaviour you know will ruin my life, you make me think about suicide, you make me ignore all my accomplishments and focus on my flaws until I am convinced I have done nothing but fail, you tell me my partner will leave me because I’m ugly and impossible to love, and laugh at me when I believe her when she says the opposite. You create fear and paranoia where there is no danger, you systematically undermine and destroy everything that makes me happy. ‘
‘I’m kind of curious, exactly what more is there you can actually do to me.’
A long silence winds through us.
‘I can make your life hell.’
‘Already accomplished. Really, you can tick that box.’
‘I can ruin the best thing in your life.’
‘My creativity? My relationship? No, see…I don’t think you actually can. I don’t think you actually have all the power I thought you had all these years…I think I can ruin it by listening to you.’
‘Oh my, we really are making progress, aren’t we? Psychotherapist’s pet.’
‘Listen. You have systematically broken me into something that doesn’t even feel much like a person anymore; I don’t know who I am, what I have to give…You’re right, in some ways I don’t even know if it is worth saving myself, I don’t what there is left to save…but if I keep listening to you I’m never going to find out, I’m not going to get the chance. I’ll be dead…listening to you is going to kill me.’
She shrugs. ‘What are your options? Are you going to kill me? You think you can do that?’
‘I don’t think I need to. I think I just…don’t have to look at you anymore.’
‘I’ll make you.’ She is very cold and quiet and full of menace. ‘I will make you look at me.’
We watch each other. I feel shattered, afraid and deeply sad. Her face is still as death; all animation has flown. After a long while I say,
‘I don’t think I’m going to call you Twin anymore.’
‘You can’t do that. This is just another silly attempt at control.’
‘I’m going to call you the Bad Oats*’
Her fists clench and unclench. ‘You have been crying for over six hours and you think you are stronger than me today? You really want to fight me, seriously? Come on, then! Come on! Now!’
I drop my aching head and stare at the carpet. ‘I’m not going to fight you anymore, it makes me too unhappy. Fighting you isn’t working…I know it’s what you want. That’s why you’re not going to get it.’
‘What do you think is going to happen? Who do you think you’ll be without me?’
The seconds flow by. There is a great heaviness at my centre; a dead star sitting in my ribs.
‘I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen.’
And we sit across from each other until the sky shifts into a new colour. She mutters to herself, pulling her fingers through her hair, as I gaze out of the window.
*The Good Oats and the Bad Oats are manifestations of the split minds of an anxious priest, the Quite Reverend Mightily Oats; a character in the Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum.