Ghosts of Boyfriends Past

So, I was cleaning my room and came across a teddy than an ex had brought me and it got me thinking about how many things I still had from ex’s and why I still had them. It is like a wierd hoarders fantasy. Years and years of snippets of memories and relationships. Why is it so hard to throw these things away? Is there some part of us that likes to hold on to them as a reminder of what it was? What we had? Or in some cases remind us of what we never want again?

I thought I would start writing down to date the most noteworthy relationships/flings that I have had that I feel shaped who I am today. I am going to be brutally honest and speak about my experiences from my perspective which I think might be quite theraputic, cringeworthy, comeical, wrong and at times sad but here goes.

Self-harm; a subject within mental health that has become very misunderstood.

Anxiety, Depression and I

Some stats to put things into perspective – self-harm is a HUGE issue, it is estimated that around 10% of young people do it and the numbers just increase from there. I can’t actually remember the first time I self-harmed, but I can’t remember not suffering from anxiety or depression. Someone recently asked me if I ever self-harmed when I was younger, and it got me thinking. I have always been so open about my mental health, but I really struggle talking about this side of it. Mainly due to the negative reaction I receive – I have been called an attention seeker, stupid and the first response is usually to ask if I am trying to kill myself.

The truth is, a lot of people who self-harm are not doing it to end their lives. They are doing it to cope with life. For me, it is a release. There are many forms of self-harm and it is something that is very easy to hide.

I was around 14 when I started, I would sit in my room crying all night, filled with anxiety and complete darkness and as soon as I would cut myself the pain would then be focused on the physical sensations of the injury. I remember being at a house party and my friend grabbed my wrist to go upstairs and I must have winced in pain, which made my friend notice, she pulled up my sleeve and froze. She begged me to stop and I promised I would and, for a short while, I did.

Then when I was at university and having one of my lowest episodes, I started again. This time was different though; it started when I was in the toilets, after running out of my third lecture in a week, I felt sick and dizzy, so I forced myself to vomit. This was the start of a new form of self-harm. It was strange because I always thought that when people made themselves sick it was to lose weight, but mine was purely to get the feeling of constant sickness out, to find that release. I have never told anyone about this until now, I kept it to myself, with the hope that if I didnt admit it, it wasn’t really happening. Sitting there like a predator, ready to attack it’s next victim, and that victim was becoming weaker and weaker with every iteration. Thankfully this episode didn’t last too long.

It is hard to explain why self-harm becomes so addictive, but when you are struggling so much from something so self-contained, the ‘invisible’ illness that drives the need to cause physical pain to distract you from your inner feelings, and the short-lived feeling of release and borderline euphoria that it brings. But, it is just that, a brief moment, a flash, a pause. A moment where your head is free from thousands of thoughts, running through your head on repeat, incoherently screaming with no respite.

Not too long ago, I started a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) (it is worth noting that I have had several rounds of CBT), however this one was by far the most helpful. I opened up about my self-harming tendencies and past, we discussed alternatives, which included, wearing a rubber band and pulling it slightly on your wrist, holding an ice cube in your mouth for as long as possible, standing in an ice-cold shower for as long as possible and so on, you get the gist. These are in theory mini-tortures that don’t leave any lasting damage. I wore an elastic band on my wrist for over 6 months and not a single person noticed. It was great!

I haven’t got the answer or even an answer, no big epiphany or words of wisdom, the only recommendation would be to talk to someone as soon as self-harm even crosses your mind. I know I didn’t, but I feel it wouldn’t have gone on as long for me and perhaps prevented it, if I had. Try the alternatives, I promise you they work. There is a huge list of them; you can find with a quick Google and there will be one that works for you.

I have found this by far the most difficult thing to write about and I feel absolutely sick with fear posting this. The thought of the onslaught of negative responses, almost self-fulfilling the regret and shame you get after self-harming, but I made a promise to be honest when starting this blog, and I want to stick to my word.

The One I Lost My Virginity To

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past
silhouette photo of man and woman kissing

Photo by Hoang Loc on Pexels.com

Not too long after I had the delight of The Cheat, I met someone new. It started slowly, we met on a few nights out and parties and I was instantly drawn to him. He was in the year above, and had it all together, looking back, that really couldn’t have been the case, he was only 18! Looking at 18-year old’s now, they really don’t, they can’t, and that’s not to patronise them; 18-year old me thought she had life planned out almost to the day – boyfriend, job, house, husband, family, I seemingly had it all in hand! The reality is, 10 years on and I still haven’t figured it out, and with maturity comes the realisation that maybe I never will!

Our First Encounter. I met him at a party; in a field (being from the city, this was quite a new experience for us townies) while celebrating our exam results, and I lay in a tent talking with him for what felt like the entire night, we exchanged numbers and the next day started texting. We made it clear, we both liked each other and the next weekend at the local Saturday night hotspot, we kissed.

After a while I felt this overwhelming pressure to sleep with him, to be clear there was absolutely no pressure from him, it was just the voice in the back of my head. I think I felt that I needed to do it in order to retain his interest, probably something ingrained in me from The Cheat. The night came and went as quickly as any other night, we were drunk, at an after party… oh and some of his friends walked in, but he was very sweet about that mishap and made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. It wasn’t his first time; he had been in a long-term relationship before this.

We were on and off for over a year. It was mainly on when we were drunk and on a night out, and then off when he had sobered up! I really honestly believed at the time that I loved him and during this relationship I got the nickname ‘Mcclingy’, which was a great confidence boost as I was heading off to university the land of apparent one night stands and endless hook-ups. During this time, one of the most mortifyingly embarrassing situations of my life occurred (and I have had loads of embarrassing moments).

We were texting and decided to meet (it wasn’t a drunken night which was rare), I stayed over at his house that he was sharing with other uni friends, so far so good. The next day, we were all sat in the living room watching the rugby, when I started to feel something wasn’t quite right down there. I moved my leg to the side and to my horror saw that I had leaked through my trousers and on to the white, yes white, linen sofa, I mean who even has white linen sofas!! The panic set in and I looked around in pure panic realising I was in a room with a group of guys who, with the exception of ‘him’, I really didn’t know at all. He must have noticed something wasn’t quite right; I was literally frozen rigid in my seat. Being the sweet guy that he was, he asked the guys to show him something in the kitchen and while they were distracted, he ran back in to check if I was ok, I had no other option but to stand up, my body filling with utter humiliation and show him the dreaded sofa patch. Every descriptive word I can think of – thankfully, luckily, graciously, he was completely matter of fact about it and simply flipped over the pillow and took me upstairs to the safety of his bedroom. Safe to say I never went back to that house.

Looking back, it really wasn’t much of a ‘relationship’ but we went to the cinema and dinner a few times (compared to my previous relationship, I felt like a princess) but it was mainly grabbing a snog (hate this word but it feels suitable) on a Saturday night when we were all out.  Anyway, it is hard to say when it ended, as it never fully started!

Not long after this, he met another long-term girlfriend. I don’t hold any bad feelings towards him; he is honestly a lovely guy. I just think we both thought it was something different. We have actually seen each other since (not in that way) and talked at length, laughing and cringing, mainly on my part, about the memories we had. But that spark that I once really believed was the real deal, has well and truly disappeared.

Episode 1

Anxiety, Depression and I

Fourteen years old and sitting my Physical Education (PE) GCSE a year early, I remember queuing up to go in to the exam hall, full of anticipation and slightly giddy that I was about to sit a GCSE, an actual GCSE, something I had teachers had prepared us for since starting school. 

At my school, we didn’t sit any exams prior to GCSE’s so it was an entirely new experience for me. This was exciting, it felt like my first step towards becoming an adult, this was the first formal qualification I would get and I was going to do my best to enjoy it and put my years of hard work on to paper. Well that was the dream, but life has a funny way of transpiring. 

I remember walking in and sitting at the desk, that was when things started to feel odd. Its difficult to explain, my feet were tingling, my legs numb, tummy doing somersaults, heart pounding, sweat pouring down my forehead, and it felt like someone had a whisk in my head with no sight of letting up. I tried to ignore what was happening and focus on what I was about to embark on, I opened the exam paper and the feelings continued to come on stronger and stronger. 

I looked up at the clock to see how long I had been sitting there, three minutes, THREE MINUTES! That was all it took for my body to go in to complete shutdown. All of a sudden, the clock became wobbly and blurry and the entire room began to spin, I put my hand up to go to the toilet and try to escape this abyss. The PE teacher walked me out to the toilet but had to come in with me (in case I had hidden any answers in the toilet), but I can assure you my mind was far, far from Fartlek Training and explaining the build-up of lactic acid, to the best of my knowledge I was dying, I thought my life was going to end here, here in the toilets, with my PE teacher stood over me, this was not how I had envisioned it. 

On reflection, over 10 years later, I realise this was my first panic attack and even now, 100’s of panic attacks later, I still remember the absolute fear I felt in that moment, and it is enough to make my heart race and feel sick, the thought of sitting in that exam hall with the clock bearing down on me, sweat pouring down my face and my godforsaken neuromuscular system failing me.

That was the beginning of my world spiralling into one big anxious mess, and even today, I am still working hard to fight it. I began fearing certain classrooms, going higher than one flight of stairs in particular buildings, flying, getting on the tube, blood, needles, the list went on and on. Every decision in my day had to be carefully thought through and analysed. This became increasingly problematic, as I would start missing certain classes because the room would send me in to a panic attack. At this point I was having over 5 panic attacks a day, my mind and body were going in to overdrive and I couldn’t seem to get control, the whole situation was a self-fulfilling mess.

It wasn’t long after this all started happening; the black dog visited me. This is where my memories start to become quite discombobulated, like puzzle pieces. I sat down with my mum recently and she reflected on this time and how I behaved and managed myself. I was constantly exhausted to the point I couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings, I would fall asleep as soon as I was in from school and be in and out of sleep until the mornings. I just remember feeling sad all the time; the tears were there ready to fall at the smallest thing. It was as if someone had drained the world of all colour and I didn’t feel safe anywhere. Places that I loved, such as the theatre became my hell and even if it were brought up in discussion my heart would start to race, the complete panic flooding in. The next panic attack was just a room or conversation away.

One of the hardest things for me at this time was not being understood, mental health is a hard thing to grasp if you haven’t experienced it directly. Everyone always talks about it being invisible but for someone suffering from it, it is the most visible thing in the world. It is hard to explain to someone that at a time where I felt everything (I was probably the most in tune with my body at this time, my heart rate slightly increasing, a tingling sensation down one of my arms, I would notice it) I was also completely numb. People think that depression is just feeling sad, but it is a lot more than that, it is an all-consuming darkness that encompasses your entire day, week, month and life.

Meditation

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I have been using an app called Headspace for the last few weeks and find it really good. The layout is very straightforward and allows you to easily navigate around the app. It has lots of different exercises and categories that is sure to please everyone. There are ton’s of apps for meditation but Headspace has been my favourite so far. Sign up here – Headspace

The Cheat

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past
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There is a tremendous amount of pressure as a teenager to lose your virginity, but strangely it was something I didn’t really take into consideration. A lot of people around me were having sex for years before I had even got close to the deed itself. I was 16 and had never had a proper boyfriend, I met a guy at a house party, he was a few years older than me and bad, bad news which made it all very exciting. We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet the next weekend in the local park, as far as first dates go it was pretty bland, and, as I would soon find out, so was the rest of the relationship!! I think the highlight of the date was bumping into one of my teacher’s and trying to act like we were just friends. Despite the mundane nature of the relationship, we ended up dating for almost a year. During the relationship I never slept with him, I didn’t feel ready and I was brought up being told you should never do anything until you feel fully ready and comfortable. Something I forgot about quite quickly after this relationship. I don’t remember a lot about the relationship itself, but I do remember how it ended.

We were sat on the sofa watching Hollyoaks (of all shows) and someone was confessing to a lie in the scene, he suddenly turned to me and told me he was a liar. He didn’t expand on the comment so I asked him to explain, he went on to say he had lied the whole way through our relationship, he was only with me to lead me on and he had cheated on me so many times he had lost count. At this point I had stopped listening and just sat there trying to digest what was happening. My first breakup and I did not expect it to go like this. I remember feeling devastated and crying a lot but it was the feeling of embarrassment more than anything. I knew some of his friends knew and I felt embarrassed that I had been around them thinking everything was fine when they knew the truth. I’m not sure whether it was his actions or people’s reactions, that hurt most throughout this breakup.

I had a lot of people say to me “Well, what did you expect? If you weren’t giving it to him, of course he will get it somewhere else?”. Thankfully these comments weren’t made by anyone too close to me but it was enough for it to make me take full responsibility for the breakup and in my head excuse his behaviour completely. I think it was here, where my picture on what relationships and sex was all about, completely changed.

A year or so later, after I really had lost complete association with feelings and sex, I bumped in to him in a local club on a drunken night, I was out with my friends and he was out with his. We chatted away and carried on drinking a lot more and ended up in my car which was parked not far from the club. I barely remember anything and memories feel more like little flash card images but I know we had sex and the final humiliation was that he left me there with the car door open for anyone to find me practically unconscious from too much alcohol. Thankfully it was one of my friends who did. I haven’t spoken with him since but a friend bumped into him at the doctors with his pregnant girlfriend. Not the most glamorous of stories, but I did tell you I would be honest.